11/23/2012

Rad Munday - Case #1: Land Of The Lycan Act V




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."

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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.

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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.

"Politically correct."

"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?"

"I'm sorry?"

"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."

"Humor me."

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."

"What?"

"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."

"But why?"

"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.

"No.  Why?"

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?"

"What?"

"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."

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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.

"What?"

"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.

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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."

"Why?"

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.


11/20/2012

Rad Munday - Case #1: Land Of The Lycan Act IV




Rad and Laser took a vacant car from the street, hotwired it, and sent it flying down the road that was currently covered in giant ferocious beasts.

"Isn't there a fence or something that's supposed to go up at night for these guys?" Laser asked curiously as they proceeded to dodge the lycans, praying that they did nothing to retaliate.  So far, they seemed to be tending to their own businesses.  As long as they did nothing to antagonize them, they felt they would be fine.

"Its supposed to, but you see how they didn't really board up the town much.  I don't think they plan on returning."

"So what's this mental condition that Fleming apparently has?"

"Its like a lycan personality disorder," Rad answered, keeping his eyes on the road.  "You know how we humans have two parts of our minds: The conscious and the unconscious mind?"

"Right."

"Well lycans have three parts: The conscious, the unconscious, and the cannis conscious mind.  The cannis conscious is the part of them you're seeing right now."

"The werewolf part."

"Exactly.  Its primitive and barely knows what its doing, so its only used in situations like this.  However, it is apart of their mind and it does think on its own, so its almost like a second personality."

"I think I see where this is going," Laser said.

"Yeah.  Thing is when Don first used the Apocalyptican to teach him and his brother how to become Therians, he inadvertedly gave his cannis conscious a little more intelligence.  Enough to make it think for itself sentiently.  It was probably because of his use of the Apocalyptican to meet his demands; it has adverse effects on its readers like that.  I'm willing to bet that its his cannis conscious that is giving the orders, the one that wants to begin the Age of the Wolf.  Don had actually created a second email address and was communicating with his cannis conscious through it as he planned this whole thing out.  I bet his regular conscious is probably just a slave.  I believe this was probably the reason why his thoughts came out choppy when you tried to read his mind, they were being overshadowed and deliberately hidden by the cannis conscious."

"Wow," Laser said, looking back at the road.  "So did you find out anything else?"

Rad looked over at Laser with obvious hesitation.  "No," he said finally, turning back to the road.

"Rad?"

"What?"

"I can read your mind."

Rad swore under his breath and rubbed his head awkwardly.

"Its okay, I won't tell anyone," Laser said, looking back on the road as they took a right turn onto the next street.  "That's kind of fucked up"-

"I don't want to talk about it," Rad said firmly, his expression blank.

"Okay, I understand.  Let's just hope this municipaldragon34 isn't who you think it is."

As the two continued on, a large sprinting werewolf charged across the street right in their path and Rad reacted.  He jerked the wheel but the back end of the car still hit the figure, causing it to spin out of control and flip through the air several times before crashing to a stop upside down.  Rad slithered quickly out of the broken passenger side window, relatively unscathed but rattled by the crash.  He had the Fat Lady at the ready, his eyes darting about vigilantly.  A large lycan was charging toward him from his right side.  He turned to it and fired a tranquilizer bolt directly at it, causing it to fall to its knees and slid to a stop next to the car.  There was another one coming from the opposite end of the street, which Rad was forced to put down in the same way.  As he took out more and more of the lycans that were swarming them, Laser climbed out of the car as well and spotted a lycan that happened to be standing on top of the building right by where they had crashed, but out of Rad's line of view.

"Rad, look out!" He shouted as the lycan launched forward, propelling itself into the air.  Rad turned around and saw it falling forward, its claws reared back for the strike.  He fired a tranquilizer at it quickly and dove out of the way as it collapsed onto the concrete road where he'd just been standing.  Rad stood up and took a heavy sigh.

"That was too close."

"Sorry, I didn't have enough time to stop it," Laser said, catching his breath as well.

"Its fine.  We've got to keep going on foot.  Let's go."  Rad and Laser pressed on down the road, keeping a wary eye out for any lycans that happened to catch their scent or spot them as they crept along quickly and silently.  They were forced to cut through a wooded area to get to the next part of town, coming out right behind Horace's trailer in front of the culdesac of dirt and old equipment.  Continuing on, they sprinted along the pathway that led to the fence where Rad and Reuben had chased Markus.  Rad helped haul Laser over and Rad followed him by climbing over by himself.  They kept walking, Rad shooting down any lycan that spotted them with a tranquilizer bolt.  There weren't many that were deliberately antagonizing them on their journey, but the ones that did had to be dealt with.  Rad formulated a plan as he went.  They needed to find Sheriff Fleming.  Whether or not he'd be in his human form was hard to determine because unless he was hiding somewhere in the confides of lycanberg, it was kind of likely that he would be in his werewolf form, simply to blend in with the others.  On the other hand, Rad could imagine being a sentient therian in a town full of crazed werewolves would be like being a teenager playing on a tremendous daycare/playground with young children.  The entertainment would ware out fast.  One thing was for sure though: Don needed to be captured alive.  Above anything, Rad needed to find the whereabouts of the Apocalyptican just in case Don was actually in possession of it.  It was a dangerous object and needed to be contained or else they could have another apocalyptic scenario on their hands.

As they continued to run across the streets of Neshoba, Rad could hear his communicator come to life with the sound of Reuben's voice slightly strained and partially exhausted.  "Cliff," it croaked weakly.  "Brooke, Laser, anyone."

"Reuben," Rad said as he kept moving.  "Where are you?"

"Oh God, Oh God!"

"Reuben!"

"I'm...damn it.  I'm at the warehouse!"

"We're headed there now."  Rad and Laser sprinted ahead to the big tree behind the warehouse.  They burst in through the back door, but were forced to stop in their tracks...at the sight of four lycans gathered around in the center of the empty building.  Rad and Laser hadn't been noticed yet, but they could see that the lycans were staring up at a figure that happened to be hanging from the ceiling by a rope with his arms also bound.  Closer observation showed them that it was Reuben, hanging by his ankles upside down at the whim of the lycans below him.  The lycans were hopping into the air, hoping to get their claws on the dangling slab of vampire meat hanging above them.  Out of the corner of his eye, Rad spotted one of the lycans climbing up an old scaffolding structure, trying to make its way closer to Reuben.  Parts of it broke off on its journey upward.  Once it had readied itself to pounce for him, Rad held up the Fat Lady and fired three tranquilizer bolts at it, causing the lycan to fall from the scaffolding, colliding with the metal poles and wooden planks on the way down.  As the other lycans caught wind of what was happening, Rad fired another round of bolts in their direction and dropping them where they stood.  Once they had fallen, Reuben took a sigh of relief.

"All right, now get me down from here," he said forcefully.

"I didn't hear a please or a thank you," Rad teased, standing casually.

"I am going to slit your throat and watch you bleed to"-

"You're not going to do anything stuck up there."

Reuben sighed annoyingly.  "Please get me down from here."

"Good boy."  Rad raised the Fat Lady and reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a small metal shuriken.  He took out the bolts already fixed into the crossbow and replaced them with the shuriken before aiming up above the rope and firing.  The shuriken sliced through the air and cut through the rope, allowing Reuben to fall.  He broke the part of the rope that bound his feet, flipped through the air, and landed gracefully directly in front of the two.  He walked over to them bitterly.  "Need me to cut off"-

"I've got it," Reuben answered aggressively, straining hard and finally tearing out of the ropes that bound his arms together.  The threads sprinkled onto the floor of the warehouse and he was finally free.  "Now.  Let's get that bastard, Fleming."

"You know where he is?" Laser asked curiously.

"Yeah, he was the one who tied me up there and left me with the varmins.  He's in the church."

"Let's go get him then," Rad said as they turned and headed for the exit of the warehouse.  Just then, something occurred to him.  "Oh yeah, you owe me a free save by the way, Reuben.  Don't think I'll forget."

Reuben snarled silently as they sprinted out onto the street in front of the church and burst through, vigilant and on the offensive, ready for anything that might be waiting for them on the other side.  Laser was instructed by Rad telepathically to fill Reuben in on the situation so he wouldn't pounce after Don with murderous intent.  The church was empty but they could hear loud noises come from the back room behind the altar where someone was shouting.  The trio dashed across the church to the back and burst through to see three people in the room: Horace who stood in front of Don and the woman who had been leading the congregation earlier, Don holding the latter at gunpoint with his arm around her torso tightly.  As soon as they burst through, Don, who had been startled by the sudden intrusion accidentally pulled the trigger, firing the gun into the woman's head.

"NO!" Don screamed as she fell from his grip and slumped to the ground, blood spilling from her temple onto the floor.

"Oh crap!" Rad exclaimed, watching the scene unfold in front of him.

"Don't worry about it," Horace declared loudly, sprinting forward at Don and grabbing him by the throat, pinning him against the wall.  "She was in on it with him.  All of the mothers were.  They gave up their daughters for this madness."

"Horace!" Don struggled to say under the pressure of his brother's grip.  "You can't get him out this way!"

"Horace, what are you doing?" Laser shouted.

"He had the woman at gunpoint to stop me from attacking him.  He knows what I want.  Give me what I want!"

"He's not going to give you what you want!" Don shouted at him.  "Aggression is not going to get him out."

"Horace, we know what's going on," Rad explained calmly.  "We know that Don's cannis conscious is the mastermind behind all of this."

"Did he tell you that?!" Don shouted back at them.  "You don't understand"-

Suddenly, Don stopped speaking and his face went blank.  A moment later, he reached forward and forced his palm into the side of Horace's elbow.  It snapped inward from the movement and as Horace called out in pain, Don shot forward from the wall, placed his hands on Horace's chin and the back of his head, and snapped his neck with abnormal ease.  Horace collapsed to the floor and Don stood over him triumphantly.

"Its over, young one," he whispered under his breath.  The three of them could see that Don's pupils were now glowing a bright golden hue.  "Sleep in peace now."

Rad rose the Fat Lady angrily.  "Stop right there."

Don looked up at Rad with gentle eyes and spoke with a voice as graceful as smoke.  "Please put your weapon down, Radcliffe."

Rad was slightly taken aback.  "How do you know my name?"

"I've been told exactly who you are.  You're the Disciple."

"Who's Disciple?  What are you talking about?"

"In due time, Radcliffe.  Now if you'll excuse me."  Don turned quickly and in the blink of an eye, reverted to his lycan form and dove through the window at the end of the room, sprinting on all fours into the woods behind the church.  Rad ran to the window and dove through, aiming the Fat Lady at the shadow that was fading into the darkness of the forest.  He pulled the trigger but there was a click.  Rad pulled the weapon back to him and realized that he hadn't re-administered the tranquilizer bolts he'd taken out when he'd replaced it with the shuriken and Horace was already too far ahead for him to have time to do it now.  He couldn't use the Poison-Laced, Lethal, or Explosive bolts, since he needed Don and his cannis alive.  It was apparent that he knew more than Horace had let on.  They needed to find him and fast.

--------------------------------------------------

Reuben scouted ahead and found Don in the middle of an empty field in the town's park, directing the other lycans to the location.  Rad and Laser had made it to the top of a hill overlooking the field, watching the scene unfold before them.  Don's cannis conscious was controlling the crowd of lycans from the top of a makeshift wooden platform in the center of the field with relative ease, speaking in an unknown language that they somehow understood and this alone kept them at bay for the time being.

"Reuben, we're in position," Rad said into his watch communicator.

"Good.  I hope you're right about this."

"I already know I am.  He's using the printed off copies from the book to address the crowd," Rad responded, watching as Don pulled out several folded sheets of paper from deep within his jacket pocket and unfolded them while the crowd of lycans watched him patiently.  They stared at him in wonder, all standing on all fours, paying the utmost attention to the man standing before them from the top of the wooden podium.  "What is he saying?  Do you know?"

"Hard to say," Laser said, trying to interpret his thoughts from afar.  "Sounds like he's telling them they're about to be liberated or something to that effect...now he's reciting the spell.  The big one.  But in a language that only the wolves will be able to understand."

"Figured as much.  The spell is pretty long, so we've got a bit of time.  This should be easy."

"Easy?" Laser said, turning to him in confusion.  "Are you sure about that?"

"Meh," Rad shrugged.  In the process, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled the Fat Lady out once again, lying it down in front of him and prying into the side of it with his fingernails.

"What are you doing?"

"About to use another one of the features of the Fat Lady.  Don't worry, its simple.  I only use it when I run out of bolts for the crossbow."  Rad pried open the light and pulled it back for Laser to see what was inside.  There was a small black device, about the size of a marker that Rad grabbed first and accompanying them was a collection of arrows lying inside.  Rad slid back two prongs on either end of the marker-like device and then held it out in the palm of his hand as the little device began to unfold and transform into a thin fully functional shooting bow.  He grabbed one of the arrows from inside the Fat Lady and stood up with it, obscured from the sight of anyone down on the field by the trees and bushes surrounding him.

"Whoa," Laser said, astonished.  "How are you able to configure this thing to handle all of these functions?"

"Just something me and a friend of mine came up with together called cyber-sorcery.  Kind of an interesting means of combining technology with magic."

"But I thought the two were incapable of compatibility."

Rad shrugged while attaching the elastic string from one limb of the bow to the other.  "That was determined back when electronics were first developing.  People came to the conclusion that magic doesn't work with any form of technology, but with today's, they fit together like bread and butter.  You'd be surprised."

"Wow," Laser said.  "So who was the friend that helped you make it?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Well I can always read your mind to verify."

"Go ahead then."

Laser focused before his eyes went wide with excitement.  "No way!"

"Yep," Rad said, nodding proudly.  "Maybe you'll get to meet him one day."

"Wow, I can't believe its true.  He really did make Philosopher's Stone."

"Yeah," Rad said, looking up annoyingly.  "And he never stops bragging about it either."

With the bow now completely configured, Rad slid the arrow into place, pulling back on the string and measuring his aim and distance.  Down below, the lycans began to roar in unison at Don, who was addressing them with a fiery passion, as if he were completely in control of their will.

"You might need to hurry it up there, Robin Hood, we don't know how much time we've got left before he finishes," Reuben said impatiently through the communicator.  "And make sure you make that shot count, we can't get another one."

"Hey, you want to come up here and do this?" Rad said irritably.

"Just shut up and shoot the damn thing before I come up there and shove it up your ass."

"Kinky," Rad said, readying the arrow in his bow and aiming his sights down at the figure below.  "Too bad I don't swing that way."

With his target in sight, Rad aimed directly at the spot right above Sheriff Fleming's head, paying attention to his movements on the wooden stage as he recited the spell.  As soon as Don stepped in the arrow's path, Rad took a slow exhale and released the arrow from his grip.  The arrow zipped through the air swiftly, shooting at full speed towards its target.

Just before embedding itself into the back of the Sheriff's head, the Sheriff swung his arm up grabbed the arrow out of midair, his eyes still glued to the pages in his hand.  Rad heard Laser gasp and he lowered the bow just as the Sheriff turned and looked directly up into the hill where the group was standing.

"You must think I'm stupid!" he shouted with a devious smirk.  "You're gonna have to try harder than that"-

At that exact moment, Rad hit a small button on the bow's grip and the tip of the arrow inflated quickly before bursting into a a shower of thick blue liquid.  It immediately covered the Sheriff's clothing and the entire surface of the papers he held in his hands, of which he nearly dropped from the force of the mini-explosion.  The Sheriff wiped his face of the liquid exasperately before looking down at the pages to see that they were covered in the liquid as well.

"No," he muttered in disbelief, trying to shake off the slimey substance and wipe it off of the pages, but they were all ruined and unreadable.  The content on all of them was smudged beyond recognition.  "No, no no no NO!"

Don slammed the wet pages onto the wooden stage and looked up angrily at where Rad and Laser were hiding, shrouded by the woods.

"Told you this would be easy," Rad smirked at Laser.  Suddenly, Don in a furious rage, pointed directly at their hiding spot and screamed incoherently in the language of the wolves, causing every single one of them to turn in their direction.  "Uh, oh."

Growling menacingly in unison, the congregation of werewolves began to charge forward and stampeded in Rad and Laser's direction.

"Eas,y my ass," Laser exclaimed, already getting a headstart.

"He's all yours, Reuben," Rad said, gathering the remains of the Fat Lady, shoving them into his peacoat pocket and making off after Laser.

"Thanks, mate," Reuben said gratefully.  "Well done."

As the crowd of lycans sprinted off up the hill and into the woods after Rad and Laser, Don, angered and defeated, reached down to pick up the papers and examine them even more thoroughly to see if there was any hope of uncovering the rest of the spell's incantation from the pages, but found that it was a lost cause.  He would need to print off another batch from his office and try again later.  As he began to step off from the podium and revert back into his wolf form, he heard a voice call out to him.

"Slow down there, cowboy," Reuben called out to him, walking out from the wood works just a few yards from the stage that was previously surrounded by giant canines.  "Since you want to be dumb enough to commit the crime, you're gonna be dumb enough to face the consequences.  And by consequences I mean me tearing your ass apart."

Don looked over at Reuben with a confident smirk, stepping off of the platform and walking in his direction.  "You sound pretty sure of yourself there, cold-blood.  You sure you've got the chops to back it up."

"Oh I know I do," Reuben answered.  He began to crack his knuckles with his thumbs.  "Question is, do you?"

With no response, Don shouted at the top of his lungs and his already torn and wet Sheriff clothes expanded, filling with his huge muscles and growing hair until he towered over Reuben in full werewolf form.  "Does this answer you question?"

Reuben swallowed nervously but without a show of fear.  "Yes.  Yes it does."

The behemoth-like monster charged forward with its arm reared back and Reuben leaned down in an offensive stance ready for anything.  As the werewolf swung its tremendous claws at him, Reuben knocked it away roughly with his own arm and tossed himself into the air, delivering a powerful side-kick to the side of Don's face.  The blow caused him to stagger away as Reuben landed gracefully back on to the ground.  Reuben smiled and sprinted for the incapacitated beast, charging up his back and hopping high into the air as he flipped and prepared to deliver another devastating blow to the top of his head.  But before he could land the strike, he felt himself get grabbed out of the air by his legs and before he knew it, he was tossed across the field recklessly, bouncing onto the grass like a skipping stone in a river.  When he finally slid to a stop, his clothes covered in grass stains, he shook his head of the diziness and zeroed in on his target just as a voice chimed in on his communicator.

"Reuben, its Gloria," she said.

"Where the hell have you been?"

"You cut off communication with me hours ago, remember?  I just got it back online."

"Oh yeah.  Sorry about that."

"Listen.  I can send her in if need be."

"Oh yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" Reuben said into his communicator, just as the beast began to charge in his direction once again.

"Yes, I would.  I don't want to see you get hurt."

"I'll be fine."  Reuben dashed forward, sprinting across the grass with tremendous speed on a head-on collision with the werewolf.  As soon as they met, Reuben dipped downward and slid right between the werewolf's legs, slipping out behind him.  Using the momentum from the slide, he propelled himself upward into a backflip, high above Don, and prepared to deliver another blow, but was once again grabbed out of the air, slammed onto the hard ground, and flung across the field.

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Rad and Laser sprinted across the dark forest with the horde of werewolves not far behind.  The full moon above provided the only bit of light they needed to make sure they could make their way through without colliding with anything.

"I don't know how much farther I can go," Laser said, running out of breath.

"Can't you fly or something?" Rad asked, pacing his breathing but also drawing a bit of sweat from under his beanie hat.

"What?" Laser said, turning to him in confusion.  "I'm a Level 6 Psychic.  Even though that's pretty high, only Level 8's can get to the point of using telekinesis to fly"-

In the blink of an eye, Laser had stopped moving and stood in place in the middle of the dark forest.  Rad stopped running and turned back to see Laser standing by himself with a blank expression on his face right in the path of the army of werewolves chasing behind them.

"Oh, this is not the time," Rad said running back and grabbing hold of Laser to keep him moving.  Just as he did, Laser sprung back to life and ran past Rad.

"Follow me!" he shouted and Rad shrugged, following him with the werewolf horde growing closer to them by the minute, their snaggled growls, roars, and howls echoing through the woods behind them.  Laser moved with a purpose instead of aimlessly this time and he didn't seem like he was as out of breath anymore.  Rad tagged along curiously, but before long, the trees of the forest began to blend together and it looked as if they were running in circles.

"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Rad shouted up at Laser, but he didn't answer him.  Just as Rad began to call out to him again, he felt his foot jolt and he tripped over a tree branch, falling into the grass face first.  Swearing under his breath, he brought himself up quickly and looked back to see that he hadn't tripped over a tree branch, but instead a metal slab of some kind, approximately a foot thick and unmeasurably long, stretching along the woods in both directions.  Rad got up and looked around quickly, seeing that the werewolves were just about to catch up, the slobber swinging from their mouths visible from this distance.  Before long, he saw what he was looking for; a small control panel located at the base of one of the trees, right in between its bottom roots about half a block away.  Rad quickly picked up the bow he'd dropped when he tripped and reached into his enchanted peacoat pocket to pull out another one of the arrows that had been inside the Fat Lady, sticking it behind the string and pulling back as he aimed for the panel.

The wolves were charging forward and their vicious growls were growing deafening as they began to close in.  Rad focused on the panel with all his willpower and calmed his breathing before letting go of the arrow.  It zipped through the air and collided with the top of the panel immediately, breaking into its systems and causing the giant metal walls that Rad had just tripped over to shoot high into the air just as the werewolves were about to break past the barrier.  With a metallic clank the walls locked into place and the growling of the beasts behind them became faint.  Rad began to chuckle, which suddenly grew into a laugh.

"Whoo!" he cheered triumphantly.  "We did it!  We're in the clear, Laser, we can"-

As Rad turned around, he could see Laser still running in the distance and disappearing in the darkness of the forest.  "What the hell?  Laser!!"

Rad began to run after him but soon realized that he had completely lost sight of him and slowed to a stop.  "Where the hell is he going?"

Rad looked around and for the first time ever, he was at a lost for a plan.  The army of the night was behind the walls but so was the rest of the town and now that he was alone, there was virtually no where to go.  He figured he should chime into to his communicator to see if Reuben had been able to take care of Don or if Gloria could give him a ride from his current location.  It was at that moment that he heard the sound of a stick snap under a footstep a few yards away.  Rad looked around to see a large oak tree for him to hide behind and he pressed his body against it, edging out from it to see what was behind it...and spotted a lone werewolf creeping along just a few feet away.  How it had not noticed him running and yelling after Laser just a little while ago was beyond him but from this distance, he could see that it was minding its own business, chasing after a herd of rabbits hopping away from Rad's current location.  From this distance, however, Rad could see the wolf's fur pattern and noticed that it had long white streaks that traveled from its head and down its back.  It was Brooke.

Rad reached into his outer peacoat pocket and realized he still had a few tranquilizer bolts left for the Fat Lady that he'd taken out to use the Shuriken.  He wasn't able to use it on Don because it would have taken too long to reconfigure them into the Fat Lady but now that he had time to reassemble it, he could take her down and make sure that she was out for the night.

As he reached down and began to pull the contents of the Fat Lady out of his enchanted pocket, he could see Brooke charge for one of the rabbits in the herd and catch it between her teeth, chewing wildly into it.  Rad grimaced.

"Gonna be hard to get that image out of my head whenever I look at her," Rad said, de-activating the bow and reverting it back into its marker form.  "Oh, who am I kidding, I've already forgotten it."

As Rad began to place the arrows and the marker back inside the Fat lady and clamped it back closed, he could see that Brooke had finished her dinner and was now searching for something else to dine on now that the herd of rabbits were gone.  She sniffed into the air, turning her body in Rad's direction and that's when he realized that she was about to catch his scent.  He hurried the reconfiguring process.

After a while, Brooke began to growl lowly and by the time Rad had gotten the bolts ready in his hand, she was charging in his direction.

"Crap, crap crap crap crap," he shouted, heading off in the opposite direction as she galloped after him, snarling viciously.  The Fat Lady was back together but it didn't have the bolts administered inside and was therefore unusable against his werewolf friend.  Rad ran as fast as he could as Brooke chased after him, her booming footsteps growing louder by the second.  There were four bolts in his hand.  Because Brooke was bigger than a lot of the werewolves he'd seen out in the town, he knew it would probably take all of them to bring her down quickly, just like it'd taken four to take down the Jersey Devil back in Camden.  Any less would allow her to keep moving for at least another few minutes.  This meant he couldn't waste any; if he were to try to put the bolts inside of the Fat Lady while he ran and shoot her while he had the chance, missing wouldn't be an option.  Brooke was much faster than the pack of wolves that had chased him through the woods, or maybe he was just growing tired and running slower, but either way, she was ganging up on him and if he didn't try something soon that would stop her immediately, he would be joining the rabbit in no time.  This gave him a better, albeit tremendously risky, idea.

On his path through the woods, Rad spotted one of the trees and set it as his destination.  Sprinting for it with Brooke right behind him, the four bolts in his right hand and the Fat Lady in his left, he charged for the tree in front of him without stopping.  Brooke's roars were incredibly loud now, her continuous galloping echoing against Rad's heartbeat, and he could tell how close she was because he could feel her heavy breathing on the back of his neck as he ran.  If this didn't work, he would be done for.

When he finally reached the tree, Rad tossed his leg up and stepped up the side of it until he was higher than Brooke, then turned and jumped off.  As she brought her large claws up to tear into Rad's body, Rad knocked them away with the Fat Lady, reared back with the handful of bolts, and stabbed them into the side of her neck with all his might.  In the heat of the moment, Rad held onto the werewolf's neck tightly but she began to get the upperhand and backhanded him off, causing him to fly through the air and collide with a nearby tree.  Rad slumped to the base of it, completely unconscious.

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Swinging Reuben by the root of his hair, Don smashed him face first into the dirt and lifted his leg to crush him with a final blow.  As it came down, Reuben rolled out from under it, sprung to his feet, and hopped into the air, delivering another blow to his face that sent him staggering back.  Reuben ran forward and shot himself upward again, drop-kicking him in the head and causing the werewolf to fall to his knees with his back turned to Reuben.  As Reuben landed and started to charge after Don once more, Don turned around with his claws up.  He swiped in Reuben's direction, but Reuben dodged it, hopping over his arm and jumping into the air again.  Unfortunately, Don had anticipated this and grabbed him out of the air with his other arm, smashing him into the ground once again, but this time holding him down with his large paws.

"Reuben, he's got a fully functional brain, its not like fighting a normal werewolf," Gloria said into his communicator.  "You've got to outsmart him."

"What do you think I've been trying to do?" Reuben said with a muffled voice, his face pushed partially into the grass.

"That's it.  I'm sending her in."

"Don't you dare!"

"Reuben!"

Don lifted his foot and pressed it against Reuben's torso with all his might and using both of his front paws to pull him up with the intent of ripping him in half.

"Reuben, he's going to kill you!"

"I've got this!" Reuben shouted, half out of pain as he could feel his bones popping from the pressure.  He began to scream even louder once Don began to pull with all his might.  "Fuck!...Send her in!"

"Thank you!"  In the distance, Reuben could hear the sound of an aircraft passing over the field and then a thunderous thud that shook the ground before Don released his grip and lifted his foot off of him.  Reuben looked over his shoulder to see a small pod embedded into the ground, the door of which retracted quickly to reveal a slim young woman in a black jumpsuit with short red hair to her ears.  She walked up to the giant werewolf and fallen vampire with a natural and confident stride.

"The hell are you?" Don growled as she began to approach.

"I am Systematic Android Technical Support Artificial Intelligence Service, Turquoise 4.0.  I am here to place you under arrest for the orchestrated murders of Camille Holden, Stacy Small, Katherine Mars and the voluntary manslaughter of Vivian Mars and Horace Perkins, as well as Mystic Terrorism, Conspiracy to enslave the human race, and Assault on a Certified P.U.L.S.E Agent.  You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say"-

"Oh save it, bitch," Don shouted before charging for the android at full speed.  As Turquoise continued to recite Don's Miranda Rights, Don sprinted on all fours towards her and reared back his claws for the strike.  As he delivered the blow, Turquoise grabbed immediate hold of the werewolf's arm and broke it like a twig under her own arm, causing him to cry out in tremendous pain.  Using the same momentum and continuing to recite his rights to him, she swung the werewolf around and tossed him high into the air, above the trees and hills until he was high enough for the entirety of the town to be visible.  As he flew across the surface of the field, Turquoise propelled herself after him, reaching his side in a matter of seconds.  In mid air, she grabbed hold of him and as they began to fall back towards the earth, she forced him forward and smashed him into the grassy field, leaving a large crater in her wake.  Immediately, Don reverted back to his human form with his broken arm and Turquoise's foot placed firmly over his chest.

"...during the questioning.  Do you understand each of these rights as I've explained them to you?"  Don, now unconscious, didn't answer.  "Good."

Reuben stood up and wiped off the dirt on his clothes from the scuffle but was unable to rid it of any of the stains.  He shrugged it off, his wounds from the fight now healed as he looked over in the direction of where where Turquoise had made short work of Sheriff Fleming.

"...Well all righty then."

10/29/2012

Cosmic Flash - Chapter 12: Wenter City





This wouldn't be the first time that Zach had been to Alfheim, as he'd gotten the chance to take a trip to most of the planets in the North Circuit after he graduated from Service Training.  But there was something about Alfheim that made his visit there extra special, most likely because, according to his known history here, it was his home planet; the planet where he was supposedly born.  On the Taxicruise there, Jeila was around to join him as he sat by the window seat in first class, which was mostly vacant on this particular flight.

"You know, in the time I've spent here in the North Circuit, I have never met a Grey," Zach said to Jeila, who was watching a traditional Alfimese stage play unfold on her Saucer, the disk-like hologram projector he'd seen being used by many.  She pulled off her earphones that were connected to the saucer and gave him her full attention.

"Well, that's understandable," she said.  "If you're ever gonna actually run into a Grey, its probably gonna be on their planet.  They aren't very social.  They're hermits who stick to their own way of life and try not to tamper with other cultures.  I mean, they're perfectly okay with having tourists and outsiders interacting with them, but they have their way of life and we have ours.  They hold dear to that separation so they don't lose sight of where they came from, like so many of us have."

"Reminds me of the Amish people back on Earth," Zach said, looking out of the window beside him at the darkness of space, gently lit up by nebula light slowly fading into view.  "Have you met any?"

"Sure.  They're really nice people.  Full of wisdom.  It was actually the Greys who first had the fascination with Earth that resulted in the Terra Renaissance."

"Really?  Interesting."

"Yeah, but they got into some hot water a few hundred Arian years ago.  Even after the Terra Renaissance ended, the Greys were still really into Earth's culture and around the time that travel to Earth had been outlawed, one of them went there anyway and ended up crashing his ship and killing himself.  The Earth-humans flipped once they found it and we were in an uproar about the action too, knowing we had to do damage control.  So we exposed our existence to all of the major governments on Earth and asked them not to let word get out in their public of extraterrestrial life existing beyond them so as to not ruin whatever sanctity of the experiment was left in the whole project.  That's why they made up the fake story of how it was a weather balloon or whatever and its also how we established a connection with the UN, once that was formed.  That was when we were supposed to show ourselves, when the Earth-humans unified under a single entity, but you know, shit happens."

"Wow.  Have there been any other incidents where people from the North Circuit have gone to Earth?  Because there have been UFO sightings around us for years, one of which is what I'm pretty sure brought me here in the first place."

"Not that we know of.  We can't regulate it like we used to.  There was a time when we had teams of Orbital Police traveling over Earth in cloaked ships to make sure that no unregulated travel was taking place.  This was right around when travel there was first outlawed.  But one day, a few of the ships passed through this magnetic field of some sort around the planet's equator and it turned off their cloaks.  When the Earth-humans saw them, they took evasive action and tried to shoot them out of the sky.  They were forced to retreat.  The humans made a big deal about it afterwards, said it was an enemy attack or something from foreign forces but they never did find out what it really was."

"Ah," Zach said, smiling.  "The Great Los Angeles Air Raid.  There were lots of people that were convinced it was extraterrestrials, myself included.  Guess we were right."

"Yeah.  So that's what led to that Grey getting himself killed there and probably all of the other 'UFO' incidents you've heard of as well.  We just can't be around to stop them anymore or else it will cause confusion.  Any time one of them shows up, the humans just constitute it as a weather balloon or something similar and handle the rest on their own.  People just can't seem to stay away from that planet sometimes."

"Yeah well, I can see how that kind of concentrated mess of failure all collected into one place can interest those who are better off.  Its like the fascination with the Fall of the Roman Empire."

"Oh yeah, I hear that was a tremendous moment for us too.  Lots of bets were lost because of it back then."

Zach looked at Jeila with surprise before turning back to the window to see a large celestial body coming into view from the corner of his sight.  Suddenly, the ship began to vibrate gently and the orbs at the top of their cabin flickered lightly.

"What's going on?" Zach asked with worry.

"Don't fret, we're just about to pass Machina," Jeila reassured him.  "There's always turbulence when we travel near it."

Zach leaned over and gazed out of the window to see the massive planet stretch across the side of the Taxicruise, its silverish grey atmosphere almost giving it a lunar moon-like appearance.  But it was much larger than Earth's moon, much larger than Earth itself, and Zach could see small flashes of lightning erupting from its clouds below.  As they continued by, the vibration of the taxicruise grew to the point where it began to shake and the orbs went completely dark.

"Why does it do this?" Zach asked loudly, turning to Jeila, who's face was lit up by the hologram playing in front of her.

"Well Machina has a really strong and vast magnetic field, for one.  Its gravity is incredibly dense as well."

"Its gravity reaches way out here?  We're not even near its orbit."

"Yeah, its a strange phenomenon.  Used to get a lot of people killed back in the early days of the UoS.  When the Taxicruises were invented though, they became the only ship's configured to pass by Machina without getting pulled in to its surface.  People don't dare come to this part of the North Circuit in a regular ship."

"So no one has ever been there.  Ever.  And no one knows anything about it," Zach stated but with more of a questioning manner, gauging a reaction from Jeila.

"Well people have been there.  Just none of them have ever made it off the planet to share their experiences.  But yeah, no one knows a thing about it.  Its just sort of there.  There's always been loads of curiousity, believe me, but its just far too dangerous to even try to contact them or anything like that.  We can't risk them slaughtering us."

Before long, the orbs flickered back to life and the ship's turbulence subsided as the planet slowly faded from view by the window and the ship began to pass it.  Zach kept his eye on it until it was out of sight, silently wondering what secrets or horrors may lie in its wake.

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As soon as they arrived on the landing pad of Endlong, the country on Alfheim that contained the landlocked city-state of Wenter City, they were greeted by the assets Globe had assigned to work with them.  It was daytime when they stepped off of the platform to meet them, the sky just as full and blue as it would be on Earth, but seemed much healthier and grand than one might expect.  The first time Zach had been here, he thought that maybe it was the sheer psychological wonder of being on a different planet that made it seem like it was different from Earth all together, but every trip here afterwards was met with the same wonder, so he figured that it may very well be that there was a certain magical charm that came from being on this world.  It was, after all, the most heavily populated planet in the North Circuit aside from Arias, so it was apparent that many people felt the same way about it.  As for the general vibe of the planet's cultural scene, Alfheim, both in Endlong and Elphame, where Zach had traveled on his previous trips to the planet, was a general mix of the same Earthly vibe he got from Arias coupled with a somewhat medieval feel.  Arias, which was completely barren at the time that it had been colonized, had no need for any kind of environmental takeover or destruction to ensure that they could make it the metropolitan world that it was today.  On Alfheim though, it seemed that they were able to keep a metropolis-like vibe to the planet's culture while maintaining the planet's natural progress.  The roads that the Overgates drove on were made of cobblestone-like material and there was a much more evident attention to the preservation of nature with each city surrounded by forrests and tremendous trees towering over some of the land while still being able to build large skyscrapers and neighborhoods around them, making room for its inhabitants to live without destroying parts of nature to expand their territory.  But it was apparent that the way that nature grew on Alfheim made it easier to work around, whereas on Earth, he knew it was more difficult which was the reason for why nature was so carelessly disregarded there to make way for its giant cities.

The two assets set to meet Zach and Jeila stood near the cobblestone-like street by the taxicruise landing pad just as it began to take off for its next destination.

"Tempest, Halos?" said a large Golem in a thick black jacket and what looked to be a baseball cap but was different in design from the kinds Zach knew of from Earth.  He'd seen them worn a lot around here and figured they were used just as frequently.  Standing beside him was a bitter-looking Angrefian in a flannel-like shirt and pants resembling blue jeans, whom Zach recognized immediately.

"Yeah, that's us," Zach greeted.  "You the assets Globe sent for?"

"Yeah.  I'm Wokla Bennace.  This is Otizel Sparkraven.  We're going to be your tour guides for Wenter City.  Are we ready to move?"

"Sure."  The group headed over to the Overgate with the Oasist Coat of Arms plastered on its side that was parked by the sidewalk and Otizel popped the back end of it for them to enter.  He didn't say anything to either of them but Zach was sure he didn't recognize him with his ICD activated.  At least this would ensure that things would go somewhat smoothly.  Otizel drove and before long, they were down the roads of Norella, the city neighboring Wenter City.

"How was the ride here?" Wokla asked, turning back to them as they sat in the back.  "Any trouble?"

"No, it was uneventful," Jeila answered.  "You?"

"Same.  Just a bit of traffic is all.  So we were told to take you to Parko's to get your equipment, then head on over.  You need anything else before we head off?"

"No."

"Okay, good."

The rest of the ride was silent and Otizel had still yet to say anything, which had Zach on edge, seeing as the thing he remembered the most from his encounter was that he had an unpredictable nature about him and the lack of communication had Zach a little worried that he might not be as straight and narrow as they would like to assume.  When they arrived at the restaurant, Wokla and Otizel waited outside while the two walked inside the building and headed for the excrement room together to grab their equipment.  When the disposable transmitters were in place, they were greeted by their team.

"Authorization Code: Denim, Techno, 334," Zach said clearly.  "Channel Clear."

"Authorization Code: Jericho, Harvest, 695," Jeila said.  "Channel Clear."

"Are we on the same network?" Zach asked.

"Technically no," Globe said into both of their intercoms.  "We're using a system link between the two networks of Team Tempest and Team Halos.  I'll be able to communicate directly with the both of you since I'm supervising the assignment but you will only have access to your own team's resources individually unless otherwise notified."

"Understood."

"How are my guys treating you?"

"Fine," Jeila answered, as they took hold of the supplies left for them behind the mirror, most of which included the same items Zach had used on Honario with a few added extras.  "Not the most talkative bunch, but I'm not complaining."

"Yeah, they're all about getting the job done."

"So what's the plan of action exactly?" Zach asked.  "As far as locations and times go?"

"Archbishop Biran will most likely be in his study by the time you arrive in Wenter."

"Most likely?"

"If he's not, you'll just have to wait until he arrives.  We have word he's scheduled for a meeting today with an unknown proprietor at an unspecified time of day, possibly around 3:30pm, but that was all we could get.  Gaining information on anything but the schematics of Wenter City's interior itself is near impossible; its a wonder we got as much as we did.  You'll have to wing the rest."

"So just in case, where exactly is this meeting going to take place?" Zach asked, grabbing the Da Vinci Hands from the mirror, the last item he needed with him, and slid them on.  "In the Oasis Palace Courtyard?"

"We don't know for sure.  Due to the senstive nature of the information we were given, its probably going to be a secret meeting, in which case it'll most likely be held in the Wenter Private Archives.  Why, are you thinking about tailing him?"

"If I have to, yeah," Zach said.  Once he was all set, he looked over at Jeila.  "So how do you want to do this?"

"If he's already in his study, we can act accordingly.  If not, I can secure the area while you find him.  Once he gets there and he's alone, we'll have him.  Have you thought about how you're going to approach him?"

"I have, but I don't have anything concrete.  Don't worry, I'm good at improvising."

"Whatever you say," Jeila said with a smile as they exited the excrement room behind each other without being seen.  The restaurant was near empty and looked like it was probably this way even at the peak business hours of the day, being that it was very small and hardly desirable.  When they walked back outside, they re-entered the Overgate and soon they were on their way to Wenter City.

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Wenter City was located on the side of a large mountain and was surrounded by large intimidating fortified walls that were ultimately ineffective because the buildings of the city itself towered over them.  The only purpose they truly served was preventing people from entering the city against the will of security, although its mountainous height and location made that difficult for anyone to try anyway.  As they came up on the city's single entrance, they could see the Oasist Coat of Arms draped over the side of the walls and flapping against the wind on the flag poles flying high on the mountain's corners, featuring several strange-looking creatures that Zach knew were extinct standing across two sets of unique-looking swords crossed over each other and topped off with a Corjia, a pterodactyl-like creature of varying sizes that he'd seen flying across the mountain tops on the drive up, on the top of a crown hanging over the two swords.

Traffic was backed up to the foot of the mountain because of heavy security and the need for each group preparing to enter to have authorized credentials saying they are legally allowed to be behind the walls of the city.  Wenter City was a sovereign monarchial state ruled by the Church of the Elder Brother, also known as the Oasist Church, making it a separate governmental entity from the Unity of Stars, similar to Vatican City on Earth.  The central governing body of the Oasist Church was the Holy Megas, which consisted of the Circuit-wide leader of the church, the Prime Bishop, and the administrative apparatus of the church, the Wenter Court, who were tasked with providing the necessary organization to keep the church functioning.  The target in question that they were intercepting was one of the Archbishops by the name of Biran Scorea, a member of the Wenter Court who supervised a series of conclaves found in various locations around Endlong, which provided housing for members of the church and other important figures who would stay in the area to promote whatever new project the church was undergoing.  Because the transmission being sent to Graft in the moments before he died were traced to one of the conclaves in Endlong, specifically Norella, getting authorization to enter them would have to come directly from Archbishop Biran himself.

When they drove up to the entrance in their Overgate, Wokla and Otizel showed their papers while Zach and Jeila put forth their own to show that they were authorized to enter the grounds for the tour.  They were allowed through by security without any trouble to their surprise and soon they were driving along the sacred streets of Wenter City.  In its center, surrounded by plenty of men and women in robed garb walking along the sidewalks beside the Overgates that drove past them, was the large holy oasis that existed near every Oasist Church in the Circuit, including this one.  This oasis was technically man-made, but it hadn't been originally, as there was once an underground stream that traveled through the inside of the mountain down below the planet's surface which became the source of the oasis' existence.  When it was first discovered and the area was chosen as the location of Wenter City and the primary headquarters of the Church of the Elder Brother, they knew that the oasis would eventually dry up, so they used its underground river as a channel for their own reservoir which they built under the mountain to provide for the city's water supply, while at the same time keeping the oasis full at all times.  The oasis itself was rather large, around the size of a football field with big wild red plants growing around its borders.  As they drove around it and continued up the slope, they could see the Oasis Palace come into view and headed around into its front courtyard, which was filled with deacons coming to and from the building as well as excited tourists who were in the middle of their own tours headed by volunteers working for the Holy Megas as tour guides.

The Overgate stopped in front of a valet service where one of the valets ran up to greet them as they exited their vehicle.  Otizel tossed him the key to it and the valet eagerly entered the Overgate, driving off to the nearest parking area.

"There are gonna be eyes on you everywhere and we won't have access to surveillance like we normally do since you're on sovereign territory," Globe chimed in on both of their intercoms as they began to head inside through the double doors.  "There's a chance that our coms might be jammed as soon as you enter the Palace as well."

"That's okay.  We know the Palace interior and we'll figure out how to proceed from here," Jeila said.

"You talking on that com of yours?" Wokla asked, looking back at the two of them.

"Yeah."

"Well try not to do that too often when we get inside, unless you want to draw suspicion."

"Right."

"So, you want to do the honors, Mr. Sparkraven?" Wokla asked, turning to Otizel, who sighed heavily and shrugged as they walked closer to the archway leading into the grandiose Oasis Palace.

"This is the Oasis Palace, home of the Prime Bishop of Wenter City and the Church of the Elder Brother," Otizel explained lazily.  "It was built on Nair 30, 58K493 by a congregation headed by Prime Bishop Dedver III after a vicious fight for dominance between the Dokkalfr Tribes and the early Oasist Pilgrimage that was expanding their settlements across Alfheim..."

The tour continued inside and they were greeted immediately by the illustious and extravagantly designed architecture, unlike anything Zach had seen before.  It must have been unique to this region, as he'd been to many places around the North Circuit in the year and half he'd spent there and he'd never before laid eyes on anything like this.  There were romanticized images of what he figured were the characters represented in the Oasist Legend including the Deep, the Shallow, Maros, and Doen, along with several other figures that had their travels chronicled in a collection of sacred texts known as the Oasist Writings.

When they were half-way through the tour of the Oasis Palace, the group stopped by a nearby set of excrement rooms.  This was their cue to stop.  Zach asked to use the room and so did Jeila, so the two parted ways and went into either of the rooms marked by gender.  When Zach stepped into the men's room, he spotted a three-foot high vent by the door and walked into one of the stalls, pulling out a small pen-like device he'd taken from behind the mirror back at Parko's.  Zach sat on the high-tech toilet behind him and hunched over so that any surveillance monitor watching him wouldn't catch what he was doing.  Pressing the top and the bottom end, the device began to light up and he dropped it between his legs into the water of the toilet, pulling out his Cosmer and waiting for a few seconds to pass.  A loud buzz went off momentarily and Zach started the timer on the Cosmer before standing up, flushing the toilet, and walking out of the stall.

"Jeila?" he said softly before heading by the door.

"Yeah, I'm here," she said into his intercom.

"Okay, good.  That means internal systems are jammed within the building for approximately fifteen clicks.  Globe, you there?"  There was silence on the other end.  "I'm guessing they're still able to cut off our communication with the outside from in here.  We'll be on our own."

"Works for me.  I'll meet you up high."

"Gotcha."  Zach clasped his hands together, pressing the screws on the back of each glove and ejecting the ports from his fingertips and palms.  Closing his fists with his thumbs under his fingers, he activated the Da Vinci Hands and quickly headed over by the vent near the door, conjuring a small blade and dragged it across the edges of the vent cover until he'd covered its entire perimeter.  When he was finished, the cover leaned forward and he caught it gently, placing it by the wall beside him and crouched into the opening, grabbing the cover and sticking it over the entrance with force to make sure it stayed.  Now that he was in, he crawled through the vent and headed up a slope that took him towards the ceiling of the Palace.  He knew that the back-up surveillance would kick in in less than three minutes, but sensors and detectors would remain offline and they would be able to communicate among each other at long distance for at least another thirteen minutes, so as long as they stayed in the vents, they would be fine.  There was no surveillance monitoring in the Archbishop's study either, even when all systems would be back online, allowing them to be able to intercept him from there.  After a few moments of traveling, Zach could hear Jeila's pattering against the vent's interior and when he turned the corner, he saw her heading his way to meet him.  "So...we meet again," Zach said teasingly.

Jeila shook her head, smiling.  "Okay, so you know where to go from here, right?"

"Right, I'll check the Archives to see if he's still at his meeting while you secure his study.  If he's already there, let me know and I'll double back to your location."

"Understood."  Jeila and Zach parted ways and Zach began his trek thorugh the vents to the Wenter Private Archives.  Having memorized the layout of the Oasis Palace on the Taxicruise ride to Alfheim, Zach was able to travel through the vents and arrive just outside of the Archives in less than five minutes.  He could see the room's interior from another vent cover and noticed that it looked like an average library, however, instead of books, there were small tablets stacked against each other on shelves located around the room.  There was a lack of any notable presence.

Zach pulled out his Cosmer and checked his time.  He had about ten minutes left before all systems were back online and that would mean the sensors in the vents would be back as well.  They needed to find the Archbishop very soon.

"I'm not seeing him," Zach whispered, looking around the empty library from the vent.  "Anything on your end?"

"Entering his study now," Jeila muttered quietly.  He heard her grunt and then there was silence for a few moments.  "Its empty.  I'm headed back in the vent just in case he's on his way now."

"Understood.  Headed to your location"- Before he could move, Zach could hear voices coming from inside the library.  "Hold on, I think I've got something."  Coming from around the corner of one of the shelves and speaking very softly between each other came two figures that began to head for the door of the Archive room and stopped directly in front of it.  Zach zeroed in on the two of them and saw that one was Archbishop Biran, a Dark Alfimese elderly man in deacon robes, but the other was someone he had not expected to see here and the sight of him instantly put him on edge.  Standing beside the Archbishop and consulting with him casually was none other than Soter Rokain.

"Its Soter!" Zach exclaimed, whispering harshly.  "Its fucking Soter, that's who he's meeting with!"

"What?!" Jeila said in surprise.  "The guy who killed Doctor Stihl?!"

"Yes."  Zach leaned over and reached into one of his pockets, pulling out a small gun device with a scope on its end.  He scooted up to the vent cover, aimed the gun outside and fired at the shelf just above the two of them.  Pressing a button on the side of the gun, Zach suddenly had audio feed of the discussion between them.

"...and you'll have your supplies shipped to you by Aesir 10, plus utilities," Soter said confidently as the Archbishop nodded.

"Excellent.  I will authorize the points to be transfered to your account the second we receive the shipment."

"That won't be necessary, your Holiness.  We would actually be more grateful if you donated those points to charity."

"Really?  I never took your kind - er, the people you work with to be the philanthropic type."

"Yeah, well our intentions have always been good.  But there is a specific charitable organization that I would like for you to submit the funds to, if you don't mind."

"And which one would that be?"

"The Prince Hartwin Foundation."

"Sure, we can make that happen."

"Fantastic.  Pleasure doing business with you, your Holiness.  I hope our services will be of great use to you."

"Likewise, Mr. Raikan.  The others will be pleased to know that our well-being will now be secured."

Soter and the Archbishop shook hands and the Archbishop held the door open for Soter and himself to walk through.  Zach shuffled uncomfortably.

"You catch all that?" Zach asked in his intercom.

"Yeah..."

"Biran is on the move, I'm headed your way now."

"Copy that."

Zach made his way through the vents once again, checking his Cosmer as he moved to see that he now had seven minutes before all systems were back online.  He hustled through and on his way by, he could see into one of the hallways of the Palace from another vent cover as he passed it.  Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted someone accompanying the Archbishop on his way back to his study; a young priest in less formal robes than the Archbishop, most likely a protege of his.  Zach continued on his way.

"Jeila, there's a chance he may be accompanied by someone, another clergyman.  Be careful."

"Gotcha."

"Did you take the east shaft or north?"

"East."

"Okay, I'm taking north, I can get the jump on the extra guy from there."  Zach took a turn down another one of the vents until he came across an airshaft that had a metal cage covering a large spinning fan under it.  Zach dropped down from his end of the vent and landed on the cage, spotting two openings on his right side and one right in front of him.  He dashed forward through the one ahead and continued onward, turning a few more corners until he came to a dead end at a vent cover leading into a dark room with a little light spilling in from the open blinds on either side.  Sliding his blade-like constructs across the edges of the cover, he loosened it from its place on the wall and grabbed hold of its thin grilles to stop it from falling.  "In position."

Zach waited for a moment and soon a light partially filled the room as the door below him opened.  The Archbishop was in mid-conversation.

"You needn't worry, my son.  Soon we'll have all we need to make sure dissenters like them won't be bothering us ever again.  It won't be long"-

Zach watched as the Archbishop walked in, the young priest following him.  As soon as the priest shut the door and walked up from it, Zach dropped down from the vent and landed silently behind him, the vent cover still in his grip.  In a flash, Zach laid the vent aside, launched forward, and brought his forearm across the young priest's throat, using his other hand to close his nose and mouth and prevent him from making noise while the Archbishop continued into the room, still speaking to his now incapacitated guest.  Within a few seconds, the young priest had lost consciousness and Zach dragged him behind a desk by the door out of sight.  The Archbishop walked to his desk by the blinds, which was across from where Jeila was hiding in her end of the vents.  When he had his back turned to her, she hopped down from it herself and crept slowly toward him.

The Archbishop looked to his side to see that the young priest had disappeared.  "My son?" he said worriedly just as Jeila appeared by his side with a blaster pistol pointed at his temple.  She put her finger to her lips to quiet him.  He turned to her slowly but anxiously.  "Wh-who are you?"

"Doesn't matter," Zach said forcefully, coming out from the corner behind the desk.

"What did you do with Ondro-"

"You answer our questions first, do you understand me?" Zach muttered, stepping up to the Archbishop and pushing him back aggressively, causing him to fall into the chair by his desk.  Zach lifted his leg and pushed him into a wall with his foot against his chest.  "Or else you're gonna have a bad time."

"Do you realize what you are you doing?"

"What did I just say about the questions?!" Zach exclaimed, putting pressure on the Archbishop's chest with his foot.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!  What is it, what do you want?"

"The man you were just talking to, do you know who he is?"

"Ondro"-

"Before that, in the Archives," Jeila said with less force than Zach.

"I...I don't know what you're talking about"-

Zach immediately conjured a pistol construct with his gloves and pointed it directly at the Archbishop's forehead, inches away from his face.

"You think I won't do it?  We've gotten this far, you think we won't take it a step further?!"

"All right, all right!  It was...it was Soter Rokain.  He's a representative of a company called Black Symphony."

"You mean terrorist organization," Zach said, alternating constructs with his other hand when the first one expired.

"Its not like that.  We...there's something he's providing us with.  Something that we needed with that no one else could help us obtain."

"And what's that, more suicide bombers and assassins you can use to get rid of your own people?" Jeila asked sternly.

"No!  That's the exact reason why we contacted them in the first place!  We need to protect ourselves!"

"From what?"

"I don't know who they are but this isn't the first time they've gotten us like this.  This is just the first time in large numbers.  We've been asking for assistance from the Unity of Stars and Star Crest for years now and they haven't bat an eye in our direction once.  So we have to take it upon ourselves to ensure our own well-being."

"Listen," Jeila said, leaning down towards the Archbishop as Zach took his foot off of his chest but kept his pistol constructs trained on him.  "We need access to the Western Conclave on the outskirts of Norella.  We have reason to believe that the people who are attacking you might be linked to a source located there."

"Who are you people?  Cosmic Flash?"

"Private Contractors actually."

"Mercenaries?!  If you think I'm going to give a couple of hired killers access to such sacred grounds, you're crazier than"-

"Listen, Father Brown," Zach said, losing whatever patience he had left.  "Unless you're just aching to have everyone in the North Circuit know that you're working with a bunch of terrorists, you're going to cooperate with us, now what the fuck is the passcode to get into the goddamn conclave?!"

"Oh, Doen, spare me," the Archbishop declared anxiously with several holy hand gestures.

"Doen's not going to help you when I get through if you if you don't"-

"Tempest," Jeila said, putting a hand on Zach's shoulder to calm him down.  "He's going to tell us.  Aren't you?"

Jeila turned to him with a strong gaze and the Archbishop swallowed hard before nodding.  "Original-Slash-Alternative.  That is the code that will get you into the Western Conclave.  The first and last words exactly, the slash is the actual symbol."

"Now was that so hard?" Jeila asked before turning to Zach.  "Okay, we've got what we need.  Knock him cold and let's get out of here."

"Oh no," Zach said, keeping his weapon construct pointed at the Archbishop.  "He's coming with us."

"What?" the two of them said in unison, Jeila with confusion and the Archbishop with absolute terror.

"He's going to declare a search as soon as he comes to, as it is.  More importantly, he knows about Soter and Black Symphony, probably more than he's letting on.  We're not letting him go until he's dry of all information."

Jeila shrugged and turned to the Archbishop with a smile as he looked back at her with panic in his eyes.

"Well I hope you have an appetite for adventure, Mr. Archbishop, because it looks like you're in for one."