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Published by Janeil Dickens

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Published by: Janeil Dickens on Sep 21, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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the weight of his gundown to the very last ounce. Heknew its model. Its exact structure.Its signature sound as he fired off its rounds.He knew that he knew this, and usually it would calm him down. Make him confident.But fear was clouding everything now. He
couldn’t tell the difference between the sp
i-dery cobwebs ruining his den to the sweat
dribbling down his temples. He couldn’t think 
straight.Fighting had never been his forte. He
couldn’t aim. He couldn’t kill.
He was uselesson the field. Any kind of combat had alwaysbeen
the others’ shtick; never his.
 He fought in his own way. With technolo-gy. With technology and intelligence, he keptthem all safe.But perhaps not for much longer.He might die soon.Hyler ran his fingers over his forehead,brushing aside a few cowlicks that had falleninto his eyes. He was trying
and failing mis-erably 
to keep his breathing even and hisdark blue eyes to his computer monitor. He was shaking. The temperature in the room was unbearably hot, and he was impossibly aware of the exact force his heartbeat was ex-erting.Emaciated hands struck the outside of hisstronghold. Dark, writhing figures rubbedagainst the beams and cement and glass keep-ing them away. Long, unkempt hair tore itself from the scalps of the monsters, poisoningthe soil underneath their clawed feet. Clearred eyes, large and forlorn, watered and wa- vered endlessly. Their clothing
sad, sadremnants of their humanity 
hung loosely from their impossibly thin frames and weresometimes abandoned altogether.Stenchies
named because of their over- whelmingly rotted odor
 were pitiful. They  were malevolent. And they smelled fear.These creatures were once human. Some were once animals. Now, they were all de-mons. Insane, sick, impossibly wretched de-mons.There was a trapdoor here. If Hyler could
salvage the teams’ profiles, documents, sign
Hyler is almost killed, and Jei isnice for a change.
tures and scopes, he would be able to escapethrough the steel network of tunnels criss-crossing their way underneath the city andnot lose a single bit of important data.But right now the team was in combat. If he disconnected the server, that would meandisconnecting all contact between them andthe mainframe. If someone was seriously hurt,he would not know. They would be on theirown. There would be no way to send backup,and they would hardly have a way to navigateback home.They were only kids.But without him, what were they going todo?
It wasn’t guaranteed the Stenchies
 wouldbreak in and, even then, they were hopelessly stupid. It might not be so difficult for any member of the team, even the Little Ones, tooverpower them, but Hyler was a differentstory altogether.He had no combat experience. He only knew computers. The group had found him
taking refuge in one of Google’s abandonedoffices and offered him a job. He’d been wor
k-ing here ever since, far enough away from thecompound so he can reach the signals beingprojected from other parts of the country.He was too vital to die.
But he didn’t have much longer to make
such a critical decision. Without warning, ablast of fire incinerated the Stenchies attack-ing his stronghold. Hyler saw through theglass the flash of red and the already acridstench of the monsters intensified. He
retched, but he only tasted acid; he hadn’t
had a bite to eat in ages.
The familiar voice made him breathe a sighof relief. Hyler clambered away from hismakeshift office at the corner of the room,and made his way over to the barred up win-dows situated about two meters above thefloor. A young man, probably eighteen or nine-teen, crouched beside the window, looking in.Kené
face was slick with sweat. Shoulder-length locks of red hair fell to his shoulders,and he had a look on his face that only meanthe was extremely disgusted, proud, and
“Storm led them right
to you
!” he accused.
 Hyler briefly sought out Storm, immediate-ly wanting to diffuse the inevitable fight that would break out between the two, but Kené was blocking much of his view.
“Come on,” the redhead griped. “We have asituation up here.”
rolled his eyes. “Just a minute.”
 The man went over to the ladder he keptpropped on the other side of the room andbraced it against another trapdoor thatopened the ceiling of the stronghold
Stenchies did not pull. When he opened thedoor, the body of a burned Stenchie rolledaway, and the smell finally hit him full-force. A quartet of young men rushed to his base.Kené was covered in blood. Seph and oneother boy, injured, were shoulder-to-shoulder. Nathan had gone over to the side of the building and had started to vomit.The youngest boys shimmied down Hyler
 ladder. Seph and Kené went in at a more plac-
id rate
Seph because, at twenty-five, he wasfar older and more patient than the hood-lums, and Kené because he seemed to be hell-
bent on letting the world know he wasn’t a
happy camper.Hyler could have fainted with relief. He de-scended back down into the base, being sureto secure the door above him.
Nathan leaned against the wall. “Oh God.I’m never going to get used to that smell.” His
dirty blonde hair, cut close to the scalp, wascaked with mud. He shakily got to his feet,and rested his concerned brown eyes on a fig-ure on the other side of the room. A boy with dark hair and intense blueeyes
the one they called
 was al-most unconscious. He was losing blood. Andfast. Seph seemed to have used his signature
scarf to bound the boy’s leg wound, but it was
clear Storm still needed medical attention.Kené still had no problem ranting and rav-
ing about Storm’s poor tactical sk 
ills despite
the kid’s ineptitude
, however.
the strongholds you could have ranoff to, you chose
this guy’s
? He’s a mechanic! You’re
. You
the Stenchies right to
the most vulnerable person of our sect!”
 Hyler almost rounded on Kené, offended,but it was true that he
the most vulnera-ble. His stronghold was practically a bunga-low, a base point for all the machinery he op-erated. Moving to a larger compound wouldbe too obvious. Risky.Seph shot Kené a look that was so cold thatit shut the redhead up. He then went downthe other trapdoor, into the metallic glow that was the tunnel that led to the main base.hen Storm opened his eyes, heknew he was home. The smell of food and antiseptic greeted hisnose. He was unbearably cold, despite thethick blanket dredged up halfway over hisface and the warm layers of fabric over hisbody. When his eyes focused and everything wasnot so blurry anymore, Storm saw Jei.
“Rise n’ shine,”
the younger boy said dryly.
“And stuff your face. We got you some food.”
 Jei’s long
, gray hair was pulled high into hisusual topknot. A few strands fell into his face.His pale green eyes were still as cold as usual. Jei was younger than Storm by exactly three years, but often Storm found himself completely forgetting that the kid was only thirteen years old. Jei, like him, was a mutant too, just not inthe way the Stenchies were. The Stenchies were that way because of the Virus. Storm,Kené, Jei, and all the others were the way they  were because of the Vaccine.
“How long was I out?” said Storm.
“Two days,” Jei replied. He had pulled out a
magazine and was thumbing through thepages. A few strands of his hair stuck to hisface, and then Storm realized he was sweat-ing.
“How hot is it in here?” he asked.
  Jei glared at the magazine
 You are not inthe condition to be asking so many ques-tions.

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