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Jerry and Vic drove up to the warehouse with Shaotoro, Damon, and Hinotomi. Damon and Hinotomi took out palm-sized tracking devices. They waved them around in the skies, and in return it let off corresponding beeps and boops. “There is definitely UDC activity here,” Damon said.
“Kyane fought three of them here last night,” Shaotoro said.
“We placed men here to watch the portal, but they didn’t check in on time, so we came to investigate,” Jerry said. He walked over to the large metal doors. Shaotoro joined him and they pulled the door up to reveal the two empty Humvees painted in dried brown blood.
The tracking device shrieked. “This is big,” Hinotomi said. She walked in. The shrieking continued to skyrocket.
“This is strange,” Jerry said.
“It’s horrible,” Damon said.
“The UDCs were taken care of when we left last night,” Shaotoro said.
“After the initial UDCs come in they can’t reuse the portal unless they reinforce them,” Jerry said.
“Calm down, Jerry,” Hinotomi said. The signal reached its zenith at the intersection of the Humvees. She walked toward the portal. The beep lowered. She walked back to the high point, climbed the truck and raised her tracker. The signal diminished again. “I take that back.” She reached the edge of the Humvee. Damon helped her down.
“What’s the problem?” Jerry asked.
“Big problem. They’ve broken containment, sir,” Hinotomi said.
“Oh god,” Damon said. He took out his cellphone. “We have to call Kyane and get her.” He dialed her number and put it on speaker.
“Hello,” Kyane said. Her voice was surrounded by lower overlapping voices on the other end. “What’s up? Oh, it’s just my parents.”
“Who are you with?” Hinotomi asked.
“She’s on a date,” Shaotoro said.
“Have I met this guy?” Damon said.
“If you’re going to freak about my date I’m going to just go.”
“We have a UDC situation,” Jerry said. “Can you get Dieous out?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” Kyane said away from the mic. “I just need to go to the bathroom.” Her voice started to echo. “I’m going to get so yelled at by him for this.”
Shaotoro shook his head and swiped the tracker from Damon’s hand. “I’ll deal with it,” he said.
“Go back to having a good time. Be young, magomusume.” He tapped the end call button on the phone, then raised the tracker. “Tell me how to use this and I’ll go after them.”
“Dad, that’s not a good idea.”
Shaotoro made his way to the car. “I told her to take the weekend off. As her teacher I need to stick to my promises.” He climbed into the car.
“Vic, you go with him. Tell him how to use the tracker.” Jerry commanded. Vic got into the passenger’s seat.
Kyane exited the hallway to the bathroom. Desmond stood, leaning against the wall, scrolling through his phone. He looked up. His face brightened for a second and he put the phone away. “You don’t look any different.”
“I went to the bathroom, not powder my nose. And talked to my parents. You know how they are.”
“All up in our business and stuff. They should just back off sometimes.”
“Yeah, sometimes,” Kyane said. They walked into the Belk next door together. “So where to next?”
“I’m kinda hungry,” Desmond said.
“I didn’t want to say anything, but chocolate doesn’t fill me up for hours of fun like it used to.”
They exited the store to the down escalator. “It’s all the walking. Burns like a ton of calories. Our coaches make us walk like a million steps a day it feels like.”
“How many calories does the escalator burn?” Kyane asked. “I could go up and down these all day.”
They re-entered the food court and got slapped in the face with the familiar scents from earlier. “What are you in the mood for?” Desmond said.
Kyane scanned the stands of restaurants. There was the usual array of fast-food chains, pizza place, a Chinese buffet, and offbeat ethnic fast food. “I kind of hate myself still, so how about the Chinese place.”
“Not the best reason, but I like lo mein,” Desmond said.
The closer they got to the stand, the stranger they noticed it was. No one was manning the buffet or cash register. The door to the back had sauce splattered on the glass. Feet away from the stand Kyane realized it wasn’t sauce. The remaining inches it took to confirm her suspicions dragged on for minutes in her head.
Kyane’s mind raced on what to do. Can she talk Desmond away quick enough? The door to the back creaked open. Should she push him to the ground and act like it was an accident? The back door flung open further. There were not many options. She placed her hands on his chest. She heard the now-familiar sound of clacking claws against the ground. She pushed him back. She realized she could make it seem like she fell too, but she needed to act fast. She planted her foot behind his. The raptor pounded from behind the counter. The food court screamed. Kyane’s stomach plummeted with how well the date.
“I’m sorry,” Kyane said.
“Oh my god!” Desmond exclaimed. Kyane got up. The raptor headed straight to Kyane. “Behind me!” Desmond pushed Kyane aside, then swung a right hook into the raptor’s jaw. The raptor took the hit but slashed back. Desmond stumbled into the railing in front of the buffet. The tattered remains of his shirt were all that was left of where he stood.
Kyane rolled over and kicked the raptor in the ankle. It snapped less than she expected it to. Damn no armor, she thought. She hopped up, grabbed the back of a red chair, and cracked it against the raptor’s chest. The raptor tumbled back while the chair split apart at the seat.
Kyane ran over to Desmond and helped him up. “It’s more of those creatures,” Kyane said. “We should go for the exit!”
“I like where your head is attached!” A raptor fell from the ceiling, onto the floor, and slashed at the two. Desmond yelled, stumbled back, and rolled over the table behind him.
Kyane blocked the slash. Its claw clanged against D13’s bracelet. She dropped to the ground and swiped at its feet. The first raptor ran at her. She backed away. Desmond lifted the table and plowed it into the raptor. The raptor fell.
Neither of them stayed down for long.
“Now is running time,” Kyane said.
They bolted away. The raptors followed. Shoppers scurried and scattered away from the terrifying creatures. One of the raptors slashed at them. Kyane pushed Desmond away and rolled onto the dance floor. Desmond stood up. “These things are like animals, hunters. They’re like the lions in the Lion King. They surround and strike.”
“Not the right animals, but yeah, what’s your point?” Kyane asked.
The raptors ran to either side of the two and circled around them.
“Well they’ll strike, we go back to back to hold them off,” Desmond said. “Until Dieous gets here.”
Kyane wanted to show him the truth but knew it would just cause more immediate problems. She landed on saying, “I hope that works, but don’t have time to argue with ya.”
They pressed their backs together, then raised their fists. Their hearts aligned. On the date, they never paid much attention to the music the mall played. The beats, lyrics, and energy of the songs painted the background of their time, but never stuck out. The song changed to Stolen Dance by Milky Chance. It struck a chord with them in the way fighting for your life makes every detail stick out and feel important.
The intro snare drumbeat began. The raptors continued to circle around them. Kyane and Desmond strafed in unison. The guitar strum and claps followed. The lyrics began, and the raptors pounced. Kyane met one with a kick, Desmond met the other with a punch. The raptors landed on the floor, rolled and circled them again. They pounced a second time when the lyrics reached “We’ve never danced like this before.”
They hadn’t. Neither Kyane’s nor Desmond’s movements were stiff. It was a boogie, a stolen paradise for that moment. They ducked, weaved, kicked, punched, blocked, and rolled as one. Kyane ducked for Desmond to smash a raptor with a left jab. She placed her hands on his shoulder and flipped over him, to kick the other raptor on its crown with her heel. She moved to let Desmond’s elbow drop onto its back. The second raptor rose. Kyane got onto Desmond’s back. He pushed up, Kyane leaped knee first and crushed the raptor in the face. She rolled out of the fall. The guitar and clapping began to fade. The song ended.
“Holy crap!” Desmond said he ran to the center.
“That was amazing,” Kyane ran to meet him.
“You were so great!” His arms flailed uncontrollably in joy. “The way you did all those moves! You kicked like so much butt!”
“You didn’t do so bad yourself.” Kyane rested her hands on his arms longer than she planned. She didn’t think he minded. “Where did you learn all those moves?”
“YouTube. Pretty cool site. It’s got like all the stuff.” They huffed and puffed to catch their breath.
“I know what Youtube is.” They saw each other through messed hair, well for Kyane, sweat, adrenaline, pumping endorphins, and skylight lighting. The calm and emptiness passed through them.
“Hey,” Desmond said. “Would you like to go to the baseball team’s sports dinner?”
“What about afro-chick?”
“I didn’t think you would be cool with me bringing you and another girl.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You know what, I take my offer back.”
“No!” Kyane grabbed his arms and pulled him in for a hug. He smelled pretty decent considering the sweat they both worked up. “I’d actually like to go. My dad’s credit card needs some stretching. They’re like muscles, right?” she tried to say in a shallow voice.
He hugged her back. “Don’t do that voice again. It brings back too many memories.”
A familiar clicking of nails against the floor and dragging of a tail echoed from the food court. Clapping and a recognizable voice followed. “Aww, you humans look so cute when you fall in love,” Nyansa said.
The couple separated and faced their next foe. Kyane tried to hide her shaking. “You don’t look so tough,” Desmond said.
“I can see why you say that,” Nyansa said. “Those two looked pretty big. But they’re pretty dumb.” His nail clicking echoed louder on the dance floor. He raised the arm of one of the raptors. “They don’t deserve too much if they could lose to two human adolescents.”
“Umm we’re teenagers,” Desmond corrected. “And if we beat them, we can beat you. Two on one.”
Kyane places her hand on his arm. She tried to pull him back. He didn’t budge. “He looks kind of like that one who attacked the stadium. We should go,” Kyane said.
Nyansa pointed to her. “You should listen to your girlfriend Cassius. I was tracking Deious. So, I was looking for a fight anyway.”
“I’m not his girlfriend.”
“Yeah! And my name isn’t Cashew!”
It took everything for Kyane not to facepalm.
Desmond tossed off his jacket and rolled the sleeves up on his button-down. “We can take him. He’s skinny.”
“Okay,” Nyansa said. “I’ll give you the first swing.” Desmond ran to him and fired off a right jab. Nyansa wrapped his tail around Desmond’s wrist, stopping the punch before it made contact. “I said I’d give you the first swing, not first hit.”
“Ass-argh!” Nyansa twisted his tail, dragging Desmond’s arm, and making it pop and crack along the way.
Nyansa spun around and tossed Desmond on the floor and into the pillar.
“Okay, that’s it.” Kyane began the alignment process. Nyansa jumped and made it to her in a single leap. He slashed her. She dodged out of the way, stopping the process. Nyansa landed and thwipped her tail at her chest. She blocked it with her arms. It burned. She kicked. Nyansa wrapped his tail around her leg. She pulled it down, carrying Nyansa with it. She punched him in the face, then palmed him in the chest. Nyansa’s tail unfurled. She sent a roundhouse kick to his face. Nyansa grabbed her foot with his hand. She tried to pull her foot away, but it would not budge. He dug his nails into her leg. Kyane screamed. Blood ran from her calf.
“You were almost half-decent,” Nyansa said. He let go of her leg, then punched her in the stomach. She fell onto her back. He stepped onto her stomach. She yelled. He slid her into the DJ’s booth. “Now to find Deious.”
“You’ll get him in a second,” Kyane said under her breath. She sat up and began the alignment process again.
A gunshot rang out. A bullet pegged Nyansa in the foot.
“You have one last opponent to fight before you get to him.” Nyansa and Kyane looked up and saw Vic holding his pistol. Shaotoro nodded, then dropped from the second story, roll on contact with the ground and stood in front of Kyane. “You are on break. Stay on break for as long as you can, magomusume. I can handle this.” Vic ran for the stairs.
“A human elder. That is very intriguing.”
“Why is that?” Shaotoro stretched his muscles.
“Most elders take a spot as wisdom givers, not as fighters.”
“Do I look like most elders?”
“I do not know. I have not seen enough of them to give you a proper answer.”
“Thank you for your honesty, oni.”
“That’s all I can be. I don’t break my word.”
“Neither do I.”
“Is that enough pleasantries, elder?”
“I think so.” Shaotoro leaned and cracked his back. He shook off his fear and got into his stance. “I’ll give you the first punch.”
Nyansa slashed. Shaotoro slapped his hand then grabbed it and interlaced their fingers together. Shaotoro squeezed. He heard a crack. He spun their hands upside down and yanked his wrist down. Nyansa whipped his tail around Shaotoro’s neck. Shaotoro wrapped his free hand around the tail and pulled him closer, then kicked him in the rib. Nyansa fell.
“I thought you said you stick to your word,” Nyansa said. He jumped to his feet with no issue.
“You don’t stick to the spirit of your word, so I won’t stick to mine.”
“You’re a wonderful role model for the children here.”
“Coming from a killer.” Shaotoro swiped his legs, then uppercut him, sending him onto his back again.
Nyansa hopped up again, no worse for wear. “I haven’t killed anyone.”
“And it seems you haven’t fought in a while either,” Shaotoro said.
Nyansa jumped and spun in the air then shot his tail out. It wrapped around Shaotoro’s arm. Shaotoro pulled him down and kicked him. Nyansa’s tail uncurled.
“Stay down,” Shaotoro said. A serpentine burn mark ran the length of his arms.
Nyansa stood up, no bruising or any sign of physical damage. “I assume you are not Deious either. He has been the only person to stop me or any of us in high command.”
“Why are you so tough?” Shaotoro rubbed the burn mark.
“Our bodies have evolved and acclimated to the harsh climate and life of our world. Yours is weak in comparison. That boy Deious rescued is proof of how you humans are less than us. You can physically not harm me.”
Shaotoro nodded. “That statement assumes I have been using all of my tools available. I have not.”
“Right,” Nyansa said. His face did not give away and fear. He shot his tail out. Shaotoro blocked it but fell into his trap. A claw slashed at Shaotoro. He blocked the slash, then jabbed his pointer and middle finger into Nyansa’s chest. Air exploded out of Nyansa’s mouth and froze him in place. Shaotoro twisted his fingers on his chest, then pushed him back. Nyansa teetered away. Nyansa flexed his muscles, but they would not move. He envisioned him jumping and tearing the old man’s throat out. His body would not respond.
Shaotoro clapped his hands together. Air exploded outward from him. The vacuum enveloped him and his opponent. Nyansa’s eyes bulged out of his head. Shaotoro reeled his arm back and punched him. It showed no effect. Shaotoro threw another, and another, and another until his arms blurred. Nyansa vibrates more and more violently with each impact. His eyes rolled to the back of his head, and blood began to drool from his mouth. The blur got quicker and quicker. Thumping resonated from Nyansa’s body. The blur stopped long enough for Kyane to see her sensei give a final punch to Nyansa’s solar plexus. Nyansa flew backward into the adjacent pillar. The air raced back in with a supersonic popping.
“Woah,” Kyane wheezed. She rose her arm onto the closest stable object and attempted to hoist herself up. She got to her knees before she collapsed. Shaotoro helped her up. “What was that? You were like The Flash or something.”
“That is my secret technique, the Millenium Fury.”
“What did you do?” Kyane looked over at the slumped body of Nyansa. Welts and black and blue marks covered his torso. A large, hand-sized mark sat at the center of his body. He vibrated and popped away.
“There are many answers to that question, magomusume.”
“You have to teach me that!” Kyane said. “We can use that to take down their boss.”
Shaotoro nodded. They each stood on one side of Desmond and lifted him to his feet. He was still unconscious. “We will see, we will see.”