Fear the Silence
Under the twinkling stars, a bike came to a halt in the small cul-de-sac which lead to the former Sharov residence. Yegor did not know why he had decided to stop by. Perhaps out of some pitiful hope that his friend would be there, and that the insane events the day before had all been a bad dream one would get from watching too much TV.
From a mere tap the door swung open ominously before him. A shiver slithered up and down his spine as he stepped in, closing the door and flicking on the light. His eyes grew wide at the condition of the living area. The place had been trashed and various items were scattered along the floor. Everything small and meaningful that decorated the shelves had been taken: books, china, photographs, only the furniture remained.
Yegor hoped no one else was in the house as he climbed the staircase. The hall at the top was hollow, like a tomb. The walls that once held pictures of happy memories were bare, and only the dustless rectangles remained. Hurrying to Aleksei’s room, he pushed the door open. He squinted into the darkness at the ransacked room.
A hissing sound emitted from the darkness. He was about to turn on the light, but his hand halted, paralysed by what he saw. Before him a dark hooded figure crouched in the window sill, staring at him. The wind blew in from the open window making the room chilly, its cold fingers caressing along his body. Somehow he could feel the evil grin pressing against him, even though the figures face seemed to simply be a void.
Yegor wanted to run but he could not move. The figure lay down a dark rectangular object on the bed in front of him then vanished as if he was only a black mist.
In a trance the youth walked to the bed, and with trembling hand, lifted the object and looked at it in the faint light, as the moon was revealed from behind the clouds. It was a Bible. He let it fall open to a laminated photo, serving as a marker, of Aleksei and himself sitting on one of the benches on the roof of their school. He did not remember the moment, but he was smiling with his typical goofy smile and Aleksei with his quiet, gentle one. He glanced at the page it was on and noticed a highlighted passage, it read: A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
His heart ached as he carefully closed the book. He remembered when Aleksei had gotten it. It was on his birthday, three years ago. His mother had given it to him and he was overjoyed, as if it was a rite of passage. Grateful to have received one shred of evidence that his friend once existed, he tucked the bible under his coat and ran out of the house as quickly as he could. Hopping on his bike, he vacated the premises as if a pack of wolves were in hot pursuit.
On the top of the roof, a dark figure watched the bicycle fade into the night. An amused hiss emanated from underneath its hood. “What a pathetic creature,” it sneered, “Does he not yet understands? His “friend” is just like me, but that frightened boy is a mere human. Fate itself separated them.”
He shook his head pityingly, “Let the boy live, wishing he had more time with his comrade. But in truth, had his friend stayed, he would have simply come to fear him, then resent him, and finally hate the same one to whom he has the audacity to apply such an empty word as ‘friend’. Thus is the folly of man to the unknown.” the creature felt satisfied with itself. It successfully put its thoughts to words quite eloquently; indeed, it should have been a poet. Then it leapt to another roof and was gone.
Mashka lay awake on her bed, a novel left open beside her, ignored. She had been through a long list of tests: mental, physical, and medical, and felt too exhausted to even read. She felt an unprecedented sympathy for lab rats. However, it was not that bad. Dr. Hamid was very polite and treated her kindly and he had said that it would not be this way much longer. In the next stage, she would be allowed to decide her future goals, whatever those were.
Even though she felt exhausted, her mind was occupied with concern for her brother. She had been assured by The Administrator that they were looking for him, and he would be unharmed.
But something seemed to have awakened inside Aleksei ever since this situation started. He was assertive, calm, and quick thinking. Judging by what she had heard from him yesterday, he was not going to be an easy one to catch.
Unfortunately, he seemed to be running for no reason. Life was not too bad on the inside. In fact, she was even starting to feel slightly embarrassed about how much of a fuss she put up in coming here. Still, suspicion lingered in her heart. If there was anything she learned after becoming independent, it was that everyone has motives.
'Even if they do plan on using me,' she thought, 'at least I’m learning how to defend myself if I need to. And by learning that, I can escape more readily. Just bide my time, until they teach me a little too much, and off I go!'
Already she had learned techniques for controlling her senses, to stop them from randomly enhancing. She looked at the wall mirror to practice. Her eyes turned amber, first the left, then the right one. She had nearly complete control. She shuddered after returning to normal. 'It does not make it any less creepy,' she reflected.
However, the eyes were not what frightened her the most. It was that moment when the whole world melted away, that truly worried her. In those times at the hospital, and in the woods, it was as if a cornered animal possessed her body. Afterwards, she would be crouching in immense pain as she returned to normal. Worse yet, everything she had done in her altered state would be forgotten, leaving her wondering what had just happened.
She never wanted to feel like that again, but she knew that at any moment, that beast within her would take over. All she had to do was become frightened enough.
So even if she did not trust her captors, she could trust herself even less. Chekhov had been right that she could lose control; it was just a matter of time. It would only take one unlucky mugger, purse snatcher, or even someone approaching her wrong, and she would be all over the Russian airwaves as ‘the beast lady.’ So she simply had to tolerate the situation. Perhaps she might even find out what her mother meant by “a higher purpose”?
Her mind yet again turned to her younger brother. 'Sacred Father, keep him safe,' she prayed.
Mashka would have been shocked to know, at that very moment, Aleksei was standing just outside Rus Industries' tall, iron gate. All he had to do was slide a card into a slot on his left and he would be in, but he hesitated. He knew he should use it quickly before the missing agent was noticed, and the card was locked. But he did not know what other security precautions were in place.
After all, if super-powers are a “thing”, why would automatic gun turrets or robotic laser crawlers not be reasonable insurance? At least that’s what any comic book character would have to assume.
While he was contemplating this, he noticed the glimmer of headlights from around the corner. He sidestepped and lay down against the fence. When the lights started to shine his direction he wrapped vapour around him to further distort his appearance, causing him to almost blend into the pale stone of the bottom part of the wall.
The source of the invading light was a black limousine. As it pulled up, the driver leaned out and slid his card into the machine. The gates opened and lights automatically came on showing a driveway. He tried to memorize where they were and where they cast their shadows. As the limo moved through, he sent a thin mist at the entranceway. Small red lines were suspended horizontally along the entrance.
“Infrared lasers huh?” he muttered, “That’s a classic trope.” He allowed a moment of amusement at the thought of himself as a secret agent.
The car passed on and the lights turned off, as the gates began to close. He ran to the entrance and dove between two of the laser beams. He hit the pavement on the other side and rolled. Then he dashed into some garden shrubbery near the fence. To his relief, the lasers were what activated the lights, and since he had not tripped them, he remained in darkness.
'Now what?' he asked himself. He just then considered how bad a strategy it was to make it up as he went. 'It always seemed to work for Metal Man.' he grumbled.
The Czech strolled on the damp grass, enjoying the fresh night air in the garden around the facility. However his tranquillity was interrupted by a faint rustling sound, which to the untrained ear, most would assume it was a squirrel, but he knew immediately, that it was a much larger disturbance. As he walked towards the source of the noise to investigate, the air rippled outwards from him and all sound vanished. He was as silent as a void. Within moments, he found his target. It was the boy from the woods, the girl's brother, slinking on the unlit lawn.
Though he was without a gun, the Czech did not feel a reason to carry one at the moment. He was more than capable of handling the boy, even the girl in white would not get in his way. He had been told that the youth had martial arts experience, so he might find some amusement from his apprehension.
Casually, he fell into step behind the creeping boy, remaining in his blind spot and being certain he did not cast a visible shadow. He was just about close enough to grab him when the boy unexpectedly spun and lashed out with his foot, catching The Czech in the side. He stood solidly and grabbed the boy’s leg, seeming completely unaffected by the blow.
Aleksei twisted and was just able to free his foot. He dove forward to ram The Czech with his shoulder. To his surprise, he slipped right through the man and rolled on the grass. It was as if the towering was merely a wraith of the dead.
Aleksei looked back at him, “What are you?” he felt shivers run down his spine.
“Funny isn’t it? My ability,” The Czech said, “You can only hit me if I let you. No solid object can touch me without permission. However I am impressed that you noticed my presence, I can cancel out all sound and have extensive stealth training.”
Aleksei stood cautiously, vapour rolling off of his body making him seem almost like a ghost in the moonlight. He considered the bald man’s words before replying somewhat, “Well that talent is pretty useless if I don’t use my ears.”
The Czech noticed the thin white sheet of vapour among the blades of grass. He smiled and nodded, “Impressive, to think that you could develop into a sensory type with such a seemingly useless ability.” then he grinned. “I assume you’re here looking for your sister. She’s fine, for now.” he lowered his voice, “Oh and, Mashka, was it? Her hair smells nice, and I can not get enough of that soft skin.”
Aleksei grimaced; this man was as creepy as he looked. He was trying hard not to let his goading get to him as he replied, “You’ll learn to talk respectfully about my sister.” As if reflecting his anger, the mist began rising from the ground and nearby shrubs and swirl in thin, hissing wisps around him.
Aleksei made a beckoning motion with his arm. The Czech stepped forward but heard a hiss from behind him. A football sized cloud passed through his body and stopped in front of Aleksei, where the swirling mass hovered.
The Czech bent over in agony, he had phased himself, but for some reason, the fog hurt after passing through him.
Aleksei noticed the grimace. “It seems I can hit you,” he stated, then flicked the fog away, causing it to hit the man hard in the chest.
The Czech had been smart enough to remain in phase and just take the blow, which though it was a hard strike, did not hurt excruciatingly like the first time. The boy figured that since the vapour was not solid, it had a chance of affecting him. He found it peculiar. He could be out of phase in water or rain or fog, and feel nothing. The added turbulence, or maybe just the fact the powers of two aberrations were interacting? He smiled; it had been a long time since he’d had an interesting target.
Aleksei could sense other bodies approaching. He turned to escape, but The Czech recovered and grabbed his leg, tripping him. He got up on one knee and gathered another stream of mist to hurl at the man.
“Freeze!” an associate yelled, and Aleksei found himself staring down a gun barrel. The rebellious side considered trying to freeze the water vapour all over the man, but he stopped himself, as three other guns pointed right at him. He released control of the fog and surrendered. There was nothing more he could do. He glared at The Czech as the agents cuffed his hands behind his back and lead him away.
The Czech watched him depart. 'The kid showed promise. Maybe he will not be disposed of? After all…' the sensation of the fog passing through his chest made him wince. 'He was at least able to compete with me for a moment. He could be of value as my executor.'
No one noticed Aleksei’s quiet grin. During the battle he had realised that with the security here, there would have been no way he could get Mashka out. He recognised the capture was inevitable if he wanted to get to his goal, so he needed to make the most of it. Being captured this way at least let him know the shape of the building and the geographic location, which soon could prove invaluable.
Aleksei felt the weight of the two charms Duscha had given him against his chest, as if whispering a reminder. Everything was taking place as it was meant to.