“Are men really free? This question has haunted me all my life,” thought a young black man who was dying on a huge couch.
He tried to move his arm but did not have enough strength to do so. His body had been riddled with bullets and had been slashed in several places. He was bleeding profusely, his vision was becoming increasingly blurred, and the cold and numbness was gradually taking over. He did not have long to live.
“So, this is how I’m going to die? If only I’d had more time.”
The young man smiled bitterly, as if to mock what he had just said. It also spoke volumes about all the regrets he was feeling at that very moment. As he stood at death’s door, the most precious moments of his life flashed before his eyes. Among them, the images of two young women and an old man in his early fifties appeared repeatedly.
“I’m sorry, guys,” he said. “I won’t be able to continue the fight with you,” he thought afterwards.
A short time later, the barrel of a black gun with very strange golden patterns on it was pointed at him. It was one of the people who had put him in this pitiful state.
“A last wish?” he asked.
“Go fuck your…”
Before he could finish his sentence, the trigger was pulled and a shot rang out, ending the life of the young black man.
Wednesday martius 17th 2017
Arter National Bank, on a beautiful sunny morning. The largest banking institution in Lime City – the largest city in the state of Maricopa in the United Nations of America – was experiencing its daily flow of customers. Some of them were there to withdraw money, others to deposit it, and there were also those who came to consult their banker in order to solve various problems concerning their accounts.
A small gray-haired woman, no more than five feet three tall, wearing a tiled dress, black ballet flats, and a white pearl necklace around her neck, walked up the stairs of the bank and past two tall men – one of the bank security guards and a man wearing dreadlocks – who were arguing. The bank employee told the second man that he had no right to enter the building with an axe, while the latter replied that he just wanted to have a peaceful chat with his bank manager. She did not pay much attention to these two individuals, being preoccupied with something much more important, and continued her way.
Inside the bank, the old lady slowly made her way to one of the receptionists who greeted her with a smile.
“Hello! What can I do for you?” she said.
“Good morning, Miss. I have an appointment with my banker,” the old lady answered.
She then gave her the name of the financial manager she was to meet with, which allowed the young receptionist to guide her to his office.
The man, who was dressed very formally in a black suit with a blue tie, got up from his seat when he saw his client. After a short exchange of formalities, he invited her to take a seat. The elderly woman then explained that she had noticed suspicious activities on one of her bank accounts and wanted to change her credit card.
“Mrs. Saddle, I am very sorry to hear that. Have you tried applying for a new card through our mobile app?” the banker said.
“I don’t trust that kind of technology at all. I prefer to make an appointment and come to see you directly at the bank.”
The man slightly smiled at the somewhat old-fashioned preferences of the old lady sitting before him.
“Okay, I understand. I will do this right away. But first, let’s check out those suspicious activities you’ve just told me about.”
The banker began typing something on his computer keyboard before gaining full access to his client’s account a few dozen seconds later. He then told her that, according to what he had in front of him, she had made numerous transactions in the last few days, some of them for quite large amounts. Of course, the old lady did not recognize any of the bank transfers presented to her by her manager. She even repeated that it was not her who had made them. However, she asked him if there was any way she could get back the money that had been stolen from her.
“I am afraid it will not be possible. Only the police would be able to find the culprit(s) and demand the return of your money. On our side, all we can do is changing some of your banking information so that this kind of incident does not happen again.”
Mrs. Saddle could not help but look saddened after hearing her banker’s response. The amount of money that had been stolen represented a large percentage of her savings. As for the man, he could not help but feel sorry for the old lady when he saw her react like that. He thought for a few moments before telling her to wait, that he was going to discuss with one of his superiors to see if there was a good solution for her.
However, as the banker got up from his seat, he was suddenly taken by an excruciating headache and dizziness. With his hands on his head, his vision also began to blur. Seeing the strange behavior of the man who was now walking sideways in the office, Mrs. Saddle asked him if everything was all right. She got up from her seat and walked over to him in an effort to offer her help, but then noticed that he was not the only one acting this way. Everyone in the bank seemed to be acting the same way he was.
Panicked, the old woman’s heart rate increased dangerously. She had never seen anything like this before, so she did not know how to react. Mrs. Saddle decided to contact the authorities. It was the only option she had at the time. She also hoped that they would be able to fix the strange ailment that was affecting everyone in the bank. Unfortunately for the old lady, the moment she reached for her cell phone, she not only realized that it was not receiving any signal, but she was also hit by this abnormal phenomenon. Losing her balance like the banker, Mrs. Saddle ended up stumbling before falling to the ground and losing consciousness.
About thirty minutes before everyone inside the bank was struck by migraines and dizziness, three different cars pulled up in front of the building. They included a gray 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS with black tinted windows, a blue 2002 Toyota supra with white stripes, and a completely black Nissan R34 Skyline GTR. These vehicles had obviously been modified, as their interiors were equipped with accessories that were far too recent for the years in which they were designed.
Inside these vehicles were three individuals – two men and one woman – all dressed in the same way, namely with a very elegant gray suit. They all had earpieces to communicate with each other, but only the Skyline and the Camaro drivers had funny circular chips of several tens of millimeters in diameter glued on both sides of their temples.
A rather loud music was suddenly emitted from the Nissan Skyline, which attracted the attention of some passers-by towards the vehicle, including a light-skinned young woman with green hair.
“Accelerated, don’t you think the volume of your music is a little too loud? If your goal was to get us spotted, you succeeded,” said the young man driving the Camaro.
“Come on, Wolff! It’s a Scandroid song. And you know how much I love that artist’s music. Besides, even if we get noticed, it won’t be a big problem for us.”
Ionas Wolff was a young man with white hair and cyan-blue eyes, a trait that the other two members of his team as well as most of the people he met found very special. Apart from that, he was quite tall – over six feet ten tall – had a slightly prominent square jaw, and wore a facial expression similar to that of a jaded person who could no longer be surprised by life. His interlocutor, on the other hand, was a young black man with short-cut hair, measuring around five feet nine, and having brown eyes.
“You may like this artist, but you don’t have to play his music so loud,” Wolff said again.
His interlocutor suddenly began to sing the lyrics of the song that was playing, which had the effect of slightly irritating Ionas.
“Accelerated, if you don’t turn your music down immediately, I’m going to have to do something you’re not going to like.”
“As if you were fast enough to come after me,” he muttered.
Faced with Wolff’s words and although he was very curious to know what he would be able to do to him, the young man nevertheless lowered the volume of his music. Their little argument amused their comrade, however, who could not help but laugh inside her Toyota supra.
“What are you laughing about, Stevie?” asked Accelerated, slightly offended by her reaction.
Stevie was the only woman in the trio. She was a five-foot-four tall young women with black hair, brown eyes, and a strong character. So, she did not hesitate to speak her mind to her colleague.
“Your behavior. You’re 21 and still acting like a child. It’s time you grew up, Axe.”
“Me? A child? Look, just because you’re two years older than me doesn’t give you the right to call me a child. In fact, why don’t you get out of your car so we can see which one of us deserves to call the other kid?”
“What did I say? A real kid.”
“But she’s looking for me! Don’t move, I’m coming to get you right now.”
As Accelerated began to unbuckle his seat belt, Ionas suddenly intervened.
“Both of you, that’s enough! We’re not here for that. Also, Accelerated, you’d better behave yourself after what happened with your previous car…”
“I already apologized for the Vanguard. You didn’t…”
“No matter what happened that day, you are still the one responsible for the loss of that vehicle. As for you, Stevie, we don’t need your comments. We have a job to do, and I will not tolerate any of you disrupting the plans that have been made. Have I made myself clear?”
Faced with Ionas’ authority, Accelerated and Stevie found nothing to object to. The young man took their silence as an affirmative answer and thus put an end to their argument.
A few minutes later, after Wolff checked his watch, he decided that it was almost time for them to intervene.
“It will soon be time for us to step in. I hope you know what you have to do, right?”
“As soon as you give us the signal, I’ll take care of all the witnesses who are inside. Once that’s done…,” Stevie replied.
“I’ll take care of disarming the guards and any other nuisance we may encounter along the way,” Accelerated continued, cutting off his partner abruptly.
“Once the situation is under control, both of you will head to the vault to retrieve the artifact piece. Watch Tower has already scanned the area. So, you shouldn’t run into any « unlimited » inside.”
“Too bad. I’d have liked some action,” replied Accelerated.
“If everything goes smoothly, we’ll be out of here in less than 10 minutes. Let’s get this operation done as quickly and smoothly as possible so the Patriarch will be proud of us.”
The three individuals agreed on the course of action, and now they had to wait for the signal from their leader.
At 9:30 a.m., when Mrs. Saddle had entered the building a few minutes earlier, Wolff finally gave them the signal.
“It’s time, Stevie,” he said.
The young woman’s brown eyes lit up before suddenly changing color to blue. A few moments later, all of the passers-by’s electronic devices had various malfunctions. Immediately after that, everyone inside and outside the bank began to walk sideways and get headaches.
Ionas, Stevie, and Accelerated all got out of their cars and headed for the banking institution. Except for Wolff, the other two had a large black bag with them to help them carry what they were about to steal. They walked through the front doors and found themselves in front of a crowd of confused and frightened people.
“Ladies and gentlemen, nobody moves! It’s a hold-up!” the young black man shouted abruptly.
Ionas and Stevie looked back at Accelerated. The young woman’s facial expression showed how tired and exasperated she was with her colleague and the nonsense he could sometimes say. On his side, even if Wolff’s face remained the same, he could not help but be irritated by his subordinate’s actions.
“What?! I’ve always wanted to say that.”
“Sometimes I miss Beckley. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, as my comrade here so aptly put it, this is a hold-up. So, please do as you are told and I promise you that everyone will return home safely,” retorted Ionas.
At that moment, the young man pulled a gun from his jacket and pointed it at the crowd. It looked like a Desert Eagle but had strange golden markings engraved all along the barrel.
When Accelerated saw what Wolff was holding in his hand, he could not hide his astonishment. It was the first time he had seen him use such a thing during one of their operations when « unlimited » people like them usually had no need for it. However, the young man did not have time to admire Ionas’ weapon any longer. Despite the presence of the weapon and the fact that Stevie’s powers were still active, some people in the bank had the good idea to play the hero.
It was Accelerated’s turn to intervene. As the bank’s security guards reached for their guns, their movements suddenly became slower and slower as the color of the young man’s eyes gradually changed from brown to silver gray. The world around him also lost its colors, leaving only shades of white and black.
In this new place where only the young man still has his colors, everything seemed to be frozen, although this was not really the case. Indeed, as he walked towards the security guards, he could clearly see them moving and trying to grab their weapons from their belts. However, they were so slow that Accelerated would have to wait several minutes before they could reach them. Obviously, he was not going to let that happen. So, the young man grabbed all their weapons before returning to his two colleagues.
As Accelerated’s eyes regained their normal color and the world around him regained its own, the security guards were unpleasantly surprised to find their firearms not where they were supposed to be.
“Is this what you’re looking for?” he said, pointing to the weapons that were now at his feet.
The agents did not have time to be surprised by this phenomenon, which they all described as impossible. Indeed, Ionas, now the only one with a gun, threatened everyone once again and ordered them all to go stand in a corner of the hall and stay there quietly. Meanwhile, Accelerated and Stevie headed for the vault, taking one of the bankers with them.
“Please, don’t hurt me. I’m married with children,” the employee replied, shaking.
“As long as you don’t do anything stupid, you can get home safe,” said Stevie.
On the way to the vault, Accelerated pulled a gold pocket watch from his jacket and looked at it. But unlike other such watches, this one had six hands of varying sizes. It also did not show the time, but rather seemed to be counting down.
“You’ve been checking your Cronmark a lot lately. You’re running out of time or what?” asked Stevie, curious.
“No, not at all. It’s just a habit I’m trying to get into. You know, it’s very easy to lose track of time if you’re not careful,” he said, putting the object back in his pocket.
“It’s true many people like you have died because of that.”
The banker who was with them had no idea what they were talking about. In fact, he did not even want to know. All he cared about at that time was staying alive.
In front of the vault were two guards. They were just recovering from the strange phenomenon that had just occurred.
“Damn it! My head hurts like hell. What the hell happened?”
“I don’t know, but it was anything but normal. I felt like I was drunk, hungover, and sober at the same time.”
As the two men straightened up, each of them noticed that something about the other had changed. However, just as they were about to share this with each other, they heard footsteps coming from the hallway.
Because no alarm had sounded, the two men had no idea what was going on inside the bank. So, when they saw the employee coming with Accelerated and Stevie, they automatically assumed that they had come to make a deposit, especially since they were carrying huge bags with them. However, one of the guards noticed that the banker’s behavior was somewhat suspicious. He was sweating profusely and shaking somewhat.
“Sir, is everything all right?” he asked the banker.
The man did not even have time to answer the question when Accelerated suddenly disappeared from everyone’s view. Before the security guards could react to anything, they were violently sent flying into the background where they subsequently lost consciousness.
“Impressed?” he asked the young woman.
“Not in the least. Now, if you’ll get out of my way, I have a job to do.”
The banker, who had no idea what had happened, was suddenly grabbed by the neck. Stevie then ordered him to open the safe if he did not want to end up like the two agents on the floor. Fearing for his life, the bank employee complied and entered the combination to the safe. The clanking sound of the steel door unlocking told the two that they no longer needed their host’s services.
Stevie placed her hand on his neck, and he began to convulse violently before suddenly losing consciousness and falling to the floor. Accelerated then started to clap sarcastically while congratulating her colleague for the work she had just done.
“Stop being childish. We still have work to do.”
“Yes, ma’am!” exclaimed Accelerated once again as he performed a military salute.
The young woman was really getting tired of her partner’s behavior. However, as she had said so well, they still had work to do. So, she put aside her resentment and entered the vault with him.
As one would expect from a large bank vault, it was filled with several hundred small, numbered compartments. Accelerated moved a tiny bit away from the lady who had just stood in the center of the room.
All of the young man’s hair suddenly stood on end as electric arcs appeared in various parts of the safe. Stevie then stretched her arms on either side of her body and, with a rather shrill noise, pulled the locks of all the safes towards her. They stopped a few inches away from her, however, before suddenly falling to the floor.
“I’m still impressed by your abilities. You’re really a living magnet or a battery. It depends on the occasion. Wouldn’t you like it if one day we faced each other at full power to see who is stronger?”
“Instead of talking, you’d better get to work. We don’t have much time. Besides, you’re not powerful enough to go against an ElectroMaster of my caliber. You’d die of electrocution.”
At that very moment, Accelerated’s eye color shifted slightly between brown and silver gray. He really did not like what she had just said. As his right hand moved slowly down his back, he stopped abruptly. The young man then took a deep breath, which helped him to calm down.
“Pretentious. You’re really lucky that we’re on a mission right now,” he thought before going back to work.
The lady then walked over to the drop box with the number 305 and opened it. Inside was half of a rocky disk that had obviously been broken during a violent collision. In addition, on it were inscriptions roughly similar to those on the weapon that Ionas held.
Stevie grabbed the object with great care and placed it carefully in her bag. Meanwhile, her comrade who had just used his powers again had also just finished with his.
“We’re good, Wolff. I got the artifact,” she said.
“Excellent work. That’s a job worth opening a bottle of champagne,” he replied.
“A bottle of champagne? Sorry, but I’m out. I don’t drink…”
When the young man turned back to his partner, he was surprised to discover that she was pointing a gun similar to Ionas’ at him.
“Stevie…!” he exclaimed.
Before he could even finish his sentence, the young woman pulled the trigger, which triggered the shot. Accelerated, who had activated his powers just moments before, figured he could dodge the bullet without any problem. He was fast enough to do so.
As the colors around him disappeared again, leaving only shades of white and black, the young man realized that something was wrong. Given the speed which he was moving at, he should have been able to see the bullet. However, not only could he not see it – which should be impossible – but he began to feel a tingling sensation in his abdomen. When he looked down at the source of this discomfort, he was horrified when he discovered what it was all about.
“H-How is that possible?!” he asked as he collapsed to the floor.
The young man was writhing in pain, which caused him to lose his concentration. As a result, his powers went out and the world around him returned to normal. Stevie then approached him; her weapon still held out to him.
“W-Why?” he asked with difficulty.
“I’m sorry, but it’s nothing personal. I’m just following orders,” she replied.
As the young woman was about to shoot him again, she hesitated for a brief moment. It was not easy for her to kill someone in cold blood, especially since it was someone she had spent a lot of time with. However, her hesitation allowed Accelerated to kick her in the calf, which momentarily destabilized her. Taking advantage of the short time he had created and doing his best to ignore the excruciating pain he was in, he activated his powers once again and disappeared from Stevie’s view.
In the lobby, Wolff was still holding the bank’s customers and employees hostage at gunpoint. Everything was quiet, but the tension was palpable. None of them knew exactly when this bad situation would end. All they hoped was that it would be as soon as possible.
Strangely enough among the hostages, no one saw the young man in front of them the same way as the others. To some, he was white, while to others he was black or Latino. His physical features had been altered. This was due to Stevie whose powers had been active since the beginning of this operation.
While the whole group was standing still, one of the bank employees – who was a little away from the others – also had the bright idea of wanting to play the hero. He thought he would discreetly and slowly walk up to one of the offices and press the secret button to activate the silent alarm. He did not know, however, that he was being watched by Ionas.
“If you don’t want your next meeting with your loved ones to be in a morgue, I advise you to stay still.”
Faced with the threat, the employee abandoned his idea and did not move. He obviously did not want to be killed.
Soon after, Ionas turned his gaze to the corridor leading to the vault. His eyes lit up as the environment around him gradually lost its color and became a black and white world. The young man found himself in the same world as Accelerated who had just entered the hall.
“Where do you think you’re going, Accelerated?”
The sudden appearance of Ionas in this colorless place surprised Accelerated greatly.
“Today…is definitely a day full of unpleasant surprises… First special weapons…and now you here.”
The young man was in very bad shape. He had his left hand on his abdomen, trying the best he could to stop the bleeding. Since he had escaped from the vault, he had tried many times to heal himself by speeding up his healing process. However, this had not worked, which made him realize that it was not only the weapons that were special, but the bullets were also. He had to get out of this situation as soon as possible, which was not going to be easy. Not only did it take a lot of effort to maintain his powers while moving, but Wolff’s presence in this world made things even more complicated.
“I see Stevie wasn’t able to carry out the order I gave her. I’ll have to take care of it myself,” Ionas retorted, pointing his gun at his former partner.
“The champagne bottle trick! I’ll remem…”
Accelerated felt his body go increasingly numb. He had to get out of that bank at all costs if he wanted to live another day.
“You don’t have long to live. Struggling will only make you feel worse. If you have a last wish, it’s now or never.”
“A wish? No, one word will do,” said the young man, placing his right hand behind his back.
He grabbed a combat knife that he hid behind his back under his jacket before pronouncing his nickname. Accelerated suddenly disappeared from Ionas’s field of vision before suddenly appearing before him. The knife in hand and teeth clenched, he tried to decapitate Wolff with a sharp blow, but Wolff took two steps back, allowing him to easily dodge the blade. He then pointed his weapon at his opponent and pulled the trigger. However, what his bullet passed through was none other than Accelerated’s afterimage, the young man having already moved to another spot.
Having just avoided a first offensive from Wolff, Accelerated returned to the attack. Despite the excruciating pain he felt, the young man gritted his teeth and directed his blade towards his opponent. Finding himself on the right side of his opponent, he tried to stick his knife in his ribs, but the latter avoided his blow once more before shooting him again.
“Very impressive! Despite your injury, you are still able to perform such feats. But how long do you think you can keep going in your condition?” Ionas stated as he avoided the next attack.
Ionas had made a point. Although he had the advantage in terms of movement speed, he could not keep up this pace for long, at least not in his current state. He was losing far too much blood for that. By his best estimate, he would still be able to fight like this for a maximum of two minutes. After that, his chances of victory and survival would diminish drastically.
Aside from the concern of how much time he had left, something else was greatly disturbing Accelerated. Wolff was able to avoid his attacks easily, despite the fact that Accelerated mode allowed him to move much faster than usual. Was it because he was injured or was it something else? Also, there were some strange grunts that he had been hearing since his first strike on Ionas. It sounded like a wild animal was in the lobby. Perhaps one of the bank’s customers was in possession of a dog? Whatever it was, it did not change his situation. Armed with his combat knife, the young man returned to fight.
Accelerated and Ionas exchanged many blows and shots without one really managing to hit the other. He then tried to seize Wolff’s wrist but right when he was close to do so, his opponent took two steps back.
“Not so fast, Accelerated. I know how your powers work.”
Ionas pointed his gun at Accelerated and fired once more. He was so fast that each time four bullets fired, it was as if he just pulled once. Moreover, he did not seem like he was reloading. The black man found it very odd and a bit scary. If he did not see him doing that move, then that meant he was way faster than he was at that very moment.
It has already been 30 seconds since they started fighting and the hand Accelerated was holding his knife with began to shake. The blurriness of his vision and the cold that was running through his body had become worse. He had not much time left and Ionas knew. So, he decided to be a bit more serious.
“I must admit that you have been a somewhat good opponent up until now. It has been a while since I have seen someone with such a determination. I now understand why the Old one chose you as his protege. Too bad you are in the wrong side of this fight. You should not have betrayed us, Accelerated.”
When he heard the Old one being mentioned, Accelerated could not hide his surprise. He was wondering how long they had known he was working for him. Also, Ionas had just talked about betrayal, which was amusing considering what was at stake.
“Betra…yal! You guys must…must never succeed. Never.”
As those words were coming out of his mouth, Accelerated’s voice became weaker and weaker. He was running out of time and the effects of the “Accelerated mode” were also starting to wear off. If he wanted to make a way out, it was now or never. So, the young man gathered his bit of strength for a decisive attack. Unfortunately for him, things were about to take a dark turn.
As he was about to dash forwards, Accelerated found himself with no strength in his right leg, which led him to stumble. This was a perfect opportunity for Ionas who suddenly ran towards. His movements had nothing to do with the previous ones. Wolff had become much faster. In fact, he was so fast that Accelerated did not react quickly enough. As the result, he took a heavy kick above the stomach which not only sent him flying but broke several ribs as well.
Accelerated spit blood as he was still in the air. Moreover, because of that blow, he now found himself unable to breathe correctly. Unfortunately for him, that was not the end of it. Ionas pointed his gun at him and fired several times. Each bullet ran through his body as if it was nothing more but a cheese. When he finally landed on the ground, he was no longer able to fight anymore.
On the verge of exhaustion, the color of his eyes flickered between silver gray and brown before finally returning to normal. Everything around them returned to normal and, a few moments later, screams echoed down the hall. The hostages had no idea what had happened. One moment Ionas was in front of them, and the next he disappeared before their eyes, only to reappear shortly afterwards next to his colleague, who was lying in a pool of blood.
Less than a second later, it was Stevie’s turn to appear in the hall. The young woman who had gone in pursuit of Accelerated would never have imagined seeing him again in this deplorable state. In fact, she found it hard to even look at him directly.
“Was that really necessary?” she asked.
“Unfortunately, you did not do your job properly. So, I had to take matters into my own hands.”
“I… I am… sorry. F… forgive…me,” Accelerated suddenly retorted, trying to drag himself out of the bank.
“What tenacity! Despite all that, you still have the strength to move. What a waste. You could have been much more than that. Unfortunately, everything must come to an end,” stated Ionas as he was moving towards his former partner.
Wolff pointed his gun at him, however, when he was about to pull the trigger and put an end at Accelerated’s life, grunts from a ferocious beast were heard. He then looked towards the exit door of the bank and observed its surroundings during several seconds.
“Is something wrong?” questioned Stevie.
“Something is nearby, but I cannot identify what it is or where it is,” he replied.
Stevie was stunned. If her leader could not determine that thing was or where it was, then that meant whatever that thing was, she could not deal with it. The young woman was on high alert. However, after several minutes of observation without being able to locate the object or the person, Wolff focused on Accelerated again.
Less than a second later, a gunshot and many horrified screams rang out in the lobby of Arter National Bank. Wolff then holstered his weapon and ordered his partner to follow him. With their missions accomplished, he and Stevie left the bank, leaving behind the lifeless body of their comrade and a crowd of traumatized people.
To be continued!!!