The journey back to base was quiet. There was no sense of victory, we had accomplished the mission, but it had cost us. I just hoped the HA hadn’t manage to record us.
I didn’t say anything on our way back to base. It was growing clear that the Nighthawks may have similar goals, but they were not a proper team like Rick’s kickboxing club. Everyone had secrets, but they were also hiding their agenda. And that made them very difficult to trust. I could sympathise with Binder in that sense.
There were so many questions, each one making the Nighthawks and why Mia formed them more confusing. She knew the employer; did that mean she had been instructed to create a team? If so, why did she choose these members?
It was a dangerous group to be involved with, and with every answer I found more reason to leave. It was fear that drove me, I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. Just how did down the rabbit hole had I already fallen? I mean, we almost killed a hero! I couldn’t leave, there was no point thinking about it. If I left, I was alone. With no support to fall back on. At least right now I had the hope our employer wasn’t some crook or gang leader, maybe he was the visionary Mia had told us about.
If he was, then creating a society that accepted Titans was something I could stand behind. If he wasn’t, maybe he could help me gain the power I needed to push my own agenda.
It all comes down to power, I thought. That was what I needed. Power to stop a rampaging Titan, power to defeat a Hellraiser, power to remove places like the Facility. To stop governments oppressing and experimenting on Titans. I didn’t want to live in a world where someone I knew could be killed on the street and no one would even bother to find out who did it. A world like when my dad was still with me.
It was dark by the time we arrived back at the base. The garage doors opened at the press of a button on Mia’s keys and we parked inside. The moment the car stopped, Shifter was out the backdoors without a word, storming inside.
“I’m going home,” Ryan said. “I’ll come by tomorrow. We need to talk about what happened today and what we do going forwards.”
“I know you don’t agree with how things went today,” Mia said. “But it only went wrong when Shifter’s power got out of hand, before that everything was according to plan.”
“No, it wasn’t. You know it wasn’t.” He looked at Shifter and Lightshow, then sighed deeply. He took off his helmet and jacket it chucking it into the box, then slipped on his hoodie. He hopped out of the van, hands in pockets and hood up, leaving through the still open garage door.
Jack followed, clasping my shoulder as he passed me. “See you lot tomorrow. Hey Ryan, wait up,” he shouted.
“Come by tomorrow,” Amelia said. “We should talk with Ryan as a group.”
“You’ll be fine without me, right?” he took off his helmet and feigned a look of concern. “I don’t mind playing doctor a little longer, but it was getting awkward. You were getting a bit too into it.”
“You know what… maybe don’t come by tomorrow!”
“No need to be narky. I’ll go change then I’m going home.”
He gave my shoulder a squeeze on the way out.
Everyone leaving with tensions so high left me feeling solemn. Too much had happened, too much of it I wasn’t happy with.
“Has the bleeding stopped?” Mia asked.
I gently lifted the cloth and Amelia winced. It wasn’t nearly as red as the blood soaked one I had been pressing on the wound before. Where my hands were caked in blood, it had stained finger shaped lines into the cloth.
I let out a breath, the bleeding had basically stopped. It was more swollen but the cuts were already closing, it was amazing to see how powerful the power of a Titan was, though I expected she would have scars.
“It’s basically stopped,” I said.
“Good. She should be fine to walk, give her a hand to the sofa. I’ll run in and get some sheets to cover it, then stitch her up.”
She got out the front and slammed the door behind her. The garage door creaked and shut.
“I hope you can walk,” I said, putting her arm over my shoulder and helping her to her feet.
I half lifted her out of the van and we limped inside. There was a door inside the garage that connected to the conservatory. We passed through the kitchen as Mia was covering the sofa in a large white sheet.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“It’s not feeling too bad anymore.”
I helped her lie down. Mia took the cloth I had been using and threw it into a bucket she had placed beside the sofa.
“Do you want a drink or anything?” I said.
She shook her head. Mia was off back up the stairs and came down with a bowl of water in one hand and a box in the other. She placed both on the table then knelt beside Amelia and inspected the wound. I moved to the back of the sofa, leaning against the support and watched her work.
She took out a transparent plastic packet with a syringe like tube inside, filled with clear liquid.
“This will sting a bit,” she said, then squirted the liquid into the cuts, clearing the wound. Amelia bit her lip and hissed, curling her back. A trickle of blood ran down her stomach from the edge of the wound and Mia moved onto the next. She did the same thing, then took a piece of gauze and dabbed them dry. Using a light, she inspected them closely.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Checking they’re clean.”
“Can I do anything?”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Okay. Tell me if you need a hand.”
“How bad is it?” Amelia asked.
“Not very. Ruth only just scraped you, an inch closer and it could have been the end of you.”
“Good thing you dodged,” I said.
Amelia smiled thinly, but a could see a hint of the fear in her eyes. She knew she had come close to death today.
“It will scar, but with your abilities, I reckon it will be healed in a few days Try not to do anything strenuous for a couple of days.”
My eyes widened as she took out a needle from her box and drew liquid from a small jar. “That’s a big needle,” I said.
Amelia lifted her head from her pillow, taking a quick look, looking over the wound and wincing. “Why did you have to say that?”
“You’ll be fine,” Mia said. It’s local anaesthetic, it will just sting a bit, but you won’t feel the stitches.”
She injected the needle, squeezing out some of the liquid before moving further along each of the cuts until she had covered the area. I cringed away as Mia first inserted the needle. Glancing back, I said, “I’m going to take a shower quickly. You don’t need me, do you?”
“No, that’s fine,” Mia said.
By the time, I was back downstairs Mia had disappeared, leaving Amelia alone on the sofa watching some detective programme I had never seen. I didn’t watch much TV. It was hard to, with Dan almost always in the living room at home. It was not a pleasant place to be.
Mia had finished treating Amelia’s stomach and had wrapped it in a clean bandage, covering her stomach up to her rib cage. There was a tinge of red already showing through.
“How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Huh?” Amelia looked back at me. “Oh, not too bad. Still can’t feel anything, though it’s a weird sensation having your stomach numb.”
“I bet it is,” I laughed, taking a seat on the sofa next to her.
“Have you ever had stitches before?”
I thought for a moment. I’d had a few hits when boxing that would have needed stitches if I wasn’t a Titan, but I always covered up the severity. There was only one time I could remember. “When the Hellraiser attacked I had a bunch of stitches. I just remember them being really itchy.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes, but I hardly heard the TV. My mind was on the events of today, I just couldn’t get Minute Wonder out of my mind. A single swipe had done this to Amelia, what state was he in? Was he even alive? Surely the HA had Titans on hand for such severe injuries.
“Do you know if Ruth is upstairs?” Amelia asked.
“I didn’t see her, but I think so.”
Amelia sighed. “That was the second time I’ve seen her like that, and she never recovered last time.”
“You’re worried about her?”
“Yes. It really wasn’t her fault, you can’t blame her for it. She hates her power more than everyone. That’s why she holds back. And it’s not easy to hold back a power that strong, especially when someone like Mindbreaker attacks.”
“Whether it’s her fault or not, you can’t believe it’s acceptable,” I said.
“No, of course I don’t. That’s why she needs help.” She stared at me with determined eyes. “That’s why you can’t leave, at least not until after the employer takes us in.” When I said nothing, Amelia looked away. “You know, she didn’t used to look like this. She was a petite girl, only a little taller than me. It was her power that made her look like that.”
“You knew her before she was like this?”
“Yes. We were both inside the Facility, though Ruth much longer than I.”
Things were fitting into place. Ruth’s anger at Jack’s digs, how quiet she was despite her size and strength. I was right before, she probably hadn’t learnt how to act in social situations.
“Do you know how long she was in there for?”
“She was like you, she got her powers when the Hellraiser attacked. They found her that day, and she was held captive since then. She was only seven.”
I didn’t imagine my mood could get any darker, but this made it. “Ten years locked up.” I shook my head and sat back into the sofa, stunned.
“It messed her up. She was classed as A-Tier, in the Facility. Always drugged and never allowed to move around on her own. I can’t even tell where the damage that caused ends and the influence of her power begins. She didn’t have a chance.”
“How did you even get out?”
“I’ve only had my power for a year. My parents entered me into the Facility, can you believe that? It was on the same day I got them.”
I thought of my own mum. People fear Titans, even when they happen to be their own children. “Yes, I can. Mine would probably do the same.”
She shrugged. “You were smart not telling anyone. But lesson learnt, don’t trust normal people.”
“You trust Mia.”
“She’s different. From the moment Mia found us she’s always helped us. It’s only thanks to her that we can be out here safely. Though now the HA have a sighting on Ruth, I have the feeling things are going to be far more dangerous.”
I sighed. “Well, I want to meet this employer. So, don’t worry, I won’t leave.”
“Thank you.” Amelia smiled. “Anyway, long story short, I managed to trick the staff into thinking Ruth had taken her medication by using my power. I didn’t expect her to flip out like she did, but she ended up destroying the entire kitchen and smashing her way out through the delivery area. I followed her, and eventually managed to calm her down.”
“I’m amazed they managed to keep this quiet,” I said. “There were rumours, but nothing concrete. I bet it was enough for Mia to find out about you though. It would explain a lot.”
“I’m sure she had us on her radar the moment we were out,” Amelia said.
“Maybe. It doesn’t mean that this employer will be able to remove or supress Ruth’s power though.”
“There’s technology that replicates powers,” Amelia said. “Why wouldn’t there be some that can supress them.”
I frowned. “Maybe there is.”
She looked at me. “What is it?”
“I’m just thinking that if he had such technology, he would need either money or power, and a lot of it. Or maybe the Madison Institute have tech like it. He could have a man on the inside.”
“All of those sound possible.”
I nodded, then slowly my mouth widened as something dawned on me. “He’s recruiting teams of Titans, stealing and developing weapons and tech. He could be trying to start a war.”
As Amelia started to speak, my phone rang. It was Crissy. Why was she calling me so late? Then I remembered. I had promised to meet her at the fight club and investigate the rumours about powers. Tell me she’s not gone alone.
I snapped up, shouting, “I need to go,” as I raced for the door and answered the phone.
“Yo’re late, Mav,” she yelled. I could hardly hear her over the noise in the background, it sounded like cheering. I gritted my teeth, unable to believe she would really go somewhere so dangerous on her own.
“Wait for me before you do anything, I’m on my way.”