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When They Weren't Human
For the greater good, we must serve, fight, protect, and prepare to sacrifice for the innocents. That is the code trainees must swear upon to enlist into the Blackgear service. When it’s time for enlisting, we are all lined up in our best along a wall for all the employers to see. I was fifteen at the time, and I couldn't help the feeling that we were chunks of meat being given out to strange men. After a number of the employers had picked out the more muscular recruits, an old man dressed in black had pointed out to me.
Now three years later, I stand with my charge Liam di Milo, one of the world’s most renowned peace keepers. We stand on a small stage being watched by row upon row of country officials. They stretch out into the dark auditorium with the only light on Liam and me. Plus the half circle of temporarily hired Blackgears behind us.
Despite our name, we wear navy combat suits to honor the hosting country. I have my dark hair tied back in a ponytail. My ears listen to Liam’s speech while my olive eyes are searching the crowd, looking for any possible terrorists disguised in official robes. There are many criminals who wouldn't mind one more peace keeper terminated.
Liam wears one of his best suits, also in navy, with his hair slicked back. His voice echoes throughout the crowded space. Though he’s only one year older than me, he looks, acts, talks, and thinks like a man in his early thirties. But I suppose the seven years of traveling country to country to fill in for his late father is to blame.
I still remember the day I was recruited. I rode in the back of a large vehicle with the man in black up front driving. Our teachers told us not ask questions unless spoken to, but curiosity is a strong temptation. “Where are we going?” I called to the man up front. His eyes momentarily diverted from the road to the rear view mirror then back to the road. “To the master’s residence,” was all he said.
I was pretty sure hours passed by in silence as the vehicle made its way through cities, fields, and fine neighborhoods. Finally, the vehicle crept up to a lone driveway to a mansion separated from the surrounding land by an iron gate patterned in intricate loops and curls and finally ending in points.
After moments of meeting and greeting inside with cheerful faces, another man, a butler probably, escorted me up a flight of marble stairs, gleaming like pearls from chandeliers overhead. We walked past walls of doors held ajar showing empty rooms filled with sheet-covered furniture. The butler paused in front of one door that was closed that held a silver crest of a European family. Etched into the precious metal was a lamb sleeping with a lion. Evidence that my charge’s family were peace keepers.
The door opened, and I was ushered into a large office. Ornate rugs covered most of the tiled floor most likely imported or given from a far country. Shelves with volumes of all sizes covered the walls except one were a fire place occupied it. The room smelled faintly of burnt wood and something sweeter. Roses?
Near the fire place, a desk from a strange wood stood proudly. And sitting at that desk was my charge. He looked older than me, but not a thirty year old man. He was terribly engrossed in the novel he had that the butler had to clear his throat before his attention changed to us. He closed his novel and placed to the side. “Yes, thank you, Charlie. You can go now,” he stated in a dignified matter.
The butler left without a word, and left me alone with my charge. He was what some of the girls back at training would have called attractive with rumpled brown hair and soft eyes. He stared at me with an unwavering observation. Most likely looking me over while I stood at attention exactly as I was instructed by my teachers. A smile broke across his face.
“You’re not exactly what I expected for a Blackgear,” he said, and who could blame them. I wasn't much more than five-four. I wasn't strong like most or look intimidating looking. But I was fast, agile, and smart in a fight. “But Harlem has his ways,” he added. I remained silent.
“Can you tell me your name? Or should I call you ‘Blackgear’?”
That was quite unusual. Not many charges asked their Blackgear’s name, but rather they’d give those Blackgears code names. I knew instantly I liked this boy. “Cheyenne Willis,” I answered plainly.
“That’s a pretty name for a Blackgear. My name is Liam di Milo.”
That name was Greek to me. I had never heard of the di Milo family before. Maybe they were a small family, I thought. Liam motioned for me to come near the desk. I obeyed. Up close, I could see dents and scratches on the surface of the wooden desk like someone threw knives at it once in a while. He wore a loose shirt and jeans, leaving his feet barefoot.
I looked down at my best. It was nothing more than a black shirt covered by an aviator’s jacket one size too big. My jeans were tucked into my combat boots. My brown hair was tied back into a ponytail though it was shorter then. I probably didn’t look like much, but Liam’s eyes didn’t betray anything of that nature. They seemed approving, delighted even.
My attention snaps back to present as Liam steps down from the podium on stage. He turns to backstage, and I follow him like a good Blackgear should. I look at him, and he sneaks in a wink. I could feel my face heat up, and I feel slightly embarrassed. I hope none of the Blackgears saw. Blackgears look down upon such behavior of a Blackgear and their charge.
Liam moves through a small group of people, congratulating him and shaking his hand. One blonde girl gets a little too close to him for my comfort. I push them off of him so as to clear a path for him to an open door, and the girl gives me a dirty look. Liam takes the lead again, and we find ourselves in a secluded hallway with no security surveillance.
Liam takes my hand in his, and we walk close together for a minute or two, enjoying each other’s company. “That was a good speech,” I say softly. Liam looks down at me with those soft eyes I had fallen in love with. “Thanks, Chey,” he whispers in my ear, calling me by my nickname. It sends tingles through my body. We had been together a year now, and he still makes me nervous.
His eyes are dreamy now, and all I can do is get lost in them. He kisses me softly, and my legs feel like melting. My head is ringing; my ears are vibrating. Then I notice the echo of a loud CRACK! coming through the hallways. I pull away. I know what’s making that sound. Liam knows, too.
I draw my gun from its holster on my waist, and it’s my turn to take the lead. He lags behind, knowing the drill that is mandatory by code of the Blackgears. With my pistol pointed forward, we make progress to the building’s back exits. The cracking sounds get closer by the second until they’re right on top of us. I peer around one corner. There are six men with high-tech rifles on the far side of a room gathered in a tight circle around an individual in the middle. This individual sends bile into my mouth.
It is Abda Asswaila, most wanted crime lord of the Northern Hemisphere. He’s been after peace keepers for years. I relay this information to Liam. “We are clearly outnumbered,” he says, “and if what you say is true about Abda, we are clearly outmatched.”
“I don’t know. We know they’re here, but they don’t know we’re here. I’ve got another gun and some tear gas bombs. We can shoot our way out,” I counter.
“I don’t doubt you, but I’m pretty sure there are more than seven men in the building.”
“You don’t think I know that? Even if there are more, it won’t matter. I studied the layout of this place. Beyond this room, there should be an exit. They probably won’t expect someone to get out since most of the people are in the auditorium,” I say.
I stare at Liam while he thinks. I fear if he takes too long, the group of men could find us and kill us both. He answers, “I can’t stop you once you've set your mind to it. Now hand me that gun.” I pull my firearm’s twin from its holster and place it in Liam’s hands. His hands are comfortable on the handle. He sighs and nods at me.
From one of my suit pockets, I draw out three black pellets. They’re light in my palm. I gaze around the corner again, readying my hand to throw them. But one of the men looks up at the wrong time. He shouts something in another language, and the others start to turn and raise their guns. I throw just before the guns start letting bullets fly. The soft explosion of gas stops the bullets. I count to three, and we start to aim and fire at the men. One, two, three down. It’s hard to fire with the tendrils of gas getting in my eyes.
Liam shoots twice, and another man falls limp to the ground. Now it’s just Abda with another man, and the gas is wearing off. Has anyone heard our guns go off? I don’t really want to know. Our guns are almost out of ammunition, but the two men haven’t even had a chance to even run out. I will my next bullet to count as I take aim. My bullet flies right into Abda’s chest. Liam’s hits the man in the head.
I’m relieved the fight is over, but we can’t celebrate yet. There could be more racing down the halls to here. Liam and I walk between the bodies on the floor, guns in hand, trying to not take too much notice in the red staining the floor. Liam passes Abda first, heading for a hallway branching off hopefully to the exit. Then I take my first step over Abda’s midsection.
I know he should be dead; the bullet hole is right there close to his heart. Yet I notice the short movement his chest makes as he breathes. I shouldn't but I panic with my foot just by his head. His eyelids flutter wildly. He is dying but slowly.
I want him to, but that is inhumane of me. I raise the handgun to his heart, and that is the precise moment his eye flash open. Like a wild animal, he thrashes out at me, and I, unprepared for his sudden actions, fall to the blood stained floor, my gun flying from my hand. It lands next to Abda. A savage rage comes over his face. I’ve seen that expression too many times before.
Abda grips the gun as I get my legs beneath me to run. But the barrel is already pointed at me. If Liam is safe, I will have done my job if I die now. To think, I’m going to be robbed of my life at a moment like this. Abda rises to his feet as well, towering over me.
For a moment, I believe I have imagined light footfalls from behind the man who can end my life. But in fact, I haven’t. Abda turns his head to a lone figure. I fear it is Liam. I dismiss the thought when I see blonde hair. It’s the girl from backstage. What is she doing here?
To my utter surprise, she wields a throwing knife fashioned from a brilliant metal. Abda swings the gun away from me to her, possibly forgetting me entirely. And as he shoots, she throws, barely a second between them. The bullet embeds itself in the girl’s head; the knife sticking straight out of Abda’s heart. They both crumple lifelessly to the ground.
I’m absolutely dazed standing here standing here in the room of bodies but not for long. A flash occurs, and I’m next to the blonde girl’s side. The wound in here forehead is fatal. Anyone would know that, but I’m more intrigued with the blood rising up. But it doesn’t look like blood. It’s darker, black even with fluorescence to it.
I stick the tips of my fingers in a small puddle pooling next to her head. It’s a thin substance, not quite as thick as blood. Rubbing my fingers together, it’s slippery and greasy and leaves my fingers stained black.
With a sensation of disbelief, I dash out of the room and down the hallway Liam went. There is a door at the end, and when it’s open, I find Liam outside in a drizzle. His air of worry dissipates when I step out. He wraps his arms around me, squeezing me tightly. I let him. I’m too caught up in my discovery of the blonde girl. Whoever she was, she wasn't human. Her blood looked more like oil, and I’m afraid to think of what that girl could have been. But that’s not possible.