Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. More than half of the two clans were getting the headaches. A sense of growing foreboding hung over the clans that no one could explain. Demitri looked stoic, but Tempest knew inside he was freaking out, because she was too. At least neither she nor Demitri had one of them. There wasn’t a connection between the Evangelon with headaches, they came from both clans, both genders, different ages. No one had any idea where they were coming from. The silence was so deafening even Tempest wanted to speak if only to break it.
A little a girl started screaming. Ivory clamped her hands over her ears and just kept screaming. Alien was crumpled at her feet, and he wasn’t moving. Everyone knew he was dead. Dash let out a sharp gasp from somewhere behind her. Tempest whirled just in time to see her crumple to the floor, eyes dead. Sid met her eyes over Dash’s falling body. “No.” Tempest breathed. He flinched violently and crashed to the floor.
“No!” Tempest screamed futilely. She ran to him, but it was way too late, his eyes where glassy and empty. Tempest looked up at Demitri. He stood exactly where he had a minute ago, his mouth wide open. Ivory kept on screaming. It echoed and echoed around the room. There was no one to make her stop. Tempest closed her eyes, but it didn’t make it go away. Somewhere in the distance the baby started wailing. Tempest dragged her hands away from Sid and sobbed. Demitri fell to his knees. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It couldn’t be real…. Someone grabbed him and started crying against him. How? How had this happened?
Lucien snarled over the readings on his screen. Flat lined. Out of the blue, more than half of them. Dead. He shoved out of his chair and crashed his way into Blood’s chamber, where Monte no doubt was. He jerked up from where he was fiddling with dials and tubing. “I’ve saved her, Lucien, I’ve…” Monte’s bright smile started to fade as he saw the crazed look in Lucien’s eyes. “Version B is a complete dud, Monte.” He hissed menacingly. Monte swallowed hard. “Version A?” Lucien tossed the handheld at him. Monte barely managed to fumble it into his arms. “Stable… so far. For the few that is left that is.” Lucien snarled. “How did this happen now Monte?” Monte swallowed hard again. “Do…. Do you want to stop?” He stammered. “No.” Lucien hissed violently. “We must go on.”
“Fascinating.” I drawled, flipping through Brendan’s medical text book because I was bored. “And you’re doing this two years before you have to…. Why?” He shrugged. “I was bored.” Apparently our versions of boring didn’t match up. I flipped the massive book closed. “And why are they letting you, anyway?” Brendan shrugged again, reaching for the orange juice to wash down his toaster waffles. “I dropped my dad’s name a couple of times, and they really need more doctors. Even if you count Pyro, we’ve still only got seven.” I was amazed. “Seven!?” He nodded. “Excepting the Command Syndicate and their families, lots for Haven were drawn at random. We ended up with too few doctors and too many soldiers. Though we’re lucky we got what we did. So, long story short, I graduate next year, and I get to start my apprenticeship a few months after that.” I was suitably impressed.
Brendan finished cleaning up and considered me with a speculative look in his eyes. “What about you? Do you have any idea how you guys will make a living here?” I hadn’t even thought of that. I was pretty sure Nikk and Cole had already adopted the life of crime approach, but I wasn’t going to bring that one up. “I don’t know… If we even get to stay on Haven after all of this…” I frowned. Brendan changed the subject. “So, you think some of you will go back to school after all of this.” I laughed. “Most of us never even went to begin with. I didn’t.” Brendan looked little confused. “But you can read and write, right? I swear I’ve seen you do it.” That was a stupid question. I couldn’t help succumbing to laughter all over again. “Yes, I can read and write. And basic math too. In the very beginning, we got the older ones to teach us. It got our minds off… things…” Brendan looked a little sheepish. “Oh… sorry.” He mumbled. I grinned at him. “Naw, I heard education went all to hell after the war started anyway.” Brendan gave a startled laugh. “Yeah, I guess it did.”
He turned away and I let the smile fall. It was so hard to play normal. To say that I was confused and suffering from emotional turmoil would be an extreme understatement. Things were so much harder to understand then I’d ever wanted them to be. My phone started ringing at me. I jumped. I’d forgotten I even had the damn thing. When I picked it up, Willow said good morning in an unusually exited voice. “What’s happening?” I asked, hoping for some good news. “Lucien, as of this morning, is officially missing. On the bright side, the court believes him to be a complete scumbag.” Willow made no attempt to hide how much pleasure that gave her.
Still, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It wasn’t like Willow just to call to gloat. Then she started speaking again. “And since he’s failed to appear in court for three consecutive days they’re holding his trail without him. Which is actually why I’m calling you. You need to come down here and testify because frankly, you’ve been part of everything that’s happened.” I groaned. I could guess how horribly boring this was going to be already. Willow must have used her physic powers on me because she told me to suck it up. “You need to be here by nine…. Bring Brendan too. I won’t hold it against you if you can’t do it, but try to talk him into testifying. It would help… it might even be the only chance we have of any of this sticking.” I looked at Brendan out of the corner of my eye and blew out a sigh. I started to tell Willow no, but she’d already hung up on me. The clock on the wall said that it was already eight thirty six. Willow hadn’t given me the most massive time frame. “Thanks, buddy.” I muttered.
“Willow?” Brendan asked. I nodded. “Your father’s trail is today.” I said in way of explanation. There was no point in avoiding the subject. It would be on the news anyway. “I need to go.” I told him. “Yeah…” He said, face impassive. I didn’t want to ask him, but then I didn’t want to have a fight with Willow, and I didn’t want her to ask him instead. “Brendan….. Willow wants you to testify too.” He flinched. Then he leaned on the counter with a sigh. “I probably should have seen that coming…” He said softly. “I’m sorry.” I found myself saying. He looked as surprised as I felt. “It’s not your fault. It’s his.” He said broodingly. “We should go now.” He said, shifting subjects abruptly. I didn’t think there was anything more to say so we left. Brendan seemed to know where we where going, so I let him lead the way. Not that it was hard to guess where we were going after only a few turns. The seat of the Command Syndicate was a hulking building dead center in the middle of level one.
Brendan got more tense the nearer we got. I didn’t have any sympathy for Lucien, but I could tell this was hard for Brendan. That was leaving me with a problem. Though he wasn’t one to talk about it, things for him had gotten just as complicated for him as they were for me. I didn’t want to make it worse. Especially not after the night before. I didn’t know why, but just having him there had made it easier for me. I wanted to return the favor somehow, but I wasn’t sure that I could.
Before I let myself think about it too hard, I reached out and took his hand. He threw a startled look at me, but I didn’t meet his eyes. Brendan closed his hand around mine, squeezing it lightly. We where nearly there, and I could see Willow waiting at the door. At least she had the decency not to smile when she saw that Brendan was there. “I’ll go,” Brendan said calmly as Willow pushed the door open for us. But I think his hand was clutching mine harder than he’d intended it too. “Thank you.” Willow said with a small, relieved smile. She turned and went back inside the huge, faux marble lobby. “We need to go in there.” Brendan pointed to a huge set of doors behind the reception desk. Sure enough, Willow disappeared through them. “Of course we do.” I muttered caustically. They were probably the most pompous, imposing doors in the whole city. And the people behind those doors would do their best to make this as arbitrary as humanly possible.
Brendan smothered a laugh and didn’t quite succeed. We crossed the foyer, listening to our footsteps echo off the ceiling, two stories up. The pretty lady guarding the desk let us by, but not without an evil glare for me. Brendan reached out for the door and then froze. He mumbled something I wasn’t sure I’d heard properly. “What?” I asked, searching his face for evidence I’d heard right. “What if he gets away? What is they don’t believe you and he gets away?” He demanded. A surprised laugh slipped out of me before I could stop it. “That’s what you’re worried about?” He nodded. “I really doubt he will, Brendan. I don’t think they’d be having a trial if they hadn’t already decided.” The only real question in all of this is whether Lucien would be caught before he managed to do something really horrible. But I wasn’t going to mention that now. Brendan still looked like he was freaking out. “Hey.” I said, tugging on his arm.
He was still staring at the door. He looked confused and unsure. I almost wanted to tell him to just go home. “Brendan, relax. It’ll be fine.” I said instead. He was still stuck on the damn door. With a sigh, I reached up and physically turned his face away from it. “I’m sorry. I’m just confused about… this whole thing, I guess.” I chuckled. I could tell. “We all are. Come on Brendan, we’ll be late.” I tugged him toward the door again. This time he moved and we went in together.
Nine grueling hours later, Lucien had been proven guilty of nearly a dozen charges. Illegal experimentation, arson, tax evasion, possession of illegal weaponry and kidnapping among them. Of course that was the least of what he was guilty of, but that was what we could prove. Brendan and I walked back home in exhausted silence. He went straight to his room, but for some reason I hung back in the foyer. It felt like something was… wrong. Lily’s room was at the opposite end of the house from mine and I turned that way for the first time. A door to the right of her bedroom was open. I leaned in and took in the paint spattered yellow walls. There was a lumpy paint stained canvas along the back wall beneath the windows. It had rectangular lumps under it. My guess would be paintings. Lily seemed to sense me there. She set her brush and palette down, turning around. She didn’t smile. “Hi.” She said softly. The weight of last night crashed down on me all over again. “Lily… I’m sorry.” I said. She seemed to forgive me right away, and immediately came over and hugged me tightly.
Then she turned around and went back to her work. It was too complicated, so for now, there was nothing else to say. The canvases stacked in the back of the room caught my interest. I went over, but Lily either didn’t notice or didn’t care. I pulled the tarp back and looked at them. Fantasy landscapes all. At least, they were now. Nothing like that remained on Earth. I was sure of that.
Lily was extremely talented. I wanted to look through them all, but it wasn’t the time. I left, trying not to disturb Lily again. Out in the hall, something still felt wrong. I skipped the rest of the bedrooms at this end of the hall and went to the study at the top of the stairs. The doors opened smoothly, belying the carnage inside. Drawers where flung all around the room. The desk phone lay mangled in the corner. Someone had been in here, and I didn’t have a clue when. That disturbed me. All of my different problems with staying in Lucien’s home reared their heads. I searched through the wreckage, but nothing awaited me. I did eventually find the secret compartment in the back of the desk. Obviously it was way too late, considering it was completely empty.
I kicked an empty drawer across the room on my way out. I was pissed. Really pissed. Skipping the hallways, I flew up to panels at the top of the room and climbed into the attic. I ran straight into Brendan. “What?” He asked, looking even more confused when he’d realized where I’d come from. “Nothing I can fix.” I murmured darkly. Brendan frowned and gave me a questioning look. I kicked the panel back open and pointed. “Look.” He bent down and leaned into the room. He whistled. “What happened?” I shrugged angrily. “I have no idea. That’s the problem.”
“Oh well. Not much we can do to tell what happened now, is there?” He said. I caught an idea. My eyes narrowed. “Wait.” I whirled and started weaving through the chaotic attic beams. Brendan ran after me. “Wait! Jesus, slow down.” I jumped the last beam and started riffling around under my blankets. When I finally dragged it out, the computer’s light blinked lazily at me. I booted it up, and it came to life agonizingly slowly. Brendan finally caught up, looking more than a little confused now. “What is going on? And since when do you have a computer?” I shrugged. The truth was that I’d mostly forgotten about it. Luckily for me, Sipher had set the operating system up to be idiot proof. I managed to find the right camera feed and play back the footage for the past few days. It whirled by until I found it. Two days ago.
“Lucien.” I snarled as he rampaged in and out of the screen. It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. I was sure he’d left for good and was about to turn it off when he came back on the screen. Then he picked up the phone. A few very tensed seconds passed. Lucien threw the phone across the room and then he left for good. I slammed shut the laptop and dashed back across the attic. I was halfway out of the paneling over the study before I remembered Brendan. “Get back downstairs.” I yelled at him as I dropped into the mangled study. The phone was right where I’d last seen it. It had a steady light glowing. I scooped it up gleefully. Maybe Sipher or Evy could figure out who’d called. It was a long shot, but it might work. And if it did, we might just have a lead on wherever Lucien was now. The chances of it panning out where miniscule, but what the hell? I waited for Brendan to catch up with me and then I dialed Sipher on my way down to his level.
“It’s not going to be enough.” Willow muttered cryptically. Pyro raised an eyebrow. “What’s not going to be enough?” Willow reached the end of the room, turned and paced back again. “Just arresting Lucien. It’s not going to end like that. Not for him. It’s not going to be enough.” Pyro looked on in mild frustration. Willow really should have been resting. Not that he thought he’d manage to make her without drugging her. “I wish we could find him. It shouldn’t be this hard…” She made an angry noise and turned on her heal. “I thought the governments men were searching for him too.” Willow rolled her eyes at the ceiling. “A lot of good that’ll do.” Pyro took a moment and then tried again. “I thought we were looking for him too.” Willow let out a frustrated sigh. “We are. But Haven is massive, and Lucien seems to know it like the back of his hand. We don’t.” Pyro had to cede to that. “Willow, stop worrying about it for the night.” It was more of a plea than an order. She sighed heavily and raked a hand through her hair. “I can’t. I’m sorry. I just can’t.” Pyro frowned.
The doorbell wrung. Willow left to go get it. Pyro nearly swore. Why now? Now he was set back to square one. He’d never get Willow to go to bed. The door closed and Rain came into the living room with Willow. Rain looked very excited. Brendan was with her, as always. He leaned against the door frame. “Lucien got back into his house a couple of days ago.” Rain stated. Willow’s eyebrows shot together. “Rain…” Rain shot her a glare. “Not my fault. No one was there. Anyway, someone called him and he picked up. Whoever she was, she pissed him off big time. I had Sipher take a look at it and I think maybe we might have a lead. Her name’s Mellissa Straton.” Willow’s eyebrows went up. “Really….. you’re sure?” She asked. Rain gave her a blank look.
“It’s not all that surprising that he had someone else on the Syndicate to back him. Sipher might have, em, stumbled over her financials for me. She’s been doing some real interesting things with her money. And since she’s in charge of agriculture and production, she’s got access to all four of the bottom levels. Interesting, huh?” Rain, having been to one, could guess there were very rarely people down there. “It’s something.” Willow mused. “But just something. I’ll see if I can talk to her in the morning…” Still, Willow was smiling when she said it.
Tempest leaned against the locked door, hoping to barricade all the pain and horror outside of it. The chaos and uncertainty too. All of it. Half the clans dead in less than thirty seconds. Tempest slid down the door, pulling her knees to her chest and laying her head against them. Demitri sat down on the floor in front of her. She swallowed hard. Tempest didn’t want to talk about it, even though they needed too. Even though there was really nothing to do but go on. She looked for something else. And that necklace was hanging out of his shirt again. It obviously hadn’t always been his, seeing as it was a little purple flower and all. Tempest touched it gently.
“Who was she?” Tempest asked, fiddling with it carefully. It looked so delicate… “My baby sister’s. Her name was… is Sonya.” He said, a suggestion of a amused smile in the grim set of his face. “She could still be alive. I hope she is.” Tempest watching as his eyes looked less troubled with the thought. “Here?” Tempest asked. He shook his head. “No, Earth. I didn’t even know she was still alive until Antartica. When I was younger, I was so sure I’d managed to save her. I should have known better.” Suddenly, his eyes swirled with pain again though his face was still impassive. “What happened?” Tempest found herself asking. “Our parents decided to sell her to them, towards the end of the war. I found out, I went instead, filled out all the paperwork myself, gave them the money. I should have known they’d just cash in twice. Maybe even three times, but I’ll never know. I doubt Anton would have made it.” He let out a long sigh. “Anyway, I spent a couple of months searching for Sonya, but, well, it’s a big world. And by then, other people had found me. And they needed me. So I stopped.” He tucked the necklace back inside his shirt.
Demitri looked up, catching her eyes. Something she saw in his eyes put her on guard. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like what was coming next. “I’ve been wondering for a while now, Tempest…. Do you plan to die here?” Tempest broke their eye contact. She didn’t want to answer that. But he was waiting for one. And the best answer she had… “I haven’t thought about, obviously… but I guess that if I did die here… I wouldn’t regret it… not now.” She said so quietly he barely heard her. Demitri nodded, raking his fingers through his hair. “Well… that was better than I’d expected…” He looked at her, deceptively calmly. “Is there anything I could say to change that?” He asked. “No…” Tempest wished so much that there was, but she could remember all the things she’d done. She always would.
“No. It’s… It’s too late. It’s all too late.” Demitri didn’t say anything else. Tempest couldn’t bear to look at him anymore. She put her face on her knees again and fought against the burning at the back of her eyes. Demitri reached out and gripped her shoulders tightly for a long moment. Then he leaned forward, resting his head on Tempest’s.
Outside, a heavy door slammed. People started shouting. The moment was over. Demitri slid his hands down Tempest’s arms and pulled her to her feet. She unlocked the door and pulled it open. Lucien whirled to glare at them. “Pack it all up! Right now! When I come back, be ready to go.” He told them. Lucien then turned on his heal and started to march away. “No!” Zack shouted at him. Lucien turned, glowering. “No?” Lucien questioned. “You really think we’re still going to do what you want? After what just happened?! They just dropped dead! You expect us to believe you had nothing to do with that?!” Aurora demanded, taking step closer to Lucien. He gave her a haughty look. “I had nothing to do with that. The version of the antidote I gave them was simply unstable.” Aurora looked disgusted. Zack lunged at him. Lucien gave a twisted smile. “Oh?” He said cheerfully, then he jabbed the button he held in his hand. Zack collapsed. Tempest fell back into Demitri. “I’ll be back soon, Demitri. Be ready.”
Lucien whirled and was gone. “Demitri…. We’re out of time…” Aurora picked herself up off the metal floor. “Yes.” Demitri said angrily, setting Tempest back on her feet. For the first time since that morning, he surveyed what was left of their clans. It was bad. Only Brig was left of Tempest’s clan, and the baby. And from his, only Alida, Zack, Aurora and two of the kids. “Alida! Get everyone, all the kids and bring them here. Now!” He ordered. She disappeared into the mazes of crates. Tempest managed to steady herself with the wall. “What are you doing?” She asked him in a low voice. “Hopefully, getting them out of this.” He replied. Aurora walked up to them. She was his second in command. If anyone could come with them, he wanted it to be her. “Aurora… are you willing to stay with Tempest and I to go with Lucien.” She clenched her jaw for a long moment as she looked at Tempest. Then she nodded. “Of course.” She said. The others had gathered, Alida even had Dash’s baby.
Demitri looked at them all. Zack and Alida had been good friends. “All of you, take the kids and go to Willow’s clan. There’s a chance she might take you in, in exchange for information. Do you know where you’re going?” Alida thought it over, chewing on her lip. “I think so.” She said at last. Demitri knew that they might not have the time for him to even give them instructions. It would have to be good enough. “Good. Go, hurry. If we’re lucky, Lucien won’t follow you.” Alida took a few steps back. Then with a jerk, she turned and left. Zack saluted, took Ivory’s tiny hand and left, Flick following behind. Brig looked at Tempest. “Go.” She told him. He inclined his head, and then he was gone too.
Demitri watched the door close with mixed feelings. “How do we stop Lucien from trying to follow them?” He mused out loud. Tempest had a dark look on her face. Demitri could see she was looking at the rows of bodies covered in sheets. “Lucien can’t try to find them if he think they’re dead too.” She turned to face him. “Let’s burn the place down.” Demitri smiled in relief. He shot a questioning look in Aurora’s direction. Aurora pulled a lighter out of her pocket and twirled it in her fingers. She looked a little nervous though. Tempest caught all of it and was smart enough to guess what was going on. “Wait.” She said suddenly stepping in front of them. Tempest closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Wind howled. The top layers of crates shattered. Paper and wood rained on them. “Kindling.” She said with a shrug. Then she turned to look at Aurora expectantly. Aurora bit her lip. “We should probably leave first.” Taking her advice, they all squeezed into the narrow hall outside the warehouse. Aurora gritted her teeth to keep herself from fidgeting. The flame leapt to life on the lighter. With a deep breath, she tossed it back into the room.
Aurora reached out tentatively. The moment she felt the flame, energy surged. A ball of light engulfed the room in white flames. “Holy shit.” Tempest swore, backing away from the door. Aurora sighed angrily. Why couldn’t she control it? Demitri took a seat on the chain railing and watched the room burn down. “Now we have to wait.”
I pulled Willow’s front door open, preparing to leave. But I saw something that stopped me. “Willow.” I called back into the house. She came up next to me and I heard her breath catch. “You think this has something to do with that note we got?” I asked her. Her eyes narrowed, whether at them or at me, I wasn’t sure. “I would guess so…” She said slowly. The white haired girl at the head of the group raised a hand. I heard Pyro in the living room, calling the others. “Please,” The white haired girl began, “If we get seen here, Lucien will know we’re gone, and he’ll try to kill us. All of us.” She stepped to the side, revealing the little kids hiding in the center of their group. “Shit.” I muttered. Willow sighed. “Willow...” I started. She shook her head sharply. “No. I don’t know any of them, do you, Rain?” I shook my head. I recognized one of them, Brig, but I didn’t know him. I’d read their note too, I didn’t exactly trust what had been written in it, but then I hadn’t expected so few to actually come.
Only three adultish age ones and two brats. The white haired girl was getting impatient. “The rest of us are dead!” She snapped at us. The little girl behind her burst into tears. Willow winced at the noise, shooting quick looks at the houses around us. Then she shoved me back into the house and waved for the Evangelon on the lawn to come in. Warily, we backed into the living room, watching them as we did. There was no sign of Pyro or Brendan. As I touched the backup gun under my shirt, I mourned my Immortals more than ever. The others filed into the room with nervous looks on their faces. The white haired girl shifted uneasily, he eyes flicking between Willow and I.
“I’m Alida.” The girl said steadily. She’d stopped fidgeting now and looked at us evenly. “These are Zack, Brig, Ivory and Flick.” She stopped and resettled a bundle in her arms. “And this is Lacey.” I was confused, until I realized that it was a tiny baby in her arms. The baby, the one we’d discovered on Earth, I thought. “Her mother is dead now.” Alida said quietly. Willow grated out a sigh. She didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know anything about who they were. Had they really been tricked into coming here by Lucien, or not? They could just as easily have been the same kind of monsters Tempest kept in her clan. To my relief, I heard the door open. Selena, Fox, Mara and Evy all crowded in behind the others. Alida took a defensive step back, face clouding in anger. “What is this?” She demanded, awkwardly trying to shit the baby to one arm. Alida must have bumped it too hard because it started to scream. Mara frowned and took a step toward Alida. I lunged for her, but before I reached her, Mare lifted the baby out of Alida’s grip and easily settled her into her own arms. I let my arm drop and tried desperately not to let my face show my shock. “She’s not yours?” Mara asked.
Alida shook her head. “Willow, you mind?” Willow shook her head, just as dumbstruck as I was. Mara went into the kitchen and disappeared from sight. As Yuki went after her it dawned on me. Out of all of us, Mara was the only one who’d ever taken care of a baby before. It was like the world turned upside down. Willow stared at the door for a long time, a look of vague confusion on her face. “All right,” She said, turning back to the room. “Tell us what happened, all of it.”
Alida frowned. “We don’t know much.” Willow stared hard at her. “Tell us anyway.” Alida paused to think and then launched into her tale. “So, Lucien drugged all of you… and then…” Tristan trailed off. Alida looked out the window. “Yes. And then some of us just dropped dead.” There was a strained tension in the air, hanging thick. Willow paced, looking pensive. “Will you take us back to the warehouse where you stayed?” Willow asked finally. Alida turned away from the window. Slowly, she nodded. “I can’t promise you’ll find anything. In fact, I can promise you you won’t.” Willow shrugged. “Anything is more than we have now.” Alida shook her head, with a look that said she thought this was a waste of time. “The three of us will take you, then.” Alida stated flatly. Willow looked around the little group in her living room. She hesitated. “Selena… Tristan, Fox. Go.” I frowned, but Willow shot me a look before I could ask to go. “Don’t get seen, no matter what happens. If you see something, come back here and get the others first. Be fast.”
“Okay.” Selena said softly. She turned towards the exit, Alida falling into step beside her. The rest of us watched them leave at the front window. “Willow…” I felt like I should have gone with them. She gave me a weary look. “Don’t even start, please. Just go home and sleep. I need everyone to be ready for tomorrow, so please just do it.” Willow looked so frustrated and tired it was hard to recognize her as the same woman who’d been speaking just a few minutes ago. I wouldn’t have accepted her job for anything. I squeezed her shoulder and went to go find Brendan. I wanted Willow to know I was with her one hundred percent of the way and I figured the best way to do that was to just do what she wanted.
Brendan was in the kitchen with Pyro, Jiva and the two new kids. Jiva had, at Pyro’s suggestion probably, had stopped them from going with their clan mates. “Hey,” I said, “We should go.” He leaned back in his chair to look at me. “Yeah, home, right? It’s been a long day.” I snorted. He could say that again. “Come on,” I said, shoving his chair back onto all four legs. Brendan rolled his eyes at me. “See you,” He said to Pyro. Pyro nodded in acknowledgment. We left out the back door and walked the two blocks back to the house in silence. As we went in the gate, I heard Brendan sigh. Apparently neither one of us really wanted to be there. Brendan shoved the door open. And then we both smelled something really, really good. Brendan looked at me, wide eyed. “No way…” He said. I was a little confused as to what exactly was going on. “What?” I asked. He turned back, sniffing again. “That’s my mom’s spaghetti. She hasn’t cooked in years.” He looked like he needed someone to pinch him or something. “Come on.” I said, stepping inside. Brendan stood there, looking a little scared.
Then he laughed. “Sorry. I’m a little afraid that if I go in there, it will disappear.” I smiled. I was a little amused despite myself. “It won’t. Promise.” I held out my hand, and he took it. I pulled Brendan inside and we went down the hall to the kitchen. The sight that greeted me as I pushed the door open nearly blew me away. I actually felt my stomach rumble.
“The great thing about Haven is that I can finally get all the ingredients I need again.” Lily said with a cheerful smile. She added a last dash of something to the bubbling pot on the stove. “Where were you two?” She asked, spooning noodles out of another pot. “With some friends.” Brendan stammered. If that didn’t sounds suspicious, I didn’t know what did. I shot him a look and he shrugged. Lily didn’t seem to notice though. “Just as long as you weren’t on the lower levels, I guess.” I raised my eyebrows at Brendan. It was almost like Lily was parenting. Go figure. He grinned. “No, we were still on this one.” He reported. He was lucky it was true, because as a liar, he royally sucked. Lily started pouring the sauce over the noodles. My stomach growled out loud. Brendan gave me a startled look, then started laughing. “I though you guys didn’t need to eat.” I eyed the bread Lily was pulling out of the oven critically. “If it tastes half as good as it smells, I’ll make an exception.” Brendan brushed past me into the room. “It does. Trust me.” He smiled with so much happiness, I hoped for his sake that this wasn’t a fluke. I hoped Lily really was coming back.
Brendan moved all the plates to the table, which was actually already set. I’d never seen that before in that house. Lily thanked him happily. I was beginning to wonder if I should leave when Lily waved a hand in front of my face. “Ang…Rain, come sit down.” Lily told me. Brendan pointed at the third plate with his fork. Clearly, he was impatient. As it turned out, it really was as good as it smelled. I felt very sorry when I had to stop halfway through. Lily was asking surprisingly normal things. She talked about school with Brendan, asked me if I planned to start. I gave her the true answer, which was probably not. She nodded understandingly. “It would be a bit hard to catch up, wouldn’t it?” I nodded. That was a huge understatement to say the least. I looked down at my plate despairingly. I truly did want to eat more, but I already had a horrible stomach ache that was no doubt going to get much, much worse.
It felt so weird to be a part of this bizarrely normal scene. Brendan, however, didn’t seem to notice and went right on eating. Lily suddenly set down her fork and bowed her head. Shit, I thought. Brendan hadn’t noticed yet but it was only a matter of time… Then Lily spoke. “I need to apologize. To you, Brendan, and to you too, Rain.” She dragged her napkin through her fingers and twisted it into knots. “I can’t pretend that I didn’t know what was happening before. That I don’t know what’s happening now. I’ve been… hiding. When everything fell apart I just… stopped hearing and seeing what was going on around me. But the more I tried to make it go away, the more it wouldn’t and eventually I just stopped. I gave up. I hid from my life. But then I left you behind without anyone to help you and… I’m sorry…”Lily abruptly got up and fled the room.
Brendan shot up too, but I grabbed his arm. “Don’t!” I said as I stopped him from lunging for the door. “I…” I nearly stopped speaking when he turned his glare on me. “I think we need to let her go.” He stared at me stubbornly. “I think she needs to maybe figure this out on her own.” I let him go, and to my relief he didn’t go after her. Brendan started picking up the dishes, clinking them together a little harder than he needed too. “I hope you’re right.” He muttered. I looked down the hallway myself. “Yeah, me too.”
“I am not pleased.” Lucien hissed through clenched teeth. “There were at least twenty of you a month ago.” Demitri took a step forward, forcing Lucien to stumble back. “And when you left earlier, at least sixteen of us were dead.” Lucien snarled. “And six of you were alive. There are three of you here.” Lucien said, demonstrating his mastery of basic arithmetic. Demitri turned to give the smoldering wreckage inside the door a pointed look. “Unless you can somehow magically go get the others, we’re all that’s left. Take it or leave it.” Lucien recoiled. “You petty, stupid, infighting, useless…. I don’t have time for this! Come!” He whirled and stormed his way through Haven’s tunnels. Demitri shot the other two a relieved look.
They climbed past at least two levels until they came to two adjoining tanks that looked just like all the others.
But these were obviously different to Lucien. He dragged a panel off of the side of one. Light flooded out of it. Lucien slid inside, motioning jerkily for the Evangelon to follow. “Monte! Are we ready?” Lucien’s voice cracked sharply. The little man bobbed excitedly. “Oh yes, they’re waiting for us, yes.” Lucien picked up a large case and shoved it into Aurora’s arms. A second went to Demitri. Monte made a panicked grab for Tempest before Lucien could fill her arms as well. Then he pulled her into the second room. A girl lay on the metal table.
She was way too thin, and her skin was a sickly shade of taupe when it should have been light brown. Tempest thought she was dead for nearly a minute, then the body started convulsing violently. Monte’s eyes sparkled. “Yes! Yes! Good girl Sanctuary. Good. Good…” The girl’s eyes snapped open, but they where rolled too far back in her head to see anything. Her body thudded back onto the table and was completely still. Now Tempest was sure the girl was dead. She began coughing violently, gasping in air between spasms.
Slowly, it stopped and her breathing became a painful gasping wheeze. “Shhh, shhh. You’re safe now. Welcome back to the living, Sanctuary.” He crooned at her, stroking her lank, once black hair from her face. Tempest was struck with how strangely familiar the girl’s face was. Lucien stepped into the doorway, cutting off the light. “See? I told you she’d live!” Monte crowed to Lucien. He only sniffed in reply. Monte turned his attention to Tempest. “She must come with us. She must. Be very careful with her. She is still fragile.” He stepped back. When she didn’t move, he cocked his head, eyeing Tempest with an expectant look. She stepped toward the table. The girl looked at her with dark, haunted eyes. Who was she? Tempest wondered. Where had she come from, and why did she have to suffer for these men’s sick little games? Tempest shifted her weightless body into her arms as carefully as she could. The girl made a soft croaking sound between pants, but she couldn’t speak yet.
Tempest followed Monte back into the main room. Lucien shoved another massive case into Monte’s arms. “You’ll be carrying that.” Lucien snarled, hefting his own case. “Let’s go.” He ordered, climbing out of the room. He took them down again, stopping at a door after just a few stairways. He tried the handle, it didn’t budge. With a self satisfied grin, he banged on it twice, waited a moment and slapped a hand against it again. The door moaned as it was dragged open from the inside. A pale little man with a leer peeked out. “Ahhh… Lucien, you’re here.” Lucien gave a sharp nod, pushing him out of his way as he stepped in.
“Get in. Quick.” He hissed back at them. They all crowded into a small, foul smelling room. The man slammed the door closed, throwing the deadbolts. He had a blowtorch in his hands and Tempest winced and turned away as he lit it up without warning. Minutes passed in glaring blue light. Finally, it stopped. “That should hold ‘em.” The man proclaimed, examining his handy work. The door they’d come through was now sealed clumsily shut. The man sat back on his haunches, pulled out a radio and flicked it on. “That’s the last of ‘em, boss.” The man said. A brief burst static spouted out of the radio then a woman’s voice replied. “Lucien?” He snatched the radio from the pale man.
“I’m here.” He answered her. “Good. All the doors are sealed. As promised.” Lucien’s lips twitched into a mocking smile. “Indeed? Very well, we will arrive shortly to uphold our end of the bargain.” He dropped the radio on the pale man and led them out of the series of rooms and into the artificial dusk. Carts were lined up on rails outside. Monte and Lucien both climbed onto one. “Keep up.” Lucien ordered the Evangelon as he manipulated the panel at the cart’s edge. It lurched forward, slowly at first and then with growing momentum. The Evangelon were forced to take flight. Aurora flew over Demitri and Tempest as they deliberately fell behind. “Do you have any idea what’s happening?” She asked them. Tempest shook her head. “No.” Demitri laughed darkly. “Why should we? As far as Lucien is concerned, we’re just the muscle.” Aurora snorted. “What are we going to do?” She asked, angling her wings to take advantage of Haven’s unnatural air currents.
“Whatever we can.” Demitri said heavily. They fell silent on that. After a few minutes, the girl in Tempest’s arms moaned. She started to mumble brokenly. “Save it, you’re probably going to need all the energy you can get.” Tempest whispered to the girl. The girl fell silent with a frustrated and desperate sound. Then she turned her head to watch the ground go by. Tempest watched the building rising in the distance instead. “That’s where we’re going?” Aurora asked. “Looks like it.” Tempest replied. Lucien’s cart started to slow. The Evangelon all saw, and reluctantly turned into a descent. They touched down on the landing just as Lucien stepped off the cart. Lucien eyed them disgustedly. “Remember,” He snarled, patting a pocket. “I have this, and if I have too, I will kill the two of you with their tags still implanted.” Tempest narrowed her eyes at him and clenched her jaw tightly.
The heavy metal doors at the end of the tracks grated open to reveal yet another deathly pale person. This woman, however had a riffle slung over her shoulder. “Lucien.” She greeted coolly. He replied with an inclination of his head. She waved them in and pulled a lever as the last one passed under the doors. The heavy door grated back into its’ slot. As soon as it locked in, the woman smashed her riffle into the control panel.
“We got lucky.” She said as she led them across the mammoth, empty space. “There was next to nothing in here. When they come for us, they’ll have nothing to hide behind.” Aurora shot Demitri a worried look. He shrugged. There was nothing he could do. The ceiling above them was crisscrossed with walkways. Towards the back of the room was a line of opaque crates, pilled strategically into cover for the men who sat behind them. The woman led them through a door deeper into the warehouse, though Tempest saw at least two others. They went through a small room and into a narrow hallway. “It’s a labyrinth in the middle,” The woman explained as she expertly navigated through several winding halls and rooms. Finally, she drew to a stop and pushed a door open. “Will this work?” She asked Lucien. “Yes.” He said curtly, setting his case down on a desk. Lucien took Monte’s and set it down as well.
“We’re here, and we’ll fight. But first, what about your end?” Lucien glared at the woman. She only folded her arms and waited. He snapped the lid off a case, revealing at least two-dozen vials. “I have enough for fifty.” He informed her. The woman raised and eyebrow. “Good enough. There are forty seven of us here now. When can we start?” Her voice betrayed a tiny hint of her eagerness. “Not until morning at the very least. We have to finalize our preparations before we begin.” Lucien said. The woman tamped down her enthusiasm immediately. “All right. Until then.” The woman turned, lifted a hand in farewell and was lost in the maze.
Monte sidled over to Tempest. “Put Sanctuary down over here.” He gestured towards an arm chair crammed into the corner. Tempest did, sliding the girl onto the sagging cushions with as much care as she could muster. The girl was pretending to be unconscious and her head fell back against the wall. Monte elbowed Tempest out of his way and leaned down to check the girl’s pulse. She was forced to back away and joined the others. There was nothing more Tempest could do. Silently, she wished the girl luck. “That is all I need from you for now. Leave this room, and do not return unless I call for you. However, don’t leave this building. I’ll know.” He added the last bit with a smug little smile. Tempest glared hard at him. Demitri took her arm and pulled her out of the room. The door slammed pointedly behind them.
Aurora shot an angry glare at it. “What’s happening?” She hissed at Tempest and Demitri. Tempest shook her head. “I have no clue. Do you think we could learn anything from the humans?” Tempest asked without any real hope. “No. Not a chance.” Demitri fell into a brooding silence. “So what do we do?” Aurora asked. Tempest cast a glance at the firmly closed door. “There’s nothing to do but wait, and hope we manage to find something out.”
Morning seemed to be coming too soon. Light had begun to slither into the room. And somehow, it brought with it the end of the calm surrounding the house. I could feel that all of this was coming to its end. I looked around my room, trying not to feel like this could be the last time. I supposed that if I came back, I’d move my things down to it and see what actually living in it was like. The box Lily had given me was on the table under the lightening windows were she could find it. I turned to the door and slid out into the hall. It was empty, to my relief. I made my way into the foyer and went to the doors. Something made me turn, though, and I saw Brendan leaning against a doorframe. “Rain.” He said. “No.” I told him before he could get another word in. “Stay here today. Please. I don’t want to have to worry about you too.” He didn’t say anything else, just stood there looking at me. I crossed over to him, and as he stood up he wavered a little. My guess would be that he hadn’t slept at all the previous night.
Neither had I. I hadn’t wanted to waste the time I had left here. No matter how hard I tried to tamp the feeling down, I knew things were changing today. And they wouldn’t be the same again. I hadn’t wanted to lose what little time I had left of things being the way they were. Brendan looked down at me. He felt it too, I was sure. I put my hands on his chest and looked up at him.
I kissed him hard, just in case it was the last chance I’d have. Then, I stepped back and left.
Selena met me on the stairs outside Willow’s house. “There was nothing there.” She told me as she held the door open for me. “Damn.” I muttered. But I hadn’t expected there to be, to be honest. “The place was a smoldering ruin. The others were just as confused as we were. I sent them home to sleep.” We went into the living room. Willow was conspicuously absent, though Pyro was there. He gave me a tired smile, then went back to watching the window. “Maybe you should go home too.” I said to Selena. She just raised an eyebrow at me and discarded my statement.
“Where’s Willow?” I asked. “She’s gone to drag Mellisa Straton out of bed. She should be back soon.” Pyro told us. Selena walked over to the window to stare out of it with Pyro. After a few minutes, Willow strode up to the door and threw it open. “Come on, I know where we’re..” Pyro caught her by the back of the jacket as she strode past, jerking her to a stop. She frowned at him, but he just gave her a hard look. Willow was not going anywhere. She glared at him, but she gave in. “Sorry,” She didn’t sound sorry, “You’re going. Go get the others and head down to level seven. Mellisa swears Lucien is almost definitely holed up there. Probably at the big warehouse in the center. Selena, you’re in charge from here on out.” Selena took a pause, then nodded once and headed for the door. “One more thing.”Willow called.
“I made a call to the General of Enforcement on my way back here. He knows he can’t handle this. Legally, you’re allowed to go in there, and legally you can use your guns. But you need to bring Lucien back alive. He has to be handed over to the humans.” Selena gave a quick nod, then signaled for us to leave. Willow’s jaw clenched tightly as we left her behind.
As we reached the elevators, Selena pulled out her phone and called the others. We rode down to the lower level in silence. The three from the other clans dropped into step beside us as we weaved through the barely nighttime shadows. They hadn’t gone back to the apartment building with the others, apparently. Selena slid a glance toward Alida. “Can we trust you to fight with us?” Alida blinked. “… To a point. We won’t hurt Demitri or Aurora.” Selena nodded as though she’d expected that. “We wouldn’t ask you to, if they’re from your own clan. Will they join us as well?” Selena asked. “If they can.” Alida replied.
Selena made a non-committal sound. “That’s good enough. I have a feeling we’ll be needing all the help we can get.” Alida dropped back and I found myself walking next to her. Before thinking about it I asked. “Is Tempest dead?” Alida gave me a surprised look. “No… the last we saw of her, she was with Demitri and Aurora.” Selena heard and shot me a glare the said ‘not now’. I didn’t ask any more. I’d find out for myself soon enough. The building was in chaos as we pushed the doors open. Guns were being carried out of the basement, even as doors were being pounded on upstairs. Mara shot me an ecstatic grin as she dove into the fray. Alida and the others look unsure of what to do. They hadn’t been there long enough to understand how our clan flowed, and they already had their weapons with them. They were just in the way. I pointed to the door. “Wait outside.” I managed to say through the increasing noise. They left with relieved looks.
The crowd started to shift, and people started pushing through the doors. I caught Soran’s eyes as he stood on the stairs. A wave of guilt rushed over me. “I’m sorry.” I mouthed. He shrugged, and grinned. Nearly everyone was out the doors now. It was time to go. “Evy?” A voice squeaked. Thorn shot Evy a shocked look as Evy loaded her gun. She smiled at Thorn in that special way Evy always did. “See you soon, Thorn.” Thorn looked at me for help, but I shook my head at her. I caught up with Evy as she passed through the doors. “Are you sure about this?” I asked, signaling to Selena to go. “Yes.” Evy replied. Selena gave me a thumbs up and our group started towards the nearest elevator. I studied Evy. She looked completely healed, but was she really?
“Don’t give me that, Rain. I need to come.” She held my eyes steadily. I found myself believing her. “Okay. Just be careful, okay?” I said, not entirely sure this was the right thing to do. She smiled. “Of course.” She agreed.
We all crammed into the elevator. It stopped at level six and wouldn’t go any further. We got out, having no other choice. Selena looked around in frustration. “What next?” She asked. Fox appraised the situation calmly. “We’ll have to find another way in.” Selena looked around, then her eyes caught on the wall the elevator was set into, the wall that stretched on either side into the distance. “The tunnels.” She muttered. Fox and I pried the nearly invisible service hatch next to the elevator open and we all squeezed in. It was a long climb down to the next level, and when we got there, all the doors were sealed. Selena sighed frustratedly, dragging her hair back from her face. We needed to find yet another way in. Suddenly, I remembered how I’d gotten down to level eight all those months ago. “This way!” I called, leaping up toward the top of the four-story panel surrounding level seven. The top was a huge expanse of metal plates, identical to the sides.
If I remembered right, there should be vents to circulate the air throughout Haven. Maybe Lucien hadn’t thought of them. I found one almost right away, only a couple hundred feet in. When I pulled on it, it moved. I pulled Fox away from the group of spectators and together we pulled on it. The screws popped out almost immediately and the grate cover flew off. We were looking straight through a foot thick metal tube and into level seven. Selena patted my shoulder and then shot me a smile as she saw we’d finally gotten in. Then she dropped in. I slid down after her, into the lightening dark. We didn’t have long until we lost the cover of darkness. Dawn was only a half hour away.
The others dropped in after us one by one. We set off towards the center, flying low to the ground, hoping it was still dark enough that humans couldn’t see us. Selena suddenly folded her wings and landed, holding up a hand for the rest of us to follow suit. We crouched in the shadow of a rise with what looked like train tracks on it. “Nikk, Cole.” Selena twitched a finger at them. They slithered up the line with badly masked glee. “The building’s just ahead. Be fast.” The smiled to each other then began to creep away. “Don’t get caught.” Selena cautioned. They grinned again. “When have we ever been caught?” They asked, and then, just like that, they where gone. Selena cast a look down the line. I could hear her grinding her teeth despite how calm she seemed on the outside. “Relax. There are way more of us than there are of them. It’ll be fine.” Selena spared me a look, but I could tell she’d just ignored my words again. Long minutes dragged by. The night was fading fast. We had only a few minutes left before it would be too light to be stealthy and it became impossible for us to see clearly. Without warning, the twins dropped from the sky.
“It’s bad. They have men in there. A lot of them.” One said while the other caught his breath. “Worse, there’s three entrances, but they all lead to the same big room.” Selena muttered darkly in a language I didn’t know. “What’s the layout?” She asked them in English. “One big room in the front, a warehouse maybe, we couldn’t tell. One big door, wide open. Two more doors, both bolted shut. There aren’t any more ways in, but there’s a huge complex off the warehouse.” Selena mulled. “Is it a trap?” She asked redundantly. “Duh.” They both said with a wide grin. “We can’t pull out.” Selena said with a frustrated sigh. “No…” I replied. Suddenly, Mara elbowed her way into our group, nearly knocking me over.
“You said Lucien had men in there with him? How many?” She asked them. They shrugged. “We can’t tell. But they had guns.” Mara grinned to match them. “Great!” She turned to us. “What, exactly, are we waiting for?” Selena looked at me questioningly. I shrugged, nothing we could do about it, after all. Selena looked at Mara again. “Alright. Let’s move.” Mara, Nikk and Cole went back down the line.
The warehouse loomed before us. The door gaped. I looked, but the light differential was too great. I wouldn’t be able to see in until I was standing in the doorway. Selena lifted to her hand, we came to a stop. She studied the doors, and then looked at me. I shook my head. I didn’t have any ideas either. She signaled to me that when we went in, she’d go left, and I’d go right. I signaled okay and we started moving again. I pulled my gun out and held it lightly as we passed under the dark doorway.
At first I saw nothing, all I heard was a faint rustling, and what might have been whispering. Over our heads, grated walkways crisscrossed the ceiling. Empty as far as I could see. Crates were pilled in a low line at the back of the room, two or three high. That’s where the noise was coming from. I raised my gun, taking a cautious step forward. Static crackled somewhere on the other end of the room. Metal screeched. The doors slammed shut behind us. The humans opened fire.
Monte was off somewhere playing with his new toy. Monte, damn him, had felt it right away. As soon as the pain subsided, Monte had felt it. Then why did, he, Lucien not? It had been hours now since he’d given himself the injection, yet he felt no different. Not at all. With a low growl Lucien paced around his little room again.
The humans had been so easy to delude. That had been the least of his trouble. All he’d needed to do was promise them a place in his new world, the one they’d been denied in the existing one. Lucien had promised them whatever they’d wanted, power, money, drugs. Whatever it was. Not that it mattered, he’d planned to kill them all the same way he’d killed the Evangelon. That had been an accident, but it had had its benefits. Now of course, it wasn’t necessary.
Monte’s little ability could force them to do whatever Monte wanted, and Monte was more then happy to be Lucien’s puppet. It would take quite a bit more finesse, but one by one, the tunnel rats would disappear as they were no longer needed. Lucien hummed as he pushed a needle into a slightly cloudy vial. Despite the slight problem with Luci