A story of the past
El was about to tell Leech to contact the other teams and have them regroup here when he saw Stevenson put the pipe he’d gotten on his shoulder and step in the middle of the road.
A bright flash of light blinded him for a moment, then he saw spots. He moved before his vision was clear, grabbed the man by the collar and pulling him out of the road.
The pavement exploded from the high caliber bullets that impacted it.
He could see the grin on Stevenson’s face. “It worked.”
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” El peered around the corner. The spots were mostly gone and the machine had its arm raised. A the end of a collection of tubes he hadn’t noticed before, all smoking. Its head was gone. The end of the neck still glowing from the heat.
Stevenson put the pipe on his shoulder and took a step in around the corner. El grabbed him and pulled him back, just as the pavement exploded again.
“Stay down, you idiot.”
The man looked at him, offended. “I’m not an idiot. I’m smarter than the lot of you combined.”
Milton snorted. “Keep telling yourself that.”
Leech growled. “Will you two shut up? I swear it’s like you live in one of Suff’s sitcoms.”
The firing stopped.
“That’s a .9 caliber Gatling,” Vee said, looking at the furrows in the ground. “I doubt even I can survive that.”
Stevenson tried to push his way between the lynx and bull but El stopped him.
“How come it’s still standing?” the man asked. “I blew up its head.”
“It’s a machine,” Jennifer said, “Why would you think the head did anything more than look good?”
“It’s a head,” Stevenson said, like he was talking to a child. “Heads are where the brain, eyes ears and other stuff goes. Everyone knows that.”
She sighed. “I swear, how did you even qualify to join this group?”
Stevenson glared at her. “You showed up in my lab with two soldiers and drafted me, so you tell me.” He shoved her into El, and used the distraction to step onto the street.
The lynx wasn’t gentle when he pushed her off him. He could hear the whine of metal against metal as the Gatling started up. Stevenson was going to get himself killed this time.
There was a flash of light, a form ran past him to tackle the human. There was the sound of metal, crashing down and then an explosion in the middle of the street, more or less where he’d seen Stevenson standing.
“That thing has two arms!” That was Leech. “Are you looking to get yourself killed?”
“You’re wrong.” Stevenson. “It only has one arm, now.”
El’s vision had cleared enough he could see the lion on top of the human on the other side of the street. There was a one-meter hole in the pavement.
Leech looked at him. “Can I kill him? It’s clearly what he’s after.”
El managed to smile, trying to blink the rest of the spots away. “Sorry, Arnold is hoping to get them back alive.”
“Is he going to blame us if the Dutch kill him?”
“Only if we can’t prove we did everything we can to keep them alive.”
The lion sighed. “I hate this job.”
Gears whirled, metal whined and everyone hunkered down. When no Gatling fire came, El and Jennifer peeked around the building’s corner. The ground shook as the machine took a step forward.
“You’re surprised?” she asked.
He ignored her. If he didn’t do something to stop that thing, they were all dead.
When it took another step he opened the ground under the foot as it landed and closed it over. It didn’t even titter. It pulled it’s foot up and the ground exploded and it pulled it out.
El cursed again.
“Get out of my way.” Milton pushed Jennifer away. He peeked around the edge, made adjustments to the metal and concrete box he was holding, then threw it in front of the machine. He crouched and put a finger in each ear.
El looked at the older man, trying to understand what he was doing. The machine took a step and the ground shook. It took another and El opened his mouth to ask what the professor was waiting for.
The explosion shook not only the ground, but the building protecting them as well as El’s very bones. He felt the concrete above them break out of the wall and pushed everyone away.
The piece of concrete hit the ground, sending dust flying, but El didn’t hear the impact. He looked at it, trying to understand how it could have fallen silently. That’s when he noticed the ringing in his ears.
It was like when he’d decided to experiment with his power without the scientist’s supervision. It had been a few months after Ellie’s death and his near execution. He’d lost his trust in the scientist, even if they’d saved his life. They hadn’t done it because they thought he hadn’t deserved to live. No, they’d only cared about the fact he had displayed a second power, and they needed to study him. If only they’d known what El had realized then.
A thunderstorm was raging that night, and El had felt not only the rainfall, and the air moving, but something else, high in the atmosphere, but also outside, around the camp. He’d gone out, mentally reaching for that new sensation, grasping at it, and once he had it he pulled with all his might.
The lightning struck a foot in front of him, burning him and blowing out his eardrums. He’d lain there, laughing like he was insane as the sheer power he’d felt. His body wouldn’t respond to his command, but he didn’t care. There had been so much power in that lightning, and he could feel hundreds of them forming in the clouds. Each one his to control. If the brass ever decided he had to die, he would show them the folly of trying.
The pain hit him then and all laugher or thoughts of blowing anyone who wanted to hurt him vanished from his mind. Everything hurt, the raindrops felt like knives, cutting him open. He needed to get back to his tent, out of the rain. But he couldn’t move.