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Desmond was silent the whole ride to Groupers. His teammates tried to talk to him, but they were just a dead noise in his ears. No more understood than the buzzing of an insect. He checked his phone but got no reply from Kyane, of course. Why would he expect anything different from her now than from earlier? They parked outside the building and the driver opened the door for them. Desmond stepped out. Harry wrapped his arm around his disconnected friend and attempted to cheer him up. Desmond didn’t process the words at all. Just gave a disheartening, “Yeah,” in reply.
Groupers sat directly on the water. It was three stories tall, a blue building with white trim and bulb lights strung from the rafters. The restaurant had its own dock for boaters to come up and bring fresh fish for the cooks to clean and make for them if they wished. The baseball team walked inside. The three stories were split with a main floor, a lower level that went out to the dock, and a higher level to overlook the water. The interior had deep crimson floors with wood trim and the same bulb lights hanging inside.
The hostess walked the team to the lower level. The tables were pushed together in a long row. A second, smaller table, held different trophies for each team, and players on the team. The baseball team took their seats along their side. Appetizers of bread, hush puppies, chips and dip, shrimp cocktail, and popcorn shrimp decorated the middle of the table.
More players arrived. The coaches sat at the ends. A group of seats remained empty in memory of the deceased. Desmond just looked at his plate as an attempt to ignore all the other players with their dates. The food options arrived. He took an eternity to eat. Something even he felt weird about. He refused to look up at the others around him. His heart would just sink lower. Following the eating, the school’s announcer got up and went over to the table and began chatting and giving out awards. He paced around the front of the table, a microphone in hand. “This season has been a real harrowing one for all of us,” the announcer began. “It started with a major tragedy, but we have come back from that in a way no one else could have realized or hoped.”
There was a shuttering on the roof.
“Out of these awards is a big one. Team Hero.” The announcer picked up a large trophy. “This signifies a person who really tried to help others through this tough time, and really brought this team together.” He looked at the trophy. “Desmond Dice!”
The team applauded.
Desmond’s gaze shattered. He stood up and the zombie he currently inhabited walked to get it. All he could get out was, “I don’t understand.” The announcer gave him the trophy. It was weighted, with a batter on top. “I really don’t understand guys. I’m no hero.” He looked at the ground. “I blew you guys off every time.”
The team screamed. The windows behind him shattered. More customers screamed throughout the building, followed by the shattering of windows, and pounding of doors. Desmond turned to see Saturn and his four men jump in. Desmond flipped the trophy around and clobbered one of the raptors in the head. “Get out of here!” he yelled at his team. He slugged the trophy against another of the raptors. Harry remained frozen. His eyes were fixated on Saturn. Saturn looked at him.
“Harry, dude, go,” Desmond said. He pushed another raptor away.
Saturn sauntered up to Harry. “Staying for a show? That’s fun. You get to interact with this one.” He raised a claw. Harry’s body shook and shivered. Desmond tackled Saturn.
“Harry, go protect them.”
Harry blinked a couple times. He bent and grabbed a couple of steak knives. He stammered over some words. Saturn rose. Desmond nodded. Harry reciprocated and ran off, breathing deeply.
Saturn knocked a few waiters away. “So, you’re one of those teens Nyansa fought.”
“Who?” Desmond asked. His trophy still shook in his hands. He held the trophy up again, preparing for another swing.
Saturn examined the teenager. “I would just come with me if I were you. It would make things much less painless.” Saturn took a step closer. Desmond swung the trophy again; it brushed the air off Saturn’s face. Desmond slowly retreated. Saturn whipped his tail at Desmond’s hand. He used the trophy as a shield. It flipped end over end into the air.
Desmond backed up further and braced himself. He raised his fists. One of the raptors got up. He clocked him again. Followed by another punch to the stomach. The raptor dropped to its knees. He reared his arm back for a final blow. Saturn’s tail coiled itself around Desmond’s hand. Saturn then flicked him back first into the dinner table. The force pushed two tables apart. Desmond could feel his spine shatter a little. He tried to hop off the table, but instead collapsed onto the floor. Saturn walked over to him.
“I’m glad you fought back,” Saturn said. He brandished his claws. “It’s easier to bring dead prey back than living.” The two raptors encircled him.
“Desmond!” screamed a robotic voice. Dieous swung through the window, kicking one of the raptors back in the process. The second raptor charged. She backhanded it away to give Desmond a hand.
Desmond took it. “Holy sh-. I can’t believe it. You are like always saving me man, it’s so cool.” He scratched his shaved head. “I must be the luckiest guy ever.”
“Or very unlucky,” Dieous said. “How do you feel?” An x-ray of Desmond’s body maximized on the HUD. Blinking red spots hovered over his wrist and back. “You look pretty hurt.”
“I’m just getting pumped up,” he said. He tore his jacket off and relaxed his tie. “I need to release some aggression.” He tried to hide his body’s shaking.
The two raptors charged them. Saturn joined the raptor heading for Desmond. Dieous kicked the raptor into the other. They tumbled onto the floor then quickly dematerialized. Saturn pounced onto Desmond. Desmond flailed to get him off but was scratched in the process. Saturn’s claws tore into his flesh leaving groupings of three claw marks, each bleeding profusely.
Dieous kicked Saturn off and into the wall. Saturn hit with a loud thud. Dieous helped him up. “Get to safety, Desmond. I will handle this one.”
Saturn stood up. He clutched the injured side. He tried to laugh. Blood came out. “You think I am the only one? The rest of the team is coming here, including another higher-up. You won’t survive!”
“We have someone taking care of them,” Dieous said.
Two floors above Dieous, Shaotoro followed the raptors through the window and took many of them out. He raised his arms into a fighting stance. Starkio brushed off the table scraps of the scared patrons. “You’re the old man who killed Nyansa. He was not a fighter like I am. You won’t have as easy a time.”
Shaotoro cracked a raptor in the jaw with his palm. “That means I may actually feel something in these joints.”
“You won’t for long.” Starkio bore his claws. He jumped to the ceiling, stuck his claws in and crawled around. Shaotoro followed his movements, backing up in time with him. Shaotoro stepped onto a chair, then jumped toward the ceiling. Starkio smacked him back to the ground with his tail. Shaotoro rolled out of the hit and back onto his feet.
Shaotoro took a breath, clapped his hands, then smacked the floor. A pillar of air struck the ceiling like it was fired from a cannon. Starkio’s body smacked against the ceiling and fell to the ground. Shaotoro pulled his arm back for a finishing strike.
Dieous and Saturn placed around the floor. Desmond ran to the corner of the room. He frantically looked for anyone else, but they appeared to have vacated the room safely.
“Can you tell if this one has any special powers like that speed guy had?” Kyane asked.
D13 quickly scanned his body. “No. He appears to not have any special powers or abilities to assist in combat.”
“Strange. Why did they send the other guy out before him then?”
“I am unsure.”
Dieous’s foot tapped a fallen chair. He paused. Saturn continued to turn. Dieous slipped his foot under the chair. Saturn froze for a second. Dieous kicked the chair with full force. It splintered into pieces, never leading his radius. “Oh damn.”
Saturn took off. He darted under the table and sliced Dieous’s legs. Bits of nail and metal flew away. Dieous kicked but hit air. Saturn whipped his tail around Dieous’s legs, dropped him to the floor, and drug him on his back, smashing into tables and chairs. He collided with a drink station. Water and soda splattered onto the floor. Dieous leaned up only to be slapped back down by a crack of Saturn’s tail.
“This is embarrassing,” Kyane said. Dieous was smacked down again. “Do we have any taser juice left?”
“No, we used them to push ourselves.”
Kyane looked around in the brief instances of stillness she had. Lying on the floor, bent along the bottom, with already chipping gold flakes was Desmond’s trophy. She zoomed in and saw what the plaque read. The engraving read: Desmond Dice – Team Hero: Standing Strong When Others Couldn’t. Kyane punched her hand into the floor.
“Wait,” Kyane said. “Active the engines.”
Dieous fired off the final ounces of energy left. The thrusters burst out with white flames. The flames darkened to a blue, orange, then red. Saturn’s tail began to roast. Saturn yelled in pain. Dieous hurled her body up again, wrapped a hand around the tail, then jerked it toward him. Saturn tumbled toward Dieous. She met him with a fist to the face. Saturn’s tail uncurled and stumbled back.
Dieous jumped to her feet. Saturn flicked his tail like a burnt hand. “A neat trick.” Saturn pulled his tail to his face. He rubbed the charred remains off. “You have not done any real damage I’m sorry to say.”
“It’s not the only trick I have,” Dieous said. She got into a fighting stance.
“We have to try and use the millennium fury,” Kyane said.
“Is that wise?” D13 said.
“Do you have any other suggestions?”
“Running a system check,” D13 said. “With the low energy we have, no. You can attempt the millennium fury.”
Dieous brought her hands out and tried to pull as much air in as she could. She clapped her hands. There was a muffled popping noise. Saturn jumped toward him and whipped his tail, restraining her hands. Dieous brought his arm up and slammed Saturn down. She ran to him, pulled her hands apart. Saturn’s tail slowly loosened and separated. In the inch of space, she slipped her hands from under the tail, pulled them over and slapped them onto Saturn’s chest like defibrillator paddles.
A shattering pop flew out from the slaps to the chest. Saturn seized on the ground. Small airless pockets filled the space around Saturn. Dieous let loose with his barrage of punches. The punches slowly began to make a rhythmic thumping on his chest. They felt more like the steady beats of the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” than the high drum beats she was looking for. The punches dropped headlong off a cliff, and his arms fell to his side. It did not matter. Saturn was gone and the floor was in shambles.
Dieous rose and walked over to the trophy. Desmond got up from his space and over to Dieous. He held his arms in his hands. “Wow, man. That was so cool,” he said.
Dieous knelt over the trophy. Her fingers and arms twitched reaching for the metal figure. “If you say so.” Her fingers danced and slid off the figure until he was able to close his hand. She walked over to Desmond. “Being a hero isn’t always what you think it means, Desmond.” She held the trophy out to him. “It’s hard. Really, really hard. That’s why you deserve it.” She slipped it into Desmond’s arms.
“No, dude.” Desmond grabbed it and handed it back. “You saved me, my team, and a whole bunch of other guys I don’t know. You’re a real hero.”
Dieous stared at the trophy.
“I need to show him,” Kyane said.
“I cannot let you do that, Kyane,” D13 said. “Protecting your identity means more than being a hero. It means keeping everything secret and out of the public’s hands.”
“Desmond knows everything whether he says so or not. He just saw me pummel this guy. There is no covering up, no matter what you say.”
“Are you okay, dude?” Desmond asked.
“I’m no hero anyway,” Kyane said. Dieous began the alignment process. “You might not be happy, but you can’t stop me from doing this.”
“No, I don’t deserve that trophy,” Dieous said. The alignment processes began. The portals on the belt and bracelets opened. A blue light exploded out and the metal began to shake off her body and vacuum into the portal. The process was normally close to instantaneously done, this time Kyane felt every piece peel itself off and disappear. Her legs went first, dropping him six inches, her arms went next, followed by her chest and back, then finally the mask. The blue light faded.
Desmond’s jaw rocked along the floor. His eyes tried to follow.
Kyane stood bare in front of Desmond. She pulled her arms close to herself, looked down at the floor, and tapped her toe on the ground. “I’m not a hero,” she said. She couldn’t look. She refused to look. “I can’t be with the way I treated you.” She wanted her body to melt into jelly and seep into the floor.