A week of awkward tension went by before Steppe finally suggested his next mission. During that week I avoided him as much as possible, not sure of what I would do if I was around him, and I had no desire to give him any reason to kill me.
I had long ago decided that I was a survivor, and now I knew that I wouldn’t be if something didn’t happen, soon. Septi felt the same, I knew, but I had no idea what we could do. Natural talent or not, Steppe had years of experience that we lacked. He had been with the VI4C since shortly after it was founded in 1989, and had been trained to fight and kill since then.
Steppe’s mission reflected his training. He was determined to stamp out the loners from that trailer park, and he insisted that Septi, Angel and I go with him on it. I didn’t understand it, but I should have. At that point, I only knew that I wanted my brother’s killers dead.
The battle began like any other. I let my rage and my hatred override all other emotions. I fought like a machine, moving without thinking about it.
At some point I looked up, and it all registered. Blood was spilling all around me, and I took the chance to look around. I caught sight of Steppe, who was surrounded by the enemy. Biting my lip, I quickly made my way through the enemy, killing those that I could.
I knew that, from the way that Steppe had been acting recently, if I didn’t do whatever I was able to, I’d get blamed for not defending Steppe, even if he hadn’t needed my help. By the time I had made my way to his side, though, all of his foes were lying on the ground, dying or dead.
“Where were you?” he demanded as I moved to cover his back.
“Over there,” I said, motioning. “I came as soon as I could.”
“Soon enough wasn’t soon enough,” he growled, turning on me. I’d barely had time to turn and raise my arms in defense before his mace, which I had made for him, pounded down on my head. “You defiant little bitch!”
My knees buckled and I saw stars. A warm liquid, which I knew to be blood, trickled down from my scalp, and I gasped from the pain. I reached for one of my daggers with clumsy fingers as the world bucked and tilted, and a white hot streak of pain began in my shoulder.
That awful blackness was waiting to engulf me again, but I fought to maintain consciousness. Something hard and cold met my shoulder and everything was blurring, going dark suddenly.
I forced my eyes open, only to see a white ceiling above me. Faces looked down at me, but to my confused mind they didn’t look fully human, the way their hygienic masks masks blurred into their skin. I became aware of the noises around me- the steady beeping of machines, the babble of talk both inside and outside of the room, the sound of people walking and rolling things past the room.
“-don’t understand how she’s still alive-”
“-you’re sure that DNA is-”
“-the force of the blow should have killed her, or at least done some serious brain damage. It must have been quite some fight.” One of the faces above me pulled off the mask, and my fuzzy mind realized that I was surrounded by doctors. I then turned my attention to what two of the other people were discussing.
“Were there any other survivors at the scene?” a woman asked, also removing her mask.
“None,” someone else said. My mind struggled to figure out what they were talking about. Someone whistled, and I cringed, letting my eyelids drop closed, trying to remember how I’d wound up wherever I was.
“It’s a miracle that she’s alive,” the one man said, as it all came flooding back to me. My eyes opened wide, and my stomach began to churn. I wanted to throw up, but I had nothing to throw up, and there was an oxygen mask on my face.
“She’s awake,” the woman who had removed her face mask said. “Honey, can you hear me?” I nodded mutely.
“Alright, let’s try lifting your arms, then,” the male doctor said. I lifted them, though they felt like lead. Over the next half hour or so, they tested my mobility, and then they let me eat a little.
As I was eating some bland food, they began to question me about who I was and where I’d come from. It started with my name, age and other such personal info, and then they started to ask me about my powers, where I’d been staying, etc. My training kicked in at that point, and I refused to answer, so that they wouldn’t be able to track down and maybe kill the VI4C.
I didn’t understand why I did that, after Steppe had tried to kill me, but I did. They questioned me repeatedly over the course of my eighteen month recovery, but I held my tongue.
I had no idea about what would happen to me when they finally released me, and I allowed myself to be distracted by the stupidest things. I rarely used my powers, and my physical therapy was based solely on helping my fine motor skills. I suppose that I should have known when they moved me to a much more private and secluded room that something was going to happen, but I didn’t notice.
I had been sitting in the chair by the window, watching the other patients in the backyard, when the nurse came in one morning. I had never seen this woman before, but I assumed that she normally worked in another part of the hospital, or was newer. Little did I know that my life was about to change again.
This short, plain nurse insisted that I change into an all black rough outfit, and then I was put into a wheelchair and blindfolded. They put wooden shackles on my feet after crossing my legs to ensure that I wouldn’t be able to run. And then they wheeled me through the hospital.
A car or a truck of some sort must have been waiting for me, and I was loaded into it. Someone jabbed a needing into my arm as they removed the wooden shackles, replacing them with metal ones. I couldn’t fight the small smirk that began spreading across my face. Apparently no one had bothered to tell these people that I was a metal mutant.
Several doors were closed, and I hear the purr of the engine. The car jerked into motion, and a man’s voice came from my left, explaining things to me.
“You’re being taken to the Citizens Against the Mutant Menace base,” he said. “There are four guns pointed at you, Danae, and all of your guards would be willing to shoot if you make a single move.” Maniacal laughter bubbled out, forcing itself past my lips. How stupid are they? I thought, amused by their idioticy. To surround a metal mutant with countless metals?
A sharp pain in my shoulder told me that someone had hit me and I bit my lip hard, trying to stifle the laughter. The next thing he said, though, struck a cold fear in my heart.
“You’ve got enough of the anti-power drug in your system to keep you from causing havoc for at least fourty-eight hours,” he said. “We’re not as stupid as you think we are, mutey, so listen up. If you co-operate and play nicely, things won’t be too hard for you. Think you can do that?”
I never got the chance to answer, because suddenly the car jerked to a stop, jerking me out of my seat and throwing me across the floor of the van. That’s when something slammed into the back of the car, sending shards of glass flying. Several people screamed or cursed, and I heard another car pound on it’s brakes, and the screech as it skidded to a stop.
“What the hell just happened?” a woman asked frantically, her voice cracking with fear, I heard someone open the door of the van, and I struggled to sit up.
I had a spur of the moment idea, and I knew that if I ever got the chance to escape that it was then. I heard a gunshot and froze, and then I heard several whimpers.
“I had a speech ready,” a man’s voice came from outside of the van. “But you aren’t worth it. Now, tell me, where’s the woman you just took from the hospital?”
My mouth went dry, and I wished that I could see. I had no clue what was going on, but my imagination was working overtime. What if Steppe found out that I was alive and sent this guy to kidnap and kill me..? what if this is just another elaborate plot by CAMM to..? What if..?
“Who are you, and what do you want?” the man who had been talking to me earlier asked.
“Who I am isn’t important,” the new man said. “And I’ve already told you what I want. Not, just hand over the woman, and I won’t have to hurt you.”
“You’re interfering with government business,” the CAMM agent snapped. “If you don’t step away from the van, I’ll shoot you. You have ten seconds.”
“Please,” the new guy said, laughing. I heard the sound of something whizzing past my head, and a gasp. “You can’t stop me. Now, who wants to meet his maker?”
I felt someone grab my legs and undo the shackles. Then they pulled off the blindfold. I gasped as the sunlight hit my eyes, blinding me. Whoever had just freed me pulled me to my feet and shoved me out the door, into someone else’s arms.
Frantically I struggled to find my balance, and as soon as possible I was on my feet. Blinking furiously in the afternoon light I began to see that I was standing in the middle of an interstate, with cars backed up farther than I could see.
Looking up I saw that this man, my rescuer, was wearing a mask and a hoodie, hiding all of his face. Behind him were several monstrous creatures, made of wood, metals and plastics.
“Get into the black truck,” he whispered to me, and I nodded. Vaulting for safety, I briefly wondered who he was and why he cared about what was going to happen to me. Above all of that, though, I resented him for having to rescue me.
I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to get free on my own. I knew that there had also been no way for me to have avoided capture too. But I resented- no, I loathed- him for having to save me.
I must have only been in the truck for several minutes when he slid into the driver’s seat and took off. Sullenly I stared at the road ahead of us, waiting for him to break the silence. Finally he did.
“What, no thank you?” he asked me. I shot him an angry glance.
“Excuse me if I don’t know how to handle being rescued,” I said coldly. “I don’t usually do the damsel in distress. In fact, I never do it.”
“There’s a firt time for everything,” he said, seemingly not bothered by my foul mood, which infuriated me further.
“Where are you taking me? And who are you?” I snapped, trying to change the conversation.
“My name’s Nikto,” he said. “I’m taking you to my hideout. You don’t mind water, do you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, shocked. “Hideout? You’re a mutant, right?”
“Yeah,” he said. “And I mean that my hideout’s in the middle of an ocean. The bottom of the ocean, actually.” I gaped at him momentarily, unsure how to proceed.
“So you’re kidnapping me? Is that it?” I asked, trying to maintain my anger.
“If you want to go, be my guest, but I can’t imagine where you’ll go, what with the CAMMies searching for you,” he said simply. I leaned back in my seat, the realization that I really had no where else I could go hitting me hard.
Aunt Persephone made it clear when I went to the school that she never wanted to see me again, and I can’t go back to the VI4C. Not after Steppe tried to kill me. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t go to Greece, not that there’s anyone there for me. I was beginning to feel queasy, as I realized that I’d have to stay with this guy, Nikto, at least for a while.
“Fine,” I said finally. “I’ll come with you for a little while.”
“I figured that you would want to,” he said with a smile.