Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Tale of Jack Martin - Part 4

Part 3:

Jack awoke in a daze upon what appeared to be a flimsy looking cot; simple canvas stretched between two aluminum tubes.

The room he was in was large, to say the least. His cot, along with several others, lined its edges, while the majority of the space was devoted to a large concrete floor, bare of anything besides certain markers denoting some arcane instructions that Jack could not decipher.

He noticed on the far end of the room that there was a woman staring at him. Before he could get out of bed and investigate, a voice reverberated throughout his skull.

There is no need for such effort, child. Allow me.

Jack watched as the women raised her right palm, closing her eyes, seeming to focus in on him. With a start, he noticed that he was rising from his cot, floating in mid-air.

How is she doing that?

Before he could ask himself anymore questions, her palm turned into a fist, and Jack zoomed towards her, flying through the air at breakneck speed. He feared he was going to slam face first into this strange woman, but, as he should have expected, he froze about half a foot away from her face. Now he just hovered there, feet able to reach the floor if he stretched. She stared at him, giving him a once over.

"Interesting. You will be very...interesting."  

Her hand relaxed. Jack fell to the floor with an audible thud. Still sore from the beating he took from Dean at the museum and in the van, the impact did nothing to improve his demeanor.

Gathering himself, he examined the woman. She was nearly his height, probably in her late thirties, though with streaks of prominent gray already appearing in her hair.  She wore a relatively tight fitting type of black fabric that covered her head to toe, adorned with belts and switches and pockets that made her appear to Jack as some sort of glorified Navy Seal. Combat boots protected her feet, and upon her face lay a pair of stylish looking goggles, the lenses of which appeared to glow a slight cyan color.

"Who are you. Tell me now. I deserve answers! You killed my boss, a deranged maniac dragged me here to see another psychopath, and now I wake up to...this?!"

Jack flapped his arms around in an exasperated manner, while the women stood there, amused.

"I can answer your questions, child. All you had to do was ask. First, allow me to introduce myself. I am your trainer. You may call me Locke. What is it you wish to know?"

A bemused expression colored Locke's face. She was enjoying the exchange, or, at the very least, liked toying with trainees.

"Why did you kill Dan? Dean implied he was protecting me, but from what? What is this place? What are these powers? Who is the leader? Tell me everything!"

Locke sighed. She outstretched her hand, and, with what appeared to Jack to be little effort, extruded two concrete chairs from the floor. She sat.

"You'll have to forgive me. Years of inane questions have made this process...tiring. You should take a seat as well."

Jack got the feeling that that wasn't a request as much as it was an order, and so took his place in the chair facing his new instructor.

"First off: the big picture. There is a struggle occurring on a global scale, one you would have been completely unaware of in your former life. There are humans, like you and I, and then there are demons. Not the biblical kind, mind you, but something far more horrific. We gave them that name as it seemed to fit based on their appearance, and what we know of their demeanor. For all we know, they could be aliens, or multidimensional beings of some sort. Either way, the fact of the matter is that they exist, and they wish to destroy humanity."

Seeing that Jack had no reply, instead sitting on his chair, mouth agape, Locke continued.

"Your friend, Dan, was one of these demons, albeit of the lesser variety. Dean, being one of our stronger members, was able to make short work of him. However, he could have torn you, other unprepared humans, and the weaker among our order to pieces given the chance. He was aware of your latent abilities, and was likely instructed to monitor you. As you now see, your job fulfilled his objectives nicely. We rescued you from certain death. Had the demons been aware of your potential, they would have killed you outright."

Jack scanned the ground, deep in thought. After analyzing the grain of the concrete beneath his feet for several seconds, he looked up at Locke, his face troubled.

"How did you know about me then? If the demons were unaware of the potential you apparently covet, how could you know?"

Just saying the word "demon" was difficult for Jack, who at this point was still having a hard time believing that any of this was true.

Locke smiled.

"We have certain tools at our disposal. Well, a tool, to be exact. The man you met in the central building, our leader, he found you. His powers are incredibly unique. Though I might be able to best him in terms of sheer offensive ability, he can influence minds and search for new recruits on a global scale. It was only a matter of time before he found you, searching as he does, day and night. To him, you must have appeared as a brightly lit beacon in a sea of darkness. Now that you are before me, I too can see a glimpse of the potential he spoke of. If you take your training seriously, you may even match our leader, or surpass him in some ways."

Jack grasped his knees, rubbing his palms against them to wipe off excess sweat. Locke's information was troubling to him.

"You all keep raving about this potential, everyone from that jerk Dean to your leader to you. But I don't understand. Am I the key to defeating these demons?"

His trainer chuckled, the gray streaks in her hair bouncing around as she shuffled on her chair.

"No one person is enough to tip the balance of this struggle. Like I said, Dan could have killed you, and he's one of the weakest varieties of demon we've encountered. Stronger demons would have killed both you and Dean in an instant. Luckily, we outnumber them. Only through training, coordination, and teamwork have we managed to keep the demons at bay, away from the eyes and ears of most humans. So to answer your question, no. You are not the key. However, if you properly develop your powers, we will be better off than we were before."

That still doesn't explain why they had to send an ass like Dean to "rescue" me...

"I am surprised you broadcast your thoughts so freely, especially in a place like this. We will work on that, and in time, perhaps you will even improve."

Jack rolled his eyes, shaking his head and placing his face neatly within the palm of his hand.

"Dean was sent because he was the closest asset we had to your location, and the only one qualified to handle a demon in single combat. He's a bit rough around the edges, but he's a good soldier. I promise that I'll try to make up for what he did to you, as long as you commit to the training process wholeheartedly."

Jack's gaze drifted aimlessly from Locke, to the cots lining the room, to the ceiling hundreds of feet in the air. Finally, he got his wits about him and looked his instructor in the eye.

"Fine...I guess I have no choice."

Locke crossed her arms.

"There is always a choice. We shall begin immediately. Dean told me you used a rudimentary form of mental attack on him whilst traveling to our base. Our first lesson will attempt to hone what you used on him, with the goal of-"

Locke was cut off by the sound of blaring alarms emitting from, as far as Jack could tell, every direction. Emergency lights began flashing on the walls, giving the concrete a blood red appearance.

Locke looked confused.

"These types of alerts can only be initiated by our leader. We must investigate at once, take my hand."

Jack grabbed on, and in an instant, the pair was outside, near the gate where Dean had driven him into the compound earlier. The base buzzed with activity. Everywhere Jack looked, he saw his new comrades running about, teleporting, barking orders. He was wondering what all the commotion was for, when he heard it. A sound louder than any he had heard before. Almost instantly, the noise caused him to go partially deaf, his reality distorted by the eerie ringing noise emanating from his ears.

He looked at Locke, who was looking in amazement at the gate. Jack turned to look, immediately wishing he hadn't. An imposing tank burst through the splintered barrier. It looked larger than any Jack had seen before, with dual cannons and multiple machine gun emplacements jutting out from its sides. Hundreds of soldiers, American flags patched to their shoulders, poured into the compound behind the metal monstrosity.

Locke staggered backwards. Jack couldn't hear the words she muttered, but with some intuition and rudimentary lip reading skills, he deduced that she was saying "this can't be," over and over again.

Those in the compound attempted to fight back, using their powers against the soldiers, despite the fact that they were outnumbered nearly twenty to one. Most quickly succumbed to a barrage of lead. Those who possessed stronger powers could deal with the soldiers easily, but were taken down by the concentrated fire of the heavy guns on the tank, which seemed to focus on the most dangerous targets.

Jack and Locke were far enough away to not be in immediate danger, though it was only a matter of minutes before their first line of defense collapsed and the enemy would be upon them.

Before Jack could analyze the situation further, Locke abruptly grabbed his shoulder, teleporting them away from the main conflict, back to the central structure he had visited earlier with Dean. There was activity everywhere, with people rushing in and out of the citadel, others teleporting here there and anywhere. Jack's hearing was just now beginning to return, though it was still mostly composed of ringing.  Down the steps of the obelisk shaped building strode the leader, with Dean following close behind. He walked briskly to Locke, who pointed at her ears as though her's had been damaged by the tank's guns just as much as Jack's.

The leader snapped his fingers. Their hearing returned. He spoke to them in a measured, matter-of-fact manner that was audible even over the din of gunfire coming from the distant battle. 

"I cannot turn the tide of this battle. A demon resides among their forces, though I cannot pinpoint his location. Only the strongest of their kind can hide themselves from me. We must defeat him if we are to escape. He is disrupting my ability to teleport us out of the base."

Locke was right, not even our "leader" can stand up to a demon's powers...

He looked at Jack, his face and clothes too neat and put-together given the situation, a half-grin on his face.

"I didn't say that, now did I? I said I couldn't locate the demon. You will assist me in that."

The leader looked at Locke and Dean, then once more at Jack. He raised his hands, much as he did earlier, and clapped. The four of them appeared behind a sturdy looking barricade, near the epicenter of the ongoing battle. About a hundred feet in front of them was the tank, now relatively damaged by continuous psychic assaults. Though slowed down, its guns retained their previous pace, spitting out a continuous stream of rapid death. The soldiers accompanying it had fanned out, taking positions behind various forms of cover. For the moment, the two sides were at a stalemate.

Locke sighed, glancing at her superior.

"They should not be putting up this well of a fight. Could the demon be augmenting their abilities?"

The leader considered her assessment for a moment, then replied.

"Quite possible." He then outstretched his hand and closed his eyes, appearing to be concentrating intently.

"I still cannot break through the haze this demon has projected over the battlefield. We must work in tandem. Dean, Locke, join me. Jack, you may try as well, if you can manage it."

That sounded to Jack more like a taunt, than an innocent plea for assistance. He watched as Locke and Dean closed their eyes, brows furrowing. Jack closed his and tried to tap into the power he had used in the van. With a bit of effort, he locked in on the energy held within his mind, and released it by imagining water rushing forth from a broken damn. He was almost surprised when it worked.

Scanning the battlefield with his mind, Jack was astounded at the clarity of what he could see around him. Indeed, he could see Locke, Dean, and the leader as easily as he could with his eyes, the difference being that they were glowing with some sort of energy, a stream of it projecting from their hands towards the conflict. Jack directed his mental energy towards theirs, all four melding into something far more powerful than they had been individually. Eyes still closed, Jack witnessed the beams break through the purplish haze obstructing his view of the enemy soldiers. With the fog of war eliminated, he could analyze the troops. They glowed much like his compatriots, though far less intensely, probably denoting the fact that they did not have any powers of their own.

Near the rear of the battlefield, Jack honed in on one particular figure that glowed a blazing green color, the aura nearly blinding his mental vision. He opened his eyes, noticing that the other three were looking at him.

"Did...did you guys see that? It bright." Jack's head started to pound, blood dripping from his nose. The mental exertion took a toll on him.

"We all saw it. It's a demon, a powerful one at that. I have never seen one that burned with such intensity in person," stated Locke.

The leader, seemingly lost in thought, ignored Locke's comment.

"But what is he doing accompanying a cohort of American soldiers? We must question him."

Jack winced in pain as a wave of psychic energy washed over him, throwing him back several feet. Locke and Dean were tossed aside as well, with only the leader left standing, struggling to do so. Jack closed his eyes, surveying his surroundings. The barrier protecting them had been ripped away by the force that threw him back.

In an instant, the demon with the green aura blinked out of existence, reappearing moments later directly in front of the leader.

The glow blinded him at this close range, forcing him to use his eyes to analyze its appearance. It appeared mostly humanoid, with the exception of sharp fangs protruding from his mouth, and two deadly looking horns jutting from the crown of his skull. Additionally, his eyes burned with the same sickly green that colored his aura. He wore what appeared to be the uniform of an officer in the United States military.

"So, you are the four who managed to disrupt my projection?"

His voice was inhuman, sounding quite deep and distorted.

"I am impressed. Almost disappointed to destroy such interesting human specimens. Oh well."

He chuckled, a strange guttural rumble accompanying his maniacal laughter. Whilst cackling, he raised his hand, preparing to launch whatever powers he had at Jack and his three comrades.

Jack braced himself.

Link to Part 5:

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.