A couple hours after the last issue. Kingville Campsite. Wolffe's Private Quarters. Middle of the night....
The screams fill my ears. The sounds of bones cracking, limbs being smashed, and blood dripping are almost completely tuned out because of the screams. The endless screams.
The face of Elizabeth, my wife, comes into view. Blood and tears flooding down her bruised face. Then the faces of her murderers come into view, looming over her.
I can do nothing, and so I say nothing. I only watch on in horror.
She can only manage a few words, but all of them are meant to comfort tiny Rebbie, our daughter.
Then they drag her in front of me. My daughter. I don't want to watch. I can't watch. My mind takes me somewhere no one should ever go.
Everything fades away into darkness. Not the kind of darkness you can picture in your mind, but the kind of darkness you can only witness to understand. A darkness you can feel. Feel it creeping up on you, ever closer, blocking everything else out until there is a complete and terrifying silence. The silence and darkness continues its hold on you until it finally overcomes you. It has overcome me. I'm now part of the darkness.
Rebbie's screams break the endless silence.
I shoot up from my pillow, in a cold and chilling sweat. The bandages over my head and arm are uncomfortably sticky. I'm sick and tired of remembering her that way. It's never a dream of her little face pressed against the window when she knew I was coming home. It's always the same nightmare.
I grab my crutch and slowly get up to take a quick drink of water before going back to bed, but I can't sleep. The face of the teens I... killed earlier tonight, after the skirmish with the CBTF, keep flashing through my mind, with the pestering and growing thought that I might just be becoming what I originally set out to destroy.
The next morning...
I look over everything as I make my way over towards the command center. I see the medic's tent, where all the casualties from last night are recovering smoothly. The doctors and nurses smile and nod to me as I walk by. I see the kitchens, where men and women alike are preparing breakfast for hungry children. The chefs grin and wave to me as I pass by. I see the little schooling tent and daycare area, sprawling with little carrier boys and girls. A safe haven for them where neither them or their parents have to worry about them being made fun of. The older ones play with their abilities, while the younger ones simply play the classic childhood games like tag, follow the leader, and so on. They're too busy playing to notice me. I look over all the little huts and tents housing whole families, brave families who came to us to spare themselves the ridicule and discrimination from the "normal" people. Warm smiles flood the adults' faces as their children stare at me blankly. I look over the training grounds, where we teach carrier warriors to hone their abilities. I glance over at the Shaman's tent, only to see the Shaman staring at me ominously. I return the stare, not being able to look away.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" The Shadow's voice breaks my concentration on the Shaman.
"Wow. I nearly went a full ten minutes without hearing from you." I tell the Shadow as I turn to him. He's looking over the camp. "I was beginning to wonder if you wouldn't show up today. Almost thought I'd have a nice day for a change." I can see the Shadow isn't amused by my joke. Guess the whole humor thing isn't for me. "Anyway, what were you saying?"
"It's beautiful." He pauses and turn to me. "What you've done here is beautiful. A truly admirable feat.... More than worth the lives of two teenagers." I don't respond, still being pretty ashamed about what I did to those kids. "I mean it, Alex. You've done good work here." But of course, we can't go through a whole encounter with the Shadow without him giving at least one wicked grin.
He dissipates into the air and I finish my trip to the command center. I walk in to see Rive and Blaze watching the morning news on a falling apart television. I notice the footage is at the scene of our skirmish with Captain Cooper, his troops, and the teens.
"Jesus." I comment, knowing what's about to happen. Rive turns around slowly and looks at me angrily. "Oh, God. See? I knew it. I knew you would do this. I f*cking knew it."
"You killed two kids, Alex." Rive responds. "Did you think there was any chance I wouldn't say anything?" Blaze goes over to the corner and sits down. I think I hear him mutter here we go again under his breath.
"They saw the WHOLE thing, Rive. The WHOLE thing. What was I supposed to do, huh? Just give them a little wave, tell them to have a nice night, and let them walk away?" I retort.
"You let that CBTF dog Cooper walk away. Y'know, Alex... The CBTF.... The people who are our actual enemies?" He spits back.
"That I was different." I mutter out. "I didn't let him walk away. He just... Well... Uh... Got away." Rive lets out an audible sigh. I shake my head in annoyance. "You want to know why I did it, is that it? You want to know why I killed those kids? Fine. I'll tell you why." I storm over to the tent's opening, fling open the flap, and gesture towards the camp. "That is why I did it. Because all those lives are far more important than the lives of a couple kids."
"Alex.... Listen to yourself..." He pauses and looks down at the floor, choosing his words carefully. "This isn't right." He looks back up at me. "When we started this you only killed the bad guys. You only killed the people that deserved it. People like Savior, Garrison, and the CBTF soldiers. It was a righteous cause. But this?.... This is just wrong. Innocent kids don't pose any threat to us, their deaths don't benefit us. It... It just hurts us, honestly. The public will never side with someone who kills kids. Carriers looking for refuge will never side with someone who kills kids...." He pauses again. "I won't side with someone who kills kids."
"Oh, so that's it, huh? Big mean Alex makes a mistake and kills some kids and now you're going to abandon me? Nice, Rive. Real nice." I scoff. "I mean, what... You think I don't regret killing them? I couldn't sleep last night because of them."
"It's not just the kids, Alex. You've changed. Ever since you started this talk about seeing and hearing things... You've changed. Your ideas and methods have become far more sinister and cruel. The whole business with the slums even. That was sinister compared to what we've done previously, but at least that was understandable. The kids thing was just the straw that broke the camel's back. You need to find yourself again, or you won't find me around here much longer."
I don't respond, instead choosing to stare at the ground in silence. Rive storms out of the tent in fury.
"Well.... Now that you two have finished up, I've got something you should definitely check out, Alex. Something we missed when we were out in Denton." Blaze comments hesitantly.
I take a deep breath. "What is it?" Blaze turns his laptop towards me to show me what's on the screen. "Oh my god." Is all I can manage to spit out.
Across Blaze's laptop boldly shines the title "'The Response' Unveiled!" With a video of a team of, what appears to be, carriers taking down some huge guy with a big axe. I notice the guy talking to the camera bears a strong resemblance to Ma- Holy sh!t it is Mark. Jesus Christ. The video ends with one of the team members blasting the axe-guy's head off.
I chuckle a little.
Author's Notes: Wolffe has fallen back on the timeline, and that is why the Response has only just been unveiled to him in this issue. I'm fully aware they've been around for a while now with most of the other guys. This time gap will be taken care of shortly. Just letting you know. Like I always say, don't comment on the authors notes, just comment on the story- Thanks!