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I don't remember for how long I laid there on the floor of my cell, how much time I spent unconscious or how much time passed after their last experiment. …Or if they did more while I was like this.
My body feels sluggish, my mind is tired and for some reason I can't even muster enough strength to even sit. I'm just laying on there on the floor.
Thankfully I have just enough strength to roll over and, after struggling to for a while, I eventually manage to turn and stare at the ceiling of my now familiar cell.
…Or not so familiar, because everything has an orange-ish tinge to it.
“See!? I told you he was alive!”
That voice… Axton?
“I mean, he looks like he's dead but…”
“Shush. Give him time, he needs to get his bearings”
That's Legate… There's some exasperation on his voice.
Axton doesn't seem to listen to him though, he keeps talking, this time he gets closer to me “Hey hey, buddy…” He trails off
I try to stand, and fail, eventually settling for sitting down on a corner. Everything's woozy right now…
“Take your time, you uh… look like you need it” Says Axton.
…Axton looks at me like if he's trying (and failing) to not make me nervous- Ugh, my head's killing me right now.
I put a hand to my forehead, a reflex in response to the sharp pain in my head, my hand is on fire-
…Why is my hand on fire?
Axton takes my surprise as a cue “Yeah, don't really know if that's your doing or the scientists'” He scratches the back of his neck.
“You just laid there for a couple of hours or days, or whatever, we didn't really know if it was you being… y'know” He gestures to my entire body, he probably means my powers. “Or if it was something they did to you.”
I don't answer him, instead choosing to stare at my hand intently. It's not weird, to me at least, to be on fire, it's part of my power after all.
…But I don't remember using my powers.
The flames feel weird. The familiar sense from my power, from my own flames, was gone and replaced with nothingness, like if it wasn't even there to being with. The ‘tickling’ from my flames when I'm just imbued in them, the small burning that comes with the feeling of overusing, of pushing myself too hard was gone.
I feel a pit on my stomach, as I focus on my powers and force them to shut down.
But nothing, the flames don't stop, the fire keeps burning and it's as if I just can't tell them to stop.
I can feel my heart jump to my throat, if there wasn't any fire I would be sweating tanks now.
I try again, again and again, but they just won't disappear.
The sense of vertigo is gone, my headache goes ignored. All I focus on is the inability to do something I know I can fully do.
I shot up from my position on the floor and stand to my full height, staring again at my own hands, now fists as I try to once again shut down this aspect of my powers.
I can hear Axton cry out in surprise, telling me to sit down probably, but I'm too focused on my own world.
But nothing happens.
I can't stop myself from screaming in frustration, my flames responding to my feelings and bursting from my body as I explode in anger.
Axton screams to me then, still close to my own cell, not caring about the fire that threatens to spill out of it “Calm the hell down!”
“You're scaring the kid!” He hisses.
A kid? What kid?
The realization makes me stop, the fire also dying down, a thick layer of it still remaining on my own body. Curiously, it hasn't burnt my clothes with it.
I glance at Axton, he simply gestures with his head to the cell next to mine, on the opposite side.
There, sitting on a corner with his legs up and shivering is a small child. He has his eyes set on me, but the moment he sees me looking at me he closes his eyes and turns his head away.
…I really did scare him.
“Besides- ” The voice of Axton stops me from doing anything “It's not as if you're the only creepy looking guy in the room.”
It's then that I turn to look, and I mean truly look, at Axton.
The face I've gotten familiar with has a scar right in the center, going over his left eye which is also closed, smaller wounds are also all over the rest of his face.
But the most striking thing I see is the fact that he's missing an arm. His left, from the elbow down.
He chuckles, looking down onto his arm “You weren't the only one to come up different from this trip.” His voice is low, barely audible.
I speak up, after a moment of silence “…And Legate?”
God, my voice is so raspy.
Axton scoffs “Guy only has a trillion bruises” He points over to Legate with his working arm.
Legate's sitting on his cell, like always, though this time his entire body is purple and covered in bruises.
He doesn't look any worse from wear though. He doesn't say anything, but instead looks at me and nods.
Axton coughs “The kid's been here since the last… ‘experiment’” I look at the kid, who is still cowering on his own corner.
“It's not been easy to talk to him” He says “He's really jumpy, and the image of guy with scars and a stub for an arm doesn't help much.”
He chuckles after that “What I also though was a burning corpse until now and a purple man who doesn't stop glaring at you don't help either.”
“He's young.” I say.
Axton looks at the kid. “Yeah.”
Axton tsks “Can't believe they would do this to children too.” His voice is low so that the kid doesn't hear it, but by the way the child jumps a little I think he did.
“Hey…” I call out to him, the child jolts for a moment and then looks at me, fear in his eyes.
“I'm… sorry for scaring you.” I said, trying my hardest to not scare him anymore. I can hear Legate scoff from his cell at that, Axton shushing him before he can say anything else.
Kids weren't something I was used to deal with.
The kid is still staring at me, the fear is still there but it feels smaller than before.
“I know it's scary” I continue “You're in a weird, damp place with a lot of people you don't know, your parent's nowhere to be seen.”
He lets out a small sniff.
“…I'm scared too.” I say. “I just… lost something important right now, and overreacted a little. Maybe too much.”
I walk to the edge of my cell, towards his, slowly, trying not to intimidate him anymore and crouching when I get there.
“It must be scary to have a burning man speak to you too, but we can't do fear right now.” I start, the child's staring at me with no fear now, only interest.
“We have to be strong, stay strong and wait until the heroes come here and save us all.” I didn't mention the fact that some people did die while waiting.
The kid didn't answer, just looked at me and then the floor.
“I know.” He says, voice barely a whisper.
We stay like that for a while, the small child in the corner still occasionally sniffling but not shaking as before until I ask for his name, trying to start our conversation again.
“Dad says to not talk to strangers…” He mumbles.
I sigh, because of course his parents told him that, but eventually I come up with an idea
“But if you introduce yourself to others you aren't really a stranger” I begin. “My name's Jackson”
“'m Billy” He says, after a moment.
I chuckle, it comes off as a deep rumbling. “Pleasure to meet you Billy” I tell him.
“I promise you, that the heroes are coming to save the day and that as long as me and this fine gentleman here- ” I point to Axton, who is in the cell behind mine, he waves with his working arm at the kid “ -nothing bad will happen to you.”
It takes a while but eventually Billy gives a small and somewhat weak smile back at me. We stay in silence after that, with Billy still on his corner, not shaking or looking back in fear or at least not with as much fear as he had before.
My headache is still there, not as strong as before but still noticeable. The fear and anxiety from my newest problem are also there, but I try to not think too much on them. I'm finally happy that Axton doesn't shut up, because he won't let me focus on them.
…I didn't notice it immediately but I'm sure it's almost been more than five hours and we're still standing; they haven't knocked us out yet.
It almost gives me a sense of security, like we're safe for now, that the worst is over, but I don't fool myself like that.
The scariest and most frustrating part of it all is that I can't even really help Billy, or anyone inside for that matter. I'm as helpless as they are.
A feeling that, in the morning after we inevitably fall asleep due to our own fatigue, becomes stronger once Billy disappears.