The angry sea of dark clouds roiled beneath a thin long-haired blonde man. Tendrils of electricity danced and sparked on his skin and remained unnoticed. His eyes stayed downcast, brows furrowed as his heart beat under his palm. Every beat cast him further into confusion. The question that popped in his head was: How am I alive?
He waded through his memories, each caused him to relive what he had endured in Libya. A female voice called his name from far away. Her face appeared in his mind. Her name at the tip of his tongue. “Cheska.”
A deafening thunderclap reverberated, seeping into his bones. Lightning illuminated the darkening sky. Fred clutched his head as scenes flashed in his head. Were the memories real or imagined? He had been very sick and delirious with fever. Had he really seen Cheska? Where was he anyway? How did he get here? More questions began to clamor for his attention when a boy appeared. Bejeweled bands around the boy’s wrists glowed and brightened at his approach.
“Doctor,” he called. His hand moved to touch Fred and quickly withdrew when electricity licked his fingers.
“Prince Noriden,” Fred said, his voice hoarse with disuse.
“I knew you’d be here,” the Uruimethian prince smiled nervously. His gaze roamed over the doctor’s appearance.
“How did you know where to find me?”
“Those,” he pointed at the dark clouds, “came without warning. I guessed that with your affinity to electricity, you can create,” Noriden spread his arms wide and grinned, “something like this.” His smile faded when he said, “Can you turn down the electricity around you a bit? We have to go somewhere. I don’t want to be electrocuted before we reach the place.”
Fred reduced the flow of electrical current from manifesting outside his body. He was surprised at his control over his ability; it was a lot easier than before.
A portal opened a couple of meters from them. The prince flew into the doorway with Fred following behind him.
Soft carpet met Fred’s foot. Embroidered linen cushions were laid around a round center table, which held a vase of flowers and light-emitting crystal clusters. The receiving room was circular with three connecting doors. One of the doors was open. Inside, a figure lay on the canopy bed.
The doctor rushed to the unconscious form. He noted the rise and fall of her chest. Fred let his fingers brush her cheek while he studied her features. She was in a deep sleep and he didn’t like how pale she looked. His hand grasped hers and felt a warm hard object. His eyes slid to the ruby ring on Cheska’s index finger. The red light and the heat it emanated had him looking to Noriden for an explanation. “Where are we? Why is Cheska here and what is this?” The doctor lifted her adorned hand for the prince to see.
“We are in the palace – in Uruimeth,” the boy began. “This suite belonged to my aunt, Lady Cheska’s mother. Lady Cheska did something very dangerous,” Noriden’s face became solemn. “She brought you back to life.”
Fred’s mouth pursed and his gaze rested on the woman. What he remembered hadn’t been a dream after all.
“She is in a bad way. The stone in that ring would keep her alive and stabilize her condition. Doctor?” The prince looked askance as Fred drew the curtains around them.
“If she revived me the same way she’d done before, there’s a chance the virus is in her system now. Who brought her here?”
“I did.” Noriden expression became worried. “I took her straight here.”
“Did you speak to anyone afterward?”
“I don’t want to sound ungrateful but how come you were there when it happened?”
“The King ordered me to observe the situation. Father somehow knew this would happen and gave me the ring.”
“Thank you for telling me.” Fred stepped away from the bed. “Can you open a portal back to where you found her?”
Noriden frowned. His gaze flickered to Cheska before letting it rest on the doctor. A portal materialized near the door. “I’ll keep it open.”
Fred took a final look at Cheska. “Stay with her for at least three hours. If symptoms don’t manifest within that period, it means you don’t have the sickness.”
Noriden inclined his head.
Fred was grateful his young ally hadn’t taken him directly to the scene. In the darkness, hidden behind a thick tree trunk, he saw Louis hoist an unconscious Zafeera on the back of a panther and put Mohy’s arm over his shoulder.
After the group disappeared into a portal, Fred made his way to the vacated area. He saw a stasis pod lying askew on the ground. A couple of feet away, young plants and weeds bordered a barren area – a man-shaped charred spot. He walked the length of it.
“Come back, Fred. The world needs you,” a voice whispered in the wind.
Thunder boomed above him. He raised his eyes to the evening sky and a bolt of lightning took him. The storm clouds became his chariot and the electrical current, his reins. He took energy from the storm and fueled it with his rage as he rode toward the man responsible for everything.
The journey had been easy. Libya had a different storm brewing. It shone like a beacon to him, the air thick with fear, sickness and death. His skin itched upon entering the country’s atmosphere. His gift snapped angrily when the wind blew at his face.
Perched on top of the highest tower, Fred began to search his prey. It was too quiet down below for an early morning. The few civilians out on the streets looked anxiously at the gathering storm overhead.
In his periphery, three soldiers crowded a woman. One of the men had his hand over a gun. The second soldier looked sideways, while the third pushed the woman into a secluded alley. Fred averted his gaze. The country’s problems were none of his concern. They weren’t worth the trouble. Not after being kidnapped, experimented on and betrayed. Yet, Fred found himself crouched on the ledge of the building directly above them.
The woman attempted to escape but she was outnumbered. One of the soldiers smacked her in the face and pinned her to the wall. Fred was about to make his move when the man cursed. The soldier clutched his bloodied ear. The doctor couldn’t help admire the woman’s guts. The bleeding soldier raised his free hand and…flew.
The gazes of the two men were on their fallen comrade on the street, where they’d intercepted the woman – no, girl. Up close, with her veil cast aside, Fred saw a trembling wide-eyed girl of fourteen staring up at him.
The crackle of his electricity alerted the men. Their heads swiveled to the sound. Fred gritted his teeth. These men were in their late twenties and thirties. Their hands moved to their weapons. At the tilt of Fred’s head, one of them went flying, hair standing on end and body twitching on the ground. The last man standing gulped and made a run for it. Fred caught the man by the collar. His index finger met skin and the soldier shook, electrocuted. He released the soldier, the body hit the pavement with a dull thud.
The girl whimpered and Fred saw how scared she was. Tears spilled down her cheeks. He dropped to her eye level and reached for her face. The girl flinched at his touch. Fred ignored this and wiped the tears with the pad of his thumbs. Gently, he fixed her veil and led her out of the darkness.
The girl had calmed by the time they arrived at a safer part of the neighborhood. The street was empty, but at least, the houses were a step up from the shanties they’d left behind. She regarded him with curiosity and asked him a question.
He shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t understand.”
The girl persisted, repeating the question in Arabic.
“Go home.” He walked backward, checking for witnesses, then took to the skies.
But Fred couldn’t leave without making sure she was safe. In the end, he stealthily followed her home and watched her enter a small apartment.
On his way to returning to his chosen tower, he noticed a car bearing the national flag racing past, two hovercycles on its tail. Fred trailed after them, his senses attuned to the power coming from the machines.
They were moving fast. The car veered a few times and attempted to hit the red and the green hovercycles flanking it. The third, a blue hovercycle, appeared from a side street and blocked the road. The cyclist raised a gun, aiming at the driver. The red targeted the passenger side.
He shot bolts of electricity toward blue and red. The latter fell off and the hover cycle spun and hit the lamp post. The car swerved and avoided colliding with the blue hover cycle. The rider on the green hover cycle hesitated then started to retreat. Fred released a few more bolts to knock out the remaining assassin and short fuse the hover cycles. Meanwhile, the car sped away from the scene. Lightning struck the pavement a foot from the vehicle’s nose.
The car came to an abrupt halt. The doctor descended in front of it. He gave the driver and passenger a full view of the sparks of electricity skimming over him. He walked to the driver’s side, one hand sliding over the car’s surface. The driver’s eyes bulged in its sockets as doors unlocked, static erupted from the radio’s speakers, and the windows rolled down.
A gunshot rang. The bullet ricocheted off Fred’s electrical force field. He stooped down to look at the passenger, a thin man in uniform who held him at gunpoint. Although the doctor knew it couldn’t harm him, the weapon still made him feel uncomfortable. With the flick of his hand, he sent a spark of electricity toward the gun.
The passenger yelped and dropped the weapon.
Fred gave the party a warning look then sat behind the driver. The passenger retreated and fumbled to get the other door open. Before he could make his escape, the doors locked, the windows closed, and the radio switched off. “Drive,” Fred ordered.
The driver looked to his employer for instructions. The man gave a curt nod and the car started forward.
“What do you want?” the passenger said.
“The President-General,” Fred replied.
“You don’t look like an assassin.”
“Would I tell you if I am?” His eyes wandered to the three stars on the man’s shoulder and the cross patch on the sleeve. Fred realized he’d gotten himself a major from the Libyan Medical Corps.
“You don’t look like the assassins who were after me. You don’t match that rebel’s description as well.”
“You look like you’re not afraid of me anymore, Major,” he smiled humorlessly.
“You picked the wrong person.”
“The attempt on your life tells me otherwise.”
The Major shifted in his seat, his forehead creased. “It’s only natural; I’ve just been dismissed from my post at the research facility. I am useless to you,” he finished.
“What was your position in that facility?”
Fred made a show of examining the tendrils of electricity on his palm. “Your position, Major”, he repeated.
“I was head of a research program,” the Major said warily.
“And what was your research?”
“It’s classified.” He looked out the window.
“Let me guess.” Fred tapped his finger on the leather seat. “Pathogens.” Tap. “Virus.” Tap. “VX-21xx strains.”
The man’s fists clenched on his lap.
“Take us to the research facility”, Fred said to the driver.
“The man you’re looking for won’t be there.”
“I was looking for one more person, actually.” The Major turned back to him and met his gaze. “Someone who has authorized access to resources in that lab.”
“I won’t help you.”
“You will.” For an instant, the car swiveled, headlights and taillights switched on and off, and the radio emitted static. Outside, the streetlights exploded. “Or I will destroy this country,” he said in a low calm voice. Thunder boomed and fat drops of rain began to fall.
The Major fell silent for a moment, then said, “What do I have to do?”
“Make me a cure.”
In the facility’s basement parking lot, he gave Fred a once over.
“What?” the doctor asked.
“Try to avoid the drones and security cameras,” the Major said gruffly.
Fred eyed the nearest surveillance camera and felt its unique energy signature. With this knowledge, he identified the location of every camera in the floor. As they walked toward the entrance, he messed with the units monitoring their movements and those close by; the equipment malfunction would look random to anyone who would notice.
The Major keyed into the biometric scanner and headed to the laboratory which developed the cure for V-X2103. “No drones?” he mumbled and covertly glanced at the man who could control energy.
Fred had heard the remark and sensed two pairs of eyes on him. He allowed them to speculate on their own. Whatever they imagined about him would be to his advantage. At best, they’d be terrified to even think of disobeying him.
They arrived at another door when the Major abruptly turned to Fred, saying, “You have to change your clothes and… your hair is…” He exhaled through his nose. “There are people inside. You need to blend in.”
“No. We’ve wasted enough time as it is.”
“No one dies.”
Fred stiffened. His eyes narrowed on the Major. The man had spearheaded the whole operation and caused the deaths of innocent civilians. The same man now asked him to spare the lives of the scientists who’d helped create a biological weapon. Fred did not respond.
The Major seemed to have sensed the silent accusation and responded, “We were only following the President-General’s orders. Not all of us come here willingly, not all of us have the privilege to live the lives we want.” He turned about and punched a code on the door. “This office is connected to the laboratory. I have the formula of the medicine we’ve been developing inside.”
They filed into the office. Fred took up the rear; he didn’t like how the driver stared at him. Inside, he saw the formula written on the whiteboard. They’d gotten all the components right, but the concentration of the substances was off. They also missed the final step – the most important step; his ability acted as the catalyst to create the cure. Fred hadn’t shared that knowledge to anyone. He couldn’t, but… He glanced sidelong at the Major. “If you were free to do what you want, what would you do?”
The Major became contemplative for a second. His gaze swept to the writing on the whiteboard, to his desk, and to the driver before it rested on Fred. “I’d use the medicine to destroy what I’d created.”
Fred took a marker from the desk and revised the formula. Then he took a step back to check his work; he corrected the mistakes in the previous formula and quadrupled the yield. Satisfied, he ordered, “Gather what you need and follow this. And have your staff vacate the lab we’ll be using.”
The man’s face, however, had turned beet red after studying the new formula. “You’re wasting resources to—”
“I have the missing ingredient”, Fred cut in.
“Then, at least, share the information and let us work together in this.”
The doctor chuckled without humor. “It isn’t something that can be shared.” The faint smile on his face vanished. “And I’m not in the habit of cleaning someone else’s mess.”
A movement in his periphery had him zeroing in on a light pulsing in the driver’s hand. His eyes lifted to the man’s expression. Shock and fear were written on it. The driver turned tail.
His mouth pressed into a thin line, Fred waved a hand dismissively at his target. The man went down, stunned. “Check what’s in his hand”, he told the Major.
The man obeyed and raised the object for him to see. It looked like a coin with a blinking red light. “It’s a transmitter,” the Major said grimly. “He’s alerted the authorities.”
“What will happen?”
“They’ll track me down using this and arrest me.”
Fred took the device. “I’ll handle this. Start working on our project.”
“You’re not worried I’ll betray you.”
The Major reached for the door connected to the lab and paused. He looked down at Fred’s bare feet. “You can take the driver’s shoes if you want.”
Copyright © 2017-2018 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.