Gabriel ran through the night on his new legs. The lights of buildings and cars blurred by him. Never had he run so fast before in his life, and he wondered if any human could run as fast as he could now. He decided to try something new and leapt into the air. He didn’t know how far he flew, but it had to be at least a hundred yards and he ended up landing on his feet in the park with a trench of dirt and grass behind him. He looked back and laughed. It was the first time he laughed since his accident. His laughter stopped with what he heard next.
A woman was screaming across the park. His enhanced ears caught the sound and he turned his body around to look. He heard the whirring in his head again as his eyes focused far into the park. He had a perfect view of the woman being pushed about by the three men in dark jackets. One man had her purse and was digging through it. The others laughed as she fell to the ground. Her nylons were town and her knees were bloody.
Gabriel thought about his sister who currently resided six feet underground thanks to men like them. Carole had been walking to her car in a dark parking garage right outside of the building where she worked. Two men had come out from behind van and had cornered her. Nobody heard her muffled screams as they raped and killed her. The two men were caught on camera and were serving life sentences in New Millennium Penitentiary for the remainder of their lives.
WIth the memory of his sister on his mind Gabriel sprinted towards the source of the commotion. He was quick as not to scare the thugs away, and briefly marveled at how little sound he made when he didn’t want to.
“She got anything good?” one of the thugs asked holding the woman on the ground with his boot. He was wearing black jeans and a dark green dirt stained sweatshirt.
“Nah,” the man with the purse said from under his hood. “Just a few dollars and some jewelry. Probably worth shit.”
“Can we take her then?” the fat thug in dark blue shirt and jeans said. “I think she owes us.”
“That she does,” the hooded man said tossing the purse into some bushes. “Take her into the bushes. I got first dibs.”
The man in the dark green sweatshirt put his hand over her mouth and he and the man in dark blue started dragging her away. She tried to scream, but her mouth was covered. The man in the hood took out a knife and extended the blade. “If you call out for help I’ll cut your tits off,” he said.
“Enough!” Gabriel shouted making it to the scene. The three men turned to look at him and started laughing.
“What the fuck are you supposed to be?” the man under the hood said. “Fuckin, robot or sumthin’?”
“Nice costume, freak!” the fat man said. “Why don’t you stick this fool, Eddie?”
“My pleasure,” Eddie said from under the hood. He moved fast and jammed his blade into Gabriel’s stomach. He pulled back his hand and looked in shock at his blade that was now bent out of shape.
“What the fuck,” the fat man said. “You gonna let him get away with breaking your best blade?”
“Nah,” Eddie said. “I don’t know what you wearin’, fool, but you better start runnin’!” He swung and Gabriel put up his left arm to block the punch. Eddie screamed in pain as he broke his hand against his armored forearm.
Gabriel felt a sharp pain in his jaw as the fat man landed a punch to his unprotected face. I’ll have to do something about that, he thought as he returned the punch. He hit the fat man in the chest and flew backwards until he hit a tree fifteen feet behind him.
The man in dark green rushed Gabriel, but Gabriel quickly grabbed the man’s leg and swung him into the same tree the fat man was now laying next to. They both laid still on the ground. Now Gabriel turned his attention back to Eddie.
“Hey man,” he said walking backwards from Gabriel. “We was just playin’. We weren’t gonna rape the girl or nuttin’. Honest.”
“You better…” Gabriel said before he was cutoff by a gunshot. Eddie had pulled it from the front pocket of his sweatshirt and got a shot off at Gabriel’s chest. The bullet ricocheted off and landed in a nearby tree.
“Aw fuck,” Eddie said dropping his gun. Before he could run away Gabriel backhanded him in the side of the head and Eddie fell to the ground after twisting in the air. He was still like his two friends.
“Are you OK?” Gabriel said extending his mechanical hand to the woman on the ground still in shock. She reached out nervously and took his cold hand.
“Who are you?” she asked getting up and brushing the leaves from her legs.
“My name is Gabriel,” he said with a smile. “My friends call me Gabe.”
Jonah looked around with his sword in his hands. It was white everywhere he looked. White except for the image of the back demon Killian.
“The trick is not only to keep me out of your mind,” Killian said. “But to repel me when I get in as well.”
Jonah concentrated. HIs body felt physically exhausted even though his body was a figment of his own imagination. He had been inside his own mind with Killian for hours training his mind to handle any psychic attacks Deskue might use against him. Archer post was against this training from the start, but Jonah insisted. Post relented and opted to watch from the sidelines while the two trained.
“You can shape this world into anything you’d like,” Killian said waving his black clawed hand and creating a wooden wall with a large glass window. Jonah noticed the white floor was gone and replaced with a hardwood floor and two sets of staircases leading to an upstairs area. In a blink of an eye the white was gone and replaced with this wooden cabin Killian had created from nothing.
“This is a little more complex than the barrier you will construct,” Killian said. The room melted away and they were back in the white nothingness of Jonah’s subconscious. “Now show me a brick wall,” Killian said.
Jonah sheathed his sword. He guessed the part where Killian would continually attack him from a distance was over. He held his hand in front of him palm out and tried to imagine a wall. He could see the brick wall in his mind’s eye. He supposed that’s where he actually was, so he became impatient with himself.
“No,” Killian said reading Jonah’s thoughts. “Keep calm. Picture it brick by brick. Picture the mortar between the bricks. the scratches and imperfections on each one. If it helps imagine the masons constructing the wall.”
Jonah took a deep breath (which still seemed weird since he currently wasn’t in reality) and started over. He closed his eyes and imagined a pile of bricks. Then the bricks being laid out in a line on the ground. He imagined himself with a trowel in hand spreading cement and mortar across that layer and adding another row of bricks. Soon the wall was constructing itself faster and faster.
“Open your eyes,” Killian said.
Jonah opened his eyes to see the wall in front of him. He put his hand down and amazingly the wall stayed up. “I did that?” he asked.
“You did,” Killian said. “You’ve come a long way in such a short amount of time. Tomorrow you’ll construct this wall as I attack you like before.”
“We can do it now,” Jonah said. “There’s still time.” Jonah drew his sword and the brick wall suddenly cracked. Jonah stepped back and the wall collapsed. Then exhaustion finally took him and he collapsed on the ground and blacked out.
No. That wasn’t right. He didn’t black out. He snapped back to reality where he was sitting cross-legged with Killian sitting directly across from him sitting the same way. He still felt tired and supposed it was time for bed. He looked over at the clock and was amazed to see only two minutes had passed.
“Two minutes?” he asked Killian. “We were training for around ten hours.”
“Time is different in your mind,” Killian said. “Thoughts are faster than actions. We can train more in less time, but the strain on your mind is multiplied if you over do it. That is why your wall collapsed.”
Jonah stood up and the room swam with color. Soon he was on his knee and he had vomited on the hardwood floor in front of him. He had not registered him moving, but Archer Post was beside him.
“What have you done?” Post asked Killian in an accusing tone.
“It’s part of the training,” Killian said. “He pushed his mind too far. He’ll be fine soon. You went through this training as well. Don’t you remember?”
“I didn’t have a demon inside my head,” Post said standing up and staring Killian in the eyes.
“You should be grateful,” Killian said. “The training of Jonah’s mind will help with his training to use the sword as well. I have tested his abilities from the inside, and I am resolute in the fact that you picked the right man to wield the sword of white fire.”
“I did not choose Jonah,” Post said. “The sword did.”
“Even so,” Killian said with a small smile. “The demons should be worried.”
“Gabriel?” a voice in his head said. “Gabriel? It’s Dr. Sands. Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” Gabriel said stopping his run. He had been leaping form rooftop to rooftop ever since he left the woman he rescued with a nearby police officer. The night skies of New Millennium City beckoned for him afterwards. His internal computer was able to calculate the jumps just right, and each jump felt more exhilarating than the last.
“Are you enjoying your night on the town?” Dr. Sands asked. “I have been monitoring you from my home lab. You’ve been busy.”
“I’ve been here and there.” Gabriel said. He felt weird about Sands being able to see where he was, but he was still high on the adrenaline from the night’s activities.
“Good,” Sands said. “Can you come by my home? There’s something I need to go over with you, and I can’t do it at DPA headquarters.”
Gabriel now saw why Sands had been so eager to let him out. He was wary of whatever Sands had in store for him, but he was too curious to pass on the request. “Sure,” Gabriel finally said. “Where can I find you?”
“I’ll upload my location now,” Sands said.
Gabriel instantly felt a small ping somewhere in the back of his mind and he knew exactly how to find Sands home. It was a small home in the suburbs just on the outskirts of New Millennium. By his calculations he could be there in less than ten minutes. “On my way,” he said as he leapt from the top of the building.
Isaac Sands paced in his den. He knew Gabriel needed to know the purpose why Sands agreed to work with the DPA on the project that saved his life. If things went according to plan he would have gotten a fallen solider or an injured member of the New Millennium Wolves to work with, but they had found a mostly dead man in his early twenties in a bus accident. They brought Gabriel Cogs in a coma and hooked up to all sorts of machines keeping him temporarily alive. Sands received the order to do everything at his disposal to keep the man alive and get him in the exo-suit armor.
The results were exactly what Sands had warned his superiors about. Although Gabriel’s body had taken to knew robotic body extremely well, his mental state was questionable at best. One day it seemed Gabriel was making progress with his situation and new body. The next he would be distraught and try to escape. The only clear answer Isaac Sands could come up with was to let Gabriel go and make the decision for himself.
He had monitored Gabriel closely from his home lab. The DPA knew he kept some things at his home, but they were unaware he had built a computer mainframe capable of tracking and monitoring Gabriel without their knowledge. He didn’t like doing it (he was still disgusted by some of the higher-ups “he’s DPA property” attitude as well), but he needed to find out how Cogs operated on his own. He did not disappoint.
Once Sands saw Gabriel’s actions in the park and how he leapt from building to building he knew it was time to call him in and tell him the truth. Gabriel needed to know about the other.
There was a knock on Sands’ door and he answered it immediately. He found Gabriel standing there looking at him. “Come in, Gabe,” Sands said and stood aside to let him in.
Gabriel took a brief look around and sat down on the couch. The couch nearly sank to the floor with the weight of Gabriel’s armor and robotic limbs. “What is it you have to tell me?” he asked looking at Sands.
Sands took a deep breath. He thought it’d be easier with Gabriel here in person. Now that he called him he had no choice.
“You’re not the only one,” Sands said.
The day Max Klennon feared had finally come. He walked into the showers of New Millennium Penitentiary as he always did and hung his towel on the rack. He was aware there were other men in the shower, but if he once again showed weakness he would surely become someone’s prey once again. Max was so focused on trying to look brave that he didn’t know notice the three large black men that had come up behind him.
Suddenly Max was on the ground naked and bleeding. There was a loud ringing in his right ear and a dull pain. He turned around to see the three naked black men standing over him and he tried to move back on the cold wet shower floor.
“Please don’t,” Max pleaded. “Don’t…”
“You don’t rip off certain people and not think there will be payback, bitch,” the man in the center said. Max always knew it was only a matter of time before the right people were paid off and someone would get him on the inside. Max assumed the guards were in on this too since nobody answered his cries.
“Shut your face up, you little bitch,” another one of the men said landing a kick to Max’s ribs. “Make this easy for us and we’ll be done with you quickly. If you’re going to scream we can make this last all day.”
Max stopped crying and swallowed a sob hard. He was going to die today. He was sure of it. Was there nobody who would help him?
Suddenly Max saw his reflection in the water, but it wasn’t his face. It was the face of Nilas Nil, the demon that he shared a body with. Max put his hand to his face hoping to feel the bone mask that Nilas wore, but only felt his own flesh.
“Nilas,” Max begged. “Take my body. Take it and kill them!”
“Who’s that little shit talking to?” one of the three men asked.
No, Nilas said inside Max’s head.
“Please,” Max said. “If I die you’ll die too.”
Save yourself, Nilas said. Resolve to do your own killing and my power is yours to use.
Max Klennon looked into the bone masked face in his own reflection. He had courage enough to steal from men who would pay to have him raped and killed, so he supposed he had courage enough to deal with their wrath. “Yes,” he finally said. “I will do my own killing. Lend me your power.”
It is done, Nilas said.
“Get this bitch up,” the man in the middle said. “I’ve had enough of him crying himself. Let’s see how much cushion he got for us.”
The man to the right started laughing and began to pick Max up by the armpit. Max swung his body around and landed a punch into the man’s jaw. What would usually result in Max’s broken hand and him getting pummeled to raw meat resulted in the man’s bottom jaw cracking loudly under Max’s fist and hanging loose in a sack of skin while the man screamed. Max punched the man in the neck collapsing his throat and killing him. The naked man fell to the floor with a thud.
“What the fuck?” the man in the middle said. Max turned on him and grabbed him by the throat. He dug his fingers in deep and felt bone and tendon give way to the pressure. He gave the man a toothy smile as he looked at Max’s face in terror. Max slammed the man to the floor and smashed his skull to pieces with with his fist. Blood and brain splattered all over the shower floor and max laughed.
The last man looked at the scene in horror and turned to run away. In a flash Max was on him pummeling the man’s face and chest. Max laughed maniacally while he turned the man’s face and upper torso into a bloody pile of raw meat. When he was done he looked around at the carnage in the prison showers.
Finally the guards rushed in and stopped short when they say the three dead men laying in heaps of blood and brain around the short fat stock broker who was standing nude in the middle of it all. They said nothing as they slowly approached a smiling Max Klennon with their clubs drawn and didn’t restrain him until they saw his yellow demon eyes turn back into his own.