The Afterlife- Chapter 05
The Afterlife- Chapter 0522 mins 207 22 mins 207
The Secrets we keep
“Alright class, that’s all for today’s lesson you all are free to go” Jay announced. “Except you two, Kayden wants to see the both of you at the meeting room in five minutes. And don’t forget to bring your wristbands.” Jay added. The two of them nodded their heads and headed to their room to change out of their training outfits and into more comfortable ones. As they headed back, Eddy complained about how unfair it was that he wasn’t and how Luce keeps getting to tag along during meetings. “You get invited to the meetings? Aren’t they only for the members of the five?” Hailey asked. “Not all of them, but yea. Traditionally only the five is allowed in meetings, however in recent years Kayden suggested that the next generation of the five should be allowed in during meetings as well as be on the priority list for field missions. Kind of like an initiation programme for the next in line” Luce commented.
“Oh, so you must be incredibly powerful. How long have you had your powers for?” Hailey asked curiously. “Two years,” Luce said. “And you’re already next in line for the five? Woah aren’t you Mr Prodigy” Hailey said in amazement. “Well actually, he’s considered one of the weaker metas here. The only reason he’s next in line for the five is because his Dad was Eddison Smith.” Eddy said. “WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. The Eddison Smith is your father? As in the legendary metahuman who is said to be able to go toe to toe with annihilators despite being a normal metahuman ? The first metahuman known in existence to wield both power adaptability and have multi wielding at the same time? The metahuman that was rumoured to be so powerful that both forces during the war feared him?” Hailey said, awe-strucked. “Ermm… yeah.” Luce said, overwhelmed by Hailey’s sudden enthusiasm. “And before you ask, no I cannot do either of those things. Unfortunately, I did not inherit either of his powers.” Luce added. Feeling bad for asking him about his dad, she comforted him and assured him that he has his own strengths too and his dad must have had some weaknesses too. Luce let out a half-hearted smile as he proceeded to take out a set of fresh clothes from his cabinet and head towards the changing room.
As Luce and Hailey entered the room, they were engulfed by a chocolaty aroma that was so heavy that he could almost taste it in their mouths. The aroma was so strong and distinct that everyone could instantly tell that it was hot chocolate or more specifically, Hot chocolate made by Jay. Even though Jay might appear strict and mean, Jay was actually one of the nicest adults at the sanctuary and more often than not, would help prepare meals for its residents. “About time the two of you showed up, your hot chocolate was starting to become cold,” Jay said, ushering him into the meeting room. “And by the time Kayden finally shows up, his hot chocolate will become solid ice already.” a girl dressed in a black and white uniform that was covered in spider web patterns scoffed. “I don’t believe we’ve met. Hi I’m Hailey.” Hailey said, extending her hand out to her. “ I know who you are, fresh face. And frankly, I don't get what’s the big deal about you. It's not like you’re the only person here to lose someone.” the girl said. Before Hailey could say anything, Kayden walked into the room telling them break time was over and quiet down.
“I initiated this meeting, as we’ve received more reports on the location of yet another metahuman sighting. Things are slightly different this time though, the metahuman is born from human parents and is believed to have gotten his powers from trauma. From what Oracle told us, the parents of the kid have been trying to ‘exorcise’ him ever since his power appeared and if the kid is not back to ‘normal’ in 3 days, the parents will call for him to be cleansed.” Kayden briefed. “Let me guess, another one from Euphoria City” Jay sighed. Euphoria City or more commonly known as the City of light was a city that prided itself on being a home for all and a United City. However the city held a dark secret that only its residents and the metahuman colonies knew- any metahuman discovered regardless of their age were subjected to execution or ‘cleansing’ as the residents called it. “Euphoria City? Can’t be that bad right, I’ve heard it's quite a pleasant place to live in. Giant fountains and large gardens everywhere.” Hailey commented. “Yea, nice to live in provided that they don’t find out you’re a metahuman. If they do, you better start running.” the girl replied, glaring at Hailey. “If they catch you, they’ll slice your head off and feed your organs to wild animals.”
“Well, the latter is just a speculation. But the gist of it is that they dislike people who are different from them.” Kayden said. “Euphoria City is a two day drive from the sanctuary, which means if we leave now we should have sufficient time to find the target and get him out of there. Let’s just hope this turns out better than the last time.” Jay said. Kayden then announced to the team that they had 10 minutes to pack their bags for the trip.
After two days and many pit stops later, the five of them finally reached the gates of Euphoria City and Hailey let out an excited gasp as numerous skyscrapers surrounded by greenery and large fountains filled the horizon. “Yo Goldilocks, have you already forgotten what we discussed two days ago? All these are just for show. You can forget about tasting the porridge, we’re leaving as soon as we get the kid.” the girl reminded Hailey.
“Jeez, what’s up with her? I barely said anything” Hailey remarked. “ I wouldn’t take it personally, Jackie hates everyone and everything. Especially Euphoria City.” Luce said reassuringly. Before they headed into the city, Kayden instructed them to put on their digital face mask. These masks allowed them to protect their identities during missions without drawing attention to themselves.
“Here’s the plan, there are two possible locations where the kid might be. A: The asylum or B: The church near the corner of the metro station. We’ll split ourselves into two teams, Team A takes the asylum and Team B takes the church. Me and Jay are Team A and the rest of you will be in Team B. Team B you’ll meet us back at the metro station in 4 hours. Remember, no powers no matter what. We leave as soon as we get the target.
[Euphoria City, Redon street Metro station]
As Luce, Jackie and Hailey alighted from the metro station, they were greeted by a huge swarm of people rushing to get to work. “Hey Jackie, we might have gotten off on the wrong foot just now and I apologise if I have offended you in any way. I mean you no harm really, I’m just trying to find my place and all.” Hailey apologised as she ducked to the side to prevent herself from crashing into a commuter that was making a beeline for the train. “ I couldn’t care any less whichever foot you got off from, I’m not keen on making friends with you, techy boy over here or anyone at the sanctuary. My only concern right now is on the mission and getting out of it alive. Also, the name is Arachnid.” Jackie said without looking back at Hailey.
Moments later, they finally made it out of the metro station and into the church. Before Luce could come up with a plan on searching the area, Jackie announced that she was heading to the East Halls to search. Luce sighed and told Hailey to take the West Halls while he would search upstairs. On the outside, the church stood around two stories high and wasn't as glamorous and neither did it stand out from the other buildings. However on the inside, the main hall held one of the largest organs any of them had seen. White Marble tables and leather chairs were arranged neatly across the hall. Though the church was not extremely huge, there was still sufficient space for them to split the ground floor into two segments, the East and West wings.
On the East side where Jackie was headed, was where the church kept their items. The storage rooms were further split into 3 segments, the first was for food and resources for the Staff Members that resided in the church, the second was for church documents and equipment, and the last was where the church stored their money and funds. Intrigued by the second room, Jackie slowly slid through the gap of the door which was already half open. Inside stood rows and rows of shelves filled with cardboard boxes, each labelled what they contained. While she was aware that it was highly unlikely that the kid would be here, she was trying to search for something else. Something of value to her which she had wanted to get back. Jackie walked as slowly and cautiously as she could in hopes that the church staff on the other side of the room could not hear her.
‘2060. No. 2061. No. 2062.No. 2063. No. Come on, where is it’ Jackie murmured to herself as she walked past the shelves. Picking up her pace, Jackie quickly glanced at each of the boxes. As she searched the room, she found information about the church and the city dating all the way back to 2060, during the post-war era. None of which was what she was looking for. Sighing in defeat, she accidentally knocked over a box of items which caused a loud cracking sound which alerted the staff member. “Jackie?” The church staff exclaimed as Jackie placed the pieces that had dropped out back into the box.
[Institute of the Mentally Challenged, Euphoria City]
“Dr Sven and Dr Fritz? I thought both of you were on leave till the end of the month?” the counter clerk asked puzzledly. “ Oh yea, we just had to do some last minute documents before heading off. Wouldn’t want to spend the holidays worrying about it.” Dr Sven chuckled. “Do you even know where Sven’s office is ?” Jay said, disabling his voice modifier. In order to carry out the mission as smoothly, Kayden had done some research the night before at their rest stop on Euphoria City’s Institute of the mentally challenged and found out that the head doctors happened to be on vacation that very day. Using this to their advantage, they infiltrated into the facility with ease. “ Down the corridor, turn left. We search for any evidence of the admission of our target and get him out.” Kayden said. “Wouldn’t it be easier if we just got Apollos to scan the database?” Jay asked. “ Restricted Access. Three grade five firewalls , two grade ten firewalls and a HIVE Trojan Horse. Even if you managed to get past the firewalls, the system is rigged to the trojan horse which is programmed to automatically delete all the data in the database and shut down the attacker’s software. Now start searching, the Institute keeps physical reports of the patients somewhere in the Head Doctor’s office.” Kayden said, rummaging through the desk cabinets.
The Duo spent the next few minutes searching through the office for any form of documentation about their target. With papers and files littered around the office from the mess created by them, it would take them a miracle to find anything. As they searched the pile, Jay yelled in excitement as he held out a file which matched the description of their target- Brown hair, 4 inches and 9 foot tall and pale skin. While they read through the file, a voice called for Dr Sven through the PA system to conduct a spot check on the patients on the fourth floor. Jay, not wanting to blow his cover, proceeded to the fourth floor to do the spot check.
[Church of Truth, Redon Street Euphoria City]
“Jackie?” The church staff exclaimed as Jackie placed the pieces that had dropped out back into the box. Jackie gulped and slowly stood up with her hands gripping firmly onto the box. “Hi..Hi Sister Jane, long time no see” Jackie chuckled nervously. Both of them stood in silence staring at each other's eyes. The reason why Jackie hated Euphoria City was not about the way they treated metahumans; she had grown used to how society had treated her and metahumans over the years. She hated Euphoria City because it was once her home. A place she once thought she could call home. She hated how the city had treated her and family. “Jackie, what on earth are you doing back here? If they find out you’re alive, they’ll do the same as they did to your parents.” Sister Jane said worryingly.
“ 12 years of running. 12 years. That’s more than half my life. I’ve come to realise that in this life, living is scarier than death itself.” Jackie replied.
“I..” Sister Jane stammered.
“I WAS FIVE JANE, FIVE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW TRAUMATISING IT WAS?” Jackie bellowed.
“Do.. you..understand.. How terrifying it is to see… yo.. your father’s li..lifeless corpse falling in front of you by the very people that were supposed to make you feel safe. And be..be ..before you know it, your mother has disappeared without a trace and suddenly you’re sent into a new environment and you are supposed to act as though nothing has happened? I may be different, but I have limits too” Jackie sobbed.
“I.. I just want answers. I just need to find out if she’s still out there.” Jackie stammered. As the two continued talking, they heard a loud bang on the door and without giving a second thought, Jane instinctively shoved Jackie behind her. Seconds later, two figures emerged from the door.
“St.. sta.. stay back.” Sister Jane stammered, pointing a detached pipe towards them
[Institute of the Mentally Challenged, Euphoria City]
As the lift doors opened, he was greeted by rows and rows of dimly lit reinforced glass cells with only a bed and a small bedside table in each cell. There, she was accompanied by a pale and expressionless nurse around the floor to conduct the spot checks. Disgusted by the treatment of the patients and if not for the mission, Jay would have broken all of them out of there. Nearing to the end of the spot check, Jay was led to a singular isolated cell which contained a child no older than ten years old tied in a strap jacket onto the bed.
“And finally, Patient 3570A, admitted three days ago and is said to be a metahuman. We’ve tried breaking the emitter and increasing the limiter genes in his body, but no matter what the emitter genes keep regenerating faster than the limiter genes we inject in. Not to worry though, he is set to be ‘cleansed’ in eight hours' time” the nurse said monotonously. Jay nodded and informed the nurse that he’ll observe the patient longer. As soon as the nurse left, Jay informed Kayden that he had found the location of their target but smuggling him down unnoticed would be a challenge.
“I can disable the building's lights and camera for 5 minutes to give you time to break him out. Once you break him out, bring him to Dr Sven’s lab. Fortunately for us, there is a suitcase the size of a toddler here. We’ll put him inside and if all goes well, the mission should be a success.” Kayden said. Without waiting for a reply, Kayden went ahead with the plan which caught Jay off guard. Luckily, Jay was a quick thinker and managed to quickly follow along with the plan. Unstrapping the strap jacket was the easy part, the hard part came as they were trying to smuggle the kid out. To their surprise, the real Dr Sven had indeed come back due to some last minute work. Now, the typically calm and collected Jay was starting to panic as the real Dr Sven slowly pushed the door open. Kayden however, was not panicking at all. He analysed the room for any ventilation points and found one located in between the bookshelves and ushered Jay into it.
Expecting an armed criminal to be inside, Dr Sven pointed his taser gun in front of him. As Kayden and Jay had already escaped through the vents, the room was filled with nothing but echoes of the duo going through the vents; which Dr Sven dismissed as rats.
[Church of Truth, Redon Street Euphoria City]
With Shoulders hunched and heart in her mouth, Sister Jane held onto the pipe tighter and tighter as the figures drew closer. Even though Jackie had said that she was not afraid of death, the truth was that she was indeed afraid. Afraid of letting the hope of her mother being alive die. As the figures drew closer, a familiar voice called out for Jackie. Realising that it was just Luce and Hailey she sighed a breath of relief and assured Sister Jane that it was alright. “ Sister Jane, this is Luce and Hailey my… friends. Luce, Hailey, this is Sister Jane, my caretaker when I was younger” Jackie said, introducing them to one another. Elated that Jackie had made some friends, she shook their hands and spent the next few minutes chatting with them. Growing a little impatient but not wanting to sound rude, Jackie asked Sister Jane if her mother had left her anything. Nodding her head, she walked back to the storage room and resurfaced with a box that was addressed to Jackie. She told Jackie that her mother had instructed her to give it to Jackie in the event something had happened to them but before she could give it to her, Jackie had already ran off.
[The Sanctuary, near the coast of Joltic City]
“If either of you say anything about what happened at the church to anyone, I’ll pulverize you so hard, you won’t be able to tell what year we are in anymore. Understood?” Jackie said sternly as she walked towards her room. Ignoring her, Luce and Hailey headed to the canteen, where Jay had prepared a bowl of his famous Marshmallow Hot Chocolate and a bowl of piping hot porridge for the kid they had just rescued. “ Hot Chocolate at dinner time? Wow, lucky.” Luce said to the kid “Ello! I’m Luce and this lady is Hailey. Pleased to meet you.” Luce added warmly. “Hey kiddos, this is Danny Martins. He’ll be rooming with Adam and Isaiah in the room opposite yours.” Jay introduced as he took out their dinner.
Later that night, Luce burnt the night preparing for his finals the next day as well as to catch up on the lessons he had missed the previous days. Sometime around 2 in the morning, Luce was interrupted by a soft whisper calling for him. “ M..Mr..Mr Luce, I..I..can’t sleep. Is it okay if I stay with you?” Danny asked timidly. “You’re welcome to my room anytime, but let’s head somewhere else. Let’s not disturb others.” Luce said as he held his hand and brought him to the canteen. There, Luce handed Danny his tablet to keep Danny entertained while he finished up his work.
An hour later, Jay entered the canteen with his flask and was shocked to see Luce and Danny there. “ Oh? What are you gentlemen doing here this late? Here for some coffee too?” Jay asked as he brewed his coffee. “Jay. It's three in the morning, who on earth drinks coffee this early.” Luce replied. “You’re a senior year student and your finals are literally in four hours’ time Luce, every time is coffee time.” Jay remarked. “Can’t argue with that logic. Hit me up Jay.” Eddy said, carrying a stack of books into the room.
As Eddy walked through the door, Luce stared at him in utter bewilderment as he was not expecting Eddy to be awake at this hour. Patting him on the back, Eddy said what kind of a friend he would be if he let Luce burn the midnight oil on his own.
The next day, crowds of people chattering filled the hallway as everyone discussed their finals. Luce however, simply sat at his seat outside his class and slowly sipped his coffee as Eddy rambled about the exam to him. “Ello Luce, do you want to go Ice Skating with me and a bunch of my friends? You can bring Eddy too” Sarah asked. Eddy, without thinking twice, agreed to it. Luce on the other hand was in two minds. On one hand, he already had very little alone time and wanted to use his free time to continue revising for his other subjects as well as to train; on the other he felt that he needed a break with so many things happening back at the sanctuary. Sensing his indecision, Eddy tries to convince him that he needs a break, especially from the eventful 2 weeks. Finally, after much persuasion, Luce finally agrees.
“Here we are. Platinum Heights.” Hailey said. In Front of them towered a fifty story tall glass building decorated in lights. Outside the building were rows of trees and velvet ropes paving the way into the mall. Before heading to the ice skating rink, the group decided to grab some food first. While eating, news of the Acre City explosion shows on the TV and the group starts discussing it. “Man, metahumans are dangerous. Thank goodness there are barely any of them left.” one of them said. “ They’ll probably start another war like their ancestors.’’ another added. Not wanting to offend his new friends or say something which would embarrass himself, Luce excused himself to the washroom. Knowing how Luce felt during situations like this, Eddy followed Luce to the toilet to ensure that he was alright.
“First off, we didn’t ‘start’ the damn war. You dumbass normals started it. All we did was protect ourselves. How is that our fault?” Luce ranted out loud at the back of the shopping mall to Eddy.
“Second, we are not lunatics, we don’t just go around starting wars. Even if we did, what good in the world would that possibly do.” Luce added.
“Luce. Calm down, I get it you’re mad bu-” Eddy said as luce cut him off.
“I am beyond mad. Who do the-” Luce interrupted
“LUCE. Listen to me. I get it you are mad at them, I am too but that’s the reality of the world we live in. No matter what we do, they’re always gonna see us as monsters because that’s what they have been taught their whole lives. ” Eddy said firmly. Sighing and hanging his head in defeat, he agreed with Eddy. While the two of them headed back to where the group was hanging, Luce noticed a figure dressed in a dark red hoodie that vaguely resembled the appearance of Joren. Wanting to confirm his suspicions, he told Eddy to head back to the rest of the group first so as to not keep them waiting. Eyes now locked onto the figure, he began chasing him down. Noticing that he had been spotted as well, the figure started making a run for it as well.
“Joren, stop running. I’m not here to fight; just here to help.” Luce yelled as he chased the hooded figure round the corner and into the food court. Ignoring Luce, the hooded figure picked up his pace and pushed a lady who was carrying a tray of food aside. Not wanting to lose Joren, Luce picked up his pace as well but was careful as to not trip or knock over the onlookers. After a few minutes of dodging startled passers-by and flying objects thrown by the figure, Luce finally managed to corner the figure into a corner just outside the mall.
With nowhere to run, the hooded figure slowly backed towards the corner as Luce drew closer towards him. Now slightly out of breath, Luce reiterated that he wasn’t here to fight but to help him. However, there was still no response from the hooded figure.
“Come on Joren, I know it's you. Hailey and the rest of us have been searching high and low for you. Whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help you.” Luce said, still panting. Upon hearing those words, Joren froze on the spot as a wave of emotions hit him. After Greenville burnt down and he had escaped the clutches of death, he spent the next couple of months trying to locate Hailey. He would head back to Acre City, where Greenville once stood, to search for her daily. But it was to no avail. Just as he was about to lose hope, he received news of a rumour of a group of metahumans saving a metahumans saving a girl matching the description of Hailey.
Seeing that Joren was in a trance, Luce kicked him on the legs, which caused Joren to fall down. Luce outstretched his hands to Joren, who was quickly regaining his composure. As soon as Joren’s hands touched Luce’s, he placed both of his hands on Luce’s arm and tossed Luce over his shoulder onto the ground, knocking Luce unconscious. Before leaving, Joren took off his mask, placed a folded piece of paper and tossed it beside Luce before disappearing.
“ LUCE. LUCE. LUCE. LUCEEEEE.” Eddy yelled as he violently shook the unconscious Luce.
“ Urgh.. I’m up, I’m up.” Luce groaned.
“Great. Sarah and the others are starting to ask questions, come on let's go.” Eddy added. Looking around, Luce tried searching for Joren but instead he found the mask he had left behind, along with the piece of paper. Assuming Joren had already ran off, he sighed and kept the items in the bag he was carrying. The two of them then spent the rest of the day hanging out with Sarah and her group of friends and to their surprise they bonded really well with them and was even invited to their next outing.
At night, the two of them entered the sanctuary chatting away happily about their day.
“Fun day, I presume.” Hailey said. Eddy nodded and proceeded to tell her about their eventful day. “You found Joren?” Hailey exclaimed. “Did he say anything?”
“Nope. Not a single word. Not even so much as a warning before flipping me 360 degrees backwards. Rude if you ask me.” Luce whined.
“To be fair, you did kick him while he was stoning. That’s a huge no no in the bro code.” Eddy said, defending Joren.
“Dude who’s side are you on?” Luce said, walking over to the bar to make a glass of coffee.
“Are you sure it was him in the first place and not just you hallucinating?” Kayden interrupted. “Well, he froze in place when I mentioned Hailey and he left his mask and a paper with a bunch of gibberish before he disappeared.” Luce replied. Unzipping his bag, he took out the mask and note from before and passed it to Kayden. Inspecting the note, Hailey stated that the words on the paper were not ‘gibberish’ but rather a series of codes created by Joren and her when they were younger as a form of secret ‘language’. Kayden asked her if she could decipher it to which she said she could but it would take some time as she had used the code to decipher anything.