"Hey. No need to be so tough on the new girl. Remember, we're all on the same team here."
|The Power Of The Fist|
|III: A Tiger In The Grass|
|I: Happy New Year, 3013|
About a month had passed since Xena's fight with Aaron at her New Year's Day party. Her bruises healed up pretty quickly, and Aaron was thrown in prison. She's lucky. Whenever I get beat up (which is almost every day), my cuts and bruises take forever to go away. That's ok though. All the struggle I go through daily makes me strong. It makes me who I am.
"Hey! Des! Snap out of it!" A loud voice yells in my ear. It is followed by a hard slap to my face. I was so lost in thought; I did not realize Xena was sitting next to me the whole time. I hate it when she gets rough without warning.
"Did you have to do that, Xena?" I ask. It was a stupid question. I already knew what the answer was.
"Of course I had to, you daydreaming fuckstick," she says with her usual smirk. I have adapted to this aggressive part of her personality, though it remains a bother. She usually acts even more aggressive and rash whenever she is excited. Considering that this is going to be her first K.R.E.W. meeting, I am not surprised.
"How's everyone like? Will they like me? Do they like martial arts? Are they into food? What's their average height?" she asks in a nonstop barrage of questions. When she has this much energy, it is hard to handle her.
"Patience, Xena," I answer. "Soon you will be introduced to everyone in the group. I am sure you will fit right in."
Getting to our hide-out required going through a short cut in the city. Luckily, Seattle was not the busiest place, especially at night. During our walk, I couldn't help but to stop, and look at our surroundings. I always love the cityscape. It is such a work of art. The streets, always so sleek and without a pothole, provide the smoothest transportation. The buildings, with their rounded designs and metallic luster, shine even when dim objects like stars fill up the sky. The lights, with their many shades and hues, provide a soothing atmosphere in, what is normally, a hectic world. Unfortunately, my euphoria was interrupted by an encounter. A man had just exited a taxi, and the driver was a robot. This was not going to be pretty.
"Thanks for the transport," says the man. "But I really am in a rush. Send me the bill in the mail."
The robot (who is supposed to be emotionless) was clearly ticked off.
"Sir, please pay the fare."
"What are you, malfunctioning? I told you, I'll pay ya later."
"Sir, please pay the fare."
"I ain't got time for this. I'm getting my things."
He tried to open the trunk, but the robot driver locked it.
"Final warning. Sir, please pay the fare."
The man finally lost his patience with the robot driver.
"Listen here, you pile of scrap metal. If you don't open this trunk, I will have you recycled for spare parts! You hear me?! I'm gonna rip you apart!"
The robot driver got out of the taxi, and what happened next was unexpected. It grabbed the man, and then smashed him against one of the windows, shattering it. It followed that up by punching him in the face, hard. The man (probably pumped up on adrenaline) attempted to hit the robot driver, but the robot dodged his punch effortlessly. The robot then kneed him in the stomach, and he coughed up blood. I couldn't bear to watch any more after that. Interactions between robots and humans have become increasingly hostile, but I have never seen a fight break out between them, until now.
I hate leaving a guy to get mauled, but I knew there were more important matters at hand. Xena had to be officially inducted into the group, and it was up to me to make sure that was a smooth process.
After about a half hour of walking, we reach our destination. It's a small building, specially designed by me. It only has one room, but it has plenty of space for all of our members.
"Nice place you got here, Des," Xena teases while giggling.
"Just you wait. The inside is the impressive part," I retort confidently. She has a bad habit of underestimating me. I don't mind it. It makes it so much easier to impress her and shut her up. When I open the door, she is clearly taken away by the intricate design of the interior. I smile, but I turn away so she can't see my face. The room is lined with complex circuit patterns. They glow with a brilliant blue light. In the center, there is an elliptical table with enough chairs for four people. Very convenient. It is complete with a small kitchen and basic utilities. I recently added a radio and a TV to our hide-out as well.
"Greetings, everyone. This is the girl I told you all about," I announce. As expected, the others had mixed reactions about me bringing her in.
"Oh great. Just what we need. Another outsider," says Yun. His full name is Yun Nguyen. He is the oldest guy in the group: eighteen, to be exact. Therefore, he does most the driving. He is always suspicious of outsiders, and I can't blame him. Not after what he went through in the past. It doesn't take long for him to "examine" Xena. He starts by looking her right in the eyes, up close, for two minutes. She did not appreciate this at all.
"Hey! Get out of my face!"
She tries to push him away, but he catches her arms before she can finish the full attack. She struggles to get herself free.
"Heh, you're lucky you're a girl. Otherwise, you would have no tongue to speak with," Yun replies coldly. He releases his grip and stares down Xena as he goes back to his seat.
The second member steps in. She's a girl with a slender build, but a friendly appearance. She is far more accepting of Xena.
"Hello Xena. My name is Ava Leon, but all my friends call me Ivy. I'm seventeen," she says. She reaches out her hand to shake Xena's.
"Hi! Nice to meet yo—"
As soon as Xena's hand makes contact with hers, Ivy flips her over her shoulder, and she smashes her on the table.
"Haha! I never get tired of that. I should let you know that I'm the team's martial arts expert," Ivy says confidently.
"Nice to know. I'll keep that in mind," Xena responds. She had to be in a daze after that slam. She didn't even try to fight back. But she quickly snaps out of it.
"Hey. Where's the fourth person in the group?" she asks. Before I could tell her who it was, Yun interrupted me.
"He refuses to leave his house. He communicates with us through his computer. We call him Electrode. Don't ask why he never shows up in person," he tells her.
"So, he is like your information gatherer guy?"
"Yes, he is. I'm surprised you could even figure that out by yourself."
Yun never really was nice to me when we first met either.
"Hey," Ivy intervenes. "No need to be so tough on the new girl. Remember, we're all on the same team here."
There is an awkward silence following that. Seeing this as my opportunity, I deliver a short speech to the group.
"Guys, I do not need to remind you all how important our goal is. What we are trying to do will not only change our lives, but the lives of everyone on the planet. Every task, whether too tedious, too boring, or too exhausting, is now handled by artificial life forms. We seek to end this dependence on the robots before their inevitable take over. We cannot just turn a blind eye and expect them to be simple artificial life forms. They can think, they can feel, and most importantly, they can plan."
I'm glad I inherited my dad's public speaking skills. They serve me well in situations like this. I have all of their undivided attention.
"Our plan is cut into two major stages: a land stage, and a digital stage. The land stage's priority is gaining easy access to and from the Digital World. It is imperative this goes smoothly. If we get stuck in the Digital World, then we will be at the mercy of the artificial intelligence. This is where my dad will come into play. With his recent promotion, he can give us access to a dimension portal. The priority of the digital stage is to destroy the code that controls the robots. This we must do on our own. Are there any objections?"
I expect to hear immediate backlash. Ivy is the first to give her opinion.
"We can handle the details later. Overall, I like this plan," she says with a smile.
"I can beat up anyone who gets in our way. Let's go for it," says Yun. I really expected him to say something sarcastic. Today may be my lucky day. Last but not least, it is Xena's turn to offer her criticism.
"I really can't think of a better plan. I'll go with yours," she says. It's not a compliment, but I'll take it.
Welcome to my home. It isn't really my home, actually. It is the Seattle Prison Complex. That bitch got me stuck here after I kicked the shit out of her on New Year's Day. The party sucked anyway. This place isn't so bad when all the prisoners get to hang out in the courtyard. That is when the real fun begins. Fights always happen in these "down" times, and one started as soon as I reached the yard. I was quick to join the chaos.
"Finally, some action! You pansies were putting me to sleep!" I shout. "Now I can get some practice for what I'm going to do to that bitch Xena for getting me arrested!"
I've been in plenty of fights before. This group I joined was no different. The weaklings went down first, and soon enough, it was me versus all the big guys. They never stood a chance against me. I kept throwing punches, and they kept dropping like mutant flies. At least, that is how it was going, until one guy sucker punched me from behind. Then, they all ganged up on me when I was down. Fucking pussies. They don't know how to fight a guy straight up, like a real man. I was readying myself for a counter, but the warden broke it all up with his guards. For whatever reason, they separated me from all the others and put me in solitary confinement. I harassed the guards who were forced to look after me.
"Hey, you pansies! How about one of you come in here and find out what it's like to fight a real man?!" I scream at them. They stay stone-faced and try to ignore me. I was too tired to keep it up, so I fell asleep. Then I had the strangest freaking dream. I was in the same room, but it was covered in glowing circuit board patterns. Where the door originally was, there was now a screen with a pixelated face. I couldn't make out the gender. It started speaking to me.
"Hello, Aaron. I understand a certain individual put you in this predicament, and I wish to help," it says.
"Hey, who the hell are you, and how do you know what happened?"
"My mortal friend, I know everything there is to know, as long as the data is available. I can offer you a way out."
"This is all a trick. You must be some program who hacked your way into my head. Yeah, that's it. You're one of the guards using a program to gain access to my mind. I won't fall for it!"
"I assure you this is no trick. I need you just as much as you need me. My influence is limited to the Digital World, but through you, I can extend my reach to the physical world."
"It sounds like you just want to use me for your own gain! Well, here's what I have to say to your offer."
I give it the finger. What the hell was up with this program? It must've thought I was dumber than the kids in the short bus.
"Aaron, let me ask you this. Don't you seek revenge for that meddling girl and all her tricks? I can not only make this goal a reality, but I can make it much more enjoyable to achieve."
I want nothing more than to see Xena suffer.
"I'll get my revenge on her when the time is right, but what would I get in return if I was to help you?"
"Power, my friend. Power rivaling superhuman capabilities."
I love power. I crave it.
"Ok. Whatever you want me to do, I'm in. Just help me destroy Xena."
It didn't say anything else. The circuits around me started to glow red, and before I knew it, I was surrounded by electricity. Even though I was dreaming, I could feel the power flowing through my veins. It was overwhelming. Too overwhelming. I lost consciousness in my subconscious. Weird. When I came to, I was still in my confinement cell. I looked at my arms. My blood vessels were glowing red and blue. I held my hand at the door and concentrated. A split second later, a burst of electricity shot out from my hand and blew up the door. The guards started shooting at me, but their bullets got trapped in the electric field I created around my body. I repelled the bullets back at their heads. Double kill. Escaping won't be an issue, and that bitch Xena is about to be sorry for crossing me.
After the group unanimously accepted my plan, we decided to go out for a relaxing dinner to get our minds off our stressful lives. We went to this fancy restaurant called Double Helix. The interior was more beautiful than I had imagined. Every wall had artwork that probably took weeks to paint, and the band that was there played the most relaxing jazz.
"Didn't I tell you guys this place was awesome?" asks Ivy.
"It's alright. I have been in better restaurants," says Yun.
"Yo," says Xena. "There is an open table over there."
I looked at Xena, while she was leading everyone to our table. I never realized how pretty she looked with her jade dress on. It complimented her green-colored hair nicely.
"Des! Get over here!" she yells. I wish she could be a little more formal.
The evening was great. Xena and the others finally hit it off. Even Yun warmed up to her, albeit after an hour. It was nice to see. For us to be successful, we need to have chemistry. I didn't join in their conversation. I just observed our surroundings, while saying nothing. Staying silent is an important skill to utilize. In many situations, it is best not to say anything.
"Hey Des, lean in. I want to whisper something to you," Xena says.
I lean in.
"Buy me a unicorn, Des. A pretty unicorn with rainbow hair and sparkly fur."
It took me a second to understand why she would say something so utterly stupid. I could smell the alcohol in her breath, and her face was so red you could confuse her for a tomato. Is she this drunk already? She must have taken too many shots. Idiot.
"Xena, you're drunk, aren't you?"
She just burps and laughs.
"Ahhh, don't give her a hard time, Des. You need to let loose," says Yun.
"I can't let loose. We never know when something unexpected will happen. At least one of us has to be ready to handle the situation."
"He has a point, and you drink too much, Yun. Pull it together, dumbass," Ivy scolds. "If you get in any trouble, then we won't have a driver."
"Bitch, please. You can drive. You're seventeen."
"I can't drive the weird van thing we use."
All of a sudden, breaking news interrupts the normal TV programs on the screens. This is very unusual. There is never any breaking news to report unless a robot malfunctions.
"Attention all citizens, there has been a jailbreak at the Seattle Prison Complex. Be on the lookout for anyone with an SPC tattoo. They are all detainees. I repeat, they are all detainees. Lock your doors and stay alert."
The last thing we needed was extra danger, and this threat was impossible to ignore. That prison was where he was. We had to get back to base immediately.
"Guys, we're leaving, now. I'll drive," I say sternly to the others. It was time to accelerate our plans. A prison break could only mean one thing: Aaron is out for blood.