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The Tracker Part II
It has been over two decades since people with ‘superpowers’ began appearing, and since then, the government has been collecting them. These ‘superhumans’ are now used worldwide as weapons of war to replace a normal human life.
As a defense, the superhumans used their abilities, some being more abusive than others. In this way, they became a threat to the public eye.
To capture and control them, special superhumans known as ‘trackers’ are hidden in public view to find their own kind and sentence them to lifelong imprisonment.
These are the stories of one of them.
“Your killing me doc! Seriously, where’s the morphine?” came the harsh voice of my ‘friend’, as I was encouraged to call her. She wasn’t so much as a friend as a comrade.
“We ran out. Besides, such an old remedy has too many side effects on your ability,” the doctor, somehow still holding onto his patience, was able to breath as he slid the needle into his patient’s skin. The teenage girl whimpered and continued to curse lightly under her breath.
I rapped my knuckles on the door frame. This was enough to distract my friend, who momentarily forgot that her arm was split open.
“So you finally decided to show up,” she chuckled in a tone as dark as her hair. It was fashioned into a bob with the tips tinted purple. Such a style was popular in the lower classes, proving to me where she had been recently positioned.
“What happened?” I nodded towards her arm. The stitching was almost complete, and I could hear a disgruntled sigh from the doctor as his patient twitched her arm from my question.
“Oh this thing?” she laughed. “Ran into someone whose power happened to be moving metal. Had a few knifes on him.” The dark haired teenager cursed one more time before her caretaker snipped the end of the thread.
“But you can detect specific powers. Why did you go in there alone?”
The answer started with a cheeky grin.
“Well, not all of us can be ‘little miss perfects’. At least I got ‘em. Besides, I saw you getting stitched up awhile ago. Lost the guy too.”
“That’s in the past. I’ve been more careful,” I sighed frustratingly. It was difficult to sense the amount of time that passed between these walls, so I didn’t bother to correct her accusation. It had been a full year since going undercover in a public school as a eleventh grade student. That one superhuman was the only one to ever slip through my fingers, and though I hadn’t thought of it as a big deal at the time, the mark was permanently stained on my record.
“Sure. And I suppose you’ve been leaving your hair down for self image?”
She was right. I never left my hair down before. It always got in the way, yet my sunny blonde ringlets were what gave me the peaceful jobs in the upper ranks of the caste system —not many suspect such an angelic face to turn them in to the government. Every since I lost that guy, I refused to tie it up. It was to remind me to keep focus. Yet this was only a personal reminder. No one else ever brought up my one mistake. They say it happens to everyone at one time or another, but I didn’t want to be part of the generic statistic.
“Shut up,” I whispered as we headed out the door.
“So, I heard that you’ve finally been moved out of school system jobs. Hitting the big leagues are we?”
“Now that I look the part,” I replied simply, flipping my hair dramatically. My looks actually had nothing to do with it. I have always held a petite frame —even now at the age of nineteen—, so all that could account for this promotion was my skills as a tracker. Maybe the higher ups had realized that I was too advanced to be kept on such meaner tasks.
The two of us headed towards the center of the building where the jobs were given out. There wasn’t a window in sight. It could have been located underground for all we knew, but our kind had been trained to not feel such tugs of curiosity. Curiosity kills cats after all.
All around were normal humans clicking away at computers. Sometimes they would give us weary glances, but otherwise our journey was undisturbed.
They felt uncomfortable around us. Not that I blamed them. If we even suspected them of having superpowers, they would be locked up immediately. No chance at court.
“Whatcha got for us Foreman?” came the excited voice of my companion, her dark eyes full of bored inquiry. She seemed to be one of the few who could keep their optimism after a serious injury.
I would be envious if it weren’t for her features. Here, appearance was everything. It was what assigned us to our jobs. It could mean the difference between facing the streets or high class society.
This particular tracker —who I called my friend— was born in the lower classes, and unfortunately, had inherited the looks to prove it. Because of this, she was sent to do jobs in those parts of the district.
With her short haircut, I could see the multiple piercings lining her earlobe —none of the punctures being voluntary. The tattoo of a serpent could be seen slithering along her back. She covered it up whenever possible, for this too was put pierced on against her will. We had no choice when it came to how we were to be presented. If we needed to get piercings, there would be no resistance. It was the same for tattoos, contacts, glasses, braces, ‘birth marks’, our nails. Even our clothing was chosen for each mission. It made me feel sorry for my friend, who was forced to suffer because of where she was constantly positioned. For such a rough girl, she held very strict principles, and would have risen up in the ranks if she hadn’t been born a tracker.
If she hadn’t been born a tracker… The thought was too much to bear. To know how our lives would be without this gift is like asking a fish what it would do with wings.
“Family Files,” the man told us nonchalantly. He handed the first envelope to my friend, who eagerly ripped the top open and quickly glanced through the papers.
“Oh, my baby sister is starting Kindergarten,” she announced with a loving sigh. I looked away. Though she always told me of her family’s condition —mostly bragging about her little sister— I knew it was a personal matter. We were given a file of our birth family once a year. We could even see our birth certificates. With our actual names... But that was rare. Usually the parents chose to burn them, for having a tracker for a child is nothing to be proud of. If the birth certificate was destroyed, it would be like we never even existed. Like my friend.
“I hope she doesn’t become a tracker like her big sis,” came her sigh once more.
I didn’t comment on that, for we knew there was no chance of this happening. It had been discovered four years ago —when my friend was fourteen— that the siblings had different fathers. A genetic code like ours required the combination of specific chromosomes, so the chances of her sister to have the tracking ability were slim.
“And yours.” Foreman handed me an identical envelope. There was a slight pause before I took it, but I didn’t keep it in my possession for long. From my hand, I directed it to an empty trash can next to us. The sound of its fall against the tin proved its weight.
No one commented.
“So,” my friend chimed, trying to ignore my actions, “what’s our assignment?”
“Susan,” Foreman muttered to one of the computer bound humans.
“There’s a riot on the north side of town. Authorities suspect it being started by a Gang.”
‘Gang’ was the term now used for a group of superhumans. They tended to band together; much like us trackers were forced to do.
“There you go Number Fifty Six,” the man informed my friend, not looking up from his tablet. The man was rather unusual, always connected to some electronic or another. He was the one in charge of our own little Gang —trackers were divided into their own little squads. Though he was a normal human, he was the one to decide which assignments we were given, and never accepted protests. “And take Number One Hundred Five with you.”
“Aw, come one Foreman!” Fifty Six complained. She whimpered a bit as her waving arms put strain on her stitches. “A triple digit?”
“Go,” was the command. The sight of those flashing spectacles always made us turn tail.
“I think we should ask for different Supervisor,” my friend complained to me, taking some black leather gloves out of her pockets. They snuggly fit on her fingers. She always insisted on wearing them ‘in case of blood’. I didn’t see the point.
“Why? Foreman’s not too bad —better than others. Besides, he had a lot on his plate. He’s already supervising over twenty Trackers.” We had arrived at the loading dock during our argument. The lady at the counter reviewed our assignment via computer and gave us each a card to take to the next counter. The man there gave us each a look, then handed a weapon to fit the job. We were each given a simple handgun.
“What, got nothing better?” Fifty Six grumbled, but took it anyway. She tucked it away in a holster on her belt. I did the same. The man simply scowled. “Now where is our third Musketeer?”
We searched the name tags on every tracker in sight —we can always sense one who has our ability. They were digital, each displaying a number. If one pressed the right corner, a new screen would flash up with our details: a picture, date of birth, Supervisor, the number of jobs we have been given, the number we have accomplished, the specifics of our tracking power, etc.
“There he is,” I sighed.
Fifty Six grumbled. Our third partner was a simple boy. With orange hair and freckles, he stood out from a crowd. As if knowing this, he wore bland clothes and kept to himself, leaning up against a wall.
“Probably just got out of training,” I observed.
“Must have been pretty good, though, if already starting at a relatively low number.”
“Why, what was yours?” came my slightly curious response.
“Two Hundred exactly. How about you?”
“You kidding me,” my friend gasped, suddenly serious. She seemed to see me in a new light at that moment, but I knew it would fade soon. I constantly gave her surprises.
This time, it only took a few seconds for her to get over it.
“Hey kid,” she called out. “Are you One Oh Five?”
He nodded, revealing his name tag.
“Alright, you don’t have to show it. Let’s get this over with.”
And with that, the three of us headed towards a van. Fifty Six handed the driver her name tag. He scanned it and found our destination on a GPS.
We were silent during the ride. My friend and I sat on one side, facing One Hundred Five. He seemed to feel intimidated by our stares, though he did the same back.
“What is it kid?” Fifty Six grumbled, leaning back to put her hands behind her head. I could see why the guy would stare. My friend didn’t exactly blend into normal society with her purplish hair and all black clothing. I myself was doing a bit better, wearing dark skinny jeans and a slim jacket.
“Did that hurt?” he asked, pointing at her stitched arm.
“Yup. I have another across my chest if you want to see.”
I nudged her harshly as the boy’s face grew bright red.
“It won’t happen as long as your careful,” I tried to console. It never made me comfortable to cheer up another tracker, because in the end, I always had to lie.
One Hundred Five glanced at my name tag before asking:
“How many times have you gotten hurt?”
“You don’t want to know,” I shook my head before also leaning back.
“They use to have superhumans with healing powers fix us up, but ever since the recent war started, they were sent to the front lines. But don’t worry, the doctors can always stitch you back together,” Fifty Six giggled darkly.
No one felt the need to speak anymore.
We were dropped off a block from the protest, leaving from an alleyway to keep attention away.
“Anyone feel anything?” my friend asked with gloved hands in pockets.
The police seemed to have the riot surrounded, pressing the people closer together. From the looks of the picket signs, they were protesting against the capture of superhumans. Very rare indeed. No wonder they thought it was started by a Gang.
No one but the boy flinched as a glass bottle smashed to shards beside us.
“Very rowdy bunch,” I commented.
“There are a few with powers over there,” the boy timidly spoke out, pointing to one alleyway with his index finger. It seemed he didn’t want to get much closer to the screaming crowd of people. At this rate, the police would bring out the tasers.
“How do you know?” I asked, pausing my steps to stare at him. While doing this, I glanced at Fifty Six. By the questionable look on her face, she didn’t seem to sense anything either.
“It doesn’t matter if they are using their power or not. I can sense any superhuman within a five mile radius.”
Neither of us spoke for a few seconds, suddenly realizing why he had started off with a high rank. It was rare to come by one with such natural talent.
“Can you tell what power they have?”
“That’s my forte,” Fifty Six smiled. Her ability to sense specific abilities was also quite rare.
“Oh well. Keep a perimeter, but stay near the authorities,” I sighed.
“Gotcha,” my friend nervously smiled, rubbing the newly stitched gash on her arm.
“You’re going to take them on alone?” The boy —maybe I should have stopped calling him this, for he was, in truth, twelve years old— seemed ready to protest.
“Don’t worry about her,” Fifty Six grumbled, dragging the tracker by the collar of his shirt. “Just signal us when they’re on the ground.”
We exchanged a smile before heading in opposite directions.
I took the time to look at my ‘watch’. It didn’t tell time —there wasn’t even a screen. The cover was silver with no signs of its true purpose. The real controls were on the edges. I pressed a few of the buttons to activate an alarm system that would contact Fifty Six and One Hundred Five once I had the superhumans.
By this time, I had innocently wandered into the alleyway the boy had pointed at. It wouldn’t be too hard to draw them out. All I needed to do was flash my name tag and make sure my silver wristband was in full view. It was rare to see us wear both when undercover, so my openness would prove I meant business.
“Don’t move,” came a voice from behind once I had wandered in far enough. Just as expected. I froze, rather bored by these predictable movements. “Put your hands up and turn around.”
I did as I was told, once again growing bored. Without much caution, I turned around to face my targets.
“They sent a girl?” the leader of the small group asked rhetorically. I labeled him as the leader since he was the one holding the hand gun.
All were wearing cheap dark baggy clothes, each jacket having a hood. Only the female seemed to hold any sense of looks, though her hair was full of dirt and her eyes crazy. Four superhumans in all. Each were of a different race and seemingly from a different status of society.
The young bronze skinned girl with dark hair was from high in the caste —by not so high that her parents could get her a free pass. The guy holding the gun was tall with slightly tanned skin and short cut hair. He appeared to be around my age, maybe a little older. The way he held the weapon led me to think he had much experience with it, though his hand still shook. It was probably from being in my presence. The other two —both of roughly sixteen— stayed closer to the shadows, the one with dark skin hovering near the girl. The other guy —blonde hair and blue eyes— kept his hands in his pocket and was staring daggers at me. The rest just seemed scared. I guess they had a right.
“They must have sent others,” the dark skinned boy muttered.
“Who are your partners?” my threatener spit in my direction.
“There are two others, Numbers Fifty Six and One Hundred Five.”
The girl looked at me questioning. It seemed that she had never encountered a tracker before, and muttered something to the boy next to her. I could only hear the reply.
“They don’t have names, only numbers. It shows their rank in the country with Number One being the top.”
“All based on their power and experience,” the one with the gun continued.
My hands were falling asleep. It didn’t matter. I would put them down in awhile.
“Will, look at her tag. What number does it have on it?”
The blonde teenager hesitantly walked up to me. The leader came closer as well, pressing the barrel of the gun on my forehead. Unimaginative.
Both peered to see the information.
“She’s…” ‘Will’ began. “Number Thirty Nine.”
“How many are there in the country?” the leader asked, putting pressure against my head.
“No more than three hundred. The number changes every day.”
No one spoke for awhile. Only a crash from the riot brought them back to their senses.
“Press the corner,” he instructed Will to do. This guy knew what he was doing. So did Will. He was able to bring up my details without hesitation or confusion. At first, he actually laughed.
“They must have screwed up the ranking system,” he smiled, pulling a bit on my name tag. “Her tracking ability is so basic. She can only detect a superhuman when they are using their power, and even then, she can’t sense what ability is.”
“Don’t let that fool you,” the leader warned. “If she can make it all the way to thirty nine with a limited power…”
“Says here that she has been trained since birth. I didn’t know they could do that.”
Now they were all looking at me with questioning faces. I sighed.
“My birth was planned. They don’t do it so much anymore with the number of trackers rising. But I guess it gave me a head start. Maybe that’s why I was able to achieve such a high rank.”
Finally tired of this charade, I put my hands down and in my pockets.
“We didn’t say you could put your hands down,” Will directed of me, stepping back towards the leader. They actually thought I would pull some trick.
“What’s the point? Even if that gun had bullets in it, you wouldn’t shoot me.”
I had the pleasure of watching each pair of eyes grow surprised simultaneously.
“What did you say?!” the leader yelled at me, growing frustrated. He drew the gun slightly away, but still bothered to point it at me.
“If you were really planning on killing me, you would have done it from the start. Besides,” I sighed for what seemed like the umpteenth time. These missions just grew more tiring every time. “You’re all just kids, not murderers.”
“Unlike you?” the dark skin guy asked calmly. I could see a few tears form in the girl’s eyes. My face remained still as stone.
“Hm,” I hummed. “Are you guys going to try to get revenge on me? Beat me to a pulp or something?”
“Isn’t that what you would expect?!” Will yelled. “Monsters like you chase after us every day, killing our friends and family.” He grinded his teeth.
“Is that what you think I am? A monster?” I asked in the softest voice possible, now staring down at the ground. I had never thought myself a monster. Sure, I had been forced to put down some superhumans in the past, but it had always been painless.
The Gang’s eyes had grown nervous by the time I looked back up.
“You shouldn’t use a gun for revenge. You would want to torture, not scare me.”
“Why do you think it’s fake?” one of them asked. There was no point noticing which anymore.
“I never said it was fake, for that is a genuine handgun. What I said is that your gun doesn’t have any bullets.” The look in their eyes gave me the feeling I had hit the target. “Bullets can only get so light, so while the gun has transformed into a weightless weapon, they are weighed down when loaded. The handgun you are holding is shaking too much for its suspected weight, causing it to be obviously barren of any bullets.”
Even though I was right, the leader still felt it necessary to hold the gun. I seemed to have scared them. So much that they were past shaking. Simply in awe. I decided to continue. This could become real fun.
“As I was saying, if you wanted revenge, the gun isn’t the way to go. Its quick, and if shot right, painless. If you wanted to torture me, one would have to choose the knife.”
Here, I reached up for the collar of my jacket. The superhumans backed away at my movements, but paused, forced by curiosity to see what I would do. Slightly smiling this time, I unzipped my light coat and pulled down my shirt to reveal a light pink line clashing against my pale skin.
“I got this one as my eleventh birthday present from a superhuman. Sliced the knife from my collar bone to wrist.” I pulled up my sleeve to reveal the scar trailing down towards my hand. “‘Monsters like you’ try to do this to me every day, many of them succeeding. And what do I do to them? I simply knock them out, send them to infantry, and allow the government to decide their fate. Not once do I think of getting revenge.”
The gun had dropped, its handler and teammates slowly pulling away.
“Now, I’m afraid your little game has become boring, and though I love a good chase, I will end this quickly.”
I zipped up my jacket, rolled down my sleeve, and cracked my knuckles. Before they could turn to run, I was on top of them. First was the leader. The closest to me. Being such a tall guy, I first aimed for the back of his knees. He plummeted to the ground before I knocked his head unconscious.
Next was Will. I tripped him as well. Then with only two fingers, blocked the jugular vein above his collar bone. Fell unconscious in seconds.
The boy and girl were a bit smarter and decided to stop. They observed their teammates in horror, but seemed a bit relieved to find that they weren’t seriously injured.
“Please don’t,” the dark skinned teenager begged of me. At first, I thought he would plead for freedom. Like I had a choice, but he surprised me. “We will go with you quietly.” He grabbed his bronze skinned friend, who embraced him back.
Then I understood. They had a relationship.
I observed the two of them for a minute. They had begun to cry, the tears merging together to form a stream of salt water down their necks.
“I won’t let them hurt you,” he whispered to her. I blocked out the rest, feeling a bit uncomfortable to listen to their private conversation, so I took the time to press the alarm on my watch. Then I grabbed the two other guys and dragged them to where the couple were embracing each other. Now they were kissing.
I rolled my eyes away.
Still, their love for each other touched me. Maybe it was just because I couldn’t expect such a relationship for myself.
“Need help?” The owner of the voice took one of the bodies from my hand.
“Yeah. Thanks Fifty Six,” I grunted while placing the weight of the lighter boy in her arms.
“I’m Fifty Five now,” she informed me, picking Will up with her good arm. Sure enough, the number had changed on her name tag.
By instinct, she ran her index finger along her forehead —from one temple to the other. It was what one did when their rank went up, for this was usually because of death. I glanced at my own number. It was still thirty nine.
“And I’m One Hundred Two,” One Hundred Five called to me while directing the embraced superhumans to a van that pulled up. He ran three fingers along his forehead.
I sighed again.
“I hope they didn’t give you too much trouble,” Fifty Five told me as we loaded the unconscious bodies in the van.
“Almost too easy.” I glanced at the cowering couple. There was nothing to be scared of. The interior of the car was well furnished. I guess they knew what was in store for them.
“Awe, I hate it when they blubber like that,” my friend grumbled once more. “Let’s go back.”
Lets go back. Not even a, ‘let’s go home’. We didn’t have a home I guess.
I looked back at the riot. It had dispersed by now, with most being threatened enough to give up. I shook my head. You never saw people protesting to set the trackers free. Was there no sympathy for us?
I suddenly saw a familiar face. This was strange, since there were few people who were familiar to me. The teenager was of average appearance. Of average height. Brown hair and eyes. Pale skin. But from what I remembered, not of average powers.
He caught my eyes as well, and then I knew. I recognized the look in his eye. He had stared at me the same way a year ago, right before he ran and crashed through a window.
The one who got away.
He immediately started walking in the other direction, seemingly in a hurry.
“One Hundred Two,” I called out. The boy was by my side in a second.
“How many superhumans did you sense in this area?”
“Bedsides us, four. Why?”
Huge reason. I knew that the guy I just saw had powers. I had seen it with my own eyes a year ago. How could it be that he wasn’t detectable to right now?
I decided not to give chase, for if we were able to see each other after so long, it would no doubt happen again.
That is, unless he was captured before given the chance.