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By Myths n' Wraiths
Edited by Vindea
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," Ezekial whispered, leaning in close to his big brother and tucking his knees in against his chest. The young boy's blonde hair was matted to his forehead with sweat from the stiffling heat inside the submarine and his clothes were beginning to stick to his bony frame.
"It'll be fine, Zeke. Besides, It's to late to turn back now," Jeremiah shot back at his little brother, eyeing the Arachnos warrior who was lounging in a make-shift cot a few feet away, making sure the minion of Lord Recluse was not listening in on his prepubescent sibling's doubts.
"And could you do me a favor, Zeke?" Jeremiah added.
"Wha'?" the nervous boy asked.
"Don't get so close. You stink." Jeremiah elbowed his brother in the ribs jokingly and pushed him off his chair.
"Hey!" Ezekial protested, and rubbed his sore ribs.
"Enough, you two!" Tabitha cut into the two brother's rough housing. "I swear, Jeremiah. Are you ever serious?" the young woman asked sternly, scolding Jeremiah with her cool blue eyes.
"Not if I can help it," Jeremiah replied, flashing a warming smile to melt Tabitha's criticizing gaze. He made an exagerated show of looking her up and down, from her short blonde hair to her greasy tennis shoes, then added, "You should try lightening up and enjoying life sometime. Never know, you might actually find something redeeming about our whole miserable existence."
"Don't bother," Jenny interjected. The dark haired, dark eyed girl rested her chin in her tattooed hands and absentmindedly scratched at her cheek with her black fingernails. "I have been trying to find something redeeming about my life for a helluva lot longer than any of you guys and..."
"And what?" Ezekial asked after a long moment of silence.
Jenny rolled her eyes and replied, "What do you think?"
"You guys are so depressing," Darek muttered from his seat toward the back of the group.
"Tell that to goddess gloom over there," Jeremiah retorted, nodding toward Jenny.
"Just being realistic," Jenny retorted. "I mean, who in their right mind would run away TO the Rogue Isles?"
Ezekial tucked his knees tighter into his chest, Jeremiah cocked his jaw and glanced back at the Arachnos soldier, Tabitha fidgeted with her fingernails, and Darek ran his hand through his long brown hair. No one replied.
"Exactly," Jenny pressed. "Who, in all of God's great creation, besides us, has such a miserable life that they would actually smuggle themselves into the worst dive on the planet just for a new shot at it all?"
"We get the picture, Jenny," Jeremiah cut in. "We have been over it all before. We make the breakfast club look like the honor's society. I don't think it needs to be said again."
"Let's just get some rest," Tabitha suggested with a weary sigh. "We will need our strength up once we get there."
When the hatch finally opened on the submarine passenger bay and the children were released into the fresh air, Ezekial nearly cried in delight. The older members of the rag-tag group climbed out after the young boy and stretched their stiff limbs in the cool night air. The salty breeze washed in off the ocean, waking their tired minds.
"So this is the land of our oportunity?" Jeremiah asked with a chuckle. The stout young man held his square jaw with his thick fingers and whistled lightly while taking in the decrepit and decaying landscape of the Rogue Isle port. All around the shore, garbage littered the docks and houses that had fallen into disrepair long ago, if they had ever been in proper shape to begin with.
"Anyone else thinking we made a mistake?" Tabitha mumbled to her companions while trying to fight off the growing feeling of despair that was clutching her heart.
"We made a decision," Darek interjected, flexing his fists and ignoring the grunge around him. "Our environment may not be as nice, but we are far better for it."
"Now don't ya'll go wandering off," the Arachnos warrior commanded, crawling out of the submarine hatch and brandishing his mace. "You have some work to do for Lord Recluse in order to pay off your travel fare, and he don't like it when people try to back out of their bargains." The Soldier's voice was deep and gravely. His mace fell against his palm menacingly.
Jeremiah yawned loudly and stretched his broad arms with a show of boredom. Tabitha shot him a withering look and Ezekial couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, uhh... I know we 'said' we were going to enlist in exchange for a ride to the Isles," Jeremiah said, scratching his head and shrugging his shoulders.
"Watch your next words, boy," the Arachnos soldier replied grimly and leveled his mace at the largest of the children. The tip of the weapon began to crackle with crimson power while the gloved fist tightened on its hilt. "Any thoughts of backing out of this will just get you a hurtin'. This ain't your pretty little Paragon City. This is the Rogue Isles; might makes right around here and Arachnos is the might."
"'Might makes right,' huh?" Darek asked, lowering his eyes to the ground and shaking his head. "Why do you think we came to this place?"
"Perhaps you should watch my words," Jenny added, pulling up her sleeves and baring her forearms. The darkly garbed young woman whispered unintelligible words at one of her arms and the tattoos that decorated its skin began to glow with pale, radiant power. She whispered in a soft voice to the other arm and a murky, writhing energy began to seeth from the tattoos around her wrists.
"So that's how you kids want it," the Arachnos soldier chuckled and gripped his mace in both hands and aiming it at Jenny. "I won't mind teaching your pretty li'l arse a few things."
A blast of crimson energy lanced out from the tip of the soldier's mace. Tendrils of furious electricity followed the blast in its arc towards Jenny, burning air and filling the area with an acrid ozone smell in testament to its power. The electric charge came to within inches of its target before being caught by a broad thick palm. Jeremy looked down at his sizzling hand with an amused grin and clenched his fist, squeezing the energy out through his closing fingers and disipating it into the night air.
Jenny lept gingerly over her companion's extended arm and waved her darkly shrouded arm at their enemy. A shadowy mass of nether energy flew from her arm and landed at the Arachnos soldier's feet where it exploded, showering him in an impossibly delirious fog of negative energy. He stumbled shakily on his feet and teetered back and forth. Jenny leveled her briliantly radiant hand at the man next, and held it steady while the light continued to grow until it was nearly blinding in the dimly lit night. Jenny released the energy that had built up within her, allowing it to split the night and collide with its target's chest with a horrible crash. The soldier was sent carreening over the submarine's hull, out past the docks and deep into the growing tide where he disappeared with a faint splash.
"Welcome to the Rogue Isles, bro'." Jeremiah spoke with uncharacteristic sterness and mopped his younger brother's blonde hair with his still-warm hand. The younger boy clung to the leg of his big brother's cargo jeans and hid his face from the scene.
Darek walked up behind Jenny and patted her firmly on the shoulder.
"I just killed that man, didn't I?" she whispered to the lean figure that stood at her side.
"You did what you had to do," Darek said firmly but with a note of compasion. "Put it out of your head, Jen. I'm sorry things have to be this way, but we knew what we were getting into."
His words seemed cold to Jenny but Darek's voice held a calmness and certainty that reassured her in a very uncertain moment. She turned to him, cocking her head slightly. Her hair on the side of her body that she had used to slay the Arachnos minion was stark white, as were the fingernails on the same hand. She looked down at the nails and brushed the white hair away from her face, frowning at the color that contrasted her usual obsessively back attire.
"And I hate wearing white," she muttered.
Darek smiled back at her. His sandy brown eyes chose not to see through the lighthearted remark that was covering the hurt and fear that sat beneath the surface.
"We should get out of here," Tabitha whispered, glancing nervously around herself at the shadows that littered every alley, crevice, and low place, all of which were in high supply in this new environs.
"Yeah," Ezekial agreed, shaking his head furiously.
The group gathered tightly around each other and headed away from the scene as quickly as the winding and unpredictable byways of the neighborhood would allow. They disappeared into the shadowy night with the aid of another of Jenny's tattoos; the group was drawn into the shadows themsleves, hidden from the eyes and minds of the many curious and horrible creatures that inhabited the streets of the children's new home.
"Are you sure about this?" Jeremiah muttered quietly after pressing open the door to the dingy little dive of a hotel that was filling a particularly dark, dead end street.
"We've got to stay somewhere," Tabitha countered harshly but softly.
The five young meta-humans shuffled into the dimly lit lounge that reeked of liquor and cigarette smoke. Across the creaky wood floor, several small tables hosted card games for a dozen disreputable men with tattoos of flames around their arms and necks and singed leather jackets on their backs.
A few faces turned toward the unusual site of five kids walking out of a Rogue Isle night into a fire trap establishment. Most eyes quickly dismissed the crew as nothing of interest but one set of eyes lingered. A blonde haired, solidly built man in the back corner, who sported burns on one side of his chiseled face, eyed the children with for a long moment. A twisted grin spread across his scarred face. Tabitha met the man's gaze for one uneasy moment before glancing at the floor and turning toward the counter that guarded the patron of the establishment.
Darek stepped up to the counter and waved to the old, balding, and rotund man that squatted on a flimsy stool by a cash register.
"We were looking for a place to stay for the night, sir," he said politely.
The old man looked up for the first time and his eyes grew wide with curious amazement when he saw the young group. He stood up from the tiny stool that barely seated half of his mass and leaned over the counter to get a good look at the children.
"Y'all got to be kidding an old man," he said, his red cheeks rippling with each word. "What are five youngsters doin' in this part of town at all, much less at this time of night?"
"Our business is our own, sir," Darek replied firmly but without agression. "And we truly would like a place to stay for the night. We can pay in cash."
The old man cocked an eyebrow curiously and shrugged before saying, "Well, of course you can pay in cash or not at all, but kids are trouble and I'll not be having any more than I can afford here."
"We'll be no trouble," Tabitha replied, trying to smile as broadly as her tired lips would allow.
"A cute li'l group of chil'ren find their way into the seedy side of Port Oaks, into my weary old dive, and saying you won't be any trouble. Well, it isn't that I don't believe you little lady, it's just that trouble follows y'all like my old lady follows Days of Our Lives. If it didn't, you wouldn't be here in the first place trying to convince me that you ain't no trouble," the barrel of man said, rubbing two of his three chins with his thick fingers.
"Sorry, but I don't think you'll be able to stay," he concluded with a sad frown and shake of his round face.
"Sir, please. It is just for one night," Darek said, his voice growing more forceful.
"Ain't cuz of me I'm saying no, son," the old man said more quietly than before, then nodded past the children and continued, "it's cuz of him."
The group turned to see the scarred man aproaching them. His eyes danced across each of the children but lingered on Tabitha.
"What is a group of kids doing in Hellion territory tonight?" he said, his voice an audible sneer of contempt and cockiness.
"Whose brats are you guys, anyway?" He moved closer to the children, stepping into the middle of them and coming close to Tabitha, trapping her between himself and the counter.
"We're just looking for a place to stay for the night," Darek replied, stepping up to the man and clenching his fists.
"Is that so?" The Hellion thug chuckled and glowered down at the shorter, younger man. He switched his gaze back to Tabitha and his voice grew a little deeper. "We might be able to work something out. For the little lady's sake."
Tabitha cringed under the man's gaze, gripping her low-cut pink blouse around the neck and pulling it closed. She stepped along the side of the counter, trying to put some distance between herself and the leering gaze of a scarred and ugly face. The man matched her steps until he bumped into Darek. His eyes went from lusting to enraged when the young man didn't move out of his way.
"What do you say, Char?" the Hellion shouted to one of his friends that had gotten up out of their seat and aproached the small group from behind. He clenched his fist and a flame ignited in his grasp. "Should we give these kids a warm, Hellion welcome?"
The second man, who was head and shoulders taller than even Jeremiah, the largest of the chidlren, began to spin a small sledge hammer in his hand while stepping closer the the kids.
"Wouldn't have it any other way," he said with a broad grin that showed a mouth missing as many teeth as it boasted.
Jeremy stepped in between the large man and his friends and ushered his little brother behind him.
"Look, old man," the stout blonde boy said squaring his jaw. "We don't want any trouble but we ain't scared of it either."
"Darek, I don't want to do this again," Jenny exclaimed, crossing her arms over her chest and backing away from the two Hellions.
"Don't worry, Jen. You won't have to do a thing," Darek replied through clenched teeth. He shrugged his lean shoulders and his brown leather jacket fell to the floor. He held his right arm extended to his side and after taking a deep breath, looked over at his opened hand and exhaled heavily through his mouth. A heavy wisp of dark vapor flowed from his mouth, curled around his arm and flowed down toward his palm, where it gathered and formed into a shimmering sword. The radiant steel katana's blade glistened, catching the faint lights in the room and reflecting them back with unatural clarity.
"If it is a welcome you want to give us, then play the host," Darek spat at the Hellion, abandoning all diplomacy in the face of certain conflict. "I have no problem taking a little heat from you... as well as the hand that wields it."
"Well, well," the scarred Hellion growled. He opened his palm and fire lept from his hand while he said, "Looks like we have a live group here."
The flame encircled Darek, grounding itself to the floor and trapping him inside. Jenny and Tabitha lept away from him in suprise, but Darek simply shook his head in disgust.
"You bring parlor tricks to a knife fight, Hellion," Darek chided before his body exploded with tendrils of nether energy. The lights in the room suddenly flickered and faded to nothing. The fire that had surrounded Darek turned a pale white before being swallowed by the darkness.
Char, suddenly realizing that the fight was about to commence, and wanting to get the first swing, raised his hammer high over his head and brought it down with all the strength his stout frame could muster onto Jeremiah's skull. The metal handle of the heavy tool bent ackwardly under the pressure and its head cracked on impact but the young man's head did not budge. Char looked curiously at his hammer, a dumbfounded expression crossing his wide eyes.
Jeremiah grinned crookedly at the shocked Hellion. He and Darek retaliated in the same instant, Jeremiah bringing his heavy hands up, palms open, to box Char's ears and Darek moving like a living shadow with his sword the only point of effective light in the room.
The shimmering katana reached out with amazing speed, severing the Hellion's hand just above the wrist, then lashing out across his neck before he could manage to scream out in pain at the loss of his limb.
Jeremiah followed up with a brutal haymaker to Char's head and the large man crumpled to the ground, his skull crushed and oozing blood.
The shadows slowly receded around Darek and when they had vanished totally, so had his sword. The young man stood over the Hellion's dead form, breathing heavily and staring sternly down at his victim.
Tabitha walked up quietly behind him. She reached out to him and whispered, "Darek, it's okay." He flinched at her touch and his eyes slowly turned to look into hers. To her suprise, they were calm and steady. The only reminder of his recent slaying were faint dark wisps of residual energy that passed around the outside of his irises.
"I know," he said reasuringly, then turned to look at the other patrons in the lounge. None had even bothered to look up from their card games, much less take exception to the death of two of their comrades.
"So," Tabitha said setting her jaw and turning to the patron. "Do we get that room now?"
The room was in little better shape than the rest of the city, but when the lights were out it seemed safe enough. Jeremiah and Ezekial had taken up the full-sized bed and Jenny had passed out no sooner than she had laid down on the sofa. Tabitha had desperately wanted to take a shower, but when the water had come out browner than tea she quickly changed her mind. She opted for a sponge bath out of the sink, which was only marginaly cleaner than the shower before emerging back into the dark bedroom. She spotted Darek sitting in a corner, leaning up against the wall with his arms resting on his knees. The athletic blonde walked up to him and sat down, curling her legs in tight to her slender frame.
"Not going to get some sleep?" she whispered, not wanting to drown out Jeremiah's snoring.
"I don't sleep like normal people. Not since I received my birth right. I just need to spend a few hours in the dark and I am good," he said with a shrug.
"Your birth right? You mean your powers?" she asked, sliding in closer so she could understand his deep voice when he whispered.
"The sword, yeah. The man that gave it to me said it was my birth right," Darek replied, supressing a chuckle. "It is a long story."
"Well, coming that close to a live flame will have my powers raging all night, so I wont be sleeping either. Looks like we got plenty of time," Tabitha countered. "Besides, you are the new kid to the group; why not open up a little bit?"
Darek shrugged his shoulders and said, "I would rather spend the time figuring out our next move. We have no idea where to go or what to do next, and that is a dangerous thing in a place like this."
"Figuring out out our next move, or just trying not to think about the fact that we have been here six hours and already killed three men?" Tabitha countered, her voice soft but not timid. She brushed her short cut blonde hair out of her face and looked over at Darek, but his face was shrouded by both his long dark hair and the deep shadows in the room.
"It was going to happen. We all knew that. I don't like it more than anyone else, but there was just no avoiding it. Besides I don't plan on losing any sleep over a few less thieving and murderous villains."
"But that's what we are now, isn't it?" Tabitha replied, a tone of intrigue and excitement edging into her voice.
"No," Darek disagreed. "I may be a thief and a killer, but I am no villain. I don't prey on the innocent or helpless. I don't bully and terrorize good people."
"Always so serious," Tabitha chided with a mock frown. "It's cool, I kind of like that about you."
"Nice to know I am accepted." Darek grinned at her through the shadows that surrounded them.
"It is just reasuring to know that someone else has got their mind on something other than the next meal is all. Who knows? We might just make it on our own after all."
"No doubt," Darek agreed. "Who knows? Some day we might just have our own little Island country where we can rule with an iron fist and wear gay masks and capes like all the other grown-ups."
This time Tabitha could not hold back the laugh. "The Runaway Island, huh?"Darek had to bite his tounge to keep from laughing along with her. He hated the unexpected, he hated the unsure and yet no matter how hard he fought, that was all that ever surrounded him. As the hours slipped by that night, a small taste of that hate slipped away from him. He had friends, if friends they could be called. Brothers in crime, or arms. Just plain brothers. He smiled more that night than he had in many long months. Uncertainty felt so much less uncertain when he had others to share it with.