Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 9

Gwynivara knew that Bernadette didn’t scream out of fear. If an attacker ever scared her, she wouldn’t give that person the satisfaction of seeing the torment he or she had caused. The fact that she did meant only one thing to her- Bernadette had tried to warn her about the danger she currently faced so that she could escape. Unfortunately, Bernadette didn’t realize that her forewarning came a split second too late-Gywynivara had already opened the basement door! She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw one well dressed man holding a chained leash which harnessed a beast watching another fashionable male stab Bernadette in the back! Her heart stopped as Bernadette fell to the floor!

Gwynivara stiffled the sense of outrage that burned inside her, but she couldn’t contain all of it. The two men saw her, and the one with the creature lumbered towards the door. She slammed it shut and ran through the kitchen, heading towards the living room where the front door was located. She didn’t make it far when the fiend burst through the door! The man unleashed it, and it scurried towards her. Gwynivara eyed a knife holder on the counter next to her and grabbed a weapon just as it reached her. As it lunged, she stabbed it in the stomach. It fell to the floor and writhed in pain. Gwynivara thought about Bernadette lying in the basement, and she used her fury to spawn a ball of light. As the creature regained its composure, Gwynivara threw the ball of light at it. The creature disintegrated into the air! The man inquired incredulously, “How did you do that?”

She almost answered him, but her instincts pointed out that he was an enemy. She inwardly debated whether to fight him or questions him, and her answer came by him reaching into his pocket. She was prepared to combat, but before he could grab his weapon, someone from behind him put a knife to his throat! Disbelief flooded every inch of her body as she heard Bernadette snap, “Don’t even think about it!”

“Impossible!” the man blurted out as he put his hands up.

Bernadette retorted, “Your partner tried to stab my spine. He didn’t know that I have scoliosis!” The man cringed at his partner’s ill luck. “So, here’s what’s gonna happen. You’re gonna-”

Before Bernadette could finish her sentence, the front door busted open, and a barrage of policemen poured into the home, pointing their guns at the two women. Bernadette dropped the knife and threw her arms up. Gwynivara did the same, and her mind started racing. There was nowhere to run, and her conjuring skills weren’t potent enough to take on this many people at once. Her only hope was to tell the truth and hope that the policemen would listen and believe her, but she had a nasty feeling that they had already sentenced them in their minds. She exclaimed, “We were only defending ourselves!”

“Yeah right!” one policeman responded. “It looks like you two have the upper hand here!”

The man in the kitchen tattled, “They killed my friend!”

“They tried to kill us first! Look!” Bernadette turned around to show them her bloody back.

Smirking slightly, the man informed them, “It was self defense! Oh, did I mention that we’re in the police academy?”

Gwynivara and Bernadette’s stomachs dropped upon hearing this. One police officer asked him, “No kidding! What division?”

“Venenatus Sanguis,” he answered solidly Gwynivara knew if that creature hadn’t disintegrated that they would have gotten accused of having the disease and get thrown into quarantine, which would be a death sentence for them. She knew he knew something was up with her, but she could tell that he didn’t know that Venenatus Sanguis could get used in this way. She didn’t want to get arrested, but at least it had more of an opportunity for escape compared to other options.

Another officer regarded the girls, “Sorry, ladies. We have sufficient evidence to have you both arrested.” As the police handcuffed them, Bernadette and Gwynivara glanced at each other, clearly both thinking the same thing- how were they going to get out of this?

Gwynivara arrived at the police station with her hands cuffed in the front of her. She hoped that while Bernadette was in the hospital that she would hatch a way to escape. The rebel headquarters had no phone line, so she figured that the patrol officers check the hospital and jail to check on missing members. Actually, she realized that she had never gone on a patrol before today and didn’t know the procedure for it. Just like herself, Bernadette were too preoccupied with Riley’s fate to discuss training or protocol. She had to use her best judgment and pray that she actually picked the best option. A female officer, without looking up from her clipboard, asked her, “Name?”

Ann Smith.” Gwynivara knew there had to be tons of different Ann Smith’s in the world, so it would take quite a bit of research before they realized she had lied about her identity. She could do nothing else but helplessly hope that she had given the other rebels enough time to find her.

The clipboard officer listlessly instructed, “Put your fingers on the ink pad and print them here.”

Gwynivara’s first instinct was to comply, but then it occurred to her that they may not have been able to recognize her by name, but but everyone’s fingerprints were unique, very distinguishable and traceable! For a moment, she panicked. But, at that moment, a figure walked into the police station. He wore a black trench coat and a matching fedora, which was attraction enough, but Gwynivara had a feeling she knew who that person was. Intuitively, she knew she had to stall for time. She put ink on her middle finger first. Most people didn’t know she had a double-jointed middle finger, and it curved slightly up when she wanted it to. She pressed it to the fingerprint sheet, which only produced a partial. The lady probed, “What’s wrong with your finger?”

“It didn’t look like that this morning!” Gwynivara fibbed.

“Did it happen during your arrest?” she questioned. Gwynivara shrugged, so the woman told her, “I’m gonna have you talk to our medic over-”

The female officer physically pointed her in the direction of the medic, but before she could finish her sentence, the earth began to quake! The tremors were so violent that the furniture got knocked over! Everyone got under some cover as the ceiling began to grumble, but Gwynivara was not near any furniture, so she couldn’t hide. Fortunately, she didn’t have to. The man with dark fedora scooped her up and ran out of the police station just in time!

Once outside, the man held onto her to keep her from falling with one hand and made some strange gestures with the other. Suddenly, the quakes stopped. “Maybe if you’re nice to me, I’ll teach you how to do that.” He turned to look her in the eye, revealing himself to be Kierram! He grinned, linked arms with her, and took off running.

Once they were at a safe distance, Kierram and Gwynivara ducked into an alleyway, and Kierram produced a key to unlock the cuffs. Gwynvara had to ask, “How did you know?”

As she uncuffed her, he answered, “Blake and I were on patrol and heard a policeman listening to a page where they called all units to an address. When we got there, you were getting hauled away.”

“Is Blake at the hospital with Bernadette?” Gwynivara questioned.

Kierram replied, “I hope so!” They exchanged grim glances and dashed away.

At the hospital, the emergency room staff clearly were over-occupied and understaffed, so no one bat an eye when Kierram and Gwynivara entered. They went down the hall, peaking into each room. They found the operating room and lingered a little. Since Bernadette got stabbed, there was a good chance she could have been in there. What they saw was a group of surgeons gazing down at the patient on the table with very solemn looks on their faces. One surgeon stated, “We lost him.”

“Him? Oh good!” Gwynivara started to walk away.

Kierram stopped her by saying, “No wait!” As they covered the patient with the blanket, he revealed, “That’s Blake!”

Gwynivara felt stunned. They had just talked to him not that long ago, so it just didn’t seem possible for him to be dead. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” Kierram confirmed. “Come on, we gotta find-”

Taylor?” a nurse called out. Gwynivara responded automatically, but it felt strange, almost as though she stepped into a world she thought she left behind. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I got my job back,” she improvised.

“No,” the nurse responded, “Why aren’t you looking for the missing patient? Every available staff member is supposed to help find her! Come on!”

“I’m on it!” Gwynivara gladly volunteered.

As the nurse went in the other direction, Kierram whispered, “Where could she be?” They heard a loud bang coming from above them, which they were fairly sure had been the answer to their question. They bolted to the nearest set of stairs.

As they ran up, they saw Bernadette, who now wore a doctor’s lab coat, hurrying down towards their direction. Bernadette inquired, “How are we gonna get out of here alive?”

When they got to a landing, Gwynivara spotted a trash cart and pointed to it. “That’s how! Get in!” Bernadette climbed in, and Gwynivara put a small trash bag on top of her to cover her up. The hospital staff didn’t pay them any mind, that is until they reached the five doctors from the hiring panel! Clearly puzzled, they were about to say something, but Gwynivara cut them off, “I don’t get paid to clean, but no one said I couldn’t volunteer!”

The doctors looked as though they wanted to object but couldn’t find any reason to…until they were almost out the door. Doctor Richards blurted out, “Why are you bringing the trash outside?”

For a moment, they thought they were done for, after all, there wasn’t any reasonable explanation to do so. Kierram and Gwynivara wracked their brains to think of something, but fortunately, they didn’t have to. Three creatures that resembled wingless birds skulked towards them. Gwynivara smirked and told them, “No offense, but you got bigger problems to deal with right now!” She pointed behind them, and the doctors turned around, screaming at what they saw. Gwynivara and Kierram rolled Bernadette out of sight!

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 8

The officers fell silent after Gwynivara announced her idea. She had expected this reaction. After a reckless mission in a high risk zone, she would’ve been surprised if anyone expressed any enthusiasm for this idea. Finally, Bernadette spoke up, “How are we going to find them?”

“When we patrol,” Gwynivara explained. “We would still need to keep an eye out for signs of Venenatus Sanguis and help when needed, but we need to pay attention to the others who respond to it. If they’re not horrified by the results, they may be a part of the origin.”

Kennith objected, “Our protocol is to leave before the police arrive to avoid capture!”

Gwynivara was about to argue, but Kierram did instead, “Protocol can change! Especially when the police could be working for the enemy.”

One officer objected, “That’s too dangerous!”

Emorick scowled at this remark. “Do the rest of you agree with Blake? You don’t wanna do something so dangerous?” Everyone but Gwynivara, Kierram, and Bernadette murmured in agreement. “So, what is training to you? A chance to learn skills you can use to show off and pick up chicks?” The murmur morphed from accord to shame. “I didn’t make you officers so you can act like you got a bigger cock than everyone else! We’re here to fight for the cure! Yes, we have a battle coming, and you’re too scared to do some surveillance work?” The room fell quiet as if everyone were holding their breath. “God, what would you do if I wasn’t around? Hide with your tails between your legs? Sooner or later, we’re all gonna face danger, and you’re here to make sure you’re ready when it does! Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir!” Everyone said, though not in unison.

Emorick shook his head with a mix of bubbling anger and blatant disgust. He ordered, “I’m gonna pair you all up and stagger your release. Before you leave, grab a camera and take a picture of anything abnormal. Wear disguises too! Oh, and if something happens to me, Gwynivara is in charge!”

He stormed out. Everyone turned to Gwynivara, who looked utterly dumbstruck. It sounded like he just made her his successor! The idea of it seemed too incredible to be true! It would be so much responsibility! The fate of hundreds of people would rest in her hands! Actually, if this disease kept spreading, the future of the entire planet could rest with her! It happened so fast that her head was spinning! It was kind of a scary prospect, but she definitely felt honored.

Walking down the hall of shops with Bernadette, Gwynivara couldn’t help feeling a little guilty. She conversed, “I should’ve said no. Everyone hates me now!”

Bernadette differed, “They don’t hate you! They’re just jealous! After Kierram refused the job, Emorick told us he’d observe us and pick one of us when we proved ourselves worthy of the title.”

“No wonder they’re mad!” Gwynivara remarked. “I practically just got here, and he gave me the title! Do you think he’s bluffing?”

“You mean like he just made you lieutenant just to get under their skin and he’ll take it back when they behave?” Bernadette inquired.

“Yeah,” Gwynivara replied. “I mean, he did say it out of anger.”

Bernadette shrugged. “It’s possible. Look, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Just be prepared if he names someone else as next in line. Until then, be prepared to step up if needed. If it makes you feel better, I don’t have a problem with it.”

“Thanks!” Gwynivara grinned.

“And it doesn’t look like Kierram did either,” Bernadette added. “which is weird ‘cause normally he objects to everything! And Emorick has tried everything to snap his attitude into shape! What did you say to Kierram, exactly?”

“I didn’t say anything!” Gwynivara reported. “He told me yesterday he likes my missions.”

Bernadette slyly joked, “You do have nice ‘missions!’”

Gwynivara covered her chest but laughed, “It’s not like that!”

“You don’t know that!” Bernadette winked.

“Oh please!” Gwynivara completely denied the notion. “He doesn’t-!”

The heard a shrill scream coming from the clothing shop, so they immediately ran to it. They found Niqun kneeling over Riley, who laid on the floor in a pool of blood! On the wall, a scorpion-like monster snarled at them! Niqun, who was applying pressure to Riley’s neck, shouted, “I can’t let go or he’ll bleed out!”

As the creature crept closer to them, Gwynivara turned to Bernadette and rapidly asked, “Did you bring any weapons?”

Bernadette quickly answered, “We are a weapon!”

The beast got close, and in unison, Bernadette and Gwynivara thought fast. In unison, they cried out, “One, two, three!” They each conjured a ball of light and threw it at the fiend, who shrieked one last time before it exploded. Everyone who witnessed this clapped and cheered for them, but they didn’t soak it in much. They ran to Niqun and Riley, and Bernadette questioned, “Is he gonna be okay?”

Niqun replied, “He’ll be okay. We can treat his wound here. Someone get my kit!”

One of the people in the crowd ran to get it, and Gwynivara stared at Riley’s pale face in horror. “He conjured a beast? He didn’t seem so miserable!”

Bernadette sagely commented, “Well, you never really know what’s going on inside someone’s head.”

“True!” Gwynivara watched Niqun administer medical attention to Riley and shuddered. “I can’t think about this! I won’t get through this mission if I do!”

“Come on,” Bernadette suggested. “Let’s grab disguises and go before anything changes!” They found a couple of uniforms on top of the mess left in the shops and, turning back to get one last helpless glance at Riley, they darted out and set out on their mission.

Gwynivara and Bernadette walked down the sidewalk with maid costumes on their bodies and somber looks on their faces as they scanned the minimalist traditional, nineteen-fifties houses. “He’ll be okay.” Gwynivara meant to assure Bernadette, but inwardly, she knew she was talking to herself too.

“Yeah…” Bernadette responded sadly. “I hate it when…the kids color on the wall! Crayons are so hard to wash off!” A couple of women walked by with their kids, so Gwynivara figured that she had to improvise to keep their cover. Bernadette whispered, “We can’t talk about that anymore!”

“Right!” Gwynivara tried not to and concentrated harder on the mission so she wouldn’t think about it. At that moment, it began to rain, which prompted them to stop for a moment. Gwynivara glanced down at their uniforms and remarked, “Good thing the colors don’t run!”

Slightly miffed, Bernadette pondered, “Should we take cover ‘til it stops?”

“No.” Gwynivara eyed the houses in the vicinity. “There really isn’t anywhere to-” Gwynivara spotted something that sent chills down her spine. Bernadette looked to Gwynivara for an explanation, but all Gwynivara could do was point. Bernadette turned her head to the direction she indicated, and her eyes widened in horror.

At a white house, by the basement entrance, the words “Not There” were written in blood! Gwynivara snapped a picture and then ran over to it. Bernadette cried, “Wait!” She caught up to her and exclaimed, “We don’t have permission to go into this house!”

“They may not be alive long enough to give us permission!” Gwynivara zipped down the cellar stairs and peered into the window on the door. Bernadette reluctantly joined her, and when they peeked into the house, they saw a man laid sprawled on the washer and dryer with a huge, bloody hole in his chest! Their jaws dropped at the pool of blood dripping onto the floor. Gwynivara took a deep breath and then declared, “We’ve gotta call the police!”

“Are you crazy?” Bernadette hissed as Gwynivara jammed the door open. “We can’t put ourselves in a position to get arrested or the mission will fail!”

Gwynivara reasoned, “No one knows this man is dead! If they’re gonna catch his killer, the police need to know right away!” Gwynviara slowly opened the door and prepared to step in.

Bernadette pulled her back. “What if it’s Venenatus Sanguis? Calling the police wouldn’t do any good!”

Gwynivara considered this for a moment, and she came up with, “If we don’t see any monsters, we’ll call the police and report the murder anonymously. Afterward, we’ll hide from the police and document them like we originally planned. Okay, you document the crime scene while I make the call.” Despite Bernadette’s misgivings, she followed Gwynivara into the basement.

They scanned the entire room for movement as they entered the room. They tiptoed and kept an ear out for any signs of danger. All they could hear was an echoing drip. Once they gave it ample time, they silently determined that there was not likely any beasts around. Gwynivara said quietly, “I don’t see a phone down here. You take pictures while I go upstairs.”

“Be quick!” Bernadette barked because of her shaking nerves. She began taking pictures immediately, and she felt it necessary to get multiple shots from the same angle since she was trembling. She heard Gwynivara talking upstairs, and she muttered, “Please hurry!” under her breath.

She heard Gwynivara slam the receiver down, and she breathed, “Oh good!” As she heard Gwynivara’s footsteps head back, she heard a very different sound coming from the other entrance. She turned to see a wolverine-like creature lick his lips while it stared at her! She gasped, but before she could arm herself to fight it, she noticed something strange about it…Before she could fully comprehend its meaning, she felt something on her back that made her scream!

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 7

Argh!” Gwynivara summoned all of her frustration and disappointment and let that energy flow to her arms. It guided her arm and clenched fist like a current in the ocean, which made her punch almost effortless. Each time she struck the bumpy rubber, a piece of her stress chipped off, so it gave her a small sense of pleasure to bash it over and over again. She didn’t think any amount of this could fully release all of the pent up emotions, but it gave her a little satisfaction, something she desperately needed right now.

Emorick walked into the training auditorium, and when he walked up to her, she didn’t give him any indication that she recognized his presence. After a moment of watching her scrap with the punching bag, Emorick inquired, “How you doing, kid?” She gave him a quick glance that suggested she couldn’t believe he just asked her that question, and without speaking to him, she went right back to punching the bag. “I guess that was a dumb question.” Gwynivara didn’t acknowledge that statement. After a moment, Emorick then probed, “So, how long are you gonna keep punishing yourself?”

She stopped in mid-action. Those words echoed deep inside of her. She hadn’t left the training room since they got back except to change out of that uniform, casting off the reminder of the fiasco from earlier that day. The thrill of surviving washed away as the facts started to flood in. That mission was her idea. Everything that went wrong fell on her. She thought she had everything figured out! In a matter of minutes everything had fallen apart. She didn’t want to face the other rebels, especially not the officers! She knew that there would be questions, and she didn’t want to relive that day. She could feel tears start to well up, and she refused to let herself get upset enough for her Venenatus Sanguis to kick in, so she started punching the bag again, though her jabs were less forceful than before.

Emorick pulled the bag out of her reach, which forced her to stop. He addressed her, “Let’s get one thing straight-missions almost never go exactly as we plan. Sometimes you do your best to anticipate all of the possible outcomes and unforeseen circumstances still blitz you out of nowhere. That’s life! When plans go wrong, the most important thing to focus on is getting your men out alive, which you did. You did well! Perfection is impossible! Mistakes happen, failures happen, but one loss doesn’t mean you don’t have the skills to make it happen next time! Right now, your job is to show your team that when you get knocked down, you get back up! Learn from the experience and move on! You’ll gain more respect by how you recover from a setback, but you’ll never get there if you let this thing defeat you! Shutting yourself out from the world isn’t gonna fix anything! Don’t worry what others may judge about your actions-you still did better than those who didn’t even try! Take some pride in that! “

How?” Gwynivara desperately asked. His words were empowering, but she didn’t know by what means she could forget everything. A future victory could say people’s opinions on her leadership skills, but what was she supposed to do until then?

Emorick answered simply, “By walking out that goddamn door with your head held high! Don’t you dare give a shit what people think! Life moves on, and so must we!” Gwynivara realized that he was right and nodded in agreement. Emorick concluded by directing her, “You’re going to take over door guard duty tonight. Head over there now, and I’ll send someone over shortly to train you on it.”

“Thank you!” Gwynivara said appreciatively.

“Don’t thank me!” Emorick advised. “I’m just doing my job.” Gwynivara smiled in gratitude, and before she headed out the door, he mentioned, “I meant it; you did a good job today!” Gwynivara stopped to absorb it for a moment. She didn’t believe it, but she appreciated the gesture. She half smiled, but it quickly vanished. She took a deep breath, held her head high, and walked out the door.

Gwynivara didn’t realize how long she had been at that punching bag until now. The hallways were virtually empty, and the few people in the halls walked around in a half sleepy daze. She thought she saw those people give her a peculiar glance. She kept her head held up high as Emorick suggested, but she did question the people’s reasons for those looks. They could’ve been judging her for the things that went wrong in the mission as she feared, but maybe it was all in her head. After seeing a clock in one of the shops, she noted that the hour was late enough to naturally wonder why someone would be awake at this time. Everyone she passed definitely seemed tired. Actually, now that her adrenaline wore off, she felt exhausted herself!

Behind the red curtains, the person she was relieving had been resting on the cushioned bench by the stairs. He heard Gwynivara enter, and in a zombie-like trance, he left without saying a word. Gwynivara didn’t care though. After everything she went through, she knew she needed the rest. Her eyes felt heavy as she laid down. She fought sleep at first, but then she remembered that someone would be by shortly to train her, so he or she could wake her up…

On top of the stormy mountain, the sultry, green-skinned woman sat on her rocky throne. Two men came up the mountain. After walking past the chained and snarling beasts, they stood before the woman and kneeled. “Shouldn’t you be destroying evidence?” She regarded them in a stony voice and stared hard as if she knew they had come to deliver news of a grave mistake on their part.

“We will,” one man spoke. “But commander, you should know our operation has been compromised!”

“Compromised how?” Her eyes flushed as her inner ire got close to a boil. She clearly waited to unleash based on the severity of their response.

The other man revealed, “Some spies infiltrated our mark. Morfran is dead, and the infiltrators escaped.”

“What?” the lady roared. “You let them get away? Who were they?”

“We don’t know,” the first man replied. “We think they’re part of a rogue agency.”

“Find them!” she bellowed.

The second man assured her, “We won’t fail!”

Someone put a hand on Gwynivara’s shoulder, which made her gasp and bolt up in a defensive stance. She saw Kierram standing before her looking bewildered, and she snapped back into reality. “Sorry! I had a nightmare.”

With a dark sense of humor, Kierram replied, “Don’t talk to me about nightmares!”

“Oh yeah…” Gwynivara remembered. This triggered more memories, like their argument and their close call at the Public Health Center. As she slumped back down onto the bench, she avoided eye contact with him, hoping that he wouldn’t bring any of those topics up. “So, you must be really good at guarding the door since they keep assigning it to you!”

Kierram scoffed, “Only ‘cause he knows I don’t sleep much. Well, you saw what happens when I do. And no, I haven’t forgotten about that night.”

Gwynivara really didn’t want to have this conversation, so she changed the subject, “So, when you’re a door guard, you can’t fall asleep?”

“Not if you’re a deep sleeper,” Kierram answered her. “Niqun is a super light sleeper and will wake up if she hears any noise. Youll need to keep your eyes open.”

Gwynivara shifted awkwardly. He obviously still felt mad, and if they were going to work together, they needed to make amends. She felt compelled to gush, “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t plan out the mission better! I really screwed up! I took a mission that should’ve lasted weeks or months and made it last a day! One stupid day! And worse, my misguided judgment almost got you killed! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I won’t plan out any more mi-!”

“Woah, woah, woah!” he interrupted her. “What are you talking about? You didn’t screw up!” Gwynivara opened her mouth to object, but she couldn’t get the words out. She got so shocked by what he said that she couldn’t comprehend it. So he asked her, “You heard everyone calling the mission suicidal, right?” She nodded. “None of us had the guts, or the brains for that matter, to take on that mission, not until you came along anyway. We learned something new, and we came out alive. I’d call that a success!”

Gwynivara hadn’t considered this viewpoint and felt very flattered, but she didn’t totally believe it. “We learned the origin of the disease, big deal! We found out it came from another planet, so all I did was take us from searching the world for the cure to searching the universe! How does that help?”

Kierram laughed heartily at this. “We don’t have to search the universe! My dad centered the Rebellion headquarters here because the origin happened here, and obviously they stuck around if their henchmen are attacking us!”

“That’s true!” She hadn’t considered that before. She started to let herself feel a little better.

“You did well on the mission!” Kierram told her. “And I don’t like saying that ‘cause I’m still mad at you. But I can’t deny it-you’re a good leader!” Gwynivara actually felt herself smiling even though she didn’t totally believe what he was saying. “At first, I only went back to training because you acted like I couldn’t do it, and I wanted to prove you wrong. I hated going there! The other officers are jerks, and it didn’t feel like we were going anywhere with this training. I volunteered for your mission ‘cause it got me out of training without making me look like I’m a coward or like I’m giving up, but now I’m excited that we’re actually going somewhere with this Rebellion! I don’t wanna go back to the way things were! Please, don’t give up planning missions!”

Gwynivara’s smile broadened at this. She felt so redeemed by this point of view! Before, she got so worried that people looked down on her for the things that went wrong that she hadn’t considered someone may actually admire what she did! She very appreciatively commented to him, “Thanks, Kierram!”

Half joking, he responded, “Shut up!” He pretended to pout. “‘Cause I’m still mad…”

“Right!” Gwynivara giggled. He laughed unwillingly, and Gwynivara couldn’t believe she went from sort of hating him to actually feeling a friendship! She didn’t know if he would ever forgive her for the beast incident, but it was nice to have someone show her loyalty despite his ill feelings. She thought about what he said, how the origin was close by to their location. She knew that she should cook up a plan to find the origin, but she didn’t have a clue how to find it…unless…”You up for another dangerous mission?”

“The more dangerous the better!” he exclaimed. “Lead the way!”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 6

“Have a seat!” a woman with busy hair invited. Gwynivara sat down in a small reception room. Her heart pounded rapidly, and her nerves raced throughout her body. She pushed these feelings aside and sent out a vibe of innocence and naivety. Her pastel themed clothes matched the role perfectly, so now she just needed to convince them. As the woman studied her application, Gwynivara discretely looked around. She didn’t expect to find any pertinent evidence up front like that, but she needed to check just in case. The light wood-paneled walls were pretty bare except for a bulletin board over her top left shoulder, which had healthcare posters not out of the ordinary for a medical facility. They gave this room more of a homey feel by adding a rusty brown shag carpet. The secretary herself wore very vibrant clothing and had kooky knick-knacks on her desk. Gwynivara found this odd, almost like they were trying too hard to look normal.

As she pondered the motives of the room’s decor, the secretary spoke to her, “Miss Summer?”

Gwynivara snapped out of her torpor. “Yes?”

“What’s your availability like this week?” the secretary asked.

Gwynivara answered as sweetly as she could, “Oh, I’m not doing anything important. I can start right now if you want me to.”

Later, Gwynivara came out of a janitorial supply closet wearing a new uniform-a white hospital dress with a scarlet blazer. She adjusted her wardrobe to make sure her security credentials showed clearly. A cart with a trash can and various cleaning supplies waited for her, and after taking a deep breath, she pushed it down the hallway, which bustled with doctors, nurses, and patients. She avoided eye contact with everyone as she made her way to the elevator, which she managed to get to without incident.

The elevator door opened to the upper level, which was a completely different atmosphere than down below. The empty hallway made no noise, at least not until Gwynivara wheeled her cart out. She didn’t notice a slight squeak downstairs, and she silently prayed that the sound her cart made wouldn’t attract too much attention. Past the stairwell, she saw unmarked doors on her right but not much else. The minimalist walls were unwelcoming, and she couldn’t imagine coming to work each day in a place like this! She shuddered a little but still kept her eyes out for clues. She saw nothing of note until she finally came across a door on the left labeled: Research. This was exactly what she was looking for! Ripe with anticipation, Gwynivara opened the door and let herself in.

She stood too astonished to move. The room itself impressed her with its vast size, but moreover, hundreds of people in uniforms like hers sat on tables flipping through leaves in books. The speed at which they turned the pages were timed so coordinately that they emitted a sound similar to the ticking of a clock. No one talked to each other, in fact, they hardly even moved other than to change the page. The tables they sat on, the walls, and the floor were all white, making the only colors in the room come from the jackets and the books. She felt a chill go down her spine, but she had to quickly shrug it off. She had a job to do.

None of the researchers gave any indication that Gwynivara had even entered the room, so they paid no mind as she made her way through one of the two aisles. She stopped at every station to check into a white trash can placed at the end. They were virtually empty, so she didn’t understand the point of their presence at all. Even so, she still took a good, long look at them while trying to catch a glimpse of what they were reading. She saw medical journals and dissertations of how different diseases got spread. Nothing really stuck out to her yet. She saw that everyone had a notebook and pen in front of them, but almost no one actually wrote anything down. She eventually noticed some material on the flu. She remembered that they researched a variety of ailments, and she wondered where the Venenatus Sanguis section could be found.

Some movement caught her eye, and she looked up to see Kierram sweeping in the other aisle. Their eyes met for a moment, but both of them immediately turned away. To maintain cover, the three of them agreed that it would be prudent to pretend to not know each other. She ardently wanted to search for Bernadette, but her persona wouldn’t care where the other volunteers were at. If any one of them appeared to care about anything other than cleaning, it would cause an alarm. Gwynivara’s notion on this deepened based on the mechanical behavior of the researchers. Still, despite Bernadette’s confidence on her ability to handle this task, Gwynivara was most worried about her since she grew up with a maid and really didn’t know how to clean. They all agreed that if something happened to one of them, the others would continue the mission, but she really hoped that it wouldn’t come to that!

In the midst of her thoughts, something caught her eye-a title that read: Venenatus Sanguis. She found the right section, and her adrenaline flushed her with excitement! Now she had to find excuses to linger even longer as she worked. Even though this particular bin ahd almost no trash, she still pulled out the garbage bag in order to replace it. As she very slowly tied it up, she peered over a man’s shoulders. The article he read talked about how the cause of Venenatus Sanguis appeared to be through the bites of the beasts, so the author theorized that something in the creature’s saliva could contain the disease. Gwynivara figured as much already and quickly finished replacing the bag.

After a while, she heard the door she came in open up, and when she casually glanced in that direction, she saw two orderlies enter the room. They were very big, surly men, and they eyed the room like security guards. Gwynivara shrugged them off. She had to focus on the mission, and besides, she wasn’t doing anything wrong…nothing that the others could detect anyways. Still, these men were obviously more vigilant than the researchers, so Gwynivara knew that they would have to exercise more caution when it came to sneaking a peak at their research, which increased the pressure she already felt. She took a deep breath and kept going.

Soon, she came across a table where one of the researchers actually got up to leave. Gwynivara used this opportunity to her advantage and wiped down his entire station, giving her a longer chance to read the material he had been studying. The books he was looking weren’t marked or titled. She frowned but remained undeterred. As she wiped the table, she “accidentally” knocked his books to the ground. Naturally, she bent down to pick it all up. While she was under the table, she caught a glimpse of a chart. “It can’t be!” she said under her breath.

Before she could make anymore observations, she felt a cold piece of metal on the small of her back. A deep voice whispered, “Come quietly and one gets hurt!” She realized she had a gun held against her! While she wracked her brain of how to get out of this situation, she had no choice but to comply. When she stood up, she saw Kierram standing with one of the orderlies. At first glance, it looked as though they were merely standing next to each other, but she could tell by the gleam in his eyes that he also had a gun to his back. Gwynivara could see that he, too, didn’t know what to do, and she dearly wished she could give him some answers.

They walked forward without making anymore eye contact with each other. Between the four of them, they barely made a sound at all. Gwynivara wondered why they were acting so secretive. The orderlies were conducting official security business, so she found it odd that they were making the extra effort to avoid getting noticed. She could understand making no noise so as not to disturb the researchers, but it didn’t make sense to her that they were hiding their guns. Actually, she didn’t think orderlies carried weapons at all, which made her wonder if they were actually Public Health Center employees. If not, who were they?

At the end of the aisle, they saw Bernadette stooped down to push dirt into a dust pan. The orderly who held a gun to her held onto Gwynivara’s arm tightly so that he can threaten Bernadette. Before he could though, Gwynivara punched the orderly in the face! The researchers all stopped what they were doing and gasped as the orderly threw Gwynivara to the ground and pointed a gun at her. The orderly told the room, “Great Dismal Falls Police! These three are frauds that must be executed immediately!”

As he cocked his gun, Gwynivara quickly noticed that he was left-handed. As he pulled the trigger and fired, Gwynivara kicked his arm so that it pointed left, which directed his shot to the other orderly. As he got distracted by his partner falling to the ground, Gwynivara, Kierram, and Bernadette ran out of the room. The other orderly ran after them and let out a couple of shots. The researchers all screamed and hid as he chased them out of the room.

When the three got into the hallway, an alarm sounded. They saw people with snares run out of the unmarked rooms, and they rapidly realized that they were about to get surrounded. The elevator door opened, and Bernadette, Gwynivara, and Kierram ran inside. Luckily, the doors closed in time before anyone could grab them. Gwynivara stated, “They’ll be waiting for us at the ground floor!”

Bernadette, who was closest to the level buttons, responded, “So, we won’t go there!” She pushed the button for the basement, and everyone’s hearts beat wildly as they descended. When the doors opened up, they cautiously peaked to see if anyone was waiting for them on this floor. Fortunately, all they saw was a small, dingy basement. They ran up the narrow, wooden staircase, but before they could open the door at the top, they heard the cacophony of an angry mob, so Bernadette locked the door and asked, “Is there another way out of here?”

They scanned the room and saw no other exits. Kierram saw a couple of small windows above a washer and dryer, but they weren’t large enough for anyone to fit through. He closed his eyes and conjured a ball of light. He threw it towards the windows, creating a giant hole with access to the sidewalk in the alley outside. “There is now!”

They climbed on top of the washer, and as they heard the pounding of a battering ram, they crawled out of the hole. All three were on the sidewalk outside just as the Public Health Center workers burst through the door! They ran down the crowded street, and thankfully, they blended in with the crowd. The workers had no choice but to give up!

Dusk had begun to set as they reached the outer limits of the city. They were far enough away from danger where they could slow down and catch their breaths. Gwynivara probed, “How did they know we were frauds? They don’t do background checks on volunteers!”

“Do you really think those men were cops?” Bernadette inquired.

Kierram replied, “If they were, they didn’t follow protocol. Either way, someone clearly knows we were close to getting information on Venenatus Sanguis that they don’t want us to know, and they have people helping them protect the secret!”

Bernadette lamented, “I wish we could’ve stuck around long enough to find something worthwhile!”

“Well, I did learn one thing that makes this mission worthwhile,” Gwynivara piped in. “They’re studying other planets in solar systems I’ve never even heard of! Whoever created the disease isn’t human!”

 

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 5

Today is my first day in the Rebellion, and out of all the things to worry about, I’m most worried about what to wear!” Gwynivara remarked as she shuffled through a rack of clothes in a cavern shop. “I know, typical girl issue, right?”

A man with pepper-gray hair slicked to the left, large, thing metal glasses, and pale skin smoked a pipe as he sat behind as he sat behind the counter and casually kept an eye on the store. He shrugged and told her, “Listen sweetie, everyone wants to make a good impression on their first day! Sometimes you don’t get a second chance, so I get it!”

Gwynivara examined a garment, trying to decide if she wanted wear it today or not. “Ugh! I don’t know! What do the other officers wear?”

The man raised an eyebrow. “You’re an officer? That’s impressive! You got more guts than I do!” Gwynivara smiled gratefully, but before she could figure out what to say back, the man went on, “Most of the other officers are men, so they don’t care that much. Bernadette came from a rich family and brought most of her clothes with her, so don’t expect to find anything like hers here!” Gwynivara giggled, but that statement struck a chord with her; how Bernadette went from luxury to this environment must have quite a story to it! The man concluded, “Just go with anything that you would exercise in.”

Gwynivara found some lightweight pants and a matching shirt, but she suddenly noticed, “It looks really close to what I have on now!” She glanced at the clock on the wall behind him. “Crap! I don’t have time to look for something else!”

“It’s only for one day, dear! If you want, I can take a look around and find some items your size and set them aside for you,” he offered.

“Really?” She got a little thrown off because she wasn’t used to so many people treating her so kindly.

He shrugged again. “I got nothing better to do.” Gwynivara handed him the clothes she picked out, and he found the tags on them so he could see her size. “Okay, got it. Come by at the end of the day, and I’ll show you what I find.”

“Thank you so much, uh…” She fished for his name.

“Riley.”

“Gwyn.”

They shook hands, and Gwynivara complimented him, “You’re so nice!”

Riley chuckled, “Most of the time I’m pretty sarcastic, but you’re obviously new, so I’m on my best behavior right now.” Gwynivara laughed, and Riley concluded with, “Have a good first day!”

“You too!” Gwynivara replied automatically, but after she processed the interaction, she cringed. “I mean…”

“I know what you meant, darling.” Riley took a smoke but grinned. “It’s okay, you can go!” She smiled gratefully and left.

In the kitchen, Gwynivara didn’t have a lot of time, so she searched for food that could get prepared quickly. She settled on toast, and as she waited for her bread in the toaster, she heard someone enter from the entrance behind her. When she turned around, she saw Kierram and turned right back around. Kierram grumbled, “If you’re expecting an apology, you can forget it!”

Gwynivara shrugged and casually said, “Okay.”

“I-!” Kierram got thrown off by her nonchalant attitude. “What do you mean, okay?”

“I mean I don’t expect an apology from you.” Her toast popped up, and she began to put butter on it. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“What, now you’re mocking me?” Kierram accused.

Continuing to spread butter on her toast, she told him, “No. Actually, I genuinely don’t want your apology. I want to make my breakfast and do well in training. I could care less what you do or don’t do.”

Kierram scoffed, “Oh, now you don’t care! You cared enough last night to barge into my room and put your nose into my business, but now-!”

Gwynivara, who had already finished preparing her food, looked him square in the eye and stated, “I care for you as much as any other person or animal in that I don’t want you to die, but I have my own life to worry about, so I don’t care what you do or don’t with yours!” Kierram didn’t respond other than to look utterly stunned. While she walked out of the room, she regarded him coldly, “See you at training!”

“I don’t do training!” Kierram sneered.

Gwynivara turned her head and gave him a piteous glance. “Oh, okay then.”

As she walked down the hall, Kierram called after her, “I could, I choose not to!”

Not looking back, Gwynivara responded listlessly, “Good for you!” Kierram viscerally growled in frustration and went back into the kitchen.

Later that morning, Gwynivara found a heavy oak door at the end of the left hall. With great effort, she pulled it open and nervously entered. The training arena reminded her of a high school gym except for the dark, rocky floor. The spacious, well-lit room had soft, foamy mats placed strategically throughout the area. Nine men and Bernadette were already practicing sword fighting with slender, wooden poles. Emorick hadn’t arrived yet, so she surmised that they did this as a warmup exercise. With everyone else paired up, she thought it’d make sense to approach one of the men who formed a group of three. However, it felt too awkward to just in like that since she was so new to the group, so she hesitated. She silently debated whether or not to join them or to wait for a calm moment to introduce herself to everyone.

Her decision got made for her as one of the men in the group noticed her. He stopped in his tracks, nudged his buddies, and pointed behind them. They turned around were surprised to see someone standing there. The three discussed something, and one of them walked towards her. Gwynivara felt a rush of gratitude and really respected the Rebellion for its thoughtful people. When he got closer, she observed a smug smile on his face, the kind of smile that a person bears when they’re good-looking and know it. Gwynivara sincerely hoped that this interpretation wasn’t true, but the way he posed in front of her, leaning on his pole while maintaining way too much eye contact, she was certain her presumption would prove to be accurate and groaned.

The man very smoothly asked her, “Come to watch us practice, bunny?”

Scowling, Gwynivara informed him, “Actually, I’m here to practice. I’m an officer too.”

He raised his eyebrows in mild admiration. “Oh really? Well, feel free to practice on me anytime!” He either didn’t notice her disgusted expression or he didn’t care because he went on, “Seriously, I’d love to see your sword-work!”

Before Gwynivara could let out a noise of revulsion, she heard one from behind her. She turned around and was surprised to see Kierram standing there! The man must not have noticed Kierram giving him a dirty look because he urged, “Come on, let me have it!”

Reaching into a tall crate next to him, Kierram suggested to her, “You heard him, let him have it!”

He tossed her a pole, and anger impulsed her into it. She raised her arm and, using all of the strength in her muscles, she whacked him in the stomach! The force of her strike took the air out of him for a moment. The room fell silent as Emorick entered. Gwynivara still felt miffed about the situation, but she hung her head shamefully, fearing the worst from Emorick. Instead, Emorick ordered, “Keep going!” Although this slightly shocked her, Gwynivara obliged and hit him in the arm and then again in the opposite leg. Hiding his grin, Emorick regarded the man, “Come on, Kennith, fight back!” Kennith genuinely tried to fight back but couldn’t get a hit in.

When Gwynivara got a good hit on the back of his head, Emorick instructed, “Alright, that’s enough. Stop!” She adhered to his direction, feeling vindicated. Emorick stood over Kennith, who rubbed his head pathetically, and told him, “All soldiers will treat each other with respect if they want to remain in it. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir!” Kennith responded civilly.

“Good,” Emorick addressed him, “Now go get an ice pack from the first aid station. You’re dismissed for the day!” Kennith could not get away fast enough and dashed out of the room! As soon as he was out of sight, Emorick directed, “Alright, everyone, gather ‘round!” He sat on an apple box on the other side of the room while the others sat cross-legged on the floor before him. He saw Kierram hesitate to sit, and clearly Emorick did not expect his presence. “Kierram? You’re here!”

Everyone turned to him incredulously. Gwynivara expected him to say something snarky, but instead, he pointed out, “You act like I’m the new one here!”

That brought their attention to Gwynivara, who clumsily waved hello. “Hi! I’m Gwyn!”

Emorick added, “She’s our newest officer. You’ll have to get to know her later though. We have more distressing news to discuss before we practice.” He reached into his pocket and brought out that purple orb. He showed it to the group, and when they leaned in close, they saw a local news article that showed a middle-aged man with light colored, slicked back hair, a bushy mustache, and a thin physique standing proudly with his hands on his hips, which had the effect of showing off his police badge on his belt. The headline read: Chief Forsythe Cracks Down on Venenatus Sanguis Fugitives. Emorick informed them, “It says that he’s hiring more officers specfically for the purpose of rounding up more people with the disease to bring them into quarantine!”

“No!” a couple men cried out.

Bernadette commented, “Well, looks like we’re about to get more crowded in here!”

“That’s true!” Emorick agreed. “We’re gonna increase our patrols in the city, of course. However, Chief Forsythe is relentless and won’t stop until every last one of us is exterminated! Our patrols will only be like a tourniquet-we won’t truly stop the bleeding until we fix the wound. We’ve gotta do more research on the cure!”

“How are we supposed to do that?” one of the men asked. “Every time we go to the library, every book written on the subject is checked out.”

“We could see if the hospital has any brochures,” another man suggested. The others murmured in agreement.

Gwynivara didn’t share their sentiment. “I worked for that hospital for over a year and a half, and trust me, their brochures aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on!”

The others were a little disappointed to hear this but accepted her input. The man who made the suggestion snidely inquired, “Do you have any suggestions?” He crossed his arms, clearly not expecting her to come up with a better solution.

Gwynivara shyly brought up her idea from last night, “The Public Health Center is doing research on Venenatus Sanguis, so they must have access to a lot of resources on the subject. Now, I know only authorized personnel would have access to the material, but I heard that they were looking for volunteers. So, if we signed up to help them out, we could sneak in and peak at what they’ve got.”

For a moment, no one spoke. Eventually, one man remarked, “That’s suicide! If we got caught-!”

Kierram interrupted, “I think it’s a great idea!” Everyone, especially Gwynivara, seemed stunned by his new-found allegiance. He affirmed, “What knowledge we could gain is worth the risk. I’m in!”

“Me too!” Bernadette asserted.

Emorick probed, “Are you sure you wanna take on a task so dangerous on your first day of the Rebellion?”

“We don’t have time to waste!” Gwynivara answered with absolute certainty.

He couldn’t argue with her logic, so Emorick consented, “Alright, Gwyn. You have my permission to head this mission.”

Kierram and Bernadette stood behind her. Hardly believing her fortune, she mentally started to prepare herself to plan this out. She began to head out, and the other two followed her. Before they could leave, Emorick called after them, “Just do me a favor…” Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram all turned around and listened. “…Come back to us alive!”

Gwynivara vowed, “We will.” As soon as they turned back around and left, the three of them tried to hide their ominous sense of foreboding.