Blood, Death, Sugar, Magic
October 6th, 4:10ish pm-PST
Fox Parker groaned softly. He winced at the sensation of a sedative beginning to flood his blood stream. A hazy voice came from somewhere near by. “Too bad you won’t be seeing Aunt Nicky anymore. She didn’t make it, kid.” Fox couldn’t reply. He lifted his wrist at the elbow but couldn’t lift his bicep. A magnetic clamp kept him pinned to the hospital bed.
Through a groggy haze, he could see jail cell bars all around him. The blurry man on the other side left the room and closed the door.
Fox was alone.
He tried to move his forearms again, and felt something tug against the back of his hand. He shifted to inspect himself, fighting the grogginess. A PICC line was fed into his arm near his elbow. An IV line went into the back of his hand. The two sets of plastic tubes were taped down against his bicep and wrist, respectively. He curled his fingers then maneuvered the IV line beneath his wrist and cinched it between his forearm and the metal rail alongside of his bed.
Fox managed to finagle it into his grasp and clench it then he reached over with his free hand, bringing both left and right together. He took hold of the IV line and gingerly pulled it free.
The backside of his hand was stained with some sort of iodine solution. The vermillion liquid smeared as he fumbled to remove the IV, the tape and the dressing of gauze. He tried to bend the needle against the rail of his bed but couldn’t manage to break it. Instead, he bent the tip slightly.
Fox fidgeted with a plastic clamp and pinched the line. He laid the needle back against his hand, but kept it outside of his skin. He taped it down to the best of his ability with the old dressing, to hide the fact that the needle wasn’t inserted anymore.
After a few minutes, his head began to clear up. Fox took a deep breath, remembering the meditation techniques his father taught him a few years ago. He closed his eyes and focused on the heart monitor. Fox kept his hand still, where the little sensor clung to his index finger. He listened to the rhythmic sound of the monitor and remained absolutely still. The beeping slowed somewhat.
Fifteen minutes later…
Rick Peterson ran his hands back over the nape of his neck and sighed in frustration. "Falcon is gunna flip shit, I swear. I really didn't need this today. That arrogant prick said she’d regenerate." He began stalking back and forth through the office in front of his mahogany desk. He fished a cellphone out of his pocket and moved his thumb over the glass screen then put it to his ear. A moment passed, then, "I need the results from the genome sequencing on Fox Parker. I want to know if there's a variation between the ions produced by DNA polymerase synthesis and I want it compared for analysis to subject Zero-Alpha.”
A pause, then, “…No, dammit, I need to know all the details. I need to know if something done to Nichole Parker could have leveled the lab. She fucking flattened every piece of equipment when she died. I’ve got her in cryo right now. And if it was her, we need to know how she did it."
Another pause then Peterson said, "I can't check surveillance! Remember? Whenever Fox Parker gets emotional he disrupts electronic equipment and he's been depressed for three straight days! Ever since that quack did gene therapy on Fox, he’s been disrupting the recording equipment!! Look, Falcon is going to flip out when he gets back. Nichole is dead, the Alpha lab is a wreck and I have a huge mess to clean up."
Rick moved around the desk then dropped into his chair with a sigh. "We need to reanalyze genetic markers in his…" He blinked then said, "Say that again?" Silence. The man's eyes widened. "Are you serious? His sister is a twin? I thought she was just… okay so, you're absolutely sure his sister is a twin? Alright. I need to look at other members of his family as well. I'll see what I can do about bringing in another Parker for analysis. Jon won't be easy to catch, but I know how we can get Topaz. I’ll set a trap and put out the word that we have her brother then she’ll come running. ...Yeah. Okay, Monroe." He drew the phone from his ear, thumbed the screen then stuffed it into his pocket. "I’m going to kick that kid’s ass for shutting down the computers again."
Peterson crossed the office and picked up a red phone receiver from a bookshelf. He waited a moment, swallowed back his nervousness then took a deep breath. After a brief wait, someone answered on the other end. "Yes, Doctor Falcon, it's Rick. I’ve got two situations. It appears the Parker boy may have developed something new. I have him sedated and I have electronically engaged high-power magnetic clamps on his limbs."
The man turned about, switching the red phone to his other ear. "Yes, sir. Are you any closer to finding the Sampo? And do we now know what it is?" There was a pause then he sighed. "I'm sorry to hear that. Nothing online is conclusive about what it is. ...wait, what?" Rick's eyes widened. "A seed of an apple, Doctor?" Confusion marred the man's brow. "You'll have to forgive me, Doctor. I'm agnostic. I don't believe in the fruit of knowledge from the tree of Good and Evil. Besides, the 'forbidden fruit' was a metaphor for temptation – sex with the devil or whatever. …Very well sir. …Yes… Yes sir. Wait."
Peterson shifted the phone back to his left ear. "The gypsies are still here in San Francisco? I thought you said they left town? They faked leaving?" He brought his right hand to the nape of his neck, rubbing his fingers against the top of his spine. “Anyhow, the other situation I’ve gotta clean up – Nichole Parker. I jabbed her with the knife like you said. She didn’t heal. Instead, she crushed everything in the room. Not sure if it was telekinesis or magnetism. But she’s dead, now. I dumped her into stasis but it won’t do much good. She needs a new heart.”
Rick waited until being dismissed from the conversation before hanging up the receiver. "Jesus. The boss is crazier than I thought. Relics? Atlantis? And now he thinks he found the Bible's oldest artifact? He's nuts." Peterson began pacing his office.
He stormed out into the hallway and made his way down to a small secondary laboratory. Richard peered in through a glass window in the door then stepped in and shut the door behind himself.
Fox Parker lay on a hospital-style bed, inside of a jail cell with electronic clamps over his ankles and biceps. He had an IV taped down to the backside of his hand and lay still. The heart monitor showed his vitals were relaxed. Each breath was deep, as though he were sleeping.
“Maybe I’ll just get rid of you and find your sister instead, huh?”
Fox’s heart monitor increased in pace but only slightly. However, it was enough to catch Rick’s attention.
“You fighting the sedative, huh? Good. I’m glad you heard me. So, Nichole’s death didn’t seem to faze you, but the thought of me having my way with your sister bothers you, huh kid?”
Fox remained still. He heard the jail cell click. The tumbler slid out of position and the cell door slid open on its tracks. Parker tightened his fingers around the excess IV line in his palm. It caused the IV, wet from the dripping sedative, to slid out from beneath the wet tape. He guided it into his grip and closed his fingers around the needle.
The fumbling caused the heart monitor sensor to drop off from his index finger. It hung free, dangled by a cord, beneath his arm.
Rick glanced over at the heart monitor, which sounded a soft alarm. “What the hell is wrong with this thing?”
Satisfied with the distraction, Fox’s adrenaline spiked, readying himself. He remained otherwise still.
Rick looked back to the dangling sensor and reached for it. Rick Peterson leaned over Fox’s bed to examine the PICC line. Once he was close, Fox shifted his forearm and buried the IV needle into Rick’s throat then thumbed the plastic clamp, causing the backed up sedative to flood Peterson’s body.
The man gasped and brought his hands back to his throat. He stepped back. The slack line became taut. The bent tip of the IV line snagged in Rick’s neck, making it too painful to yank free. He winced at the pain, trying to pull it carefully.
The powerful sedative began to take hold and Rick struggled to stay standing. He reached behind his back and withdrew a pistol then put it against Fox’s eye. “You …mother f…” Rick thumbed the safety then squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened.
The click caused Fox to gasp; adrenaline flooded his system again. The magnetic clamp restraints on Fox’s biceps popped open. He brought his hands up, and snatched the gun from the half-sedated man. Fox cocked the slide, loading a round into the chamber. He turned the gun about and held a pillow over the weapon. It discharged with a deep thump. The sound, while muffled, was still much louder than he’d hoped.
Rick slumped to the ground, bleeding out on the tile floor. The IV popped out of Peterson's neck and hung free a few inches above the man's body.
Fox tugged at the PICC line in his arm then winced. “Dammit,” he murmured. His eyes moved to the magnetic clamps. He tugged at the ones over his ankles but couldn’t get them to unseal the way he had opened the ones over his arms. He tugged at them then pointed the gun at one of them, using the pillow to dampen the noise again.
With a wince, he fired the gun across the brace on his left ankle, careful to keep the angle shallow. The bullet struck the metal cuff on his ankle then hit the wall on the other side of the cell bars.
A tear ran down Fox’s face from the sharp vibration of the cuff against his leg. “…freaking… OW. That hurt.” He tried to reach down to his ankle but the PICC line caused him to flinch. He reached with his other arm instead, and rubbed at the sore ankle. “Dammit. Trapped. How’d I open the stupid cuffs on my arms? Dammit.” He dropped back onto the hospital bed with a sigh. “Hey, Peterson. You’re dying on the floor. That’s for my aunt Nichole, and for my grandfather. Dick.”
October 6th, 5pm PST
San Francisco, California
Karla shifted her phone to her other ear. “I’m at the place where Nichole called me from earlier. She hasn't answered any of my return calls. Anyway, you’re sure this is the address?”
Lance cleared his throat over the phone. “It’s the warehouse adjacent to the nightclub, correct? That’s where the call originated, Karla. And mind what you say, I’ve allowed my new friend to listen in on our conversation.
“Whatever.” The succubus glanced up at the adjacent gothic nightclub with the scaffolding. “This place opens in, like, two weeks. Could be a great place. New feeding ground, so to speak.”
“Focus, please,” said Lance Patterson over the line. “Stay sharp. I have reason to believe that Richard Peterson is there. He’s a pupil of Jon Parker. He possesses no abilities, but he’s an extremely accomplished thief and fighter. Expect him to set a trap. After all, he managed to subdue Fox, so he’s quite dangerous.”
“Except that I’m powerful, cynical and badass,” Karla boasted with a vibrant smile. “I’ll be fine. What’s the plan, Methos?”
Lance pondered correcting her but chose to ignore his old name and said, “After the Parkers are safe, speak to Jon. Your flight leaves at six in the morning. I’ve already emailed your itinerary to your phone. I know you’ve had a weird stigma about flying. Is that going to be okay, or should we arrange for something else?”
“No, hon. I’ll fly. So, you said I might come up against automated defense sentries and a team of mercenaries, right? And maybe a creature? And some douchebag named Rick Peterson? God. Too many people with confusing names. Parker, Patterson, Peterson. Tell you what, babe… I’ll kill this guy. Then it’ll be one less ‘P’ name I have to remember.”
“What has you so riled up today?” asked Lance over the line.
“You kidding? I finally get to kick some ass. I’m gunna go straight up superhero style on those slobs in there. This is going to be therapeutic.” She cracked her knuckles. Only two popped in reply.
“Dear God. You are the epitome of a Byronic hero.”
“Yeah?” Karla chuckled. “Why, because I have great talent, great passion and I’m forever ‘thwarted in love’ by societal constraint because I’m a demon whore?”
“I… well, that's true. Karla…”
“I don’t want your pity, Lance.”
He cleared his throat then said, “I was actually going to say it’s because you hate social institutions, you hate rank, and your past was fairly dark up until the turn of the twentieth century. But thanks for reminding me of the other reasons: You’re arrogant, overconfident, and you lack foresight.”
“Wow, why don’t you tell me how ya’ REALLY feel, Lance?” Karla smirked. “I have a self-destructive side, too. Yet I can’t die. The only known succubus with active powers and immortality. Gee, guess you’re right. Summed me up in two words: Byronic Hero. I bet you’re surprised I even knew the term, aren’t you? You remember our agreement – I do this for you and you tell me more about my father.”
“I’ve not forgotten. I have new information, just as I promised. I’ll tell you what I know when Jon’s son is safe.”
“So when do I get to go in there and tear that place limb-from-limb?”
Lance grew quiet. Karla imagined he was checking his watch. A moment later, he told her, “Now is fine. Please come back alive. And please bring Fox back. Nichole is important, too, but Fox is the priority.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Karla reached up and grazed her fingernail beneath the chin of her new pet. “Kuda agrees with that part; he’s just bias to the name. Gotta go. I’m gunna burn this place the way you burned the Library of Alexandria. Then I’m going to bury this place for twelve thousand years. Later!”
“You know I’m going to want answers after that tirade.” Samantha folded her arms, leaning back on the loveseat. “I did all your spying. And you even let me listen in on your phone call, just now. But… really? The Library of Alexandria? And then you can tell me what she was talking about with her figurative reference to burying the place for twelve thousand years. Your secrets give you great pleasure. But I’m ready to know what your close friends seem to know.”
“If you insist,” Lance replied with a shrug. “Let’s start with your files. What do you know about me?”
“We have photographs of you having a meeting with Klaus Schmidt. He’s highly revered in Germany and was shoulder-deep in some dig in Turkey since the mid-nineties. Let’s start there. I don’t remember what they’re calling it but I understand it’s the world’s oldest place of worship or some such. Is that what that girl was talking about on the phone?”
“Indeed she was,” Lance said. “Göbekli Tepe. That isn’t the name of the site; it’s a description of the hill where the site was found.”
“Well, what was it, Mister Patterson? What's its real name?”
“It was a temple of worship and didn’t have an actual name. It was simply known for whom the worshippers followed.”
“C’mon. Enlighten me. I still feel the need to verify your age. Was it the Garden of Eden?”
Lance chuckled and shook his head. “Heavens, no. Twelve thousand years ago, grain and fruit grew in the wild. My people wished to domesticate our fellow Homo sapiens; we called them our cousins. But most of us saw them the way our grandfathers saw the Neanderthals – as lowly sub-creatures. My forefathers brought about the extinction of the Neanderthals, out of fear.”
“Fear??” Summers furrowed her brows.
“Fear that they would continue to crossbreed with the mortal Homo sapiens. I’m ashamed to say racism has existed since before written history. It began with us, Samantha. Neanderthals didn’t exhibit racial bigotry, I’m told.”
“So… was there a Garden of Eden?”
He shrugged as if to show indifference. “We referred to the Fertile Crescent as the ‘Garden of the Plains.’ The land, at the time, lived up to that name. The first groups picked fruit and ate animals as they pleased but as the groups grew… it became hard work. As people began laying down the foundations of settlements, they had to provide for entire communities. It’s all mentioned in Genesis, but the translation wasn’t very good over the past few thousand years.”
Samantha leaned back on his living room sofa and crossed her legs. “But tell me about the ‘Göbekli Tepe’ place,” she said. “I’ve seen pictures of it on a television documentary once. The animal carvings. The big megaliths. The human-like anthropomorphic carvings with their large hands and belt buckles.”
Lance furrowed a brow. “Belt buckles? There was no such thing as buckles, let alone pants twelve thousand years ago. Smelting metal ore was something my people decided to teach our mortal cousins several thousand years later. Thus the bronze age. Incidentally, the mortals discovered how to work with iron and steel on their own.”
“How advanced as your culture?”
“Very. We understood mathematics at a quantum level. But we nearly became extinct during a cataclysmic event around 9600BC. We were forced to live amongst the mortals. If it makes you feel any better, the modern age is nearly on par with the level of technology utilized by my civilization at its peak.”
“And that Göbekly Tepe place? Is that how you pronounce it? Guh-beck-lee Tah-pay?”
“Close enough. Samantha, it wasn’t all that important; I only care about what was buried there.”
“Then… stop avoiding my question. What was it?”
Lance rolled his eyes with a chuckle. “It was a cultural center and a place dedicated to worship.”
“Worship by whom?”
“The followers of Abel,” he told her. “The site is covered with intricate stone carvings of animals; bones were found there from the sacrifices of the best in herd, or the greatest hunt. There was a nearby site for the followers of Cain, but it’s under water now, thanks to a dam.”
“Abel as in…?” Summers rubbed her forehead. “Good God.”
She folded her arms and leered at him for a moment then asked, “What happened to it?”
“The world’s first religious war. Mortal humans were obsessed with religion and faith. I suppose when one becomes enlightened enough to ponder their own mortality, they need to cling to something of greater importance. After the followers of Abel were destroyed vehemently, and after the followers of Cain buried the worship center of Abel, there was a famine. Whether caused by deity or simply poor timing… I can’t be sure. But the followers of Cain pondered their actions, and, while they lied to surrounding settlements about their guilt at first, in the end the famine scared them. They claimed that God saw through their lie.”
“What did they do?”
“Don’t know your history or your Biblical knowledge, do you? No matter,” he said with a wan smile. “The followers of Cain built a new smaller temple for Abel atop of the mound of dirt, above where they’d filled in the first one. But the famine didn’t go away. It stayed for years. The followers of Cain claimed they were cursed. The Fertile Crescent no longer bared wild fruit or grain, which had been plentiful in the beginning. So the followers of Cain cast themselves out into ‘Nod,’ their word for the unknown. They erected a city they named ‘Enoch.’ If memory serves correctly, the Great Deluge wiped out Enoch.”
“I thought the flood covered the whole world? How can you still be alive if you were born before then?”
Lance shrugged. “The term you’re looking for is ‘Antediluvian.’ To the best of the mortals' comprehension, The Great Flood only covered the known world.”
“What caused it?”
“An earthquake, volcanic eruptions and a tsunami to end all tsunamis. You’re too young to remember the one that wiped out a quarter million people in Indonesia, but… multiply that by a factor of ten. The Tigris and Euphrates flooded. The Mediterranean flooded. The Nile flooded. The rivers flowed backwards for a time. Even after the flood waters receded. It caused people to rebuild their cities elsewhere due to the reverse current. However, that didn’t last forever. Normalcy eventually returned. Some areas were spared, but enough people died that the term ‘Biblical Flood’ certainly applies. Are you ready for your next assignment?”
“Yeah. But what about the other thing that girl mentioned on the phone? The bit about the Library of Alexandria?”
Lance stood up from his sitting chair and stretched. He began to pace the living room. “I’ll tell you about the Library, but first… I need you to do something for me. I like that you seek knowledge. I have high hopes for you. But first I want you to find a boy named Vincent Nevada. Don’t interfere with him in any way. I simply wish to know if his ability has manifested yet. Report back to me when you have conclusive evidence.”
“Fine.” She eyed him for a moment then asked, “Did you really burn the Great Library of Alexandria, though?”
“It burned many times. Fifty years before the birth of Jesus; again around 273AD, as well as 391 AD, and once more in 645AD. I will tell you what you wish to know when you return.”
“I appreciate it. But I’m just a lowly ‘mortal.’ Why share your knowledge with me?”
Lance sighed and settled back in his favorite sitting chair. “I’ve tried keeping knowledge to myself. I've decided secrecy didn't work. Time is like a river and history is bound to repeat itself. I’m hoping by spreading my knowledge, I’ll be able to dam the river. I have only a handful of pupils. Karla, Donovan Loupe, Jonathan Parker…”
“Are you the oldest man in the world?”
Lance laughed. “No.” He reached for his tablet and leaned back in the recliner. “Second oldest. But close enough.”
Samantha grabbed her gear and checked her weapon then put the high-tech contact lenses into her eyes. “So why is all this nonsense happening? The supernaturals being slaughtered. How does everything connect?”
Lance looked up at her briefly then lowered his gaze to the tablet’s screen. “Earlier, you asked about Klaus Schmidt… I went to Turkey to try and find an artifact that was buried there. It had already been excavated and stolen before I could retrieve it. And that artifact is now in the hands of Aris Falcon. We’ll talk about the significance of these artifacts when you return. I’ll text you the address of the Honda dealership where Vincent works. Be safe and stay unseen. Oh, and take an umbrella. It’s supposed to rain later.”
Karla Howard flinched. She placed her hand on a door knob, turned it slowly then pushed the door open. Fifteen armed men stood at the ready, holding assault rifles, all of which were trained on her. Her eyes widened; her pupils dilated. Beyond them, a short disfigured creature dragging its right foot across the floor opened a door at the back of the room and went through.
"More mercenaries? Seriously?" Karla opened the red door the rest of the way and stepped through. Her heart raced in her chest, thudding like a hammer against fabric. "I'm here for that little goblin-looking thing that just passed through. You know, Halloween isn't for a few more weeks right? Oh, and hey, you boys wouldn't shoot a lady would you?"
One of the fifteen men pulled back the sliding mechanism on his assault rifle, loading a round into the chamber. No one else moved. Everyone aimed down their sights and waited for her to make the next movement. Karla offered a pouty sort of look, sticking her lower lip out in an adorably effeminate way.
"Well, if you boys won't move… and that's sad because some of you are in really good shape, then I'm going to have to…" Her eyes zeroed in on someone's hand twitching. All at once, her voice disappeared under the thunderous cacophony of fifteen assault rifles opening fire inside a windowless room. The gunfire lasted three-to-five seconds, riddling the double metal doors with pock marks. Floor tiles shattered, spewing flecks of plaster and asbestos in all directions. The gun fire stopped.
"Where is she?" exclaimed one of the mercenaries. He rushed forward and kicked the double doors open then said, "She's not in the hallway. Where'd she go?"
"Falcon said no one can know about this place. Orders are 'shoot to kill' and burn the bodies," said another man. "Find her, quick!"
"Over here." Karla Howard stood in the far corner. Her chest incandesced in a brilliant shade of carnation through her blouse. Markings on her forearms, glyph-like in nature, glowed with the same pink coloration. Her left and right palms luminesced, also displaying a bright rosy hue. The air hummed from displacement as a wave of unseen energy struck the group and toppled every single soldier.
The first one back to his feet lifted his gun to the ready. Before he could squeeze the trigger, the buttstock of the rifle reared back and connected with his jaw. The man's mandible shattered from his chin to his earlobe, struck so hard that his body went sliding across the floor.
Karla jerked her left palm in a horizontal motion, telekinetically slinging the assault rifle into the next mercenary. The weapon struck another man with such force that the rifle bent at its center. The second mercenary spiraled like a football before hitting the nearest wall.
She closed her right hand and the rifle disappeared; her fingers opened once more and the weapon reappeared halfway out of another man's torso. He dropped his own gun to the floor, clutched at the buttstock sticking out of his chest then fell to his side, squirming in agony.
Again, someone pulled their trigger and filled the room with deafening gunfire. Karla disappeared and the ammunition passed through the air where she once stood. Seconds later, she reappeared at the center of the room, behind the gunner, just as he looked up from his weapon.
He turned around, coming face to face with her just in time for her to thrust her palm forward. She struck him in the solar plexus and launched him into two other men. All three went to the floor hard, skittering across the asbestos tiles.
She disappeared once more only to return to the room between two men with their fingers in the trigger guards. "Right here," she announced then blinked from existence. The two men turned towards one another, opened fire then dropped to the floor. A pool of red spread from beneath both their bodies.
Karla appeared between three more men. She thrust her left palm into one man's face and telekinetically launched him fifteen feet away, through a concrete wall. She pivoted on her right foot and hit the other man with her left. Her telekinetically charged roundhouse kick sent him through the opposite wall.
She dropped down and followed through with a sweeping kick that took the last man's legs out from beneath him then, yet again, she disappeared.
The succubus appeared sitting upon the shoulders of another man, twisted her hips, and, using her thighs around his neck, she flipped the man to the ground. Karla blinked from existence then re-appeared standing adjacent to him. She drew her foot back and kicked the fallen attacker into another man, sending both clear through the concrete wall. She glanced around and surveyed her work with a smile.
"Wait a second…" She quickly counted the bodies then frowned. "Thirteen?" She grit her teeth in disgust. "Are you serious?" The woman sauntered back toward one of the men still lying on the floor then teleported herself by his side.
"You were the most handsome one of the whole group. I thought it would be a travesty to send you face first through a wall or to use one of those guns like a bat and knock your head off your shoulders. Don't push your luck. So, what the hell was that creature, where was it going, and where can I find Aris Falcon?"
The hired soldier swallowed to relieve the dryness in his mouth then said, "Who are you?"
"Oh God that's so cliché. Are you serious? Who cares who I am, dear? I asked you two questions. Unless you want me to teleport you into the sky and let you drop to your death, I suggest you tell me where I can find that little hobbit-looking freak. Or, better yet, you can tell me where I can find your boss."
"Lady, your abilities scare the hell out of me but if I helped you, he would do much worse, and then gut my whole family as well."
Her eyes lowered to the ring on his left finger. She frowned. "Dammit." Karla raised her left and right hands at him and the man flinched in reply. His sidearm, combat knife and rifle disappeared from their respective holsters then appeared floating in the air between them. "Fine, go home to your wife and get the hell out of California." She closed her eyes and sighed again.
"If I leave, he'll see me going and…" The man disappeared. Karla opened her eyes, which were rolled back in her head, then she glanced down and let out a breathy sigh of relief, as though having just lifted something of incredible weight.
She turned around just in time to receive a hard strike across her forehead. The woman toppled to the floor with a groan then propped herself up on her left elbow.
She glanced up in time to see a boot coming down from above. Her body disappeared. One of the mercenaries stomped the tiles, cracking the floor where she once lay.
Karla, dazed, reappeared and waved her left hand from right to left, throwing the man to the floor hard. He rolled several times then sat up with his handgun and fired it at her. She winced at the sound of yet another gunshot inside an enclosed room then reached her hand forth and plucked his bullet from midair. She flipped it with her thumb, caught it in her palm then threw it back at him.
The soldier reached out to catch the bullet. Karla then pushed her hands forward, giving the nine millimeter round its original momentum force back. The bullet tore through the mercenary's hand, into his forehead and out the nape of his neck, coating his light brown hair in a smattering of gore.
She then teleported the round and changed its trajectory so that it hit him in the head a second time from a different angle. It stopped somewhere inside his skull. The gunner flopped over, dead.
The demoness stood up and dusted herself off then gave a tug at the hem of her blouse to straighten it. "Damn, boys. I just asked for directions, not all this drama. Men, I swear." She moved across the room, opened the next door then continued forward. There was a single door at the far end. "Got'cha now, freak show."
Karla turned the knob and opened the door. A generic hallway of doors lined either side. She started peering into windows then stopped in mid-saunter, seeing Fox Parker stretched out on a hospital-like bed inside of a jail cell. A man was dead on the floor. She peeked in and announced, "Fox Parker?"
“Uhm… who are you?” he asked.
“I’m a friend of your father. I know, I know… I look young and sexy, and he’s old and retired. Trust me. I know him. I’m here to help you. Looks like you’ve already done the hard part, huh?”
“I’ve got a PICC line in my arm. I can’t get it out. Also, these things on my ankles.”
Karla grinned. She waved a hand and teleported the line out of his body. It reappeared on the floor by the bed, bloody, and half-coiled. Fluids dripped from a bag on a metal hanger, pooling on the tiles. “Let’s find you some gauze to dress your arm. Then we’ll get’cha out of that stupid bed.”
Later that night… 11:15 pm
Vincent Nevada settled in the front seat of his aging Honda Civic. The LCD panel on the dashboard, which displayed his speed, showed a finicky flashing number. He eased into the gas pedal to keep the engine from stalling. "C'mon, I know you're cold," he murmured. His eyes dropped to the odometer, displaying a number above three hundred thousand. "Old ass 2008," he groused and eased his left foot on the brake. Vincent switched into reverse while pushing his right foot into the accelerator, simultaneously, to keep the car from stalling. He repeated the motions, shifted into 'drive,' and then drove away from the dark dealership.
He came to a slight incline leading to the main road and the car abruptly stalled, turning onto Serramonte. Vincent grumbled, put the car into neutral and restarted the engine. He quickly put it into drive and eased into the gas pedal. The car lurched forward onto the empty street and he cut the wheel to the left. He made another left on southbound Route 82. The little green 'C' on his dash went out once he was a quarter mile from the dealership and he replied with a sigh of relief. "It's about time you warmed up," he said to the car.
In his rearview mirror, he saw two headlights in the gloom. They grew in size at a rapid pace until the sporty vehicle blazed by at a high rate of speed. "SLOW DOWN!" he shouted. To his surprise, the vehicle swerved and came to a strangely sudden stop in the middle of the lane. He eased into the brakes, approaching the brand new Acura NSX on the right. Two occupants were slumped forward over their seatbelts.
"What the hell?" he whispered then pulled over onto the shoulder and put his vehicle in park. "Don't you stall," he added with a tone of warning then unfastened his seatbelt and approached the NSX. "Wait, I know that car."
Thunder rumbled in the distance and as he approached the vehicle, rain began to fall from the sky. He came around to the driver side window and opened the handle, "Are you okay?"
Krys Monroe sat up with a groan. "Did we upset you?"
Vincent stared at her with confusion in his eyes. "Well… you were easily doing triple digits, you could have killed someone, yourself included. What happened? You stopped all at once but your tires didn't squeal. I don't smell burnt rubber. I thought you might have hit something at first." He glanced at her dashboard. All the panel lights were lit; the car's engine was silent.
The woman behind the wheel brought a hand up to the back of her neck and groaned. "Focused radiation," she said with a grunt. "It quite literally rips inertia from any object of any size in motion. You stopped us."
"Wait, what?" he blinked and stared at her, wondering if this was some sort of practical joke. "I recognize your car. I think I serviced it the other day."
"You did," said Krys. "I was casing you." She unfastened her safety belt then tried starting the car. Nothing happened. She tried again but it wouldn't start. "THIS CAR was brand NEW, kid! You know how much it costs?"
"I'm sorry! I didn't do anything! I don't know what you're talking about – radiation or whatever. You drove right by me!"
She glared up at him. "Don't you even know your own abilities?"
"What?" He shook his head. "Is this some sort of prank?"
"Prank? You've RUINED my CAR!"
"Well," he trailed off, frustrated. He had no luck with women – this time was no different. "You… you probably deserve it if you drive like that! Call the Karma Police, cry to them."
"Big words from a twerp," she snapped in reply. "You're going to fix this car. I don't care if it ruins any chance you have of a decent paycheck for the rest of your life! It costs more than you make in two years combined! And for your information, we were coming to find you, you little geek!"
All the times of being picked on in high school came rushing back. Vincent clenched his fists and shouted, "I'm NOT a goddamn GEEK!"
The Acura rumbled to life. It sputtered briefly then followed with the low roar of a finely tuned engine-idle sound. She smirked and stepped out of her car. "See? You were choking it with radiation. Now you're not focused, so it dissipated. That's the only explanation I can think of. You're coming with us. Get in the back seat."
"What? I'm not going anywhere with you two. I just came to see if you were okay. You came to an absolute stop without hitting your brakes. I saw you from behind. I thought you hit something; I came to check on you! I didn't do anything to you."
"Yes, you did. Now get in the backseat, boy."
"To hell with you," said Vincent. He walked back towards his car. He quickened his pace when in front of the NSX and, as he expected, she gunned the engine.
He broke into a sprint. She put the NSX back into gear.
Vincent opened the door to his civic, glad it was still running, and put the car into drive and floored it. Gravel churned from his front tires, spitting small stones up along his windows. The civic lurched forward and the wheel jerked hard from torque-steer in conjunction with transitioning back onto the pavement.
As the civic picked up speed, so did the intensity of the rainstorm. He switched on his wipers to full intensity and glanced in his mirrors. "What the hell!" he exclaimed, seeing the NSX begin pursuit. "You've got to be kidding me! Why do I have such bad luck with women?" As the civic passed sixty miles an hour, the NSX moved alongside then cut to the right in an attempt to sideswipe him.
"Jesus!" he cried, jerking to the right. The car went into the grass and gravel again. The back end began to fishtail. Vincent's eyes widened. He cut the wheel back the other direction, hard right, then full left, then halfway right again. He felt palpable relief as the civic slid onto the blacktop, and came back under his control without incident.
Nevada stomped on the brakes, forcing the NSX to pass him. "Let's see that thing cut through the grass," he shouted then cut to the left and floored the four cylinder car.
His aging Civic moved across the strip between the south and northbound highway, through the wet grass, spitting up mud diagonally along his left and right door. Vincent cut the wheel and pulled up on his parking brake. The back end fished around, sliding the entire car out of the grass and onto the northbound lanes across the way.
Momentum carried him back onto the pavement and the car whined, automatically dropping back into third gear. It climbed in speed. The rain intensified dramatically.
Vincent passed Serramonte Boulavard, and the Honda dealership on his right, now surpassing seventy miles an hour. He glanced in the mirror and smiled inwardly. "That's right. I knew that thing wouldn't make it through the grass." He felt his stomach ice over seeing two headlights in the distance. "Oh hell. I bet she went up to the next interchange and made a U-turn. Dammit. Why are you FOLLOWING me?"
He pushed the pedal down to the floor. The car responded by dropping into fourth gear and began to accelerate again. The little red needle climbed along the blue background on his tachometer. The LCD panel above it climbed past eighty. "Like Marty McFly said, let's see you bastards do ninety." He began scanning the road ahead for help. "Where's a cop when you actually need one?"
The NSX closed the gap until it was right on the civic's bumper. "This lady is crazy!" Vincent's heart pounded in his lower throat. "We shouldn't be speeding in this rain!" he yelled then he shouted at the car in his mirror. "Slow down!" Nothing happened. "Oh c'mon! It worked last time! SLOW DOWN!" Both cars blazed through a red light.
His eyes widened. His body tensed and his mind raced. Fear gripped his heart; Vincent realized he was hydroplaning on the heavy rainwater that coated the street. He stomped on the gas pedal to try and power through it but the car's tach and speed lurched, burying the needle.
His ears perked at a strange sound then his car began to shift. Vincent turned in the opposite direction of his civic's new angle but without traction, the car continued rapidly over the water with a mind of its own.
The Civic went into a flat spin. Three rotations. The wheels met pavement, facing towards the dim building of a Bank of America. The shine of the parking lot lights blinded him. The civic continued, sliding sideways, along the road for a fraction of a second.
It felt like an eternity. The passenger side of the car lifted up. The building turned on its side. The lack of weight in his trunk caused the back end of the car to lift straight into the air. The civic pivoted on its front bumper, bringing the glistening wet pavement into his view. "NO!" he shouted.
All at once, the Honda froze, no longer hurdling through the air at ninety miles an hour. It dropped straight to the ground, robbed of its inertia. The front end crunched up under the weight of the car. Both airbags deployed. Somewhere in the distance, he heard screeching tires. His heart skipped a beat, half expecting the NSX to plow into his car. Silence – the silence was louder than the rain.
He felt dazed.
Vincent blinked and groaned. The first thing to catch his attention was a scraping noise. The car rotated slowly on its roof until the inverted highway lane came back into view. He could see a Wendy's fastfood restaurant in the distance. Pain. He tried to lift his hands but came to realize they were on the roof of the car. His face ached from absorbing the concussive force of the airbag. The glow of the Bank of America building and the adjacent Post Office came from his left.
He tasted something akin to salty metal. Vincent winced then spit. Blood splattered on the airbag. Wet, chalky paste, a residue of the airbag's deployment, covered the dashboard. The dust turned to sludge from the heavy rainfall. It was then that he realized all the side windows were covered with curtain airbags and glass layered the upholstered roof. The thin layer of carpeting had small dunes and motionless waves in the roof where the metal, beneath, had crinkled.
"Holy shit," he panted beneath his breath. Footfalls caught his attention, followed by pain in his chest from his weight against the seatbelt. His knees ached from the way they rested against the bottom of the steering wheel. A bottle of Mountain Dew sat in front of his face, half propped up on the sun visor. His eyes zeroed in on a handful of coins, which now littered the spider-webbed windshield. Vincent saw his cellphone and he reached for it.
The back cover was no longer on the phone and the battery rested on the passenger side sun visor. "Dammit!" he cried in dismay. A high pitched mechanical whine distracted him. Two short pieces of metal scraped across the spiderweb window. The windshield wiper blades, sans rubber, returned to their starting spot. Approaching footsteps caught his attention again. Two feminine pairs of shoes stopped adjacent to the driver side window.
A shoe eased into the window, pushing the airbag curtain down to the ground. One of the two women lowered to their left knee. "You're alive," she said, adding, "You see, I can still sense your genetic imperfection. You owe me for a coat of paint where my front bumper nudged your back bumper. I didn't expect you to flip over, though. I wanted to make you spin out in the grass, boy."
He heard the rain on what sounded like an umbrella as his senses came back, one by one. Adrenaline overcame him. He drew his knees back and put his feet on the dash. Vincent put his left hand on the ceiling and used his right one to unfasten the seatbelt. "Oh, you wait until I get out of this car. I've been treated like crap by women my whole life and so help me God I'm not going to let you bitches kill me."
Krys Monroe leaned forward in the driver side window and pushed a syringe into his arm then thumbed the plunger. She jerked it back out and passed the plastic tube carefully up to Anne.
"WHAT THE HELL!" he erupted at the top of his lungs. Vincent climbed about and dropped to his stomach then began to crawl towards the two pair of shoes out on the wet pavement. He reached for Krys' left ankle and gripped it firmly. His body felt overcome with a sudden sense of weariness. He powered through the groggy sensation and pulled himself from the car then got to his feet. He reached for Krys's collar, clenching it in his fists… then nothing.
Vincent collapsed into her arms. Krys Monroe nodded to Anne. "Get his feet. Let's get him in the car. Hand me the needle." She took it from her lover then wiped the tube against her shirt and put it into his hand. Krys put her hand over top of his, manipulating his fingers to grasp the tube then she moved his thumb over the plunger and tossed the needle into his car. "Okay, now the cops will think he's using and that he was too relaxed to die in the impact. Let's go."
Anne took his legs and lifted him. She shifted the umbrella, resting it between the teenager's calves and ducked her head to keep her hair beneath the protective veil.
Together, they carried Vincent to the NSX and pushed him into the back seats. Krys adjusted several bath towels that she'd preemptively placed over the upholstery then settled onto the driver's seat. "Okay. Let's get him back to Falcon's tertiary warehouse before he wakes up." Her phone began to ring. "Speak of the devil... Hold on." Krys flipped open her cell phone. "Yes, Doctor? …Really? You’ll be home day after tomorrow? Why are you coming home so soon?”
Krys Monroe’s eyes widened. She ran her fingers back through her blue-dyed hair. “What!? Peterson was found dead?! He was alive when we left, earlier!” She paused and listened to Falcon’s reply, then said, “Yes, Doctor. We’re on our way home, now.” She closed the phone and glanced at her lover with a sigh. “Someone broke into the facility below the club.” Her phone rang again.
Monroe brought her phone back to her ear. “Yes?” She put the phone on ‘speaker’ mode.
The voice of a mercenary guard came over the line. “Miss Monroe, this is George Zukis. A girl broke into the mansion. We lost half our guys, but we managed to overpower her. She’s subdued. We kept her alive.”
“Is she blond, wearing a skirt and looks young?”
“No, ma’am. She’s in her twenties, brown hair and in an expensive one-piece sneaking suit. Military grade tech.”
“Understood. Does she have any ID? Bring her to the 'Charlie' facility. I’ll meet you there. It seems we had another break in at the 'Bravo' facility and Rick Peterson is dead. I’m going to need a righthand man. Can I count on you?”
“Yes, ma’am. This girl has no identification on her. I’ll see you there.” The line ended.
"He's one of those people who doesn't say 'Good bye' at the end of a phone call." Krys maneuvered around the wreckage of the overturned Civic then said, "Anne, love, be a dear and keep an eye on him. Just in case."