Part 2599 – An Emotional Journey For Carthage

“I can’t believe I’m going back.” Carthage grumbled as he rounded the exit to Pinkerlee. “I woke up so early this morning. Drove all the way to Henspence. Drove all the way to Mark Caten’s place. Only to be told that I have to drive all the way back here to deal with the insurance investigators and police investigators regarding the burned down Institute. And all because Mark Caten isn’t available.”

The light at the end of the ramp was a steady glowing green. So, he coasted right on through.

“I wasn’t even there when the place burned down. It wasn’t even my XQ.” He fell silent and just seethed. If he were capable of breathing flames, he would have melted holes in his windshield.

His seething died down as he drove through Pinkerlee.

Familiar roads.

Familiar scenery.

Familiar buildings.

Familiar route.

All the way back to the bad side of town.

Surrounded by dead buildings with dead-eyed windows.

Passing by drug dealers and people loitering hopefully on the corners.

Half-demolished buildings.

Morally demolished people.

And it was so comforting, just like returning home.

In the subconscious part of his mind, Carthage looked forward to seeing The Institute’s wooden scaffolding and sea green slides. The slides would be the first thing he’d see. Hints of green arches in the distance.

But not this time.

The arches were nowhere in sight. It was an unnatural vacancy, like someone had plucked the sun out of the sky, leaving a terrible void in its place.

Carthage drove the rest of the way to Mark Caten’s Funorium in mental and verbal silence. He pulled into his usual parking spot and shut the car off. He sat there and looked at what The Institute had been reduced to.

Scorched ground.

Chunks of twisted metal and blackened debris.

Only the far western wall remained standing and even that was burned-out hollow.

It’s awful. He frowned. It’s a desecration of a sacred place that was dedicated to science and worthwhile experiments. Burning it down, reducing it to nothing but rubble, transforming it into a crime scene…It’s a sacrilege.

He got out of his car and closed the door.

The balmy spring breeze ruffled up Carthage’s hair and clothes as he approached the police-taped fence. The sharp tang of burned chemicals remained in the air.

A flock of crows flew overhead, cawing harshly.

Carthage stopped at the fence and surveyed the devastation.

A cool current laced through the balmy breeze.

Maybe it would storm later.

But not right now.

He smiled. This is a testament to the raw power of our XQ’s. If I could successfully create metal elementals….His smile grew. What great feats could they accomplish for us?

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