The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Several explosions shook the hospital as Rom ran ahead of a slow Mayor and even slower Gwyn. They had fled in the direction away from the invaders, but the sign of the enemies was still clear even far away. Lights flickered due to the damaged electrical system, and a combination of patients and staff had fled in a hurry—leaving equipment, vials, and all other sorts of things littered on the floor. The further they went into the hospital, the more empty it was; a complete evacuation was underway throughout the giant medical center.
“We need to hurry,” Rom said as another explosion shook the hospital. With each boom, the sound got louder, and the Zenotote assistant felt they were not explosions but something far worse.
“I’m running as fast as I can!” Mayor Abelard shouted through exasperated gasps. He had not been fit for at least ten years, and the sweat running down his face like a waterfall showed it plainly.
Gwyn said nothing but simply looked at the ground. He could outrun both and leave them behind, but he didn’t know how to get out and figured it would be better to stick close than risk running into their enemy alone. The last thing he wanted to do was fight and risk injury again. The Nonpareil scratched at the hard lump on his shoulder; he wondered what was wrong with his limp arm but was unwilling to tear off the hospital clothes to see.
Another explosion rang out, and as Rom feared, it was getting closer.
“This way!” a voice called out; a hunched doctor stood in a doorway, waving for the others to follow. Rom was the first to run past him in the door; she thanked him in a low voice while running by.
Gwyn hesitated to follow after the mayor went into the new path, the doctor had smiled at Rom’s words, but it was so twisted and creepy that the Nonpareil couldn’t help but think he was a threat. With a sigh, he collected himself. Just how he smiles, nothing to worry about, Gwyn thought as he ran past.
The door was sealed shut, and the group faced a smooth wall. The only way to go led straight into a dead end. The doctor fiddled with a tablet as he typed out a message. Rom gritted her teeth as the hunched man aimed his twisted smile at her.
“I’m only a new member, but to think that I could capture the target so easily!” he chirped with glee.
Gwyn let his head hang, his judgment had been correct, and his doubt had led him into error.
“What are you doing?” Rom asked. The doctor laughed as he pulled two scalpels from his pockets.
“Don’t try anything funny!” he shouted while pointing the blade at them. “I’ve already given Mr. Nighthawk this location, and he is on his way!”
“I’m disappointed that you would support these villans,” the mayor said with a shake of his head. “What could have led you down this dark path!” As he spoke, Abelard pressed his hand close to his suit, where he had hidden an unloaded firearm and ammunition—one that he hoped he would never have to use, especially on a citizen.
“Don’t give me that!” the doctor spat, “everyone knows what Mayor Abelard is planning! Nun has grown too much. Nun is held together by thin threads. Nun needs a new path for the future. We’ve all listened to your speeches very carefully, Mr. Mayor. You plan to destroy this city, to tear it apart!” The doctor began to pace back and forth, his hands wildly flying through the air without care for the sharp instruments they held. His voice cracked and shook as one can with extreme ecstasy or fury as he spoke. “I don’t think you understand! If you tear this place apart, there won’t be anyone to make the good tablet programs; what will I spend my hours on? Or, the delicious food! There won’t be anyone to wake me up in the morning, I pay good money for that, you know, and there won’t be any comfort for all the citizens you leave out in the cold!” The doctor stopped pacing and turned with a glare to Abelard. The mayor remained unfazed.
“I think you might have the wrong idea here, and I’m not sure what you were told, but–”
“Spare me your empty words!” The doctor interrupted with a hiss. He aimed his scalpels at Mayor Abelard’s neck and charged.
Rom intercepted. With a gentle move of her arms, she twisted the doctor’s arms behind his back and pushed him to the ground. His blades made a soft ring on the floor as his grip failed. He was pressed firmly onto the ground and squirmed as Rom pushed all her weight into him.
“You’re a fool! Nun will be destroyed if he lives!” the doctor spat with enough rage that he almost foamed at the mouth.
Mayor Abelard leaned down so that he was close. The doctor looked up and snarled. Abelard gently placed a hand on the constrained man’s head.
“I don’t know who misled you, but we will not destroy Nun. The ones you have aligned with are more likely to do that. Nevertheless, I will do everything possible to earn your trust.” Abelard nodded to Rom, and before the doctor could snarl a reply, the Zenotote assistant hit him in the back of the head to knock him out. She loosened her grip as the unconscious doctor was gently laid on the cold floor.
“A bit of inconsistent messaging,” Gwyn muttered.
“Sorry?” Abelard asked.
“You say you’ll earn back his trust before bludgeoning him.”
“I hardly hit him that hard,” Rom replied as she stood up and brushed herself off, “I’m not much of a fighter, but I know some good spots to target for desirable results.”
“I don’t think that matters,” Gwyn replied.
Abelard held up his hands to indicate both should stop.
“Nonpareil Gwyn, we don’t have much time to argue; please let us save these topics for later. If we all die, it won’t matter that we discussed them now.”
“You would do well to spend more time thinking about how you will support us!” Rom added. “I had heard you were some great warrior, but you are nothing more than a sniveling child!”
Gwyn gritted his teeth and kept his head low. Trying to argue with them seemed pointless; they wouldn’t be able to understand the horror he felt with his loss to Nighthawk. The pain of having every bone broken. The Nonpareil had realized death was possible, and he had barely brushed past it. He walked up to the sealed door and liquified it open. With a gesture, he indicated that Rom and the Mayor should leave first—now that he had seen the Zenotote girl could handle herself in a fight, he was content to let her do all the work. The young Nonpareil ran after the two as they returned to the abandoned hallways.
In the room they left, the doctor’s eyes flashed open. Rom’s attack was evident, and he was able to twist his head just enough to avoid getting knocked out. His hunched body squirmed on the floor to the tablet, Rom’s blows still had left his whole frame feeling heavy, and he began to flick across the screens. The man had expected Gwyn to restrain him with his ability, but as the report stated, the Nonpareil was broken. The doctor typed the confirmation into his tablet and sent a message. There would be no real opposition to stopping the mayor’s death. With the guarantee, the doctor felt satisfied that he had done his job. He swiped to a new screen that simply showed a large red button.
“Never thought I would have to use this, but for the mission, I suddenly don’t mind,” he muttered as well as his numb body would allow.
The fleeing trio had hardly gotten away when a large explosion was set off behind them. Gwyn turned back and became white as a ghost as a plume of fire and heat chased after them. The Nonpareil picked up the pace.
“No, make a barrier!” Rom shouted.
You should be able to do it, partner! Mem added.
Gwyn gritted his teeth as he spun around. He held his good hand out and liquified a line across the hospital floor and up the walls. With a quick flip of his hand, the space closed in and hardened, and his face ran with sweat.
Gwyn fell to his knees and scratched at his bad arm.
“I want to go home,” he muttered through heavy breaths.
“We need to keep moving, Nonpareil Gwyn; the enemy won’t let any opportunity slide.”
Gwyn wanted to argue, but he kept the complaints to himself. He stood up and shook his head while taking a few deep breaths. A burning feeling that felt strong enough to melt him filled his chest, and he could not snuff it out. The Nonpareil followed after without complaint; he only hoped Rom would lead them to an escape from their current nightmare.