New to the Field
October 1st, 9:22pm PST
Old Oakland, California
Kalen Kincade leapt from the roof of the third story building. The ground rushed up to meet him. He held the sniper rifle up, above his head, in his left hand. His right hand moved between his knees as he dropped into a crouch on the sidewalk. Dust waft up beneath his feet.
He dashed out across Jefferson Street, sprinting towards the two boys at the park. He hurdled over a homeless person, towards the group. At a full run, he lifted the rifle upwards and pointed it towards one of the mercenaries. At a glance, their blurry image came into view – he fired the weapon. The round missed the mercenary, but struck another directly behind the first.
“Whoa, stop!” shouted Evan.
Kalen came skidding to a halt, weapon lifted towards another mercenary. Some of them kept their weapons pointed towards Evan and Johann. The rest of them pointed their guns back at Kalen, in a standoff. Johann Foster lowered to one knee, hissing softly in pain.
“No one needs to be shooting anyone,” Evan announced in a clear tone. “Killing isn’t the answer. There’s been too much of that.” He scooted his right foot back and nudged Johann’s hip. “Sorry, man. That’s my bad for not stopping it in time.”
“That’s the vampire,” one of the mercenaries exclaimed in an excited whisper.
“Seriously?” another one asked in a soft tone. “Their side has vampires, too?”
“Shut up, all of you,” said the squad leader. He paused then added, “There are three of you freaks. There are ten of us. I’d say that’s about even, considering what you people can do. Now, why the hell are you three out here? We came after the doctor. Somehow, you people let him get away. He’s a priority target. Tell us where he went and we can all walk away from this peacefully.”
“Fuck that,” said one of the mercenaries. “That bloodsucker just shot Dunham, and he’s got Harper’s rifle, meaning that guy is probably dead, too.”
“Hey!” Evan said in a scolding voice. “No need to talk like that. We’re all civilized adults, here. Geeze. Seriously.”
“The doctor is getting away while we stand around,” said one of the men to the squad leader.
“He’s long gone, thanks to me. You’ve missed your opportunity to slay one supernatural,” said Kalen. “You’ll just have to settle for the three of us.”
The leader’s eyes cut from the boys back to Kalen, but he kept his head otherwise still. The ski mask stuck to his top lip as he spoke. “The one we were hunting… Where is he? I assure you that he was not going to be killed.”
“So?” Evan snapped. “You guys are done. Pack it up. Put the guns down. We’re going to turn you over to the cops.”
“That’s not an option,” said Kalen. “That only keeps them off the street for a few hours, young man.”
“Then what are our options?” asked Evan.
Kalen smirked at the surrounding mercenaries. He lowered the barrel of his sniper rifle, so that it pointed towards the ground. “They’re the ones holding weapons. They just don’t know how effective those guns will be on us. That’s why they haven’t fired them yet.”
“I beg to differ.” Johann stood up, slowly, then rolled up his torn, bloody sleeve. He spit on his palm then rubbed the blood away from his arm, showing the squad leader that the mark was gone. “I was shot two weeks ago. And you know what I learned? I can manipulate the wound on the molecular level. Now, what’s so important about that man you were hunting?”
The squad leader lifted his pistol a bit more and pointed it at Johann’s forehead. “You won’t heal the next one, kid.”
Evan put his hands down and turned around to face the man that was going toe-to-toe with Johann. “Okay, pal. I’ve had enough of this.” Evan tensed up. Every weapon in the area, including the sniper rifle held by Kalen, turned to glass.
The vampire glanced down at the gun then threw it on the ground. It shattered. The fragments turned to sand on the pavement. He looked down at the little white dunes of silica then back up at the surprised mercenary group. Kalen shook his head and removed his blazer and silk tie. He walked over to a nearby bench and laid them over the backrest. “Very well. No guns, no problem.”
“No,” Evan said. “No fighting. At all. For any of you. Why are you after that other man?” he asked, directing his last question to the squad leader. “What’s special about him?”
The mercenaries remained silent. Kalen cleared his throat and said, “He has a precognitive ability. Seers are the only supernaturals that have proven impossible to capture.”
“Where’s my sniper, leech?”
Kalen pointed to another mercenary and smiled. “Like the guy over there just said… I had his rifle, so he’s obviously dead. I just fed. For those of you who have gone against my kind… you can shoot me all you want. I’ll burn off a full feed on healing, then the rest of you will replenish whatever else I’ll need. Oh, and I know just how to bite to make it painfully debilitating.”
“That’s it,” said one of the men. He turned to Kalen and lunged with a combat knife.
Kincade reached for the man’s wrist and guided the blade brazenly into himself, then watched the mercenary’s eyes.
The attacker blinked in confusion. He glanced down at where his knife went into Kalen’s body. His eyes lifted. “Don’t you even feel that, freak?”
“It tickles,” Kalen lied, keeping a stoic expression. “Here, let me return the favor.” Before anyone could so much as bat a lash, Kalen brought his hands up and snapped the man’s neck. “Over seventy pounds of pressure, when a victim isn’t resisting, makes this one of Hollywood’s favorite ways of taking people down.”
The man lay on the ground, eyes open. His lips quivered, unable to breath. He blinked rapidly and his skin began to turn an ashen color in the illumination of a lamppost. Kalen looked back up, but no one moved. “As you can see, Hollywood lied. Death is not instantaneous. He’s unable to breathe.” The mercenary lay there, with very little chest movement. His eyes flitted about awkwardly, in a panic. He pursed his lips together as if to try and say, ‘please’ but couldn’t speak. Kalen withdrew the knife from himself then twirled the blade about, so that it faced outwards in his grip. “Next?”
“No, please!” Evan held his hands outstretched. “Just stop. You’re not impressing us. You’re scaring these people.”
“Scaring?!” Kalen exclaimed with an incredulous expression.
“Yes!” Evan replied with a similar tone. “Someone convinced them that we’re a threat to humanity or something. So that’s why they’re following their orders unquestioningly. Yes, it’s wrong that they vehemently attacked our kind out of the blue last month. But they’ve seen how easily a supernatural person can kill – so it makes them feel like they’re right. They think they’re acting on an offensive defense. You’re proving them right.”
Kalen stared at Evan for a moment. “Before tonight, I thought you two boys were doing this as a joke. Like some sort of game, pretending to be ‘superheroes.’ Perhaps I’ve misjudged you, young man. But they attacked first. And with so few of us left, they’re engaged to see this through to the end. And because the end of the Esoteric Community is plainly visible at this point… my only remaining option is to kill them all until one side stands victorious.” Kalen paused, turned to the squad leader and said, “And we both know your arrest won’t go beyond processing. So that isn’t an option, either.”
“Fine.” Eric tensed his forearms. Glass from the weapons turned to sand then reformed back into glass, creating knee-high shackles for each mercenary. “Now. None of them can run away. Johann?”
“Let’s unmask all our villains.” The two boys removed the masks of the entire squad. They both pulled their cellphones out then took pictures of each man’s face. When they finished, they touched their phones together, sending each the pictures that the other took, so they had the complete collection. Evan turned his phone about and began to type on it with his thumbs. He put it into his pocket then lifted his forearm and used the Bluetooth watch adaptor to email the pictures to himself. “Now. These guys are all exposed. From now on, I’m going to document all of them and capture or take down as many hunting parties as I can find. Then, if I die, the pictures get automatically forwarded to several major media outlets. And the world finds out about what they’ve done. Now…” He turned back to Johann and asked, “What’s the plan?”
Foster rubbed his arm where he’d healed the bullet wound and muscular tissue. “God this itches… Uhm… I say we go find the doctor guy, and make sure he’s okay.” Johann glanced at Kalen. “Uhm… you should come with us. That way these guys don’t tempt you as being easy targets.”
Evan turned to the leader. “Those new glass boots are made from ballistic resistant glass. You’re going to have to be cut out of those. But I’m not a monster, you got it?” Evan glanced up at a nearby billboard, advertising late-night pizza delivery then he lifted his forearm again and used his large wristwatch to make a phone call.
A moment later, a pizza delivery operator answered the line. “Yeah, I’m at Lafayette Square across from 1010 Jefferson Street. I need two cheese pizzas.” He walked away from the group and recited his credit card number. After hanging up, he announced, “I feed my prisoners.” The young man grinned then said, “Okay, Johann… the doctor may have been part of that surgeon’s convention they’re having not far from here. We should start asking around.”
Kalen stared at the boys for a moment then sighed. “Cybil J. Powalski.” He gestured in a dismissing fashion towards the looming Marriott in the distance. “Just make sure he’s alright. I’ll go with you to the convention center; I need to pick up my car from that area. But I won’t go with you to speak to the seer. I need to get back to my home and start packing things for the move. Do yourselves a favor, boys… don’t stick with this line of work. It will only draw attention to yourselves.”
The vampire began to walk away. He paused at the roadside, glanced over his shoulders and said, “Oh, and good work, boys. Despite your myopic approach to handling the genocidal hunting parties who have decimated entire sects, and murdered thousands… I have to admit I’m impressed by your humility and humanitarian fighting effort.” He crossed Jefferson Street and headed back towards the convention center.
Johann and Evan hurried after him, headed up 10th street to the George Scotlan Memorial Convention Center.
Just across the bay…
“I don’t go by ‘Methos’ anymore. You can call me Lance Patterson, now. How can we help one another, my dear?” He stepped from the driver side of a black ‘licorice’ colored Elio Motors first generation three-wheel car. He tilted his head, meeting the gaze of USPRI Agent Samantha Summers, then popped the trunk.
Summers took his bag of groceries from the back of the car and headed up the steps to his home. She let herself inside and carried the bag to his kitchen, pausing briefly to glare at several holes in the living room floor.
Surprised but not one to show it, Lance followed her into the house and closed the front door. “I’m fully capable of doing that myself.”
“Just sit down and relax. I want to get a handle on you before we talk,” she called from the kitchen, adding, “And don’t you dare make a gender joke.”
“I wouldn’t think of it.” He settled down and picked up his iPad. Moments later, he watched her emerge from the kitchen. Lance put the tablet down. “So… how can I help you, Agent Summers?”
Again, Samantha gazed down at the body-sized holes in the wood flooring. “You’re the math genius?”
“Is that what your files tell you?” he asked the woman.
She looked back up at the man who appeared in his early thirties and said, “According to what I saw in your file, you talked theory with Isaac Newton and Gottfried Liebniz. Soon after, they were arguing about who invented Calculus first.”
“Perhaps. That would suggest I was old, Agent Summers. And if I did talk about theory with them, I certainly wouldn’t have gone too deeply into infinitesimal calculus, because it was something that mankind needed to explore on its own. You see, it is not very good to drag someone through a door; it’s better to show them ‘said door’ and let them walk through on their own. If you force things on people, and they capitulate, it makes them closed minded. But mathematicians are logical-minded people. For them, you need only to postulate that a door exists at a place in time, and they will find their way to the correct address, up the walk, and through the door without anyone else to hold their hand. Provided they are either motivated… or open-minded enough… to work out the equation.”
“I see. Would you like to ‘posit a theory’ on why I’m here?”
Lance grinned. “You’ve been trained as an USPRI agent,” he said, pronouncing the acronym like, ‘osprey.’ “They’re no longer needed because the geneticist, Aris Falcon, recruited a paramilitary force comprised of local police, soldiers of fortune, and concerned members of local government military. He attacked everyone on nearly the same night. The Esoteric Community is assumed to have fallen. And, so, USPRI is now unnecessary. That frees up black budget money. Sadly, now that you’ve learned how to do your job… your job no longer exists. So you’re freelancing.”
“Like you said, mathematicians are logic-minded people. I was on an assignment a few weeks ago. A man lost his abilities. Four other supernaturals lost their abilities when they came in contact with him, but he didn’t pass it on to his children. I can’t help but be curious about how his kids can be immune. Now it seems that he’s no longer contagious. While I was in town, conducting my investigation, there were mass gatherings of your kind.”
“Go on, young lady.”
Summers folded her arms and paced in Lance’s living room, mindful of the holes in the floor. “I know these holes came from an attack against you by one of Falcon’s people. I find it surprising that you decided to maintain you current residence.” She began walking around the holes, examining them. “Anyhow… My team leader was an USPRI veteran. He’d been with the agency since its inception in 2011. We decided to follow the supernaturals to their gathering. Then a paramilitary force attacked.”
“Yes. Falcon’s goons. They are highly coordinated and they know how to contain the damage they cause, making Volunteer 606 look like amateurs.”
Samantha frowned. “You mean the fire department that hunts supernaturals for so-called ‘religious purposes,’ yes? Newsflash, they are amateurs. They corner foes and use fire; they have a prayer session and call it a ‘religious victory.’ They’re dangerous radicals, and they’re responsible for burning down entire city blocks with their arson strikes. That’s as ‘amateur’ as you can get. I’ve arrested several of them over the last six months.”
“But they are motivated and achieve results. So… What brings you here, Agent Summers?”
“I’m not an agent anymore. My department was closed. The Government didn’t want my knowledge of supernatural people to wind up in the wrong hands. So they barred me from rehire with the Government for eight years, which cheapens the credibility of anything I would ever try telling the press.”
“How… does one do such?”
“They manipulated my finances to show that I have poor credit, and that I’ve filed for bankruptcy. I know of one agent that was committed to a psych ward, because the loss of his job made him so angry that he wrote a book about everything he saw. The book deal was canceled due to ‘reasons of national security’ before it ever got published. Then one day he was picked up and taken to a mental institute. I’ve been lying low and doing what I do best… investigating. The problem is, I was still a probationary agent. And now I’m financially ruined.”
“Very well, what brings you to me?”
“If I can prove that the Government was involved with the attacks on esoteric people…” Samantha trailed off with a frown.
“You’re begging for trouble,” Lance said. “The thing is, we’re not really evil. And quite a few of us did survive.”
“Yes… one girl rescued me from a rapist. I didn’t realize it at the time – I was still in shock. But I think I’ve seen a file on her now that the traumatic moment is over. Young, blond hair, skirt… very confident with the rapist. I realize that not all supernatural people are bad. I need to stop this nonsense from going any further. There are still people left in the world that need to be protected.”
“I know the girl you mentioned. If you want to continue your investigation… you will need a logistical coordinator to feed you intelligence. Is that why you came to me?”
“I need answers. You’re intelligent and you’ve been around for a long time.”
“You… could say that,” Lance replied with a smirk. “How old do you think I am?”
“You were somehow involved in an incident at the Great Library, during the time of Jesus.”
“My dear girl, I arranged the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria because it housed a collection of scrolls that were uncovered about an age forgotten by time. An age that needed to stay forgotten. You see, there were a handful of people wishing to return to that time, and I could not allow it. I never met Jesus, but he helped the one your files will call ‘Isaac,’ my dear.”
She eyed him for a moment then said, “I heard another rumor that you perfected the Pythagorean theorem. What happened with that?”
“I perfected a theory in Babylon that involved hypotenuse, through means of algebra and geometry. Transcripts of my work remained in Babylon. Many years afterwards, I visited the Greek scholar upon which the equation was later named, while he was still fairly young, traveling through Egypt. A few years after that, I began hearing rumors of a supernatural Greek man named Pythagoras. Turns out he was just confident in his abilities and very charismatic. To the point that he had followers. I went back to speak with him again. I learned that he moved to Italy. He was a good mathematician, but a better Philosopher. He turned his love of numbers into a philosophical religion… it became so popular that ignorant mundane people attacked Pythagoras’ followers, and burned their meeting places to the ground. A lot of things attributed to him were invented by his followers, in his name. I’ve answered your question – what are you trying to prove?”
“It proves you’re old. But it doesn’t validate the legitimacy of such advanced age. So I’m still curious. Now, when you say Babylon… you’re talking over a thousand years before Christ?”
“If it pleases you to think so.”
She scrunched her nose a bit and leered at him. “Are you the oldest?”
“No. Second oldest, provided these raids don’t catch up with the one you still call ‘Isaac.’ What about you, young lady? Now that you’re unemployed and bankrupt… what are your plans?”
“I’ll get money where I can, and when I’m able. From that point, I will continue my investigations. It’s what I know how to do.”
Lance folded his arms and leaned back in his favorite reading chair. “I’ll tell you what… I don’t want any more of us to die. I will employ you to continue your investigation. You will report your findings to me and only me.”
She paused with a pensive expression. Samantha fidgeted for a moment, considering her options. “Where do I start?”
Lance reached for a notepad and wrote on the page. He scribbled in the corner then threw the pen into the trash and reached for another one on his end table. He wrote down an address and said, “There’s a young woman named Nichole Parker. She’s the sister of the man whose powers abruptly disappeared. Follow her – she’s investigating the mercenaries employed by Aris Falcon. Do not interfere. Even if she’s attacked. Your primary objectives are the same as before USPRI was shut down. You investigate in stealth, and you stop any supernatural that has a flagrant disregard for keeping their abilities somewhat secret. If they blow up cars or destroy property in front of a crowd, then you need to stop them at all costs. I will cover your expenses, and provide you with an allowance of money. But you report only to me.”
“One more thing.” He opened a small drawer in his end table. “You know those new contact lenses that let you see a heads up display?”
“Contact HUDs have been around for couple of years now, Mister Patterson.”
“Yes, but these are newer. The old ones used a translucent battery strip around the outer edge of the contact lens. And the thickness sometimes irritated the user. However, there’s a new model not yet released to the consumer market.”
“Oh? Test market technology?”
“Something like that.”
“So how do these new ones work?”
Lance grinned a bit. “The new model draws charge off the contact of your body. Consider the electricity that your body puts out; that is how capacitive screens determine where you’re touching on a glass surface. These lenses charge off of that low-level field put out by your body. So long as they’re in your eyes, they will stay active. Every few hours, you need to put eye drops in. That helps equalize the two types of charge used to power them. One is positive; the other is electron charge. The contacts absorb the drops to create the chemical interaction. They also help with wearing the lenses for long periods.”
“Seriously, they don’t have a battery strip around the edge? That’s what annoyed me about the ones already on the market.”
He offered a nod in reply. “Quite so. The new design makes them thinner and more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. I want you to wear this pair. I can help you by sending information to your phone. Your body is both the battery and the antenna to pair them to your phone.”
She took the small-hinged jewelry box and opened it. Within was a small container for contact lenses, and a rather small plastic bottle of eye drops. “So working for you has perks? Well, thanks, Q-Branch. They only come in ‘clear’ huh?”
Lance folded his arms. “They have emitters on each side of the lens. There is an application for your phone to make the forward-facing layer turn different colors, but it may reduce the crispness of the inside of the lens, which displays your HUD. There’s also an application to minutely alter the viscosity inside the lens, itself.”
“Um… What will that do?”
He smiled a bit. “Just a fraction of a change inside the lens will allow them to become a different eye prescription, for different users. It has a side benefit of allowing you to turn them into low-level binoculars. Don’t expect to be able to see indiscernible details at great distance… it simply enhances microprint, or, perhaps, to increase the clarity of objects at a distance… or perhaps it can benefit aiming accuracy. However, it has to be controlled by a phone, or a Bluetooth control panel, or something akin to a Google Glass headband. I’ll text you a link to where you have to download the interface application. It’s a third party app; you’ll need to change your phone’s settings to accept third party software.”
Samantha stared at him in wonder. After a moment, she nodded. In a soft tone, she said, “Uh, sure. Yeah. I’ll click the box in the settings menu – I know what you mean. But… seriously, these things can change color, increase visual acuity, and give me a heads up display? All without needing to be charged?”
“Don’t lose the eyedrops. That’s part of how they’re charged.”
“Still. That’s amazing.” Samantha pocketed the box. “Text me with the apps and the instructions on how to pair them.”
“Don’t lose the lenses. They’re quite new and difficult to replace. I apologize about the drops, however. Battery technology is far behind where it should be in my opinion. The lenses should be able to run off body heat, without eye drops; perhaps that will be the next model. LG came out with technology to have a Lithium-Ion battery so flexible that you could use it to tie your shoes… and that was in 2012. Around the same time, the University of Wisconsin invented a shoe that creates ten watts of power simply by walking, and it could have kept the lace-battery charged. You would have unlimited power to charge your phone over a decade ago if you had the right friends in high places. The technology of the human race is quite advanced, but corporations sit on it until they feel they can make money. It’s pathetic that optical disc media still exists. Our convenience is never considered, only the profit margin, Agent Summers.”
She grimaced at the way the man groused about tech, completely indifferent to the subject. “The agency has been dissolved. I’m just… Samantha, now.”
Lance grinned. “You’re my agent, young lady. And you have the highest need-to-know security clearance. Everything we discuss stays between us. Understood? And I won’t be at liberty to discuss or explain everything up front. Giving you some measure of plausible deniability is for your own safety, but eventually I will share everything when the timing is right. Are we clear?”
“Understood.” She paused then offered a slight smile. “How can you drive that little tricycle out there?”
“It’s gas efficient. It’s inexpensive. It’s fun to drive and… are you judging me on my car?”
She offered a mysterious smile then held her hand out. “I’ll need a method of transportation across San Francisco.”
“Oh.” Patterson frowned. “Quite right.”
“Let me guess, I have to bring it back with a full tank, right? No worries, I can handle eight gallons.”
He furrowed his left brow. “It’s already full. And at over eighty miles to the gallon, I don’t plan to worry about such until next week.”
“Oh. Well then. I’ll still need the keys.”
Lance opened the drawer of his end table again. He withdrew a pair of keys and tossed them to her with a shrug. “Ferrari 330 America. Be careful with it, young lady. Not many were made… and one was buried in Texas with its owner. My point is, it’s difficult to get parts. And, please, don’t scratch the ’56 250GT Coupe Corsa in the adjacent bay. They’re very close together; be careful opening the car’s door.”
“I…” She looked down at the keys in her hands. “Why?”
“Because I like Ferrari. I’m trying to get my hands on the 575 GTZ belonging to Yoshiyuki Hayashi.”
“Uhm… I have no idea who or what that is, or what you’re talking about. What I mean to ask is, why not just give me the little trike out front? You’re giving me the keys to a nearly irreplaceable car instead of one that costs less than ten grand? I don’t get it. How does this make mathematical sense?”
“I’m going to be traveling. I’m taking the Elio. Almost seven hundred miles to a tank. It doesn’t take a mathematician to know gas costs too much. Also, the little key on the ring in your hand… that fits the Master lock on the rolling door on the back of this building, where the Ferrari is kept. Don’t drive it like a sports car. It was designed to be classy, not sporty.” He nodded towards the door with a grin. “Don’t engage for any reason. This is an information-only mission. Don’t even say hello to her.”
She looked up from the keys. “Understood.” She left through the front door with a giddy sort of smile.
Evan glanced back at Johann then towards the doctor. He offered a weak smile then glanced back at the little odd-shaped electric meter. “It’s a what?”
Cybil chuckled. “An E-meter. I amuse myself to collect pseudoscience medicinal artifacts. As a doctor, I like to understand fringe science as much as I understand real science and medicine.”
Evan’s eyes moved to the label that read, ‘Mark Super Seven Quantum.’ It had a meter on the right and a digital clock on the top left with various dials. He turned it over in his hands where a label noted that the device’s Silver Certification was ‘3DEC08,’ and its expiration date was in 2010. “Uhm… what’s it do? And how does an electric meter expire?”
“The device, by itself, is useless. Scientologists will tell you that it’s only useful in the hands of a trained professional.” Cybil grinned. “I just got it today. That’s why I was down in Old Oakland, earlier. And don’t worry; your acquaintance will have no problems retrieving his car. I left a crude ‘thank you’ note in it.”
Evan put the E-meter on a table and turned back to the rest of the hotel room. “We’re, uh, not going to bother you. We just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
“I am quite well, thank you. I’m more concerned about the two of you.”
Johann frowned. “What, uh… what about us?”
Cybil folded his arms then sat down on the hotel bed. “I can’t see your future beyond the beginning of next year. I can assure you that I do not see your deaths. But I can’t see your futures, either. Both of you are supposed to live long lives, I simply cannot visualize it. And that… well, that is pretty weird. But, I’m a surgeon. The fact I could ‘see’ anything at all… that’s considered a pseudoscience. And regarding my typical accuracy, I have to acknowledge that it’s apparently a very real science. So I collect little trinkets, artifacts, and such – like the one on the table – because I like to amuse myself with the thought that other fringe sciences might also be real. What if Hubbard was right? Who knows? At any rate, gentlemen, I can assure you that I cannot foresee anything that would cause your deaths in the immediate months ahead. So, please… go forth and be heroes if that is what you gentlemen wish to do. Do so with gusto.”
Johann bit his lip, looked at Evan, then back at the surgeon. “No offense but you have a funny accent with certain vowels.”
Evan slugged Johann in the arm, but Cybil only laughed. “I was born in Dundalk, Maryland. I was homeschooled until I was eleven years old, so I picked up my grandfather’s strange Baltimore accent. Of course, now that I’m a doctor, I have a nice home in Timonium, hon.” He pronounced the word, ‘Tih-moan-yum.’ “Half the state makes fun of this dialect. Hardly anyone still uses it. Thank you for stopping by. I’m going to head to the lounge before bed. Take care, boys. Have a safe trip back to San Francisco. Evan… stop trying to beat yellow lights. They’re not for racing; they’re for preparing to stop. Your little old BMW needs a new transmission. I would start driving it less often, except when you really need to, else it won’t last to the end of the year. Johann, your old boss was a liar. Don’t be upset about the fire last month. Things will get better for both of you. Also, there is a beautiful naked woman needing your rescue.”
Cybil walked to the hotel room door, opened it for them, and followed them out into the hallway. “Goodnight, boys. Continue your quest for those arrogant hunters. They’ll lead you to the fox and the demon. Don’t worry, they’re both your allies.” He cut his gaze to Evan and added, “Brush up on your Japanese Anime. You don’t want to come off as too culturally ignorant, after all.” Cybil walked down the hallway and pointed at the elevator. “Wrong floor, but good timing.”
The elevator door opened right on cue. A woman and a small child were standing on it. She told the boy, “No, honey. This wasn’t our floor. That’s why you shouldn’t push the buttons for floors unless you know it’s where we have to go.”
“Sorry, mommy,” he replied.
Cybil stepped onto the elevator before the doors could re-close. “Ah! Thank you, my young sir,” he said to the child. “You saved me from having to call for the elevator. I bet you must be able to see the future to know I would be standing here, didn’t you?” The elevator doors shut.
Evan and Johann looked at one another, as if in confusion. “Well… he’s good with kids.”
“I think I might already know ‘the demon’ he mentioned. Her name is Karla. But …a fox?”
“Anime?” Evan added. “I’m pretty sure it’s a safe bet to say that the mythological kitsune isn’t real.”
“We just saw our first vampire tonight,” Johann reminded. There was blood on his collar. Plus he took a knife to the gut and was really fast killing that guy. At this rate, I’m almost ready to believe just about anything.”
“Yeah, true,” Evan said. “But… a kitsune? I love anime as much as you, but I’m going to have to see that to believe it.”
Meanwhile, in the Celestial Realm…
Tamamo-no-Mae, the nine-tailed kitsune, nodded in respect to the deity standing before her. She looked around the courtroom then said, “Thank you. How may I serve this court today, Chancellor?”
“We have questions about the three-tail named Sinopa Crevan.” The well-dressed man folded his arms and turned back to Tamamo, standing at the podium.
“Hai, anything you wish to ask, I will answer Chancellor.”
“Tell us, Tamamo-kun, what is your relationship with Sinopa Crevan. Also, could you explain to the panel why we cannot put her on the stand in reference to her prior accolades?”
Tamamo cut her eyes towards the panel of deity judges. “I treat her as my surrogate daughter. Like many mothers and young daughters, she is at the age where we sometimes bicker, but Sinopa-chan holds a special place in my heart. However, she cannot testify on behalf of her prior accolades, because our queen, tennko, Lady Kiko-tenno, forcefully gave her amnesia. This occurred when Sinopa was recalled from Earth to fight alongside her peers in the culmination of the great Celestial Dynasty Wars. The decision to strip her memories happened again quite recently by the demand of the queen of my race.”
“Twice,” the Chancellor explained to the panel, “Twice, now, Kiko has stripped Sinopa of her memories.” He turned back to Tamamo. “And why is that?”
“She feels that Sinopa’s involvement with the mortal realm is dangerous. I’m hard-pressed to disagree. Although, I feel great guilt over what memories have been taken from Sinopa. She deserves to know her children and remember love.”
The Chancellor nodded then moved to the center of the court chamber. “We would like you to speak on behalf of Sinopa. Explain to the judges why she was chosen by my court to break the treaty of the Esoteric Community of Earth…?”
Tamamo licked her lips, somewhat nervous, then nodded. “Hai. While it is true that deities and demigods are banned from entering the realm of Earth, and have been for a millennium, we have operated clandestine missions of peace and support to aid the human souls. We know it’s wrong, but sometimes we cannot bear to watch them suffer. Sometimes, we do it to clean up the messes of vengeful deities who caused such suffering to begin with.”
“Understood, Tamano-san. Please, tell us about Sinopa and her highlights in the physical plane of the Earth Realm.”
“Hai, Grand Chancellor.” Tamamo paused and glanced about the court, eyeing the panel of judges. Not all of them represented the Shinto Celestial court – some were western deities from opposite sides of the globe. “She has graduated from her role as gakusei,” again, Tamamo stopped, looked at the foreign judges, and said, “What we refer to as a pupil,” she explained. “I now consider her a kohai – my junior in rank. Sinopa-chan was first sent to the Earthly realm by Lord Inari as a test to earn her second tail. She was tasked with slowing the progress of a blight that created what the humans call, ‘The Irish Potato Famine.’ Sinopa wished to blend in and requested to take the form of an Irish human female. It was this forward thinking that drew me to help her. She soon learned, first hand, about embroiled resentment for the governed and their governments. Her second tail came and she returned to Tokyo, then-Edo.”
Eiyuu Geroi folded his arms. “To play as devil’s advocate, I would say that Sinopa-san did as she was ordered and found a creative solution to slow the progress of a famine. She avoided being caught up in human drama between neighboring nations. These actions make her intelligent, but those actions, alone, do not deem her worthy of this court’s high praise. Continue, Tamamo-san.”
Tamamo waited for the Chancellor to finish speaking then said, “A century later, Sinopa-chan was returned to Earth as another test by Lord Inari; to prove herself worthy of her then-incoming third tail. Things took a dramatically unexpected turn. She discovered that a small number of human beings were using technology to unearth the great First Age. I speak of the rumored Earth city where our kind may have mingled with human kind. Because no one present in this court knew of this age at the time, Sinopa had no help or support. She continued to live amongst humans for the following decade-and-a-half to continue her research. She met a human man whose family hid proof of such a forgotten time. Sinopa-chan and this human man became romantically involved and, together, using artifacts throughout the Earthly realm, they discovered and confirmed the existence of this fabled city. Only the oldest of deities were previously privileged to such information. Even fewer had ever seen it with their own eyes. During this time, Sinopa Crevan balanced her romance and a newly growing family with her mission – to ensure that The First Age remained in the past. After we felt that the danger had passed, she was recalled to fight in the Celestial Dynasty Wars. To make the separation easier to handle, emotionally, I was ordered by Lady Kiko to remove the memories of Sinopa-chan, and those whose lives she touched with her love.”
The Chancellor quickly interjected, “The tragic, unfortunate removal of her memories… A decision I feel showcases the differences between the old dynasty and this new era, under my rule. Sinopa-san should have been reunited with her mortal family at the conclusion of the war. Human lives are short – she should have been allowed to enjoy their company while it lasted.”
“Hai. I sometimes suggest to Sinopa-chan that she would make a fine mother, or that she should settle down and raise a family. I have hopes that she may one day remember what she lost. I can only hope that such occurs before it is too late.”
The Chancellor asked, “Tell the court how you allowed her family to remember their missing loved one, once Sinopa-san was recalled?”
Tamamo bit her lip again. “I fancy Earth knowledge. I study their academia and history as a hobby. However, I could not have been assigned to this mission because I was slain in my physical form while on Earth a very long time ago. My ability to possess the physical body of a human is rather temporary. Queen Kiko knew of my intelligence and, when Lord Inari ordered me to recall Sinopa Crevan, Lady Kiko demanded that I ‘sweep up the breadcrumbs’ in Sinopa-chan’s wake. I chose to convince the human family that their loved one passed from a human genetic defect attributed to factors that were, at the time, largely unknown and misunderstood by their society. They called it ‘cancer.’ They mourned her in death, because it was far more honorable than to let the family assume she left them.”
“Indeed, Tamamo-san. And what was Sinopa’s first action during the battle of the Celestial Dynasty Wars?”
The white-haired kitsune folded her hands on the podium. “Having satisfied Lord Inari’s recall, and Queen Kiko’s order, I brought Sinopa-chan home, where she selflessly rescued a child deity on the battlefield. While her memories of Earth were stripped, she still possessed something that she learned from her human family. It is a trait that Earth calls ‘humanity.’ She put her wellbeing and a life of wisdom at risk to protect a child she’d never met. She did this act because she felt it was the ‘right thing to do.’ I found her courage and humility to be refreshing and honorable.”
The Chancellor nodded to the nine-tail kitsune and said, “Thank you, Tamamo-kun. You may return to your meditation, if you wish. We’ll will discover the location of Sinopa and bring her to you again. Then you will return her to the Earth realm for immediate reinsertion.” He bowed in respect; Tamamo was teleported from behind the podium before she could return the gesture.
“So you see,” the Chancellor said. “This new dynasty rewards selfless acts of character. In the final segment of this trial, we will speak to Kiko Sigyn. Before we take a recess, I would like you to make a judgment on how to handle Sinopa Crevan, and to determine if we should utilize her once more, in a final attempt at finishing what we initially started: to save Earth from the impending threat. After all, the swifter we act, the more lives we save. As it stands, there are human beings on the front lines of this battlefield as we speak, whether they realize it or not. They’re fighting for their lives right now.”
October 2nd, 5:40am PST
San Francisco, California
Nichole Parker glanced at her cellphone screen then back at the townhouse, double-checking the address. “Well, this is the place.” Again, her eyes lowered to the text message on her screen that read, ‘I have information on Aris Falcon, but I’ll only speak to you because I knew your brother.’ The rest of the message contained the address to the townhouse across the street. She slid out of her convertible and shut the door behind herself. The eastern skyline was only beginning to brighten on the horizon. She crossed the two-lane road and approached the front door.
Nichole knocked, only to realize that the door wasn’t closed all the way. It eased open, silently swinging on its hinges. “Well… that’s odd.” She cleared her throat then leaned in a bit and said, “Hello? Your door was open – are you all right? It’s Nichole; you texted me half an hour ago.” …No answer.
She went back to her car and opened the trunk. Nichole took a Maglite, her service pistol and holster, and a secondary clip. She shut the trunk, went back to the house, and activated the flashlight. “Here goes nothing,” she muttered. Parker took a deep breath then stepped into the dark house.
The agent switched on her flashlight and looked around an unfurnished living room and dining area. She moved into the kitchen but the appliances were unplugged. She headed back to the living room, looked around a second time then moved towards the carpeted steps. She headed upstairs, only to find that the bedroom and bathroom were fully furnished.
Finding the upstairs clear, she reached for a light switch. The one in the bedroom did nothing. She moved to the hallway and flipped a switch. However, the lights in the stairs worked, casting friendly yellow illumination at one end of the hall and down to the foyer.
She went back downstairs but before she reached the bottom floor, the wall of the living room exploded. Nichole found herself thrown backwards. She hooked her left arm into the railing and slumped over the steps halfway up.
Nicky glanced back down to the new hole in the wall, half expecting to see fire, but only a few pieces of debris burned. Whatever caused the explosion was more of a concussive force than an incendiary one. She rubbed her forehead and withdrew her weapon without thinking about it. Confusion caused her to flail about but she kept her gun pointed outwardly.
Her head began to clear and her eyes focused. A woman stepped into the front door, adjacent to the large hole in the living room wall. She had a disposable one-shot rocket launcher in her hands. The woman tossed it on the floor and approached the steps. “There you are, bitch. Falcon wants you. Why? Because I’m not good enough! That’s right. He wants you. I’m just a body. Well. That’s unacceptable. So I’ve decided I’m going to kill you.”
Nichole rubbed her eyes with her left wrist. “Who are you?”
“You dumb bitch, I’m you.” The woman came closer. She stepped into the light of the flashlight that was lying on a step, two stairs up from Nicky.
Nichole’s eyes widened, staring into her own face on the other woman. “What the fuck? How the…?”
“It’s called cloning you dumb bitch. God, why would he want you? I’m obviously smarter than you. Give me that gun.” She reached for Nichole’s weapon and pointed it back at her. “You might be surprised to learn that clones don’t have the same prints or retinal pattern as the original host. A few points might match up, but not enough to fool a computer. So Falcon won’t let me replace you unless it’s in death. And I don’t accept that. So when those mercenaries get here, they’re going to find your body and I’m going rogue. Sadly, this part of the plan means you die. I considered working with you, but… I’ve been trailing you for the last week. You have a great life made for yourself, Nicky Marie. It’s normal. It’s nice. A boyfriend, a job… do you know what my life has been like after I got out of that god-awful tube? It’s been hell. Experiments. All so I could be you in death, so no one would look for you. My fingerprints were marred up on purpose so they wouldn’t be able to use that. Dental is the same, and cops don’t check retina. So I would pass as you. Well… everything was fine between Falcon and me until I decided I want to live. And the only way that’s going to happen is if you become useless.”
The cloned woman pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. “Goddammit. You didn’t even cock your weapon before coming into a dangerous situation? Dummy.” She gripped the slide and pulled it back then released it with a satisfying clack!
Nichole kicked her foot out and caught the woman in her stomach. She tumbled down the steps and slammed into the front door, causing it to shut and latch. Nicky pulled her arm from between the wall and the handrail and headed upstairs.
The clone woman on the floor fired four shots, narrowly missing Nicky. “You dimwit, I have the gun! Just accept it’s over, so I can move on with your life! I won’t mess up your job. I’ll… fake amnesia or something. Go through some courses, and fall into step after a few months. If you can do it, so can I, after all!” She got to her feet and headed up the stairs. “C’mon, now. Don’t make this hard for me. All I’ve done all my life is run on treadmills and drink disgusting nutrient solutions. I don’t want the hard life anymore. I want your life.” She moved off the last step and started down the hallway. “You left your flashlight on the stairs, girl. You could’a had a weapon. What kind of idiot agent are you, anyhow?”
Without warning, Nichole came out of the linen closet on the side, across from the bedroom. With her hands together, she swung her arms and caught the clone across the face. The gun tumbled through the wooden banister poles along the top of the staircase and fell all the way down to the bottom of the steps.
The clone glanced off the wall then dove back at Nicky. Nichole took the clone’s shirt, pivoted hard, then threw her through the doorway to the bedroom. The doppelganger hit her face on the dresser and cried out in agony.
“All you’ve ever done is run on a treadmill? And you expect to fight a federal agent who’s had defensive courses? You need to cut this out so I can help you get out of here. Whatever ideas you’ve had in your head… I’m sure we can figure something out together. If you help lead me to Falcon, I can take him down. If you really are a clone, two Nichole Parkers’ are better than one.”
“Are you nuts? The DEA is one of the only federal agencies that isn’t working with Falcon! NOBODY can take him down, goddammit! I have to kill you, so that you have no use to him, then he’ll leave me alone!”
“That’s not where this needs to go!” Nichole shouted in reply. “Seriously! My niece and nephew are twins. If you really are me, then you have always wondered what it would be like to have a twin of yourself. We could work together. My brother can help!”
“No, he can’t! He lost his abilities! He’s the same as you, now. Why do you think he started having his kids pull heists for him? He can’t do it anymore. One of Falcon’s test viruses was stolen from the lab and wound up in Jon Parker. Phase one is to kill a supernatural ability. His grace, agility, dexterity… all gone. He’s just a normal retired athlete, now.”
Nichole blinked. “What…?” The door at the bottom of the steps swung open with a loud sound. Nichole back tracked to the steps and gazed down the stairs then looked back to the clone. “Your friends are here. So now what? Do we play the whole ‘No, shoot HER!’ game?”
“You don’t even take my life seriously,” said the woman. She got up from the dresser, with a hand over the side of her face where she’d been injured. “They know the difference. I’m suppose to die here, and you’re supposed to be captured.”
Nichole swallowed. “Then let’s fight them together.”
“They have guns. God, you’re really dense.” The woman sat down on the bed, defeat in her eyes.
Nichole ground her teeth together and returned to the bedroom then shut the door behind herself. “Go out the window. Tell Reno what happened to me. He’ll come for me. You can disappear after this.”
“You’ve obviously not met Krys and Anne. Krys’ ability lets her find people with abilities in their genetic makeup, whether they manifested or not. I was used as a test subject to see if your DNA can support receiving active abilities. So I’ve been activated, but I’ve not been given any active powers. Krys Monroe would easily find me. I was supposed to have killed you by now, with that rocket. Then I was going to run. When Falcon found you dead, there would have been no reason to pursue me. Now I’m as good as…”
“No, get out the window. C’mon.” Nichole took the clone by her arm and forced her over to the window on the far side of the bed. The bedroom door was kicked in and several men in paramilitary gear rushed in.
One of them took his rifle’s buttstock and struck the clone in the face with it. She flew back and hit her head on the window, breaking it. He struck her again, then turned the rifle about.
Three other mercenaries held Nichole down, doubled over the bed. She watched as the clone was executed. She flinched, struggling against the hands against her shoulders. Tears ran down her cheeks.
Nichole felt the pinch of a syringe against her neck. Her eyes widened and she gasped. The needle tip slid out of her skin, then she pushed against the bed, trying to shove herself towards the attackers. She used the power of her legs to shove through them. Due to the arrangement of the furniture, she caused the four men to spill back over themselves.
Nicky grabbed a rifle, dove out of the bedroom then bolted down the stairs. She fired it, causing the mercenaries in the living room to take cover. She ran out into the front yard and headed for her car. She noticed a woman in the bushes.
Whatever was in Parker’s blood began to take hold. She dropped against the side of her car, back against the driver door. She pointed the weapon back towards the house, groggy. “Goddammit,” she muttered, wearily. “H…Hey, lady. Call the police. I need your help. They’re trying to abduct me.”
The woman recessed into the brush, saying, “I’m sorry, Miss Parker. I cannot help. I don’t have backup anymore. Forgive me.” The woman disappeared from Nichole Parker’s view.
Nicky saw someone come through the hole in the living room wall of the townhouse across the street. She opened fire, sending a three-round volley back at them. One of the rounds caught the shoulder of the man’s armored vest. It spun him like a top and sent him to the floor.
The gun became too heavy to hold. The barrel sagged down until it touched the pavement. She knew that gunfire would cause the neighbors to call the police. Nichole squeezed the trigger, shooting the low-pointed weapon across the asphalt three rounds at a time due to the setting of the fire-select switch. Her head canted to the left… everything went black.
October 2nd, 7:15am PST
San Francisco, California
Inspector Nevada stepped out of his 2003 Chevy Monte Carlo and took a sip from a cup of coffee in his left hand. He moved to the trunk and pulled out a city-issue pullover windbreaker, set the coffee cup on the roof of the car and adjusted the fabric. He grabbed his coffee and headed over towards the crime scene.
He ducked beneath the police caution tape, nodded to an officer he recognized, then made his way into an enormous hole ripped in the front of the townhouse. Small holes dotted the area, caused by gunfire.
All around him, officers were placing numerical placards and taking photographs. One of the officers approached Nevada and said, “Hey, Reno. Welcome back to the job. I hope you had a nice vacation. You’re primary on this one. We’ve got one Jane Doe upstairs. No ID. Looks to be about mid-twenties. We haven’t touched the body, but Jerry was a first responder. He’s got the print scanner, but said she’s got some scar tissue on her fingertips; we’ll get started when you’re ready.”
“Yeah, sure. Funny how this call comes in when I’m supposed to be off shift in forty-five minutes.”
The officer grinned. “I see you griping, but all I hear is ‘wah, wah, wah; my pussy hurts.’ Stairs are over there.” The man pointed to the other side of the living room.
“Stay classy, Warren,” said Reno with a smirk. He walked over to where the front door was closed, a little ways away from the hole in the wall, and took the stairs to the top floor. Nevada saw Jerry in the doorway. “Hey, Sergeant. Look, I don’t want any trouble. I know we had a fight not too long ago but…”
Jerry shook his head. “Whatever. I’m a professional. I’ll keep it professional on the job. I’ll leave the finger scanner with you. I’m going to head back downstairs and start working on whatever caused that big-ass hole in the front of the living room.” The sergeant brushed by the inspector and headed downstairs.
Reno shook his head, took a sip of coffee and sighed. “Yeah... Good talk, man,” he said to nobody. Reno stepped into one of the bedrooms and saw a young kid in his uniform with a camera. “Hey. Inspector Nevada.” He reached for the kid’s hand and they shook. “Is this your first body, kid? You look a little pale.”
“Uh, y-yeah. Yes. Yes, sir. Sorry. First body, sir. Brice, sir. Officer Brice.” He nodded back towards the corner of the bedroom, between the wall and the bed. “She’s over there.”
Reno moved around the bed and approached the slumped body. He pulled on a pair of crime scene gloves from a box sitting on the end of the mattress, and lowered to one knee. Nevada reached down and took the woman by her chin, gently tilting her head up so he could see her face…
The Inspector’s eyes widened and he froze. His stomach iced over. He stared into the dead accusing glare of DEA Agent Nichole Parker.