Written by CJS :: [Saturday, 14 September 2019 11:36] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 15 September 2019 07:29]
The blue light grew brighter and the mechanical groaning louder as the man carried Sapphire Angel down the hall. She groaned softly as he carried her, pain from the beating wracking her body. Her head drooped to the side and, for the briefest of moments, she saw the tunnel of light in her mind’s eye again. It filled her vision and held steady, even when she looked away. Before she could see the other end, the vision disappeared.
When they reached the room at the end of the hall, the large man walked several feet further and lowered her legs to the floor. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pushed her into a standing position. She wobbled in front of him, struggling to stay on her feet. Her body throbbed with pain, and she started to fall forward. The man seized her shoulders, holding her upright.
Her four attackers stood behind her, and several other men formed a semicircle in front of her. Demarco Dominick stood in the center, flanked by three men in white lab coats and at least five other guards. Erie shadows flickered around them.
She struggled to keep her head up and take in her surroundings. She pulled her eyes away from Dominick and spotted the glass cylinder to her left, about twenty feet away. It emitted the loud mechanical groaning she had heard, but more noticeable was its bright blue glow, filling the room. Blinding light spilled from an open panel at its base. Even in her battered state, she recognized the opening as the same one she and John had climbed into three nights earlier. The blue light from within seemed to rush out, like water escaping a dam.
Sapphire Angel knew she was looking at the device responsible for the loss of her powers. But captive as she was, she could do nothing to stop it. Even if the man behind loosened his grip, she would only tumble to the floor. There was no way out of this.
As her eyes adjusted to the blue light, she made out a human form laying on the floor inside the cylinder, unmoving. She emitted a soft whimper. It was Ethan.
Worry washed over her at the sight of her friend. She said a silent prayer, hoping he was still alive, but realized it probably didn’t matter. Battered and beaten, she was at the mercy of her captors and couldn’t save him. Even if he was alive, it was only temporary. They were both going to die here. Her head sagged in despair.
Dominick stepped to her, grabbing her face. He cradled her chin in his massive hand, gripping her cheeks between his thumb and index finger. He squeezed and forced their eyes to met.
“I’m trying to figure you out, girl,” he said, raising his voice just enough to be heard over the noise from the cylinder. “You think putting on a fancy costume gives you the right to stick your nose in my business?”
Anger flared in Beth, temporarily masking the pain throbbing throughout her body, and she shot a glare at Dominick. Her voice came out clear and strong.
“When you killed someone Friday night, you gave me the right to stick my nose in your business.”
Dominick’s jaw hardened.
“Well you failed, superheroine,” he said, contempt dripping from his voice. “Everything you did at our headquarters and our farm was for nothing. I’ve beaten you. And now you will help me reach my goal.”
“Your goal?” she answered. “You mean killing more people?”
Dominick’s eyes flashed. “If I have to, yes.”
She watched him with a mix of disdain and pity, but said nothing. He noticed her appraising look.
“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” he asked, his annoyance unmistakable. “Perhaps it’s easier for you to stomach this if you think I’m a madman. I assure you that’s not the case. I know what it’s like to lose someone, just like you do. The difference is I can stop it from happening again.”
She said nothing. Her momentary burst of adrenaline had faded, and the pain crept back in. Dominick released his hold on her face, and her head drooped forward. He grabbed a handful of hair atop her head and yanked her face up again.
“I am not crazy,” he hissed.
Her eyes fluttered open, and in his eyes she saw a man desperate for understanding.
“You would have done the same to save your boyfriend,” he insisted. “Anyone would have done the same.”
Sapphire Angel managed a small shake of her head. The movement took supreme effort, and she remained standing only because of the guard’s grasp on her shoulders and Dominick’s grip in her hair.
“I wouldn’t,” she said. “And neither would Ashley.”
Veins bulged in Dominick’s face, and his mouth contorted in a snarl.
“Don’t mention my daughter’s name!” he shouted. He gripped her hair tighter, eliciting a whimper from the battered heroine. “You think this is a TV show or movie, where you can mouth off, and maybe I’ll tie you up so someone can save you later? That’s not the real world. In the real world, I have a bunch of red-blooded American men, right here. They have all sorts of ideas what they want to do with a girl like you, including ripping that costume off of you. The only thing stopping them is me. So think twice before you say my daughter’s name.”
Sapphire Angel met his gaze, but remained silent.
“I still have a need for you, but not like they do,” he said. He released his grip on her hair, and her chin fell to her chest.
Dominick turned to address a man in a Fizzure uniform at his side. “If the Moore kid isn’t dead, get him out of there, and take him back down to the garage.”
The uniformed man barked some orders, and two guards marched to the cylinder, punched in a code on a keypad near the base, and opened the door. As they dragged Ethan out, her friend stirred. He didn’t look up and didn’t seem aware of his surroundings, but he definitely moved. The two men held Ethan between them and marched down the hall.
As Ethan disappeared from sight, a mixture of relief and hope flooded Beth, infusing her with a newfound determination. She needed to find a way out of this mess and save Ethan. But first she needed to save herself.
The Fizzure CEO faced the big man holding Sapphire Angel.
“Time to find out if our silver-eyed friend is right, and this little girl is the key to what we’re trying to accomplish,” Dominick said. “It’s her turn.”
Dominick nodded at the man, who used his grasp on her shoulders to twist her around, as if he was screwing her into the ground. She spun, the pain intensifying like a bolt of lightning, and tears welled up in her eyes.
The stocky man stood by the cylinder’s glass door, holding it open. The costumed woman was helpless to resist as the large man and another guard each took an arm, hoisting her off her feet. She kicked and twisted as they carried her to the cylinder, but she was too weak to fight them off. They tossed the heroine into the cylinder. She stumbled inside, falling to the floor, as the stocky man shut the door.
Sapphire Angel lay on her side, trying to prop herself up on one elbow. Life seemed to pause inside the cylinder. As she let out a sob, no longer able to hold in her pain, she understood the sensation. It wasn’t time, but sudden and complete silence, save her quiet whimpering. The sound of her voice echoed around the inside of the glass cylinder, but she heard no other sound.
Sapphire Angel turned her head to see Dominick pointing and giving orders to the other men in the room, but her eyes closed as a sharp pain gripped her upper chest. When she opened her eyes, the men in the room were rooted in place, staring at her.
She rose to a knee, as the blue light around her grew even brighter. She closed her eyes, but she still felt as if she was staring into the sun. A blue sun. When it seemed like it would blind her, the blue light disappeared, like someone had flicked a switch, and the tunnel of light returned to her mind’s eye again.
The pain in her chest, below her necklace, grew again, intensifying until it felt like it would break her in half. Sapphire Angel arched her back and cried out. She reached for the necklace, momentarily thinking to rip it from her neck. But she knew instinctively the necklace wasn’t causing the pain. Whatever power the necklace had given her was inside her, and its last remnants were being ripped out.
She balled her fists and clenched her eyes, as her lips trembled. She had to hold it in. Somehow, she couldn’t let the final vestiges of her powers escape.
“Ohhh…” she murmured, her voice quivering and her body shuddering.
With each passing moment the weakened woman realized the futility. Her necklace was now sparking and popping at a furious rate, and she felt as if she was being swallowed by the tunnel of light.
Finally, with one final groan, the heroine screamed, and toppled over as an explosion of blue light surrounded her. She hit the floor, landing on her side, with one arm stretched out above her. She moaned softly and her entire body trembled. She felt cold air on her skin and saw only darkness.
As she let out a whimper her eyes flickered open, and she looked down the length of her body. She was naked. She gasped and her eyes flew open in shock, before she raised her gaze to meet the stares of the 11 men outside the cylinder. Even with her innocence, she recognized the looks of raw sexual hunger from most of the men, whose eyes wandered over the smooth, flawless skin of her lithe body, traveling up her long legs, over her pelvis and flat stomach, and to her firm breasts. The men in white lab coasts wore looks of puzzlement, watching her with wrinkled brows. Beth’s face flushed red, and as she lay on her side she used an arm to cover her breasts, and slowly pulled one of her toned legs forward, covering herself.
Even in her weekend state she lifted her head to scan around her. Her costume and necklace were gone, nowhere to be seen. Beth’s face burned with humiliation over what her lost powers and missing items represented - complete and utter defeat at the hands of these men.
She pushed aside her pain and her mind churned, trying to comprehend what had happened. Had the light consumed the necklace and costume? Had she blacked out and simply didn’t remember them being taken from her? Or had they somehow been sent somewhere else?
Beth looked back to the men and noticed Demarco Dominick watching her with narrow eyes. He barked a command to the men in the lab coats, but she couldn’t hear it through the glass. The scientists hurried forward and moved about the base of the cylinder, removing and connecting hoses, and flicking switches. One of them moved the missing panel back into place, before facing Dominick and nodding.
Dominick said more words to the men before giving her a final look. He turned and everyone in the room followed him as he headed for one of two doors. Beth stumbled to her feet, wincing. She immediately toppled forward, holding up her hands just before she thudded into the glass wall of the cylinder.
Leaning against the curved glass, she closed her eyes in despair. Her sadness wasn’t for herself, but for Ethan. She had come here to play hero. To save him. Now she stood naked, bereft of her necklace and costume, and badly beaten. She was a captive herself, utterly powerless to help anyone. Worse, this seemed to be part of Dominick’s plan. She had been a fool to believe in herself.
A horrible thought came to Beth. Had Dominicks’ daughter, Ashley, set her up? Had she told her father that the famous superheroine had visited her and was on her way to his facility? Beth couldn’t discount the possibility, but it didn’t feel right to her.
As her thoughts turned back to Ethan, an anger and defiance boiled up inside her. It started in her chest, rising with a warmth and shooting throughout her as a burning fury. She balled her fists at her side. These men were responsible for John’s death, and soon would kill her and Ethan, too.
With a scream, Beth reared both her arms back over her heads, and hammered the sides of her fists into the glass. They thudded off the surface, as a jolt of pain shot up her arms.
Beth leaned forward against the glass, pressing her forehead to the surface and looking into the empty room beyond. Her tears came freely now.
As she watched, the blue glow in the room dimmed, until it was barely discernible. She bit her lip in puzzlement, until she realized with horror that Dominick might be trying a different process, now that she had lost her powers. He might be trying the same process that had killed John. No, not just John. It had killed other prisoners, too. In a panic, she pounded on the glass and screamed.
As she flailed desperately on the glass, the blue glow faded completely. Moments later it was replaced by the same yellow glow she had seen from the hall upon her arrival. Almost instantly, a tingling sensation ran across Beth’s skin, like an army of ants crawling over her.
She stepped back, held her arms out at her side, and studied her limbs. A golden light dancing off her slender arms, and she thought back to John’s appearance as they had huddled below the cylinder on that fateful Halloween night. A yellow glow had surrounded him, but she remembered thinking it looked dirty somehow. The glow around her was pure, devoid of any taint.
As she watched her body, the speck of light appeared in her vision again, demanding her attention. This time it was far away, but still she sensed it. Perhaps the tunnel was there, too, but she couldn’t see it, and after a moment the flicker of light disappeared.
The light in the room intensified, and with it the tingling on Beth’s skin increased, until it seemed like electricity coursing through her. She squinted her eyes, looking up and trying to find the tunnel of light. There it was, expanding from a flicker to burst in an instant, but fading away just as quickly.
She couldn’t let the tunnel of light go. The core of her existence told her so. She sensed the tunnel’s presence, even if she couldn’t see it. Beth clenched her jaw in determination, and instinctively held a balled fist to the base of her neck, where her necklace had been minutes earlier.
Beth concentrated, trying to will the tunnel of light into existence. As she pictured it in her imagination, the flicker of light appeared in the distance once again, and grew. Moments later, it faded away. Come back to me! She lunged out with her mind, willing it to return to her. The light reappeared, a flicker once again. But the more she focused on it, the brighter it became. Small at first, the brightness grew, pulsing outward and taking form, until the tunnel seemed as if it were physically present in the room. She knew it wasn’t there, and that only she could see it, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that it was there for her.
As the tunnel of light grew more stable in front of her, thoughts floated on the periphery of her mind. Thoughts of John. Of Ethan. Of all the young men and women victimized by Dominick and his people. She couldn’t let them continue. She used those thoughts as an anchor - an anchor to remind her of the floor under her feet, while her mind held open the tunnel of light.
Through the tunnel, she saw a burst of blue light rushing toward her, coming so rapidly she couldn‘t think about avoiding it. The light enveloped her body, exploding around her in a dazzling flash, and bringing with it a sensation that both soothed and invigorated her.
When the flash faded, the tunnel was gone. Beth stumbled back, gulping in breaths of air. Pausing only a moment, she took stock of herself, looking down and seeing she was clothed again, wearing the white boots, the tights, and the blue and white costume. She held out her arms and saw her white satin gloves. She reached up and felt for her necklace. It was there, back in place around her neck. A grin crossed her face.
As she felt her necklace, Sapphire Angel noticed something else - her pain had diminished. Just moments earlier, tears had flowed down her face. Now the throbbing pain was still present, but it no longer overwhelmed her.
The yellow glow continued to intensify, growing brighter until it felt like daylight in the cylinder. With each passing moment, Sapphire Angel’s pain ebbed ever so slightly. She didn’t have time to wait for it to disappear completely. Surely Dominick and his men were watching, and would come for her.
With a scream of fury, the costumed woman took a long stride toward the glass door of the cylinder, leapt into the air, and launched at it with both feet. Her feet struck the glass, and the door shattered outward as if someone had shot it with a cannon.
She launched through the opening, landing on the floor outside the cylinder just as Dominick’s guards rushed into the room. The heroine ignored them and turned to the cylinder. She leapt to the area of the base where the scientists had adjusted switches minutes earlier. The lights glowed yellow now.
Sapphire Angel reared back her leg and swung the hard toe of her boot forward. It connected with a panel, smashing lights and disconnecting hoses. The crackle of electricity filled the air, as sparks shot off from the panel.
“No!” Dominick’s enraged voice screamed from behind her. Beth ignored his cry as she drove her boot into the second panel. It suffered the same fate as the first, with the sparks from the two panels shooting off like a miniature fireworks display.
Sensing footsteps closing behind her, Sapphire Angel leapt up and away from the cylinder in a backward somersault. She sailed over the heads of Dominick and his men, coming down behind them. As the guards spun to face her with raised weapons, she was already launching herself toward them.
She tore into the end of the line of guards with a flurry of punches and kicks, as bullets rained down on her. The first two attackers, including the stocky man, went down before realizing she was among them, their weapons clattering to the floor. The third and fourth reacted, opening their eyes wide in shock. A kick to the face and an elbow to the throat sent them to the floor.
The three remaining guards charged at the heroine, led by the large man who had carried her into the room. As they tossed their useless guns at her, Sapphire Angel feinted a leap away from them, avoiding the weapons. When the men lunged forward, though, she reversed direction, using their momentum against them. She landed a kick to the knee of the man to her far right, and he crumpled with a scream of agony.
The man to her left aimed a fist at her head, but the athletic woman caught it with a palm, and landed a devastating blow to his face with her other fist. As he fell, the large man in the middle was on her, flying into her with a football tackle. They flew to the ground as one, with his full weight landing on her. She grunted as air shot from her lungs.
“Help him!” she heard Dominick bellow. As she jerked her head to the side to avoid her attacker’s punch, she saw Dominick’s three scientists coming toward her with slow, tentative steps.
The large man cocked his arm and swung down with another punch. Instead of moving her head, Sapphire Angel raised her hand, intercepting the punch inches from her face. The man’s eyes flew open in shock.
With one hand on his fist and the other grabbing his shoulder, she pushed him off of her. His body flew backwards, twisting sideways in the air and clotheslining the three scientists, sending all four men to the ground. The superheroine was on them as they tried to gather themselves, delivering punches and kicks to their faces and heads. Within seconds they were out of the fight.
Only Dominick remained, holding one of the discarded handguns at his side. Sapphire Angel turned her gaze to the man, her glare radiating anger. He returned a look of pure hatred, his face twisted in fury. She stood, her hands on her hips, holding his gaze.
“Do you know what you’ve done?” he asked with a snarl.
“I’ve stopped you from killing more innocent people,” Sapphire Angel replied.
“You’ve sentenced my daughter to death. This was her last hope.”
“Hope?” the heroine replied in disbelief, her voice rising. “Do you really think she wanted this?”
Dominick studied Beth, his jaw set. As they held each other’s glare, his look softened, transforming from anger to sadness. His shoulders sagged.
“This is over,” she said.
He shook his head, before raising the gun and putting it in his mouth.
“No!” she screamed and lunged forward. But it was too late. He pulled the trigger.
A dull click sounded. Dominick swore just as Sapphire Angel slammed into him. The empty weapon clattered along the floor, and Dominick rolled away from the superheroine.
He rose to his knees as Sapphire Angel leapt to her feet. The sadness in his eyes was gone, replaced with emptiness. He shook his head, a broken man.
“You couldn’t even allow me that mercy?” he murmured.
Beth hesitated, remembering Ashley Dominick’s words. Make this easy on my father. But allow him to kill himself? No, she couldn't do that.
So lost in her moral dilemma was she that Sapphire Angel didn’t hear the pounding feet coming from the hall until it was too late. A guard, returned from hauling Ethan away, burst into the room, lowering his shoulder into Sapphire Angel chest just as she turned. He had a full head of steam, and shot the petite woman through the air.
She crashed into the ground and rolled into a tumble. As she stopped in a crouch, the new attacker’s foot flashed from her side, catching her under the chin and flipping her onto her back. The dazed woman saw the shadow of the man looming over her, diving at her. She rolled to the side, barely avoiding him as he smacked into the ground.
He struggled to rise, but Sapphire Angel was quicker, springing to her feet. As the man lumbered to an upright position, she was already leaping forward, swinging with a roundhouse punch. Her first crashed into his face, spinning him. Her opposite fist caught him, spinning him in the opposite direction. One more punch sent him spinning to the floor, where he lay unmoving.
Whirling, Beth turned back to Dominick. Her head whipped about the room, but she didn‘t see him. The Fizzure CEO had slipped away.
After taking a deep breath to gather herself, Sapphire Angel turned to the men on the ground. She couldn’t let them escape while she searched for Ethan. She rushed to the base of the cylinder and ripped wires and cables free. Once she had a handful, she came back to the men and used the material to bind their feet and ankles. It would have to do.
Sapphire Angel eyed the hall leading from the room. It was time to find Ethan and the other remaining prisoners. It was also time to find Demarco Dominick, and put an end to this once and for all.