Author : Townsend Wright

The girl with the bright red hair walked into the dingy, ramshackle hotel. The lobby was edged with people, some standing, watching, most asleep under old coats or bags, except one man with a disfigured face who was sitting cross-legged in meditation.

She walked up to the old man behind the front desk. “Room for the night.” The man looked up and stared wide at her unnaturally red hair. “Relax,” she said and split a part in her hair to show him, “roots, see? Bad fashion statement.” She shoved a wad of bills, some ancient American some World Empire and a few from the numerous makeshift governments forming and dissolving the world over. He funneled them all into a bag and handed her a key, didn’t even bother counting. She took the key and headed for the stairs.

A voice from behind her, “Hey, bitch!” followed by a sharp pain in her right shoulder, “your roots have roots.” Shit, she thought, I waited too long to dye my hair and now there’s a knife in my shoulder. Even if he doesn’t know for sure as soon as the knife comes out there’s no hiding it. With her left hand she dislodged the knife and fire spewed from the wound. In a matter of seconds the fire ceased and all that remained was a smudge of scorched blood. “Ain’t seen a Phoenix in a long time.” Twenty seven generations of careful breeding and genetic manipulation creating dozens of different strains of super soldiers all gone to waste with the fall of another government. Hunted as freaks and recognized only by the visual abnormalities somebody thought might be fitting with the mythical creatures they named them after.

“Hyperactive healing stimulated by an extreme metabolic burn,” she murmured. “Makes someone like me very hard to kill.”

Another voice said “We can find a way.” She turned to see four large men holding knives and pipes.

“You can try.” One with a pipe ran at her. She ducked and swept the leg in one fluid movement, landing on her hands and toes while he landed on his face. She heard another coming at her and pushed off her feet into a front flip that put her facing the new attacker. This one had a knife. She blocked his jab with the knife that hit her shoulder. The third guy came at her with another knife, leaving her with only her left forearm to block. The result was a large gash from her thumb to her elbow. She stuck the flame in the face of the second knife guy. He backed off with his hands grasping his face. Where’s the fourth guy? she thought as her knife fight continued. The guy was advancing. He was good with a knife, but after a few swipes she could see he was going to leave his side wide open.

Before that could happen the man with the disfigured face jumped in and put his hand on the guy’s forehead for a few seconds. He put his knife away, “See you later,” and walked out.

The man looked at her with yellow eyes. “Hope you don’t mind.” A Sandman, able to alter the memories and thought processes of others. He put one hand on the back of her head and held up an old picture of a young man. Suddenly, in her mind, his disfigured face was replaced with that of the man in the photo. “I like my friends not to cringe at the sight of me.”

“Thanks. Good to have company.”


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