In the expansive ‘white room’ of the Secret Earth Services Cade Biggs used his muscular and wide frame to tackle one of the remaining robots to the floor.
“I don’t fight as pretty as the other guy,” he said and pinned the uniformed target down. His hand pressed against various chest mounted medals the robot wore.
“Watch the other hand Cade!” Jack shouted while Cade turned.
Before he could glance back down a swiping hand scratched out. It pulled on his bearded face and gripped onto hair. Streaks of red began to emerge.
“Dirty bastard!” He gripped the robot by the scruff and angrily heaved the robot up onto two feet.
“Screw this. Hey Thorn, you deal with this!” Cade swung and released his grip. The robot spun and careened towards Jack with a high boot at the ready.
After an immediate spark the robot clanged to the floor and all the commotion from before reached a pinnacle of calm silence. There lay a pile of wrecked robots with various stiff limbs stuck out in several directions. Uniforms had been ripped and ruffled.
Both Jack and Cade were out of breath when they realized victory was theirs;
“I used to play rugby and I’ve hung in with some big and also depraved fellas. Back in the day I bounced around some tough orphanages in downtown Jo-burg’, but you’ve gotta be the toughest, fight enjoying son of a bitch I have ever seen,” Cade said while wiping the blood from his face.
A drop of sweat dripped down Jack’s cheek and he dabbed it away.
“Thanks, most people, just get in the way, in a situation like this. You did good man,” Jack said.
“My guess is you passed fella…”
They watched a doorway appear and out of darkness came a troop of what looked like riot police.
“Step away from the robots!” One of them barked through the audio output of what looked like fully sealed armoured bio suits. Their visors were dark and Jack could only see his reflection back.
“Mercenaries,” he said.
“I don’t think those robots pose any harm son,” Cade said while a large transparent shield was held towards him.
“Get back until we can make the area safe! Can we get a medic to that man? He’s bleeding?” Another shouted, the group formed around most of the downed robots.
“It’s just a scratch I’m all good,” Cade insisted.
Next appeared Axel Hendricks rushing through the door way with Jermey Jones casually trailing behind.
“I can only apologise for the situation that this escalated into. This was never the plan…”
“Nonsense Hendricks, they both acted according to the situation. Now Commander Biggs I must thank you very much for participating and helping us realize the talent we have here with Thorn,” Jones said and offered a hand to Cade.
“All part of the greater plan Sarge.” He gripped the taller Jones’ hand and then faced Jack.
“Thorn, this was, interesting. I’m hoping we can collaborate again someday in the future,” he said and offered his hand to shake.
“What, you’re going? Won’t Cade be involved in this?” Jack asked and gripped hands with his make shift ally.
“I’m afraid not, you see Commander Biggs is a businessman as well as someone who’s interests lie with relaunching the World Force. I’m sure we will see more of him in the future. Come Thorn, there is much to talk about,” Jones said.
Jack watched Cade get escorted away by a medic as Jones and Hendricks subtly moved him into the open expanse of the white room.
“This was never meant to go this way Thorn. We did plant those robots to make this look like a competitive environment. They were just never supposed to turn against you and Commander Biggs,” Jones explained. Jack walked between him and Hendricks.
“So it was just a work? That’s some effort to protect my one and only ego,” Jack said.
“I’m guessing it’s still intact like the rest of you. We’ll have to let our robot supplier know of the faulty units they provided,” Hendricks said. He looked to Jones who was pulling a half smile.
“We believe, especially after that display you are the one to take the lead in modern robot crime fighting,” Jones said, he moved in closer to Thorn and faced him.
“Essentially without you knowing, this is your destiny. I mentioned before that your parents were linked with the World force and what happened to them is all linked to this. Your father Clark has kept much of the past under wraps for now and rightly so. If you are to embark on this journey you will find out what happened and you may not like it.”
Jones looked Jack square in the eyes, two eyes that were curious and ready.
“I want this. I want to know the truth,” Jack said.
“There are some instances of the past that are quite dark Thorn. Some of it still haunts us today,” Hendricks said whilst he held out one gloved hand.
Jones then gripped Jack’s shoulder;
“We will discuss the history of all this soon. Seeing as the war on X43 will be over probably sooner rather than later I would like to officially offer you the job as our Maverick-Captain of the relaunched world force.”
“Consider the offer accepted Sarge. When do we start?”
“You see, I am trying to put together a team of people much like yourself. They needn’t be as talented in combat as you but they have to be determined. For now I envision the war on X43 to be your priority. I expect to see you afterwards ready for this and perhaps with a few others who have experienced what you have.”
“I can think of a few people who would be interested. There may even be more after the war.”
And like that Jack Thorn went his own way, out of the mysterious world of the Secret Earth Services and towards the muddy murky planet of X43. His destiny stood on the not so far away horizon, first he would have to face war.
* * *
Anne-Marie revelled in wearing her waitress uniform; that being a white dress with red pinstripes and a waist high apron. For the first time she had fixed her hair into something more than just a hospital mop and even wore a name badge which she kept polished.
“Rouge. That’s a pretty name for these parts. French aint’ it?” The large bearded trucker man asked as she poured him another coffee. He sat in one of the many window adjacent booths that looked out onto the desert highway.
“Yes sir, French like my mother. What will it be?” She asked with smile.
It had only taken a few days to make Denny’s road stop diner her home. In fact she was the first smiling waitress they had seen come in since, well a while. The sole owner, a chain-smoking wrinkled woman by the name of Denise Appleby or ‘old lady Denny’ is what most of the regulars called her. She welcomed Rouge and the clan she came in with. Both F.G and the Freak made themselves useful in the kitchen where as the Warrior stayed out of the way and mostly hidden.
“I’ll go for the double stack burger and some fries honey,” the trucker said as Rouge swiped her finger on a clear credit card sized device.
“Coming right up,” she said and moved to the next booth with her coffee jug.
Instinctively she had given up asking if they wanted coffee, it was a truck stop so everybody normally did. She began to pour for the next gentlemen who sat with the sun shining in on him.
“What can I get for you?” she asked without looking at him.
“What range of pies do you serve dear?” He asked and leaned forward out of the sun. Two shaded lenses glanced up to her.
She recognised the voice but spoke anyway,
“We have blueberry today sir.”
His veiny cold hand grabbed hers with a strong grip. Then he removed the shades and two beady eyes looked into hers.
“You remember me don’t you, Anne-Marie?”
“Doctor Leecher,” she said under her breath and wobbled on her feet for a moment.
“I’ll take that. We don’t usually let patients handle hot liquids,” Leecher crooned and grabbed the coffee jug. He slid it away and pulled her in close.
“Now what have you got to say? Not one for words without that robotic friend of yours, are you?” He asked with a demented type of stare.
“I did some research about him and I dug into some old Police Force records. He’s known to them in the state of New York. They would very much like to talk with him…”
“No please Doctor, just take me,” Rouge said trying to contain herself.
“Oh I will be, seeing as he’s not around at the moment. I did come prepared,” Leecher said and gripped her chin with a cold hand. He forced her head towards the front door.
“You see the two rather smart chaps up front. They are with me, both robots and both quite strong. You’ll come with me and there will be no trouble. Then I won’t inform anybody about that ‘friend’ of yours. Let’s move ‘Rouge’.”
There was nothing she could do. The nice trucker man one booth over was back facing and everyone else seemed none the wiser. She bowed her head in shame and began to walk with the ever so close Doctor Leecher.
“No funny business. I am prepared,” he said and revealed a syringe to be sitting in his jacket pocket.
They moved towards the doors and came past the front counter. Old lady Denny frowned to see her star waitress leave with this older gentleman.
“Rouge honey, everything okay?” She asked.
“I’m sorry Mrs Appleby I have to go…”
“Don’t talk, just move,” Leecher said pushing her forward hastily.
“Hey what’s going on?” The old lady asked and stood from her fur lined stool.
The two taller suited gentlemen robots nodded to the doctor and then rose from their booth. They went outside into the blistering desert sun whilst holding the doors.
“Hey F.G, get out here!” Old lady Denny shouted.
Rouge stepped out into what felt like the gallows.
“That’s a good girl. No trouble. Either way that friend of yours will find a sorry end,” the doctor said and chuckled.
For some reason that creepy sinister laugh had struck a nerve. Just when a tear was about to fall from Rouge’s eye, she began to feel something she had never felt. Maybe the sedative drugs in her system had previously masked a furious anger which began to flow from her clenched fists. She started to tremble, not in fear but in pure rage. This life she had started was good, those robots in the kitchen were her friends and waiting by the trailers behind the diner was her guardian. He watched on and stood nearly ready to run in when it happened.
“Just so you know Doctor ‘creepazoid’, I’m friends with not only a Warrior but two robots also. Right now I don’t need them,” she said and drove an elbow into the soft stomach of Leecher. He yelped in pain and fell.
The two robot suits looked on in amazement before stepping forward. They charged clumsily as Rouge stood ready with a defensive grace. Her fist pulled in tight like she had been taught the next series of moves with precision.
In a flash she had swung her ankle up and high. It collided into the first heavy which stumbled to her. The waitress dress she wore ripped at the thigh and she drove her knee up whilst gripping her first target’s hair. The robot’s face sparked with an impressive explosion of black liquid. Rouge wasn’t done, from this point she would never be done.
The second robot cautiously moved in and tried to swipe from a distance. After a third attempt Rouge had gripped his hand and twisted the arm into an ungodly angle. There came a robotic crunch and she released her grip. Then came the final move and lunging kick of her heel into the chin of the robot. The bright spark and crash to the floor signalled for this brief onslaught to be finished.
“I’m never normally a violent person,” she said doing her best to neaten the now ripped dress she wore.
Her eyes looked down into the ever so fearful Leecher.
“I want you to leave Leecher. Now!”
“Okay okay I will. Please don’t hurt me anymore,” Leecher pleaded.
“Well go then!”
The doctor scrambled to his feet and past the two wrecked robots he had hired. Away he went and to a large dark car.
From the doors burst F.G with the Freak. They were both armed with a pot and large frying pan.
“We will have no trouble on the premises,” the Freak said then noticing the obvious wreckage on the floor.
“Rouge are you hurt?” F.G asked as old lady Denny appeared.
“Rouge dear, your uniform honey. People are looking,” she said and rushed to her. She took off her nicotine smelling shawl and wrapped it around her.
“Can you deal with this mess guys?” she added and began to lead Rouge away. They moved around the side of the diner.
“I’m so sorry Ms Appleby I don’t know what came over me…”
“Nonsense dear, you were defending yourself. Now come on. I’ll just tell the customers that guy was being a jerk. They’ll be none the wiser.” She looked up in the shadows. The dark figure that was the Warrior appeared.
“This one can really defend herself. I’ll get you a fresh uniform, but for now take the afternoon off,” Denny said, and she headed back to the diner.
“I, I don’t know what happened…” Rouge looked at her two scratched hands which were shaking. She whimpered as tears began to fall down her pale face.
“It’s alright. I am here,” the Warrior said. He gently wrapped two huge robotic arms around her.
“You needn’t cry my dear. You defended yourself well. Even if you couldn’t, we are with trustworthy people and robots here,” he added.
“It’s just what he said about you and being wanted in New York…”
“Now now Rouge, I am going nowhere. I will have to face New York again one day but it will be with you. I watched you defend yourself, the way you moved. Nobody taught you how to do that, you did that yourself, with instinct, from within. I’ve never seen a man run away so fast,” the Warrior said as he wiped her tears away. She smiled at the thought.
“Yeah he looked pretty spooked. I had been waiting to do that for a while.”
“Yes Rouge, but you also must appreciate your instinct makes you who you are. There is a reason why I am your guardian…”
“Because my uncle couldn’t look after me and there were robots who wanted me dead, yeah you’ve told me the story a thousand times,” Rouge said sounding like her teenage self.
“No Rouge that is only a portion of the story. Those doctors say you are special because you are. You just proved that.”
“I didn’t have any control I just did it.”
“That’s because you must learn to harness your power. Anne-Marie Thorn, you are a prophecy. Named a Maverick by the Warriors before me. They fought and died to make sure you would survive and answer your calling. Destiny has selected you for this.”