Chapter 3 (Taken)
Rio dug her crafted claws into the side of the brick house and pulled herself up. Retracting the claws on her left hand, she reached up and extended her claws to pull herself up. Doing the same with her right hand, she climbed up the side of Prime Minister Bea’s house, Leo following.
Thunder rattled the window next to her and nearly made her jump out of her skin.
Her grip loosened, and her muscles tensed to keep her in place.
A series of lightning strikes followed the thunder, illuminating the night sky before a deafening cacophony of thunder shook her thoughts. Moisture hung in the air and spoke of rain. A chill wind brushed past her skin and tugged at her waterproof backpack.
“What are you doing?” Leo asked from below.
“S-s-scared.” Her entire body trembled.
“Don’t be. It’s just thunder.”
Leo’s hand rested on her calf. “Calm down, little sister. It’s okay. Just a loud noise. Nothing to worry you about.”
Her heart rate slowed, and her breathing steadied. “Thank you.”
A shout from below.
“They have guns!” Leo scaled up beside her and flipped through the window on the third floor.
“Shit.” Rio followed, springing to her feet inside a small bedroom.
Bunkbeds stuck to the left and right walls, all mattresses empty save for the bottom one of the left side. A guard in Anpanman pajamas snored as if sound asleep, and Leo loomed over him, power-forged dagger in hand.
Rio dashed forward and grabbed Leo by the wrist, stopping his dagger thrust centimeters from the guard’s heart. “No!”
The man started, and his eyes shot open. “Huh?”
“We can’t resort to killing,” Rio said, muscles straining to stop the dagger from plunging into the guard’s chest. “We’re not monsters. We’re different than the Picassos and Fat Asses.”
“Are we?” Leo’s voice spiked. “The longer I’m apart of this Pack, the less I believe we are.”
“We are. We are. The two of us.”
The tension pushing the dagger forward slacked, and Leo took a step back. “You’re right.”
The guard sat up.
Rio squared her feet and slammed her fist into his nose.
His eyes rolled into the back of his bed, and his body went stiff as an unpracticed dance move.
For good measure, she twisted her hips and elbowed the guard between the eyes. “Can you find a the staircase from this floor?”
Leo shook his head. “There won’t be an entrance to it on this floor.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Well, I guess I could find the wall where the entrance to the staircase should be.”
“Good. Lead on.”
A wheezy chuckle burst from Leo’s mouth. “You must be really frustrated.”
“Because you only take charge when you’re frustrated or really pissed off.”
Pissed off because I can’t get over my fear of thunder. “Ah, I guess you’re right.” Rio pointed to the door. “Anyway, lead the way.”
“Okay.” Leo cracked open the door and peered outside. “Clear.”
Behind him, she moved into the hallway on her tip toes. We need to get off this floor before the other guards get here.
Down the hallway. Through a pair of linked rooms. Up another corridor.
Leo made his way into a tiny pantry and pointed to the large shelf that covered the entire wall on the right. “This is it, but the wall is probably power-built.”
“One way to find out.” Extending her claws, she scratched at the wall.
Starks filled the narrow space, but no damage marred the wall. A rustic stink filled the air.
She gagged then retracted her claws. “This is why crafting sucks.”
“Says you.” Leo placed his hand against the wall and extended his claws. With his skill at crafting and his power-forged gauntlets to meld the cat spirit to, the claws pierced the power-built stone easily. A teeth-grinding screech bit into her ears, and he drug his hand towards the floor. “You only dislike it because you’re not good at it.”
Rio fhuned before drawing her power-forged daggers. “It’s useless when I have something like this. Besides, it’s better to utilize the power of the spirit rather than waste it on items.” She reversed her grip on both daggers and jammed them into the wall. As slow as her brother, she pulled them towards the floor, dicing the shelves with her cat claws any time they impeded her progress. She even cleared a few for Leo.
“This way,” Juri said from outside the pantry. “They must be in here.”
Shit. Out of time. Reaching out with her mind, Rio swallowed an ant.
Crunchy. Gooey. The residue of black pepper. Ants didn’t taste as bad as alley cats, but the slimy feeling their spirits left in her throat made her want to puke.
She socketed the ant in her second slot. The slot between her breasts that would affect powers in her chest and both arms. “Move.” She flared her second socket, and the inferno of pleasure stabbed needles of agony across every centimeter of her flesh. She wanted to howl as the fat toy poodle-sized ant grew into the size of a moving truck.
A timer appeared in her mind. Five.
As if the power-built wall were made of paper, she slashed threw it then sheathed her daggers.
The pantry door swung open, and six guards positioned themselves to shoot at Rio and Leo. The guards cocked their pistols.
Rio shoved her cat-crafted gauntlets into the stone wall and lifted it into the air.
The guards gasped.
She threw with all the power the ant gave her and hoped none of the guards would die from the weight of the wall. Thin cracks spiderwebbed across her cat-crafted gauntlets.
Screams. Snap! Crunch. Silence.
Focus! Tears filled her eyes. Grabbing Leo by the waist, she hoisted him onto her shoulder and burst trough the hole. She couldn’t think about what had just happened. She couldn’t … .
Those guards had to be alive. That wall wasn’t so heavy. It — No! Must focus on getting out of debt. That’s what’s important. But the guards … . They’re alive. Yep. They have to be.
Taking two steps at a time to avoid thoughts, she ascended with him in her grasp until her flared spirit dissipated then sat him down. “Let’s finish this and fly out of here.”
“Still frustrated.” Leo had the nerve to chuckle with a shit-eating grin decorating his face.
“You’re the boss, Nee-chan.”
She should knuckle his forehead. No. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of acknowledging his stupid joke of calling her the older twin. Older brothers shouldn’t act like that. They should be mature. Kind. Focused. She should focus. Focus.
On the sixth floor, a wide corridor led to a black-steel door. No windows. A tall ceiling. A crack ran along the walls at chest level and made a cross half way between the staircase and the black-steel door.
“Wonderful.” She stomped through the corridor and slammed her fist against the power-forged door. She screamed as pain danced up her arm and sang through her bones. The cracks in her right gauntlet expanded and energy leaked into the air around them. It wouldn’t last much longer, but without it, she would have broken every bone in her hand.
Like her daggers, the door was crafted with all three types of power rather than having any single power-user infuse building materials. It would be impossible to cut through it, and without an ant … .
“Get over here.” She waved at Leo. “Hurry up.”
Dashing across the room, Leo pulls up close to the door and begins running his fingers across the tiny keyhole in the door. “I can probably pick this lock.”
“Unlikely. Neither of us is any good at picking locks, and you are by far worse than me.”
“You’re just jealous that I can craft spirits better than you.”
A bit. “And what does that have to do with picking locks?” She reached out to his orbed necklace and ran her fingers across the still glowing orbs.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting us in.” As soon as her fingers touched the orb with an ant in it, she inhaled, swallowing her brother’s ant spirit into socket two.
“You weren’t going to use it anyway.” She flared her second socket, and a moan of pain and pleasure escaped her lips.
The timer set. Five.
“Start working on the wall.” Rio pointed to where the cracks came together to form a cross on her left before drawing her daggers. “We need to prepare an escape route.” She jammed her daggers into the frame around the door.
Leo extended his claws and began slicing chunks out of the wall.
She scored power-built stone around the door and used her daggers to pry the black-steel free.
Gripping the door tight, she jerked it out of the wall and hurled it at the small hole Leo had created.
He yelped as the door ripped through the wall and fell into the garden below. Night air filled the corridor, and the neon lights of a seven-eleven reached the hole.
So, this side wasn’t facing the park. Too bad.
She turned to find several guards standing inside the room, guarding a platform.
Computers lined the walls, but the platform drew her attention. Inside a glass case atop the platform sat the flash drive. It had to be the one they needed.
“Not good,” she said, falling into her standard one-two dance pose. “We have some fools to get past.”
Leo gulped. “And hold some off.”
“What are you talking about?” She peered over her shoulder.
Guards strutted up the stairs and filed out into the corridor. The guards in the computer room, luckily, holstered their guns and drew long black batons.
Maybe they didn’t want to risk hitting their friends. Or they were bad shots.
“Shall we work on our routine?” Rio swallowed a cat into her fifth socket, ignoring the taste as her speed and reflexes increased.
“Sure.” Leo swaggered forward, arms dangling in front of him as he socketed a cat into his fifth socket.
She clapped her hands to the left then right, swaying her hips as she followed him forward.
He sprang forward and extended his claws to slash through a guard’s fingers then kicked the man in his gut. The guard doubled over and went still.
“Aim for their weapons.” She twirled around him, extending her claws in mid-rotation and slicing a pair of clubs into shreds.
The two weaponless guards stumbled backwards, and Leo’s foot swung wide, catching both on their chins and dropping them. The other guards yelled before charging them as a group. Clattering footsteps said the guards in the computer room were also moving forward.
She fell into the dance, moving from one guard to the next. But just as their numbers seemed to be running thin, more began clambering up the stairs. Her heart two-stepped on fast forward, and her breathing became frantic.
“Get the flash drive.” Leo elbowed a short woman in the neck, and she fell backwards clutching her throat.
“Okay, but try not to hurt them more than necessary.” She spun, leg extending to take out a pair of guards behind her with a swift kick to their ribcages.
“Says the woman who crushed six people with a stone wall.”
“They could still be alive.” Rio sidestepped a pair of guards and jabbed another in the nose. Dropping back into the crab dance, she kicked a guard in the knee.
Snap! The guard screamed as his leg bent the wrong way at the knee, and he toppled over. The other guards in the room froze for a long moment and allowed Leo to make short work of most of them.
She rolled backwards onto her feet as a massive guard stomped the floor where she had been. Knives of exhaustion stabbed at her ribs, and the edges of the man’s form became fuzzy. No choice but to move things along.
The man barreled forward, a club in each hand.
Time to use one of her two special dance moves: the quick step. Her feet shuffled forward with the cat’s grace and speed. The quick exchange of lead leg to back leg turned up to down and down to up. Her body flipped and fell towards the ceiling. Her stomach turned at the jarring speed of the movement, but using the air above her like a solid dance floor, she planted her toes and did her best imitation of a pirouette. She turned into a tornado and struck the hulking man’s face and neck several times.
He slumped to the floor, drool rolling down his chin.
As the momentum of her quick step died, the ground reasserted itself, and she reached out to strike a guard no older than she was. Just out of reach.
The young guard cowered away from her.
If she extended a claw, she could end him. No. She couldn’t do that. Closing her fist, she folded herself into a ball and crashed into the young guard.
She rolled to her feet.
He didn’t move to stand or go after her.
Willing to let him play dead, she rushed towards the flash drive and stuffed it into her bad. Once in her possession, she turned to the now silent corridor.
Leo uppercut the last guard, dropping them, and the guard who had been playing pointed his gun at Leo’s back.
Her eyes bulged. No. No! NO! NOOOO! She sprinted forward, but each step felt like waddling through pudding.
Bang! Smoke rose from the gun barrel. Blood and gore sprayed the floor in front of Leo as her brother fell.