Rumble in Stryker City

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“Rubber bands? Are you high?”

Jeff ignored his critic as he ripped open the bag and slipped his new elastic friends up his arm.

“No really, I’m all for hoarding away odd things, but you honestly dragged me out here for rubber bands? Not to train (God knows you need it), but rubber bands?”

“Oh you’ll see soon enough. In the right hands, rubber bands can be one of the most dangerous things in existence. Right after black holes and lemon drops.”

“How are lemon drops dangerous?”

“You ever try sucking one of those things while laughing? Could be the last thing you ever do,” he replied, then he clutched his throat and pretended to choke to death.

Jeff’s witty retort was met with an eye roll from Tyson, who spotted an old, dusty sofa and made his way towards it. “You know what? I’m not even gonna bother. Choke on a spliff for all I care,” he declared, as he plopped himself onto the pink monstrosity, and plopped himself off just as quickly, swiping cockroaches off his jacket.

Jeff ignored him, continuing his search with renewed focus. To his delight he found a couple more packs of the bands and dumped them into his backpack. It was incredible the amount of useful things you could find in a junkyard. They really did not get the respect they deserved. For the few days that Jeff had spent looking around he had already found a slightly singed backpack, a new pair of shoes, and some gloves, all of which he was currently wearing, save the gloves. Hell, he would be wearing those too if they hadn’t crumbled from his touch but with his latest discovery, he might be able to test out his theory after all.

Tyson, on the other hand, was not so enthused. He had a thousand ways thought out for how he could spend his afternoon: sleeping, girls and the multiple ways those two words could be associated with each other covered half of that list. Preparing for the Rumble in three days covered the other half. What did not factor into his list was babysitting the guy who he found trying to steal their food and who also blew up his car. That memory burned in Tyson’s mind as he walked past a large stack of broken cars in search of something to sit on. What was the Boss really playing at? She knew just as well as he did that this kid stood a better chance getting killed at the Rumble than winning it.

Although he acted like he had not a care in the world, Jeff was actually quite worried. The next three days could be the rest of his short life if he failed to win the Rumble. While he appreciated not being killed immediately upon being caught by one of Stryker City’s most prominent super-powered gangs, having his life decided by a power he could barely control was not quite what he planned when he ran away from home. In fact, that was the whole reason he ran away. Now here he was trying to find materials that would not blow up in his face the moment he touched them. It was so ironic he could don a cape.

To be fair, Jeff’s control over his power was sketchy at best, and at worst, non-existent. He was not sure of the exact day when he began to notice things blowing up around him, but he did know that it started around the time he became 8. He remembered his favourite toys blowing up in his hands when he would get too excited playing with them, and then trying to hide it from his parents. Of course, being the lovable-but-incapable-of-recognising-personal-space bastards that they were, they found out eventually. To their respect, they took it a lot better than he thought they would, especially his dad. A scientist at heart, he was always encouraging Jeff to experiment with his powers by trying this and that test out, in an effort to pinpoint what was the cause of the explosions. That is, until he died when Jeff was 11. Fast forward six years later and Jeff suddenly found himself running away from home and trying to join a gang.

The problem with running away was that he hardly had time to stock up on food. Within a week he was starving and rationalising theft. Shouldn’t be too hard, he reasoned to himself at the time, all he had to do was find a grocery store, grab a few bags of bread, and hope they thought him too much of a threat to pursue. He even had a handkerchief that he could wear on his arm to pass off as one of the gangs out there. His plan would have gone off without a hitch had he not run right into the real members while making his escape.

That was the first time he met Tyson.  At around 6 feet, he stood a clear head above Jeff, with a purple scarf strapped on the shoulder of his hoodie, and a scowl as fierce as a pitbull’s.  Jeff did not even know his name at the time, or if he was going to survive past that day, yet he could tell that the two of them would never see eye to eye.

Tyson, I’m going to head further out for a bit. Got some ideas I wanna try.”

“Feel free to try those ideas out right here, where I can see you,” Tyson replied, who had found a wobbly plastic chair and was testing his weight on it before deciding it was safe for sitting. He then pulled up a fairly dusty cushion, propped it up behind him, and laid back, pulling out his phone to see which of his night buddies were online.

“Really, it shouldn’t take too long -” Jeff started to say, before he was cut off.

“You heard what I said. It wasn’t a request.”

“But this could be my trump card. I don’t want anyone just knowing about it.”

“Trump card? You can’t even blow up the right crap when your powers do work and you wanna talk about trump cards?”

“You were the one who was so obsessed with me training. Well … if I can pull off what I’m planning, that could really help me not die in three days!”

“Then do it here, where I’ll be able to see how much of you I need to bury.” Tyson replied nonchalantly, as he propped his feet up on a nearby car battery, never missing a beat with the messages he was sending from his phone.

Jeff glared at Tyson. He expected this reaction, but it still made him mad. Tyson could stay there for all he cared. Just don’t complain when your face is suddenly full of glass. With all thoughts of Tyson’s demise in his head, Jeff stormed off, looking for something he could use for cover.

He did not have to look long. Just a couple feet away from the pile where he got his rubber bands, he found a bookcase leaning next to a broken television, and dragged it until it was a couple metres away from a pile of cardboard: his test subject. Taking up a large rock, he broke through one of the shelves of the bookcase, leaving a jagged hole at eye level in its wake. Stepping back, Jeff took a second to admire his grade school level woodwork. Now he had a hole big enough to shoot through. Slap some varnish on the whole thing and it could be art.

Lining himself up with the hole and his target, Jeff selected one of the rubber bands on his arm, slipping it off and grasping one end of it between his fingers. He then grabbed another end with the fingers of his other hand and pulled, “drawing” the band as an archer would a bow. Taking a deep breath, he focused on the elastic rubber between his fingers, pouring enough of what he thought was his energy into the band for it to glow. Unbeknownst to Jeff, Tyson was watching him intently.

Jeff released the “bowstring.” The rubber band flew out of his fingers and shot straight towards the rubble at a breakneck pace. It hit the rubble with an audible snap!

And nothing happened.

Jeff waited, his eyes fixed on the rubber band as it landed on top of a cardboard box. Its glow was still intact, and he was not going to budge an inch until he was sure it was safe. He had been wrong before. As he looked on, the glow dissipated, leaving nothing but a brown circle of rubber and latex in its wake.

Tyson lost it completely. His head cocked back, he cackled for the world to hear. He was laughing so much he slipped out of his chair and dropped to the floor, where he was still laughing his head off.

“Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow … just wow, ” Tyson was finally able to breathe out.

“It’s not that funny,” Jeff retorted, leaving his cover to retrieve the band.

“For you? No. It really isn’t,” Tyson replied, pulling himself back onto the chair, “But for the guy whose car you blew up? it’s fricking hilarious.”

“That’s not fair, back then I thought I was gonna die and I couldn’t control it!”

“And now you are going to die if you can’t control it by Friday.”

“That would work out well for you, wouldn’t it?”

“You would think so, but not really. I would still be short one car.”

Jeff groaned in frustration as he walked back to the bookcase. Suddenly, just thinking of Tyson’s demise was not enough for him. Getting a chance to wipe that smugness off his face became a prospect that was just as enticing. Before he knew it, he was drawing the rubber band again, this time with Tyson in his sights. It started to glow and crackle with an ominous light. In response, Tyson pocketed his phone.

“What are you going to do, sting me?”

“Just testing out my theory. Apparently you’re volunteering to be my lab rat.”

“Kid, don’t bother. You don’t got the balls, nor the skills,” Tyson said flatly, lifting up his jacket. The glint of a gun peeking out from under Tyson’s belt caught Jeff’s eye. Oh crap.

“Why are you packing? I thought you had powers.”

“Why should my having powers stop me from carrying around a gun?”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit unfair?”

“Kid, you really need to understand what kind of life you’re trying to be a part of. We don’t care about what’s -,” but Tyson never got to finish. Jeff’s last glimpse of him was of him taking out his gun, before being obscured by something large and metallic. Feeling the rush of air by his head, Jeff also made the mistake of glancing to his right. He was able to register the absence of the neat stack of cars that was supposed to be next to them, only for his vision to be blocked also by something large and metallic. He didn’t even have time to think about how screwed he was.

 

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