"Asahel Arete, faster! I know you can go faster than that!" Mom throws a knife at my head, narrowly missing me. I sprint past her as she launches another knife at my forehead. I barely manage to throw it back at her with telekinesis.
"Calm down! I'm going as fast as I can!"
"You can still talk, that means you're not pushing yourself to the limit! Faster!"
Sweat drips down my face and makes my shirt cling to my back and chest. I dodge another knife and send a volt of electricity into the nearest dummy swinging towards me. The electricity slings it back into the army of approaching dummies, taking two more down. It's too fast! I'm going to mess up! I telekinetically throw the knife at a target on the wall and miss it by a centimeter. A large siren and lights go off in an attempt to distract me, the red colors flash over the training room and cause it to look like a dream sequence.
I trip over my own feet and hit the floor hard. I suck in a deep breath and roll over to avoid a hundred pound sack of flour. I've been down that road before, it doesn't feel good. I cracked a rib once with a sack of flour, that was embarrassing and hurt a lot. I roll to my feet and electrify a moving target that falls into sludge.
Dad claps his hands like an angry football coach. "Push yourself faster! The Inimicus will like the pace you're moving at! You're an easy kill Asahel! Move! Move! Move!" Dad throws me a Glock 39 (my favorite pistol) and points to the far wall at moving targets. Mom starts throwing rocks at my head that I have to dodge or throw back with telekinesis. I pull back the slide and start firing. I shoot four targets and moan in agony, my muscles are cramping up and my side is killing me. I can't do this much longer, we've been going on for over an hour!
"Act like you're trying to save Danny!" I muster up all my strength to fight the army of dummies and act as though they are going to execute my brother. I try to imagine this, but my exhaustion makes me not care about the fake Danny and dummies.
One of mom's rocks hits me in the forehead. I trip up and miss my last target. I fall again and sloppily dodge an I-don't-know-what as it thumps hard on the floor next to my torso. My calf cramps up again and I just lay there on the training room floor holding my leg in pain, waiting for it to stop.
Dad leans over me and shakes his head, "Ash, you're dead." He lets that sink in before adding, "and you killed Danny too."
I nod, "it was worth it. I'm exhausted."
He offers me a hand and pulls me up. I'm sweaty and nasty but at this point I don't really care. "Looser."
"Hey, you're pushing me harder than ever! You're seriously pushing me over the edge. I am going to hurt tomorrow." I rub at my already sore deltoids and moan. "What did I do to anger you?"
"Nothing," mom says as she throws me a bottle of water. "We've been reading SV's blog and this is getting serious, BlueAnonymous12. I can tell that the inv-"
I stomp my foot to interrupt her. "We don't say the 'I' word around here. And I needed to tell him that it was getting really legit out there." I wipe sweat off my face and try to cool down. "Besides, SV is basically looking for Inimicus to kill. You hear about the explosion at Starbucks."
"Oh really? I also heard about an explosion at an Ingles caused by a suspicious microwave…" I frown at dad's jab. "Well, would you rather us push you hard and you be prepared or us not push you and you die in combat?"
"I don't necessarily want to die, but this is what I've been training for since I could understand what I was." I open my hands and waste time by shooting a thread of electricity from one finger to the next. Mom hates it when I do that. It fills the air with this supercharged static and it messes up her hair. I need to practice keeping the static down, it could help me kill some Inimicus without detection.
"But Ash, we're going to do everything we can to keep you alive. And stop that before your mother explodes." I stop with the electricity and mom relaxes. "Ash, we are going to get through this and live another day. The Inimicus will be defeated and you will get to live however you want for the rest of your life."
Liar, I know he's lying but I go along with it anyways. "Yeah, I guess you're right dad." I stare at the control panels outside of the walled off training arena and see the security footage flicking back and forth to different scenes in and out of the house.
"Good now-" I hear a loud knocking on the door and look up at the security footage on the nearest screen. There are two people standing on our porch. A woman and Danny. Danny looks scared and nervous. Something's not right.
"Let's go," mom says and pushes me up a set of stairs and slams a door that blends in with the wall behind us. Now you can't even tell there's a whole section of the basement walled off for training. "Act like a normal loving family! Ash try to not be sweaty and gross."
I look at my hands and shrug. "I don't have an ability for that, blame homeostasis."
She hurries into the kitchen and throws a pop on the stove, filling it with last nights spaghetti sauce. "I'm going to make dinner! Ash, do homework!"
"Shut up, both of you! This isn't normal!" Dad says as he pulls open the door, smoothing down his dark hair. I quickly take a seat on the couch and act like I'm doing homework. "Danny? Hi ma'am, how can I help you?"
"I'm looking for Asahel Are-"
"Don't do it, it's a trap!" Danny screams and backs away before jumping over the railing and bounding away.
I look back just in time to see a gun whip out of the woman's pockets and shoot dad in the shoulder. He falls, holding his bleeding shoulder and throwing me the Glock he must've hidden in his pocket. It's empty! I desperately grab at my pockets for any .45 bullets, I come up empty. It looks like I'm about to battle with my abilities.
The woman turns her attention on me as mom comes out with a few nasty looking paring knives. "Ash fight! Inimicus! Go to-"
She regards mom with a look of "what is this puny thing? What is it doing here?" She dodges mom's attacks with ease. And manages to punch her in the face as mom starts to close the gap. Mom manages to shake off the blow and kick the alien in the shins. She lashes out with her last knife but the Inimicus tackles her and they struggle on the ground for a second. The Inimicus manages to elbow her in the temple. Mom goes down and the Inimicus regards her with distaste.
"Die Socius, die!" She starts firing at me and I start dodging. She doesn't know what she's doing with that gun, she obviously has never shot a Berretta. She can't hit anything but our couch. She raises the barrel up a little and begins peppering the place I was with bullets. "DIE!"
"Don't touch my mom or my family!" I stand on the couch and dodge a bullet meant for my head. I draw up whatever strength I can and hurl a wave of invisible electricity at her. That much voltage would've stopped a human's heart, but they aren't human. I walk over the back and feel the couch begin to flip, I throw her into the air with my mind and throw her already bad shots by a mile. I grab the gun from her hand and toss it to dad who is stanching the blood flowing from his right shoulder with a now red fleece blanket.
I flip the Inimicus upside down and hold her up in the air after giving her a large volt of electricity that makes my head hurt. She dangles in front of me, hurling remarks and insults at "my kind" in her native tongue. That's one language I haven't bothered to learn, Inimicus, it's a gruff sounding language. "Shut up, I don't understand your insults."
"Maybe you'll understand my English better." I make a tight fist and watch her squirm for breath. There is a small cut on her forehead that is dipping with dark black ooze, more ooze is starting to drip down from her nose. "You Socius b-" I stare into dark reptilian eyes and shrug. I hit her in the head with the butt of my Glock. I watch her droop down like a wilted flower into unconsciousness. That was poetically macabre.
I let her drop on her own, not really caring if she gets hurt. I wipe a bead of sweat off my face and sigh. Not that hard but she wasn't a stupid one.
Danny runs back onto the porch and through the door wielding a stick. "I can explain everything."
Mom moans and grabs at her scalp where I'm guessing she must've gotten hit pretty hard. "I wouldn't expect anything less. Why were you with an Inimicus? Is everybody okay?"
Dad nods and I help him up. He's all bloody and nasty. Now we both smell like iron rich blood and sweat. I start to unwrap the bandage/blanket to examine the wound. "Easy, easy. It's a clean shot, the bullets not in there." I try to go slowly but he yelps in pain. "Ash that hurts, don't touch it!"
Mom takes his hand and pushes me aside. "Apply pressure, Ash, don't examine the wound when it's like this. Danny lock the door. We're going to the arena where it's safe so we can talk."
I wipe my bloody hands against my jacket and look back at the Inimicus that is still unconscious. "Quick question. Uh… what are we going to do with Trigger-happy over here?"
"Bring her with us," dad says and shuts his eyes in pain. "We can question her and then end her. And take that Berretta with us, that's a nice looking gun."
I nod and pick her up with telekinesis. I float her over my head and open the camouflaged door to the training area very slowly. That's a perk of using my mind for all of this, no bloody fingerprints mark the entrance. I carefully walk down each step and make sure she hits her head against the ceiling each time I descend a step.
"Ash!" Mom says as we reach the bottom. "Will you stop with that racket! I am trying to concentrate!" She uncovers dad's wound and grimaces at the sudden rush of blood. I literally throw the Inimicus aside and stand at her side. Mom throws off his shirt and yells at Danny to go get specific things from our first aid kit. You see, our first aid kit is much different than any normal kit. Instead of having the usual Neosporin and band-aids, it has all that plus a defibrillator, burn kit, respirator, rolls of heavy duty gauze, hard-core pain killers and antibiotics, and about anything else you can think of for burns, stabs, bullets, falls, shocks, zombie apocalypses, and any emergency medically known to mankind.
Mom yells at me to bring over a chair and to tie our new friend up. I grab a pink and green lawn chair stored in an actual closet for the summer months. I grab a jump rope from the same closet and roughly bind the Inimicus to a metal support post. She starts to wake up but a few zaps of high voltage electricity keeps her down.
Danny hurries back with a roll of gauze and a smaller first aid kit for bullet wounds. Dad moans in pain as mom starts to doctor up the wound, he screams in pain suddenly and mom must cover his mouth. I know I should pay attention to what she does to treat his wound but I can't. I can't watch him scream in pain and see the blood bubble up onto the clean white bandages. Instead, I waste my time by going through the pockets of the Inimicus.
I find the usual. A crude nail bomb that will explode whenever she signals it to explode by touch. A small black holographic disk used for communication. I crush it with my hands and mess the system up with electricity. I throw it across the room to break even more against the wall and resume searching through her pockets. There's her ID… I already know her name is Miles, all of the regular Inimicus are named Miles. Colonel Miles Troy. Colonel? She's only a Colonel? Wow, I'd hate to face a Captain or even worse… Commander. Or a billion of them.
I finish searching her pockets and find a knife and another handgun. She traveled light, which means that she's a lone wolf, probably sent out on a scouting mission. Good. I'd hate to have an army of them knock on our front door. I'm definitely not ready for that.
Mom finishes doctoring dad's shoulder and stares over at me with large blue eyes. "Anything different about her?"
"Besides the fact that she's a female and not a lieutenant, nah. We never get smart ones and we never get females. She must be a rare one, too bad we have to kill her." I furrow my eyebrows and turn to face Danny who has been extremely quiet this whole time. "That reminds me… How did she end up here in the first place?"
"Well, I was walking from the bus stop home when she came up to me and stuck a gun between my eyes. She told me she'd kill me if I disobeyed."
"So you led her right to us?" I cross my arms angrily. "You literally led her to our doorsteps. That was the smart thing to do, wasn't it?"
"Hey, I knew you could handle her! Why are you making such a big fuss out of this?" Danny sighs loudly and kicks her leg.
"Hey, no" dad says and shakes his head. "Be humane! It's the only thing that makes us different… other than the abilities of course. And it is a big deal because there can always be a second scout anywhere. All they need to do is shoot Ash and both of you will die." When he says "both of you" I don't know if he means Danny and me or Val and me. Either way, it's still the truth.
"Whatever," Danny says and walks closer to mom. He knows mom won't criticize him as harshly as Dad and me.
The Inimicus begins to grumble as her eyes blink open, first her normal eyelids and then the clear second eyelid. Her eyes are black and the pupils slanted, I almost expect her to have a forked tongue and fangs like a snake. Her standard cut just-below-the-shoulders length hair falls out of a low ponytail and into the black eyes that stare me down. Her black blood oozes from her nose that I must have broken. Her hair is stuck onto her face with the dried ooze. There is a mark on her ear, the letters MI, standing for Miles Inimicus. I hate her. She killed my people. She wants to kill me. I'm going to kill her.
"So we're going to do this the easy way or the hard way." I let electricity flow in-between my fingers and hear the room fill with a static buzz. "It's your choice."
"Ash," dad says quietly.
I glare at him and turn to face the Inimicus. "Your choice Miles."
She bites the inside of her cheek. Her eyes are wide, but I can't tell if it's from fear or shock that I'm torturing her. She hisses at me and narrows her eyes. "Try me, Socius. You weren't made for torture, you can't torture me. You don't have the guts."
Someone knocks on the door again and I turn to see the screens showing Val standing happily on the front porch. "Danny, bring her in here, it's time to for her to see an Inimicus before they die." Danny rushes away and I turn my attention to the Inimicus again.
"You say I can't torture? I'll-"
"Asahel," mom urges, "humane."
"This is a war mom, we don't have time to be humane against things that aren't human." I block out mom's protests. "Okay, look, you're going to answer some questions and I'm going to make sure you have an honorable death. Your people feel that the most honorable way to die is for you to die in battle with one of us right?" She nods. "Well, answer some questions and we will fight, I'll kill you and you die honorably."
"Never!" She lunges forward, baring her teeth like a dog. I notice for the first time that her teeth are crooked sharpened. "We don't make deals with you people! You want to destroy us! You want to kill our kind!" Her hair has fallen completely out of the ponytail and now falls over her left eye.
"Ash!" A voice calls out to me as she runs down the steps beside Danny. "What's going on? Your house is riddled with bullets! I heard the shots and came as fast as I could." She stops beside me and stares down at the Inimicus. "Who is this?"
I snarl and nod to dad's bandaged shoulder. "A killer who has no idea how to shoot a Berretta." I kick her in the stomach and she gags with a terrible hacking sound. "Val, meet your enemy. Miles, meet your enemy."
I stare at her with a confused face. She looks like a normal human to me. There's something different about her but I can't put my finger on it. "Uh… Ash?"
"You can't tell the difference?" Ash sighs angrily and points at her eyes. "You can't see the reptile eyes? I'm betting she's got some major tattoos on her arms too. Most Inimicus like to brag about how many humans and Socius they kill."
"I only have five tattoos thank you very much," she snorts and glares at me. She breaks into a smile. "A newbie? I guess you Socius didn't tell her about your mission."
"Don't believe her Val, she's lying." Ash grabs my arm, accidentally shocking me and making me jump back. "Sorry, forgot about that. Val, don't listen, she's lying to make you doubt me."
"Your friend Ash won't tell you this but… they're not here to save your world. They're here to destroy us."
"Shut up," Ash growls.
"They are here to back humanity into a corner and make them wave the white flag."
"Shut up before I make you shut up!"
"We are the only ones who can stop them. The humans and the Inimicus can work together to restore the earth to a Garden of Eden and we can end all of the war and suffering. We have the technology to do so. We have the medicines to cure cancer and anything else that plagues the world. We can do anything here but the Socius don't want that to happen, they want to conquer you."
Ash punches her in the face hard. "Shut up!" Her head droops down and this strange liquid pours out of her nose. It looks like oil with little flecks of rust in it. They bleed black? What's going on?
She looks back up and I see past the human facade and into her real appearance. Her eyes are black and remind me of a snake. It's anything but human. I back up because of the icy strange gaze that falls on me. "Glorious Leader will forgive you, you will be welcomed by our kind."
"I told you to shut up!" Ash punches her in the face again and I notice that he's wearing brass knuckles. She moans in pain and wipes her bloody face with her shoulder. "I don't think you understand. We're the ones talking; you might be able to fool a naïve newbie, but you can't fool me with your Glorious Leader crap. I see right through your lies."
She yells out something in a foreign language at a metal sphere lying across the room.
"Nice try," Ash smiles and nudges her with his boot. "I know all about your little bombs and that is nit activated by voice, that's activated by touch. So lets move onto the questioning. Are you alone? For every bad answer you give me, there will be a consequence."
"Kill me Socius! Kill me!" She's a mess of tangled hair and open wounds.
Ash grabs a pocketknife from his pockets and presses it against her shoulder. "Strike one, Inimicus." He stabs into her shoulder and withdraws the knife as blood begins to pour out of her shoulder. She screams in pain and tilts her head back, exposing her clearly defined trachea and carotid artery.
"Ash, stop." I grab his arm and jump back as I realize he's humming with electricity. "Ash stop it!"
"Is that all you've got?" She moans and spits at him. "Join the good side," she calls to me.
"Are you alone?"
"Join our side, join the cause." She tries to extend her hand but the bonds keep her still.
"Strike two." He presses the knife against her throat and slashes downward and pierces through her skin. She screams in pain, it's not human but anyone can recognize a scream of pain. Black blood flows out and coats her clothes. She screams in a gurgle and spits blood at him. There is no spurt from her neck that means Ash must've purposely missed the arteries.
"Ash stop!" I grab his arm and yank him away from her. He jerks away and gives me a look of "stay away, this is something I must do".
"Now, last chance or I let you bleed to death. Admit that you're lying and say that you are alone."
"Never!" She coughs up dark black blood and suddenly stops. A gunshot pierces through the air and I cover my ears too late. The Inimicus slumps down as I stare at the bullet hole in her forehead. Dead. And then, she turns into a mixture of that black liquid and something else.
I look back to see Heath standing with a bandaged shoulder and a smoking revolver in the other. He looks fuming as he drops the gun. He reaches forward and grabs Ash by his hair and drags him forward. "Valerie, I am so sorry you had to see that."
"Let me go!" Ash says and pushes him away with telekinesis. "Dad, 'm not a kid anymore! This isn't just a story, it's real and this is a war! And she needs to know what we're dealing with! This is war and it's time you started acting-"
Heath slaps him, hard, right across the face. I see the red mark bloom across Ash's face and then more red from embarrassment. "You will never treat another living being like you just treated her! Do you understand me?!"
Ash stares straightforward, his lips twitching with words and his eyes glowing so intensely that they burn my irises. His hands are covered in the black sludge and clenched into tight fists. His whole body is rigid in anger and disdain.
"I said do you understand?!" Heath barks in his face, he grabs his shoulder with white knuckles. "Asahel Arete you better answer me or I swear I will-"
"I understand," he growls and interrupts, breaking free from Heath's grip.
"Ash, you never treat a life like that. You wouldn't treat Danny like that-"
"Don't compare Danny to her!" He throws out his hand and points to Danny. Danny scoots beside me so close that his leg touches mine. "Danny is innocent! Danny doesn't try to kill the whole population of earth! Don't compare her with him. And I'm not going to kill Danny, I would rather DIE than let one of them kill him. Don't you understand? She tried to kill us dad! She pressed a gun to Danny's head. She shot you in the shoulder!"
"It'll heal!" He snarls and I find myself slowly backing up. "You don't torture. The only difference between us and the is a humane factor-"
"We're not human! You're more human than me but dad, I am not human. Human's can't do this, they can't do what I can do, and they can't win the war that I'm fighting. Do you honestly think that saying works for us. Neither of us are human!"
Danny grabs my hand, "Val, come with me. They'll go on like this for a while." I accept his hand and he pulls me up the stairs as Ash and Heath begin going through another section of the argument. Danny opens the camouflaged door and I quickly follow him, shutting it behind me. The noise of the argument disappears.
"That's better," Danny sighs. "It gets intense, especially when Ash starts to lose control of his ability. Which should be in a few minutes."
I sit down on the kitchen floor and hold my head in my hands. "What just happened? Danny?"
"Don't worry, it's normal around here. They get into arguments all the time." Danny sits beside me and shrugs.
"No, what happened to that… to that thing?" I replay the image of her melting down into sludge.
"The Inimicus? Well, Ash has this problem. He can get carried away by his emotions, especially anger and fear. That's why he tortured her like that. And I guess you're confused as to why she dissolved into sludge. Well, we're not sure but we think that there is some sort of rapid decay in their bodies as soon as they die. It might be from the atmosphere or who knows what. Mom and dad don't know and they're the only source of info that we have.
He frowns and looks down on me. "Are you okay? You're shaking."
"I've never seen something like that. I don't ever want to see something like that again." Danny grabs my hand and stares into my eyes. He has beautiful brown eyes that are so dark they're almost black.
"Hey mom, can you come here for a second?" I jerk away from him and narrow my eyes. I don't need help, I don't want help.
Kara walks on light feet into the kitchen and kneels beside me. "Are they fighting again?" Danny nods. "What happened? I tried to distance myself and I cleaned up the blood in the living room, we're going to have to get new drywall for the bullet holes."
"Ash showed his weakness again, he got angry and tortured the Inimicus. Stabbed her shoulder and slit her throat and told her he would let her bleed to death unless she started talking. Dad killed her and now they're having another world war. I escaped before Ash could lose control of his abilities."ns22.214.171.124da2