Twisted Metal

November 30, 2011
Hal glanced around the edge of a large oak tree and stared at the small village less than five hundred feet away. It looked deserted enough, but who knew? These days anywhere could be a trap.

“Hal?”

Hal tore his eyes away from the village and looked at the two people behind him. One, the boy, who was a little older than Hal himself, was standing with his arms folded. His matted blond hair made his blue eyes even more striking.

“We’re gonna have to risk it,” said the second; a girl who was sitting on the ground. She was absent mindedly picking small tufts of grass and watching them float downward from her open hand. Her auburn hair fell over her face, blocking her from Hal’s sight.

Hal leaned back against the tree heavily and sighed.

“We don’t really have much choice,” the boy said, “Ash’s right. We’re tired and hurt and are running low on food. This village is the best option.”

“I know, I know. I just… What if it’s not safe? If I’m wrong, we could all be captured or killed.”

Ash piped up again, “We haven’t seen any Neuros in days. It doesn’t seem likely that they’d be here of all places. It’s so rural. And Mike is really hurt.”

“I’m fine,” Mike snapped, shifting so that his grimy coat covered a red spot on his left side.

Ash lifted her head and her hair fell back into place. Her face was beautiful, Hal thought, even with her cyborg-eye. She stared hard at Mike before glancing at Hal, “Let’s go.”

Hal stretched his arms and nodded. He felt the muscles in his left, but his right arm held no feeling. He pulled back his jacket sleeve for a moment and looked at the metal appendage. Except for the tingle of the earth’s magnetic core pulling on him lightly, he felt nothing. But even that tiny feeling was enough to set his teeth on edge. He had more metal on him than Ash’s eye and Mike’s three metal toes and thus felt more susceptible to the Neuros.

Together, the three moved out from behind the tree and into the wide open field that lay between them and the village. They romped through the grain, all the while cautious of any Neuros that may be nearby.

The crisp morning air nipped at their noses as they ran. Within moments, they reached the small village and stopped at a large sign that stood on the outskirts.

“Ripley,” Ash read aloud.

Hal grinned as they continued on into the village. There was dead silence. Yet, the small houses that lined the edge of the road had billows of smoke coming out of their chimneys. Beautiful foliage filled giant charcoal pots that sat at the bottom of every street lamp along the road. Tall trees cast long shadows across the abandoned shops and streets.

“I don’t like it,” Mike grunted.

“I agree,” Ash shivered as she shuffled a little closer to Mike.

“Well I do. It reminds me of home. Back when everything was normal. This village appears to be virtually untouched by the Neuros,” Hal said.

Suddenly, Mike halted and stiffened, tilting his head upward slightly, “Stop. Listen.”

The three of them stopped in the middle of the road and listened.

Dead silence.

“I don’t hear anything,” Hal looked at Mike.

“That’s just it. No sounds. There’s no birds or squirrels or—“

Immediately, Hal’s ears filled with the constant blare of a siren going off. Soldiers burst out of nowhere; coming out from behind bushes and trees. Some even smashed through the windows of houses.

All of them wore a helmet with a black visor so that their faces were hidden from view. They bore blue uniforms with golden crests on the right side of their chests.

“There’s no time to run! Defend yourselves!” Hal heard Mike call out.

And in the next second, both he and Ash were lost from Hal’s sight. The Neuros came at him quickly, weapons appearing out of their black gloves. A spark of electricity occasionally flew out and Hal raised his own arm.

As the first came upon him, he lashed out with his fist and caught the Neuro on the jaw. He heard the unmistakable sound of metal on metal and the Neuro flew backward several feet into the air before slamming into more soldiers.

Hal felt two pairs of hands grasp both of his shoulders and swiftly he lunged forward and bent his body, causing both soldiers to fall off of him.

Then he saw it.

In the space that the two Neuros had just cleared as they fell, Hal saw Ash pinned against a tree by two Neuros. A third was holding his gloved hand forward, a sparking weapon rising out of it. The Neuro pulled his fist back and Hal let out a cry.

Aiming a punch at her mid-section, the Neuro let loose. And instantly, there was Mike. Even from above the roar of the skirmish, Hal could hear his scream of agony. His body lit up with blue energy as he yelled and in the next second, he dropped.

Stunned, Hal couldn’t move. He felt like he was rooted to the ground. Quickly, the Neuros picked up Ash’s screaming form and took her away. Hal felt the hands on him again but this time he did not resist.

As the Neuros picked up Mike’s limp body, Hal felt strong metallic hands pull his arms behind his back and grip his wrists.

“Walk,” a robotic voice came from behind him.

Hal obeyed and followed the Neuros that carried Mike. They walked a few minutes until they neared the edge of the village again; the sound of metal feet on concrete ringing throughout the cool air.

They came to an old school and marched right up to a big rectangular area that seemed to jut out from the rest of the building. Hal guessed it was the gymnasium.

“Enter,” the same Neuro hummed.

Hal stepped through an open door and realized that he had been correct. Somewhat.

It had used to be a gym, with a stage at the far end and banners lining the walls; all indications of winning sports teams. Mounted on the wall beside the stage was a picture of a blue raven’s head with a red capitol “R” in the middle. Below that were the words, “Ripley Ravens.”

“You will be situated here until we receive orders from command about what to do with you,” the Neuro said, “Three guards will keep you confined here. Do not attempt escape. Failure is imminent and lethal force may be used if necessary.”

“You already used lethal force,” Hal wrenched his hands free and turned on the soldier, “On my friend! You attacked civilians with lethal force for no apparent reason. Tell that to your damn command.”

“You are not civilians. The database indicates that you are rebels. Trash that has escaped the heap and must now join the rest.”

Hal grit his teeth and stared into the blackness of the Neuro’s visor, “We aren’t trash. We’re the survivors. And you’ll never turn us, you hear me? Never.”

The Neuro remained silent for a moment, almost as if it were considering this and then said, “Leave them now. Command will respond soon.”

And with that, all except three Neuros began to exit the gym. The ones carrying Mike lay him on the stage and Ash was pushed in soon after the majority of soldiers were gone. Hal rubbed his left wrist as the door slammed shut.

The room was dimly lit so Hal wasn’t sure how well he’d be able to see the extent of Mike’s injuries but he rushed over anyway with Ash right behind him.

Together, the two of them knelt beside his body. A massive burn was left on his stomach from where he had been electrified and when Hal listened closely, he could still hear his skin sizzling. The burn was deep and blood had already begun to pool outward.

Hal ripped the right arm of his jacket off and used it to cover and wrap the wound. Leaning forward, he pressed his ear to Mike’s chest and listened. He heard a faint beating, but it was weak and slow.

“Is he…?” Ash’s voice wavered and out of the corner of his eye, Hal could see that she was trembling.

“No. He’s alive. But barely. If they’d done any more to him, he’d surely be dead.”

Ash inched closer and traced a finger lightly down Mike’s chest; as if it kept her distracted.

Hal sat back up on his knees and sighed, placing his head in his hands. He stared at the wood floor of the stage for a while before speaking again. “It was my fault.”

Ash looked up at him, surprised, “What?”

“It was my fault,” Hal repeated, “I said the village was safe. I said we would be fine here. I had such a good feeling about this place.”

Ash shook her head and stared at him hard, one eye glowing red, the other a deep sea blue, “No. We decided together. It’s not your fault. It’s the Neuro’s.”

Hal looked back into her eyes and felt some of her determination flow into him, “We can’t stay here. He’ll die.”

Ash turned her head to look down at Mike once more. She watched his unconscious form for a moment before leaning down and softly planting a kiss on his forehead.

Returning to her previous position she whispered one word, “No.”

Hal nodded and glanced towards the guards standing on near the door of their prison. They stood still as statues. It was going to be tough without Mike. He glanced at Ash and she looked back at him. A moment of understanding passed between them as she dropped down from the stage and walked over to the guards.

“Excuse me,” she asked politely, “How long before command gives you the orders about what to do with us?”

“Orders should arrive within the hour,” one of them said.

“And umm, the other soldiers are all currently busy?”

A different Neuro answered, “Indeed. Most have their own duties to attend to now that we have you three apprehended.”

Ash nodded and looked down at her feet as Hal hopped off of the stage and walked towards them, “I see.”

Hal stepped up beside Ash and jerked his thumb back at the stage, “He’s really injured. Can you take a look at him? Something weird is happening.”

“We have no orders to—“

“Please?” Hal asked, “It’s really strange. It could be because one of your weapons was defective.”

The Neuros looked at each other before making their way towards the stage. Hal glanced at Ash and nodded. She returned the gesture quickly.

All at once, Hal charged at the nearest Neuro and jammed his fist as hard as he could right through its back until he felt his hand appear on the other side, then he ripped his arm back out as the soldier’s body fell to the floor in a heap.

Ash already had tripped a second but the third had turned and realized what was going on. It raised its arm to its face and a square screen built into its arm came to life. Hal recognized the communication device and leaped forward, bringing his fist down hard on the Neuro’s head. Spark’s flew as a dent the size of a shoe box appeared in the metal and he too collapsed.

Turning to face the last guard, Hal was surprised to find that Ash already had defeated it and was currently trying to lift Mike up and off of the stage.

Racing over, Hal draped one of Mike’s arms over his shoulder and he and Ash moved swiftly towards the door. Bursting into the outside world, they wasted no time and rushed around the corner of the school as fast as they could. They moved without an interruption into the field they had previously run through.

“We’re almost back to the tree,” Hal grunted as they continued, “We’ll stop there. We’ll have a few minutes before they realize we’ve escaped.”

Ash just nodded and kept moving. Her face was already red from effort but she never complained and the look of determination never left her face.

Crossing the field, they located the giant tree and moved behind it. They lay
Mike down and leaned against the tree, gasping from the effort.

“He’s heavy,” Hal panted.

“It’s all muscle,” Ash gave him a small smile.

Hal chuckled but stopped immediately as he heard a rustling in the bushes. A single Neuro stepped out and into the open space. It had its glove-weapon raised and ready.

Hal stared at it as his body tensed. He didn’t look away as he spoke evenly, “Ash. Take Mike and run. They’ll want me first. I have the most metal. I’ll take out this one first. Then you need to run—“

“You won’t get far,” the Neuro said, “The others will be upon you soon.”

“And I’ll give them one hell of a fight. While you get away,” Hal added as he finally cast a single look at Ash.

“No,” she whispered, “I’m not leaving you here. I can’t lose you either.”

Hal smiled grimly, “When he gets better, tell him about this time Ash. He’s saved my butt so many times it figures he wouldn’t be awake to see when I finally save his. But make sure he knows I didn’t go down without a fight.”

“Hal—“

“GO!” Hal roared as he sped forward, slamming his fist into the soldier’s gut. Grasping as many wires as he could, he pulled his hand back out. He watched Ash heave Mike onto her back and slowly disappear into the brush as the Neuro shook violently.

With its system malfunctioning, all it took was a single and clean blow to the head to finish the job. Flexing his metal fingers, Hal stared at the Neuro for a moment before peeking around the corner of the tree again.

He saw a ton of soldiers racing towards him with inhuman speed. His brow furrowed and he took in a deep breath. He closed his eyes for a few seconds and whispered, “This one’s for you, Mike.”

Then he jumped out from behind the tree and sprinted towards the hundreds of soldiers that threatened his family.





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