Damaged: Enemy Me
“You’re going to cry. Look at him. He’s crying.” Nick crowed. He pantomimed wiping tears from his eyes.
“He wants his mommy. Crybaby,” Jordan laughed cruelly, sticking his face inches from his victim.
“Please. I just need in my locker.”
“Why don’t you make me, Ken-doll?” Nick puffed his chest up, crowding his victim and blocking the locker.
“Ken-doll doesn’t even have a lock! Aren’t you afraid someone will steal your Barbie-doll, Ken-doll?” Jordan patted the locker.
Kendall grit his teeth and glanced at a teacher standing in a doorway across the hall from them. The teacher returned his gaze impassively.
“He’s just a substitute, Kenster,” Nick said, laughing. “That guy ain’t gonna do nothing.” He glared at passing students. “Move along. Nothing to see here.”
“I just need to put up my books,” Kendall said, subdued, glancing furtively at the teacher again.
“Be my guest.” Nick stepped to the side and waved dramatically at the locker.
Kendall opened it, only to have Nick shut it on him with his foot.
“What’s wrong, Ken-der? Can’t open it?”
“C’mon, guys.” Kendall stood up. “Do we really need to do this?”
“Look, is that another tear?” Jordan pointed.
Kendall gave him a look and reached for the locker. Nick slammed it shut again.
“Sorry. That was a mistake. Go ahead, open it.” Nick held his hands out innocently.
Kendall opened the locker again, but Jordan reached around and knocked the books out of his hands. Shaking his head, Kendall knelt down to pick up his books when the locker slammed shut again, knocking him in the face as it did. He grimaced and looked at the teacher again. The teacher remained impassive, just watching him. Other high school students filed by, trying not to look at them, while simultaneously trying not to miss a brewing fight.
“Damn. That looked like it hurt.” Nick laughed, fist-bumping Jordan. “Wanna see that again?”
“Whoa! Nick, Jordan, chill! Picking on a freshman again? He’s half your size.”
Both of them looked around as Kendall stood up with his books. A lanky boy held his hands out at them. “He just wants to put his books away.”
“Butt out, Ricky,” Nick said nervously.
“How’s your nose, Nicky-boy? Has it healed?” Ricky crossed his arms. He wasn’t much larger than Kendall, but wore confidence openly, challenging the bullies by his very presence.
“There’s two of us, dude,” Jordan said menacingly, standing even taller and squaring off with Ricky.
“There were two last time. I heard Andy just got his cast off.” Ricky looked at his nails nonchalantly and nibbled at one. “But… if you’re feeling froggy, why don’t you jump?”
Jordan glowered at Ricky, but stepped away. He glared at Kendall. “We’re not done.”
“Yes, you are, Jordan,” Ricky smirked. “Shoo. Run away, insects.”
Nick pulled on Jordan’s arm, and the two backed up a few steps before vanishing into the crowd.
“What morons. Can you believe that?” Ricky said, shaking his head. “They never learn.” He opened Kendall’s locker. “Here.”
“I got it.” Kendall put his books up, squinting at Ricky as he did.
“No problem. I get it. People picking on you for no good reason.” Ricky grinned. “I’m Ricky. I think we’re going to be friends.”
“Are we?” Kendall asked as he closed the locker. He glanced around, but the teacher was no longer there. “Thanks, anyway.”
“Pfft. Twasn’t nothin’. I put him and his buddy in their place last week. But they keep crawling out of their hole.” Ricky laughed. “Hey, Kassandra! Wait up! Gotta bolt, dude. Sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.” Kendall scowled, eyeing Ricky warily. He watched as Ricky ran after another student. He then followed him from a distance, watching him chat with the girl, making her giggle. But students jostled him on their way out to their buses and rides, causing Kendall to lose track of Ricky. He stepped outside and looked around carefully.
A yank on his arm startled him.
“I’m walking this way. I suppose you are, too?” Ricky asked.
Kendall furrowed his brows, then nodded. “Yeah. That way.”
Ricky grinned and led the way. “I walk this way every day.” He glanced back at Kendall. “I’m sure you know that, right?”
“It’s the only way to Southridge,” Kendall said.
“Sure.” Ricky kicked a can down the sidewalk as they put the high school far behind them. The hustle and bustle of students quickly thinned out, leaving just the two of them walking down an industrial street. “I know.”
“What?” Kendall raised a brow.
“Well, the drill was, you were going to follow me until we got to 2nd Street, right?”
Kendall shook his head.
Ricky slowed to walk beside Kendall and draped his arm over his shoulder. “You have a pair of friends there that are planning to nab me.”
“Just a student,” Ricky smirked. “You could have mopped the floor with those bullies and not broken a sweat. I know.”
“You have me at a…”
Ricky laughed. “They never taught you how to react when your cover is blown. That’s hilarious.”
“You’re nuts.” Kendall scowled.
“I saw how you stood. You were just that far from taking both of them out. Except for that teacher.”
“I’m just a freshman. They’re like, seniors.”
“Juniors. Same difference. I bet you could take down an adult.”
“You’ve been reading too many comic strips.”
“Comic books. See, you don’t even know the difference there. Didn’t they train you on how to be a kid?”
“Sure, I was trained to know about comic books. Really? Do you listen to yourself?” Kendall said, exasperated.
“Delaying tactic. I love arguing with you, but you’re just biding your time, right?”
“Biding my time to get away from you.”
Ricky laughed, then pulled something out from behind Kendall’s ear. “You’re not deaf. This is military issue. Surprised you don’t have your implants yet.” He held the device up to his mouth and whistled loudly, then put it back on Kendall’s ear. “Bet that hurt them.”
“How do you know?” Kendall adjusted his transceiver, glaring at Ricky.
“You smell… well, like me,” Ricky said. “Plus, you can’t sense me, can you?”
“You know how this is going to end, but you’re still walking with me?”
“Aw, you don’t know better. It’s your mission.” Ricky waved his free hand in the air. “But we’re going to be great friends. Even if you try to kill me.”
“Ricky…” Kendall shrugged out from under Ricky’s arm. “If I try to kill you, you will die. It’s better that you just come with us.”
“You guys really are arrogant.” Ricky leaned close to Kendall. “We are the first children of Aliya. You guys… are not even complete yet.”
“This is how it’s going to play out. We’re not going to 2nd Street. I am going to bolt up that alley, jump onto that roof, and escape. You are going to give chase. Maybe we’ll tangle a bit. I would love to see you in action. But…” He shrugged. “I will be gone before your backup arrives.”
“Don’t do this.”
“How’s your illness? Got it managed? We could help, you know.”
“You know about that?”
“I hear it’s excruciating towards the end. Unless they cull you. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Ricky shook his head. “So sad. I kinda like you. But, we’ll still be great friends. Just you see.” Ricky stopped and looked at Kendall for a moment. “Bye.” Without a word, he turned and ran down an alley.
Kendall scowled and gave chase. “This isn’t going to end well.”
“Keep him on the move.” A voice in his ear.
“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Kendall said. He watched Ricky effortlessly jump up onto the commercial building roof at the end of the alley. “He’s going east.”
“Follow. We’re en route.”
“Sure. Follow him.” Kendall ran at an inside corner and performed a tic tac, using his momentum to carry him a couple of steps up either wall. Without breaking stride, he pulled on the roof ledge and flew over it, landing in a full sprint. “He’s going south now. I’m trying to head him off.”
“We have your position. Keep him moving and in your sight.”
“I think he’s leading me.”
“We know he is. Keep on him.”
Kendall jumped over ventilation equipment, hoping to close the gap. When he landed, he found himself clothes-lined. Ricky laughed while Kendall rolled back to his feet and returned the attack without hesitation.
Ricky twisted out of his attack and slammed an elbow into Kendall’s temple. Kendall absorbed the blow, spinning and elbowing Ricky’s ribs while kicking inside his leading knee. Ricky bent over the rib-strike and lifted his leg before his knee could be shattered and grappled Kendall. They both locked.
“I have to admit, you are fantastic!” Ricky said, grinning widely.
“You are just prolonging the inevitable, Ricky. We just want to talk.”
“Ha. I know they trained you to lie better than that.” Ricky broke the lock and delivered several jabs at Kendall’s face. Kendall dodged the jabs to the side, glancing back and realizing he would have plunged off the roof had he stepped back. He grabbed one of Ricky’s arms and yanked, forcing Ricky to step up on the ledge. He spun and swept his legs, but Ricky just did a backward flip, landing back on the ledge and pulling on Kendall in one smooth motion. “Time to go, friend.”
Without warning, Ricky pushed off, pulling Kendall with him. Kendall flipped and landed on the parking lot below with a quick tuck and roll, coming to his feet in time to see Ricky being pulled into the air by something unseen.
A police car screeched to a halt beside him and an officer exited the vehicle. “Did you just jump…”
Kendall interrupted him with an elbow to the chin while extracting his pistol. He aimed at Ricky but the officer’s partner screamed at him. Without hesitation, he put a bullet in the officer’s skull, then tried to re-acquire Ricky. But by then, the boy was gone.
A shocking sensation spread out over his chest, and Kendall glowered at the first officer, who had just fired a stun-gun at him. He yanked the barbs from his skin, kicking the officer in the chest as he did so. The officer sprawled and tried to crawl back into the car. Kendall yanked the door open hard enough to break the hinges and shoved the pistol into the back of the officer’s neck, screaming in fury.
The substitute teacher ran up to him. Kendall swung the pistol at him, but suddenly a hand yanked it out of his, while another hand grabbed his neck and threw him bodily to the ground. “Stand down!”
Kendall tried to twist out from the ironlike grip. Blind fury took over, but even then, he was not able to resist the hands that restrained him.
“Remember your flaw!”
Kendall blinked, suddenly himself again. He glanced under the car at lifeless eyes that were looking back at him. “I just killed him.”
“Yes. And nearly killed the other. Dead police officers are a real headache to us.”
“I know.” Kendall felt the hands release him, and he sat up. Apparently, the man who subdued him was no substitute teacher. “I don’t know you.”
“Washington branch. Laurence. And your condition appears to be progressing.”
“The treatment failed.” Kendall stood up, facing Laurence. “I’ve heard of you. You went rogue.”
“I was on mission. You deviated from the mission.” Laurence said, looking at the officers. A van pulled up and a pair of women exited the vehicle. They did not look pleased.
“Roxanne, do you have the mindwipe? This man needs to lose a day.” Laurence pointed at the injured officer.
“He will be dealt with,” Roxanne said, not taking her eyes off Kendall. Kendall looked down.
“He has head injuries.” Laurence replaced the spent bullet in the pistol and returned it to the officer’s holster. “Should make a gang ambush more plausible.”
“We already have someone on that,” the other woman said. “Kendall, that was it. There is no more we can do for you.”
“I understand.” Kendall nodded, glum. “How long do I have?”
“The sooner we do this, the better.”
Kendall nodded again. He glanced at Laurence. “You were culled. But you survived.”
“My culling was a ruse,” Laurence said sadly. “Yours… is not. Sorry, kid.”
He ushered Kendall into the van. Kendall scooted to the back seat, with Laurence sitting next to him. As they pulled away, Kendall looked out the rear window at the police officer he had shot. It was a clean shot to the head. An instant kill.
Except, as they pulled away, Kendall saw the officer sit up, then stand up and brush himself off. He stood with his hands on his hips, grinning at them.
“Laurence. That cop isn’t dead.”
Laurence looked back, then banged on the ceiling to get the driver’s attention. “Hit the gas! Get us out of here, now!