Personal Protection

Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse!  Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!

Maddox was running. Well, flying really. She still wasn’t quite sure if it was her doing the flying or Bowie Bork. Her flying squirrel mount glided a short way, latched on to the next tree and then leapt outwards, sailing off again. Her mind seemed doubled somehow, like there was someone else inside the avatar with her. Someone who felt immense sorrow and pain at the death of their friends and family. But that couldn’t be. This was all a game…wasn’t it?

She shook her head slightly, trying to focus on the task at hand. She had to find the Littlest Bork before the others set fire to the forest. Her stomach turned as she pictured the tiny form being engulfed by smoke and flames. She’d already let so many others die, she wouldn’t let this baby die too. The way he had looked up at all of them, the pure trust in his eyes…all she had seen was Mac, her brother.

He had been born on a snowy day, the boy who would never grow up. He was still a child, all these years later. Maddox had loved him fiercely from the first day she knew he was her brother. And he adored her. She used to bring him toys and treats which would cause him to squeal delightedly. She would sit for hours and share her picture books with him, telling him stories about worlds and people they could only imagine. As they both grew older the toys faded away and the treats changed to more sophisticated fare. But the books? Mac still loved those books. The same ones they used to read together. But now he was the one telling her the stories. When she visited him on the weekends, he would pull out a drawing he had done and tell her the stories that came from it. And he would always give her a treat to enjoy while he talked.

It been her job to protect him, to take care of him. It wasn’t something her parents had told her to do, rather a solemn oath she took for herself. Mac trusted people too easily, too completely. He never thought anyone would ever do anything mean or wrong or hurtful. People liked to take advantage of that. They liked to make fun of that. Maddox knew that from experience. Mac would get mad when she would follow him around so she got used to watching and listening, waiting to hear the first signs of trouble so she could be the one to put a stop to it. Sitting, waiting, listening. It was a skill that proved invaluable in her later life. What else was a personal security person meant to do? It was amazing what you could learn but just shutting up and listening.

Private security seemed to be a perfect fit for Maddox. She had spent her childhood protecting Mac, she wasn’t good at much else. She was strong, fit, fast, and unnaturally ambidextrous. But when it came to anything else? Well, she just wasn’t sure if she was even capable of it. But everyone once in a while she would stop and wish that someone out there would look at her the way her brother did. She wished that just once someone would see her as more than just a weapon. She wished that just once someone would believe that she was what she imagined herself to be. 

Maddox sighed inwardly. Her heart ached from borkish grief and her years of training kicked in. She wasn’t going to feel bad because she was being active. Proactive for that matter. She was being active and she was doing something. Something to make up for the fact that she hadn’t been able to stop the slaughter of innocent creatures. What would Mac have said? What would he have thought of her? Would he still have been able to look up with that same smile, the same light in his eyes when he saw her? Or would he have shrunk from her embrace? Would he have run away, just like the Littlest Bork had done?

A tear escaped and then another. She brushed them away roughly and strained her eyes, searching the trees for another borkish form. How many times had she done this growing up? How many times had she looked for Mac, sought him out when he had strayed too far from her protection? Every time she had found him before anything bad had happened. Every time. Except one.

They had been teenagers, she was heading off to college. They had driven down to the local diner for lunch. Maddox had been paying when Mac wandered off. By the time she turned around he was nowhere to be seen. The cold dread that had washed over her then was a feeling that she had never been able to forget. She burst out of the diner and looked up and down the street. No sign. She screamed his name at the top of her lungs, straining her ears for the smallest whisper from him. Nothing. Her heart was racing and she heard her own blood pounding in her ears. She was cold all over, she could barely think. And then she heard it.

A laugh.

It was the sort of laugh that she knew all too well. A laugh that meant nothing good was coming. Her mind suddenly snapped into perfect focus and she started running. She ran faster than she ever had before, her ears acutely aware of the laughter which was growing louder and louder. She turned a corner and there he was, her kind and trusting brother…surrounded by four men.

He was smiling at them, like he always did. But Maddox could see there was fear behind his eyes. He didn’t know where she was, he didn’t know how to get home. And he didn’t know who these men were. But Mac loved to make friends. So he smiled.

She heard a whispered insult and two of the men laughed. One took hold of Mac’s shoulder. The other made as if to hit him. Maddox snapped. She moved forward with an alarming speed and wrenched the one man’s arm back, preventing his blow from falling on Mac. She felt the snap of his shoulder as it popped out of joint and shoved him away. The man who had grabbed Mac turned on her, his face twisted in shock and anger as he looked at his friend writhing in pain. He reached for her but she was too fast. A palm strike to the nose doubled him over and a knee to the groin dropped him to the ground. She had reached Mac now and she turned, her back to her bother, facing the other two.

“Get away from us.” she growled, “Or I’ll do the same to both of you.”

The men raised their hands and backed away. Maddox grabbed Mac’s hand and pulled him after her. They started walking, not running Maddox knew better than that, and they didn’t stop until they were back in the car. Maddox didn’t speak during the drive home and neither did Mac. When they finally pulled into the driveway, Maddox put the car into park and turned off the engine. Then she burst into tears.

Mac sat quietly next to her. Then he reached over and hugged her. They stayed this way for a while, until Maddox’s tears were gone. She looked up at him and he smiled at her. Just like he always did.

There was a sudden flicker in the tree line and Maddox knew she was running out of time. The others had already started the fire, it wouldn’t be long before it caught up to her. Panic started to creep in and she forced herself to say calm. Nothing good would happen if she lost her focus. 

Then suddenly…there among the leaves. She saw a tiny borkish figure running in terror. The Littlest Bork was trying to escape but he was too small to outrun both the fire and her. Maddox steered the flying squirrel lower trying to grab him as he went. The Littlest Bork leapt from the trees and disappeared among the underbrush. She landed the squirrel and went in after him. Roots and leaves tugged at her, threatened to catch her, to trip her up but she pressed forward. All at once the way cleared and a large stone blocked her path. In front of her, trying desperately not to cry, the Littlest Bork was looking for a way out. He froze when he saw her, staring at her with eyes that looked so hurt and so fearful that it took her breath away for a moment. She gently reached forward and scooped him up, wrapping him securely in her bork pouch. He was trembling as she climbed back onto her squirrel, heading back to the others.

As they flew overhead they saw the beginnings of smoke from amongst the trees. A wind began to blow and it started to look like rain. From inside her pouch, the Littlest Bork peeked out slowly.

“Why?” he asked, “Why did this happen oh Knight of Borkdom? I don’t understand. Why did you do that? Why did you kill all our friends?”

Maddox opened her mouth to explain but her voice caught in her throat. She turned to him and said the only thing she could.

“I’m sorry.”

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