Things get difficult for Taylor Janssen when her home is bombed by those who control it. She is forced to become a strange mix of superhero and assassin. Her best friend is Alex, but she makes friends with a fellow hero, Alice, and the techie, Matt. But not all is as it seems...


8. The Training

The next morning, we were again all called together. The boss was giving me the evil eye. I stared back at him with a blank face. Alice was also looking at him, so he looked away.  

We commenced our training. None of us had offensive skills so we were trained in different types of weaponry. We were also trained in defending ourselves against the others' skills in case of mutiny. Alice was probably hardest. We had to assume a blank mind and face. Camouflaged, I was hard enough to find when I was moving, but no-one found me when I was staying still. Alex's pain blocking could actually be deadly. If you couldn't feel pain from a wound you wouldn't know it was there, so it was very easy to bleed out.

Everyone had their favourite form of weaponry by the end of the day. It actually depended on our powers. Alice and I both went for knives and daggers. Alice was very agile and hard to catch, so she could dart in and stab you by the time you realised she had moved. I chose knives and daggers because I could afford to get in closer. Alex was midrange. He couldn't hold his force fields over long distances, and they weren't effective enough up close. He went for a high powered bow and arrow. Josh was useless in close combat and couldn't fire a bow to save his life. So he chose a laser rifle. 

At the end of the day we were all exhausted. We were blindfolded and brought back to the car. Nobody spoke until we were back at the apartment. Alex and I collapsed onto the couch. "I don't trust them. We're supposed to be heroes, but they seem to be training us as assassins." Alex said. I nodded, but said nothing.

Around midnight, I was sound asleep. Until I heard a sound in the apartment. Assuming it was Alex, I swung my feet out of bed and went out to talk to him. But instead, there was a hulking figure, bigger and taller than Alex. It raised something and a bullet hit the wall beside me. I ducked low and ran over to the kitchen area. I grabbed a knife and remembered what I had been taught. "If possible, do not kill your target. Aim to incapacitate. " So I went for him, aiming for the arms and legs. But he had no reservations about shooting to kill. One bullet managed to hit me in the ribs. That could be a problem at a later stage, but I had to deal with the shooter now. I managed to get a slash on one of his hands. He swore. His gun could kill me at this close range. If he hit me in the right place I would bleed out before the wound could close. He raised his gun. Luckily for me, I've always had good reflexes. I leapt away from the shooter and dived behind the couch. Even so, the bullet ricocheted off the wall above my head. Even Alex couldn't have slept through that. He sprinted into the room. He saw me, with the blood on my shirt. And he saw the figure jump out the window and leave.

"You okay?" He crouched down beside me. "I need to get the bullet out. Otherwise it will get trapped inside me, and I don't think that would be good for me." I won't give the details of what I had to do. But once I got the bullet out, the wound started healing. "Well, if it's one of us, they should be easy enough to find. I managed to cut him on the back of the hand. But for now, I'm keeping a set of knives in my bedroom." I took all the knives from the kitchen except one. Alex gave me a roll up mat that was usually used to keep brushes in. The knives fit perfectly in it.

I woke up in the morning sore but alive. I dressed in black jeans and a white t-shirt. I had a knife in a holder around my waist. It was easily accessible but was well hidden. I wasn't taking any chances after last night.

I went into the kitchen. It was strange. Alex wasn't up yet. He was always up before me. I went into his bedroom. He had several paintings standing on the floor, and one unfinished on the easel. When I looked at the painting, I was of me fighting the assassin last night. I looked around. Alex wasn't there.

"Alex?" I called, beginning to get worried. "Alex, this isn't funny." I went into the sitting room. There were definitely signs of a struggle. I saw a syringe on the floor. And Alex had left a note for me on the table. "Gone to get food." He had obviously wrote that to pacify the abductors. But on the other side, Alex had a number scrawled with one word. Help.

I grabbed the note. But then something caught my eye. The bullet hole from last night had been filled. The patches of blood had been cleaned. All evidence of the fight had been removed. But Alex had the painting. And they were punishing him for that.

I ran out to the kitchen and dialled out the number. It rang a few times and for a second or two I was worried that no-one would answer. But then the voice of the one person I knew could help answered. "Hello, apartment 1, Alice speaking." 

"Alice, I need your help." She sounded surprised to hear my voice. "Taylor?" I didn't let her say anything else. "It's Alex. He's been abducted." Alice didn't hesitate. "I'll be at the apartment in two minutes."

Alice knocked the door after one minute fifty nine seconds had elapsed. I almost ripped the door off it's hinges. "What the hell are we going to do?" 

A few minutes later, we were sitting around the table. We had one of the techies there with us. "Alex could be anywhere. But lucky for us, during your experimentation, we installed a microchip in you. We can effectively track you anywhere. For example..." The techie held up a screen. He typed in a code and a beacon began flashing. A miniature version of our apartment appeared. The beacon was flashing where Alice was sitting. He typed in another code, and a blank screen came up. "Chip not found." He looked at it. "Maybe I typed the code in wrong. He typed in a written code. "Find Taylor Janssen." The blank screen came up again.

"Your body must have repelled the chip. But don't ever tell anybody. They'll think you removed the chip yourself. And then we would be one hero short,  if you catch my drift."

The techie brought up the keyboard again. He typed in Alex's code. The blank screen cleared, and a beacon began flashing. "He's alive, anyway." The techie said. We waited as the 3D image of where he was formed. He was about two miles away, in a car park. And then when the image finished forming, Alex's beacon was flashing in the boot. 

We all shot to our feet, all too aware that time was off the essence. The techie handed us all a gun, in case my knives weren't effective enough. We sprinted out of the apartment and down the stairs. As we left the apartment we realised we had no form of transport whatsoever. But the ever reliable techie had a very high tech car a short running distance away. So we ran to that. Alice sat in the back while I fitted the screen into it's purpose built groove on the dash.  We barely had time to belt up before the techie slammed on the accelerator. 

The car park was relatively close but it was next to impossible to find. Eventually we found it. But the car park was massive. And every single car was the same. And if that didn't make it hard enough, there were a bunch of guys with guns stationed around the car park.

I volunteered to go. The others couldn't oppose. If I was shot, I wasn't going to die. And providing nobody was paying that much attention, I wouldn't be seen. But they insisted I used a communications set, which showed up on their screen. I had an earpiece and a microphone. And then I turned invisible.

I sprinted across the car park, Alice whispering directions in my ear. Eventually I found the row Alex was in. I was within three cars of Alex when I heard someone swear in my earpiece. I froze. "Um, Taylor? The screen just died. We don't know for sure which car Alex is in." 

I started popping lids with my knife. One was empty, and one had a bag of shopping. I expected Alex to be in the next one, but it was empty. "Try the next one." I heard in my ear. I wiggled the knife under the edge of the lid of the boot. It proved harder to bust. But with one hell of a lot of force, it popped open. And in the boot was a dog, bound and tied. "How's Alex?" Alice asked in my ear. "Changed. Alice, there's a dog here." The techie swore. He came on the earpiece. "Damn, they switched the chip." I cut the dogs bounds. "Um, Taylor? We may have a slight situation..." The techie said. Instinctively, I turned around. I learned two things. One, I was fully visible. And two, there was a bunch of guys pointing guns at me.

"Oh crap." I whispered. The group began laughing. Someone was shouting in my ear. Alex was shoved to the front of the group. He was badly beaten up and his arm had been bandaged, but not very well. 

"Well, Miss Janssen. That was a good effort. Much better than your fight last night. I heard this through my ear piece. I could also hear the techie shouting, "They can control the ear piece!" The voice began speaking again. "Who assisted you in this?" I didn't know the techie's name and I wasn't about to betray Alice. "I done this alone." I said. The voice laughed. "Then how did you get the com set?" My face was like stone. "I stole it. And, before you ask, I found Alex's chip by hacking into your computers. The scientists told me about it, boasting about their achievements." I could hear the techie laughing in my ear. "Hey, I think lying is one of this girl's powers!" 

Alex was pushed out in front of me. "Choose." The voice was suddenly sinister. "You or him." 

I though of everything Alex had done for me. Saving me on the course. Coming back for me. Worrying about me while scientists tampered with my DNA. Coming to save me last night. And I stepped in front of him. "Do your best."

The pain was unbelievable. The bullet hit me in my ribs, breaking one. If that wasn't bad enough, it bounced off my rib and left through my side. I gasped and fell to the ground. The group laughed and left. Alex picked up the bullet. He waved it at me. I was mending then, but slowly. "Don't move. They might see you and come back for more." The techie muttered. 

Eventually, the group had left the building. I wasn't fully healed yet. Alice and the techie made their way in. "Thanks for not turning us in." Alice gushed. "Well, you're my friend, and I didn't know his name to tell them." I said, gesturing to the techie. He grinned. "It's Matt." 

Eventually, my bullet wounds had healed up enough for me to move. Alex was beaten up worse than we had originally thought. He had been conscious when the group had left, but he was unconscious now. He was bruised and battered, and it looked like his shoulder was dislocated. "What should we do?" I asked. Matt hesitated. "Well, I'll need to put his shoulder back in and put his arm in a sling. And I heard one of them boasting they broke his leg, so I'll brace that."

After Matt had braced Alex's leg and put his shoulder back in, Matt and I lifted him and brought him back to the car. Alice was keeping watch. We put him into the back of the car, where Alice held his leg in place. I would have held his shoulder but I didn't fit.

We managed to get Alex up the narrow stairs. We put him on the couch. Alice went and got the first aid kit, which had ever been opened due to my ability to heal and despite my ability to get injured at every opportunity.

First we checked for any open wounds. There wasn't any. We checked for broken ribs, broken limbs, and several other injuries. He seemed to just be bruised beside his dislocated shoulder and broken leg.

I was asleep when Alex came round again. I heard him say, "Tay?" After the events of the past few days, I slept soundly but woke easily. So my eyes snapped open. "Alex?" I stirred and stretched. "Sorry. I should have let you sleep." He said. "Nah, I'm fine. You want something to eat?" Alex looked at me, pretending to be shocked. "You can cook?" I glared at him. "Excuse me. I made you cookies after they messed with your DNA. And between assassins and poisoned meals, I haven't had much of a chance."

I made Alex a nice big bowl of my special. Pasta in tomato sauce with ham and cheese. He looked doubtful when I handed him the bowl, but when he tried it he grinned. "I underestimated you, Tay. You make a mean meal." 

The main problem with leaving Alex on the couch was getting him into his bedroom. He couldn't put weight on his leg and he kept jostling his shoulder. Eventually we gave up and I brought his duvet and pillows into the sitting room. I dosed him up on painkillers and made two mugs of hot chocolate. He barely lasted long enough to finish his. I  finished mine, cleared up then went to bed. I thought I wouldn't sleep, but before long I was unconscious.

I slept for ages, knowing Alex couldn't go anywhere without me hearing. And eventually when I got up, Alex was still asleep on the couch. He woke as I prepared breakfast. "Wow. That's some powerful drugs." He manipulated his shoulder. "Hey, cool, no pain." Before I could stop him, he stood up and put weight on his foot. He was unsteady, but I think it was a lack of balance. "What the hell?" I left the breakfast and went over to investigate. "Maybe you're immune to pain." I pinched him. "Ow!" "Okay, so you're not immune to pain."

After much investigation of the drugs, we found one that appeared to have healing properties. "Cool!" Alex was perfectly happy to accept that, but I wasn't as happy. "Alex, these are only supposed to quicken healing. I think... I think you might be developing more powers." 

After all that reasoning, I was hungry. So I went and finished making the bacon sandwiches. Alex was still a little gobsmacked. "Okay. I have a way of testing this. Papercut." I explained my theory to Alex, who was reluctant to try it out. But eventually, we tried it, and it proved my theory.
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