I’ve lived my whole life for other people, Lyssa abruptly realized as her feet carried her further and further away from the only people she presently knew.
She had always taken care of Annie. Stayed behind after classes in high school to help her on the days she was too weak to carry her own books. Dropped out of her clubs and extinguished other relationships to be with her.
Her college had been chosen solely to stay with Sarah, who had been terrified of being alone. They dormed together, ate lunch together, and shared what general classes they could. Her friends were all through Sarah. Annie included.
Now Annie was dead. And Sarah was fading away, a speck on the horizon over her shoulder. Lyssa was finally alone, and she suddenly realized that after so many years of following and helping those around her, she hadn’t given any thought to her own desires. She’d been riding a wave of ever-changing spontaneity her whole life. What those around her suggested, she accepted.
Lyssa was alone. Guilt gnawed at her for leaving Sarah alone, gripping at her insides. She turned her face skyward as tears began to well in her eyes.
And then she saw it again. Sky Sight. A second moon, hanging in the sky.
Her eyes fell back down, the war of emotions and thoughts inside her dying away. She had reached the trains already. There were people milling around them on quick feet, not paying her any mind.
The little girl, she reminded herself, scanning the area. That was her goal, to find that girl and see if she couldn’t reverse her Karma scores. They had switched once, so they could switch back.
One man with long hair and a threatening swagger eyed her as he walked past, and Lyssa was reminded of the words that had been spoken to the whole city: one of the train cars that had been funneled into the city had been full of inmates from a top security prison.
She shivered, but forced her mind to calm. Panicking wouldn’t help her find the girl. She started down, following the railway tracks. The smell of burning metal came to her nose. Small clouds of smoke rose around her. There was no trace of explosions, no debris, only craters and smoke.
Just as the smell was beginning to make her queasy, and the amount of people around her began to increase, she heard the yelling. Cries of agony.
Her head turned, picking the location as from the other side of the railway tracks. Lyssa told herself that she had no business trying to play a hero for anyone, and she truly did have no intention of interfering in whatever debauchery was causing the ruckus, but her curiosity and lack of direction squeezed her between two of the cars and into a street crowded with even more people.
She followed tracks on the pavement, heavy scratches deep into the surface. She didn’t stop to think what could have make the markings until she looked up and saw the smattering of humans standing around the burning train car.
Someone had dragged the thing a quarter mile from the tracks and engulfed it in flames. She knew who it was, because he stood beside it, fists on his waist and thick chest puffed out as he yelled.
“I’ll take on anyone! Any one who has the balls. You’ll get ripped apart.”
Ted Mehdar. Kara 0. Bara 4.
“Oy oy, mate,” another man stepped forward from the crowd gathered around. A shady bunch, the man was no different. “How’d ya get to level four already, you son of a bitch.”
“I worked in a slaughterhouse.” Ted said, lifting a hand before him. “And now I live in one.
The man spat. “More like you’ll be going through one, huh?” Oliver Jaxon. Kara 1. Bara 1.
Ted raised an eyebrow. “Freeze.”
It took Lyssa several heartbeats to understand what had happened. Ted had frozen the man, rendering him in the middle of a step forward.
“Crimson Ice.” Ted said next. In his hand, a long shaft of ice appeared, blood-red and pointed at both ends. He tossed it like a javelin. It sailed through the air for several feet, before vanishing in the air. Gone as though it hadn’t existed.
“One step at a time,” Ted said, taking another step forward. “Crimson Ice.” Again the blade of ice appeared and he tossed it. This time, as their distance began to close, it was only two paces away from the man. “Crimson Ice.”
“This ain’t even a fair fight,” a woman near her called out.
Ted turned his head, then whipped the icicle out. It stuck the woman in the chest, launching her onto her back. The ice vanished, replaced by a growing pool of blood.
“It’s fair, you bitch,” Ted hissed. “Our Commands are now part of who we are. They are a reflection of our life and choices. And it seems you’re used to making poor ones.”
Lyssa and several others walked over to the woman. Her eyes were wide, her mouth trying to speak but only releasing blood across her cheeks. Amy Hardy. Kara 0. Bara 0.
The information was displayed on her HUD, before her eye, and then a moment later it vanished. She looked down and saw the woman was lifeless.
“Now where were we?” Ted said, turning his attention back to the frozen man, Oliver.
And then someone appeared. Lyssa first noticed the others in the group turning around, whispering. Then she turned and saw him, walking deliberately towards their group with a terrifyingly placid look on his face.
Calling him a man felt out of place. She had never seen someone his size before, over seven feet and muscular from head to toe. He wore a white uniform she didn’t recognize which looked on the verge of bursting as it tried to contain his physique.
The throng watched in silence as the behemoth passed them and into the area around the train car. A few paces behind Oliver, he stopped. His presence was undeniable, his eyes sweeping over the group, then settling on Ted.
“I was told a level four was causing trouble on the other side of the tracks,” the man said in a voice that threatened to shake the ground. “Is that you?”
Ted whispered something. A Check Command. Then his eyes squinted. "Level zero? How about you back away before I toss this train onto you, Zeal. It doesn’t matter how big you are. I’m stronger than you are now.”
The large man took a single step forward, his long legs covering the distance between him and Oliver. He put a man on the hand’s shoulder. When he didn’t move, Zeal’s face took on an aspect of frustration. “Did you do this to him? Are you the level four?”
“Check me, you idiot. Why ask when you can-”
“Answer!!” Zeal’s voice crashed through the sky like a sonic boom. Lyssa flinched, wondering if the flames engulfing the train had flickered of if she had imagined it.
Ted’s face had lost its humor. “Yes. What the hell is wrong with you? I have four Commands and you have none. Now get out of my sight before I turn you into the worlds largest shish-kebab.”
The large man widened his stance. “What is your name?”
Not wanting to have his ears blasted with the booming sound of the man's voice again, Ted gave his name.
“Ted,” the behemoth said, “My name is Zeal and I'm here to end your life.”
There was a quiet lull, then Ted started laughing. "You do know what it means to be a level four, right? There is no way a level zero could beat me. Crimson Ice.”
Lyssa took a step away. In her peripherals, she saw others doing the same. The tension in the air was growing. Her curiosity had long been sated, but fear had kept her standing, watching the events unfolding. Even the unsavory figures around her were keen to turn and run from these two. Especially Zeal. Does he not even have a last name?
Ted tossed the icicle. It disappeared a foot before reaching Zeal’s massive chest. The man stood unflinching. And then there was silence.
Lyssa took another step away. Ted turned and began to notice the retreating figures. “You cowards. How am I going to become a level five if I can’t kill all of you?” He said the words as a joke, but she knew he hadn’t meant them as such.
“There won’t be any level fives in this city,” Zeal said, surefire and resolute.
“You mean that you won’t live to see any level fives. Crimson Ice.” Ted lurched forward as the ice appeared in his hand, moving just enough that the javelin he had thrown would reach. It would have, but Zeal effortlessly stepped out of the trajectory, leaving it to disappear where he had stood moments before.
In a fluid motion, Zeal lowered body, placing both of his hands on Oliver, who was still frozen beside him. He lifted the man’s rigid body and tossed it forward.
Ted watched the body flying towards him with the same shock as the audience, which then watched him being punched as Zeal ran forward with unreal speed. The blow caught his across the temple, sending him through the air, flattening onto his stomach. Once he was on the ground, Zeal lifted a foot and brought it down onto the man’s back. A sick thud echoed through the street.
“Your level four Command was death,” Zeal said, voice carrying to all who could hear. “The level four Command is always death.”
The man reached down, lifting Ted’s body up above his head with absurd strength and tossing him atop the burning section of train. Ted didn’t have the strength, or hopefully the consciousness, to resist.
“I am Zeal,” the behemoth said, finally turning to address the crowd directly. “Power corrupts the human mind. We are not meant to have the powers this city is forcing on us. I believe this with all of my being. So I will exterminate those whose reach exceeds their position and keep this city under control. Think of me not as a man, but a force of nature which blows through the streets, cleansing vermin.”
And then, just as suddenly as he had appeared before them, his large legs began to carry him away. A handful followed him as he headed back towards the trains, the rest remaining.
“What the hell was he?” the man next to her said.
Lyssa was wondering the same thing. But the smell of burning flesh was beginning to reach her and turning her stomach. And she didn’t care enough to ask and find out from the source. She wanted to get as far away from that intimidating behemoth as possible.
She walked the opposite direction. Past the fire and farther from the tracks, the dark streets began to grow empty once more. Her speed picked up until she was running, though she wasn’t sure what. Where would she go? What would she do?
For now, she had to focus on the basics. She needed to survive. For Sarah. For Abel.