The metal walls were down again when Rad came to in the middle of the forest. It was daylight; the sun was shining brightly over the woods. His head was pounding but his eyes opened wide as soon as he awoke and he shot up from the ground, immediately fearful at what he might find. For some reason, every memory of his time as a paranormal investigator had been thrown into the back of his mind due to the fact that he was waking up in the middle of a forest after losing consciousness...just like 15 years ago. It wasn't until he felt something under his foot that caused him to lose his balance and fall onto his back did he remember at the sight of the Fat Lady that tripped him up, that this was not the forest of Passion, North Carolina, but rather the empty woods on the outskirts of Neshoba, South Dakota. Rad reached over, picked up the Fat Lady, and put it into the pocket of his coat, sighing with relief and shaking his thoughts from his head. As all of his other memories reloaded into his brain, he finally got to the events of last night, remembering that he had been engaged in a deep struggle with a wolfed-out Brooke before being knocked out. Looking around the area, he could see her slumped over one of the tree roots, still unconscious. And naked.
Rad ran over to her delicately but was having a serious internal debate on whether or not he should wake her up or wait until she woke up herself and casually walk around the corner, giving her time to consciously cover herself, so that she wouldn't know that he was seeing her in the nude. But he wasn't sure when she would come to and there would be no use in waiting for her when they needed to be back in town to find the others as soon as possible. For all they knew, Reuben might have failed and humanity might have been ravaged by bloodthirsty Therians throughout the rest of the night. Today might be the start of a brand new dystopic world ruled by the wolves. Now wouldn't be the best time to be asleep.
Rad walked to her side and took a deep nervous breath before shaking her shoulder. She was lying on her side out of view, so he couldn't see her whole body, just her back side. The bolts he'd stabbed into her neck the night before were lying beside her but he could see the incision it had given had healed. He hoped that she would realize where she was, who he was, and that she was naked before turning over and making this awkward for the both of them. As he attempted to shake her awake, she began to stur and sure enough, twisted in his direction on the leaves she lay on until she was facing him, still asleep. Rad couldn't take his eyes off her but was glad that she wasn't awake to notice. Now that he'd gotten a good view, he very awkwardly walked to the other side of her and tried again to prevent the same occurence. This time she only turned onto her back and he could visibly see that she was awakening. Rad turned his view up towards the tree branch above as she opened her eyes and looked up at him.
"Um hey," he said, occasionally staring down at her but never long enough to let her know he was catching glimpses. He could see that she was now fully awake and she looked down, moving quickly to cover herself.
"Oh god," she exclaimed as Rad sprung into action, pulling off his peacoat and handing it to her.
"Here," he said, as she looked over her shoulder with her back to him in a feedle position. "Its not long enough to cover everything but its better than nothing."
Brooke gave him an annoyed look before reaching out for it, keeping one arm over her breasts until she had his coat in her possession and slipped it on over her shoulders. Unfortunately, it only covered part of her bottom half.
"Its okay, I won't look," Rad said, as he got up and looked away, knowing that he'd already seen what he needed to see and didn't feel the least bit guilty about it.
"What happened last night?" She asked sternly when they began to make their way through the woods. They passed over the metal walls that were now dormant in the ground below and continued onward towards Neshoba.
Rad shook his head. "Well, we found out that Don wasn't doing the whole Age of the Wolf thing at will; he was under the whim of his cannis conscious, which was sentient enough to lead the movement due to an acute personality disorder. It was the cannis that was calling the shots. He also didn't actually have the Apocalyptican in his possession; he probably did at some point, but lost it due to the curse. He had someone email him the pages he needed from the book to do the spell but I was able to destroy them before he could complete it. Reuben was supposed to subdue him afterwards but I never got to find out if he did or not; kind of had my hands full for the rest of the night."
"What?!" Brooke said, stopping her stride and staring at him incredulously.
"What? Oh No! I meant like with surviving the army of lycans. No I promise, I didn't do - I swear I didn't do what you're thinking. I just now found you. It was a figure of speech, that's all."
Brooke calmed down but was visibly still suspicious as she followed Rad onward through the forest. Rad swallowed anxiously and felt a very awkward tension in the air.
"So where are Reuben and Laser now?" she asked after a while.
"That's a good question." Rad reached down for his communicator watch and chimed into it. "Anyone there? This is Agent Radcliffe Munday, I repeat, anyone there?"
"Goddammit Cliff!" Rad heard Reuben's voice shouting through the communicator. "Where the hell have you been? I've been trying to contact you since last night! I thought you were dead!"
"Is that...Is that worry I hear in your voice, Reuben?"
"Yeah, I was worried I wouldn't get to snap your neck in person for ditching me last night."
"I didn't ditch you; in case you didn't see it for yourself, I had an army of werewolves chasing after my ass. I ended up getting knocked out shortly after I dealt with them."
"Whatever. We have Don in custody."
"Really?" Rad said with a bit of surprise. "Good work."
"Yeah, I really showed him what was up"-
"I sent in Turquoise," Rad heard Gloria say through the communicator.
"...Thanks Gloria," Reuben said after a short pause.
Rad chuckled. "Well as long as you got him, that's all that matters. I've got Brooke with me, where's Laser?"
"I don't know. I thought he was with you."
Rad and Brooke exchanged worried looks. "Did you hear back from him at all last night?"
"No, I figured wherever you were, he was."
"He was with me when we were getting chased but he had a vision and then ran farther into the forest well after we'd gotten rid of the horde. I lost him from there."
"How could you lose him? He's like the easiest guy in the world to keep up with. Jeez, I wonder how long you kept your pets before those suckers ran away, probably no longer than an hour."
"Okay, first of all I never"-
"Guys," said a voice into Rad's head, though it wasn't through the communicator, but rather telepathic. Rad looked over at Brooke to see that she was hearing it too and they were sure the rest of the team were tuned in as well. "Its okay, I'm all right. I'll meet you guys back in town square."
"Where have you been, dude?" Rad asked curiously.
"I'll explain when we meet up. Laser out."
The path through the woods led out to a neighborhood somewhere close to town square. Rad and Brooke came out to a clearing behind an old house with a clothesline in the back and some clothes already hung up on it, blowing in the wind. Rad suggested that Brooke grab what she wanted from them and they go somewhere where they wouldn't be seen for her to get dressed, just in case the house's residents were back inside from the insanity of the night before. Brooke followed his suggestion and grabbed a pair of jeans and a blue blouse from the clothesline before they left, traveling into a corn field around the block from the house.
In a clearing in the middle of the corn field, they stopped and Rad looked away while Brooke took off the peacoat and dressed herself. While she did so, he decided to make conversation, as the walk all the way there had been filled with awkward silence.
"You know," Rad started, carefully choosing his words. "That friend? The lycan friend who I helped learn how to become a Therian? He never actually made it through the training. We tried our hardest, but he never could completely control the transformation. So we ended up quitting it."
Brooke let out a sympathetic grunt, as if to show that she gave at least a little bit of a fuck what Rad was going on about. Rad continued. "But you know, I sort of...remembered the process. Memorized it. 'Cause you know, we tried it so many times, I just sort of, kept note of a lot of what I read. Thing is, he was just a teenager at the time, we both were. We didn't know what we were doing. But I see you've been at this for a long time, you've been a lycan for longer than he had been. I figured maybe, if you wanted...I don't know, I could teach you some of what I remembered. Try to see if we can help you reach Therian status, maybe you'll become a better asset to the team. Not that you aren't already a valuable asset, just saying, you'll have another trick up your sleeve. Only if you're up for it though, 'cause its pretty hard stuff and it takes a lot of work, but you seem tough enough to handle it. I figured I'd ask, since this whole deal might have"-
"Stop rambling please," Brooke called.
"Okay." Rad decided to keep his mouth closed as he waited. Eventually, Brooke addressed him again.
"How are you going to help me become a Therian if you might not even be on the team after this misson?"
Rad thought for a moment. He'd nearly forgotten that he wasn't even an official member of the unit and this was only a Single Case Trial; it barely even counted. Except it did, because they'd just saved the human race. And then it hit him. In his first case with PULSE, he'd saved humanity. His first case. Gloria wasn't kidding when she said he might be saving the world virtually every night. The feeling was exilerating. Instead of getting rid of some petty supernatural murderer that probably could have been taken out by any investigator, he'd actually made a difference last night. It wasn't the first time he'd done something this big, but it was the first time with PULSE and that was what mattered, since that was apparently what the organization was all about.
"Maybe I've decided to stay with you guys," Rad answered ambiguously. "Maybe I felt like we did good work yesterday."
Brooke let out another grunt, this one more definitive than the last, as if she knew he was going to stay with the team the entire time. And she probably did. They all probably did. Like Gloria told him, once you get a taste of the PULSE lifestyle, you won't want to let go. Rad could already see the disappointment in his amateur PI friends' faces.
When Brooke was fully dressed, the two made their way to town square for an interesting sight. There were men in suits watching over several individuals detained and sitting on the sidewalk with their hands behind their backs cuffed. Included in the bunch were the members of Horace's outfit, Markus, and the McCloud girl that Rad and Reuben had interrogated the day before; all people who were in on Don's plan. In the middle of the square, there were several large aircrafts parked by the groups, similar to the one that Gloria had brought the team in and one of which Rad recognized to actually be Gloria's aircraft. The men in suits were taking some of the detainees and escorting them aboard after questioning. As they walked up, Reuben was around to greet them, watching the men do their jobs and directing orders at them.
"Who're these guys?" Rad asked as he approached, eying the men in the suits.
"The politically correct version or the insulting version?" Reuben asked.
"They're PULSE Control Officers; We call them in at the end of every mission to arrest any major suspects for questioning, wipe memories of those we don't want remembering anything about us, get rid of records showing that we were around; basically clearing up our tracks while we hit the road for the next case. After we leave, they're gonna be keeping a close watch on the town's citizens to keep them in check."
"How were you going to make that insulting?"
"Well they're also a bunch of whiney ungrateful assholes who complain all the time when we leave more collateral damage or more of a mess than they're comfortable with. And they wonder why they don't ever get bumped up to Agent status."
Rad looked past Reuben at one of the men and recognized him immediately. "Holy crap," Rad said walking past him and heading over to one of the control officers, a tall man with an authoritative demeanor and sharp features who Rad recognized to be Chad Rowland, Former Detective of the Camden Police Department. "Hey, Detective!"
Chad, who had been discussing affairs with another one of his colleagues turned to Rad confusedly. Rad smiled brightly when he reached him. "Dude, I haven't seen you since like...two days ago. Wow, seemed like a lot longer ago than that."
"Um," Chad said awkwardly. "Do I know you?"
"You don't remember me? Come on, we've been through some good times together! Oh, wait a minute. I forgot, Gloria wiped your memory."
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about; listen, believe it or not, I'm trying to do my job, so if you'll excuse me"-
"How'd you get this job?"
"Its just that like two days ago, you were a detective for the Camden Police Department and now you're a Control Officer for PULSE. How'd that happen?"
Chad was already growing impatient. "I got a volunteer notice in my office mailbox asking me to come in two days ago, I got briefed yesterday, and here I am."
"Oh, so today's your first day on the field. Mine too, man. Well technically it was yesterday, but you know what I mean. High-five." Chad simply stared at Rad at a lost for words, so Rad grabbed his hand for him which was dormant by his side and slapped it against his own. "Well, wish you the best. Later."
As Rad walked away, Chad simply shook his head and walked back over to his men to consult with them. Rad would learn later that because Chad and many of the officers had been involved in the prevention of the break out during his escape, PULSE attempted to kill two birds with one stone and evaluate their performances in the midst of the action. Chad must have done well, despite letting Rad go, so they contacted him and asked him to become apart of PULSE's Control Team. That was how the majority of that section of the organization was recruited. Rad returned to Reuben and Brooke, looking around for any sign of Laser.
"Is he here yet?"
"Actually yeah," Reuben said, heading over to one of the stores just off from the sidewalk they were standing on. "He's in here, but he's not looking too good."
Reuben led the two of them inside and they walked into the furniture store to see Gloria leaned over one of the sofas with Laser lying in it, shirtless. As they walked to join him, Laser suddenly entered a vicious coughing fit and leaned over to the bucket lying by the sofa, spitting multiple mouthfuls of phlegm into it to the point where it looked like he was vomitting. Once he leaned back in the sofa, Gloria placed a wet rag over his head gently.
"What the hell happened?" Rad asked at the sight of him.
"He came in just a little while ago a complete wreck," Gloria said, shrugging. "Your guess is as good as mine."
Laser's breath was very short and his eyes were closed, his arms up above his head as he continuously swallowed through his breathing.
The group moved closer to him. "How are you feeling?" Brooke asked sincerely.
"Exhausted," he answered with a raspy fatigued voice, his breathing still short and his speech choppy because of it. "Just exhausted, that's all. I'll feel better after a while."
"Where have you been all night, dude?" Rad asked.
"Look over there," Laser said. He threw his hand up and pointed across the room to a coffee table next to an ottoman and another sofa. "That should answer your question."
Rad walked quickly over to where he pointed but stopped his stride at the sight of what was lying on the coffee table. A decrepit looking old paperback book with an eroding cover was lying before him in otherwise fair condition. Rad reached for it and picked it up quickly before looking back at the group, who was staring at him anxiously because of his worried expression.
"Its..." Rad said looking down at it and examining it. "It's the Apocalyptican."
"That old thing?" Reuben said, looking at it with disbelief. "That's the book Laser was harping about when he filled me in last night? That's the manifesto of the apocalypse?"
"Yeah," Rad said in a near whisper, his hand visibly shaking with it in his grip. "Just like how I remembered it. It never changes. No matter where it goes, it always stays in this condition. Where did you find it?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Laser turned to Rad with his eyes barely open. "Jefferson fucking City."
Rad wasn't even sure if he'd heard him correctly. "Jefferson City," he repeated and Laser nodded. "Missouri." Laser nodded once more.
"How did you get to Missouri and back in one night?" Gloria asked curiously.
"I ran. All night. Until I found it. Then I ran back. Why do you think I'm so beat?"
Rad was overcome with disbelief. "You do know that's three states away, right?"
"Oh, believe me," Laser said coughing heavily again before leaning over to spit another mouthful of phlegm into the bucket. "I know."
"I honestly don't know. I was in a trance. I couldn't stop running. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before."
"That shouldn't even be humanly possible," Reuben said in total confusion. "No offense, Laser, but a boy of your stature and shape shouldn't be able to survive a run through three states and back without keeling over."
"You don't think I know that? I must've thrown up like ten times the entire run. Honestly, I'm just as clueless as you guys as to how this even happened."
"Where in Jefferson City did you find the book?" Rad asked.
"Um, I don't know...Some apartment next to an Amtrak Station. It was empty when I got there."
"That sound familiar to you?" Brooke asked, turning to Rad.
Rad shook his head and shrugged. "I've never even been there. But maybe that's where the guy who sent the emails to Fleming came from. Maybe we can do our research into who owns it."
"Or maybe you can ask the Sheriff himself," Reuben said, looking out of the window by the entrance of the store. Rad got up to join him and could see that Don, who was being held down by a pair of men with handcuffs around his wrists behind his back, was beginning to put up a fight.
"Do those cuffs keep him from changing form?" Rad asked worriedly.
Rad didn't answer but quickly stepped out of the store to get a better of view of what was happening. Just as Don spotted Rad in his line of view, he sprang into action, his muscles contracting and his face growing more beast-like. He jumped up, knocking the men away and breaking the cuffs around his wrists. In the blink of an eye, he was back into his werewolf form and charging in Rad's direction. Without a second thought, Rad reached into his peacoat for the Fat Lady and switched it to its crossbow function, pulling the trigger. At that exact moment, he realized that he had run out of tranquilizer bolts last night. What was being shot at Don at that moment was among his poison-laced artillery. The bolt struck Don right in the chest and him collapsed to the concrete right in front of Rad, just out of reach. Don reverted back to his human form, holding his chest, the bolt of which was protruding from its wound. As the men ran back over to apprehend him, he rolled onto his back and began to chuckle loudly.
"Radcliffe," he croaked weakly with a crooked smile and a hoarse laugh. "You realize you have just singlehandedly doomed the world, right?"
"You don't get it, do you?" he said. Rad quickly realized that it was now Don speaking and not his cannis conscious. "They need you. You being alive only furthers their plans. Goes to show when you try to do the world a favor, it always comes back to bite you on the ass. But you can't say I didn't try."
"Who's 'they'?" Rad said aggressively, pointing the Fat Lady at him once again. "PULSE?"
As the light began to leave Don's eyes, he smiled brightly. "Oh, you will sincerely wish it was them..."
By the time the men had begun to cart him off, Don's face had lost all motion but his twisted smirk was left behind. They carried him back over to the aircrafts where they were now preparing a bodybag for him. Reuben had already come out to see him get carted away and shook his head pathetically.
"See what I mean? You guys have one job. Can't even do that shit right. Anyways, good work icing him, mate. He probably wasn't going to talk anyway."
"Yeah," Rad said with little emotion, shaken by Sheriff Fleming's farewell message. "Probably not."
As Rad would soon come to learn, each successful case solved by the team would warrant a rather large celebration that would include a full-fledged Thanksgiving-like feast, copious amounts of drinking, and general socialization among the team. The reason being was to show their gratefulness towards their mutual survival and the success of the case overall. With so much danger and an overall lack of guarantee that any of them would make it out of any case alive, they all felt that a need to celebrate one more day of life was just as important as taking part in the case.
There was a combined kitchen and living room area located a corridor away from where Barnes' office stood and the six of them spent the evening eating, drinking, and relaxing. Laser had some tunes from his favorite artist, Flying Lotus, playing in the background. Rad wasn't big into modern music; he preferred old R&B and Classic Rock to the trending tunes of today, but didn't mind the electronic vibe being played on the loud speakers of the hybrid room. After all the food had been consumed, the group sat around the high table in the kitchen on a set of stools that surrounded it. Barnes was mixing himself a Brown Russian cocktail while Reuben threw back his own shot of scotch. Gloria was sipping a fine glass of red wine, Brooke drinking from a bottle of gin, and Rad consuming his favorite cocktail which was a Boston Sour, while Laser stuck to good old-fashioned Dr. Pepper. As they got caught up in the festivities, Barnes stopped them to start the toast.
"So as always, I'd like to congratulate you all on another job well done. I'm sincerely proud of every one of you for working dilligently and effectively...except for you Reuben, since you nearly sabotaged the entire team."
"Hey, that was not my fault," Reuben protested. "I admit, cutting off coms with Gloria was my doing but you guys getting yourselves captured was of your own mistake."
"Except for me," Rad interjected. "I would have gotten away if you hadn't interfered."
"Not my fault, I already warned you how things were. Besides, if the rest of my team gets captured and you think I'm going to let you make it out so you can bail out on the mission, you're off your rocker."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that's the second time you've hinted that you actually want me on this team. You got something you want to share with me, Reuben?"
"Yes, these nuts in your mouth if you don't shut the hell up."
"That's the second time you've made a homoerotic comment to me in the last two days, you got something you want to share with all of us, Reuben? Its okay, we won't judge."
"Hey, you know what?" Reuben picked some half-melted ice out of one of the empty glasses and flicked it at Rad, who knocked it away.
"All right, settle down children," Barnes said with a chuckle, shaking his head. "Despite the rough patches, you all still performed admirably and the mission was a success. That's all that matters. Another disaster averted."
"Right," Reuben said, raising his glass of whiskey. "Toast!"
"Reuben," Gloria called annoyingly.
"We have to toast in Rad," Laser said.
"Why? He's gonna leave after the next case, watch."
"As much as I know you'd lose sleep over that, you shouldn't be worried because I'm not going anywhere. At least for a while. So I'll get started on my list of Twilight jokes for you immediately."
"Lovely. I'll be sure to get my fill of hipster jokes out of the way myself"-
"HEY!" Rad exclaimed, pointing at Reuben sternly. "I am NOT a hipster. I just dress like one."
"Spoken like a true hipster. Hey, I just got back from seeing War-Destroyer in 3D a few days ago. If you want, I can pop out the lenses to my 3D glasses and let you borrow them."
Rad grew increasingly irritated which only fueled the group's hysterics as they began to laugh at their exchange. "Getting real tired of your shit, Reuben."
"Okay," Barnes interrupted again. "Jeez, can barely talk without you two going at it. Anyway, its my pleasure to welcome Mr. Radcliffe Munday, Paranormal Investigator Extraordinaire, to the Scarecrow Unit of the Paranormal United Law and Security Enterprise. Welcome to the team, Rad."
"Thanks for having me, guys." Rad lifted his glass as the rest of their team, Reuben albeit reluctantly, took a drink in his honor. "You're an all-right crew too. I have to admit, I wasn't big on working on teams before but considering the fact that the last case was the best experience I've had working with others in the history of my career, I'd say that's a good sign for the future. But all we have right now is right now. So turn up the music and let's get shit-faced."
The team toasted their glasses together jovially and returned to the festivities of the night.
The Apocalyptican was being kept in Barnes' study, which was available for access by the team at all times. A few hours after their party when most of everyone had gone to sleep or retired to their rooms, Brooke entered the study and after a minute of browsing, saw the book placed inside of one of the shelves. Out of curiousity, she pulled it out and opened it. A book that details every plausible and prophecized apocalyptic event on the horizon, she thought. Any one of them could and at some point would come true. This alone sparked her interest. With it in their possession, they could set their priorities towards preventing as many as they could and reduce the chances of them coming true. Rad made it seem as if this would be a lost cause but with the map that led in the right direction in the palm of their hand, they would at least be able to do what they could to see to it that the world would remain safe for another day.
The text was small and looked as if it were written by hand. There were no pictures but every few pages, there was a small drawn rectangle with a part of it shaded in in what looked like pencil, filled in partially, the shading varying from page to page. They must be the meters that Rad mentioned, Brooke thought. They weren't moving when she looked at them but she figured that if she were to put it down and come back in a few days, there would be progress. Or some may be drained. She couldn't tell if the rectangles had to be fuller or emptier to determine how close the apocalyptic scenario was from transpiring. From her skimming alone, she could see that some of the scenarios were tame while others were particularly vicious; they ranged from worldwide eternal blackout to nuclear holocaust, from zombie outbreaks to the destruction of the ozone layer leading to the Earth being scortched by the sun, from Witch-induced Global Warming exceleration to Interdimensional Rift research causing the creation of a Black Hole that sucks up everything in our part of the galaxy, including our sun, ripping apart the atoms of everything going through it. Definitely a depressing read, Brooke thought.
The door to the study was still open and she heard a door close down the hallway, but she didn't pay it any attention. As the footsteps grew and the figure entered the study, she saw that it was Rad, but she could see in his face that he was furious. He sprinted forward, snatching the book out of her hand forcefully.
"What the hell are you doing?!" he shouted almost at the top of his lungs, his face red with anger.
"What?" Brooke said, looking around in confusion.
"Did you forget what I said about the adverse effects? Don't EVER read from the Apocalyptican. Never, Brooke. Never"-
"Okay, I heard you," she said, throwing up her hands irritably.
Rad rolled his eyes and headed to the locker on the other side of the room. As instructed earlier, the study was a place accessible by all of the agents, but everyone was entitled to their own locker where they could keep their valuables and lock them away from others using the keys they were given for their rooms along with a six digit passcode. Rad walked to his, pressed his code, unlocked it, and put the book inside.
"What is up with you?" Brooke asked with frustration.
"If I catch you reading the book, Brooke," Rad said, turning to her with a flare in his eyes that he had rarely ever shown before. In fact, he'd never shown it before. Not for years. "Brooke, don't let me catch you reading this book, ever"-
"And what are you going to do if you do catch me"-
"I'll kill you. And I won't hesitate for a second. That's my only warning."
Brooke was slightly taken aback by this sudden aggression and was offended that he had so boldly threatened her. But then she realized there must be a reason behind it.
"So its that serious, huh?"
"Its that serious."
Rad turned away from her. "That's my business."
"You're not going to tell me?"
"There's nothing to tell."
Brooke nodded her head but with restriction. "Okay," she said, heading for the door. She started to walk through it but she stopped at the doorway and turned around to walk back in.
"You know," she said, looking down to gather her thoughts carefully. "I was twelve when I got turned. Into a werewolf. Twelve years old. And you know the first thing I did when I got turned?" Rad shrugged when she paused. "I killed my family. I ripped out my father's throat with my teeth. I felt my mother's innards on my paws. I tore off my brother and sister's faces. And as you know, on the first transformation, you remember everything you do. I remembered it all and there was nothing I could do to stop it."
Rad felt a chill roll down his spine. "Why are you telling me this?"-
"Because," she said, raising her voice, then pointed directly at him. "You just got here. You JUST got here. I've been here for 4 years. Laser's been here for 2. Gloria, 6, Barnes, 29. And Reuben's been in PULSE for over 40 years, can you believe that? And YOU just got here. So you don't get to keep secrets. You don't get to threaten me to my face without a valid reason. You don't get to hide what you've done just because you don't want us to judge you. Because YOU just got here. Everybody knows my story. Everybody knows everyone's story. Except yours. No one trusts people who hold secrets. So before you go hiding more shit from us, I'm going to let you know right now, you can keep it to yourself if you want. But if I find out you're withholding crucial evidence or information that we need just because you want to be all squeaky clean in our eyes, I will personally see to it that you never work in the business of paranormal investigation ever again. And yes, its THAT serious."
Rad swallowed hard, his hands behind his back to keep them from shaking. He really didn't want to say anything. Every fiber of his being was telling him not to. But before he could stop himself, his lips began to quiver and from the moment the first sound slipped from his mouth, he knew he wasn't going to stop.
"I used to own the Apocalyptican...I told you that already. I had it longer than anyone in the world, I think. I had it for a year. And even if I found myself surrounded by the dead bodies of people I used to know for an entire year, instead of just one day like it happened for me...even then, that year I owned that book will still be, without a doubt, the worst year of my entire life."
Brooke listened intently, walking closer to him. "What happened?"
Rad knew he could stop here but something in him kept going. This would be the first time he'd tell a person this story since it occured. "I had a friend. A different one from my lycan friend, this one was human. He was the same age as me, both of us teenagers. I wasn't into the investigation business yet, I was still learning. But I was really into the paranormal. The volunteers at the Foster Home said it was an obsession, but they couldn't see what I could. But he did. He also had a fascination with the paranormal. And so we became friends. Best friends. We had this ridiculous dream of...building this like...paranormal investigation service together, like, we'd work as a duo and people could call in to our business and we'd jump into action, you know, come to the rescue...like the Ghostbusters or something."
Rad chuckled but Brooke could tell that he was getting emotional. "And I fucked it up. I fucked it all up...all because of that book. I'd known him for a year before it landed in my possession and in the year following it, the year I had it, I...changed. I became a different person. No...no, that's giving myself too much credit; I was the same person, I'd just turned into some twisted version of what I was and refused to think I was anything other than what I had always been - instead, I accused him of being the one that changed. Long story short, the book...it made me do the worst things...things you can't even imagine. Things that made me stronger than anyone else on this planet. And he...he was the only one who could stop me. And he did. And he died for it. And in the process, he not only saved my life, he saved the world. And I was left behind."
Brooke was hesitant but spoke up. "What was his name?"
Rad chuckled again but a tear slipped from his eye. He wiped it away so quickly that she barely saw it fall. "Isn't that something?" he said, his eyes growing red and full. "I can't even remember...I can't even remember his fucking name. What does that say about me? I mean I'd become...I'd become Don, I'd become the bad guy and that book turned me into this, this shell of what I used to be. It does that, it turns you into a pawn, it makes you an unwilling contributor and catalyst to one of its apocalypses against your will. And he stopped me. He was more of a hero than I ever was, than I ever could be. He should be here, living out his dreams, he should be here right now on this team, and I should be fucking dead!"
Rad soon closed his eyes and shook his head, wary of showing too much emotion to this woman that he barely even knew.
"My first thought when he was gone was to kill myself. I didn't even consider an alternative, not immediately. And then I thought, how can I make up for this? And the truth is, I really can't. I can try, but I'll never be able to completely erase what I did. So I figured the best I could do would be to live the life he wanted, to make a difference in the world like he desired to, like we both desired to before I went off the deep end. Everything I do in my career, I do to honor his memory. Because I should be dead right now. But I'm not. So I've got to make the best out of my waste of a life, if only to make sure he didn't sacrifice his in vain."
Brooke was speechless, watching Rad closely as he stopped talking for a moment and there was nothing but silence in the study before he spoke again.
"Its gonna call to you, now that you've looked into it. Its already got that allure, that curiousity element that makes you want to take a peak inside and that's how it gets you. Once you see what's inside, you start to wonder how you can make a difference, how you can prevent all of this from happening and that just makes you want to read more until you come to changing conclusions, like a metamorphosis that you won't ever see coming; first, you realize you can't change all of them so you want to change as many as you can by learning more about them, then you want to change them by practicing its instructions and rituals, and then before you know it...you don't want to change them at all. You want to see it happen. Before your eyes. You want to see if its actually possible to have so many people's fates in your hands and crush them in your grip, to do what so many have failed to do. I'm living proof that its not even remotely worth it, Brooke. I know how it is, its like a drug, its going to make you want it, but you've got to fight it with your dying breath. Don't ever read the book, Brooke. Please. Don't ever. Its not worth it."
Brooke nodded with understanding and Rad sighed with a heavy feeling of relief after getting his feelings off his chest.
"I'm sorry that I threatened you. Its just that I'd hate to see you go through the same thing I did. There's a reason why it doesn't stay in a person's possession for longer than a month. Its cursed, its designed to land in the hands of a new person who will help further one of its apocalypses. I'm willing to bet 65% of the apocalypses prophesized by the book progress through people who read the book. There have been instances where a group of investigators stop someone from bringing about an apocalypse through the book, only to have the book fall into the group's hands and make them pawns to another prophecy. Its a never-ending cycle."
"Well, the book is in our possession now. There's tight security down here"-
"Brooke," Rad said with deep tension in his voice. He looked at her with the weary and tired eyes of a man who felt much older than he was. "I can't stress it enough. Please...please don't read the book."
"Okay, Rad I got that but"-
"Its going to get out. Somehow. I don't know how but its not staying here forever. Its going to find its way out of here. So I'm begging you, please, Brooke. Don't be its way out."
Brooke paused, realizing where he was coming from. "I don't suppose just burning it will make a difference?"
"That book has been around for thousands and thousands of years. You don't think someone at some point tried that already? Myself included?"
"Yeah, I figured," she said, shaking her head. "Look, I'm sorry"-
"Don't be. Look I barely even know you, but you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. You're right, I just got here. I don't have the right to keep that information from you and you deserve to know the full capabilities of the book's power. You come from a dark past. That already makes you a prime target. Just be smart about it. It's one of the most dangerous objects in the world, so we have be careful of how we handle it."
"Okay," she said with a nod as she started for the door once again but before stepping through once more, she turned back to Rad and walked up to him. He had been leaning on the lockers on the other side of the room and he reared back vigilantly when she approached him, not knowing what to expect. After a moment of staring up, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. This caught him offguard even more. Because she was so short, he had to lean over to hug her back. When he did, he closed his eyes and felt much better. He needed it.
When they parted, Brooke quickly slapped him across the face before pointing at him sternly. "Don't tell anyone I did that or I'll hurt you."
Rad could do nothing but smile as he rubbed his cheek. Brooke stepped away from him and headed for the door, speaking over her shoulder as she walked.
"I appreciate you being brave enough to share your story with me. You've earned my respect, Rad Munday."
Rad nodded appreciatively. "I'm honored."
"I'll think about that offer. About the Therian thing. I'll get back to you on it later."
"Good. Looking forward to it."
She didn't look back at him again until she was out of the room. Rad closed his eyes and laid his head back on the lockers unsure of how he should feel. He definitely felt better now that he'd let out his bottled up feelings from so many years ago, but part of him felt especially vulnerable and a little embarassed, especially since he'd let himself out in front of such a heavily guarded individual like Brooke. But then again, she had let her own guard down to get him to spill the beans by revealing her own past to him, so they both had done a degree of opening up. He guessed that it was mainly that he had taken the first step of letting go of his grief by confessing it and now that such a large part of him that had once been tightly held against his chest was now coming loose, that part of him being his guilt, he wasn't sure how he should feel about it. It was the guilt that kept him going, kept him excelling in his studies and inadvertedly gave him the motivation to become so adept in his field. Now he didn't know what to do with it; moving on would be the healthiest option but the most taxing on his self-esteem, since he felt he needed to stay guilty to atone for his sins. But he did secretly hope that in some way he'd be able to overcome this acute feeling, to at some point realize that he had once been young and easily manipulated and as an older wiser man, he will moved forward from his naive young life. Now that that was finally on the horizon, he could tell already that the transition wouldn't be easy but it would definitely be worth the effort.
Rad realized that he'd put down his liquor glass by the table on his way into the room when he took the book from Brooke. He walked over to it and tossed back the half-full glass in a single bound, figuring then that the only reason why he'd had the courage to spill his guts to Brooke in the first place was because he was mostly drunk. With this in mind, he walked out of the room, hoping that the mixed feelings he was having that night will have faded away into the morning hangover.