A man in a dull brown robe stared at the gate of the Pedestal, his hood was pulled down so that it hid his face. He waited until he saw two guards walk past each other behind the gate before he made his move. He marched up to the gate, reached out with his iron gauntleted right hand, and grabbed the steel frame of the gate and pulled. The gate ripped free off of its hinges with a loud shriek of tearing metal. The guards turned and gave a shout of startlement and ran at the hooded man.
The man threw the gates to the ground and waited for the guards to grow closer. One of the guards pointed his spear at the man’s chest. “I don’t know who you think you are, but you’re going to spend some time in the dungeons for that!” The man grabbed the guard’s spear and pulled it to himself, along with the guard. The guard yelped in surprise, but was cut off when an iron gauntlet crashed into the guard’s face.
The other guard shouted out, “We’re under attack! Defend the gate! Defend the gate!” He stabbed at the hooded man’s chest with his spear, but the hooded man dodged out of the way and rushed at the guard. He grabbed the guard by the face, pulled his head close to the guard’s ear and whispered in a low gravely voice, “Your government should do a better job of choosing their guards.” He then slammed the guard into the ground and left him groaning softly.
The hooded man walked up the stairs that led to the front door of the Pedestal, and slammed his gauntleted fist into the door. The door exploded inwardly, and the guards rushing out to the aid of the one that had called out got showered with splinters and chunks of wood. The hooded man stepped inside of the Pedestal and looked at the statues of the members of parliament.
The guards got over their initial shock and formed a semicircle around the hooded man, their spears all leveled at his chest. One of the guards, with a yellow star on his shoulder growled at the man, “Surrender yourself to us, or we will use force!”
The man in the hood chuckled, and then said in the same low whisper he had with the previous guard, “Yes, I suppose using force is all you Enforcers are good for.” He lifted his arm up and indicated the statues. “You devote yourself to protecting these people, these representatives who claim to act in the interest of the citizens of Aquore, but in reality, you are just bullies abusing the people alongside these frauds.” The man took a step forward and grabbed the haft of the officer’s spear, and snapped it off. “Let’s see how much you enjoy having the same force used on you!”
The officer stepped back, his eyes wide in fear. “Take him down! I want him dead!” The other guards stabbed at the cloaked man’s chest, but their spear points bounced off with a high-pitched ringing. The hooded man shook his head and started lashing out with his fists, the right one covered in an iron gauntlet, with the other being bare. Guards fell before his blows, the remaining guards lashed out in panic with their spears. Some actually wounded their allies in their fear. One guard managed to knock the hood off of the man’s head, revealing an iron mask covering the man’s face and the top of his head like a helmet. The mask looked like the face of a skeleton, and two brown eyes stared out at the guards from silver sockets.
The last guard fell before the masked man’s punches, leaving only the officer, who was cowering and sobbing against the wall in the back of the room. The masked man stalked toward the officer, and the officer cried out, “What do you want? Is it money? I’ll show you where the treasury is!”
The masked figure grabbed the officer by his throat and picked him up. “Money? No, what I want is justice, and and I’m getting it right now!” The masked man shoved the crying officer into one of the statues. The statue crumbled under the force of the blow, and the officer screamed in pain. The masked man tossed the bloody officer to the ground, and the officer’s screams cut off as he passed out. “I suppose I should have asked him where the dungeons were. I suppose I’ll just attract some more guards to give me directions.” The masked man lashed out and started destroying the statues filling the room.
“There he is, men! Open fire!” The masked man turned and saw the room was filled with more of the Aquore Enforcers, led by a man whose uniform had two stars on each shoulder. Ten guards holding spears stood between the officer and the twenty men with crossbows aimed for the masked man’s chest. The men fired their crossbows, but the bolts all bounced off of the man’s chest with a series of pings. The soldiers stared in shock at the masked man, and the officer took a step forward. “What are you?”
The masked stared back at them with unblinking eyes. “Which way is it to the dungeons?”
The officer stared at him in confusion, and then said, “Men, reload and prepare to fire on my command.” The guards wielding crossbows started cranking the strings back and grabbing replacement bolts.
The masked man shook his head. “You are being less than helpful. I guess I’ll just find it on my own.” He turned, and slammed his right fist through the wall behind him, and charged into a room filled with desks and seats surrounding a raised platform. This was the pedestal which the capital was named after, and was used as a stage for the members of parliament to address their fellow representatives.
The soldiers poured through the hole in the wall after the masked man, and once the officer stepped through, he pointed at the intruder and shouted, “Fire!” Another hail of bolts flew through the air and bounced off of the back of the masked man. The masked man turned to face the enforcers and growled at them. “This room isn’t what I was looking for; get out of my way!” He charged into the midst of the crossbow men and swung his right arm into them, sending some of the crossbowmen flying into the spearmen standing behind them. He charged back through the hole that he had come through, knocking more guards out of his way, narrowly missing the officer who scampered out of his reach.
The masked man pulled his hood back up and ran to his left down the hall. He came to a staircase that led both up and down. The masked man charged down the stairs, assuming that they would lead him to the dungeons, or at least get him closer to them.
The officer brought his men that were still standing out into the hall once more, and watched the masked man run down the stairs. One of the guards ran to follow the masked man, but the officer grabbed him by his shoulder and stopped him. “No, don’t follow him. He was looking for the dungeons, and that’s where those stairs will lead him. If he’s going down, he’s going to have to come back up. Half of you men go down the hall and watch the stairs there, the other half of you stand guard on these. When he tries coming back up, we’ll have the high ground and the advantage.” The guards moved to follow his orders.
The masked man paused at the bottom of the stairs and listened for sounds of pursuit, and was surprised when he heard none following him. He frowned, but turned and took in the room he found himself in. It was a stone cavern filled with cages, cells, and torture devices that were illuminated by faintly glowing lights. His hands quivered as he looked at the blood-stained floors around the torture devices, some of it fresh. An Enforcer stood over Tyler, who was strapped to a table, his body covered in cuts. The Enforcer held a bloody knife in his hands, and stared at the masked man in confusion. “Who are you, and how did you get down here?”
The masked man stalked closer to the table where Tyler was strapped down. “Do you take pleasure from causing people pain? Do their screams and cries for it to stop cause you to smile? Let’s see how much you smile when you are the one doing the screaming!” The masked man grabbed the Enforcer by his throat and slammed him against the wall. The knife dropped from his hand and his eyes rolled back as he fell unconscious. The masked man growled and tossed the Enforcer to the side. He ripped off the restraints holding Tyler and helped him down from the table.
Tyler coughed and moaned. “Who are you?”
“A friend, the rebellion sent me to free you.”
Tyler looked at the masked man with confusion. “We’ve only just been captured, how did the rebellion know to send aid, and find some so quickly?”
The masked man shook his head. “I don’t have time to explain it all now, but I will explain everything to you eventually. Can you go and free the others from their cells?” Tyler nodded, picked the keys off of the knocked out Enforcer, and started unlocking cell doors. The masked man started smashing tables and torture devices around the room. “No more will you shed my people’s blood, looking for answers that please you!”
Walter hurried out the cell and whispered to Tyler, “Who’s that?”
Tyler shook his head. “A friend come to rescue us. Other than that, I do not know.” The key turned in the final lock and the last prisoners were freed.
The masked man turned his attention to the cages and cells. He walked up to them, and touched a bar of one of the cells with his left hand. “You have been used to strip my people of their freedom, but no more!” He punched through the bars with his right fist, leaving the metal as a crumpled and bent pile of steel and iron.
Tyler winced as he watched the masked man destroy the cages, and turned to the other rebellion members. “He’s making enough noise to attract all the guards in the Pedestal. While he’s doing that, let’s escape!” The rebellion members started to make their way to the stairs
“Stop!” The masked man cried out, and the rebellion members turned and looked at him confused. “The guards didn’t follow me down, I think they must be waiting for me up above.”
Kyle threw his hands up. “Oh, this night has been filled with great rescues! First, all my rescuers get caught, and now this one gets the guards to set up an ambush for us. We don’t even have cells to be locked up in anymore!”
The masked man moved over to the far wall of the cavern and knocked on it lightly. Tyler shook his head and walked over the masked man. “What are you doing? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out how we’re going to get all these people out of here?”
The masked man turned and looked at Tyler. “Step back.” Confusion filled Tyler’s face, but he stook a few steps away from the wall. Once the masked man decided that he was at a safe distance away, he punched the wall with his iron fist. The wall crumbled away, revealing a tunnel. “This is how we will escape.”
Tyler and the rest of the prisoners ran over to the wall and looked into the tunnel. One of the members said, “It’s dark.” Another said, “Where does this tunnel even go?” and, “I’m not going in there, anything could be in there!”
Tyler stared in wonder. “How did you know about this tunnel? Where does it lead?”
The masked man stepped into the tunnel, and a faint light shone from under his robes. “This is an old mine shaft that went too near the dungeons of the Pedestal. The government closed the shaft down and resealed up the hole, but we can follow it out to the surface.” The man pulled his robe back and the lights shown from different parts of his arm, which was completely wrapped in metal. “Follow me and stay close and I’ll get you all to safety, I promise.” The rebellion members all hesitantly stepped into the tunnels and started after the masked retreating figure.
John walked through the shadowed streets of Hope’s Landing and pulled his jacket tighter against the cold wind that filled the town. He was uncomfortable being out alone in the deserted streets at night, especially after what had taken place the night before at the pedestal. No telling what the Enforcers might do to anyone they caught outside tonight. He crossed the dirt street and knocked on Obediah’s door.
Obediah opened the door and stuck his head out, a welcoming smile on his face. “John, the weather is fine this evening, is it not?”
John nodded. “Yes, the glow of Ludecai is beautiful.”
Obediah opened the door wider. “Please, come in, brother.”
John walked inside of the house, and once Obediah had closed the door he turned and looked at Obediah. “What is going on here? Who called this meeting?”
Obediah smiled. “I did, Tyler asked me to call everyone together.”
John grunted. “Sounds like the mission was as success at least. I’m going to tear Tyler a new one! He put the entire rebellion- no, the entire planet at risk with the way they carried that out.”
Obediah frowned. “You’ve heard about the disturbance at the Pedestal too then? From what I understand they weren’t the ones that caused that, although his team made their share of blunders, but that will all be explained at the meeting. Why don’t you go into the basement with everyone else? There’s only a few more stragglers I’m waiting for and then I’ll come down and join you.”
John nodded and walked down the stairs into the basement, and he was shocked to see the room was filled with people. Some, he recognized as family members of those who went on the rescue attempt, but were not members of the rebellion themselves. Tyler was chatting with his young wife, a woman by the name of Helen, and John prowled over to him. He grabbed Tyler by the shoulder, and Tyler jumped in shock. A smile crossed Tyler’s face and he clapped John on the back. “John, it’s good to see you again!”
John grunted. “What were you thinking with that stunt your group pulled? Destroying the Pedestal was not part of the plan. Do you have any idea the danger you have put everyone in with your little show?”
Tyler frowned, “Woah, settle down, John. That wasn’t us. Walter drew the guards’ attention, and we all were caught except for Matthew.”
“Are you trying to tell me that Matthew did all of that by himself?”
Matthew walked up behind John. “I did no such thing! Once I saw the others were caught and I wasn’t going to be able to do anything to help, I ran out of there as fast as I could! I ran into young Tarren actually, and after he found out what had happened he said he was going to find some help, and told me to go home.”
John threw his hands up. “Now you’re telling me that Tarren did all this? Will someone just explain to me what happened last night?”
Tyler cleared his throat. “Like I said, we were captured last night, and the questioner had me strapped to a table and he was, how would you say, enticing me to talk with a knife. I heard a lot of crashing around from up above us, but the questioner just kept going. After that, the masked man rushed downstairs, freed us, destroyed everything, and led us out through an old mining tunnel. After that, he brought us back to Hope’s Landing, had us gather up our families and told us to hide here until we could safely get ourselves and our families off the planet. Does anyone know who he is? We all want to thank him.”
The room was filled with quiet murmurs as everyone asked the people around them if they knew anything about the masked man. John searched the room until he found Tarren whispering with a group of people. “What about you, Tarren? Matthew says that you were going to get some help, who did you go to?”
Panic filled Tarren’s face momentarily, but then his face smoothed over. “I went to Scott’s home to seek help, but he turned me away. The guy’s a major creep, I can’t believe we work with him.”
John raised his eyebrow. “Was he the only one that you went to for help last night?”
Tarren shrugged. “I didn’t know who else to turn to. I was hoping to have another emergency meeting to get some more help for them. I thought Matthew must have talked with either you or Obediah and that’s what this meeting was about.”
John scratched his head. “Maybe Scott had a change of heart, but if that’s the case, that gives us all the more reason not to trust this masked fellow. If he’s working for Scott, that’s all good and fine, but until we know for sure, we all need to keep our distance. We don’t know what he wants.”
Tyler growled, “It’s pretty obvious what he wants. He wants an Aquore where the people are free! He was disgusted by the cages and torture devices! I think we should ally ourselves with this masked stranger!”
Shouts of agreement filled the basement, most loudly from those who had been freed the night before. John had to raise his voice to be heard over the crowd. “We keep our distance for now! You don’t get a say in it any longer, Tyler. You and your family get to leave this mess he’s made behind! The rest of us are going to have to try and survive the retribution from the Pedestal. You thought taxes were bad before? Now the government has to rebuild the Pedestal. You thought the Enforcers were brutal before? Think of how rough they’re going to be with anyone who steps out of line until this masked man is caught! We need to lay low until this all blows over, and hope that we make it through the next couple of months alive!”
The room grew silent as what John said sunk in, and many of the excited faces were now filled with terror. Tarren’s face took on a determined look. “You’re wrong, John.” Every eye in the room turned and focused on Tarren. “Not about the government striking back against the people; I think you are completely right about that. The rebellion can’t go into hiding; we have been given a great opportunity to come into the open. Think of the support we can get from the people when the government’s oppression gets worse! We could grow the rebellion to numbers we’ve only dreamed about! With the help of this masked man, we could finally kick the government off of this rock and let the people rule themselves. The guards weren’t able to harm him at all! It was almost as if they were just more statues in his way!”
Tarren’s speech was met by more cheers, but they were more hesitant. John looked at Tarren suspiciously. “How do you know the guard’s weren’t able to hurt him?”
Tarren’s eye’s filled with panic, and he looked around the room. “Um, I heard some of the Enforcers talking about it in the marketplace today.”
John nodded his head. “Uh-huh. Are you sure there isn’t anything else you would like to tell us about, Tarren?”
“Only that we need to strike now, while the government is trying to recover!”
Shouts of affirmation filled the room, and John waited for them to calm down. “The guards will be most prepared right now for an attack. If we do this now, we risk getting all these people, and everyone else on this planet killed. How many more orphans are you looking to make, Tarren?”
The room dropped to silence, and then slowly turned into people murmuring amongst themselves. Tarren looked around the room for support, and when he found none, he sighed. “You may be right, John, but I think we need to at least look for the masked man and figure out what he has planned.”
John nodded. “I agree. If we can get him to meet with us and work with us, we might be able to convince him that attacks like the one last night are only going to put the people in danger.” John waited a moment for any more discussion on the matter before turning back to Tyler. “Did the masked man let you in on how he plans on getting you off planet?”
Tyler frowned. “No, he just told us that we needed to as soon as possible.”
John sighed. “Alright, does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for how we can pull this one off?”
Scott’s white lab coat flowed behind him as he stormed through the laboratory located on the south side of Hope’s Landing. A group of scientists stood in a circle comparing notes on clipboards. The group hushed as Scott approached and all turned to face him. The scientist in the front of the group smiled at Scott. “Mr. Daley, I think you will be pleased with the latest test results we’ve had with our new mining suits.”
Scott scowled and interrupted him. “Is that what you call what went on up at the Pedestal last night? A test?”
The scientist looked at Scott with confusion. “The Pedestal? We were doing tests out in the wastelands last night. What happened at the Pedestal?”
Scott scoffed. “You mean you haven’t heard? Someone broke into the Pedestal, took out every guard that got in his way, and caused considerable damage to the building itself. Parliament is furious and has their Enforcers out for blood this morning.”
The lead scientist pushed his glasses further up his nose and snorted. “I can assure you it wasn’t done with any of our equipment. The only prototype that was missing from the lab this morning is the one that you took home to inspect.”
Scott looked away. “Yes. About that, the prototype seems to have gone missing.”
The scientist dropped his clipboard. “What?! You lost it? How could you lose it? Do you have any idea what this could do to the company if a competitor got his hands on this? We need to rush the development and submit a patent on it right away.”
The lead scientist turned and started to walk away, but Scott grabbed his shoulder. “I’m afraid that the problem is more serious than that.” The scientist turned to face Scott. “If I am right, and our prototype was used in the attack on the Pedestal last night, the government will come after us.”
The lead scientist shrugged. “So? The prototype was stolen from us. We all have alibis for last night. Even if they do come after us they can only interrupt our work with an investigation.”
Scott sighed. “We are involved with some activities that I would rather not come to light in the chance of an investigation. Things that would make us look very bad and land us in a lot of trouble.”
The scientist shook his head. “I never did approve of you aiding the rebellion. The small advantage that slowing the government’s mining operations isn’t worth the risk that being connected to them makes.”
Scott frowned. “That isn’t for you to decide, Don. You are supposed to do your job and smile, and leave the planning to me. That is what you are paid for.” Don frowned back at Scott. “I want you to scrap all information and research we have on the new mining equipment, and I want the prototypes destroyed and buried in the wastelands.”
Don sputtered. “What? Do you have any idea the amount of time and money that went into developing this technology? Do you have any idea the advantage you want to throw away?”
Scott growled, “I know exactly what has gone into this device. I also know the risk involved with continuing this project. The guards were able to get a pretty good description of what the device on the intruder’s arm looked like. How difficult do you think it would be for them to connect this device back to us? We scrap the project until this all blows over, and then we can resurrect it.”
Don quivered in rage. “If you wouldn’t insist on inspecting each and every little thing that we made, this wouldn’t have happened! It’s not like you understand how any of this works anyway!”
Scott’s eyes narrowed, and he said in a low, quiet voice, “Would you ever talk to my father in this way?”
Don scowled back. “No,Harold Daley would understand what we were working on. He started this company with his brilliant mind, but he made a mistake when he put you in charge of the mining operation here on Aquore!”
Scott laughed. “Not as big of a mistake as you just made, Don. Clean out your locker, I want you off of the premises in an hour. After that, I’m calling the Enforcers to have you removed.” Scott turned to look at one of the other quivering scientists. He pointed at the one standing at the back of the group. “What’s your name?”
The scientist looked to the other scientists for help, but they all moved away from him and and avoided his gaze. He was able to stammer out, “M-m-my name? I’m Lawrence Bolle.”
Scott nodded. “Do you disagree with my decision, Lawrence?”
Lawrence shook his head. “No, I think you are doing what is best for the company.”
Scott smiled. “Good. You are my new head scientist, all of you report to Lawrence now. Can I count on you to dump the research and destroy the prototypes?”
Lawrence smiled back at Scott with confidence. “Yes, sir! The system will be scrubbed so clean that the Enforcers will only see their faces reflected back at them if they come looking.”
Scott nodded his head. “Good, good. I’m counting on it. After you have finished with that, I want you to send people out looking for whoever is responsible for this.”
Lawrence looked at Scott hesitantly. “If the Enforcers don’t know who did this, then how are we supposed to track him down?”
Scott frowned at him. “The Enforcers are all brawn, but you are all brain. I’m paying you because you have brilliant minds. Use them to track this person down and bring me the last prototype. As long as that device is out there, we are at risk. I think I might know who it was that stole the device, and if I’m right I want you to find him, and to kill him.”
Lawrence’ eyes opened wide. “Kill him! If we do that we really will have the Enforcers after us!”
Scott shook his head. “He poses too much of a risk to us and everything we’re working for here. He is a loose cannon, always wanting to strike out at the government rather than just subtly sabotaging them. No, I want you to investigate Tarren Sanderson, and if he is responsible, eliminate him and retrieve our stolen property. Do it discreetly though. We don’t need anyone looking at us when this is all finished.”
Sweat beaded on Lawrence’ forehead. “Of course, Mr. Daley. We will find whoever did this, and if it is this Tarren fellow, we’ll take care of him.”
Scott smiled. “Good. I knew I was making the right decision when I promoted you. Back to work everyone, we have much to do today!”
Don stormed out of the lab. “I’ve been working for this company since the beginning! Harold would never have treated me in such a way!” A mischievous smile crossed Don’s face. “They’re going to dump all the research anyway, and it did mostly come from my brilliant mind. I don’t suppose it would really be all that wrong for me to take a copy of my research with me, would it? This machine could be my ticket to a new job with a different company.”
Don rushed down the hall to his office, and sat down behind his desk. He pulled a disc out of the the top drawer and inserted it into his computer, and started copying files onto it. He turned the screen off and started to pick up his possessions and place them into a couple of boxes. There was a knock at his door frame and he looked up and saw Scott standing there. “I’m packing my things to leave, Scott. What more do you want from me?”
Scott smiled and stepped into the office. “Oh, I just wanted to apologize for what happened out there.”
Hope filled Don’s face. “Does this mean I get to keep my job?”
Scott analyzed his fingernails. “Afraid not. That would make me look weak in front of the other employees, but I am sorry that I had to use you as an example to the others, but I think everyone learned that they should respect me and obey my orders without question.”
Don scowled at Scott. “If that’s all you wanted then get out. I have lots of packing to do before the Enforcers come and remove me from the compound.” Don grabbed a picture of him and Harold Daley in front of the sign for their headquarters on Earth.
Scott frowned. “I came here to discuss your severance package. How much do you want to keep quiet about our prototypes? Name your price.”
Don laughed. “You think I would go and betray the company to the Enforcers? You don’t have to buy my…” Don paused and a smile crossed his face. “Five million quill and I won’t breathe a word about your prototypes to anyone.”
Scott’s eyes opened wide. “Five million quill? Are you sure that will be enough? Perhaps you would like to bankrupt us and ask for fifty million!”
“Five million quill, or I’ll sell everything I know to the highest bidder, and I’m sure I could get more than fifty million from government applications alone.”
Scott growled. “Fine, you can expect a deposit in two days. If you breathe a word of this to anyone, I will come down on you with enough legal actions to burn through that money. I still expect you out of here in an hour!” Scott turned and stormed out of the office.
Don turned on the screen and checked on the download. “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. I’ll be out of here with everything that belongs to me long before that.”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my review of what happened in the last chapter of Super Morpher, as well as a sneak peek at what will happen in the next chapter. Then come back on Monday when I will post part of one the next chapter of Super Morpher. Also, if you enjoy reading my stories, and you enjoy drawing, I’m looking for pictures of my characters. If you want to send me your fan art, I promise to include it with some of my posts! I look forward to seeing that art!