The Death Zone

By Emmaa x

Authors Note:

Again, again again i know :'/ it took me ages and ages...

Chapter 30 – Operation Home Zone

I stumbled but caught myself before I could fall. "You um... yeah, what?" I faced him in utter confusion, speaking very slowly as if it would make more sense to me "What do you mean 'everyone's been waiting for me'?"

"The-" He shook his head and a few leaves fell free. I resisted a small smile just waiting for his answer, "You mean no one told you?" He sounded... surprised. I frowned.

"Told me what?"

"About the p-" His eyes widened a split second before I felt Alice's weight ripped out my arms. I cried out as my arms were pulled tight from the sudden movement and I turned around in a rush to confront whoever it was, but before I could even get half way the person –thing?- launched me through the air.

I tried to curl into a ball to protect my head and I hit the rough forest floor with a thud and rolled for a good five feet before stopping. My bones and muscles ached viciously, tiny scratches littered my arms and legs and I could feel twigs sticking every which way out of my hair but other than that and being utterly exhausted, I wasn't harmed.

"Alex!" I rolled onto my side and saw Reed about to be cornered by a drone. It was jabbing and swiping at him with both arms, but Reed was quicker than he looked and was managing to block and dodge most of the hits as he backtracked. The problem was he'd backed straight towards a thorn bush and there was little to no way around it.

I felt my finger tips tingle in preparation for wielding my light and I held my finger and thumb out (in a laying down L kind of shape) pointing towards the Drones back, where I knew the weak spot was. Hot, golden light shot from my fingertip, but Reed had just kicked the drone in order to try and gain some space back and my light missed the weak spot only succeeding in getting the attention of the drone back to myself.

"Shit." I scrambled backwards but the drone crossed the clearing in one graceful leap and wrapped one mechanical, cold hand around my neck before I could even think of getting back to my feet. It lifted me up so my feet dangled about a foot from the ground.

I swung my leg out towards its stomach kind of forgetting that it was –in theory- a robot in the heat of the moment. My foot connected with its hard metal exterior and I swear I heard a crunch followed by a severe burning from my toes. "Fchhhhh"

The familiar darkness was beginning to invade the edges of my vision and I looked past the drone in irritation; I'd helped Reed, so where was he now I was in need of assistance?

Suddenly the drone jerked forward and its grip slackened on my neck causing me to slip through its fingers and fall to the floor in a crumpled heap.

My hands immediately went to my throbbing neck, but I looked up to see what had made the drone falter and saw a 3 inch wide tree branch impaled through its mid section. Black smoke billowed out of the hole made by the branch and tiny sparks flew alerting me the drone was effectively disabled about a second before its massive bulk crashed down on top of me.

"Oh for the love of-"

"Alex!" I heard Reed calling me and then the drone was lifted and thrown off of me to reveal a sweating and red faced Fortis above me.

"Uh thanks? I guess." I stated lamely before hauling myself up and facing the two boys.

"You know if you two could have kept up with me none of this would have happened and I could have just killed it before it even got to either of you." Anger was laced in Fortis' words and I couldn't help but respond to it.

"Are you implying that Reed and I are incapable of looking after ourselves-"

"Well while you stalked on ahead me and Alex were exhausted from carrying Alice so of course we weren't likely to be able to keep up!"

Reed and I had spoken at the same time, but somehow I'd still managed to hear what he'd said and immediately the anger left me.


Her body had ripped away from me by the drone and I frantically searched the trees and undergrowth with my eyes trying to locate her.

I could feel myself panicking, my breath shortening.

"Hey!" Reed grabbed my shoulders and snapped his hands in front of my face. I blinked once before focusing on his worried expression, "Fortis has got Alice okay. You hear me?" I realised I must've been saying Alice's name out loud, but I didn't trust myself to speak anymore so I simply nodded before leaning my head down to rest on Reed's shoulder. I breathed deeply, simply needing the reassurance that we still had Alice and I hadn't lost her.

Reed seemed surprised and he stiffened before awkwardly patting me on the back.

I sighed before straightening up. Fortis stood before me, Alice slung over his shoulder.

I looked at Reed and then Fortis before turning my gaze above and behind them both, towards the tower that signified the Home Zone.

"Let's just get out of here."

"How -in any way- is this easier than climbing the tree?" Reed grumbled after I yelled at him –again- for kicking my head.

"Okay, yeah well... it seemed like a good idea at the time." I rolled eyes,

"Of course it would for you, all you have to do is- Reed for God's sake! Watch where you're putting your foot!- ugh. Anyway, this suits your power, obviously you'd go for this plan."

See the thing was, we'd reached the Home Zone tower, but, much like my first impressions, the ebony outside walls seemed like they were made of glass they were so smooth and unsurprisingly, there was no door.

The only hope we had that climbing the tower was actually possible was the fact that we could see a tiny window about a third of the way up that looked roughly big enough for a person to fit through and there was a lovely bundle of rope placed oh-so-nicely on the grass so that it rested directly beneath the window.

What need doing was obvious; it was just how we decided to do it that was the problem. So naturally we were left with two options:

1- Climb the neighbouring tree and find a small but sturdy branch that would fit through the window and hold Reed's weight (Since he was the lightest due to his –lack of- height and scrawny build it made sense that he go first) after we'd thrown the rope through the window. I would then proceed to climb the rope while Reed held it for me, we'd both winch Alice's body up and then we'd both also hold the rope for Fortis.

(My idea)


2- We still do the rope through the window thing, but we tie a rock to the rope to make it more supportive for Reed and then we try and get closer to the window to throw the rope in by Fortis standing upright, back against the wall, myself standing on Fortis' shoulders and finally Reed standing on my shoulders and throwing the rope.

(Fortis' idea)

Needless to say, my idea didn't take, despite the vote being two against one and so that was why I found myself flat-backed against a stone, hard wall, with Reed on my shoulders (and failing to throw the rope into the window) while being repeatedly kicked in the head and hit with the rope and rock when Reed missed, which he hadn't stopped doing for the past 10 minutes and just to add to that fun scale, the wind had picked up, so not only was I being battered by rocks and unwelcome kicks to head – but I was also seconds away from being blown off Fortis' shoulders to face plant in the mud below.

"My strength is hardly helping me here, not with how much you two weigh anyway."

Why had I ever agreed to do this in the first place? Oh wait, that's right, I didn't, I was kidnapped.

"Oh screw you." I muttered under my breath before yelling at Reed once more, "I swear Reed, if you kick me or hit with that blasted rock ONE MORE TIME I-"

"Go on Reed, do it." I could hear the amusement in Fortis' tone as he interrupted me and God help me, did it get to me. So naturally I did the only thing I could. I kicked him in the face.

It felt good, giving him a piece of what he'd been laughing about, up until I took it a little too far and hit his nose with a little too much force. I heard a crack and I had to wince, even as Fortis was cursing and yelling. I have to give credit to him though, he stayed quite stable during the whole incident, even managing to balance us out after his initial shock which had Reed and I swaying dangerously on his shoulders.

"I swear Alex, when we get out of here-"

"You called me Alex." I was genuinely shocked at this display of... normalcy.

"what?" His voice sounded muffled and clogged up, no doubt a side effect of his (very) broken nose and I felt momentarily bad.

"Well it's usually 'lighter' or you know something insulting."

I felt Fortis' shoulder jiggle a little and I immediately went to tell him to stop moving unless he wanted me to break his sight as well, but then I heard a chuckle and I froze. Fortis was laughing. As in, I'd made him laugh. As if we were friends.

I wasn't sure how I felt about that little moment of progress from our enemy status, but at that precise moment, Reed yelled, "I got it!" and the weight was off my shoulders.

Thankfully for us, we'd all had to climb ropes before at least once in our lives so theoretically, this part of our little operation should have been simple, but, much like everything in the Freak Cell, simple was unheard of.

Having just winched Alice up the rope, Fortis was the only one left to climb and I was still having doubts about him fitting through the small 'window' opening.

See, what we'd first presumed was a window, was actually just a small rectangular hole in the wall which led to a very narrow, stone platform that ran around the edge of the circular tower. The ledge platform was barely a foot wide and the only thing preventing a long fall to the floor down the vast gap in the middle of the tower was a large, thick pole. After carefully positioning Alice in a way that she wouldn't fall, Reed and I manoeuvred slowly, for fear of slipping off the ledge. I didn't want to know what the Freak cell had planned for us to do after the whole window situation, but it was painfully clear that were supposed to then climb up the fireman's pole, which, to be honest I don't think I could've done on a good day.

Trying to forget about the pole and the death trap that was waiting for me if my foot suddenly slipped a centimetre or two further back, I concentrated on holding the rope steady which was a harder job than it seemed.

Fortis was nearly at our little opening when things started to go wrong.

"Crap." Reed hissed.

"What?" I was exhausted and sweating and holding the rope was putting serious strain on my muscles, causing my arms to shake violently, I couldn't handle many more 'unexpected' events.

"Drones. Loads of them." He paused for a second, leaning slightly further forward, "They're almost at the tower. Fortis, I don't mean to rush you dude, but you might want to pick up the pace."

I rolled my eyes before yelling, "Hurry your ass up or we're all going to be killed by drones!"

Reed gave me a 'look' and I returned it with one of defiance; there's no time for pleasantries when our enemy is sneaking up on us and we're all dependant on one person.

Fortis cursed.

Reed leaned over the edge again, "They're at the rope!"

"Shit." I looked around, "Reed, brace yourself." I gave him no time to really digest what I had said before I forcefully yanked the rope, gaining a bit more of its length. I heard Fortis yell from outside and Reed grunted, but I ignored them and focused on the task. I was tying the rope around the pole and I knew it wouldn't hold for long, maybe not at all, but I had to get to the opening and defend Fortis' back or the drones could easily attack him; his power was no good at long range, and he was hardly in a position to defend himself.

Finishing the knot, I gave it an experimental tug, it loosened. "Reed, this isn't going to last for long, so you need to get Fortis in, NOW."

Next to the opening we were using was a slim rectangular slit in the wall, like the arrow slots you often see in medieval castles. I ran to it and quickly assessed the situation. Reed was right, hundreds of them crowded below the tower and I could see more and more running through the forest; a swarm of black invading the green woodland. The shocking thing was how silent they were- despite how they were running through branches and across the mud, they were deadly silent.

I looked down and realised in panic that the end of the rope dangled precariously close to the drones. They were clever, using each other to form a pyramid of sorts until the top one could reach the rope and began to climb.

I placed my hand through the opening and tried to angle my finger tips towards the drone, but the gap was so narrow that my hand blocked my view. I grumbled in frustration before allowing my light to spill from my finger tips (causing them to heat up) and firing dangerous balls of light blindly into the masses of drones, simply in hope that I might hit the one that was climbing.

I took my hand out and looked down, grimly realising that I didn't hit the drone climbing. I quickly replaced my hand to continue to fire my light, and looking left is aw that Fortis had just reached the opening, but, like I feared before, his muscle bulk was so large that he didn't fit through, and was having to repeatedly hit the wall next to it to try and break the stone, creating a larger opening for himself. Reed had used his own power to 'borrow' some of Fortis' strength, leaving Fortis slightly weaker, but the both of them working was better than just Fortis alone, the problem was, that the tower was so sturdy and material so strong, that even their combined 'super' strength was barely having any effect on it.

"I'm gunna regret this... Reed, take my power!"

He stared at me, "What?"

I pulled my hand out of the arrow hole in a rush, "We're getting nowhere, I can't aim out of this," I gestured violently at the arrow hole, "And that," I gestured at Fortis' continued punching and his own bloody knuckles, "is clearly not working. Now 'borrow'(or whatever it is you do) my power, like you did with Fortis and try to melt the wall, or at least weaken it, I need the opening to aim out of." Reed nodded and I held out my arm for him to touch and draw my power out of.

I could feel the heat leaving me, just a small stream, but it still left me feeling cold and fatigued. He removed his hand and I shuddered involuntarily, before moving to the other side of him as he worked to melt the wall.

"Fortis, you have to tie the rope around you. I need to fire out this opening and Reed is trying to melt the wall. The drones are climbing the rope so you need to stay down while and dangle? I guess... while I fire at them. When Reed's ready, you need to climb back up and punch the wall in the weakened spot and then get in as quick as possible." He nodded and secured the rope around his middle before lowering down slightly, making my view of the drones clearer.

I thrust my hand out into the open air and five beams of golden light burst from my fingertips and into the crowd below. There were two drones climbing the rope below Fortis, and a third just about to start, but I couldn't aim at them for fear of hitting Fortis, so instead I focused on a secondary pyramid that the drones had started forming. They were all clambering on top of each other in a scarily orderly manner forming a 'drone tower' of sorts and they were creeping ever closer to our little opening.

I tried aiming at the chink in their armour between the shoulder and back plates, but they were too far away for me to be accurate and so all I could do was distract them and hit a lucky miss every now and again.

I looked at Reed to see the rock just starting to glow a faint orange along one edge before turning back to the drones.

"Watch-" Fortis' call was drowned out as a flash lit up the tower. Disorientated I shut my eyes and felt myself falling backwards.

An arm snaked out and grabbed the front of my jumpsuit. They pulled me back upright, but I was still blinking the white light out of my vision to see where I was. When I had my sight back, I saw Reed holding my arm and looking up at me; I shook my head and then nodded thanks at him. I turned back to the opening to see Fortis smash a large hole out of the side of the tower.

I grabbed a chunk of rock that fell inside and quickly launched it over his shoulder as he clambered inside.

"What... the hell was... that, light?" I had to gasp for breath every other word, and looking at Reed and Fortis, neither of them were much better off.

"The drones, they brought out catapults and I thought they were going to fire rocks, but they put this... ball into it and as they fired it, it" He was making hand gestures and clearly struggling to describe what he saw "it spread out into an energy, thing? Oh I don't know but they have a hell of a lot more where that one came from so I suggest we get a move on!"

I gestured to the pole, "Feel free."

Fortis seemed to only just notice the position we were now in and he cursed, "Of course there couldn't just be stairs... Okay fine, Reed, you go first, then Alex. I'll fight any drones that reach the window and follow you guys up." I nodded grimly, seeing no other alternative. I watch Reed start up the pole and then I waited for him to get a little way up before I latched onto the pole.

A drone had just reached the window and Fortis forcefully kicked it away. Suddenly another burst of light filled the tower and I hugged onto the pole, clamping my eyes tightly shut. When my vision cleared, I found myself looking at Alice's body, on the edge of the stone platform, dangerously close to slipping into the abyss.

"Fortis! What about Alice?" He looked at me, then at Alice, a pained expression crossing his features.

"We can't-"

"No." I started to climb back off the pole, but another drone made its way into the opening and jumped on Fortis' turned back. He tried to turn shake the drone off, but it refused to comply and so he used his strength to shove backwards, in an attempt to crush the drone against the wall. Except he forgot about the opening in the tower wall and I watched in horror as the drone went straight through the hole and proceeded to drag Fortis with it.

I leapt from the pole and latched onto his leg in attempt to keep him grounded, but the drones momentum combined with his own meant my grasp did little to stop his fall.

I quickly grasped his left leg with both my hands as his head disappeared over the edge. His weight meant that I crashed into the wall before being burdened with his weight.

"Ahhh!" It was almost unbearable, the burn in my arms leading them to become stretched out almost to their limit. I braced my feet against the wall, trying to gain a better grip, but my fingertips were starting to get pins and needles and I could feel my grip slackening.

I looked over the edge and saw Fortis trying to bend upwards and reach my hand. The wind was battering his body, making him sway and the army of drones was edging ever closer, another two drones almost level with Fortis' body.

"Hurry!" I half grunted and half yelled.

I could feel his fingertips grasping at my wrists, but he couldn't quite get a grip.

The pins and needles had spread to my arms now and my fingers were beginning to fail me.

Finally Fortis securely grabbed my wrist, but as he used only my left arm to support all his weight, I felt my shoulder pop. I screamed in pain as my arm went limp and black spots invaded my vision, my legs threatening to give out.

He finally managed to pull himself up and back onto the ledge. I stifled a sob as I used the wall to support myself. Fortis too was breathing heavily and he stumbled slightly on the platform. His foot nudged Alice's body.

As if in slow motion, I saw her body tumble from the edge.

"No..." My voice was barely a whisper and I quickly leaned over the edge, but she was gone.

Fortis too was looking down, shocked.

He snapped out of it. "Come on, we have to go." He spoke with a gentleness I didn't know he possessed.

"I can't..." I choked back a sob, "I can't leave Alice here, not-"

"Alex, listen to me." His stern tone was back and I tore my gaze away from the depths of the tower to look at him; his white pupils and black irises that usually looked so menacing, now seemed, somehow less frightening. "We wouldn't have been able to carry her anyway," His voice shook; the indication that he felt anything at all, "We have to go." I nodded, numb. We'd carried her so far, I'd promised... but all that was for nothing.

He led my hands to the pole and it was then that my pain came back and I remembered my dislocated shoulder.

"Fortis- I can't i-"


"No, it's my shoulder" I grimaced and leaned back against the wall for support.

Fortis finally noticed my limp arm and then shock once again showed on his features, "Did i... was that my fault?"

I didn't answer and he looked, for a moment, apologetic, but then another drone entered and he quickly shoved this one out the hole before it could grab on to either of us.

"Quickly, untie the rope from the pole and tie it around yourself." I did as he said, although I didn't see how it would help us- the other end still dangled outside the window for the drones to use. "Now here," He handed me a part of the rope that had previously been hanging outside the gap, "Burn this." He waited for me to do that and then he tied that end of the rope around himself. "Now I'll go first. Climb what you can, but essentially, I'll be dragging you up and if you fall" He tugged on the rope, "This'll catch you."



I nodded.

When Fortis reached the top, Reed was pacing back and forth,

"Oh man! Jeez, where have you guys been, I didn't want to slide back down in case I crushed you or something but-"

"Dude, shut up and help." Fortis grunted and I couldn't help a grim smile. Reed held out a hand and Fortis grabbed it before kneeling down and turning around to help me.

"Woah, what happened to you?"

"Him." I nodded my head in Fortis' direction, "And for God's sake I have a dislocated shoulder I'm not permanently handicapped!" I snapped, ignoring both their hands and using my right one to clamber ungracefully off the pole onto my hands and knees.

"Okaaaay, we were just trying to be helpful."

"Look, I'm sorry okay I'm just... tired I guess."

Suddenly the platform at the top of the tower where we we'd all just climbed up to began to move. It was only a short distance to the roof from the height of the tower and I was glad to leave it all behind. Just to know that it was all over.

We all sat in silence until the jolt that signalled we'd reached the top, and then Reed spoke, "Hey, where's Alice?"

His words sent a shiver down my spine.

The glass roof opened and Fortis stood alongside Reed, but I stayed seated.

"where's Alice?" those words haunted me.

Lying at the bottom of the dark tower, in a broken and crumpled heap because we left her there.

I couldn't say that, so I simply replied, "Alone."

Authors Note: i know, it took me forever...

but this is a super long update, does that make up for it? :(

anyway thoughts on the chapter? How about Fortis' change of attitude? And Alice :O

i know it's taking me forever, but i will update eventually :D

Emmaa x

Copyright © 2011 Emmaa x (Userid: 758535)