Awakenings: Issue One (Beginnings)
Wednesday, 21st March 2007
Bayview Point, 19:43 hrs
A storm had blown in from the sea and torrential rain had swept the city for much of the afternoon. It had been joined by the flash and bang of thunder and lightning. Robin was on his way from spending several hours in the university library researching ritual practices involving the Aztec deity Mictlantecuhtli. Although the rain hammered at the bus window, it didn’t disturb his thoughts as he jotted down research notes in his notepad.
Derick peered out the front window of the Ambulance at the back of a bus as they reached the crest of the ridge that divided the north of the city from the sprawling suburbs of the south. His partner, Bobby, took a half-hearted swipe at Derick’s muddy shoes which were on the dashboard, dribbling muddy water down the newly cleaned front.
A sharp bang and the sound of screams woke Robin from his fugue state. He looked up but saw nothing out of the ordinary. The bus was quiet, the driver and the dozen or so other passengers were all lost in their own thoughts. He put it down to exhaustion and being stuck in a library all day and went back to his notebook.
Bobby was droning on about the latest efforts of the city’s hockey team. Apparently they had been beaten yet again by their long time rivals the LA Kings. Derick tuned the noise out. Suddenly the bus in front jackknifed and served into oncoming traffic.
The back end of the bus where Rob was sitting slammed into the cliff wall as the front end rebounded into the oncoming lane. An lucky driver in an SUV collided with the passenger side door as the front of the bus broke through the crash barriers and launched into mid-air. The front window shattered as the bus ploughed through the tree tops coming to rest against the back of a billboard that faced out to the valley below. With a creak, the billboard buckled and threatened to collapse and send the bus tumbling into a gas station below.
The ambulance screeched to a halt and Derick leaped out even before the vehicle had stopped. He raced towards the bus and grasped the rear bumper and began to pull. Meanwhile, Robin had regained his senses. Realizing that any second, the bus could plunge down the slope, he closed his eyes and began to concentrate. Levitation of objects is normally a relatively simple matter but he had never levitated something this large or heavy before. Derick suddenly found the bus to be much lighter than he expected. He was able to pull the bus far enough back so that its rear rested on the concrete.
As the bus shifted, the passengers began to panic. Thinking fast he pulled the handles and the rear exit window dropped out, narrowly missing a paramedic seemingly holding onto the bus. He quickly began to help the other passengers out. When all the other passengers had escaped, a hand reached into the bus, grabbing onto Robins coat dragging him out.
Derick leapt into the bus, ran down the aisle, picked up the unconscious driver and threw him down the length of the bus, out of the back window and into the rain soaked street. The bus jerked forward as the restraining billboard finally began to give way. Derick jumped through the front window, launching himself of the top of the board, rebounding of a tree before landing in a parking lot. With a CRACK! the board snapped as the bus plunged down the slope towards the gas station. Bracing himself, Derick caught the bus and heaved it over his head and threw it clear of the gas station.
Up on the road, Robin stared in pure astonishment as a paramedic free-runned down the slope, caught a falling bus and threw it more than 20 feet. As Derick clambered back up the slope, Robin caught him on his camera phone. Pretty soon a swarm of emergency vehicles descended onto the scene and Derick left the scene in the Ambulance carrying the bus driver and the injured driver of the SUV.
Not far down the road, two individuals watched the entire scene using binoculars. Focusing on Robin, one of them spoke into a cellphone. “Confirm, you want to switch to target 2? … Understood.“
The next day …
Robin had heard stories that there were others with strange powers but this was the first time he had actually seen on with his own eyes. He didn’t have much to go on though. All he knew was that the person was a paramedic. Using that as a start, he logged onto the internet at his apartment and began to search the website of the county ambulance service. As luck would have it, the ambulance service had made a habit of listing the paramedic of the month on its website along with a name and photo. Matching up the photo on the web and the one on his cellphone, he discovered that a Derick Brock matched the image on his phone. Derick had also been the employee of the month for the last six months.
All of a sudden, the web page went blank and was replaced by a text box informing him that he had “reached his monthly download limit”. His cursing attracted the attention of his roommate Jimmy, who blamed the hitting of the download limit on the fact that Robin “downloaded all that sailor moon crap”. They had also run out of milk and it was Robins turn to go to the shop. He grabbed his coat and opened the door, wondering how he was going to track down the paramedic.
Derick woke up late in the morning. After a short breakfast he decided to go out for a run. Making sure he had his pager, he stepped out onto the landing of his apartment building.
As Robin closed the door behind him, the door opposite opened and the paramedic stepped out. They exchanged some words and Derick initially tried to convince Robin that had imagined Derick catching the bus until Robin pulled out his cellphone and showed him the video of Derick doing his thing. After an awkward moment, they went their separate ways. Derick off for a run across the rooftops. Robin to the shops.
Robin failed to notice a nondescript man in a jogging suit following him as he went on his errand. When he returned he climbed up the fire escape until he was outside the window to Derick’s apartment. Using a piece of chalk, he inscribed several runes on the brick work around the window. Forming a mystical seal, the runes would alert Robin if Derick came or left through the window. When he got back to the apartment Jimmy mentioned that his lecturer had called. Something about a problem with his last assignment and would be mind coming in to talk about it. Robin noticed that Jimmy was playing World of Warcraft despite the fact that their broadband service had been cut. When asked about it, all Jimmy responded with “Rho, I’m a computer sciences student. Do the math.”
Derick returned home half an hour later, using the door. Grabbing some water from fridge he sat down in front of the TV absentmindedly lifting some weights with his left arm. The program on was interesting. It featured an African-American male, lifting weights while watching TV. Somehow, he was on TV. Using the image on the screen, he managed to locate a small camera hidden inside a light fitting, crushing it in his hand. Concerned, he called a friend from his old marine unit that now worked for Global Dynamic Systems, a major electronics firm in the city. After describing the device, he learnt that it was a high end model, but it had a very limited range. With the right equipment he might be able to track the receiver.
Derick took the camera next door and gave it to Robin who in turn gave it too Jimmy who worked out that it had been transmitting to a receiver downstairs. Not waiting for anything further, Derick stomped on the floor hard enough to create a hole into the apartment below. He dropped down and confronted a surprised looking young man who had been watching Wheel of Fortune. Grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, Derick demanded to know what the hell was going on. The man stammered that he didn’t know what he was talking about. He was convincing, very convincing in fact. Derick however was not buying it.
As soon as the man realized that Derick was not going to believe him, he sighed, phased straight through Derick’s grip and dropped into a combat crouch. The two began battling, trading blow after blow. Robin muttered a few latin phrases under his breath and a bolt of electricity arced from a nearby plug socket and struck the man square in the back shoving him straight into Derick’s fist. The man was thrown clear across the room into a stack of shelves. As he began to pick himself up, Derick grabbed the carpet in attempt to knock him back down. Before he could do so, the man phased into the floor.
For a few seconds Robin (who had dropped down the hole) and Derick just looked at each other. Then the man reappeared by walking straight out a wall, grabbing Robin from behind. With a knife to Robins neck, the man yelled “One more move and I bleed Harry Potter here like a stuck pig.” Never one to respond well to threats, Derick slammed both his fists into the floor dropping a large section into the apartment below. As they fell, Robin uttered a short prayer to the goddess of Luck to ensure that the man fell on his own knife.
They landed in a heap, blood coming from the man’s side. As he got up, Derick body tackled him intending to charge straight through the wall using him as a “crumple zone”. At the last second the man phased, leaving Derick to crash straight through the wall and find himself two stories above the ground. Left alone in the room with Robin, he began to advance, pulling the knife from his side. Robin however, had other ideas. Throwing his arms above, he began to call on the powers or a nameless, ancient demon and channeled the power of the void into the man. The blast hit the man dead on, thrusting him backwards towards the hole. As the energy dissipated the man looked at Robin with am expression of fear. Robin flicked his hand and spoke a word of power and the motes of energy drifting around the man suddenly electrified and immolated him. At the same time, a blur whipped over the man’s head as Derick leaped into the room and roundhouse kicked him out the hole and into the street below.
Catching their breath, Robin and Derick moved to the edge of the hole and looked down. There was no body in the alleyway. A blood splatter and the screech of tires from a white people carrier hinted at what had happened to the man.
In the drivers seat sat a women. She looked at the bleeding man sprawled on the back seat and picked up a cell phone. “Control, upgrade target 2 to threat level black and alert the team.”
Later that day …
After threatening the landlord with exposing all the health and safety violations in the building, Derick and Robin were given a week to move out. In short order they were able to find apartments a short walk away. Again, they were next to each other. Jimmy remained in the old apartment. Thankful for some peace and quiet.
The next day …
Robin popped into university to have that chat with his tutor. Professor Fox didn’t know what Robin was talking about. According to her, the only thing amiss with his last assignment was the penmanship. She never left the message. In fact, she only returned from a trip to Bolivia this morning. Confused, Robin returned home.
Derick had decided to check out the man’s apartment. After a thorough search, he found a laptop hidden in a pillow case. As he reflected on his lack of computer skills, the sound of orcs being slaughtered filtered down from upstairs. Taking the laptop, he knocked on the door and called for Jimmy. After he had finally put on some pants, he answered the door.
Taking the laptop, Jimmy placed it on a work bench and opened it up. A simple login screen asked for a password. After looking at it for a few seconds, he went into the back room and came back with it tool box. He took a small aerosol canister and lightly sprayed the keyboard. Putting the canister back he took a small torch and dimmed the lights. In the blue glow of the UV bulb, the keys began to glow green. Some of them glowed brighter than the others. Entering the glowing keys onto a PDA, he ran a program to determine the most likely passwords. Jimmy entered the one on the top of the list and the login screen was replaced with a cascading display of encrypted code.
Jimmy took one look at the screen and closed the screen, thrusting the computer back into Dericks hands. He told him to get rid of it, burn it, anything. Then, with a panicked look he ushered Derick out of the apartment and began to shred his computer files.
Derick arrived home at the same time as Robin. He explained what happened at Jimmy’s and asked for Robins help. Cracking his knuckles, Robin began to hack away using his limited skills. It took him nearly an hour of punching in random decryption algorithms but he eventually cracked the code. The matrix like symbols dissolved they were replaced with what looked like a half-written report. Scanning through, it appeared to have been written by an agent of the Israeli intelligence organization Mossad. It detailed an operation to place several American industrialists under surveillance and either steal industrial research data or blackmail them. Robin had a feeling that something was wrong with the report but couldn’t put his finger on it until he noticed a small icon in the lower right of the screen.
It was a small triangle with a dot in it. When he clicked it, a series of LEDs on the front began to flicker and the screen was replaced by something else. A logo with the initials O.W.I. in the top corner, and rows of data filled the screen. It seemed to be a series of code names and latitude and longitude coordinates. Googling the coordinates on a separate computer revealed that at least 240 of them were in the continental US, 20 where in California and 3 were located in the city. Their associated code names were Swarm 1, 2 and 3. Derick noted down all the codename / coordinate combinations on a piece of paper before smashing the machine on the floor.
A small beeping sound from within the mangled electronics alerted them to something attached to the hard drive. The beeping began to increase in speed and frequency. Derick grabbed the drive and raced to the window, opening it he threw the drive straight up into the air and tremendous velocity as the beeping became a shrill screech. As it hit the cloud deck, it exploded.
“War, terrorism, pollution, social unrest, climate change. This was not the 21st century that was prophesied. Even the most insensitive can feel that there is something terribly wrong with the world. There are forces out there that defy comprehension. In the trials that are coming, individuals will have to choose on which side of the battle they stand.”
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