The Shadow's Deceptive Touch
Aleksei reached the edge of the vast Lake Onega and knelt. His breath hitch at the sight of the boiling water. He waved his arms in circular motion over the edge of the dock. As though it were a pot boiling over cool mists billowed from the sea and crept over the ground around him. Then as in a chorus of hisses a thousand misty snakes scattered away from him, covering the ground with a web, He lowered his arms and relaxed causing the mist to become a transparent sheet, establishing his detection field.
"I see you, Anya!" He muttered, having located her in his web. "Now for her friends..." The lake erupted before him and a newly birthed cloud cascaded over the dockyard and train station, causing anything further than a few yards to vanish into the gloom and lights became fuzzy glowing orbs which revealed the dense mist-wraiths on patrol in their master's realm.
Once Aleksei assessed the direction farthest from any of the beings caught in his cloud, he bolted, keeping near the walls of the boat and warehouses. He stumbled as confusion and vertigo hit him.
'Oh wow... this feels so weird... I can't move... I need to shrink the web...'
He severed his connection with the wider cloud, shrinking his sensory radius to only thirty metres. Once he did he was able to stand and resume running. He fought queasiness as he adapted to mist-feeling and moving at the same time. He could not feel his skin, it was as though his nerves were spread over the ground around him, colliding with crates, building people, gravel, every sensation reported back to him with a few seconds late depending how far away the object was. The only way he could compare it to was as if he was in a game with a sluggish internet connection and instead of looking at a monitor with his eyes, his skin was laid over all the terrain like ribbons.
No longer using his eyes, he felt and discovered a suitable hiding place between three stacks of wood pallets. He sat down and tried to slow his breathing, but remained ready to flee.
Now that he was still, he extended his fog screen, awaiting Chekhov’s return, and establishing a wide “home field.” Beyond the nearby highway, there was no immediate activity. A few minutes later, he felt something. His sheet of vapour was encroached upon. He was fairly certain it was The Czech, his large feet moving with a confident stride. Then, another set of more cautious steps were in the opposite direction. Judging by the size of the soles, he assumed it must be the Anya he had seen in the cafeteria with Chekhov. Both of them were walking towards him. Closer and closer they stepped, he tried to keep himself calm, despite his pounding heart.
'What is taking Chekhov so long?'
The Czech turned his direction for a moment. Aleksei almost thought he had noticed his thoughts, but instead he walked on to look in another area. The same happened with Anya.
He felt them get farther and farther away. Once he felt they were out of hearing range, he began to emerge from his hiding place, returning power to his eyes so he could see normally. Just as he was about to climb out, his heart jumped because of the rattling pallets behind him, followed by a throaty hiss.
“That vapour isss helpful detecting people…”
Aleksei looked behind to see a hooded figure, straddling the pallets like a spider.
“…but only if they are on the ground!” The Messenger leapt at Aleksei who tumbled away and bolted. The creature pursued him gaining ground.
Aleksei tripped, and fell facedown. He rolled over to see the phantasmal beast leap towards him. The boy found himself paralysed, as precious seconds ticked by, robbing him of any chance to escape. Strength and willpower returned to his legs when he heard a loud jet-engine sound, descending from the night sky. He rolled out of the way, in time to avoid The Messenger’s pounce.
He got up on his feet, and was about to run, when he saw swirling dust on the ground in front of him, the roaring noise intensifying.
Chekhov dropped out of the sky, in front of him. “Get out of the way!” he barked as he raised his hands.
Aleksei dodged as the air and dust swirled between Chekhov’s hands then the ripples shot forward, striking The Messenger and causing him to fly backwards into a warehouse wall. The Messenger landed feet first against the metal, kicked off and flipped, landing in a crouch, then charged towards Aleksei.
The youth attracted mist to the ground surrounding him. Just as The Messenger was about to strike, a stream of mist rushed up and deflected his fist. He spun calmly into a kick to Aleksei’s gut, which was also deflected by the vapour making a counter strike. He tried to lash out repeatedly, but each time a cloud snapped up and took the blow, giving Aleksei time to back away. The Messenger reached out and only barely touched the back of Aleksei’s neck, before being knocked away by a solid right hook from Chekhov.
Chekhov tried to intervene, but there was no possibility for a shockwave without harming the boy. So he waited for an opening to dodge in and attack with his fists.
Aleksei felt a sharp sting. There was a little blood oozing from a small wound where The Messenger had touched him.
The Messenger paused, wheezing. Aleksei jumped away and back-flipped, granting some distance between The Messenger and himself. Chekhov, likewise, backed away so they were on opposite sides of their opponent.
The creature nodded appreciatively towards Aleksei, “It seemed you have created some kind of shield for yourself. Very ingenious.”
Aleksei’s denser arsenal was continuing to grow bigger as he gathered more water from the lake, and the surrounding air. It was now a knee deep screen with a five meter radius around him.
“Thanks I suppose,” he replied, then looked at Chekhov, “I think we should leave.” he suggested.
Chekhov nodded and prepared to fly towards Aleksei. However, mid-flight a bullet hit his left arm from behind, causing him to spin around from the force. He held his arm in pain, and backed against the wall Aleksei was in front of. The background noises of the city dimmed.
He gasped, “Aleksei, away from the wall!”
Both of them moved to the centre of the space between the two warehouses. The Czech phased through the wall they had been against.
“I suppose silence is not always the best cover.” the bald man said humourlessly.
Chekhov examined the situation. The Messenger and The Czech were on either side of them. But neither of them had their weapons drawn. 'Anya must be acting as sniper!' Chekhov realised.
The Messenger drew its own firearm. “Ssspakoynay nochi,” he hissed.
Chekhov raised both of his hands as quickly as he could, the air rippled in front of them. The tranquilizer darts erupted from the barrels as he released a blast, just in time to deflect them.
Aleksei sensed a third person’s presence. He looked up to see Anya atop the roof opposite them, just as she threw some sort of can. It rolled next to their feet. Aleksei pushed it away with the mist and ducked, covering his ears. A bright light shone around them, and a squealing sound rattled in their heads from the shock grenade.
Chekhov was taken by surprise, and fell to his knees, disoriented. Aleksei, though his head ached, he could still sense his surroundings with the fog. He knew they were surrounded and he needed to do something.
He raised three large pillars of vapour around him, “Chekhov, fire to your direct left!”
Chekhov raised his uninjured hand and blindly released a wide shockwave, throwing The Czech into a wall, which he phased through. Aleksei sent the three pillars of fog towards The Messenger and Anya. They easily dodged them, but the move accomplished Aleksei’s goal.
He grabbed Chekhov’s shoulders, “Let’s go!”
Chekhov nodded, beginning to regain his sight. He blasted off into the sky.
Aleksei screamed until he was breathless. He had never been launched into the air, not even on an amusement ride. He wondered what the view was, but he figured it would be best if he just held on with eyes shut.
“Not bad with the distraction, kid.”
Aleksei nodded, holding his breath in terror. 'He could have left off the ‘kid’ part.'
The wind stopped rushing and the sound of distant traffic replaced it, like a peaceful melody.
“You can let go now.” Chekhov said, patting on the youth's embracing arms.
“R-r-really?” Aleksei stuttered, cautiously loosening his grip.
“Yeah.” he replied, dropping Aleksei from his back and sitting on the grass next to him.
Aleksei opened his eyes and found himself above the bank of Lake Onega. He looked across the water, “We came from over there?” he asked in wonder, pointing down the shore at the docks. “That’s just amazing!”
He glanced around, “Where’s Mashka?”
“She’s not here?” He asked, looking around.
“Yes I see that, I was asking where is she now.” Aleksei said anxiously.
“I guess I could not fly that far, too exhausted.” he sighed. “We’ll have to walk the rest of the way. But let’s rest here a little while.”
“Da, we should bandage up that arm anyway.”
Aleksei grabbed Chekhov’s shirt sleeve and gave a skilful tug, ripping it off at the seam. He examined the wound. “It seems it just passed through, only a flesh wound.” he folded up the sleeve, “This is probably going to hurt.”
Chekhov breathed heavily as Aleksei tightened the bandaged, causing him to grind his teeth in pain.
The boy smiled at his handiwork. “There we go. At least you won’t bleed to death, yet, but if anyone sees us there are going to be questions.” He bent down and wiped the blood off his hands in the grass. “We need to find some place to clean you off properly.”
“Where did you learn all this?” Chekhov asked.
“You would be surprised what they teach at school during first-aid month. That and American westerns.” Aleksei replied chuckling. “My dad was addicted to them, even if the Russian voice-over sometimes sounded like a company of belching cows.”
Chekhov joined in the laughter as they both looked up at the stars, happy to be alive.