Brightstar: The Rising Superhero
It has been a week, and the days have been nothing but torture. Each morning, a scientist and two guards came into the room and asked us who would volunteer. No one in their right mind would come forward, and I don’t blame them. The experiments conducted here were horrid.
Today was especially rough. The scientist dragged Zanny into the room and tossed her to the floor. Half her body was bandaged up, and her hands could be seen trembling, but somehow she found the strength to smile.
They made their way to me and escorted me out of the room. As if I had a choice, after all, I was strapped to this cart with steel restraints and a suppressor collar around my neck. They brought me to the red room.
It was a room where they conducted experiments. It was called a red room because everything in it was painted the colour red, from the wall to the floor, even the ceiling. I heard Zanny's conversation with other lab rats; they said a powered once blew up in this room and bathed the entire room with his blood. And they didn’t bother to clean it because it was easier to have the entire room red when the test subject either started bleeding everywhere or puked out blood.
They carted me into the centre, four cameras were pointed at me in the room. Afterwards, the scientist pierced my skin with a bracelet full of needles and a long-running tube from the ceiling connected to the bracelet. It hurt worse than a bee sting. I tried to struggle before, but I know how useless it was.
After leaving me alone in the room, I had no choice but to wait for the worst part of the experiment. My eyes darted to the purple liquid running down the tube. I bit down the gag and closed my eyes. The ominous liquid slowly entered my vein. It felt like saltwater entering a wound. It’s itchy, painful, and searing at the same time.
My arm jolted involuntarily against the restraint and slowly the rest of my body spasmed violently. My body was forced to turn into a hard light, but the suppressor would force me back to normal. I had to endure it repeatedly as every transformation sapped my strength away. The strength I need to hold the pain at bay.
However, today wasn’t my lucky day as my leg turned into light and went through the steel cuff and returned to normal at an unfortunate time. My leg materialized back before it could pass through. My eyes bulged as I screamed through the gag. I tried my best to keep my leg from moving or the cuff would shift inside my flesh. But since I can’t stop the spasm, my leg accidentally jolted forward and the cuff was torn out from my flesh.
The last thing I saw before the lights went out was the back of my eyes.
Ria flicked the switch and the ceiling lights brightened the dim-lit basement. She gasped in surprise when the light revealed a woman with rabbit ears standing near a large table. The room was a mess, nothing but empty cup noodles and scraps of paper on the floor. Even the couch where Kusagi slept wasn’t picture perfect, it’s dirty and unkempt.
A sigh escaped Ria as she brought the food supplies to the couch. After leaving it on the couch, she walked to Kusagi and stood behind her. Her eyes lowered to the black attire she had on. She wanted to place her hand on Kusagi’s back but stopped herself.
“You missed the funeral.”
“I know. I’m not senile yet.”
“I don't understand why you didn’t come. She was your sister.”
“You know I can’t. I can’t waste time. There’s a new lead.”
“It’s not a waste of time. You need to mourn, Aunty. We all do.” Ria’s eyes started to well up.
“I’ll mourn when I make sure Kenn is safe. Right now, more than ever, I need to find him. I can’t lose him.” Kusagi clenched her jaw.
“Me too. I want to find Kenn, but Aunty Catty was your sister. You knew her your entire life. She was your family. You deserved to mourn. To say your last goodbye.”
“You think I don’t want to?!” Kusagi swiped the stacks of papers off the table. “Catty would understand why I need to do this. Keen is not just a nephew for me. He is more than that. He’s my only son.” Her grip over the crumpled paper tightened.
Ria widened her eyes. “Wait, what are you saying?”
Kusagi turned her head away. “Forget what I said.”
“You can’t…” Ria took her arm. “Kenn’s your son?”
Kusagi had no intention of telling her, it slipped out from her tongue. “It was supposed to be a secret. I’ll tell you, but you need to keep it a secret from anyone, especially from Kenn.”
“I won’t tell anyone. I swear on my life.”
“Catty can’t have kids on her own, she was infertile, but I wasn’t. She covered it up for me because I forced her to. It wasn’t Catty that used Haru’s DNA to get pregnant. It was me. I was dumb and young. At first, I thought it would be easy to raise a kid, but when he was born, everything changed. I knew from that moment I wasn’t fit to have him, so I gave him to Catty.” Kusagi raised her chin while trying to keep her eyes from welling up.
“Why didn’t you tell him when you got the chance?”
“Because… have you seen me? I am a mess. I used to work as a mercenary, for god’s sake. I took people’s lives away for money. I am a criminal. I am everything wrong in this world and I don’t want him to end up like me. Alone and angry.” Kusagi slammed her fist on the table and broke it in half. “He’s out there somewhere and no matter how many leads I chase, I feel like he’s getting further away from me.”
Ria clasped Kusagi’s hand. “We’ll find him.”
The slow clapping hands caused Kusagi and Ria to turn their heads at the staircase. A dark-skinned man dressed in a black suit sauntered down the steps. It ignited Kusagi’s anger. Bradford took a file from his pocket and waved it with a smile. “No need for violence. I came here bearing a gift.”
“Bradford, you snake! What are you doing here?” Kusagi broke the table leg and was ready to hit the man with it.
“I repeat, there’s no need for violence. One of my agents, Sister, you met her before, right? She found where they are keeping Kenn.” Bradford tossed the file to Kusagi for her to catch. “So, when are we going to bring him back?”
“What do you mean, he’s not Silver Cloak’s son?”
“We tested five-time. It isn’t the same as the gene from the database.”
“Then who is his real mother anyway?”
“We don’t know. It isn’t listed in any database.”
“Come on, let’s leave him. I want to get an early lunch.”
What did they mean by that?
After the two scientists left the room, I opened my eyes. I took a long breath before grimacing at the bandaged leg. They treated my injury and kept me under sedation, I didn’t have the chance to escape before they put me back into the restraint. At least they took off the gag, it’s easier to breathe now. My eyes wandered to Zanny. She was curled up into a ball but still held her smile underneath.
“Are you okay?”
She groaned. Her weak gaze turned at me. “I’m fine. Today was rough, wasn't it?”
“The worst so far.” I grimaced at the sudden wave of pain. An itch from underneath my bandage followed behind. My shoulders loosened from the fatigue. I tried to keep my head straight but found no strength within me to do so. My head dangled forward.
“I found out I can teleport stuff. It’s weird. I never had any special ability before, and I checked.”
“It’s the stuff they injected us with.”
“What else could it be?” chuckled Zanny. “This is the first time I heard your voice. I thought you didn't want anything to do with me?”
“I don't… but talking helps with the pain.”
“I can't remember the last time I was outside. I used to live near a beach when I was a kid. I would go there a lot, but I could barely remember how it looks now. Still, I can still recall the feeling I had there. The itchy sand beneath my feet. The cool breeze from the oceans. The vibration from the crashing waves.”
“How long have you been here?”
“It has been a while. I think I lost count.” She laid on her back with a grunt. The smile she had never disappeared. Even if she was staring at nothing.
“I don’t understand how you could keep smiling. I have only been here for a week, but I felt nothing but anger and hatred.”
“Well, suck to be you, then.” Zanny chuckled. “The reason why I keep smiling, because I got nothing left. You see, I was born with nothing. My parents sold me for a hundred bucks when I was twelve. I have been stuck here since then. But I ain’t giving up. Someday I will escape this place and till then, I won’t let them take the one thing I have. My smile.”
Two scientists and soldiers entered the room. The room became quiet again. They walked to Zanny. She looked at them with a raised eyebrow. Without hesitation, they grabbed both her arms.
“Wait, what is going on?”
“We need you for another test.”
“But, I already had mine.”
They started to drag her toward the door. The fear in her eyes caused the anger inside me to rise. I struggled against the restraints. “Didn’t you hear what she said? She did the test. Let her go!”
“Take me instead!” I yelled.
My request was nothing to them. The soldiers brought Zanny out of the room. I fear for her. I need to get out of these restraints. She won’t survive another experiment. I knew it. She knew it. There must have to be something I could do to stop them. My struggles against the restraints proved to be a failure.
Suddenly, the lights in the room turned red and a blaring alarm could be heard from the other side of the door. I glanced around me in panic. My attempt against my restraints doubled. Zanny could be in trouble. I need to find her.
A modified C-130J Hercules civilian aeroplane with four propeller engines flew above the clouds. It was made to carry cargo up to 44,500 pounds or 20,227 kilograms equivalent to 92 paratroopers, but today, it was carrying one motorcycle and four people.
Kusagi sat with her back against the plane wall. She clasped her hands together to prevent them from trembling.
“Hey, Darling.” Cindy wrapped herself around Kusagi’s. “He will be there. Bradford promised.”
“That’s the problem. I don’t trust him.”
“We don’t have any lead left. Are you sure you want to go through with this? I could hire someone else.”
“I can’t let him wait. Sacrificing my pardon for his safety is a choice I'm willing to make no matter what.”
“Reckless as always, I wonder where you got it from. If only Haru was here to talk sense into you.” A glare from Kusagi stopped Cindy from proceeding with the topic. “Alright. I need to see Elena and her son in the cockpit. Are you going to be fine without me?”
“I’m not a kid anymore, you know that, right?”
“You will always be one to me.” Cindy smiled before leaving her.
Kusagi muted her surroundings and focused on her heartbeat. It was a technique she learned from a monk back in Japan. It soothed the mind before a battle and sharpened her senses even more. Her rabbit ear perked up. She caught something, it was Cindy, and she was flirting with Elena. It was not something she wanted to hear. She could even hear the grossed out groan came from Elena’s son.
A smile appeared on her face. The red light above blinked repeatedly, her smile was replaced by a flattened lip. She stood up, then adjusted her military tactical gears into a more comfortable position. Afterwards, she checked the ammo pouches and the two Uzi strapped on her waist, then she made sure the combat knives were secured.
The blinking red light turned yellow. She turned to the motorcycle helmet on the bench. Ricky had given the helmet to her a while back. It was designed to be sleek and focused on bullet deflection. A rainbow-coloured, bulletproof, and one-way view mirror was screwed in front of the helmet, so it doesn’t sacrifice sight and protection. It also hid the wearer identity.
Kusagi had personally requested this helmet because it was owned by her adopted father, Haru. She remembered he used to wear one back in the days when people called him the Oni. On the account of the helmet used to have a demon horn in front of it.
“Darling, get ready!” yelled Cindy from the cockpit.
The woman saddled on top of her motorcycle, a modified scrambler Ducati made for riding in a desert. It has rough wheels, a muffled exhaust, so it doesn't make too much noise, and enough plastic explosive inside this bike to knock down an entire house. She grabbed the handles and started the engine.
“Here we go!” yelled Cindy while Elena was laughing hysterically.
Kusagi felt the sudden shift of the forward as its nosedive. She almost lost her grip but kept her thighs anchored to seating. The plane position shifted again, it pulled up at the last second. Then the light turned green, the cargo bay opened, and Kusagi was smiling ear to ear. It’s time to get her son back
She kicked it in first gear and went full throttle. The lock detached itself from its body. The front-wheel raised in the air before she launched herself out from the plane with the bike saddle underneath her. It was a short jump, nothing special, her eyes darted to the facility, and she turned her bike toward it.
The plane flew back up in the sky, the military trucks scrambled to chase after it. Kusagi didn’t care for any of it. She needed to get through the hangar door before it closed. She drove through mound after mound of dirt. The hangar doors slowly closed and no one had noticed her yet.
It was a narrow gap, but she passed it. After seeing the thick steel door that led to the underground, she planted her leg against the floor and used the bike momentum to flung it toward the door. The bike crashed into the door spectacularly. Kusagi took out a trigger and pressed it.
The bike exploded on command, enough to tear down the door. It shook the entire hangar wall and filled it with enough smoke that no one had any idea what’s going on. Kusagi moved at breakneck speed and leapt into the door.
The first thing she met on the other side was two well-equipped soldiers. Their eyes went wide, but it was too late, Kusagi used her leg and kicked one of them into her partner. They both hit the wall beside them and were knocked out. She dashed forward again.
Speed was her ally here, she needed to find Kenn before the alarm went off. However, it didn't take long for the alarm to blare in the hallways and the lights turned red. She halted her advance when four highly armed robots blocked the back and the front of the hallways along with four soldiers.
Underneath the helmet, she gritted her teeth and lowered herself into all four like an animal. She went into a breakneck speed. The armed robots and soldiers started firing, but Kusagi jumped into the wall and to the ceiling and back to the ground while kept advancing to her goal.
In a matter of seconds, she was on top of the robot. She took out her Uzi and blasted the other one full of holes before tearing the head of the robot she stood on. The other soldiers took a step back and aimed their rifles. But it needed only one good kick from Kusagi to break those rifles, and she did it with ease.
She dropped to the floor and took one of the soldiers by the head and tossed him back at the other robots, then throat jabbing the other one. The last one was used as a shield for the other robots. The soldier struggled with the grip over her head.
“Where are the test subjects?” Kusagi asked calmly.
“I’ll never tell you!”
Kusagi slammed him against the wall repeatedly. Blood and teeth smeared the wall. “Where are they?”
“Floor thirteen ‘cough’ please let me go.”
She tossed him to the advancing robots and rushed toward the nearest stairs, but not without heading to the security office first. She needed to let someone into the system.
The alarm blared from the hallway, I glanced around me in panic. Suddenly, the restraint unlocked itself and released me. The suppressor collar around my neck unlatched itself. I turned to the other lab rats, and they cowered in fear near the corner. It seems all of their collars were unlocked.
“What’s going on?”
“Hey, Firefly. It’s your favourite gal, Cindy. Kusagi is here too, but she is busy rampaging to get to you.” The voice came from the speakers in the room.
“I unlocked all the restraints and collars. You should be able to move around. I suggest you head toward the nearest staircase.” The door to the room opened by itself. “Come on, get going. We don’t have much time.”
My eyes darted to the other lab rats. There’s no way, I’m leaving them here, but I can’t carry all of them. “We have a chance to escape. So, I ask you this, are you going to die here, or die out there?”
They glanced at each other. A brand-new resolve rose in them. They wanted to escape, but they needed the right moment and right now is the best as any. They all nodded their heads and followed my lead.
I crept near the doorway and peeked outside for any soldiers. When it was clear, I gestured them to follow me until I found myself with two choices, head to the stairs, or head to the red room where Zanny is held. I can’t leave her here. After turning to face the rest of the lab rats, I pointed to the emergency staircase. “Through there is your escape. I can’t go with you. Not without Zanny. So, be safe, don’t take unnecessary risks.”
They were hesitant to leave me but nodded their heads. I left them and ran toward the red room. My legs slowly gathered my power and turned it into hard lights. By using my power, I was leaping at a fair distance.
It wasn’t a lonely journey as I expected it to be. A soldier popped out from the corner, he didn't spot me yet. Before he could, I whacked him right in the cheeks with my fist. His lights went out in seconds. I took his rifle, but in truth, I had no idea how to use it. However, I also took the retractable baton from his belt.
Another soldier appeared from another corner, I took out the retractable baton, hit it against his head. It stunned him, but not enough to knock him out. Another soldier was behind him, so I took the stunned soldier by the collar and pushed him toward his friend. When they both were against the wall, I kept hitting them in the necks and heads until they both were knocked out.
A blunt object hit me on my back, I stepped away with gritted teeth. When I turned around, a soldier stood with a baton in his hand. He took out his rifle, but I closed in and hit his hand away from the trigger. Using my feet, I sent my foot flying toward him, but he caught my leg and used it to swing me against the side of the wall.
The soldier pressed his rifles against my neck, hoping to choke me out. Before asphyxiation set in, I kicked his leg out under him and elbowed him in the face. His light went out before he fell face-first against the floor.
I stumbled a few steps. Trying to keep the weight off my injured leg proved to be harder than I thought. I arrived at the door, which led into the red room. After a quick breath, I readied the rifle and busted the door open.
Zanny was writhing in the restraint, I glared at the scientists while pointing my rifle at them. “What did you do?”
“Woah! W-We didn’t do anything. The machine haywire when the alarm was set off. It could be because the reserve generator kicked in.” He raised his arms in the air and so did his friends.
“Get her out of there!”
“We can’t. We don’t know what will happen if we stop the transfusion mid-process.”
“Do it!” I jammed the gun nuzzle against his head.
“Alright, don’t shoot me.” The scientist scrambled to take the needles out of Zanny and released her from the restraints.
Zanny fell on fours, violently twitching and trembling beyond belief.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“We can’t say. It might be because we stopped mid-process. It could be because of the short shut off before the reserve generator kicked in. Anyway, she’s responding violently to the serum.”
“No shit. Her organs might break down any minute now.” The scientist’s partner spoke up.
“Is there any way to help her?” My grip tightened around the rifle.
“We have no idea how to stop this.”
“Get out,” I ordered. The scientists left the red room without a complaint.
I kneeled in front of Zanny, then took her hand. “Zanny, can you hear me?”
She looked at me with wide and bloodshot eyes. Sweats washed over her face, barely keeping her twitches under control. “I heardー I can hear. No. What? Why are there so many of you?”
“There’s only one of me. Focus on my voice. We are going to get out of here.”
“Yes. What? No. No. It’s too late.”
“It’s not. Come on.” I slid myself underneath her arm and raised her off the floor.
“No. You don’t understand. We can’t. I can see it.”
“Zanny, you are hallucinating. You need to stay focused here. Just imagine the beach you talked about.” We started walking toward the door and out into the hallway.
“The beach… I want to go there. It’s so close.”
“Don’t. Stay with me. We can make it out of here. Together.”
As we walked down the hallway, a blast door came down and blocked our path. I glanced around in the hallway, and each door in the hallways was sealed shut. My heart pounded against my ribcage as I slammed my fist against the steel door.
“I don’t know what happened, Firefly. They locked me out fromー” Cindy’s voice suddenly cut off.
=PURGE ACTIVATED: COUNTDOWN START FROM FIVE=
A nondescript rusted van parked over an underground access point. A wire led up from the access point into the van and connected to the minicomputer inside the van. A girl with golden locks as bright as the sun sat in front of it. She typed in a couple of codes before turning her head to the dark-skinned man beside her. He was none other than the famous Agent Bradford.
“Her connection to the system has been cut off. We have full control of it now.”
Bradford stood in front of a screen with flattened lips. The screen showed Kenn and Zanny stumbling in the hallway. He turned to Juliet on the seat right next to him with her fingers over the computer keyboard. “Initiate the purge.”
Juliet’s finger hovered above the Enter key. She was hesitant to press it.
Bradford noticed the girl’s pause. “Why don’t you take a break?”
“Take a break, Juliet. That’s an order.” Bradford stared at her with cold eyes.
Juliet left her seat with her hands balled into fists. A lump clogged her throat, which she promptly swallowed down. Her legs froze while she was in the doorway. A glance caused her heart to tighten.
Bradford tapped on the Enter key without even any hesitation or a second thought. The blast doors in the hallway came down. Kenn and Zanny’s escape was blocked without them even knowing the cause.
Her chin lowered in sorrow as she walked through the door. It was done. Kenn will be gone, and she could have done something to stop it. However, she couldn’t betray her adopted father. The one person who once saved her when she was a child.
Bradford smiled. It was time for the next phase of his plan.