Ethan’s Immobile Sketch The next day at breakfast she handed me a box.

            “What is it?”  I asked.

            “Your mother told me to clean out some of Ethan’s drawers for my clothes.  I found this in the bottom of a drawer.  It has my name on it, and yours, and Genevieve’s.”

            “But what is it?”  I repeated.  I could see that the top of the box had our names written in pen – “For Hope, Evie and Gwen,” it said, in my brother’s scraggly handwriting.

            “Open it.”  Hope said, winking at me conspiratorially.

            I did, and found several notebooks and some computer disks.  The notebooks had my brother’s writing on the front:  Journal # 1, Journal #2…  And the disks said simply “Stories”.

            “Stories?”  I asked.

            “He used to write.  He loved books, and I think that he wanted to write one.  I’m going to read them, and I’ll tell you what I find.”

            “You’ll tell me everything?”

            “Yes.  I know how much you want to know what he’s like, so I’ll tell you what his stories are about, and what he writes about in his journals, and I’ll tell you about the things I remember.  How does that sound?”

            “Just perfect,” I smiled.

Ethan’s Stories

 

Edge

Chapter One

The thrill of the hunt.  That’s what I enjoyed.  That’s what I’d been trained and conditioned to enjoy.  That adrenalin rush that makes your breath come a little quicker, your heart beat a little faster, your senses a little sharper.  The thrill of stalking your prey and delivering the death blow.  The thrill of the hunt.

            This had been a particularly challenging hunt, the one I was on when it all started.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be my last.  Considering how challenging hunting had been, you’d think that I’d be glad to be done with it.  But, being the hunter is a lot more reassuring than being the hunted.  As the hunter, you’re secure, invincible.  Nothing can touch you.  You almost laugh at the prey’s ignorance, as it goes through the day unaware that you’re watching it.  You could strike anytime and it would never know.

            That’s exactly what I was thinking on this particular hunt.  I’d been pursuing him for days, tracking him down.  Then I stumbled onto his trail, quite by accident.  I traced him to his favourite watering hole, found a comfortable perch that wasn’t too far away and waited for him to show his ugly face.

            The night air was cool and ruffled my hair.  I tested the air and realized that I’d be upwind if he showed up now.  In the wild that’s the single biggest mistake you can make if you don’t want to be noticed.

            In the city it doesn’t matter much, especially if you’re stalking a notorious arms dealer hiding from your employer.  It’s pretty unlikely that he’ll be catching your scent on the wind.

            I pulled my lucky cap from a coat pocket and pulled it snugly down on my head.  I pulled up the collar of my dark trench coat as the wind rustled through it.  I cradled my rifle against my right shoulder and then settled in to wait.

            Waiting’s supposedly the hard part for most.  Men will turn their thoughts to any number of things: what might happen; how to do the kill best; what they’re getting paid; how they’ll get away; or even wonder if they’ll be the ones to die.  They tend to lose their concentration and mess up as a result.

            I’ve never had that problem, of losing my concentration, my edge.  It’s like I separate myself into two parts.  My body’s primed for the kill and doesn’t need my brain, so it goes off and thinks for awhile.  When everything starts to happen I just know what to do without thinking about it.

            So I sat there thinking and waiting, as still as could be, and I started wondering why I did this job.  Why I killed whoever I was told needed to be dead.  This thought had never occurred to me before, but it did now.  There’s an old saying that the worst things happen at the worst times.  That’s probably why my identity crisis began right then, right there.

            Fate had my prey leave the bar just then, and he began to walk down the street.  I sat up straight, levelled my rifle, looked through my scope and stared directly at the back of his head.  I began to squeeze the trigger. 

            That’s when it happened.  I hesitated for a moment, and the thought crept into my head that I’d never kill a man.  This was quite the odd thought, as I’d killed many men in my career.  Never, never had I hesitated.  I’d always acted, swift and sure.  I sat there with this thought, and couldn’t pull the trigger.

            That’s when everything went crazy.

            A body-sized metal object went hurtling through the air and crashed into the roof beside me.  I stood up and looked at the projectile in surprise.  It was a man, clad in steel-blue armour, now pulling himself up from the roof.  He’d crashed with such force that he had left cracked rubble in the roofing.  Blue light began to glow around his fists, and he seemed angry.

            I looked back at my target, who was stupidly standing in the street, looking up, shocked by this sudden occurrence.  I then looked across the street when I heard an ominous voice.

            “Surrender, Barrage.  There is no escape.”

            A group of strangely clad figures stood on the opposite roof.  They all stood aggressively, hunters on the prowl it seemed to me. The man beside me, Barrage, was apparently the prey.  And I was standing next to him.

            One of them seemed to shine in the moonlight as if his skin were glass or ice, reflecting the luminous orb’s light.  Another was dressed all in reds and seemed to glow.  Four of them were clad in different kinds of armour and were of various sizes.  Two others stood in front.  One was sleekly muscled and his skin seemed to be leathery.  The other was armoured, too, and had been the speaker.  He seemed to be their leader.

            “Where is your brother?” he asked.  His large metal fist began to glow an iridescent green and he pointed it directly at Barrage.  A little too close to me for comfort.

            Barrage moved swiftly as the leader fired a colourful blast at our roof.  He caught me in his arms and we tumbled off of the roof.  His metal strength knocked the wind out of me as we fell towards the street.  The roof exploded behind us.

            The sensation of falling ceased abruptly.  We were still headed towards the ground quite rapidly, but it didn’t have the same haphazard rush to it.

            “You’re flying.” I said, incredulous.  A flying man in armour.  And it had started as such a regular day.  We landed on the street shortly and he pushed me to the ground, using himself as a shield between me and his attackers.  A blue glow began to emanate from his armour and seemed to surround him.

            “Yeah.  Stay down.”  He spoke from behind his strange metal helmet.

            “No argument from me.”  I said amiably. 

            I peeked past his shoulder and saw the curious band on the rooftop above.  A winged figure was descending from the sky and seemed to be conferring with the leader.  He nodded and then seemed to give an order.  The leather-skinned one spread his arms and roared.  Wings tore out of his back, just above the shoulder blades.  They peeled through skin and were soon flapping in the night air. In sharp contrast to the feathered wings of the other flier, these wings were more membrane-like, similar to a bat’s.  Or to a dragon’s.  The entire process seemed quite painful.  At least, I’m sure that I’d rather have my teeth pulled then go through the same thing.

            Leatherskin leaped into the air to join his feathered friend and they soared off into the night sky.  The other figures all disappeared, save for their leader, the red one and the icy guy.  They stood staring down at us malevolently with a threatening gaze.  They started to glow green, red and blue, respectively, and then began to hurl bolts of energy all around us. 

            I craned my neck and looked in the other direction to avoid the bright intensity of the blasts.  I saw my mark, who had apparently been standing dumbstruck throughout the entire scene.  He now turned to run, not wishing to fall victim to this hail of energy, but it was too late.

            The ground suddenly erupted beneath his feet as a green blast from above collided with the pavement.  He flew into the air screaming and landed with a sickening crunch.  He seemed to be alive, however, and struggled to crawl away, to survive.  This was futile, however, as a red bolt hit and I heard the sizzle of burning human flesh.

            Barrage’s blue glow seemed to be keeping the energy from hitting me or harming him, but I would occasionally see him shudder as a bolt hit.  There was no telling how much longer he’d last.  Long enough to keep us alive, I hoped.

            “When I stand up, run.” Barrage said.  “I’ll hold them off.  Besides, they want me, not you.”

            “Right.”  I said.  “Thanks for the save up there.”

            “No problem.  Anytime.  Now, go!”

            He stood suddenly, and turned to face the trio on the roof.  Blue light erupted from his fists and collided with the bricks around them, causing the icy one to fall to the street.  I took this as my cue to exit and scurried off towards an alley as a red bolt narrowly missed me.  I could feel its heat as I scampered by, and was glad to enter the dark safety of the alley before me.  I sprinted on, knowing exactly where I was.  I had scouted the area the day before, so there was little chance of losing my way.

            See, I can’t get lost.  I’ve always been able to feel where north is, and it keeps me from getting disoriented.  I can go into totally new territory and find my way out again.  Having mapped the place out already meant that I could probably find my way out blindfolded.

            I heard the sounds of battle getting quieter and quieter as I ran, so I slowed down.  My heart raced, my breath rasped and my pulse pounded in my ears.  It sounded an awful lot like running footsteps.

            As I turned a corner, I realized they were footsteps, as I collided with another runner.  We both fell to the ground with surprise.

            “Watch where you’re going!”  He said sharply.  I’d guess that he was a few years younger than me, anywhere between one and possibly four, if he looked mature for his age.  In the dark it was hard to be exact, but I was sure he was younger.  His brown hair was long and a lighter brown than my own, although it was uniform in colour.  If you look closely at mine, in the right light, you can spot the hidden blond and red highlights.  Usually, though, it’s a dark brown.  His eyes were blue, like mine, but a deeper, warmer shade.  Mine are icy and pale, while his had a fuller colour.  He was dressed in odd, tight fitting clothing of white and navy blue, and it showed off his trim, muscular physique.

            Everyone was so fashionably dressed tonight, I felt rather out of place in my trench coat and cap.  And somehow I didn’t think a sweatshirt and black pants measured up to spandex or armour.

            “Sorry.”  I apologized.  “But I’m trying to keep from getting killed.”

            ‘Well, so am I!”  He said, rising to his feet.  “And I have to find my brother.”

            “Oh, he’s back that-a-way.  He’s busy fighting a bunch of weirdos.”  I said, presuming that he meant my metal saviour.  This collision and that near death experience had to be related.  Most of the weird occurrences in life are too random to be mere coincidence.  Figure that one out, if you can.

            “Well, I’m running from their friends.  If you want to live, you’ll have to be carried.”

            “Carried?  What are you talking about?”  I said as he picked me up and started to run.  I suddenly realized what he meant as we began to move at speeds upwards of thirty kilometres an hour.

            “Why are we going so fast?”  I asked, bouncing up and down with every step he took.  I also wondered how we could move so fast, but decided to ask that later, being busy trying to control the flip-flops my stomach was making as a result of his bouncing feet.

            “So they don’t catch up.  One of them is at least twice as fast as I am, and he can boost the others to speeds nearing mine.  That’s his name and his power, you know.  Booster.  I need a good lead to get away from that one.”

            We kept on, twisting and turning through several different alleyways.  He didn’t seem to be getting tired, which seemed quite incredible at the time.  I would learn momentarily, however, that there were several more things that would astound me about my new companion before the day was out.

            We stopped abruptly and he put me down.

            “Uh oh.”  He said, which isn’t very reassuring when you’re running for your life.

            I turned and saw the feathered flier and the leather-skin before us, waiting.  They didn’t seem to be happy to see us the way friends are when they reunite, I can tell you that.  It was more like happy the way cats are when they finally find that darn mouse.

            “So, we have found you, Immobile.”  Featherboy said, his hand glowing purple.

            “Now we can take you home with us.”  The Leatherskin growled.

            “I’ll never return.”  Immobile said defiantly.

            “Perhaps not in one piece, eh, Abaddon?”  Leatherskin said to his friend.  He growled suddenly and claws burst from his fingertips, long and sharp.  His teeth were bared, revealing that plants were probably not part of this dragon-man’s diet.  Not with fangs like that.

            Immobile was wary, having to watch two opponents at once.  Leatherskin seemed to be tensing for an attack, while Abaddon appeared to be preparing for a long range power blast.  There seemed to be no way to deal with both at once.

            “Now, Komodo!”  Abbadon said.

            As the leather-skinned half of the two rushed forward, I fired with my rifle.  Did I say that there was no way to deal with both?  That’s only if they considered Immobile to be the only threat.  Unfortunately for them, I’m not the innocent bystander they thought I was.  I had intended to kill him, but that thought, that I could never kill, re-entered my mind.  I clipped him in the shoulder instead, but it was still enough to drop him.  This gave Immobile enough time to leap at Abbadon, and send him into the wall.  Both antagonists were prone on the ground, and Immobile administered a knock-out blow.

            He looked back at me.  “Let’s go.”

            “You’re not going anywhere.”  A voice came from behind us.  I wheeled around, pivoting on my heel.  I fired my rifle at the voice.

            “Nice try.”  The voice said.  Somehow the slim, helmeted figure it belonged to had managed to dodge the bullet.  “Not nearly fast enough.”

            Behind him stood the armoured figures from the roof.  I definitely didn’t like the odds of a five on two fight.  Especially when one of them is faster than a speeding bullet, and the others look tough enough to bounce them off of their armour.

            “I’m guessing he’s Boost.”  I said observantly over my shoulder to Immobile.

            “Yeah.  The others are Crash, Fracture, Pulse and Gauntlet.”

            Somehow those names didn’t seem too warm and friendly.  Crash was huge, probably seven feet tall, while Fracture’s back and shoulders seemed covered in spikes.  Pulse was thin, while Gauntlet was fairly large.  His armour was limited to a chest plate and large metal gloves, which were probably his namesake.  His head was uncovered and bald, while his eyes were large and unsettling.

            “Surrender now.”  Pulse’s robotic voice demanded.

            “I don’t think so.”  I said.  I moved quickly towards Gauntlet and slammed the butt of my rifle into his face, exploiting the vulnerability created by his being the only one without a helmet.  I also think that I had the element of surprise.  I don’t think that any of them considered me a threat, they were so intent on my new buddy.  As he dropped, I ran past him and his comrades.  “Move it, Immobile!”  I called back at my newfound friend.

            He nodded and looked gravely at the trio remaining before him.  His eyes flared blue and his fists began to glow, much like Barrage’s had earlier.

            He suddenly let loose two blue bolts of energy.  They slammed into Crash and Fracture, knocking them over.  Immobile leaped over Booster and sprinted down the alley.  He caught up to me quickly and then turned around.  Booster was chasing after us at a breakneck speed.

            Immobile lashed out with an energy burst and hit Booster.  He froze in mid-step, a ghostly blue sheen glazing over him.

            “What was that?”  I asked as Immobile picked me up and started to run.

            ” Why do you think they call me “Immobile”?  I make people stop.”  He answered simply.  What can you say to such a straight forward response? Somehow asking ‘So, what, you’re a super-hero?’ seemed somewhat redundant at this point. 

            The world raced past as he ran.  There were so many twists and turns in the route he took I lost track of where we might have been, let alone where we were headed.

            We suddenly left the alleys for a street.  Immobile ran us out right into the heavy traffic.  He leaped onto the hood of a taxi and then over to the other side.  We left behind an angry and surprised cabbie.

            We ducked back into the alleys and raced along for awhile longer.  Immobile slowed down and then stopped.  He put me down.

            “We’re here.”  He said solemnly.

            I looked around our surroundings.  We stood in a dead-end cul-de-sac strewn with garbage.

            “We are?”  I asked doubtfully.  We didn’t seem to be much of anywhere.

            Immobile kneeled and stared intently at the wall before us.  He pushed in the seventh brick from the left and bottom.  A light appeared in between the bricks and the wall opened up, revealing a set of stairs leading downwards into darkness.

            “Yes.  We are.”

            As we walked down the stairs, I reflected on the events of the evening.  In training they had always told us to never hesitate, to follow our instincts.  This was the first time I had ever ignored my training, and it nearly got me killed.

            The strangeness of my situation was apparent to me.  The world had seemed normal when I woke up this morning, but now I found myself surrounded by strangely clad, supremely powerful individuals.  What would happen next was beyond me.

            Truth be told, I think it would be beyond anyone.

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