Starfall CH15 – Promises

[3073 words]Globe sat back in his chair, legs propped on the edge of his desk. His tongue licked the bitter taste of the cigar he’d lit victoriously, celebrating quietly in his solitude, undisturbed and unafraid. He took a long drag, enough to cloud his mind, making him all giddy. Through heavy-lidded eyes he watched the struggle of his enemies on the screens, the failure and death on every floor. They would never get to him. The tower climb was their doom.

He’d wanted them all in one place with the delusion they could win and he had them. It made this revenge all the more rewarding.

His eyes flicked over the first screen. Joaquin’s friends on the ground floor were struggling against Duke, his strongman and although Kid Vision had wasted Tarantula’s baby spider and although Quake was doing an impressive job rising shields against the powerful bashes they weren’t going to last long. Nightwave’s shadows were already transparent, his reach short. Quake’s boulders were smaller and smaller, nothing against Duke’s strength. Globe could already see them wasted, their abilities spent while Duke had juice for yet another and another and another round. It was his peculiarity, this unwavering stamina. On the outside world the Nightprowers were preparing to step in. Globe wondered how the self-proclaimed heroes in their current conditions would do against an army wielding stun rifles. Poorly, he guessed. He would have them strapped to gurneys soon enough if they didn’t suicide themselves in their weak attempts to win time.

The second screen however was a disappointing one. The pang of anger stirred Globe out of his chair a desire to hurl something building within him. He tried to look away but Silas’s prostrate body lying in the growing pool of his own blood was burned into his eyes. Anne had somehow mustered enough skill and trickery to murder Silas executing her revenge for Justin. Globe swallowed a bitter spit of tobacco at that unexpected turn of events. He had counted on Silas, needed him to remove Anne. She was wandering many floors below barefoot in her tattered dress showing off her long bruised legs.

He wanted to go down himself and put a bullet in her head, make sure she didn’t come back to life. But he had a better idea.

“Remember how we asked whether Aunty Anne liked kitties? It turns out she doesn’t, princess.”

Globe turned at the pitter-patter of tiny feet dressed in glittering leather shoes. Bree’s face was sullen, Mister Puss tightly clutched in her hands.

“We’ll have to have a talk with Anne, won’t we now? Make sure she’s punished.” He reached out for Bree but she moved away, steps retreating.

“You are a liar. You hurt Aunty Anne.”

Globe chuckled. A distraught looking Bree watched him under tear riddled eyes. On second glance that wasn’t distraught. Those weren’t tears but a glint, the one preceding the empty stare, eyes devoid of all color, the one that frightened him.

“Bree, honey what’s going on? Why are you upset at me? Is it because it’s early and you’re not in bed?”

“You hurt her. Mr. Puss didn’t like that one bit, no he didn’t.”

Bree showed him the white stuffed tomcat. Its eyes glowed red, a dead ruby color in his glass orbits.

Globe’s breathing hitched.

“Aunty Anne did some bad things so she had to be punished. Remember how we talked about what happens to people who disappoint us?”

“Like you disappointed me, Jacob?”

Globe stumbled back at the change of her tone, the childlike vibrato replaced by a cold and calculating tone, emotionless, bland. The frivolity with which Bree had regarded him always was gone. He’d wiped tears and snot away from her face, bought candy and rode ponies, gave her all she wanted as a little girl, sometimes forgetting she was a time bomb loaded to explode whenever her mood wavered. But this wasn’t that girl. This was the real Bree.

“You bore me, Jacob Globe. Your chance of reign was wasted. Your power over this world was wasted and now I’m taking it all back.”

“Back?” Globe spat his smile disappearing inch by inch.

“I gave this chance to you and look what you did with it – you ruined it. I can easily take it away, leave you with nothing. You failed, became consumed by this blind ambition. I so wanted you to succeed. Mr. Puss was counting on you. Look what you did, how it rains blood outside.”

Heavy rain droplets thundered against the windows of his tower washing it in crimson red. Globe felt sick at the illusion.

“Please, Bree. It’s me, your friend. I would never hurt you. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Alright, princess?”

Bree shook her head, blond ponytails bouncing back and forth.

“It’s too late. The children are awake, Jacob.”

Globe turned back to the monitors witnessing the six children from the Blue Room out of their beds, their white eyes staring in unison at the camera before they turned away and walked out.

“It’s time to wake him too.”

Jacob turned back to the little girl in the pink dress.

“I beg of you Bree, don’t wake up Kristof. He’ll destroy everything we’ve accomplished! You know what he’s capable off. Please.”

“The only thing you accomplished is death. You’ve had your chance.”

She gave him a twisted grin, tiny white teeth sharp like daggers.

“It was sweet of you to think of me as another test subject. I’ve never been that. Goodbye, Jacob Globe.”

He watched as a portal like window snapped into existence in the middle of his room. Bree skipped through it, disappearing when it closed in an instant, shrinking to thin air.

Globe realized he’d started crying. He brushed the snot away with the sleeve of his shirt and stumbled toward the mirror in the wall, sliding it open, bringing the white Desert Eagle out of its hiding. He stood in the middle of the room, waiting.

* * *

“The time has come. Wake up, Kristof.”

Kristof’s eyes snapped open in that dreamlike world consisting of the same patch of Canadian wilderness he’d dreamed of before. Now however it was blocked off by white space, nothingness beyond this point. Bree was dancing in front of him, spinning Mr. Puss in her hands. For the first time he could move, no longer tied to the tree. He tried the ground with his feet, finding the dew refreshing on his bare skin.

“There is high chance of reign today. Will you take it?” she asked sing-song.

Kristof looked for that image of Seattle burning finding instead more blanks. The future was still undecided.

“Why now?”

“You’re ready now. You weren’t before, silly. Take it now or sleep forever.”

Kristof picked her in his arms lifting her so she could snatch an apple from the tree and give it to her cat. The beast wiggled alive in her thin hands, snout sniffing the apple before it took a bite sinking carnivorous teeth into the sweet juices. Kristof smiled.

“I think I’ll take it. Is it that boring out there?”

Bree wriggled free from his embrace.

“It’s what it shouldn’t be. You change that.”

Kristof licked his lips tasting them salty. It felt so real, sensations, tastes.

“What about Globe?”

“Jacob Globe is dead. Now wake up, Kristof.”

Bree’s tiny frame began to dissolve, a vortex of space rising to consume the white background turning it to an endless black riddled with bright pulsating stars. Mr. Puss ran up her arm and stretched feline-like, resting his paws on her shoulder. Bree stepped into that domeless cosmos, unrecognizable burning nebulas spinning tirelessly in the forever.

Kristof awoke to a different image, a girl with a gun firing at the container holding him captive, spilling him free from the choking liquid sedating him for months. Unlike in the dream, his body was weak in reality, a year of abuse waning him. He was tired of waking up in hospitals and secret laboratories. It was just like his sunset had begun. He looked to the next container’s occupant. Peter was no better. He’d forgotten about the old man, the father he rejected and rediscovered.

Kristof tried to get to his feet but he could only float so that’s what he did. The young girl watched him startled as he looped down to the body of an unknown man shot dead in the chest. The nakedness of his body bothered his human brain so Kristof decided undressing the man wasn’t a half bad idea. Though they were stained with blood and fitted him badly he felt better having them on. He went back to Peter, picked up his unconscious body and swung it over one shoulder. It was paper thin, weighting even less. He had to leave him somewhere safe and deal with him later. Now all he wanted to do was pay Globe a visit.

Kristof flew straight through the roof tilting the building in the process, destabilizing its structure. The anger of the captivity took hold of his raging mind and he began ripping like a fire cracker through the identical floors, the sound wave he created enough to destroy. His body carried him outside bursting through a window, a sonic boom trailing behind him, demolishing half the side of the skyscraper. Glass and concrete and steel rained when the façade toppled. The newly administered light blinded him and Kristof began to fall amidst the flying rubble, weakened by the intensity, the world rendering back into shapes and colors for his sunken eyes as he careened straight for the ground. He regained control and pulled back before crashing on the plaza below. The debris thundered down in a cloud of white dust.

Kristof landed close to the wake of that destruction and laid Peter’s body at the feet of heavy armed men startled by his appearance. They directed white rifles at his chest, red dots gathering to a bunch. Kristof ignored that.

“Take care of him for me, will you?”

He shot back into the air feeling their shots ring past him, sizzling in the air in an explosion of blue lightning. He’d have to come back for them later. Kristof crashed horizontally through the tower reentering it.

Quake, Kid and Nightwave were falling back, bending the knee at the instruction of the Nightprowlers. They were spent, no fight left in their exhausted bodies. A tremor more powerful than anything Quake was capable off shook the building, a sonic boom destroying everything in its wake. It ripped through the floor and shot up through the ceiling raining rubble and death over the supers. Quake had just enough strength to vibrate the falling pieces, rearranging them to shielding Kid and Nightwave underneath an umbrella of rocks.

Floors above them Joaquin panted, counting the 30 rounds that were fired at his body leaving him unstable on his feet. But he refused to fall, he still put his hands up ready to jump again. One Prowler was already down, his gun assumed by Cosma, her body shielded by a ring of cosmos sucking in the life out of Joaquin. The injury from the bullet had taken a tow on her but she still wielded her ability with ease.

She was about to plunge it on him when the eruption preceded the sound wave that bled their ears. The ground below their feet caved in when the fury swept through their floor, the gravity draw throwing Joaquin in the air five floors up then pulling him back down in a rain of rubble. He managed to catch himself on a rebar sticking clean through the concrete mid-section. It bent under his pressure and Joaquin grappled upwards, desperate for friction. He found solidity and raised his heavy body onto the floor above, rolling on his stomach, fingers fumbling at the edge of the missing floor. He peered down to stare at a seemingly bottomless hole sucking in the Prowlers and Cosma.

He raised to his feet, disoriented. When the dust settled he saw the number 19 written on the wall opposite him. Joaquin hurried across the intact corridor shouting Massey’s name.

* * *

Massey felt the rope tied around Denisha’s midsection come loose in his sweaty palm. He untangled it and proceeded to the loop around her ankles. The knife was steadier in his hands as he worked. He took side glances at the monitor watching the flame of the candle elongate, yellow tongue close to burning through the rope.

“Just a little longer, baby. We’re going home, I promise you.”

The tremor came out of nowhere and it grew to a roaring crescendo as the base exploded and the tower tilted. Massey was thrown back, the impact separating him from Denisha. A sonic boom shattered the windows, reducing the wall to a puzzle like rubble. The force of that sent Denisha’s chair out of balance and Massey experienced the shocking moment in which he saw her fly out of the window hands desperately trying to reach him. He threw himself after her but the rope around her neck caught Denisha before he could, the chair she was tied to breaking and tumbling to the greyness bellow. She swung back and forth, kicked in the air choking as the rough rope tightened around her windpipe, fingers clawing at the bruising friction. Massey tiptoed to the edge and tried to wrap his arms around her kicking legs but it was no use. He could no longer see the candle but knew in his heart it was going to burn through the rope any second. The tremors continued, floors above subjected to the rampaging of some force. Massey saw as ejected furniture tumbled in free air behind Denisha, his world a slowed down one as he watched them fall, watched her life drain. He stumbled back and found his gun amidst the rubble and aimed at the rope trying to time the stunt he was about to pull in the seesaw rocking of the tower. He fired when Denisha’s body rocked his way, the bullet piercing the string, cutting her loose.

Massey caught her on the edge of the broken wall holding her tight in his embrace. He kissed her forehead.

“I got you. Daddy’s got you.”

The unknown force bashed in reverse, pulsating vertically top to bottom. The tower shook uncontrollably and Massey spun Denisha in his arms turning her away from the pulverized debris raining on top of them. He shielded her with his body until the tremor stopped leaving the tower groaning loudly.

“Are you alright, baby girl?” He smiled down at her, whispering words meaning safety, love, protection. He was going to get her out of this alive.

“Daddy,” she gasped staring at his chest, trembling fingers reaching.

Massey was half aware of the pain slowly ebbing its way through his torso. He looked down to see the shrapnel stick out, its shaft probing all the way through his back. His eyes went out of focus, head spinning. He toppled to the side fingers coated in warm blood. He had never realized how warm blood was. It spread through his chest, making him lightheaded. All of a sudden he wanted just to sleep. He’d be alright then, just a small nap.

Denisha screaming his name was the last thing he heard before blacking out.

* * *

Joaquin swore loudly when a new ripple brought him to his knees. He had to dodge the desolation in his path, coughing through the floating dust, white and sticky. When he heard the cries he picked up his pace.

He found them amidst the rubble clutching one another. Joaquin took slow steps toward them sensing something was wrong. Massey lay prostrate, his chest soaked in blood. His breathing was labored, the fabric of his shirt wrinkled where Denisha had clawed her thin fingers, red skid marks down her palms. Massey’s brown eyes were turning glassy.

“He saved me,” Denisha whispered clutching her father’s head in her lap. Her tears seeped silently drawing lines in the dust caked on her face.

Joaquin dropped to his knees, calloused hand searching for that of Massey’s. He held it tight.

“Detective. Look at me, please!”

Massey’s gaze focused on Joaquin. The words were coming in gurgles, slurred by the blood spilling out of the corner of his mouth. The piece of metal had punctured.

“Hey kid, you good?” Massey asked him trying on a smile.

Joaquin didn’t stop the tears threatening to spill. He shook his head. “No, I’m not.”

Even while dying Massey’s face saddened upon hearing that choked statement.

Joaquin sniffed back the rest of his rolling tears. “We need to get you out of here, you need help.” He tried to lift Frank up weary of his wound but the impalement was deep. The older man growled slumping back to the ground.

“It’s no use. Joaquin, get…get Denisha out of here. Get her some place safe, somewhere away.” He grabbed at Joaquin’s shirt, red fingers digging into the tattered cloth to pull him close. His eyes rolled in their sockets reaching white.

“Promise me you’ll save her or I swear I’ll haunt your ass forever”. Massey’s lips were pale, pink stained saliva running down his chin.

“…promise me. My daughter…”

The rest was left unsaid, words trailing into silence, the lips still moving but not making any sound. Joaquin pulled Denisha away prying her from her father’s body.

“C’mon, we gotta leave, this place is fallin’ apart.”

She pushed him back returning to Massey’s body. She smoothed his receding hair.

“No, I can’t just leave him here.”

“You gonna die if you don’t. Your father didn’t sacrifice himself for that.”

“I can’t…”

“Massey’s gone, Denisha.”

That seemed to snap her out of her mourning. She looked at him for the first time trying to find the pain she was feeling in his face, reciprocal, shared. He saw how she wanted to lean into his frame and cry in a soothing embrace until she had no voice no more. But he couldn’t allow her that right now and hated himself for it. Joaquin grabbed her by the shoulders shaking her.

“You gotta make it out of here, you hear? Go, use the emergency exit.”

“What about you?”

“I gots somethin’ to take care of first. I’ll find you when this is over.”

It was a promise he intended to keep.

Next: CoNcLuSiOn

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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