Memories of the Mangled, Chapter 10
Issam tried pinching himself, hoping to wake up from what he believed was a bad dream, but to no avail as he felt only resistance from his cold, hardened metallic skin. Jazz shook his brain disappointed then told his friend telepathically: “Sorry old friend, but you must eventually accept that we’ve lost almost everything, the sooner the better. There are also other uncomfortable truths awaiting you must learn about.” Disheartened, Issam sarcastically quipped: “What, the Easter bunny & Santa Claus are one and the same?” –“Joking aside, Garo was planning to leave Imad for dead,” Jazz unflinchingly added. –“SHE WHAT!?” Issam shouted out loud, startling the others. –“What gives?” Cruncha voiced in annoyance. “Next time you scream out of nowhere, gives us a warning first!” As Jazz and Issam’s conversation was telepathic, the others didn’t know what made the martial artist scream. “You heard right, Jazzuffa continued in Issam’s mind. During Imad’s recent brush with death outside Haratropolis, as something about this shrew felt suspicious, I read her mind.” –“I don’t know how to feel about intruding people’s thoughts,” Issam added mentally. –“It doesn’t matter what you feel about it, Jazzuffa coldly added, for 4 reasons: 1 – I don’t care much for those sub-humans’ comfort. 2 – I based my assumption on her body language, not on blind luck. 3 – In matters of life and death, pragmatism trumps politeness. 4 – Big surprise, I was right once again! The bitch intended to open portals to anywhere but Haratropolis & then blame those “mistakes” on the stress. She wished for Imad’s death while avoiding accusations. Do you hear me? She wanted to KILL HIM.” The others, unaware of the exact content of the discussion, could only wonder why Issam was clenching his fists & shaking in rage.
“Jazz, Issam replied in an eerily calm tone, we’ve been best friends for long, but with me being aware of your genius intellect & manipulation skills, you have to swear you’re not planning to mislead me with lies or distorted facts.” Amused, Jazz replied: “Clever sensei, staying sharp & careful even with friends. Good, I swear to you on all we both held & still hold dear I’m not trying to manipulate you, going by any meaning of the word you have in mind.” Issam sighed and resumed: “What do you suggest we do?” –“For the sake of Imad, we better not tell him,” Jazz replied. –“ARE YOU MAD!?” Issam shouted again, startling the Harans. –“What did Lil Bro just tell you!? Faffa yelled at him. Keep it down!” –“I suggest you do as he says, Jazzuffa mentally told his friend; they’ll catch on if you keep startling them.” The martial artist took a deep breath then replied mentally: “How’s keeping Imad in the dark about potential murderers a good thing!?” –“The kid’s sanity is this close to shattering completely, Jazz explained. I fear that upon learning one of us tried to dispose of him, he might turn irrationally paranoiac & become a danger for everyone, himself included.” Jazz paused a few moments before resuming: “In the end, we must ensure everything is safe for Imad from behind his back. While he’s mostly invincible on his local turf, at least one of us must stay with him at all times to ensure he doesn’t venture far by himself. Keep your ears open for any plotting the others might come up with, & no matter how tempted you are – I know I am, don’t assault those bastards unless provoked at that time: we can’t risk alerting Imad of hiding something sinister from him. He wouldn’t rest till he deduces the truth, or worse, a falsehood he mistakes as such, but he could still end up destructively insane. Understood?” Despite the multiple emotions clashing inside of him, Issam calmly nodded.
Back to Central Europe, the Cyuns had managed to reach the outer areas of the mountainous zone in their base’s vicinity. In the middle of the troops, two soldiers carried Samson on a barrow. With a sign from his hand, Georges made the troops stop in place. Turning around, he addressed the lot: “Attention soldiers! We’ll be entering a steep, rocky terrain. To diminish the risks of accidents, you will form six even groups & tie the members together with a robust rope, which in turn will be tied to one of us six leaders. Of course, this doesn’t apply to Samson and those carrying him. You’ll remain unbound & walk in front of us.” –“Wait, Jeremy added, what if they stumble upon a predator or some other danger? Having a patient and medical staff venture off first into the unknown doesn’t sound responsible at all.” –“He’s got a point, Sandra intervened. Samson & his caretakers are in no state to face any danger themselves.” –“What else can you suggest? Jessica snarked. They play skip-rope amidst everyone until they inevitably stumble & break their faces?” Samson couldn’t help but crack a light chuckle. “Now that I think of it, Tom added, staying at either end of our formation would spell Samson & the medics trouble.” While the others were busy splitting into groups and getting their ropes ready, Dorothy said: “I suggest Jeremy & I carry Samson instead, while still being tied to our groups & while the other leaders open the way ahead of us. That way, should the chain snap, Samson would be in minimal trouble compared to any alternative. What do you all say?” Impressed with Dorothy’s quick & efficient proposal, the other leaders settled for the idea & filled the rest in about the important details.
Back in Looboan, as the ground eventually stopped shaking, Sylvie asked: “Do you think it’s safe to go back there?” –“Better play it safe & wait a few more minutes,” Issam suggested. This lead to what felt like a long, heavy moment of silence, with everyone just standing, waiting for a sign. “So… anyone knows a joke?” Juju asked out of the blue, wishing to break the ice. –“You’re standing over what used to be a really bad joke, one I didn’t find funny in the least,” Jazz coldly said. Despite his snark, Jazzuffa’s tone betrayed his unfathomable loathing for Looboan, hatred he forcefully kept festering inside for years. The way he worded it, the demise of this corrupt country had “torn off his mask,” exposing in all of its glory (or lack of) a side of him even his best friends were partially unaware of. “Things won’t be the same ever again,” Issam somberly thought to himself. Upon spotting something in the horizon, he yelled: “Guys, there seems to be a… giant molehill coming at us?!” Worried, the others looked & noticed a big pile of soil moving in a sort-of straight line towards them. As dissonantly calm as ever, Jazz told the rest: “Everyone calm down, that’s probably Imad. But just in case something bad is ahead, stay alert & step back some more.” The molehill closed in further on the Harans, but abruptly stopped in its tracks as if it hit an invisible wall. It was then that the soil at said edge reassembled into a humanoid shape, Imad’s physical form. Speaking to him in a brotherly tone, in stark contrast with his intense bitterness seconds ago, Jazz asked: “Have you calmed down, even if by a tad only, I’Im?” He nodded quietly & murmured a barely audible “Yes.” Deeming it safe, the others reassembled near Jazzuffa. “What now?” Gargorey curtly asked. –“I’ve been putting up a plan in the meantime, intervened Sylvie; I suggest we – minus the boy – use Garo’s powers to warp faraway places alongside sacks of fruit he’d grown here. We’d set camps in areas we wish to scout for enemies or friends, and then comb it at our leisure, the fruits helping sustain us for days while on the job.” –“Ssssurprisingly clever,” Alan remarked with a grin. –“I concur, but I suggest we call it a day, then discuss said plan’s details tomorrow.” Sylvie, Alan and the Barracks eyed him angrily, wishing to start their revenge as soon as possible. That’s when, unbeknownst to Imad, he told them telepathically: “Remember, the more naps you give a godlike, angry kid, the less likely they are to become cranky & violently murder you.” This made the mutants in question swallow whatever protests they had and stay silent in fear.