Chapter Two

Chapter Two

A Chapter by Seth Armstrong
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John, Six, Nine, and Sam try to find information about Yura's captors.

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     At first, New Lorien’s mission to selflessly help the world had gone perfectly.

     The website Lexa made had quickly become one of the most popular in the world with people from all corners of the globe populating it with desperate, hopeful requests. The Garde did their best to keep up with all of them, but they were incredibly overworked--especially the healers. Still, they made great strides at repairing the hurts of the world and bringing hope to people who had lost it.

     But the positive light it put on the Garde and the goodwill it engendered toward them didn’t last.

     The full testimony of Einar Magnusson caused some of doubt the authenticity of the Garde’s motivations. He famously admitted that, for a while, he had been after a world where the Garde lived like royalty--where they ruled the world, made the decisions, and those without Legacies were ultimately working for them. Einar said that he later realized the problematic basis of that worldview and abandoned it, but, to many people, that part wasn’t important--what was important was the fact that it seemed that there were Garde out there who thought themselves better than those without Legacies, who, if pressed, may come to a conclusion that the world would be better under their control. And, if there were more like that--or, at least, if more eventually became radicalized--where better would they be able to lay the foundations for their plans to subjugate the world than their Himalayan retreat where they were untouchable, and their powers unchecked?

     This idea began to circulate despite the claims of the well-liked Loric and their humanitarian efforts, and people began to grow fearful of what the Garde may be plotting in their mountain community where no outsiders could go.

     Countless talking heads in media in places as high as major news networks recording studios and as low as people ranting on YouTube in their cars perpetuated the idea that the Garde were trying to make themselves unaccountable--holding themselves far above and out of the reach of the law--so that they could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wished. Their contributions to stopping the Mogadorian invasion were now largely ignored or downplayed, with some people going so far as to say that the Loric had masterminded or at least exacerbated the threat of the invasion so that they could stop it and be hailed as heroes, making it easier for them to achieve the ultimate power they vied for.

     Then there were several missions with far-reaching consequences.

     In a mission to help protect protestors in Colombia, the Garde sent in had managed to knock the police back into submission, emboldening the protestors, who became so effective to the point that they were able to easily force the government to roll back all the measures that were being protested.

     In a mission to help beat back fishing companies encroaching on the areas of protected sea animals, the Garde were successful, and several billion-dollar fishing companies lost a lot of money they predicted they would have.

     In a mission to heal people with terminal cancer in America, executives of cancer hospitals claimed that the stunt had threatened to put them out of business, and, instead of selling their third vacation home, they opted to fire many of their employees, claiming that it was the only way the financial loss could be recuperated.  

     In a mission to increase the working conditions of a factory in China, the Garde assigned successfully forced the higher-ups of the company to treat their workers more fairly.

     In a mission to protect a group of Koori people from a hate group, the Garde assigned wound up accidentally revealing that the hate group had been funded by several of the country’s high-profile national politicians.

     In a long mission to help stop poaching in parts of Kenya by building up better opportunities for the people to make money so that they wouldn’t have to turn to poaching, the Garde assigned succeeded, cutting off a massive source of income for the people who made millions off the illegal trade.

     And so on.

     The Garde had begun to fix the world. In doing so, they began to hurt the rich and powerful who were responsible for its ills.

     Ever reluctant to allow the world change, these people capitalized on the burgeoning fear of the Garde’s intentions, weaponizing it to bludgeon their public image, blurring the lines of what they stood for and would do.

     And soon the missions became dangerous. Garde would be lured into situations by false reports of problems where people would try to capture them, to lock them away and potentially bring them to “justice.”

     Still the Garde persisted for a while in their attempts to respond to true requests--they just tried to be more careful. 

     But an unprepared Garde team on a mission in Spain were taken by surprise, and the human Garde Maiken Megalos was kidnapped by an organized Garde hate group that seemed to have been inspired by the Harvesters in America. The Spanish government claimed it was trying to address the issue, but its languid response was exacerbated by those in the Spanish government who held anti-Garde sentiments. It wasn’t until John, Six, Marina, and Nine showed up on the hate group’s doorstep threatening to scorch the very ground their base stood on that Maiken was reluctantly released to them, beaten and traumatized but still alive.

     Since then, the Garde had drawn back into New Lorien, only going out to solve problems that they could verify beyond every sense of doubt were absolutely real and even then only sending the most experienced and best-trained Garde to deal with them. Usually, the only reports they ever took risks on were those about a new Garde in trouble--and only the Loric Garde, Sam Goode, the remnant of the Fugitive Six, and Bernie Kosar were ever cleared to deal with those.

     The reports quickly piled up, a mountain of unanswered requests, ones that were real but not provided with enough evidence to know that for sure left unaddressed.

     This soon gave people the idea that the Garde were abdicating their responsibility to help the world--shirking on the main positive effect that their existence had.

     Those in power, of course, capitalized on this.

     Still out of reach but now embattled by turning public opinion and relentless propaganda, the Garde stayed in New Lorien, perpetually looking for the key to justify their very existence to a world turned against them.

 

     John led the Garde quartet to the edge of the forest. “No need to get too fired-up,” he said. “I already took everyone out.”

     Nine groaned. “You’ve got to be shitting me, dude.”

     “There were only seven of them. Besides, I gave them stone boots, so it’s not like they’re knocked out. Hit ’em if you have to.”  

     “What’s the point of bringing us if you were going to do all the work?” Six asks, dropping her hands to release the burgeoning storm.

     “Well, I didn’t know that there were going to be so few of them,” John said. “Besides, we still need to try to get answers out of them. That’s when it’s good to have my two scariest friends along.”

     “Oh, I’m flattered, John,” Sam said, “but I really don’t think I’m that intimidating.”

     John chuckled.

     Nine snorted. “Should’ve brought Marina. She loves that namby-pamby talking bullshit.”

     “I’ve heard Six is pretty good at interrogations,” John said, “and I doubt there’s going to be many people clamming up if I threaten to sic you on them. Most of them were together in some big room--I think it used to be a library. I’ll go round up the couple that were away from there while you guys try to get some answers and Sam hacks the machines.”

     “All right, hold up,” Nine said. The group came to a stop. “I guess we won’t need this, but just in case.” He raised a hand and pressed his thumb to the forehead of the closest member--Sam. “Super speed and super strength for all of us.”

     “I really need to pick that Legacy up,” John said.

     “Please do,” Sam said. “It gets cold in New Lorien. I could really use Lumen sometimes.”

     Nine went to each of the others, endowing them with the Legacies that aided his physical prowess. Then, the quartet turned to the prison.

     “Let’s see what we can learn,” John said.

 

     The Garde found five of the captors outside of the library, crawling their way toward the exit with stone feet.

     “Well, well, well,” Nine said, clicking his tongue, “what do we have here?”

     “I assume you can take it from here?” John said, lifting off from the ground.

     “Don’t worry about us, Johnny.” Nine cracked his knuckles. Several of the captors’ eyes went wide. “This is child’s play.”

     “Just make sure I get their phones and any other electronics,” Sam said.

     “Don’t rough them up too bad,” John said before flying off down the hall.

 

     By the time that John got back with the last two captors--the guard who had been outside Yura’s cell and a man who had been patrolling outside--Six and Nine had all the other guards huddled against a corner in what had once been a library--a large, square room with several empty, rotting bookshelves. Sam was nowhere to be seen--he presumably went on to find the computers in the prison to search.

     John got back with the last captive just in time to see Six punch one of the captors square in the face; the man crumpled to a heap on the ground, convulsing for a few moments before lying still in unconscious bliss.

     John trapped her arm with his telekinesis as he floated to the ground and let the last captor fall into the group. Six apparently tried to move her arm but noticed it was caught. She shot a What the hell? look at him, and he nodded away from the group, toward the other side of the room.

     Leaving the captors under Nine’s precarious supervision, John and Six walked out of an earshot before John turned on her. “What was that?” he said.

     Six rolled her eyes. “You said you know I’m good at interrogations. I don’t know if you meant Phiri Dun Ra or the Nazi scientist, but, either way, what were you expecting?”

     “They’re our prisoners now, Six. They aren’t any sort of threat to us. We can’t just beat them up.”

     “How long did you fly around them, John? Huh? Do you know how they treated her? We were talking to them. You know why I punched that dude? Yura got her own shock collar off one time, and you know what they did?”

     “Six, I don’t--”

     “That dude went into her cell and beat her, John. He cracked her over the head with a rifle, and he was proud of it. I don’t know if you healed it or if I just didn’t notice it, but he bragged about the mark that it made.”

     “Yeah, Six, I healed her,” John returned, his lip drawn in a tight line. “I saw what they did. Trust me, when I--when I realized that was a shock collar, I--” He held himself back, bit his lip. “We’re in a very precarious situation right now, Six. If we go around beating up everyone who deserves it, most of those stories are going to get spun back in our faces.”

     “Yeah, John,” Six said, rolling her eyes, “I’m sure that the smear job somebody’s going to write about how we kidnapped an Inuk girl and forced her to come to New Lorien with us would sound so much better if I didn’t deck a couple of these shitstains.”

     “We can’t rain down justice on everyone who deserves it.”

     “Not everyone, no, but these guys are right here. Besides, if you’re really so concerned with their wellbeing, I don’t know why you brought me over here and left them under Nine’s purview.”

     John glanced over at their fellow Loric. He wasn’t beating anyone up yet; from the distance, it looked like he was showboating and threatening them. The six still-conscious of Yura’s captors backed as far up against the wall as they could, watching him with fearful eyes.

     “Don’t hurt them more than you have to,” John said icily. “I was the one who found Yura. She looked way rougher in that cell than she did when you came in. Trust me, Six, I don’t want to let them off easy. But I’m trying to think about the others back at New Lorien. The more we hurt people outside our borders, the longer it’s going to take for all the drama to be over. I don’t want to keep everyone in hiding for longer than we have to. I’m going to go check up on Sam. I don’t want to come back to find anyone beaten half to death.”

     Six’s expression was hard--and even harder to read. “We should get back over there,” she said evenly, “and hope Nine doesn’t ruin your whole nonviolence thing.”

     Six turned and walked back toward Nine and captors.

     John sighed and lifted off.

     He understood where Six was coming from. Public opinion had been turning heavily against the Garde in the past few months. It wasn’t uncommon to run into people without Legacies who openly talked about how they wished the Garde were gone, one way or another. When thinking about the ones who took it to the extreme--it was easy to tap into that rage, to want to hit something.

     But John held himself back, as he did the others. There was no way that the people would ever come to like him or the rest of the Garde if they let loose on everyone who trash-talked them.

     Sometimes, he felt like he was the only one who understood that.

     John found Sam in a room near the library, three laptops open in front of him. His face was scrunched up, and he had his palm splayed out in front of the screen of the middle laptop. John smirked, wondering if that helped focus his legacy. Despite his closeness to Sam--or perhaps because of it--technopathy was one of the powers he still hadn’t emulated.

     “How’s it going?” John asked after a few silent moments.

     Sam jumped a bit, then relaxed when he turned to find John floating in the doorframe. He shrugged. “Nothing interesting,” he reported. “I can’t find much more than what Lexa already figured out. They’re part of a white supremacist group that likes to target Inuit people--or aboriginal Canadians. Is that the right term?”

     John shrugged.

     “Well, you know what I mean,” Sam continued. “The only thing off-color thing here is that some of these guys have some, uh, interesting search histories that make you wonder in what ways they truly hate indigenous people. I can’t find anything that links them completely to some larger group. Based on some of the emails I’ve seen, it seems like they didn’t really know what they were doing--like, they wanted to sell Yura off in some way, but they were still trying to figure out who to sell her to.”

     “There’s nothing about the Foundation?” John pressed. “Or anything related to them?”

     Sam shook his head. “Not so far, anyway,” he said. “It’s another group of randos.”

     John wanted to scream, but he kept the rage buried as well as he could. “There has to be something,” he insisted. “Yura lives on a remote island in Nunavut. You have to get there by plane. How would some random hate group have the resources to send an effective kidnapping force up there?”

     “They rented a boat,” Sam said. “It was several thousand dollars, though, and all the weapons and gear probably didn’t help the cost. They don’t seem rich by their own making, but I haven’t found anything about some shadowy organization pulling strings. I’ll keep looking, though. And I’ll copy their data with the stuff Lexa gave me to see if she can find anything else when we get back. How’s it going out there?”

     “Oh, you know,” John said, “just trying to keep your girlfriend from beating people to death.”

     “About as well as normal, then? I get it.”

     “Yeah. I should probably get back out there, see if I can find anything. Keep looking through their stuff.”

     “You got it, boss.”

     John lifted off and flew back to the library. He found himself pleasantly surprised to see that no more of the captors seemed to be seriously injured, but they all looked far more scared than they had when he left. Nine was pacing back and forth in front of them, jumping out at any of them that made sudden movements, and Six was standing off to the side, glaring daggers into all seven of their prisoners.

     “Yo, Johnny,” Nine called, “seems they aren’t involved with the Foundation at all.”

     John nodded, the fact fully sinking in--this wasn’t the work of the Foundation.

     This was most likely the work of a random group of citizens who, while despicable, likely had no significant opinion on the Garde prior to their retreat to New Lorien. 

     This was the work of their constant defamation--an ongoing smear job.

     John felt his stomach churn.

     John nodded. “So far, Sam says the same.”

     John alighted on the concrete floor, walking over to the seven prisoners huddled against the wall. He saw that they all jumped or began to tremble at the sight of him coming toward them. He thought back on what Six had said, on what Nine had shown. He thought of Yura--of shock collar, of the gash on her head. He thought of going at her captors with fire on his palms, his eyes alight with stone vision, Glacen blasting to freeze them to where they stood, Terric to freeze them in place with fear.

     He resisted.

     He thought of New Lorien--of the Garde that were there.

     He especially was representing them--around the world, people viewed him as the head--the leader--of the Garde. At first, he had internally rejected the title because he felt he wasn’t worthy of leading such a group of incredible, awe-inspiring people.

     Now, he rejected it still for that reason but also because he worried about his ability to keep himself in line--to play nice as the world crumbled around him.

     For now, he was able to hold back--to resist.

     “Why did you go after Yura?” he snarled.

     Most of the captors looked up at him with distain, lips tightly shut. Several tried to shift their position to look more comfortable or self-assured, but John hardly found seven misfits cornered by some of the strongest people in the world to be confident or threatening. Still, they didn’t talk. One of them spit at him but missed.

     “Forget it, John,” Six said. “We got it out of them that they don’t know s**t about the Foundation, and they’ve clammed up since. Unless you want to greenlight harder methods, I don’t think we’re getting more out of them.”

     “I’m all for that suggestion,” Nine offered.

     John surveyed the captors, pausing to take in each of their faces, reading their expressions and trying to parse out something useful.

     “No,” he said. “It’s not worth it. We wait for Sam.”

     Nine groaned. Six said nothing, and she didn’t meet John’s eyes.

     The time passed painfully before Sam finally walked back into the room. He looked at each of the Loric in turn and shook his head.

     John felt deflated, but he tried to hide his disappointment. “All right,” he said. “You guys get back. I’ll call the authorities and tell them what happened here.” He pulled out his phone. “Let’s hope they believe us.”




© 2021 Seth Armstrong


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Added on July 30, 2021
Last Updated on July 30, 2021
Tags: lorien, legaices, war, of, the, yura, kallik, capac, john, smith, sam, goode, number, six, nine, marina, seven, five, eight, malcolm, daniela, nigel, fugitive, isabela, taylor, ran, caleb, kopano


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Seth Armstrong
Seth Armstrong

Tuvalu



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A Chapter by Seth Armstrong