Kevin Allen – Writer ♦ Melissa Bird – Editing ♦ Tia Myricks – Part time contributor ♦ Krystal Clear Logics – Digital Promotion
The Sixth 14
Crossroad of generations
Rage is spilling from Cory more freely than the tears now dribbling from the corner of his eyes over something he thought he’d come to grips with a long time ago. He’d never really had the conversation with his mother about his dad. One or two conversations here and there, maybe, that turned into her dodging most of his follow up questions until he ran out of questions to ask her. It always seemed like she took his death harder than Cory did when they talked about him. He had no real connection to his father other than the one picture his mother kept from when he was a baby, and it’s not like he spent much time thinking about it. What it would’ve been like to have him around. Tatiana had burdened Cory with too many tasks for him to have any time to dote over missing pieces in his life when he was younger. Living without a father had been his norm his whole life. His mother gave every bit of love he’d ever needed. Period.
The rage blaring in his eyes, fizzling the air like electricity doesn’t seem like it knows that Cory had lived a good life with his mother. Doesn’t seem like it realizes Cory had accepted his father’s and his own fate as he grew. It just feels like a babble of chaos spilling freely into the air reminding him that he’d been deprived of something other children had. It is an unnecessary and selfish feeling, he keeps having to tell himself.
Miriam observes Cory, with mild concern glossing her carefully manicured face. His hard eyes are all she sees since she’s unable to pick at his brain anymore. Somehow he’s blocking her mental telepathy. Although, she fully understands that the sudden shift from worrying about the safety of his friends, to anger, has something to do with the man the apparition, her longtime tormentor, that had just been her dead, six-year-old daughter Kiren, has transformed itself into, it was not concrete evidence of anything useful to her. Miriam is almost certain she’s seen the face the apparition is wearing, before, too. The name escapes her at the moment but she had to have seen him.
Hallucinations, even annoying hallucinations, choose familiar faces, so Miriam reasons that she had to have known that face at some point in her life. It had to be brief since she has no memory of the man. But since he has a striking resemblance Cory, Miriam makes the logical assumption and rolls with the sir-name Raymond, trying to join it with the faces to see if it makes any sense or jog a memory of any kind.
Cory, she’d found a while ago after he’d been in a deadly brawl with another sixth, who, by all means, should have been able to mop the floor with his scrawny tuccus. He’d overpowered what Miriam would have considered the more powerful fighter, though not with ease. Miriam had Cory watched after that, had data collected until she was sure he was strong enough for her needs, so long as she could assemble more people around him to do what she needed.
So far, though, all Cory has proven is that he is incapable of following even the simplest observances he’s given. He’d gone and tried to find his mother days ago against the warning of the more intelligent minds of the rebellious group that had rescued him, in so doing endangered all of Miriam’s duly made plans. He even managed to get captured in the process. The twit.
Miriam is willing to consider his actions a moment of emotional stupidity that risked blowing everything to kingdom-come because she had exposed herself when she was forced to rescue him from that convoy Jason’s people kept him sedated in. It may be worth the risk if she can get him to see reason and train him to listen to her and use his power to do what she says, when she says. Sadly, the alternative was to leave him for Jason to turn into a mindless zombie capable of great destruction.
Given Jason’s aptitude for displaying genuine empathy – though Miriam doubts he even knows the word, and Cory having no father, not rescuing Cory may have proven disastrous. Rescuing Cory or killing him, were the only two options left to anyone with any sense. Currently, in light of what’s happening, Miriam is struggling with having exercised the rescue option rather than the latter, more adequate, long-neglected option. She doubts anyone but Rory and Simone would miss him and, it has been a while since…
Raymond? Cory Ray… Miriam freezes when the new face and the name of the apparition becomes a mental collage, cresting like a wave suddenly finding its reason to flow to shoreline. A soft “oh my” flees her lips when the awareness that they are in fact father and son, cements itself with a long forgotten memory. She still doesn’t know his first name. The thing smiles at Miriam.
The last time she’d seen that face was at the end of her left hand having it’s neck snapped after she’d fried his noodle for attempting to escape one of her labs – name; Dr. Raymond, first name; on the tip of her tongue. He had been one of her researchers during the earlier phases of the Gencor deployment. Miriam is sure the apparition had become Dr. Raymond. She is looking right at him and his son, side-by-side at that, having to show no reaction to the discovery.
Records she has on Cory lists him as twenty-three years old, which would put him in the swaddle that escaped her through one of the tunnels in the complex in Massachusetts, carried by Mrs. Raymond, while Miriam was busy trying to get information from Dr. Raymond.
“She recognizes us.” The apparition, Dr. Theodore Raymond, says gleefully.
The flood of memories answers, yes. Miriam had killed the good doctor for betraying her the day she found out. Lexington Massachusetts, if she can count on her memory. He’d blacked out all of the surveillance of the complex during his attempted escape by way of a variety of not so delicate savagery he’d performed on her equipment. It wasn’t a bad hack job for a passive nerd like she found out he was, after the fact. Might have made a brilliant enforcer had she known he had it in him. After the dust settled Miriam learned that details about Dr. Raymond and his family had been systematically wiped from hard drives and all hard copies destroyed. Down to the last, that is. The man was efficient. His woman and child vanished and had not been found. That had been that, until now, apparently.
The child that escaped, in his mother’s arms, in that swaddle, through the tunnels in the laboratory’s labyrinth would be twenty-three years old. Black. Male. And literally a powerful young man like Cory seems to be. The toddler had been a force to reckon with, according to reports she’d read from the people she had watching the child back then. There is no mistaking the similarities between Cory and the child that escaped in that swaddle-cloth from the Lexington Complex twenty-three years ago. The child should have been one of Miriam’s trusted aides when he grew, if he indeed possessed the power that her people reported back then, just like he does now. This day could swing to Cory working with her or being beaten severely due to the way things turn out in the next couple of minutes.
The doctor had somehow learned what Miriam planned for his son and hatched a plot to escape with the aid of a network of resistance groups currently giving Jason a headache – like her plan had been a bad thing. Dr. Raymond had paid for his indiscreet slight with his life. Miriam picked up on his plans of escaping and going into hiding when she caught his worry about his wife and son by accident. She’d been touring the complex Dr. Raymond worked in and wanted to meet with him about his family and his work, in fact. She’d caught his thoughts when she spotted him getting into an elevator. His wife and child were gone when she finally caught up to him in the lower cavities of the complex. Shielded by powerful minds and the material made to subdue certain aspects of power in that dungeon, Miriam’s powers proved embarrassingly ineffective.
He’d made sure they couldn’t be found by not looking back to see where they went or having any knowledge of their escape route. Dr. Raymond let his wife plan everything without him so he had no knowledge that could give them away. He was going to stay behind as long as he needed to. Searching for his family after they’d been forgotten by, Miriam.
Cory had been lost to memory quickly because Miriam had plenty of replacements and did not worry about such feckless things. She hadn’t cared much to expend resources looking for him, although she had a team keeping an eye out for any record of a child with overwhelming powers because they feared what the child could be used for. Her people never found the trail and Miriam didn’t waste much time with it. There were more important things to worry over and enough powerful children to pay attention to.
Cory had been proving his power since Simone and her friends freed him from Jason’s clutches the first time. Miriam would swear those powers seem to be growing by the day. She can feel the waves of power emanating from him now, wave stacked on wave, none of it ebbing back toward him. He is angry. But without being able to connect to his mind there is no telling specifically what he’s angry about, though, Miriam could take a wild guess. Still, she’d lived long enough to know that a woman doesn’t just throw out whatever guilt she is holding onto by asking stupid questions before there’s an accusation she can defend against. Especially with one of these Millennials. They are far too fickle. The most efficient use of such a powerful young man would be serving her purpose rather than being buried in an unmarked grave for stepping outside the lines over a dead man that betrayed her.
Miriam extends a right hand for calm that Cory doesn’t even seem to see, though they are less than ten feet from one another on the right side of the king-sized bed, in the bedroom he’d slept in and been studying the files, still stashed on the bed, in. His watery eyes are focused on her eyes, digging into her soul. She’s pointing to the apparition standing close to him, with its eyes on her. “Whatever this – thing has told you, Cory, it is a lie. I can prove that it has moved in silence like… like a miasma, showing me things I would not have imagined.” She appeals. Cory is silent. His eyes piercing through hers. “I can show you the truth.”
“He’s already seeing the truth.” The thing that is Dr. Raymond says. “I did say he would believe you. Nothing’s better than seeing the truth, first hand.”
Miriam looks at the thing unsure of what he’s saying. Then Cory, whose watery eyes are burning brightly at her. When Miriam takes a step toward Cory, she feels resistance in the air to her advances. She stops trying to go toward him and the air relaxes around her. When she tries to go toward Cory again, the air stiffens to hold her back. The more pressure she puts into walking toward him the more resistance she feels on the wind. There isn’t even a gust in the large room that she can feel.
A bit worried. Miriam pauses and starts walking around the bed on her half of it. When she gets on the other side of the bed she keeps her focus on Cory, who has turned to keep her in sight. Both of her palms are raised to appease him when she begins backing away. She wants to give him space to calm and herself room to think. Halfway across the room she feels something behind her forcing her to stop. Miriam checks behind and sees nothing. This is his power. He’s trapped her here and she would like to give him space to calm down so she does not have to do something drastic while he’s in a mood.
She looks at the apparition. It morphs to become six-year-old Kiren again. Cory gets distracted by the shifting features and looks at the apparition.
Miriam feels the release of the barrier and sees how his eyes move. Quick. What she needs. She springs into action bounding three steps to the bed, hopping on it before Cory can fully turn to stop her. Miriam keeps moving and leaps at him pulling her left hand back in a fist and slinging it forward with her momentum hoping for a knockout blow.
The attempted deflection by Cory isn’t enough when he flinches, eyes wide in fright, either that she would attack him or for how fast she moved. It doesn’t matter. The blow connects to his right cheek with a loud clash of flesh strong enough to send Cory splashing to the ground. Miriam lands on her feet glaring at him with the agility of a champion athlete. To make sure she has some time to come up with something useful, she kicks him hard in the gut driving the wind out of him so he doesn’t recover too quickly. He’d been able to erect some sort of field to deflect some of the impact from her fist at the last second.
It was clever and too damned quick.
Miriam reaches down at the writhing body on the floor. “I’m sorry I had to do that to you, Cory.” Grasps the collar of the expensive shirt she’d gifted him. “We shouldn’t be fighting each other, we’re on the same side. We’re both being hunted by Jason. He’s a dangerous man, Cory.” She hauls him up by the collar while she’s talking in hopes of keeping him distracted so she can attempt to get into his head to confirm what he’s angry about while he’s hurt. She has no problem kicking a man while he’s down.
“Rory’s a clone?” Cory’s face is twisted in disgust and intrigue. Her plan is brilliant. Distract him while she figures out what to do. He’s going to use that plan since he’s too pissed off and conflicted to think through this situation he’s found himself in.
Miriam pauses knowing there is only one way he could know that. “How much did you see?” Impossible as it may be. This child had been able to read her mind without her being aware of it. Then that look. “Are you two an item?”
“No!” Cory shakes his head with vigorous denial. Thinks quickly, Rory, in danger.
Taking advantage of the momentary distraction and the fact that he’s now thinking about Rory, Miriam bores into his head and sees some of their awkward interactions. Cory pushes her out of his head while Miriam stares incredulously at him. Not because of anything she’d seen but because of the ease with which he’s dispatched her from his mind.
“You poisoned King Tut?” Cory again distracts. Fits of anger and confusion about what to do, rave at him. Miriam flinches back releasing his collar and his weight to hold itself when she does. Unable to hold his own weight because of how Miriam was holding him, Cory crumples forward to the floor with a simple, “ow”.
Kiren broods a foot away. “The two of you are insane.”
“Keep out of this! You’re not getting involved, remember?” Miriam shouts at the little girl. “How much did he see?” She’s hopeful the playfulness of the apparition will give her something since she can’t seem to get it from Cory.
Cory rolls on the ground. The sudden feelings of the loss of his father. The uncertainty of what to do at a time like this. His friends in danger. It’s all too much. Spouting off at the mouth to distract Miriam was all he could come up with. He’s never actually had to fight a woman. His mother had always told him to never hit a woman. He can’t remember her saying anything about a bad woman who’d killed his father. From the stolen memories floating in his head trying to clarify themselves for him to understand, Miriam is far worse than a bad woman. Her memories seem to be unpacking one at a time for him. Each revealing a darker side to his would-be-savior of a woman. The woman who had the blood of his father on her hands and that of countless others.
“You should know from that mention, mother.” Kiren twirls her left index in the air near her head. “He’s seen everything if it is too much for you to comprehend. He’s seen it all from the very moment y…”
“Let’s not go there again.” Miriam balks. Betrayal. Blah, blah, blah. “I’m finally going to deal with you, you know?”
Kiren is instantly amused. “And how do you plan on doing that? It’s been, oh, how many years since our first talk? And how many promises to do something about me?”
Miriam smiles. “After Cory and I hash out our differences, I’m finally going to take some wonderful pills and keep taking them until you’re gone.”
Kiren cackles. “That is why I love you. Always a sense of humor.” Kiren waves her off. “You go ahead and make yourself nuts with your wonderful pills. I would have been right there with whatever delusions your wonderful pills could have come up with.” She purses her lips with her left eye becoming tiny. “Might have given me more than boredom to do when I came to torment you, though, eh.”
“Right aft…” Miriam looks down at Cory and goes silent. He’s no longer curled on the ground rolling around in pain. He’s gone. She sees the tips of his hands vanishing outside the frame of the opened window on the side of the bed they’re on. She curses. He’s jumped out of it.
Kiren and Miriam run to the window and see him sprinting across the grassy lawn. From three stories up he should have a limp, something, but he’s running like nothing happened to him. Like he’d simply hopped off the bed and is running to the door.
Kiren watches in ponderous silence. “I’m going with, you don’t look as good as you used to, mother.” She says insolently. Miriam glares at her and says nothing. “If he escapes he’s going straight to the police, you know? Jason will be on your trail in no time.” She points out.
Miriam doesn’t need the little twit to explain anything to her. It is what these new age children are taught to do. Run to the authorities if they have any information and let them handle the trouble. A child with too much power on his hands will be no different. She wonders, if Kiren had lived, would she be like them.
Miriam vanishes from the window leaving Kiren watching as she reappears about twenty feet ahead of Cory. “What are you going to do, young man?” Miriam places hands upturned on hips authoritatively. “Run to the police. Tell them about me? Would you really put that many lives in danger?”
Cory who has skidded to a halt, fidgeting around for a way to escape watches her. He hadn’t even seen her move past him. He says nothing. Looking for an escape. Few sparse trees in no close proximity spaced about the wide-open, well manicured property. He’s too far from any of the orchards he’d seen to make a run for them. The closest tree he can hide behind is more than a hundred yards away and is no better than a toothpick for hiding behind. Behind him is the house, but that too, is a good seventy yards or more and just means getting trapped all over again.
“There’s really no escaping me.” Miriam bleats the obvious. “If you run in any direction I’ll be there before you can get away. Your only options are to give up or attempt to fight me.” With the link between them severed, Miriam feels the panic in his head. The jumbled thoughts. The desire to escape and turn her in rather than fight a woman. Noble and completely stupid. And absolutely to her advantage.
Cory breaks left, running for a hill he’d seen from the window the first time he’d looked out of it. It looks like it’s a good drop down into a valley. Flats or no, he doubts Miriam would run down the hill after him. Too fancy.
“That is a cliff!” Miriam sings tauntingly, halting him. “Hundred feet or so, straight down. I love the view from there, but the plop down might’nt feel so good.” She starts casually toward him. “Stop making things difficult, Cory.”
Cory breaks left again. Miriam is in front of him before he can start running. Within ten feet. When he turns in the opposite direction, Miriam is inches from him with an evil grin. He still hadn’t seen her move but he feels her fist in his gut double him over.
The winds feel like they’re picking up some steam for the late afternoon. Miriam stands over Cory deciding what to do next while he wheezes. Her instincts are heightened. Adrenaline is bringing back those tendencies for a fight she’d put away to pretend at being a lady, for the fools she will one day exterminate, after they help her eliminate Jason. She bends enough to hold him by the cheeks and help him kneel with her left hand. Blood is pounding at her ears like war drums. “I’d prefer we didn’t fight, Cory. There is someone after both of us that wil..”
“You killed my father!” Cory contemplates low. Feral. Parcels of tears well at the corners of his eyes.
Miriam lets go of his face and stands over him, taking inventory of the damage from the accusation she’d been waiting for. Thinks hard. He still hasn’t raised a hand to attack her. “You have no true memories of that man or what happened to him.” Miriam intends to get command of this situation. “For all you know he fell ill and died. That thing causes even I to hallucinate when it shows up, Cory. Believe me.”
“I know what I feel.” Cory growls defiantly.
Miriam runs her hands through the flock of red on top of her head attempting to retain the little patience she has remaining. Her eyes scrutinize the features of the young man on his knees trying to get something out of him. She begins stalking in a circle around him like a lioness with fresh kill pleading for mercy, keeping her eyes on him devilishly with each step, without fully realizing it. Ancient desires have been awakened, ancient needs insisting on obedience or death. “Cory, I have made many decisions over the course of my life. Maybe your father worked for me at some point and, maybe I have done some horrible things while making decisions I’ve had to make. But I do not admit to killing your father. I’ve had too many people working for me to truly know who he even is.”
“Dr. Theodore Raymond. I saw it!” Cory says in clipped bursts that sounds like repeated boom boom booms on leather skins; bating Miriam each time a word slips into existence.
That’s his name. “Cory,” Gritted teeth can barely contain her growing irritation with the twit. “That thing is playing with our heads. I don’t know how but it is. We need to find it and take…”
“You can’t lie to me.” Cory shouts, his voice becoming strengthened by rage.
“Why would I need to lie!” Miriam shouts him down hoping to get a little control before things truly get out of hand. “I simply said you can’t trust wh…”
“I’m in your head right now, stupid bitch!!” Cory has his hands on the ground pushing off the floor to get up and get in her face with rage overwhelming confusion.
Miriam turns on him and has him by the collar and on his feet before what he says makes sense to her. She only heard “bitch” from an insolent moron she’s been trying hard to put to good use instead of killing. Before she can warn him to never call her that again her hands are swatted from his person. She swings her right hand to slap the taste out of his mouth but something stops her hand inches from his face and wards it away from coming in contact with Cory. The same thing happens when she swings the left without him so much as moving a muscle.
Sensing the rage in him and the growing control he seems to have over his power, all be it at the dispensation of his better senses, Miriam accelerates her right hand, hardening it on its way toward his chest, bending enough kinetic energy around her hand to cause some serious damage to any normal human being, closing into a fist inches from his body and connects with a healthy splash. Cory rolls over backwards tumbling when he falls on the ground and sees Miriam coming toward him. Before he can pull himself together she’s gone and then he feels a boot driving him into the grass hard, forcing the wind from his already aching body.
With unnatural strength by any standard, Miriam bends and gets a grasp of Cory’s shirt from behind and lifts, heaving him up and over her head, turning while he’s at peak height and pulling him straight down into the ground with a loud smack. The sheer force of the impact sends the grass flailing and leaves Cory writhing in excruciating pain. Miriam is mildly surprised he’d survived and that he is conscious. She’d put enough strength into hauling him down to kill.
A strong boot to the ribs sends him rolling two feet over in the grass, landing on his back. His lips are cut. His right nostril has some blood trickling. Miriam heads toward him, ancient instincts trained to his every move. “Let’s try this again, shall we.” Miriam bends when she gets to where Cory is sprawled on his back in the grass heaving pain into the air. She starts reaching for him. “You will respect m…” A gust. Something. A force. Pushes her back hard. Miriam is flung five feet in the air backwards with incredible force. It is only through force of will she’s able to twist her body in the air and land on all fours, hard, about ten feet from where she was a second ago. Cory is starting to stir.
She decides that his bag of kinetic tricks will not save him. Her eyes are firmly on him as she stands and takes the first step toward him. Her prey grunting and hauling himself upright. Crouching. Miriam blinks and incredibly, Cory is gone. Then. Something smashes hard into her collarbone driving a shock of sharp pain through her, flipping her head over foot before splashing her knees first in the grass. She would have screamed if she’d had time. All she can do is crumple into the grassy floor on her knees instead, face to the ground heaving pain and rage into it.
Without thinking Miriam starts to push at the ground to get up. She hears him scream. “Stay down!”
He’s behind her. Miriam chills. He’s like them. Like Jason. Like Tyus. Like Aiden, whom Tyus had killed so many years ago. Her beloved monstrous Aiden. They are at the top tier of all the Sixth in the world, and few in number. How could this boy possibly be one of them and she is not. Though, she should have guessed from the moment she’d seen Cory rip that tree in half with his bare hands and smacked that weakling she had employed as muscle several years ago. Letting him live to realize his true potential might be the right thing to do, if she can get his ass to calm down. He could be used to make Jason pay for his transgressions.
She twists on the ground to look behind her and sees him looking at her. His eyes blazing the color of the rustic brown beneath the glow. Miriam pushes from the ground despite his eyes blaring a warning. Those ancient instincts honed through countless practice sessions and on countless battlefields drive her forward when she shoves forward roaring, willing her body to dig in through the pain, only to see him take one casual step forward and then he’s gone. Panic nearly takes her. But she must stay in control. He’s a child. Untrained. Still too damned powerful for his own good and too powerful for her not to gain control over. She keeps running forward.
Miriam prepares for the impact she knows is coming quickly by erecting a field of energy she hopes will give her time to react to his attack. She feels the jolt, nearly shattering the field, sees a wave of disturbance where he hit, slightly to her left-front, slipping quickly left before the field she erected is shattered, reaching out a hand, grasping just when his hand appears and whirls him around and letting his hand go.
She watches Cory thumping through the grass in a blur, chunking grass and dirt on his way, skidding to what appears to be a painful stop and grunting when he tries to get up off the ground. Miriam’s breath feels heavy as if she’d gotten the worst of that. “Your tricks won’t do you any good.” She pants forcing her legs toward him. “I’ve faced countless reprobates who thought they could beat me.” She warns. “All we have to do is talk, boy. But you won’t be leaving these grounds without my say so. I’ve risked too damned much to allow that.”
There is no chance of escape. She will not let him go with his level of unrealized power, for Jason to employ. Her senses keen to his movements and his body, and years of training Jason and then running from him, not to mention having to fight Tyus and barely escaping with her life. This one, though, he’s young, trainable, and completely out of his element without the full grasp of his power. She will teach him that, given time. She will not make the same mistake she made while training Jason. Manners and respect will be first with this one. But first, she plans to break his will and mold him for obedience. Finally, some fun.
“Listen to me,” Her voice is coarse with authority, warning Cory when he starts pushing up off the ground, willing his body to move. Miriam barely has time to parry a jab that comes from nowhere, nearly gets decapitated by a lariat, then watches Cory rounding in blazing speed toward her and lurching at her when he gets within five feet. The impact comes too quickly to dodge and is too strong to block when his shoulders slam into her mid-section, knocking wind from her body, driving them into the grass, raking up dirt as they bounce and roll from the impact, skidding to a halt two feet from each other panting.
The pain hits seconds after they stop. Miriam bawls into the ground through gritted teeth, still pushing from the ground on wobbly legs in the seconds following. She takes a few haggard breaths before she begins walking to where Cory is pushing hard to get off the ground. She is going to beat the snot out of him. She’s going to break him. Miriam charges when Cory pushes onto his knees, strengthening her legs for a good boot to the head. Even if he blocks it, he’ll still feel this, she tells herself.
Inches. Mere inches away everything explodes with a wave of pure energy. Miriam falls and rolls backwards with the explosion and digs her hands into the ground to stop from sliding back in the dirt. She sees Cory on his knees; the grass around him flattened ten feet from him in all directions and then, he’s on his feet looking right at her.
Feet that are now stalking confidently, one step at a time, in her direction.