Lawrence stood outside of the orphanage and nervously wrung his hands. He didn’t have to kill Tarren, not yet anyway. He just needed to talk to him, figure out if he was responsible for taking the prototype. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and took a deep breath. He reached out and knocked on the door. He glanced around at the yard full of children running around and yelling, and almost lost his nerve.
He was about turn and walk away when Eugene opened the door. “Can I help you?”
Lawrence smiled nervously at Eugene, cleared his throat, and said with a voice crack, “Yes!” He cleared his throat once more and continued in a lower tone, “Yes, I was wondering if Tarren Sanderson lives here?”
Eugene shook his head and sighed. “What did he do this time?”
Lawrence’s eyes opened wide. “Oh, nothing I’m sure!” Lawrence paused and thought for a moment before continuing, “Actually, I was wondering if you knew if he had anything to do with the events that transpired at the Pedestal the other night.”
Eugene’s face turned to surprise. “What? Of course not! I know that he doesn’t get along with the Enforcers very well, but he couldn’t have possibly done something like that! I heard that the attack was staged by the rebellion, and he wouldn’t have anything to do with them. They’re the reason that he was an orphan after all.”
Lawrence nodded his head. “Of course, but do you know where he was the night of the attack?”
Eugene looked at Lawrence suspiciously. “I do as a matter of fact, he was out looking for a job. May I ask who you are?”
Lawrence’s face turned to panic, but he managed a nervous smile. “My name is Lawrence, and I work for Daley Devices Incorporated, and the Enforcers have asked us to help out in their investigation. Is Tarren at home at the moment?”
Eugene frowned. “No, I’m afraid he’s at work, and I’m not sure when he’ll return.”
“Would it be alright if I wait here for him?”
Eugene pursed his lips and tilted his head to the side. “Yes, I think that should be okay, as long as you agree to help me take care of the children while you wait.”
Lawrence’s eyes opened wide, and he turned to look at all the children once more. “I don’t really have any experience taking care of kids, so I’m not sure how much help I’ll be, but I will do what I can.” He leaned closer to Eugene and whispered. “They won’t bite me, will they?”
Eugene smiled and shook his head. “No, of course not! Well, just keep your hands away from their mouths and you should be fine.”
Tarren walked down the road to a farm a short distance outside of Hope’s Landing, with his head hung low. He couldn’t understand how Eugene could be comfortable with the orphanage surviving by taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune. Tarren didn’t want to take anything from the people of Hope’s Landing.
Maybe he wouldn’t have to take anything from Allen and Martha Garrets. Maybe they’d have the money that they owed Frederick, and everything would be just fine. Of course they’d have the money. Who knew how far someone like Frederick would go to get his money back? It would be very irresponsible for them to have borrowed the money if they couldn’t pay it back.
Tarren turned and walked up the driveway that was bordered by corn fields on either side. Barking dogs rushed up to Tarren, and he eyed them uneasily until two laughing children called for the dogs. The dogs eagerly ran back to the children, and Tarren breathed a sigh of relief. He continued on to the house and knocked on the door.
The door opened to reveal a woman in a yellow dress with floral patterns mostly covered by an apron, which the woman was wiping off her hands with. She smiled at Tarren. “It’s not often that we get visitors out on our farm. What can I do for you, sir?”
Tarren managed to return a weak grin. She wouldn’t be so happy and welcoming once she knew why he was here. “My name is Tarren and I was hoping to talk with Allen. Is he in at the moment?”
The woman shook her head. “I’m afraid you came at a bad time. Allen and our oldest took off in the fuel tanker and the combine this morning, heading for the back of the farm. I don’t expect they’ll be back until they’re done with the harvest next week. Is there anything I can help you with?”
Tarren sighed. It was going to be much more difficult doing this to a woman. “I’m actually here on behalf of Frederick. I believe that you and your husband took out a loan from Mr. Frederick a couple of months ago?”
The woman started crying. “I told Allen that taking out a loan from him was a bad idea! He insisted that the crops would be ready in time to pay him back! If only the combine hadn’t broken down! Can’t Mr. Frederick give us a little longer to repay? We’ll have what we owe him next week once the harvest is in.”
Tarren’s face drooped with sympathy, and he shook his head. “I’m afraid that I either need the money today or I’m going to have to take something as collateral.”
The woman dropped to her knees and started crying. “We don’t have anything of value! We live from harvest to harvest! Please, can’t you have some mercy on us and give us some more time?”
Tarren turned his head away and sighed. He shrugged and turned away. “It’s just too bad that no one was home today when I stopped by. Unfortunately I’m not going to be back out this way until sometime next week.”
The woman looked up at Tarren and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I’m saying that I’m taking a risk for you, so you had better have the money next week.” Tarren started to walk back down the driveway.
The woman laughed and called after Tarren, “Thank you so much! Won’t you stay and have a slice of pie? I just pulled it out of the oven before you got here.”
Tarren smiled. “I think I have enough time for a piece of pie.”
Tarren stood in front of a desk facing Frederick. “No one was home when I stopped in. I waited around for a while, but the place was deserted. I can stop out there next week and see if I have any more luck then.”
Frederick leaned back into his desk chair and drummed his fingers on his desk, the rings on his fingers clicking whenever they hit. He had a red handkerchief sticking out of the chest pocket of the black suit he was wearing and he had a fedora hanging on the corner of his desk. “Yes, that’s quite unfortunate. I appreciate the effort that you put in today, Tarren. I don’t have anything else for you at the moment. I’ll send a message to Eugene the next time I have need for you.”
Tarren smiled, “Thank you, Frederick. Enjoy the rest of your day.” Tarren turned and walked out of his office.
Frederick waited for a few seconds and then turned to one of the men lounging around the room. “Charles, go and check to see if Tarren has left.”
Charles walked out of the room and checked the entry way. He returned after a couple of minutes. “He’s gone, boss.”
Frederick nodded his head. “Good. Brad, I want you to head out to the Garrets farm and get my payment.”
Brad stood up and walked over to Frederick’s desk. “Sure thing, boss. But I thought Tarren said they weren’t around?”
Frederick grunted. “Tarren is a good kid, and I think he’s going to have a tough time with this type of work. The Garrets were home and Tarren decided to give them some more time.”
Brad frowned. “How do you know that?”
“He had some cherry sauce on the corner of his mouth, and Martha Garrets is famous for her cherry pie. This will be a lesson for him: trying to protect the people that deal with me will only get them hurt worse. Collect what they owe, with interest.”
Tarren walked through the back door of the orphanage with a sack full of bread hanging over his back, and saw Eugene pouring two glasses of water. “I hate working for Frederick. He wanted me to take the valuables from this farming family today because they couldn’t pay their loan.”
Eugene turned around and frowned at Tarren. “There will be time later for us to discuss that. Do you know who attacked the Pedestal the other night?”
Tarren’s eyes opened wide with panic. “What? No. Why, have you heard new rumors about who did it?”
Eugene shook his head. “No, but there is someone here from Daley Devices that thinks you had something to do with it. You didn’t, did you?”
Tarren forced a hurt look onto his face. “How can you accuse me of that? You know I was out looking for a job the night that it happened!”
Eugene sighed. “I’m sorry, Tarren. I just had to be sure. I’m sure once you tell the man this, everything will be taken care of. Come along, he’s waiting for you in the entry hall.” Eugene carried the glasses of water into the entry hall and Tarren followed after him. Eugene handed Lawrence one of the glasses of water. “Here he is, back from work. Go ahead and ask your questions and then you can return to your work.” Eugene took a drink from his glass and then started up the stairs.
Lawrence watched Eugene go and once he was sure he was out of earshot, he turned and smiled nervously at Tarren. “Hello, Tarren. The Enforcers asked for Daley Devices to help them track down whoever attacked the Pedestal, and to that end I have a few questions for you. You weren’t involved in any way on the attack on the Pedestal, were you?”
Tarren shook his head. “No, I was out looking for a job to try and help support the orphanage that night. You can ask Mr. Johnson, Dr. Samuel, and Mr. Trevor about that.”
Lawrence looked around to make sure that no one was listening in, and continued on in a quieter voice, “I know that you are a part of the rebellion, and that they staged a rescue attempt for one of their captured members on that night. I also know that you stopped by Mr. Daley’s house that night looking for help. What did you do after that?”
Tarren looked suspiciously at Lawrence. “After your boss refused to help, I went looking for someone else that would. You said that the Enforcers asked you to track this person down?”
Lawrence nodded. “Yes they did. They said they had their hands busy with ensuring the safety of the council members. Did you find anyone to help you after you left Mr. Daley’s home?”
Tarren shook his head. “The Enforcers asked you to hunt down the person that did this because they were too busy protecting the Pedestal? I saw a dozen or more in the market today! Why are you really here?”
Sweat appeared on Lawrence’s brow. “Perhaps now isn’t a good time to talk. I’m sure you are busy and have many things to do today. I’ll stop by at another time, perhaps.” Lawrence turned and started heading for the door.
“Wait.” Lawrence stopped and slowly turned. Tarren walked slowly toward him. “I don’t know who attacked the Pedestal, or how they did it, but I’m glad that they did. Because of him, my friends were saved, and the entire rebellion protected, no thanks to your boss.”
Lawrence nodded his head and smiled. “Yes, well, I’m glad to hear that. I may not be a member of the rebellion, but I am cheering for you. Everyone at Daley Devices is. If you will excuse me, I have lots of work to do back at the lab.” Lawrence let himself out of the orphanage.
John walked through the empty streets of Hope’s Landing after work, his his lunch box hanging from his pickaxe, which was hung over his shoulder . He considered, not for the first time on his walk home that night, stopping at The Miner’s Stop and having a few drinks, but Jessica would be waiting for him at home with supper. She wouldn’t be very pleased with him if he came home to a cold supper, so he decided against stopping there.
John heard a scuffling on the roof next to him and he turned and brandished his pickaxe, ready to face whatever was coming at him. He saw a masked man in a brown cloak sitting on the roof watching him. The masked man held up his hands defensively and said in a low, gravely voice, “Hold on there, John. I’m just here to talk.”
John tightened his grip on his pickaxe and replied. “How do you know my name?”
The masked man chuckled. “I know all sorts of things about you, John al’Forge. I know that you lead the rebellion, and that’s why I’m here tonight. I want to help the rebellion in their fight.”
John relaxed and looked up at the masked man. “I’m glad to hear that, but if you want to join with us you are going to have to change the way you do things. No more attacks like the one on the Pedestal. That sort of thing is only going to rile the government up.”
The masked man shook his head. “I’m not the one with the need of different tactics, you and your rebellion are. Things aren’t getting any better for the people of this planet. It’s time that the rebellion did something about that and drove out these despots.”
“If we do things your way, things will get worse for these people. How do you think the government is going to take your little stunt? Do you think they’ll just curl up in a ball and wait to see what happens next? No! They’re going to send their Enforcers out to find you, hurt innocent people while they do it, and they’re going to make us pay for the damage to their building. This is no way to change things for the better!”
The masked man sat in silence for a few seconds, and then quietly replied, “That’s fine.”
John looked incredulously at the masked man. “That’s fine? The people you are trying to save are going to suffer more than they ever have before, and you’re okay with that?”
“Eventually the government is going to push them too hard, and when that happens, the people will decide they’ve had enough and will flock to your rebellion to drive out the government of Aquore. It isn’t the ideal path to freedom, but it will get us there just the same. Things aren’t going to change if someone doesn’t do something.”
John shook his head, his face contorted in anger. He pointed a finger at the masked man. “There is no room in our rebellion for someone who thinks like you. I suggest that you get off this rock before you hurt the people that I care about. If that happens, I don’t care how strong you are; I will take you down.” John turned and started stalking down the street toward his home.
The masked man chased after him along the rooftops. “John, wait! Can’t you see that nothing will ever change with the way the rebellion is doing things now? You need a new strategy! Pinching their pockets isn’t doing anything either! At least give me the opportunity to speak with your people and let them decide for themselves how they want to fight.”
John turned and glared at the masked man. “I represent the rebellion as their leader. I decide how we act and when, and I have already told you the rebellion’s stance on this. If you try to spread your zealot gospel to my people, your fight will end right then and there! Do you understand me?”
“If you won’t let me talk with them, I will act on my own! Either agree to work with me or I will decimate the mine near Hope’s Landing. I won’t leave a piece of mining equipment functioning, and I’ll collapse the whole mine down on itself.”
John growled, “You aren’t coming near my people! Go ahead and attack the mine, but the Enforcers will be waiting for you! I’ll make sure of that.”
The masked man chuckled and replied, “Good. It will give me an opportunity to strike out at those who oppress my people. The more you can get there, the happier I’ll be. I’ll be attacking the mine in two nights if I haven’t heard from you by then. If you will change your mind and allow me to meet with your rebellion, tie a red string around the light pole at the corner of Milton lane and Malor street.”
John threw his lunch box at the masked man. “Get out of here, you fool, before I come up onto that roof and chase you off myself!”
The lunch box bounced off of the masked man’s chest, fell to the roof and slid off to the ground, followed by the sound of shattering glass. The masked man shook his head and ran off into the night. John sighed, bent over and picked up his lunch box. “Jessica isn’t going to be happy when she sees what I did to her containers.”
Doors opened up on either side of the street and people stood looking at John strangely. John smiled sheepishly at them and waved. “Sorry to disturb you, but there was, um, a cat up on the roof.” The people shook their heads and closed the doors behind them, and John quickly continued home.
The masked man approached the well-lit mining site near Hope’s Landing and smiled. John had done what he had promised and warned the Enforcers about his attack. They were spaced around the perimeter at regular intervals, each armed with a spear and a shield. He had no doubt that they had crossbowmen stashed somewhere as well. They were taking him seriously, which was what he was hoping for. After tonight’s display, John wouldn’t have any choice but to support his actions.
He started for the wire fence that ran around the mine. If he did this right, he could trap some of the Enforcers under the fence when he broke through, it all depended on how close he could get before they saw him. A voice nagged at him in the back of his mind, trying to convince him that this was crazy, that it wasn’t too late to turn back. He had managed to make the Enforcers stay out all night waiting for him if nothing else. Trying something like this on his own could only end badly. He shoved that voice aside and continued on.
He was thirty feet from the fence when the first guard called out. He didn’t wait to see if he was the reason why they called out or if it was something else, and he charged the fence. More Enforcers started shouting and pointing at him, and five of them moved together behind the section of fence he was charging at. He continued on, and once he was close to the fence he punched the pole that the fence was attached to with a steel gauntleted fist. The pole snapped under the force of his punch, and tipped over onto the soldiers, trapping them underneath.
The masked man charged past them, heading deeper into the compound, followed by shouting guards. He smiled once more; this was going better than he had hoped. If he could keep this pace up, he could do what he came to do, get the guards all in one spot for him to deal with quickly, and escape before they could get backup. The rebellion really did need a mind like his in charge of them.
The man punched a large mining drill as he ran past, and it flew across the compound and smashed apart upon hitting the ground. The rebellion thought too small; a little sabotage only delayed them for a little while. If you destroyed the machinery outright, they couldn’t continue until they got replacements for them, and if he continued to destroy the machinery, eventually he could bankrupt them and force them to leave this rock. That was, if he allowed them to. He hadn’t made up his mind as to how far he wanted to take these attacks, but this should at the very least get their attention.
He sent another drill flying, not pausing to see if it broke apart like the first one when the first crossbow bolts hammered into his back. They bounced harmlessly off with a series of pings, and the masked man laughed. Deep down, he was thanking God that they had decided to aim for his back and not anywhere else, but they would get lucky eventually. He ran on with greater speed than before.
He ducked behind a minecart in time to dodge another flight of bolts that passed overhead. He slammed his fist into the side of the cart and it flew across the compound, crashing into the midst of the Enforcers that were chasing him. He was rewarded with several screams, and he allowed another smile to come over his face. The people would be freed from the government, even if he had to do it all by himself. That’s when the mine cart crashed into him.
He was knocked off his feet, landing facedown on the track heavily. An authoritative voice called out, “Get a net over him!” A cargo net was thrown over his body before he could get back up to his feet.
The masked man struggled to get free of the net, but he was pushed back into the ground by the Enforcer that stepped onto his back. The authoritative voice said, “You’re a tough one, that’s for sure, but you’re a fool as well. Coming here alone was a mistake.”
The masked man laughed. “What makes you think I’d be foolish enough to come here alone? I was the distraction, and you boys fell for it.”
The Enforcer on his back looked at him hesitantly, and turned to face his men that had encircled the masked man lying on the ground. “Connor, take your squad and check the perimeter to see if anyone else is out there. Jackson, contact headquarters. Let them know that the tip was good and we caught the masked man. Ask them if there is anything suspicious going on in the city while you’re at it.” He turned back to the masked man. “Even if you were just a diversion, the members of the Pedestal wanted you brought in and made an example of. You will serve as a warning against any others that want to resist the government.”
The masked man chuckled. “You have to get me to them first.”
The Enforcer stomped on his back, and the masked man grunted. “You’re not getting away.” He stepped back from the masked man. “Bind him and prep him for transport. And get that mask off of him, I want to see who this fool is.”
Several soldiers stepped forward and reached for the masked man’s arms. A drill popped out of the gauntlet and whirled to life, the net wrapping around it. The Enforcers jumped back from him and leveled their spears at him. When the strain of the net became too much for the drill, it stopped spinning and started smoking. It had been enough to uncover the masked man, who leapt up to his feet and attacked the Enforcers surrounding him. His fist connected with one of the Enforcers, sending him flying. The drill snapped from the impact and fell to the ground, the net still twisted around it.
The leader of the Enforcers began shouting orders. “Get the other net over here now! Surround him, do not let him escape!”
The masked man spared the broken drill one regretful look, and charged into the midst of the Enforcers. Enforcers went flying with each powerful punch of his right arm, sending them into a panic. They started stabbing at him with their spears, injuring each other in the process. The masked man raced away from the confused mass of Enforcers tripping over each other to get to him, their commander angrily shouting out orders into the night. The masked man was able to slip out of the compound and into the night amidst all the confusion.
The commander of the troops stood in front of the council on the raised platform that gave the Pedestal its name. Repairs were still being made to the ruined walls, but the framework was back up at least. The council had come back to meet before the renovations were complete to discuss the events of the night before. The commander met the gaze of the representative that was questioning him without blinking. “Commander Jonathan, explain to us once more how this single man was able to escape from you and your men once you had him in custody!”
Jonathan cleared his throat and responded, “He had a concealed weapon on him that we didn’t account for. It allowed him to slip free of the net we had him bundled in, and after that he charged through my men. He managed to escape in the midst of their panic.”
A different representative sneered at him. “That is an excellent display of leadership on your part, letting your men fall apart because of a single man.”
“With all do respect, senator, I very much doubt you would have done any better in their situation. Not after seeing how powerful he is and how ineffective your weapons are against him.”
The senator glared at Jonathan. “Remember your place, boy! We are the leaders of this planet and you will show us more respect.”
Jonathan replied calmly; “Forgive me, senator; I will do better to remember my place in the future.”
A different senator spoke up, “You certainly will, soldier. We put it to a vote before you arrived, and you are being demoted back to a private.”
Jonathan stepped forward. “You can’t do that! I made one mistake and you are tossing me aside, just like that?”
“It was a unanimous decision by the council; even Troy agreed with this motion. You sent half of your forces away, allowing the prisoner to escape. Fifteen of the Enforcers under your command died last night, and five of them were from spear wounds from their allies. Not to mention the other twenty Enforcers in the infirmary because of injuries. Last night wasn’t just a mistake, private Jonathan, it was an abomination. We expect better from the ones we place in charge of our forces. You are dismissed.”
Jonathan formed his hand into a fist and opened his mouth to shout back a reply, but closed it, and walked out of the room. Once he was out of the room, another senator said, “We need to capture this masked man and figure out how he’s doing all of this. If we could get our hands on whatever it is that is allowing him to do this, we could arm the Enforcers with it and ensure that no one would dare challenge our power again.”
Another senator said, “I agree. Place a bounty on the man’s head, or for any credible information that leads to his capture.”
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 previously in The 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.