Roger sped all the way from his apartment to the railyard. The yard itself was quite a large so he ended up having to park in an alley and walk around the fenced area until he found an entrance. Blocked by two armed guards, he knew he wouldn’t be able to get by even on the pretext that he was with the police. Unable to find another entrance besides coming from the riverside, he shrugged off his coat with the intention of draping it over the barbed wire and climb over. He was about to throw his coat when he heard something whiz past his ear and get caught on the fence. Fearing the guards had somehow seen him, the fell to the ground to make himself less visible. After nothing else flew at him, he rose to see what was clinging to the fence.
Attached to a protruding arrow was a small bag that had the words ‘Open me’ written on the front. Cautiously he did and found something that looked like an earplug in it and another little note.
‘Put it in your ear.’ He read.
Examining the small device and dubbing it not dangerous, he did as instructed.
“Hey, you got it on the first try!” A female voice stated.
Roger jumped, looking around to see where the voice had come from.
“Aww, you scared him. Look at him now.” A male voice joined.
Roger looked around frantically, still not finding anybody that could have spoken to him so clearly, as if they were standing right next to him. He had the realization that the thing he had put in his ear somehow had two people’s voices in it. Maybe they were incredibly tiny? He shook his head, bringing himself to reality. There was no such thing as people small enough to fit in his ear, so what was allowing him to hear these voices?
“What you just put in your ear is a receiver. It lets us talk to you, but you can’t talk back. Come around the corner to meet part of the team that will help you infiltrate that base of operations.” The female voice explained.
He looked at his surroundings trying to see what corner they meant. In the distance, he could see a figure waving their arm. Roger debated just jumping the fence and dealing with the problems as they came, but it seemed like these people had high tech and a plan. Choosing the most obvious option, he ran to the corner where he met a familiar face.
“Hold still, I’m just putting this on your throat. It reads the vibrations and relays the information to our receivers. In other words, it lets us hear you talk. I don’t think I need to introduce myself again, do I?” Asked Leslie.
Roger simply shook his head.
“And the handsome gentleman on this line is Patricks, I’m your sharpshooter. We’ve also met, remember? 'A gun is meant to shoot' and something...something...something... Don’t remember your exact words, but it went like that. Leslie’s our tactical force. Don’t get on her bad side or she will literally kick you in the ass, and it hurts like hell. Seriously, she’s hella strong.”
“Red asked us to help you get in, but that’s where our task ends. Something about you having to make the choices yourself otherwise the future would change, so we can’t get involved once we get you in.
“We’ve rigged the buildings with explosives, so if it comes down to it we can just blow everything up, but the choice will be yours.” Leslie handed Roger a trigger, showing him where the button was. “Press this and there will be pretty fireworks for the whole city to see. I’ve always been a huge fan of explosives, you’ve seen my work. You can even press the button now if you want since Sun technically is explosive-proof. But then you’ll be left with a bunch of questions and I don’t think you’re the type of person to let questions lie unanswered.”
“We should tell him about the key players now since we might not get another chance.” Patricks chimed in.
“Good call. You already know that Angelo Meli is the head honcho in your family’s death. Were you curious how he kept all those animals quiet and knew what loose ends to tie up?”
Roger had already forgotten about the animals that had been silent in the warehouse. Granted it had been unnatural, but there were more pressing matters at the time, and it was still one of his least urgent questions.
“A decade ago he put another person on his payroll. This person could cut off the ability to speak in any creature if he touched them even once. This person needed a space on the riverfront to store an item, so a deal was struck between Meli and him. He would make sure all the animals stayed quiet and keep Meli posted on any pertinent information that dealt with Meli’s organization and he would receive a top facility to hold this item.” Leslie explained.
“Why don’t you just tell me who this person is? It would make this whole thing a lot easier.” Roger insisted.
“It’s not our place to tell you because it’ll affect your decision.The last thing we’ll tell you is that in the main building where Sun is being held is the item that is being stored. It’s being kept in a casing of ethanol, so it’s incredibly flammable. I’d avoid being in that area if you do decide to blow the building. Give me a heads up too since I’ll be near the building and don’t want my hair catching on fire again.”
“Hahaha! You should have seen her running around!” Patricks verbalized.
“Shut the fuck up, Henry, or I’ll set you on fire.” Leslie threatened, and Patricks’ line went silent.
“Are you ready to go?” Leslie asked Roger.
“As I’ll ever be.”
Sun didn’t have any idea how she was supposed to ‘purge’ the dark crystal. John seemed to have some sort of plan though since he had strapped her to the chair and scooted her forwards so she was sitting right in front of the crystal. He stepped into a smaller room with a window that faced her and gave her a thumbs up.
Still not sure what to do, she sat there and watched her breath form clouds in front her face. Minute after minute passed and nothing was happening. The feeling in her fingers and toes were coming back as her blood grew warmer. The crystal twitched.
Alarmed, Sun watched wide-eyed to see what was happening. The rock’s face started bubbling, the solid crystals turning liquid and swirling around in their container. The black liquid spread along the glass holding it back as if trying to find a way out. It suddenly shrunk to half its size, forming back into a rock. It burst forward, the tip of the crystal breaking through the glass and sending shards of glass in all directions and dumping the contents of its tank on the floor. The stink of alcohol burned Sun’s nose and she struggled to get out of the chair, but the straps dug into her wrists and legs, refusing to let her go.
The crystal turned back into liquid and pooled around Sun’s feet. A black figure rose from the pool, gathering up the liquid to create a humanoid presence. Sun found herself staring into Alter’s eyes, except this Alter was different; she was entirely onyx. All her features, including clothes, looked like they had been chiseled from a large slab of black marble.
“Alter?” Sun tried, though no sound escaped her lips.
Dark Alter reached her hand out to caress Sun’s cheek, and the contact caused a flurry of visions to pass through Sun’s eyes.
People were screaming as the sky turned red from the smoke. A mother held her young son to her chest as a wave of heat and fire burnt her alive. Shadows showed the imprints of people who tried to get away. Buildings were torn from their foundations and consumed by the bright light. There was no mercy in the face of the light.
Sun tried to scream, but no voice came out. Tears streamed down her face when she had felt the emotions of hundreds of people dying. She needed to stop it from happening, but the burning pain in her body because of the light was too overwhelming. The light couldn't be stopped.
Alter’s dark hand let go of Sun’s cheek. Sun blinked away the tears, trying to recall where she was. She noticed that the arm that had touched her was clear like glass now. Was this the ‘purging’ John was talking about?
The other Alter reach out its hand again and Sun tried to pull away, but it was no use. She touched Sun’s face and another barrage of visions hit her like a train.
The white heat seared into her skin, cooking it instantly while she was still conscious. Her insides were boiling and she could feel something burning down her cheeks; she knew her eyes had melted. Her brain was cooking inside her skull and her fingernails fell off while all the bones in her body all cracked from the heat.
Alter removed her hand again, as Sun screamed silently. Sobs racked her small body and she wished everything would end. Death would be a mercy for her and she wished John could just kill her rather than making her suffer. Her body ached and she weakly tried at the restraints again. Alter’s body was only half transparent now. She yelled at the girl in front of her, to John, to anyone who could hear her silent pleas for death. Alter stretched her fingers out and grazed Alter’s skin.
Someone was stabbing her with a thousand needles. Her arms bled as the needles dug into her marrow. Her heart was beating faster and faster until it exploded from her chest. Her stomach imploded and she vomited blood. Sun’s eardrums burst and felt her throat swell so she couldn’t breathe.
Despite Alter’s hand still on her cheek, she was able to weakly look up and see Roger burst in through the door, gun drawn. Her lips turned up slightly in a feeble attempt at a smile. A spark of hope flared in her chest. Maybe Roger could end the misery.
At an alarming speed, the rest of Alter’s body turned to glass, collapsing into itself and turning into a small, clear crystal that fell to the ground.
Roger ran forward to free Sun from her restraints, but a gunshot ran out and Roger crumpled to the ground, dropping his gun and clutching his side.
“Don’t you dare get in my way!” Hollered John as he left the viewing room, gun smoking in his hand.
Roger’s face paled when he saw who was behind it all.
“Why, John?” He asked through gritted teeth.
John didn’t answer him, but instead walked to a corner of the room and picked up a duffle bag and then started walking towards the fallen crystal.
Roger’s vision was blurry and everything seemed to be going at half speed. He groggily checked his wound and knew that if he didn’t receive medical attention soon he was going to die. The ground was wet around him and he could see his blood spreading like a disease over the surface over the ground. Sun was only a few feet away; if he could just reach one of her arms and release her, she could get away. He clenched his jaws and crawled towards her trying to ignore the intense pain in his abdomen. His hand stretched towards hers and managed to find a clasp. With the last of his energy, he released his wound and used his other hand to undo the strap.
Sun watched in horror and tried to scream at Roger to get away, to tell him to stay still and put pressure on his wound, to get away and save himself. No words escaped her mouth and tears streamed down her cheeks as the light started to fade from Roger’s eyes as he undid a restraint. The instant her arm was freed she unbuckled herself from the chair and rushed to his side. He fell onto his back and she pressed her palms against his wound, trying to tell him that he was going to be okay but her voice didn’t make a sound.
Roger’s wheezing came less frequently and he when he coughed, blood trickled from his nose and mouth. Everything was getting farther and farther away, but he could clearly see Sun crying in front of him. He wanted to comfort her, to tell her that he came to save her and that it would be alright. What was he doing on the floor? He tried lifting a hand, but his body was too heavy. Behind Sun he could see John picking something up off the ground. That’s right, John had shot him. Why? He thought John was his partner, but now he was the reason Roger lay dying.
Oh, was that what was happening? The chill that had crept into his bones suddenly felt so warm and inviting. Was he finally going to join his family? If that was the case, death didn’t seem that bad. But if death wasn’t a bad option, why was Sun so sad? He was going to see his son and wife again, and he didn’t want Sun’s crying face to be the last thing he saw.
Sun bent down and put her ear next to Roger’s lips when she saw he was trying to say something.
“Smile,” he uttered.
Biting her lip, Sun smiled, tears still raining down because she couldn’t stop them. Sun let go of his wound and grabbed onto his hand, giving it one last squeeze before the sparkle in his eyes faded. She sat there, staring into the shell of Roger, hoping that maybe he would return. He didn’t.
She could hear John behind her getting frustrated over the crystal in his hand, but she didn’t care. She didn’t even care when he grabbed her by the hair and screamed in her face. Sun didn’t even know what he was screaming about, it all just melted into one thing.
“My only chance to get home and it’s not working! Why isn’t it working!”
Sun could finally make out his words from the strange buzzing in her ears. The tears stopped but Sun continued wearing her smile. Roger hadn’t left her truly alone. Grasped in one of his hands was a device with a small red button, written on the side ‘The choice is yours.’ Sun wrapped her small palm around it and pushed the button.
Snow and ash gently drifted from the heavens as Leslie and Patricks stood silhouetted in the fiery aftermath of the explosion, grim expressions on their faces. They had given Roger the option but none of them knew he was actually going to use it.
“You did your jobs like I asked you to, thank you.”
They both turned to see a figured decked in black emerge from the shadows, their red eyes and white hair blazing brightly against the dark.
“As mysterious as ever.” Leslie scoffed, turning back to the blazes. “Did you know this was going to happen?”
Red remained silent, giving Leslie the answer she was looking for.
“Why lie to him? If you knew he was going to die, why not tell him the actual truth and not the fabricated shit we fed him?” Patricks said through gritted teeth. “We could have stopped this! He was innocent in all this!”
“I can’t change things that have already happened. But with this, I’m finally free.” Red let out a breath and removed their mask, letting it drop to the ground into the snow.
“I hope your freedom tastes fucking great because I’m done working with you! I’m tired of all your cryptic bullshit and not telling us what’s actually going on! We just killed a clean man, and..and for what?” Patricks unslung the gun from around his shoulder and the receiver in his ear and threw it to the ground at Red’s feet. “Fuck you and your freedom! See you in hell!”
He stormed off, leaving Red and Leslie still staring at the flames rising from the warehouse.
“When I joined you you promised I would never have to take a civilian’s life again, and I believed you.” Leslie turned to face Red. “Goodbye.”
Leslie removed her earpiece and crushed it between her fingers before throwing the remnants at Red’s chest and walked into the shadows without another word.
Red stared down at the discarded equipment gathering snow and ash and opened their fist, revealing a clear crystal in their gloved palm. They lifted their red eyes and gave the heavens one last smile.
“I’m finally free.”