"The silence returns, and this time, I don’t welcome it."
Attention all citizens. If anyone is still alive out there, then please stay tuned to this transmission. I don’t have much time left. I’m losing blood very quickly. The robot that infiltrated my broadcast station stabbed me in the chest, but I managed to destroy it with my gun before it could escape. Ugh. My blood loss is reaching dangerous levels, but I will still broadcast what little information I have left to give. The death toll is confirmed to be at four billion. Yes, you heard that correct. Four billion people are dead. More than half of the total population. The robots have also changed their attack strategy. They’re now destroying everything in their wake.
Large groups of survivors have formed militias to fight against this robot menace. If you can, seek shelter with these militias. They may be our last hope for survival.
I can’t go on. If there is anyone still out there, please . . . survive.
Qasim, Qasim, Qasim.
I don’t know where he suddenly got all of this confidence from. I guess his feelings for Xena were genuine after all. Too bad. He made a mistake by getting too attached to someone. He’s lucky I killed her because she was going to break his heart anyway. I’m still surprised that he’s been in my face for so long though. He’s not even shaking.
“So, Qasim is it? Don’t you have better things to do then look at my face,” I say.
His lips quiver, and I’m sure that he is going to cry. But, he doesn’t. “You killed the girl that I love,” he says with a subtle rage. “I won’t let you harm anyone else.”
“Listen kid, you may be feeling all tough right now because of adrenaline, but use your fucking head. Look at yourself. You just recovered from being knocked out, and I still have my electric powers,” I say in a matter of fact tone. “I’m stronger than you, I’m faster than you, and I’m a better fighter than you. Those reasons alone will be why I win this fight. You don’t stand a chance.”
He begins laughing uncontrollably, and for once I’m a little disturbed. “You’re right Aaron. You’re much stronger than me, and you’re a better fighter. But I have one thing that you could never dream to match. And that’s determination.”
“Oh please. Stop with this pathetic idealism. How can something as retarded as determination give you enough power to defeat me?”
“You’d be surprised Aaron. Your feeble mind probably can’t comprehend this, but with enough drive, anyone can accomplish anything. Like this!”
He hits me so quickly that I don’t react in time to block his punch. I stumble backward, but I quickly regain my balance. There is no way I’m about to lose this fight. I look forward to see the nerd in mid-air. I dodge him just as he kicks into the ground where I once stood, hard. He immediately turns and runs toward me, but I’m ready for him. We exchange punches and kicks for at least ten minutes. What surprises me is that he isn’t tiring out. Not even a little. This kid is attacking just as hard as he was when the fight started. There is no quit in him at all. I refuse to believe that his determination will win the fight alone, but he’s giving one hell of an effort.
Eventually, I begin succumbing to fatigue. In that moment, I realize my fatal mistake; I allowed all the energy in my reserves to be depleted. This time, I have nowhere to recharge myself, and even if I did, this guy would be on my tail entirely. No matter though. This nerd has never beaten me head-on in a fight before. He always relies on cheap shots and hit-and-run tactics. There is no way he can beat me mano e mano.
“You must be getting tired,” I say while dodging his punches. “There’s no way you can keep this up much longer kid.” This tactic always works on Qasim. Psychological warfare. If someone keeps repeating a phrase to him, then, sooner or later, he starts to believe it. He doesn’t relent, so I repeat it over, and over.
“Shut up!” With a sudden burst of energy, he picks me up, and throws me down to the ground. Where I land is too close to the edge for my liking.
“I don’t think you understand, Aaron. Someway, or another, I will end your life today. Even if it means that I have to die too.”
I look at him, shocked. “Have you gone mad? What will killing me do? Xena will still be dead, and then you’ll be all alone in a fucking apocalypse!”
“Why did you kill her Aaron? Why?!”
“I wanted revenge. You know that.”
That is what I wanted. That is exactly what I wanted.
“Tell me the fucking truth! Why did you kill her?”
“Fine! You want to know why I killed her? She shattered my dreams! She was the only girl I truly loved, and she just threw me aside like dust in the wind!”
“You maniacal bastard. You killed her just because she broke your heart.”
“It’s not as simple as that—”
“Yes it is. Wow, it’s amazing what people can show in their weakest moments. You pretend to be strong, but as soon as a girl leaves you, then you turn into this . . . this coward.”
“I don’t think you killed Xena because you wanted revenge. You killed her because she hurt your pathetic pride, and you couldn’t live with that. Deep down, it crushed you, and the fact that she was a girl threw salt in the wound. I’m right and you know it!”
I have heard enough! “Who do you think you are? What makes you think you’re in the position to judge me like this? You could easily be in my place. You just happened to meet her when she needed saving, and she’s been attached to you ever since because you were her knight in shining armor.”
Why am I telling him this? Maybe . . . I really do need to get this off my chest.
“You think I didn’t love her Qasim? I cared about her more than anyone else.”
“Bullshit! You don’t beat up people you love!”
“Oh get your head out of your ass. You mean your parents have never hit you once?”
“That’s different. They were disciplining me. You just can’t control your anger!”
I can feel my blood heating up.
He’s just trying to get into your head man. Cool down . . .
But I can’t cool down. I want to tear him to shreds. Whenever I see him, I see Xena for some reason. It’s like she’s haunting me through his presence. I can’t take this anymore. Argh! What the hell is going on?!
I hold my head, and scream. Nothing I do amounts to anything anymore. I planned, and I was patient. I did what I came here to do, and for what? An emotional breakdown at the hands of Qasim Desmo? My mortal enemy!? This world just isn’t worth living in anymore. I want to see what’s on the other side. Anything has to be better than this . . .
But if I go, this bastard is coming with me.
I charge him, and, as expected, he counters me by turning sideways and punching me in the face. I stumble backwards, and he unleashes a volley of punches and kicks. We move closer and closer to the edge. Once we’re close enough, I grab him and fall over the edge; taking him with me. I don’t see him falling, but I don’t need to look for him. I know he isn’t going to make it back up the wall. The ground is getting closer, but I don’t see the inevitable impact with it as the end. It’s going to be a clean slate for me. Another chance. A fresh start. A new—
I don’t know how I keep getting hurt so badly, but at least I can still move. But Yun. There’s no way he can recover from an injury that bad. He’s done for, and now his physical body will be stuck in a coma. It wouldn’t be so awful if I knew how long that coma would last. Yun . . .
You act like an asshole a lot, but I know that’s because you’re trying to be the tough guy. You have a really kind heart, and I hope the others saw that. I love all my friends, and I cherish the time I spend with everyone. Yet, I feel like I took you for granted. Maybe I’m wrong.
C’mon Ivy, pull yourself together girl. You have to make sure Des is okay.
Oh shit. Des!
Before I was knocked out, he was fighting the X.E.P.H.Y.R. Now, he is destroyed, but I can’t see Des anywhere. How could he have disappeared so quickly?
“Somebody! Help! I can’t hold on much longer!”
That voice. It sounds exactly like him. He has to be around here, but I still can’t see him. Oh if there was only a sign to point me in the right direction.
“Des! Where are you?”
“I’m hanging on the edge! Come get me quick!”
This time, I know exactly where the voice is coming from. He’s somewhere to my right, and the edge isn’t too far away. I rush over as quickly as I can, and I look over the edge. There he is. He’s hanging onto a small extension of the wall. Far below him, I can see a bloody body with its limbs twisted at unnatural angles. I ignore it for the time being.
“Des, I can’t reach you. You’re too far away,” I say to him.
“Please do something, and soon!”
I look around. There is no rope, no string, and no pipe. I can’t use any part of my surroundings to assist me. I’m just going to have to save him myself. Shouldn’t be too hard right?
There is no time to waste. I can see Des losing grip. I reach over the edge, but I’m still about six inches away from him. I lean over the edge further, and I can touch the tip of his fingers. I need to move just a little closer. I lean over just a little more, and I grab one of his hands. Getting there was easy, but pulling him back will require basically all the strength I have left. But I’m not about to back down. I won’t allow anyone else to die out here. With a loud yell, I pull Des up, and bring him back to safety. We hug each other, and he wipes a tear off my face. I didn’t even realize I was crying until now. “Thanks for the save Ivy.”
“Now we’re even,” I tease. Had it not been for him earlier, I would have certainly bled to death. I notice that Des’s eyes are a little red. I think he was crying too.
“Des, what’s wrong?” I ask with genuine concern.
“ . . .”
I shake him a little. “Des, what’s wrong? You can tell me.”
“She’s gone,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief.
“What do you mean she’s . . .” How could I have not seen the signs? Xena is nowhere to be seen. Something terrible must have happened to her. But, she can’t be dead. She’s one tough hombre. She can live through anything. There’s no way she’s gone. “Ok, Des, you can stop fucking with me. Where’s Xena?” I ask seriously.
“Ivy, she’s dead. Aaron incinerated her, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.” He’s almost sobbing now, and all I can do is stand in disbelief. Before I can wallow in grief, I hear an explosion. I look up, and I see screens surrounding me. On them, I can see robots destroying cities, killing multitudes of people, and causing mass destruction. This, isn’t what we were trying to do.
“Des, you destroyed the X.E.P.H.Y.R. right?”
“Yes, well, technically Aaron did, but the X.E.P.H.Y.R. is dead. I can confirm that.”
“So, why are the robots still destroying everything?”
“We didn’t think our plan through very well. Without the X.E.P.H.Y.R., all the robots have no programming. They’re going completely berserk right now, and there is nothing we can do to stop them. The Earth is done for.” He puts his head in his hands, clearly in defeat.
I can’t blame him. I’m normally a very positive person, but there is nothing good about what is happening right now. The Earth is being destroyed as we speak, half of the group is dead, and we’re also stuck in the Digital World. What an anticlimactic way for this to end.
I walk to the edge of the building and sit on the edge; looking at the destruction on Earth. To my surprise, Des joins me. We don’t say anything to each other, but for once I appreciate the silence. I think we’re both trying to rationalize the disaster. It’s a tall task to say the least.
“Des, do you have a plan?” I ask. I don’t know why I ask him that. No plan will do us any good at this point.
“Yeah. I have a plan,” he replies in a monotone.
With false enthusiasm, I ask again, “Oh wonderful. What do you have in mind?”
I look at him. He doesn’t look back. He seems very focused on not making eye contact with me. I decide not to bother him, and I leave him to his thoughts. The silence returns, and this time, I don’t welcome it.
So, this is what it feels like to be dead. All those religious people lied to me! There’s literally nothing here! I’m just floating in this consuming darkness. Oh wait, I’m not floating. I’m, descending? Yes. I’m definitely descending. But, where’s the floor?
Well, at least I know where the floor is now. Damn. That impact really hurt.
“Hello Xena. I apologize for the rough landing. Are you hurt?” a mysterious voice asks me.
“Wait, hold up. I’m dead. Why would you be asking me if I’m hurt?”
“Simple. You are not dead.”
This has to be some sort of trick. Aaron’s electric blast obliterated me. There’s no way I could have lived through an energy ball that strong.
“Ok, stop messing with me. How can I be alive right now?”
“If you don’t believe me, check your pulse.”
I stick two fingers on the pressure point located on my wrist. At first I feel nothing. Then, thump, thump, thump. I do have a pulse. I am alive. What is going on here?
“I don’t believe it. But Aaron’s blast . . . there’s no way . . .” I’m really at a loss for words.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m the one who saved you. Seconds before the blast hit you, I teleported in, and I moved you out of harm’s way. I couldn’t take you back there because the roof was a dangerous battleground.”
Pause. I don’t know how to respond to that. The voice continues.
“Xena, we have met before. You may remember me from when you were imprisoned.”
I think back to the time I was stuck in that sphere. I remember the voice that spoke to me then; giving me instructions on how to escape and alert my friends. This is the same voice. It all makes sense now. Now all I need to do is figure out who or what this voice is.
“So it was you. I understand. Oh, and about earlier, thanks. You saved my life, twice,” I reply.
“I had to save you. I am part of the K.R.E.W. I couldn’t let a fellow teammate get fried.”
“You’re part of the crew?! Does that mean you’re Electrode?”
“You’ve inferred correctly. It’s nice to meet you face to face.”
“But, I still can’t see you. It’s total darkness right now.”
“Then allow me to shed some light on our discussion”
I ignore the terrible pun solely because of how significant this moment is. When I first joined the K.R.E.W., Des had told me that Electrode was some person who never left their room. I can’t believe that I assumed Electrode was simply our technology person. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Soon, blue lights shine in from all directions. It looks like I’m in some sort of chamber, but I still can’t tell where I am exactly. I turn behind me, and a girl of average height is there. She has chin-length, black hair, vibrant purple eyes, and the friendliest smile I’ve ever seen. Pretty.
“Wow, you look beautiful . . . erm I mean, uh . . .”
“Haha thank you. I know you didn’t mean it like that,” she replies, chuckling.
“So, Electrode, how did you save me?”
“Teleportation. That is the special power a program gave me. And now, you can gain powers that will save the world.”
“Is it really possible to save the world now? Robots have gone completely out of control. There’s no real way for us to fight them all off.”
“There is one way. However, it has never been tried before.”
“Then what is it? Whatever it is, we have to try it right now.”
“It’s called, the Avatar. It’s the ultimate trump card for humans to use against all artificial intelligence.”
I don’t know what the hell this Avatar is, but this sounds very promising. Anything that can be used to take the fight back to the robots is something that I’m ready to use.
“What exactly is the Avatar?”
“I was hoping you’d ask. Technically, the Avatar isn’t in a physical form right now. However, its power is open for anyone to use.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Have you chosen someone yet?”
“I have. Xena, that person is you.”