Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 10

Without hesitation, Emorick told the Rebels, “We can’t do much of anything in these sewers! Let’s get out of here and find a place to figure the rest of it out.” Gwynivara and the other Rebels knew that they could have figured that out on their own, but it felt so refreshing to get an order from him again! Gwynivara could tell that they respected her leadership, but his encouragement and strategic skills were priceless, values that only got iterated by his absence! The joy of this reunion emboldened their spirits, which gave them the spark of energy that they needed to move forward again. Kierram and Riley scooped Emorick up again, and they continued trekking through the sewage system.

The pipe-way they followed led to a drain large enough for them to walk through, and they found themselves on a dirt patch in a green field. They could hear an excited buzz from a large crowd nearby the spot, and when they traversed the small hill in front of them, they beheld an enormous football stadium with numerous people trickling in! A group of attendees passed by them with patriotic shirts and accessories on, and Gwynivara realized, “Oh, we’re at the rally!”

Before Emorick could ask what really she had meant, a passerby chimed in, “That’s right, sister! You made it here!”

A woman in that same group ushered them, “Come on, we don’t wanna be late!” The Rebels hesitated a bit. They were already wanted by Virginia authorities for evading quarantine and by the FBI for a trumped up charge, and after that stunt they pulled at Emorick’s court martial, they knew they would get placed on the most wanted list for the state of Maryland and the military too. It seemed reckless to even consider attending an event with so many eyeballs, each set only increasing their odds of getting reported, but so far, none of the people that went by looked rattled by their presence in any way except in wondering why they just stood there. Everyone’s enthusiasm for the occasion appeared to have siphoned their entire focus, so Gwynivara didn’t think that anyone would think to keep a lookout for any fugitives. She thought that they could blend in with the crowd and then slip into the woods that she saw behind the stadium, but then Emorick, in a low tone so that only the Rebels could hear him, inquired, “Is this something we might benefit from attending?”

The possibility of actually going to the rally hadn’t actually occurred to her until right then! She heard enough of the nonsense that came out Rialowe’s mouth already, and she didn’t relish the idea of hearing more of it, but Emorick raised a good point. If Rialowe really was working for Rafeneita, then it could prove helpful to see his strategy unfold in front of them! She now grew curious on whether or not he might mention her in an indirect way, and she wondered if Rafeneita had the gall to actually show up to one of these things! At the very least, Emorick only got a small summary of what they learned about their enemy during his time in a coma, so he would most likely gain a lot of perspective on the situation by going to this. Technically, Emorick did have a presence at the battle against her, but apparently, he didn’t remember anything about that day. She made a mental note to delve into how he had been able to do that, but for now, she thought that the leader of the Rebellion should knew these details, so it now made absolute sense for them to attend this thing. She replied to him by nodding, and with Emorick’s consent, they followed the folks flocking to this event.

As they approached the venue, everyone lined up and slowed their pace. Bernadette peered over everyone’s heads, and then she reported, “Oh, it looks like they’re going through security.”

“Security? Does this guy actually qualify for secret service?” Kierram questioned.

“It looks like it.” Bernadette observed them a frown.

The Rebels began to fret until Riley reasoned, “This isn’t a bad thing! They’re probably just checking for weapons, so we’re fine! If he had hired his own security guards, you know who would have just told them about us…”

They got reassured by his logic, but John fretted, “I hope she didn’t plant people on the inside in case we stopped by!”

“I don’t think she expected us to make it out of the courthouse let alone attend this… genius’s rally…” Niqun obviously edited her words in case anyone outside of their group overheard her.

“She probably doesn’t even know that we made the connection between her and him,” José pointed out.

Emorick stated, “If she had any clue we would attend this rally, she would’ve stopped us from coming a long time ago!”

The person behind them piped in, “She sounds like a real bitch!” The Rebels wholeheartedly agreed with him on that!

As they neared the secret service team, everyone’s hearts beat rapidly! To their relief though, they simply waved a metal detecting wand over them, and when they found nothing, they motioned for them to go inside. They made their way to the vacant seats in the back with the full expectation of getting ambushed at any second, and the fear became so pronounced that Gwynivara wanted to suggest turning back to leave. The breath got sucked out of them when a very large man suddenly stood in front of them and grunted, “Hey!” Fortunately, he quickly followed with, “Nice shirt!”

He pointed to the anti-glove tee shirt that Cody wore, and everyone got flooded with relief when they figured out that the man’s intention was simply to compliment them! Cody had clearly forgotten about his disguise, but he speedily recovered by saying, “Thanks, man!” The guy gave him a high five, and then everyone returned to making their way to their seats.

Once the Rebels had sat down, they began to visually canvass the area. The arena had gotten thoroughly packed, and the crowd hardly had any space between them. She spotted ushers sprinkled throughout the area, but the sheer volume of people didn’t allow them to move much if at all. Gwynivara pondered if Rafeneita might have warned the ushers about them, but she rationalized that if she had plants in this event that she would have made it easier for them to maneuver through the aisles. She wanted to express this notion to the others, but Emorick incredulously read out loud, “Lie to me!”

Gwynivara glanced up and saw what he alluded to. On two big projector screens, the woman from Rialowe’s ad posed for a poster advertising Rialowe’s candidacy, and while she had heard her say that she would permit lies on the commercial, it made her cringe to see that Rialowe used it for his campaign slogan! It did please her to see that Emorick had the right reaction to this premise, and as they lowered the stadium lights to convey their readiness to begin, Gwynivara confirmed to Emorick, “Yes, you read that right! And yes, that’s a sucker by her lips too!”

Emorick’s face twisted in revulsion, but before he could comment any further, that same woman from Rialowe’s propaganda entered onto the stage, which prompted the crowd to cheer. She paused to let them escalate their excitement, and then she spoke into a microphone, “Hello, Silver Park!” The audience cheered for her again, and after they finished, she continued, “Nice to see you! For those of you who don’t know, I’m Bella Dolion, the chief spokesperson for the Rialowe Seventy Six campaign! I just wanted to come out and thank you for your support! Thanks to you, we now qualify for the presidential debates next week!” The crowd celebrated wildly, and the Rebels gave each other a foreboding look before Bella went on, “We’re about to change the world, can you feel it?” Everyone responded quite vehemently. “Yes, I love it! That sounds like freedom! Are you to be free?” They all indicated that they did. “Then it sounds like you’re ready for the man of the hour- Don John Rialowe!”

Rialowe bounded onto the stage and drank in all of the fervor that the crowd gave him. Beaming broadly, he took the microphone and addressed the crowd, “Hello, patriots!” He let everyone roar for him, and then he continued, “I hope you didn’t come here expecting to hear more of the same old guff that the rest of the politicians give you!” They all expressed how much they didn’t want to hear that, which made Rialowe’s grin widen. “I didn’t think so! I’m sure you’re tired of of their doom and gloom! They only want to give you the worst case scenarios, and they claim that it’s facts! Then, if someone like me wants to tell you all the good that’s happening, suddenly I’m lying! They don’t seem to get that you’d much rather hear one of my ‘lies’ than their so called truths! So, how about it? Who wants me to lie to them?”

The entire stadium began chanting, “Lie to me! Lie to me! Lie to me!”

Once the chanting died down, Rialowe enspeeched, “My fellow Americans, the future is bright for our country! We’re going to wriggle out of the arms of oppression, and for once, we’ll know what it likes to live in the land of the free! No more being criminalized for just trying to live your life! If you want to speak out, you’ll no longer be silenced! If you work hard to earn a living, you’ll no longer get so much of your paycheck taken from you! If you want to live in your dream neighborhood, Uncle Sam isn’t going to stand in your way anymore! Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter want to get elected to control your every move, but I want to be your next president so you can get that control back!” His supporters all regaled him with noises of approval. “You know they both support the PHC’s recommendation to have everyone wear gloves?” All of the attendees, except for the Rebels, booed at that reference. He held up a pair of thin gloves and stared at them judgmentally. “Really? This piece of cloth is supposed to keep me safe from a deadly disease? How fake does this pandemic sound?”

Gwynivara and the other Rebels all bore an expression of sheer disgust at his antics. While he spoke, Gwynivara noticed a small creature scurrying over the back side of the seats in a row ahead of them. It almost resembled a salamander, but it had much sharper features. She nudged the Rebels around her to bring it to their attention, and as Rialowe continued speaking, they watched it with great interest. Gwynivara wanted to go down to destroy it before it bit someone, but she caught wind of the closest usher’s gaze. He glared at her as if to signal not to interfere, which perplexed her completely for a second. It then occurred to her that Rialowe literally was in the middle of explaining how preposterous the concept of Venenatus Sanguis sounded to him, and pointing out a manifestation would prove its existence. She understood that his sycophants wanted to make sure that he didn’t get contradicted, but this bothered her! The creature would bite someone and spread the viral disease further! The afflicted may not make it, and if they did, they might infect others who wouldn’t! She considered risking detection to put an end to this dangerous allowance, but it was too late! It bit a woman’s shoulder, and when she saw the beast attached to her, she didn’t freak out! She simply shrugged it off, and then she laughed about it amongst her friends! This horrified the Rebels beyond measure- people were getting infected with Venenatus Sanguis and didn’t care! The depth of Rialowe’s poisoned words became evident, and whether he worked for Rafeneita or just did this vile action on his own, he needed his sinister efforts to get thwarted immediately!

After Rialowe finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. As he exited the stage, he got received by both Bella and a mysterious woman who kept her face concealed. Gwynivara felt a cold chill go through her, and her gut told her that they were in Rafeneita’s orbit! She could tell that the other Rebels felt the same way based on their faces. As they eyed this woman suspiciously, Gwynivara desperately wished that she could have ambushed the stage and confront this person. Even if her theory on her identity got proven wrong, these people were dangerous! No matter who she was, the whole team needed to get confronted! Unfortunately, the flow of the crowd became too strong. Everyone was streaming out of the exits, and they had no choice but to follow.

As soon as they could break away from everyone else, Gwynivara probed, “So, how do we get back inside?”

Emorick used his facial gestures to allude to something ahead of them. “We don’t!” The Rebels all caught sight of what he saw, and their eyes grew wide…

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 9

Gwynivara walked up to the building with total confidence, she had assumed this role a million times, but she hoped that the others would find a way to make themselves appear less awkward! They expressed more nervousness about realistically portraying janitors and cafeteria workers than using their incantations to rescue Emorick from his captors! Gwynivara had done so many custodial jobs that strolling in with the uniform on felt like second nature to her, but in the back of her mind, she worried more about how the other rebels would show up! She wished that they could have all arrived at once, but that would have been realistic. They had to slowly trickle in just like folks would for any other workplace, which complicated their plan even further since she had to make sure that everyone had gotten in and found the right spots without becoming too conspicuous to the rest of the staff. She also knew that Rafeneita would have people on the inside, and while she had no clue who they were or what they looked like, she especially didn’t want to do anything to rouse their suspicion! She tried not to think of everything that could go wrong at this point, she just took a deep breath and hoped for the best as she approached the courthouse.

A guard stood by the back door, and even though her heart pounded wildly from the weight of it all, she maintained a cool demeanor and gave the guard a cordial nod as she entered the building. He returned the gesture, and just as she had conjectured, the guard didn’t ask for an ID or even bat an eyelash about her presence in the courthouse! That gave her some relief- if everyone else followed suit, then they could all get inside without a fuss! As she began walking down the halls, she could hear Kierram’s voice behind her giving the guard a curt hello. She loosened up a little bit- so far, so good!

She didn’t make eye contact with anyone as she made her way through the hallway, but it seemed like most of the people there had a lot on their mind and didn’t pay much mind to a person who blended into the background. She knew that whoever Rafeneita’s lackeys were that she probably would have shown them a picture of their targets, so she hoped that she didn’t run into them before the trial even began! Fortunately, she made it to the restroom without incident! Once she got into a stall, she ripped off her janitorial uniform, and she didn’t realize how hot she felt until she took off that extra layer! She took a quick glance at her skirt suit in the mirror, and once she established herself as believable, she headed out of there. She passed by Niqun as she left, and while they couldn’t stare at each other long enough to communicate, they both had a sparkle of comfort about them just to be able to see each other safe and well!

When Gwynivara entered into the courtroom, she saw that most people gave Emorick a wide berth. She thought part of the reason probably stemmed from their vitriol towards a soldier accused of treason, but she also guessed that the attendees got warned about his condition. Her theory got confirmed after she took a seat behind Emorick. After she sat down, his attorney turned around and warned her, “Just to let you know, my client has Venenatus Sanguis and may produce a manifestation from the emotions of this event. You’re welcome to sit there, but just be aware that you may end up in the line of fire.”

Gwynivara queried, “Is he wearing gloves?” She peered in his direction, and while she checked out his hands, she caught a glimpse of his facial expression. His skin still looked somewhat sallow, so she knew he hadn’t completely conquered whatever ailment put him into a coma. He very determinedly fixated his gaze on the empty judge’s bench ahead of him, but Gwynivara knew that he knew she was there. He had a very hardened fire in his eyes, and she could tell that her choice had upset him. Her feelings did not get hurt by this, they prepared themselves for him to vehemently object to this plan due to entirely selfless reasons. He would never have approved of this plot, but once he learned all of the facts, they knew he would forgive them for this risk. He was angry with her right now, but it reassured her that he at least knew they set something in motion so that he wouldn’t get blindsided when it happened! She regarded his lawyer, “I’ll take my chances!”

José joined her in the front and sat to her left. Shortly afterwards, a man in a dress military uniform sat to her right. Unlike José, this man looked directly at her, his cold eyes flashing at her in warning, and Gwynivara had no shadow of a doubt that Rafeneita had sent him there! She didn’t know whether her people used that disguise to get into the building or if she had infiltrated the military, and she sincerely hoped that it wasn’t the latter case, that wouldn’t have boded well at all! She didn’t let this man intimidate her though, she would not permit failure when the fate of humanity depended on their success!

“All rise!” the bailiff commanded. The man in the military uniform partially blocked Gwynivara’s view of Emorick, but this didn’t deter her at all. This guy clearly had no idea just what the Rebels were capable of! “The honorable Judge Jareth is now presiding!”

“You may be seated!” Judge Jareth permitted as he took his seat at the bench. “We’re here to court martial Lieutenant General Emorick Conley. Will the defendant please rise?”

His lawyer informed Judge Jareth, “Your honor, my client is unable to physically do so due to health reasons.”

Judge Jareth didn’t seem particularly phased by this. “Very well. Lieutenant General Emorick Conley, you’re being charged with abandoning your post in order to commit high treason. How do you plea?”

“Your honor, I plead not guilty!” Emorick stated firmly, which generated a disbelieving laughter from the crowd.

“Order!” Judge Jareth banged his gavel. “Counsel, please proceed with your opening-.”

Before he could finish his sentence, a loud uproar sounded from the back of the room! Rebekah, Cody, Naama, and John all held up anti-glove protest signs and repeated a lot of the sentiments they heard Rialowe’s supporters utter. They yelled loud enough that the bailiff could hardly hear Judge Jareth order him to have the disrupters removed. As he made his way over there, Gwynivara tried to stand up, but the man in the soldier’s uniform grabbed her wrist and attempted to pull her down. José shed his gloves and sent a spark of light over to him. He succeeded in freeing Gwynivara, but the crowd took notice of this and gasped. And, with that, their plot had officially begun!

All of the Rebels except for Gwynivara and Bernadette did an incantation to create smoke. Gwynivara and Bernadette created balls of light, and as the room became hazy, they still had the ability to see. They made a beeline for Emorick, and the other Rebels followed the lights. Kierram and Riley grabbed Emorick by his arms as Rafeneita’s plants found them and tried to fight back. The Rebels who did not have anything in their hands outnumbered them and easily kept them at bay. Bernadette and Gwynivara led them out of the exit that Judge Jareth entered the room in, and John let out one more strike before shutting the door behind him.

As soon as they stepped out into the hallway, they were met with bullets! A number of military police shot at them, and the Rebels could hardly keep up! Gwynivara wanted to retrieve their guns as they had done in their escape from the FBI, but she had to concentrate on the bullets already flying at them. Her head frantically raced as she tried to think a way out of this, and then suddenly, a red haired man led the Great Dismal motorcycle cops out of the courtroom with shields! As the motorcycle cops returned fire, the red haired man instructed, “Go! We don’t have much time!” The Rebels did as he suggested and made their way out of the back door.

“Go to the street!” the red haired man shouted as he ran behind them. The Rebels all headed in that direction, and the motorcycle cops came shortly afterwards.

“Where are we…?” Gwynivara started to wonder, but when she spotted the manhole ahead of them, she understood completely! They borrowed a church van, but the place they parked it at got totally blocked off, so she felt eternally grateful that a backup plan showed up!

The motorcycle cops surrounded them completely as a group of police officers emerged from all side. As the gunfire resumed, Gwynivara and the other Rebels shot incantations too since bullets were able to slip through their barricade. They slowly made their way to the manhole, but Gwynivara didn’t know how they would get it open without accidentally getting shot. Plus, she knew it would be foolish to jump into the sewers with the police watching, they would just follow them! She desperately prayed for some kind of distraction…

She instantly regretted making that wish! As soon as she had thunk it, the red haired man abruptly dove in front of Emorick, and a bullet entered into his back! Rebekah shrieked, “Daddy!” as he fell to the floor, and everyone ceased their fire for a moment. Obviously, the police hadn’t considered their ages as they fired upon them, and it evidently crushed their souls to see a child’s heart break over one of her parents!

“Chief Forsythe!” Gwynivara knelt by him to check on his status, and she grew as white as a ghost to see so much blood spewing out of him! “You saved us!” she told him gratefully.

“I knew you’d be there! I had to…” His speech grew weaker and weaker as he croaked out, “Take care of Rebekah for me!”

Rebekah wailed, “Daddy!”

With his last remaining bit of strength, Chief Forsythe pled to Rebekah, “Get the cure out!” He took one final breath before he became motionless, and Rebekah sobbed uncontrollably. Everyone who watched the scene couldn’t help but weep a little! After a moment though, the police inched their way closer to them…

All of a sudden, a giant gargoyle swooped in and roared at some of the police! The police had no choice but to fight the beast. With everyone’s attention swayed in that direction, José and John got the manhole open. Kierram and Riley got Emorick into the sewers. Gwynivara stood guard as the rest of them made their way into the sewage system, watching both what the Rebels did behind her as well as what the beast did before her. Rebekah didn’t want to leave her father’s side, so Bernadette and Cody had to force her to vacate the vicinity. The creature grew closer to her, so Gwynivara created more smoke and slipped into the sewer. As she began to put the cover back on, she saw it about to strike some of the police officers. She created a fireball and shot it at the beast, who roared in pain as it stumbled to the ground! They still needed to kill it, but she felt confident they could hand it now as she recovered the manhole just before the smoke evaporated completely.

Bernadette had to muffle Rebekah’s mouth until they got to a safe distance from the scene. Their adrenaline kept them moving for quite a while, but soon, all of the incantations they did as well as all of the running caught up to them. Much of their energy rapidly left their bodies, and Gwynivara had to brace herself against the wall to keep from collapsing. Rebekah wanted to keep crying, but she became too drowsy to muster up the vigor to do so. Unexpectedly, a demonic-looking beast crawled feverishly on the ceiling towards them, and John responded quickly, creating a ball of light to take it out. Rebekah sorrowfully apologized, “I’m sorry, I keep creating beasts!”

“Don’t worry about it, kid! I would’ve done the same thing if it happened to my dad!” Kierram assured her before turning to his father, who just stared at them in total astonishment until…

“Why did you do that?” Emorick bellowed. “Why did you gamble all of your lives just to save me?”

Kierram asserted, “A good soldier never leaves a man behind! They would’ve killed you for treason!”

Emorick’s volume lowered a bit, but he still sounded furious. “I’m not worth sacrificing the mission! You should have kept your focus on finding the origin and getting the cure!”

“We did!” Gwynivara pulled the cure out of her pocket and showed it to Emorick. “It wasn’t enough though! The origin, an alien woman named Rafeneita, has corrupted parts of the government! Not only do they not believe us, but she’s tricked them into spreading it! We can’t get the cure out there without your leadership! I tried! I led our officers into capture, and while I was able to get most of them out, I lost track of of a few of them. My last plan got her father killed! If I don’t have your help, I’ll probably just lead more people to their deaths! Without you, we’ll never make it through this alive! The entire human race will get wiped out! The Rebellion is yours, and we’ll never make it without you! We need you! The whole world does! Rafeneita has loads of military experience, but my strategy skills are too undeveloped for something like this! We need you to rejoin us or the earth will never get saved!” Gwynivara bowed her head in shame.

“Gwyn, look at me!” Emorick gently requested, and she readily complied. “I didn’t put you in charge because I thought you would always make the perfect decisions. I put you in charge because you had the drive to make big things happen! Some bad things went down, so learn from that experience, but don’t dwell on it! The Rebellion did well in your hands, and if I didn’t come back, you would have prevailed in the end, I know it! You did a lot of right things too, be proud of that!”

Gwynivara smiled graciously at him. “See, this is why we need you!” He softly grinned at her sentiments.

Bernadette questioned Emorick, “Since you said you’re back now, what’s our next move?” The decision came to Emorick in an instant…

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 8

In a vast room full of people in all white uniforms except for a scarlet blazer, the majority of people read and flipped through pages almost in unison. A few of the occupants stopped to take an occasional note, but most of them continued working in a clock-like fashion. One person stared at a report from a quarantine center, and then, all of a sudden, she made a startling realization! She had to read it over and over again just to make sure she got it right, and when she verified the accuracy of her findings, her whole body filled with excitement. She abruptly stood up and cried out, “I got something!” The ticking from their page turning came to a halt as her colleagues all stared in her incredulously…

Gwynivara and the other Rebels froze for a moment as they took a moment to register that they hadn’t stumbled across any kind of danger. The massive, bear-like, geometric-looking creature remained motionless, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “We really need to invest in some weapons!” Kierram advised. “Pretty soon, we won’t have the energy to keep doing incantations!”

“Look at these shells!” Rebekah picked up a bullet casing off of the floor. “These are from a type of gun the police use!”

“So, the real question is: Did they get here in time to save the people who lived here?” Bernadette wondered.

John remarked, “I’d rather not know! We’re leaving as soon as the cops clear out, so I’m just gonna pretend they were able to escape before they got bit by the beast!”

Naama, who peeked out of the lacy curtains in the living room, observed, “It looks like they’re blocking off the whole road. We’ll probably be here for a while, so it wouldn’t hurt to find out!”

“Actually, let’s make sure this crime scene has been cleared in case they’re blocking off the road to investigate this place more,” Gwynivara suggested. The others agreed, and they spread out through the house.

Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram went upstairs, and the small hallway seemed totally empty. Gwynivara glanced at the framed photos that lined the walls, and it pained her to see such a nice family had previously occupied this house! She sincerely hoped that they wouldn’t run into their corpses, especially not of the the two young children! Kierram gazed into a bedroom, and then he observed, “The beast definitely went in here!” Bernadette and Gwynivara peeked inside the room and saw two beds with sheets that got completely disheveled as well as the rest of the kids’ belongings that got scattered all over the ground. “Maybe they just got bit and are in quarantine right now! We have the cure, so they won’t be there long!” Bernadette told herself, and none of them appeared to have gotten convinced by her assertion.

When they walked into the parents’ bedroom, they saw a giant hole in the wall, and while debris had spread all over the area, they saw patches of dried blood all over the room too. “They could’ve just gotten injured,” Gwynivara, without any confidence, theorized. When she caught a glimpse of the inside of their closet, she spotted a purse, so she concluded, “They’re not in the hospital or in quarantine. No way would a living woman leave this behind!”

Suddenly, they heard muffled sounds of voices that they didn’t recognize! The three of them rushed down to see what was going on, and with her pulse racing rapidly, Gwynivara hoped that she wouldn’t arrive too late to save the others! To their surprise, the scene below showed only calm and curiosity. The voices had apparently stemmed from the television set! Riley turned towards them and apologized, “Sorry! I didn’t mean to scare the crap out of you like that!”

“You really do need to start giving out more warning before you make sudden decisions like that!” Gwynivara scolded.

“Did you guys find anything?” José asked them.

Gwynivara grimly answered, “We saw a lot of destruction and a lot of blood…”

Everyone grimaced to hear that, and Cody inquired, “Is it safe to stay here?”

“I think so,” Gwynivara certified. “They’ll probably come back eventually, but I think that all of the activity outside is meant for a fresher crime scene.”

“More police have arrived,” Naama announced. “We may as well get comfortable, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon!”

Rebekah eyeballed the beast’s body and commented, “I’m not gonna be able to relax with that thing in here!”

Niqun shared her sentiment, “Yes, that thing needs to go! It’s creepy! Plus, it’s taken over the entire kitchen! We’re all starving, it would have been nice if we could make-!”

“Hey, come look at this!” Riley strongly recommended, which made everyone immediately run to the TV.

“…Aren’t you tired of it?” A young, darkly beautiful woman spoke to the camera with a sly look on her face. “I know I am! I just need someone to tell me something good! It’s okay if you lie to me! That’s why I’m voting for Don John Rialowe! The world needs less bad news, and he’s here to tell us something good! Vote Rialowe for our thirty-ninth president of the United States!”

While she posed with a lollipop in her mouth, Rialowe’s voice sounded with, “I’m Don John Rialowe, and I approve this message!”

The programming switched over to a local anchor desk, and Kierram scathed, “Wow, he aired that garbage during a news broadcast! That’s rich!”

“He’s trying to get into people’s heads that they shouldn’t believe the news!” Bernadette scowled at the very thought of it. “He wants people to believe no one but him! That seems more like a dictator move than someone who wants to be president!”

“Did you see the prop she had at the end?” Gwynivara queried to everyone. “She’s basically calling everyone a sucker!”

José pondered, “Who would fall for this? Seriously!”

Riley responded to him, “Seriously, a lot of people. He’s holding a rally in Silver Park, Maryland on Friday at Scouts Arena. That place could hold thousands of people!”

“Hopefully no one shows up!” Niqun folded her arms and watched the TV reproachfully. “It would serve him right! It’s okay to lie to me! How could he…” How could she…? How could anyone…?”

“Sorry, Jim, we need to interrupt your forecast because we have some breaking news!” one of the anchors reported. “We now go live to Great Dismal Falls!”

A man with gray hair and a nice suit stood at a podium with several people standing behind him that donned both red and white coats. The suited man addressed the gathered press, “Good morning, everyone! Now, as you know, everyone here at the Public Health Center has been hard at work for several years in trying to find a way to curb our problem with Venenatus Sanguis, and up until today, we haven’t been able to make as much progress as we would have liked. Shortly after their shift started, our research department made a significant discovery! No, it’s not the cure, but we’ve found a way to slow down the rate of infection.

“The people afflicted with Venenatus Sanguis intermittently release an energy that creates a large and aggressive manifestation, and what we’ve recently figured out is that this energy is primarily transmitted from the afflicted person’s hands! Any obstruction to the afflicted person’s hands greatly reduces the odds of producing these destructive manifestations, so it is our recommendation that everyone wears gloves while they’re out in public or they’re among others of unknown Venenatus Sanguis status. Unless you’ve received a test from a hospital or physician, it is not known whether or not you’ve been infected. We’ve had patients come into quarantine not knowing where they contracted the viral disease from, so it is our belief that some may contract it from smaller manifestations and attribute the contact as a bug bite, muscle spasm, or other minor injuries. So, we at the PHC recommend gloves for everyone!”

Some of the mass that had gathered objected to that notion. The spokesman reassured them, “It’s only temporary! If we can get the rate of infection down, then we can allocate more resources into developing a cure for it instead of…” He trailed off as the boos in the crowd grew louder, which made him stare at them in disbelief. “Really? Almost two hundred and fifty thousand people have died from Venenatus Sanguis in this country, millions have died worldwide, scores of people are suffering alone in quarantine, and you can prevent this problem from hurting more people just from wearing an extra piece of clothing, but you won’t do it?”

“You’re infringing on our civil rights!” one onlooker shouted.

“You won’t have any rights if you die from this! Except maybe last rights!” the spokesman retorted. He let their churlishness ebb a little before he spoke to the gathered reporters again, “I have time for a couple of questions.”

He called on one reporter, who wanted to know, “Do you have any kind of timeline for when you expect the cure to get released to the general population?”

He replied, “I’m not able to give any kind of window into when that may happen. We have doctors and scientists all over the world working on it, so it could get announced any time between later today and years from now. If we can get the rate of infection down, it’s more likely to be days or even months rather than years! Okay, who’s next? Yes, you!”

“Was the PHC able to find all of the people who escaped from that quarantine building that caught on fire?” another reporter probed.

“Many of the escapees were found and have been re-isolated in our new facility on Fort Cragga,” the spokesman explained, “We’re working with law enforcement to find the rest. The Disease Safety Unit has partnered with the FBI to get them back. The current quarantine laws are still in effect, so I know they’re still searching for the people who were ordered to go into quarantine and chose not to as well. Personally, I don’t think we would need many people in quarantine if we could just get glove wearing mandated!”

As the bystanders expressed their irate attitudes over his opinion, Bernadette opined, “Wow, less than a week without Abigor and his henchmen interfering with their research and they were able to make a major breakthrough!”

Kierram brought up, “Did you hear how many people got pissed about wearing gloves? That’s gotta be Rialowe’s doing! He’s getting people not trust the scientists too!”

“That makes no sense!” José stated. “Why would people trust Rialowe over people who can actually offer proof of their claims?”

“They think the entire government is trying to take away their freedom. I guess they’re including scientists in this conspiracy theory too!” Riley rolled his at that thought.

John exclaimed, “How ridiculous! My wife is a geologist and has yet to say anything involving controlling anyone or taking over anything!”

Gwynivara bolted up and searched around the room. “Where’s their telephone?”

“Why?” Kierram’s brows furrowed in confusion.

“Who did you guys leave in charge of the Rebels who stayed behind?” Gwynivara posed to Riley, Cody, Niqun, Rebekah, José, and John.

Niqun let her know, “We had the medic, Susie, take over until we return to Great Dismal Falls. Why? Is that-?”

Gwynivara darkly proclaimed, “We won’t be able to return to Great Dismal Falls ’til the public gets the cure for Venenatus Sanguis! Didn’t you hear what the PHC said about gathering quarantine evaders? They’re teaming up with the FBI! Since we escaped from Agent Cecilio, we’re obviously at the top of the list of people they’re looking for! We can’t deliver the cure to the PHC, they’re probably looking for us there! He knows about the cure we have, and even though he doesn’t believe it’s real, he knows we’re gonna try to get it out there. We’re gonna find someone somewhere else who does believe us, but if we try to do it there, we’re just gonna end up getting captured again! We can’t risk them destroying it! We can’t go back ’til the cure is safe in a scientist’s hands!”

Heavy silence filled the room after Gwynivara’s speech. While most of the Rebels hadn’t had a permanent residence there in quite a while, Great Dismal Falls was still their home. Gwynivara assumed that some of them still had family in the area too, and while they couldn’t see them as a wanted criminal, she could imagine it hurt to know they were far from them. Gwynivara disliked being so far away from the PHC, which would have been the ideal people to deliver the cure too, but she despised straying too far from her hometown in case her parents came looking for her there. She didn’t think they would actually go there until Venenatus Sanguis had gotten eradicated from the planet, but she wouldn’t have put it past them to sneak in a visit. It depressed her to imagine them putting in the effort to do that only to realize that she left, but then she remembered what the spokesman had said- it was only temporary. The sooner that they found a way to get the cure out there, the sooner that they could go back! She prepared herself to pass on this wisdom to the others, but the other news anchor broke the quiet with, “More breaking news: This Friday, the Silver Park Courthouse will begin seeing a case of treason against the disgraced lieutenant general, Emorick Conley!”

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 7

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” a good-looking, middle aged police officer asked Riley at his driver’s side window.

“Why would would a cop pull over a pastry truck? Gee, I wonder…” Riley answered sarcastically. He played it cool, but he as well as the others hiding in the back inwardly prayed that this man had a sense of humor.

To everyone’s relief, the policeman busted out laughing. “Oh, you did not just make a donut joke just now!”

Riley shrugged. “Hey, I’m just playing with the hand I’ve been dealt!”

After the police officer got over his fit of laughs, he wiped away a tear and commented, “Oh, that is too funny!” He regained some of his composure and then informed him, “Actually, I pulled you over ’cause you missed that weigh station back there.”

“I did?” He glanced back behind him and frowned slightly when he confirmed the policeman’s claim. “Oh, so I did! Sorry, I got a bit distracted!”

“It happens! Especially when you bring your kid with you.” He indicated to Cody, and then he addressed him, “Are you giving your dad a hard time?”

Cody automatically blurted out, “Dad? I wish! My real dad is a jerk!”

Riley smoothed out his response by saying, “My sister married an abusive a-hole, so I’m taking my nephew in for a while.”

“Aw, isn’t that sweet of you!” the police officer complimented Riley, and then he queried to Cody, “You’ve got a great uncle, don’t you?”

“He’s not my great uncle, he’s not that old!” Cody joked.

The policeman chuckled at that, and then he remarked to Riley, “I can see where he gets his sense of humor from!”

Gwynivara mouthed to the other Rebels in the cargo area, “Are they flirting?”

“I hate to do this to you boys, but I’ll need to run your license,” the police officer requested.

“Well sure, it’s right…” Riley pat his pant pockets, and then he cringed. “Uh-oh!” He checked around his seat, and then he expressed regretfully, “Oh no! I think I left it at that gas station in Petersburg!”

The policeman teased him, “Driving without a license! I didn’t peg you as a bad boy!”

Riley kidded, “I’m not bad- I’m just a good guy who acts a little naughty sometimes!”

The police officer and Riley both giggled, and Bernadette, in a hardly audible tone, whispered, “They’re totally flirting!” The Rebels looked pleased to hear their buddy sound so happy, but more importantly, it gave them a sprig of hope that they would get out of this setback without any of them getting caught and taken away!

“Don’t worry about your license, I can run your name and social through the system,” the policeman assured him as he prepped himself to take notes.

“His name’s Gavril Gravilovic!” Cody jumped in when he sensed Riley’s hesitation.

The police officer handed Riley his notebook and instructed, “Write that down for me, would ya?”

Riley gave the notebook and pen to Cody and fibbed, “You do it! I’m so tired, I don’t think I can even spell it right!” Cody gladly obliged, and Riley quipped, “My sister’s lucky she married a Smith!”

That made the policeman titter, and after he saw Cody finish, he told him, “Don’t worry about the social. I’m pretty sure you’re the only one with a name like that!” Cody passed it back to him, and then he directed Riley, “Wait here a minute.”

Once the police officer got out of earshot, Riley quietly regarded Cody, “Good one!”

“Thanks!” Cody grinned gratefully. “It just reminded me of a time my history teacher said it happened to him!”

“Let’s just hope your history teacher has a clean record!” Riley turned back to catch a glimpse of the policeman, who didn’t seem to show that anything dicey had come up.

Moments later, the police officer returned, and he announced, “Listen, I have some bad news…” All of the Rebels’ breath got sucked out of them when they heard him say that, and Gwynivara already mentally prepared herself for another harrowing escape…

The policeman let Riley know, “There’ a penalty for passing a weigh station, so unfortunately…” All of the Rebels’ got ready to use an incantation at the very second he tried to take anyone in. “…we had to issue you a fine!” They all breathed in alleviation to learn that. “It should arrive in your mailbox within a week.”

“That sounds fair!” Riley tried not to appear too excited to receive the news.

“If you feel like contesting it in court, I can appear as a witness. Just give me a call!” The police officer handed him a business card with his name and phone number on it.

Riley chirped, “Sure, I’ll call you…” He read the business card and finished his sentence, “Officer Zadok!”

With a smile and a wink, he corrected him, “I’d prefer it if you referred to me as Justin.” Riley beamed at him, and then Justin concluded their conversation with, “Talk to you later, Gavril!” With a switch in his hip, Justin merrily strutted back to his police car.

For a minute, Riley watched him while Justin spoke to dispatch with a content look on his face, and Cody had to remind him, “Shouldn’t we get going?”

“What’s the rush?” Riley responded while still watching Justin.

“Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be pushing our luck!” Kierram forcibly suggested.

Kierram’s interjection woke Riley out of his reverie. “Huh? Oh, right! Sorry!” Riley turned the truck back on and quickly took off.

In a celebratory mode, José conversed, “Hey, way to go! You scored a phone number!”

“No, Gavril Gavra-Something scored a phone number. If Justin knew the truth, he wouldn’t want anything to do with me!” Riley sadly sighed.

“That’s not true!” Rebekah disputed. “Cody doesn’t have Venenatus Sanguis, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to go out with me!” Cody nodded in agreement.

That mollified Riley somewhat, but he didn’t seem totally convinced. “Okay, but I’m still a quarantine evader. He’s not gonna wanna go out with someone who’s breaking the law!”

Gwynivara piped up, “But don’t forget, we have the cure! Once we get it out to the public, you’re no longer a felon! You should call him when it’s all over!” The other Rebels agreed.

“I just hope he’s not too mad when he finds out I lied about my name!” Riley mused.

“He likes you, he’ll forgive you!” Bernadette chimed in. “The only one who’ll be mad about this is Cody’s history teacher when he gets that citation…” They all shared a laugh about that.

The phone rang in a dark room, and Rafeneita picked it up, “Hello?” She paused while the caller spoke, and then she responded, “I see… Thanks for the heads up!” After she hung up, she thought out loud, “I know you’ll be there, Gwynivara! Just so you know, I’ll have a presence there too!” She cackled maniacally.

Gwynivara woke with a start, but her fears got quelled almost immediately when she realized she had awaken in Kierram’s strong and very warm arms! He gazed at her tenderly as he asked, “You alright?”

“I am now!” she fondly answered. He gave her a kiss, and she realized that they hadn’t had a chance to do many romantic things since they officially became a couple! They solidified their relationship after they fought Rafeneita on that mountain, but up until right then, they became too busy with Rebellion activity to do much else. It felt really gratifying to wake up next to him, but they were still heading to Washington DC in a freight truck full of other people, so privacy was out of the question! She couldn’t wait for the day after they finished rescuing Emorick so they could finally act more like lovers than comrades in combat!

“You had a nightmare,” Kierram observed.

With her attention temporarily fixed on her amorous ambitions, she had momentarily forgotten about her dream! She still didn’t want to alarm anyone with her visions, and although the others had been asleep, she hardly wanted to have them wake up to bad news. The last one she had stayed hidden due to a natural shift in conversation, but she knew that wouldn’t happen this time! However, she hardly wanted to begin her involvement with Kierram by acting dishonestly, so she decided that she really had no choice but to fess up. “I had a dream that Rafeneita threatened to go after us again! It seemed so real!”

Kierram nodded in comprehension. “Battle Fatigue. That’s what Dad always called it, I think they call if something else now though. Anyways, after a soldier came home from war, the shock of it never fully left him. It’s not something you can go through and just forget about! I got out of the Marines three years ago, but I still have nightmares like I’m still there! I haven’t slept since I contracted Venenatus Sanguis about a year and a half ago ’cause the things I see in my sleep seem so real, and I always end up creating a beast from that! AT least yours hasn’t driven you to do that, so you won’t become an insomniac like me!”

“First of all, when we get the chance, I’ll do everything possible to drive you to a peaceful exhaustion!” Gwynivara promised.

“Hey, watch it! There’s young ears here!” Niqun scolded her while she laid down with her eyes closed.

Cody reassured Gwynivara, “It’s okay, I know all about that stuff!” Riley gave him a surprised look, so he lied, “From books! You know, for educational purposes! I didn’t get your ‘naughty man’ joke to Justin at all!”

Gwynivara and Kierram chuckled at that, and then Gwynivara finished her thought, “And secondly, I hope all that comes from these visions is Battle Fatigue! I hope that Rafeneita doesnt’ give us any more trouble ever again!”

“Think positively!” John mumbled with his eyes still closed. “After we get Emorick, we’ll get the cure out and we can all go back to our families again!”

Gwynivara’s stomach twisted into a knot when he brought that subject up! Once she became a wanted criminal, she had to keep her family safe from those who pursued her, so she advised them to leave the state and change their identity. She had no clue where they went or what names they assumed, so she didn’t feel very sure about ever finding them again! She got some solace in knowing that once the cure came out to the public that her parents would know they could return to her again, but in the meantime, she had no inkling on how they were doing! She had always wished for them to find a way to live happily, and she liked to think that wherever they had ended up that they had stayed healthy and safe, but she had no way to verify this, which always unsettled her!

Riley suddenly made a sharp right turn, a move that shook the cargo enough to rouse the other Rebels out of their slumber! They all looked miffed to have that occur, and Naama griped, “You could’ve given us a warning, you know!”

“Sorry!” Riley apologized. “We’re getting close to DC, and this looks like the last exit before we run into another weigh station. I’m not risking going through that again, the next cop might not be as friendly as Justin!”

Bernadette asserted, “It looks like the sun is starting to rise anyways. We should ditch the truck before the factory notices it’s missing!”

“Don’t worry, guys!” Cody consoled them as they came to a stop near a forest trail. “Like Riley said, we’re not too far from DC. We’ll be out of Ruby Ridge in no time!”

After they all piled out and began trekking through the woods, Gwynivara posed to Riley, “Do you know where they’re holding Emorick?”

“Some soldiers took him apparently, so I imagine he’s on some kind of military base,” Riley guessed.

“They’d probably take him to him Fort Firinne,” Kierram told them knowledgeably. “It’s one of the most guarded places in the world! It’ll be a real bitch trying to get in there!”

José vehemently reacted, “Don’t try to talk us out of it! We gotta get in there! We don’t have a choice!”

Gwynivara excitedly disagreed, “Yes, we do! He’s gonna have a trial, right? A courthouse would be way easier to get into than the military base!”

Bernadette wondered, “Yes, but can we afford to wait that long?”

Before anyone could reply to that, they heard some sirens blaring nearby! They all grimaced as they frantically searched for a place to hide. Rebekah spotted a narrow path ahead of them, and she urgently recommended, “This way!” They all ran in that direction, just barely disappearing as a squad car rolled through the gravelly road.

They could still hear cop activity in the area, so they kept climbing up the hill that the pathway scaled. They beheld a house at the top, but it was surrounded by fresh, yellow police tape. They could hear more officers arriving, so Gwynivara made a judgment call, “Let’s take our chances!” They all scurried up to the taped off house.

The front door easily fell open, and as a cautionary measure, Kierram called out, “Hello?” They got no response, so John, who was closest to the switch, turned on the lights. When they saw why the house had been vacated, they all gasped!

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 6

He heard the footsteps reach the other end of the room, and after the sound of the shutting door hit his eardrums, he opened his eyes. As soon as he did, he heard a male’s voice declare, “Look, he’s awake! I told you he was faking it!”

To his horror, he saw that the men were standing next to the door but hadn’t actually gone through it. He cringed and inwardly admonished himself for falling for such an obvious ruse! These men in army fatigues walked over to him, smirking triumphantly, and the oldest one of them leered, “Lieutenant General Emorick Conley! We get to meet the legend at last!”

Emorick ignored their attempt to intimidate him, it didn’t phase him at all, and instead, he decided to focus on more pertinent matters. “Is this Fort Cragga?”

“Really? You think you’re in Fort Cragga?” the oldest man scoffed. “You don’t recognize the base you served at for most of your career?”

“What, you think I helped plan out D-Day in this room?’ Emorick shot back. “What is this place anyways? Storage?”

The oldest soldier snidely retorted, “I’ll ask the questions here, buddy!”

Emorick descried, “Buddy, huh? That’s a little different than Lieutenant General!”

“Once upon a time, you outranked me,” the oldest man conveyed in a condescending tone. “You lost the entitlement for that level of respect when you abandoned your post!”

“I didn’t abandon anything!” Emorick knew they were baiting him to get an avid response that would divulge whatever they wanted to dig out of him, but he couldn’t let an insinuation like that slide! “I would never break my oath to protect my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic!”

The oldest soldier brought up, “What about your oath to obey orders of your commanding officers or the commander in chief!”

Emorick justified himself, “I can’t obey an order that goes against the constitution of the United States!”

“I’m sorry, what part of ‘All persons afflicted with Venenatus Sanguis must go into quarantine,’ violates the constitution?” the oldest soldier challenged.

“You’re killing off your own people!” Emorick exclaimed. “You’re not putting people into quarantine, you’re locking them into solitary confinement until they meet their doom! People in our government are helping to spread the disease, and you’re doing nothing to stop it! It’s only getting worse, and I won’t be a part of it!”

The oldest soldier pushed him, “So, you think the way to solve it is to abandon your men? And you don’t regret it all?”

Emorick asserted, “I didn’t abandon my men, they abandoned me! I couldn’t do much good in quarantine, but I’ve made a difference with the choice I made! No, I don’t regret what I did!”

“What did you do after you fled from this base?” the oldest soldier questioned. Emorick kept his mouth shut, so the man pressed, “Did you help more traitors evade quarantine?” Emorick felt incensed to hear him disparage the Rebels like that, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction on this one! He had no idea what they had planned after he fell into a coma, but they were the only hope in getting a cure out there! The fate of the planet depended on them, and he refused to betray them for any reason! The oldest soldier insisted, “Don’t pretend like you acted alone! You were found in a factory truck, you didn’t get there on your own! Someone helped you!”

“What I did after I left For Firinne is inconsequential to you,” Emorick simply stated.

The man roared, “If you know about a criminal conspiracy and you fail to tell us, you-!”

Emorick hollered back, “I’ll what? If I knew anything, why would I tell you? What would I stand to gain by doing that?”

“A clear conscious!” the oldest soldier snapped.

“My conscious is clear! Can you say the same for yourself?” Emorick rebutted. The soldier looked a little shocked at his allegation, and when he didn’t reply to him, he knew he had unearthed a nugget of truth. “Go ahead! Try all of your interrogation techniques! Torture me if you want! I’ll keep giving you the same answer! Or you’ll push me to my limit, and my Venenatus Sanguis will create a beast! I’d laugh at the irony of your assholes getting sent to quarantine!”

All three soldiers’ expressions grew alarmed by that prospect, and while they didn’t say it out loud, Emorick knew he won that argument. The oldest solider tried to keep his cool as he suggested, “Come on, boys! Let’s go set his trial date!”

Emorick watched them leave the room, and while it amused him to watch them slink away with bruised egos, he couldn’t label himself as content. The fact remained that he was trapped! He couldn’t move anything but his head due to the restraints they put on him, and feared that even if he could free himself form them that he wouldn’t have been able to move as much as he needed to in order to get out of there. He escaped from this place once, but he didn’t have peak physical condition this time. If he could muster an incantation, he could sense that he would collapse immediately afterwards. His body needed to recover, but he didn’t have the time to recover! He needed to know that his Rebels stayed out of harm’s way, and he ached to rejoin them in their effort to protect the planet! He had no choice but to resign himself to the fact that if he couldn’t return to his normal self in time that he would have no choice but to accept whatever judgment that got given to him at his trial. He gazed forlornly at the ceiling and hoped that the Rebels would make it without him. He felt as though he had a dream about them battling the enemy and obtaining the cure, but it all seemed so fuzzy to him to remember any specific details. He sighed, and then he prayed that his Rebels were out there right now distributing the cure to people who would finally put a stop to this madness!

“Put the map down, Cody,” Riley instructed as the truck he drove exited the freeway. “Keep your eye out for the signal.”

“What’s the signal?” Cody asked him.

Riley answered, “No clue!”

Cody responded in confusion, “Then what am I supposed to be looking for then?”

“Something unusual. They’re not gonna hitch hike with their faces all over the wanted section, so they’ll send out something that catches our eye to let us know where they’re hiding. To strangers, it’ll blend in with the neighborhood, but there’ll be something just a bit off enough about it that’ll tell us their location,” Riley elaborated.

“That’s not very specific!” Cody criticized as he scanned the street and adjoining roads for something that could fit Riley’s vague description.

Riley shrugged. “It’s all I got, kiddo!”

Cody sighed, and then he noticed a small, blinking light in front of his window. “Oh look! A firefly!” Riley immediately pulled over into the breakdown lane, prompting Cody to inquire, “What?”

“Yup, there’s a whole line of them leading into the trees!” Riley indicated to a small stretch of forest that separated the expressway from the houses in the region.

“So? I mean, they’re pretty, but…” Cody relayed his skepticism as politely as he could.

Riley put on his emergency lights, and as he unbuckled his seat belt, he pointed out, “Have you ever seen fireflies in October?”

In that instance, it finally clicked for Cody, “Oh, that’s the signal!”

As soon as Riley opened the back door of the freight truck, Gwynivara and the other Officers dashed out from behind the trees and hopped into the back of the vehicle. From behind a stack of wooden crates, José as well as Rebekah, Naama, and Niqun peeked out to greet them. José kidded, “Nice of you to join us!” Gwynivara grinned as Riley shut the back door.

Once they had taken their seats, Riley opened a small window that connected the cab with the cargo area. “Ready?” he queried.

“Nah, let’s stay here a while longer!” John joked. Riley chuckled as he started up the truck.

“Nice outfits!” Naama studied their all black clothing with a slight amusement.

Bernadette defended their wardrobe, “Hey, they’re no Halston, but they’ll do in a pinch! It’s not like we had a whole lot of time to make them with the FBI on on tails!”

Rebekah complimented them, “You made them yourself? Far out!”

“You can channel your Venenatus Sanguis to do all kinds of things!” Kierram educated her. “You saw our old headquarters- my dad made that all himself! Well, other people helped once he taught them how to do it, but still! Look at all they were able to do!”

“Speaking of Emorick…” Niqun broached.

Gwynivara surmised, “He got captured.”

Niqun nodded in confirmation. “The military is holding him in DC. They’re going to court martial him as soon as he is conscious.”

“That’s what we figured happened when you said we’re going there,” Kierram commented. “It’s not gonna be easy getting past all those soldiers, but at least we have a couple hours to rest before we gotta do anything!” He kicked back into a more restful repose.

“Oh, uh-uh! You don’t get to rest ’til you fill us in with what you’ve been doing this whole time!” Riley scolded them.

Rebekah guessed, “You fought the origin on the mountain?”

Bernadette revealed, “Yeah! Her name is Rafeneita,a nd she’s some kind of military commander for her planet, which is about to collapse apparently. Some motorcycle cops helped us battle against her troops, and just when it looked like Gwynivara was gonna annihilate Rafeneita, she disappeared! But she left behind a parting gift…”

Gwynivara pulled out the ornate, cylindrical vial with the green liquid in it, and she proudly informed them, “It’s the cure!”

All of the other Rebels marveled at it incredulously, and José exclaimed, “Holy Mother of God, you got it!”

“We have the cure! So this nightmare is almost over! We won! Our planet is saved!” Naama rejoiced.

“I hate to be a killjoy, but if this was all over, our people wouldn’t be captured like this!” Riley observed.

Cody inquired, “Why did the FBI take you in even though you have the cure?”

John replied, “They don’t believe us! They think we’re a lunatic cult hellbent on murder! At first, we thought they were just under the Disease Safety Unit’s influence, but we think it might be something more…”

“There’s a politician out there that’s convincing a bunch of people that Venenatus Sanguis is fake, like the government made it up just to scare people into submission,” Gwynivara spelled out.

“Why would anyone wanna do that?” Rebekah reacted in disbelief.

Niqun abhorrently remarked, “That’s completely reckless! That’s only going to cause everyone to let their guard down and the disease will spread more!”

Kierram darkly asserted, “That’s exactly why we think he’s doing it! And we don’t think Don John has any motivation to do this for himself…”

“Don John?” Riley cried out in repulsion. “As in Don John Rialowe?”

“Yup!” Kierram affirmed. “He jumped in as a third party candidate earlier this month.”

Riley made a noise of disgust. “That clown is running for public office?”

Bernadette let him know, “He’s running for president!”

“Oh, hell no!” Riley blurted out. “People want that kind of incompetence running our country?”

“Incompetence we could handle, but it sounds like this guy is trying to kill everyone off!” Naama assesed.

Cody posed to everyone, “Is there someone else trying to destroy the earth, or is Rafeneita going after us again?”

Gwynivara, heavy with uncertainty, articulated, “Well, that’s the sixty four million dollar question, isn’t it? Who does he…?”

All of a sudden, they saw red and blue lights flashing from behind them! Everyone’s hearts practically stopped, and while they fell deadly silent, the tension was palpable! Riley’s face went completely white, and no one had to say out loud that he had no choice but to pull over. The police officer would only have chased him if he hadn’t, and they couldn’t afford for him to call for backup! As Riley parked the truck, Gwynivara and the others just implored the heavens that he wouldn’t find them!

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 5

A middle aged couple sat in their living room reading when they heard a knock on their front door. They nearly jumped from the startle it created! They stared towards the entryway as if some kind of ghoul would float in through the walls, and the wife wondered, “Who could it be at this hour?”

Her husband grumbled, “I’m getting my gun!”

He marched into the adjoining hallway and into the room where he kept his weapon, and his wife’s curiosity got the better of her. She gingerly walked to the doorway and peeked out of the peephole. She saw a rain-drenched, young couple standing on the porch with morose expressions on their faces, and she suddenly felt relieved. “Don’t worry, Marshall! They look harmless!” She opened the door and invited them in, “Oh, you poor things! Come inside before you catch a cold!”

“Thank you,” Kierram responded cordially. “You’re the third house we tried! I thought no one was gonna answer!”

“I’m sorry to hear that!” Marshall’s wife sympathized.

Marshall reentered the living room and casually conversed, “I know it’s late and everyone is spooked from that prison break…” Kierram and Gwynivara tried not to look too guilty at the mention of their ordeal with the FBI. “…but that’s no excuse to not be neighborly!”

Marshall’s wife gazed at them with concern. “What are you two doing out on a night like this? It’s not safe right now!”

“We were on our way home from church when our car broke down,” Gwynivara fibbed. “Can we use your phone?”

“Of course!” Marshall gladly gestured towards their telephone on a small table near a cozy chair, and as Gwynivara went over to it, Marshall studied Kierram and concluded, “Look at you two! You’ve had a rough day, haven’t you?”

Kierram honestly told him, “I haven’t been this stressed since I served in ‘Nam!”

Marshall gave Kierram a pitiful look. “Oh my, that’s a lot of stress! Paige, why don’t you make our new friends some tea?” She got up to do so as Gwynivara slowly dialed a phone number. “What are your names, by the way?”

Before Kierram had to invent some names for the two of them, Gwynivara got someone on the phone, “Hello, Missus Ashling. Can I speak to Riley, please? Thank you!”

After a brief pause, Riley anxiously addressed her, “Oh, thank the heavens! You have no idea how worried we were!”

“Did you hear what happened?” Gwynivara asked.

“Oh, yes! We’re up to speed!” Riley answered her. “Where are you guys now? Are you still in Richmond?”

Paige returned to the living room with with a tray that carried a teapot and two cups on it. She overheard what Riley said to Gwynivara, so she remarked to Kierram, “Still in Richmond… I thought you were coming home from church…”

Kierram inwardly panicked, but he smoothly prevaricated to Marshall and Paige, “We’re looking at multiple churches so we can pick our wedding venue.”

As Marshall and Paige congratulated Kierram, Riley inquired, “Our conversation isn’t private, is it?”

“No,” Gwynivara confirmed. Paige and Marshall fell silent again, so Gwynivara made sure to choose her words carefully, “Can you pick us up?”

“Actually, we were just about to head out and go find you guys,” Riley informed her. “Where are you guys?”

Gwynivara hesitated, so Paige helped out, “Twenty twenty Corona Avenue.”

In case Riley hadn’t heard that, Gwynivara repeated, “Twenty Twenty Corona Avenue. But our… car… is somewhere else. Can you meet us there?”

“Sure,” Riley obliged. “Where did you leave the ‘car’ at?”

“It’s by the Glen Laurel Expressway,” Gwynivara conveyed to him in the most innocent souding tone she could.

Marshall probed, “Your car broke down on the expressway? How come you guys didn’t use one of the call boxes to get help?”

Kierram quickly came up with, “We tried that, but it was out of order.”

Paige furrowed her brow to hear that. “Out of order? How is that possible?”

“Just our rotten luck!” Kierram nervously chuckled as he glanced around the room for a way to change the subject. He spotted a newspaper draped on the arm of their sofa, so he commented on that, “Oh look, Jimmy Carter is coming to town! That’s kinda cool!”

“You think that’s cool? Oh son, let me tell you about Jimmy Carter!” Marshall exclaimed.

As Marshall and Paige started to preach to Kierram about their political views, Gwynivara quietly talked to Riley, “So, you were about to leave? You found a car big enough for all of us already? What, did Agnes call for a limo or something?”

Riley let her know, “Actually, we went down to the pastry factory after it closed and took one of their trucks. They probably won’t notice that it’s gone ’til morning, we should be able to get there before dawn.”

“Uh, Riley, Richmond is less than two hours from Great Dismal Falls…” Gwynivara trusted Riley, but his projected plan greatly confused her. She knew Riley had a sharp mind, so it puzzled her as to why he thought they needed so much time. She had a feeling he had a good reason for it, but she also sensed that she wouldn’t enjoy the reality of his rationale.

“Listen, we’re coming to get you, but we’re not bring you back to Great Dismal Falls,” Riley revealed. “Not yet anyways. We’re going on a rescue mission in DC.”

Gwynivara got rattled to learn this. “DC? Who would we need to rescue in…?” It suddenly clicked for her, and she gasped, “Oh no! They brought…” Marshall abruptly stood up, and as he passed by, Gwynivara blurted to Riley, “That sounds great! You’ll have to tell me all about it on the way home!”

Riley finished their conversation with, “Okay, I’ll see you soon!”

Gwynivara sighed as she hung up. She felt grateful for the fact that these people let them use their phone and that they didn’t catch that she made a long distance call, but she wished that she could have had more privacy when she spoke with Riley so that they could coordinate things better. She agreed to meet Riley by the expressway, but she would have to figure out a way to both hide the other Rebels and signal to Riley exactly where to locate them at. Plus, she would have loved to have gotten more details on their rescue operation in Washington DC! After battling Rafeneita and escaping from Agent Cecilio’s attempt to capture them, she had hoped to get a little bit of rest! Despite that, she would not complain. For Riley to go through so much effort, she knew it had to be important! Besides, she had a pretty good idea of who they had to save, and she prayed that it wouldn’t turn out as dangerous as she feared it would be…

She joined Kierram on the couch, but before she could relay to him that they needed to get going, Marshall came back and plopped another newspaper on the coffee table in front of them. “That’s our candidate!”

They peered at a headline that read: “Don John Rialowe Enters the Race!” Kierram gave the article a look of confusion as he remarked, “Don John Rialowe? But he’s an ad man! He’s not a politician!”

“Exactly!” Paige emphatically countered. “He’s not a politician! Politicians have corrupted our democracy for long enough! It’s about time someone came in to fix our broken system!”

“Plus, he’ll run this country like a business,” Marshall added. “He’ll save our nation from going into another recession, and we’ll all earn more money too! He’s exactly what our country needs right now!”

Kierram politely differed, “I remember him having a lot of successful ad campaigns, but didn’t he also have a lot of failed investments after that?”

Paige brushed that off, “He can afford to blow his money if he wants to! He’s that rich! You don’t see Jimmy Carter’s peanut farm earning him millions!”

“Technically, I think his peanut farm is worth more than what Ford earned as president this year,” Kierram pointed out.

“Ugh, don’t get us started on Ford!” Marshall ranted, “He and Nixon were the ones who put us into a recession! Oh sure, we’re starting to recover now, but we could bounce back faster if he spent his money more wisely! Like, he could save our country millions of dollars if he didn’t give the Public Health Center funds to fight a fake virus!”

Gwynivara and Kierram blinked their eyelids in confusion upon hearing that assertion. Gwynivara had remained silent prior to that claim so that they could head towards the expressway and prepare for Riley’s arrival, but the brazen turn of this conversation threw her off enough to where she couldn’t move on without clarification, “Are you talking about Venenatus Sanguis?”

Marshall nodded vigorously in certification of this. “Oh, yes! Rialowe opened up our eyes to the lies they’ve been spewing to us! They’re making stuff up just so they can scare us into submission! Politicians want to keep us afraid so we stay under their control, but not Rialowe! Rialowe tells us the truth! Rialowe will never try to take our freedoms away like normal politicians do!”

Gwynivara and Kierram gave each other an incredulous expression, and Gwynivara hesitantly disputed this incredibly wild-sounding theory, “Um… People have gotten sick from this virus! Millions have it! Thousands of people from all over the world have already died from it!”

“Do you know anyone who has gotten this thing?” Paige challenged them. Kierram and Gwynivara grimaced from how close to home she got with her question, and they wouldn’t dare to disclose their honest answer, but they couldn’t come up with a fitting fabrication for their alter egos to use in response. Fortunately for them, Paige made the wrong assumption from their silence, “See! You haven’t, we haven’t, no one has! They hire actors to tell stories about these magical beasts that come out of nowhere and attack all the people around them, and people actually believe it! They made it up so they can snatch up people they don’t like! Well, we all know their secret now! They can’t get away with it anymore!”

“I know I’ve seen pictures of those beasts in the paper though!” Gwynivara did honestly see pictures of them in print, she just didn’t include her own experience with Venenatus Sanguis. A part of her felt as though trying to convince them of the facts would prove to be a futile effort, but she couldn’t help but take it personally! She put so much into fighting for the cure to save humanity, she almost died to help everyone, and they had the audacity to act like the crisis didn’t even exist in the first place! She found the concept both infuriating and mind boggling!

Marshall rebutted her, “Oh, it’s all staged! Hollywood and the mainstream media worked together to make it look real! They’re all in on perpetuating this nonsense! Well, everyone except for Vulpes Press!” He tapped his finger to the spot on his newspaper that showed the company’s logo. “You kids should start reading their stuff! You’ll learn a lot by ignoring all the bull from everyone else!”

Gwynivara could feel herself starting to become upset by their blatant ignorance, so she stopped herself from feuding with them about it. She didn’t want to end up hurting them from any beast she might have created from her triggered emotions, and while a part of her would have relished to see this ironic twist of fate for them, her morals thwarted her from inflicting harm on anyone except in self defense. So, she held her tongue and took a deep breath to try and calm herself down. She could tell that Kierram was bothered by their behavior too, but he seemed to find it more dubious than maddening. He skeptically grilled them, “So, how did Don John find any of this out?”

“He’s out there in the media all the time! He’s found a lot of it just by doing his job!” Paige proudly praised him, “Plus, he’s just a genius!”

“Why would a genius start a presidential bid a month before the election?” Kierram pondered.

Marshall boldly stated, “Oh, he doesn’t need more time than that! He’s already got thousands of people supporting him, and that number only grows each day! You’ll see! It’ll be the first time a third party candidate ever won the election, and he’ll be the greatest president ever!”

Neither Kierram nor Gwynivara knew what to say after that. Kierram couldn’t stand the lunacy of it, but he clearly began to grow weary of debating this issue. Gwynivara just stared at Rialowe’s picture. While she always thought his overuse of gel to slick back his hair made him appear fake and his dark brown eyes were totally devoid of any warmth, she remembered that a lot people really admired his visage. She figured that combined with him getting support from a recognized newspaper could get people to buy his deranged point of view on Venenatus Sanguis, but she found his motivation for doing so very strange! She couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to convince the world the disease didn’t exist, unless…

Piage interrupted her train of thought, “Oh, Marshall! These two have had a long day! They don’t wanna keep getting lectured about politics! Let’s let them get going!”

“You’re right!” Marshall concurred. “Read Vuples Press after your honeymoon! Go enjoy being married!”

“Thank you!” Gwynivara tried not to look too eager as she leapt out of her seat. Marshall and Paige happily said goodbye to them, and they watched them leave the porch and walk down the sidewalk with adoring eyes. Kierram and Gwynivara simply trekked forward and projected a nonchalant attitude to maintain their cover.

As soon as they rounded the corner and fell out of the territory where anyone in this area could hear them, they found the Rebel Officers, who merrily greeted them. John conjectured, “Since you were in there a while, you managed to get a hold of Riley, right?”

Gwynivara was still trying to process all that occurred in that house, so instead of verbalizing her reply, she just nodded. She wanted to fill them in all the new developments, but so much happened in the last few minutes that she didn’t know where to begin. Before she could come up with something, Bernadette rejoiced, “Oh, thank goodness! We’re going home!”

It stung Gwynivara to do it, but she refuted her, “We’re not going home anytime soon…”

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 4

A man with pepper gray, slicked to the left hair, large and thin metal framed glasses, and pale skin smoked a pipe as he paced down the hall of a house with old, wooden floors and plush, coral shag carpeting with matching walls. The hallway had many wooden doors, and while most of them were closed, a few people poked their heads out and peered at him curiously. A teenage boy with blonde, straw-like hair and a tall but slender frame dared to stand in the man’s path, and he timidly got the man’s attention, “Riley?”

“Yes, Cody?” Riley responded without stopping his pacing or making eye contact with Cody.

“Have you heard from Rebekah yet?” Cody wanted to know.

Riley snapped, “Does it look like I’ve heard from Rebekah yet?” He caught sight of the hurt look on Cody’s face, and then he hastily apologized, “I’m sorry, kiddo! I’m just a little upset. I haven’t heard from anyone yet, and I feel like I should have! I mean, I knew it would take a while for them to get up that mountain, and who knows what the origin had up there for protection, but it’s almost dinner time now! I should’ve heard something by now! Yes, it’s good we didn’t hear any bad news, but at least if we heard about an unpleasant development, I’d know what to do! I don’t wanna act if Gwyn is fine, it’s not my place, but if something did happen to her, I’m just wasting time by not continuing the mission! I don’t know how much longer to wait before I should do something!”

Cody lamented, “That’s what Rebekah said before she left! They were gone all night, so she wanted to find out what was going on. But now she’s missing too…”

“Why did you let her go?” a middle aged, Hispanic man came out of his room and posed that question to Riley.

“José, I didn’t let her go!” Riley refuted. “You can’t force a strong willed woman to do anything! You know that! She just left!”

Cody defended her, “She just wanted to go to the police station to talk to her father! It’s not like anything could happen in a place full of cops, right?”

Riley and José both shrugged, and then Riley fretfully remarked, “I don’t know, but it’s almost been twenty four hours, so we should have gotten something by now!”

“If they got killed, they’d come here to tell Agnes,” José stated. “Bernadette wasn’t married, so they’d give the notification to her mom. Since we haven’t gotten it yet, they’re probably still alive.”

“Probably, but not certainly!” Riley distressed.

This didn’t appear to comfort Cody either. “What if they don’t know they’ve been killed yet? What if all our Officers are out there dying? If we don’t find them on time, they could all die and it’d be our fault! We should go look for them or-!”

A short, elderly, Chinese woman, who gave off a tremendous amount of energy considering her age, came up the staircase behind the men and confidently told them, “They’re all fine! I can tell!”

Riley skeptically asked her, “How do you know?”

“Woman’s intuition!” she answered firmly. “Don’t give me that look, it’s true! When our male ancestors went hunting, the women protected the household. Their instincts would pick up on things so we could act if we needed to protect our future generations, and they passed this skill to us. It grows stronger when we become mothers, and since I’m a grandmother, it’s only tripled! They’re okay, I can feel it!”

“Is that why you neglected your post at the telephone, Niqun? No need to worry about any calls, they’re all fine!” Riley folded his arms and stared at her crossly.

Niqun disputed that assertion, “Young man, you know I would never just abandon my post! Agnes took a business call in the lounge, so Naama can hear it while she keeps an eye on the news. Anyways, we can hear you pacing downstairs, so I came to find out how you take your tea.”

Riley barked, “Tea? I don’t want any tea! I don’t want any of this! I just thought I was supposed to babysit the Rebels ’til Gwyn came back! I didn’t think I’d actually have to take over! I can’t do this! I just can’t! I-!”

“Calm down!” Niqun directed him. “You’re not in charge of the Rebellion, you’re in charge of finding out what happened to our Officers! You can’t do that when you’re panicking! You need to relax so your mind will be clear enough to know what to do. I’m gonna brew some tea to help soothe your nerves. If you don’t want to tell me how you take it, you’re getting it plain!” She turned away from them and headed back downstairs.

“Two spoonfuls of sugar!” Riley called out to her, and she gave him an approving nod. Riley then admitted to José and Cody, “She’s completely right. We need to focus on one step at a time! We gotta figure out what happened to the Officers when they went to the mountain.”

Cody added, “And we need to figure out what happened to Rebekah! The police station should have been a safe place!”

Riley commented, “We gotta figure it all out! Did Rebekah find them? Did she join them in the battle? Did they win? Are they out celebrating their victory? Are they getting the cure out to the Public Health Center? Did they get captured and put into quarantine? Did they even make it to the origin? Are they still able to continue in the Rebellion? I know Niqun says they’re fine, but what if she’s wrong? What’ll we do then?”

“You know, Emorick is still alive,” José pointed out. “He could recover, and then you don’t gotta worry about your or Gwyn leading us.”

“That would be nice! But we gotta figure out what to do if we can’t find any of them! You’re the only Officer with combat experience who’s still here! No one else wanted to become an Officer! How do we carry on without them?” Riley bit his lip and got lost in his anxious thoughts.

Cody reminded him, “You’re thinking too far ahead again.”

Riley agreed, “You’re right, you’re right! One step at a time! We gotta figure out what the situation is become we know what we gotta do about it. So, where do we begin?” Riley, José, and Cody contemplated the issue.

A young woman with bright red hair came running up to a pink mansion with ivy and iron fencing surrounding it, and she breathed a sigh of relief! She quickly glanced around to make sure no one had followed her, and then she dashed inside the mansion as fast as possible!

Niqun handed Riley a teacup, and Riley reacted graciously, “Thank you! I was this close…” He held two of his fingers closely together to illustrate his point. “… to creating a beast from the pressure of it all!” Niqun appeared as though she wanted to say something about that, but Riley interjected, “Yeah, I know you know!” Niqun put her hands on her hips, but she had an amused expression on her face.

Before anyone could say or do anything else, they heard the heavy, oaken front door creak open, and with an instant spring of hope rising up within them, Riley as well as José, Cody, and Niqun all ran to the railing that overlooked the entryway. They desperately desired to receive some good news, but they remained cautious in case an adversary had come to collect them. To their delight, they saw the red haired girl! Cody exclaimed, “Rebekah!”

“Cody! I’m so glad to see you!” Rebekah ran to meet him, and when they met up with each other, they gave each other a hug and a kiss out of relief. “I have so much to tell you!”

“Oh, thank god!” Riley expressed in an exasperated alleviation. “Where are…?”

A woman who nearly mirrored Bernadette’s looks except that she was obviously much older came into the area and politely scolded them, “Would you guys keep it down? I’m on a long distance phone call!”

Riley apologized, “Sorry, Missus Ashling!” She gave Rebekah’s disheveled visage a judgmental glance, but she didn’t say anything else as she returned to her phone call.

As Agnes exited the room, a young woman in a hijab came in. She glimpsed at Agnes to make sure she walked out of earshot, and then she informed the others, “You should see what’s happening on TV right now!” They all seemed torn since they wanted to hear Rebekah’s story quite badly, but something about the urgency of Naama’s voice prompted them to follow her.

They could hear and see Agnes talking numbers to some associate on one side of the lounge, and they saw a television set with its volume down low on the opposite end of the room. The hurriedly tiptoed to listen to what the anchor described, “… The group had apparently snuck in some kind of explosives in order to break out, but when authorities caught up with the escapees, all they could find were the motorcycle cops that assisted with the illegal departure…”

“That looks like Great Dismal Falls Police!” Riley gasped. He spoke a little too loudly, causing Agnes to give him a reproachful stare, so he whispered, “Motorcycle cops helped a group escape from… Is that the FBI?”

“Yes!” Rebekah softly but assertively confirmed. “They were gonna send me there, but I managed to get away!”

In a hushed tone, Riley requested, “Okay, kid, spill it!”

Rebekah took a deep breath and summarized her experience, “My dad had the Officers locked up so the FBI could get them on some kind of weapons charge. I came in and forced my dad to listen to Gwyn and everyone else, and when he realized that they had a way to end Venenatus Sanguis, he released them. They went to the to top of the Athas Ridge, and everything was quiet at the station for a while. Then they asked for backup, so my dad sent those motorcycle cops to help them. Right after that, my dad heard the FBI arrive, so he had me hide in a closet. He didn’t want me to go back to quarantine, you know! They were furious at him for letting the officers go, and they put him in handcuffs, saying he let a bunch of murderers free! They took him away, and the other police officers in the station started searching for me. I got so scared and accidentally created a beast! But since they were distracted, I ran out of there. They’ve been looking for me all day! It took me forever to get back here!”

Naama, who stayed tuned to the television, reported, “They never found the Rebel Officers, but they had their pictures plastered all over the set. They can’t find the motorcycle cops either. The helicopter lost sight of them when they ran into a cave, but when the FBI arrived there, everyone was gone!”

“So, everyone got captured, but they all escaped…” Riley rubbed his chin as he absorbed all of these revelations.

“See! I told you they were okay!” Niqun brought up.

José grimly pondered, “Yes, but for how long? They avoided getting captured in Great Dismal Falls, but we have a much smaller law enforcement system and a ton of disguises. They have nothing out there, and they’re on foot!”

Cody inquired, “So, we need to get a car and bring them home?”

Riley replied, “Well, yeah, but we’ll need more than just a car to…” He trailed off as a story came on about capturing someone guilty of treason. Agnes got off the phone, so he instructed Naama, “Turn it up!”

“…abandoned his post and has eluded authorities for seven years now. His trial will begin as soon as he finishes a medical procedure. In other news, President Ford hit the campaign trail…”

“That couldn’t be-?” Riley began to ask.

Agnes interrupted, “Speaking of trails, your friends still haven’t come back yet, have they? I’m starting to get worried! Maybe we should call the police!”

Riley, Rebekah, Cody, José, Niqun, and Naama all said in unison, “No!” Agnes got perplexed by their reaction, so Riley attempted to smooth things out, “We’re gonna go up there and see if we can find them first! Come on guys, let’s go get our boots on!”

They all rushed upstairs as rapidly as they could, and José queried, “So, we’re gonna steal a large vehicle and go get the Officers?”

“Yes,” Riley affirmed, “but first I’m gonna send a team to find out what happened to Emorick! I won’t leave ’til I know he’s okay!” The other four nodded in agreement.

In a dark room, a man in a fine, imported suit gazed into an ornate mirror. He stared at his olive toned skin, his slicked back, jet black hair, and his cold, brown eyes as if he beheld a ghost right in front of him. He adjusted his tie more out of nervousness than anything else, and when he tried to clear his throat, he nearly choked on the lump that had risen there. He saw a pair of green lips hover by his ear, and Rafeneita hissed, “It’s time!”

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 3

Agent Cecilio flung the doors of the FBI’s transport van open, and it stunned him to see his potential prisoners sitting calmly. Gwynivara and her fellow Rebels did this by design. They knew that he expected them to show fear, and they figured that he would steel himself up for a war of words between the two sides, but they did not give him that. They gave off a calm demeanor, and while none of them actually felt any sense of serenity given what they had to do, they didn’t want Agent Cecilio or anyone who worked for him to think that they had any trepidation of losing their case! Agent Cecilio eyed them suspiciously, and Gwynivara could tell he noticed a considerable difference in their energy level. They exhausted themselves trying to summon an incantation with their hands still cuffed, and while they got close, no one could produce anything. Of course, Agent Cecilio would never know that. He probably knew that they had Venenatus Sanguis, but he had no idea what they could do with that. They planned ot only give him what basic information they had to in order to get what they needed from him. They obediently walked out when he ushered them to do so, and it amused Gwynivara to see how much this threw him off! As they entered the FBI headquarters, Gwynivara silently prayed that they would prevail and that she would see all of her fellow Rebels again!

As Kierram predicted, the FBI agents separated all of them. The motorcycle cops all got grouped together, but they placed each Rebel officer into their own interrogation room. Gwynivara saw a pale but very burly man shove Bernadette into her room, and while she felt disgusted by her suspicion that they wanted to use race to intimidate her, she smirked know what a mistake that would prove to be! She spotted a beautiful, female agent guiding Kierram into his room, and she knew that her man was too smart to fall for a gimmick like flirting to extract his secrets! She didn’t see where the others had gone to because Agent Ceilio took her into her own room. He didn’t scare her, she was ready for him!

The room had dark walls that matched a dark floor save for a two way mirror on one side. A small window on the opposite side of the door provided the only light, which illuminated a white table with two white chairs. Agent Cecilio pushed the table aside and sat Gwynivara on the chair furthest from the exit. He swiveled his own chair around so that he could sit backwards on it as he talked to her. Gwynivara didn’t really see a purpose behind this casual attitude unless he intended to project the same tone that the Rebels gave him. It didn’t phase her at all, she had a mission to accomplish!

For a moment, he just stared at her silently. She supposed that some people would get intimidated by the awkwardness, but it didn’t bother Gwynivara that much. She simply waited for his plot to unveil itself to her. Finally, he spoke up, “Nineteen sixty six.”

“I’m sorry?” Whatever Gwynivara expected him to say, it hadn’t been that! She stared at him in confusion, wondering where he was going with that.

“Nineteen sixty six, ten years ago, that’s when our records show that you contracted Venenatus Sanguis.” Agent Cecilio waited for her to react to that, but when she didn’t, he moved on, “How many monsters would you say you created in that span of time?”

Gwynivara gazed at him with raised eyebrows. “You think I kept records of it?”

Agent Cecilio surmised, “You lost count.”

“I didn’t lose count!” Gwynivara refuted. “I just didn’t count! I was focused on more important things, like-.”

“Did you know that the average person with Venenatus Sanguis produces about ten monsters a year?” Agent Cecilio probed.

Gwynivara challenged him, “Where did you get that statistic? The people you turned into guinea pigs in quarantine? They’re not in normal circumstances, and the people criminalized for avoiding quarantine wouldn’t be likely to answer any surveys!”

Ignoring her rebuke completely, Agent Cecilio went on, “Did you know the average monster infects at least five people before it’s taken out?”

“How do you know that?” Gwynivara questioned. “Are you following monsters around?”

“Five people for every ten monsters, that’s fifty people contracting the disease each year,” Agent Cecilio tabulated. “And since you’ve evaded quarantine for ten years, that’s at least five hundred people you passed Venenatus Sanguis to!”

Gwynivara denied that, “That’s not true! I took out my monsters before they hurt anyone!”

Agent Cecilio didn’t acknowledge her claim at all. “Did you know that Venenatus Sanguis has a seventy three percent mortality rate?”

“I didn’t infect anyone!” Gwynivara affirmed as she detected a dull pain in her lower stomach. She really hoped that it would pass quickly because their operation held too much importance for her to lose her concentration. Or worse. She didn’t know why she had passed out earlier, and she sincerely hoped that she didn’t have any kind of debilitating illness! Her team needed her leadership, and the fate of the world depended on their success, so she couldn’t let her health fail her!

“Really? Ten years of running around loose in your city and you didn’t infect anyone?” Agent Cecilio conveyed with deep skepticism.

Trying not to focus on her growing pain, Gwynivara let him know, “I wasn’t running around they city! I protected my city from the one who created the disease! She recruited people in our government to help spread it so she could… take over the planet!” She felt her pain growing stronger. Agent Cecilio started to see she had something going on, but she didn’t want to get sidetracked, so she pushed on, “I stopped her though, and she gave me the key to saving us all!”

Agent Cecilio reached into his pocket. “What? You mean this?” He pulled out the cure, and Gwynivara’s eyes grew wide. She knew no amount of reason could sway Agent Cecilio to do the right thing and give them the freedom that they deserved, and she had already mentally prepared herself to find a way to covertly pry the secret of where he had it, so to have it presented to her so handily shocked her a little. She had the cure right in front of her, and now she just had to find a way to reach out and take it so she could free the Rebels! As close as its proximity was to her, it also felt equally as far. She couldn’t do much with her hands tied behind her back, and her stomach pain persisted, so she didn’t know how she would accomplish the goal she sought. Agent Cecilio inquired, “How many people were you gonna kill with this poison? It’s not enough to take people’s lives with your disease, you gotta resort to this?”

“I didn’t…” She couldn’t finish her sentence. She felt herself getting distressed, and she didn’t want to create a monster while she was in a position where she couldn’t defend herself. She also had no idea if Agent Cecilio could fend one off. As much as she disliked him right then, she didn’t think his behavior made him deserving of death!

“We’re charging you with murder!” Agent Cecilio announced, and Gwynivara nearly doubled over in physical pain. “You’re responsible for multiple homicides and… What’s wrong?” Gwynivara wanted to deny any kind of malady afflicting her, but she couldn’t ignore the pangs that plagued her. He could see her clutching her stomach, so he got out of his chair to examine her. When he got close to her, he spotted something and groaned, “Damn it!” He then sighed, “Wait here a minute. I’ll go see if our first aid has anything for that.”

He pointed towards her groin, which Gwynivara found strange until she spotted a newly formed red stain. It then clicked for her- She had menstrual cramps! She felt relieved that was all that it was and grateful it didn’t carry as much severity as she worried it had. She wished that he would bring her an aspirin for the cramps, but she knew that he wouldn’t have even brought her a sanitary product if he didn’t have an obligation to take care of his prisoner’s basic needs! While he ran for her medical supplies, she decided to use the opportunity of her solitary status to try for an incantation. She closed her eyes and concentrated hard. After a minute or so, she felt the Venenatus Sanguis surging through her veins, and to her surprise, her cuffs started to loosen…

Agent Cecilio returned, so Gwynivara had to desist her efforts. He grabbed her arm and barked, “Let’s go!” He then led her down the hall, and Gwynivara tried to catch a glimpse of what the other Rebels were doing at this point, but their short trip didn’t allow her enough time to glean anything. He shoved her into a women’s restroom, but he kept her hands in the hallway so he could take off her cuffs. He eyed her in a mistrustful manner, and she maintained a poker face as if she had no guess as to how that happened. He decided to let the concept slide and took her cuffs off despite his misgivings. He caught a glimpse of a sparkle in her eyes because he warned her, “I’ll be standing guard in front of the only way out, so don’t get any funny ideas!” He handed her a pad and shoved her inside.

Once she was alone, Gwynivara took a quick look around. The bathroom had two stalls, two sinks, and no windows. She assesed that Agent Cecilio had been right about her having no way out, but he didn’t realize that she wouldn’t leave with out the others! She leaned against a sink and tried to come up with the best way to rescue the Rebels without damaging the cure. Her mind grew blank, and the pressure of coming up with something shook her nerves. She took a deep breath, and as she did so, she caught sight of herself in the mirror. The red stain really grew pronounced, and she might have considered actually putting on the pad in her hands if Rafeneita had clothed her in some underwear! She tossed it in the garbage near the sinks and shifted her focus back to her her next move. She had her hands free now, but not for long. It was now or never, but she didn’t feel sure on what to do!

The door cracked open, and Agent Cecilio addressed her, “I don’t hear any movement! What’s going on in there?” Suddenly, Gwynivara knew exactly what to do! She faced the doorway in a fighting stance, but she didn’t say a word or make a sound. She waited for Agent Cecilio to act, and sure enough, he did. He opened the door wider and began to ask, “Okay, what’s going-?” Gwynivara used an incantation to make the cure fly from his pocket to her hand! He just gazed at her with wide, startled eyes, too astonished to move while she closed her eyes and centered all of her thoughts onto channeling her energy in one direction…

With a blustering wind hammering down on each one, all of the doors in the hallway blew off of their hinges! The FBI agents all peered out of their interrogation rooms, and Gwynivara sent a ball of electricity down the foyer. The agents all dodged her trajectory, but she didn’t mean that attack for them! A giant hold formed, and while the agents all fixated on it, the building began to violently shake! One agent reached for her gun, and Kierram, unbound from his cuffs, aimed his palm at her and cautioned, “Don’t even think about it!” She obeyed him, and he passed her as he left the room.

Kierram joined Gwynivara’s side, and as the place continued to shake, they passed by each interrogation room. One by one, they freed each Rebel officer. When they reached the end where all of the motorcycle cops got held, they heard a gun cock behind them. Agent Ceclio ordered, “Freeze!”

Gwynivara turned towards him, standing back to back with Kierram, and she defiantly told Agent Cecilio, “No!” It stunned him to hear such impertinence, but before he could do anything about it, Gywnivara made his gun fly to one of the motorcycle cops, who pointed it at the FBI agent who guarded their room. She and Kierram then retrieved all of the FBI agents’ guns and gave it to each motorcycle cop who didn’t have a weapon. Once they were all armed, they formed a protective circle around the Rebels, who casually walked out of the interrogation area through the hole that Gwynivara created. It led to an administrative area, but all of the personnel were too scared to act against them. The Rebels found their way to the front entrance and marched out of there!

When they got outside, they faced a forest all around them. Before they could decide which way to go next, they heard a helicopter flying over their heads! Kierram deduced, “That’s a military bird! They called for back up!”

“What do we do?” John posed to Gwynivara, who didn’t feel entirely sure.

“You guys go that way!” One motorcycle cop pointed to their right. “We’ll go the other way so they’ll follow us!” Gwynivara started to object, but he assured her, “We wanna find our chief! You go! Get the cure out there!”

Gwynivara very graciously regarded them, “Thank you!” They simply nodded before they took off running. When the helicopter followed the motorcycle cops, the Rebels dashed off in the opposite direction through the thick of the trees.

After gaining enough distance from the scene, they paused to catch their breath. Bernadette queried, “Is everyone alright?” They all nodded, and then they all sighed in relief.

“Wait, Gwyn’s hurt!” Kierram looked at the blood on Gwynivara’s dress in horror.

“I’m fine!” Gwynivara politely refuted. “I’m bleeding but not wounded.”

Kierram blinked in confusion. “I don’t get it.”

Bernadette jumped in, “I do! Trust me, she’s fine!” It slowly dawned on him what happened, and he didn’t broach the subject any further.

After that lighthearted moment had passed, John voiced what everyone had been thinking, “So, what do we do now?”

Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 2

Gwynivara’s eyes flew wide open! She wanted to bolt up, but she found that her hands were bound behind her. She could only see the cold, metallic floor that she rested on. For a moment, she thought she was still dreaming. She forgot what led her to this point until she heard Kierram exclaim, “I think she’s waking up!” The last thing that she recalled before passing out was the confrontation with Agent Cecilio, and upon this realization, her first instinct became to check on her fellow Rebels. She lifted her right shoulder and craned her neck to see Kierram and John sitting against the side of a working van. Kierram gave John a slight grin as he crowed, “Told ya!”

Gwynivara swung her legs to prop herself up, and she saw Bernadette as well as a few other Rebels and motorcycle cops all sitting with their hands behind their backs. Gwynivara asked them all, “How long was I out?”

“No one knows!” Bernadette answered bitterly. “They aren’t any clocks in here!”

“I wish I had taken off my gloves!” one motorcycle cop expressed ruefully. “I’m wearing a watch!”

A Rebel officer mentioned, “We think it’s been about twenty minutes.”

Gwynivara felt alarmed that she had been unconscious for over twenty minutes, but she decided not to dwell on that. She had to prioritize what happened to the Rebels next. “We still have over an hour ’til we get to Richmond. We have plenty of time to figure out what we should do now!”

“What do you mean, ‘figure out what to do next?’ We know what to do next! Let’s get the hell out of here!” Kierram avidly suggested.

“We’ve been over this; we can’t just do that!” Bernadette reminded him.

Kierram shot back, “No, we all agreed to wait and make sure that Gwyn woke up so we know she can get out too. She’s awake, so let’s go!”

Bernadette argued, “We also agreed that we should wait for Gwyn to wake up so she can make the choice. She’s our leader, after all, it ought to be her decision!”

“Gwyn, tell them to use their incantations so we can blast our way out of here!” Kierram implored.

“Hang on a minute!” Bernadette jumped in. “Aren’t you the one that warned us about just blindly jumping into action without a plan? We can’t just-!”

Kierram insisted, “We can’t just let them take us! We’re getting captured! We need to escape right now!”

Gwynivara could see a vehement argument brewing, so she intervened, “Stop it! Everyone, calm down! The last thing we need is to form a beast while we’re in close quarters and our hands are tied!” They both clearly wanted to contend with each other over this point, but they realized that Gwynivara’s reasoning could prove absolutely correct, so they both reluctantly tightened their lips. Once that matter had settled, Gwynivara had to address the most urgent matter at hand. Up until today, they avoided any kind of capture. Quarantine usually turned fatal, and they never let that become an option, not with Rafeneita’s moles in the Public Health Center destroying any bit of progress their scientists made in finding a cure. Things were different now that they had it, which reminded her, “Where’s the cure?”

“It’s not in your pockets?” John inquired. Gwynivara shook her head, and everyone glanced at each other with faces of concern.

“We can’t do anything until we figure out what they intend to do with it,” Gwynivara stated. “Agent Cecilio doesn’t believe it’s a real antidote, it’s not safe in his hands!”

Another Rebel Officer queried, “So, we have to get the cure before we escape?”

Gwynivara responded, “We need to figure out where it is first. And that rules out blasting out of here. We might accidentally destroy it.”

“So then, how do we escape?” Kierram challenged.

“Maybe we should just go the legal route,” another motorcycle cop proposed. “I mean, we all know that we didn’t do anything wrong. We could just prove it in court and clear our names.”

Kierram scathed at that idea, but Gwynivara brought up, “Did they say what they’re accusing us of?”

Bernadette let her know, “No. They were way more concerned with shoving us into their vans as quick as possible rather than giving us our right!”

“See! The system is unfair! We can’t risk trying to use the legal system to get our freedom! It’s not on our side!” Kierram opined.

“Boy, isn’t that the truth!” Bernadette reacted morosely, and Gwynivara knew that she thought about her quest to get justice for her father’s murder. She felt bad that Bernadette had to get reminded of that at a time like this!

Gwynivara didn’t want her to dwell on that sad event, so she returned them back to the original subject, “It’s absolutely essential that we get the cure out there so we can rid the world of Venenatus Sanguis once and for all! Right now, it’s set to sit in an evidence box. Agent Cecilio is convinced that it’s snake oil from a lunatic cult, but if we can convince anyone in the FBI that we’re telling the truth, then they’ll get it out to the public regardless of what they decide to do with us.”

One Rebel Officer probed, “Do you really think we can get them to change their minds?”

Gwynivara shrugged, “Maybe. Just this morning, Chief Forsythe was convinced that we were just a bunch of outlaws trying to avoid confinement so we can spread the virus all over, but we were able to convince him otherwise! It might be a similar situation here. Rafeneita was able to infiltrate the Great Dismal Falls Police Department, and her men were able to fool Chief Forsythe into thinking we were the enemy. She might have done the same thing here. We don’t really know how far her reach extended!”

“So, you think Rafeneita’s reach extended to a wider scale? That’s frightening!” Bernadette shuddered slightly. “They could still be out there doing her dirty work!”

“But, we won!” John objected. “It would be pointless for them to keep going with their scheme!”

The first Rebel Officer that spoke up conjectured, “Well, it just happened. Maybe they don’t know she’s gone. Maybe if we just tell them what happened, they’ll stop this crap and let us go.”

The second Rebel Officer that spoke up gingerly brought up, “Um, do we know for sure we won? I mean, she disappeared and gave us a peace offering, but does that mean she surrendered? What if she just wanted us to think we won so she could continue her mission somewhere else?”

“She did try to recruit us before,” the third Rebel Officer that spoke up dismally agreed.

“Don’t even say that!” Bernadette moaned. “I don’t even wanna think about going through that nightmare again!”

Gwynivara’s insides twisted at this concept. She just woke up from an unsettling dream about Rafeneita, and her vision had just as much reality to it as they had before. Rafeneita didn’t say it out loud, but prior to the battle, she could infer that Rafeneita had intentionally sent messages to her through her subconscious. Gwynivara wished that Rafeneita had explained how she had done that, but at least the other Rebels could no longer deny the validity of these dreams! It made her feel guilty to not share her latest vision with them, but she didn’t want to scare them, at least not yet. Right now, they had to focus on the intentions of the FBI, and she certainly hoped that Rafeneita didn’t have her clutches on them! “We can’t speculate on that. We still have no idea what Agent Cecilio thinks he has on us. It wouldn’t be wise to act until we know that.”

Kierram surmised, “So, we’re not gonna try to escape?”

“Not yet,” Gwynivara told him. “If we leave now, we’ll just make ourselves look like the reckless bandits people thought we were before, and Agent Cecilio willl probably destroy the cure. We can’t let him do that! More people will die, and it’ll kinda be our fault. The matter with the FBI may get resolved just by talking to them.” Kierram gave her a skeptical look, so she added, “I’m not saying that’s likely, I’m just saying it’s possible. It would be a shame if we didn’t at least try for the easy option! Based on their behavior so far, I doubt that’ll be the case. If they don’t budge from whatever trumped up charge they wanna pin on us, then our main goal will be to find out where they put the cure. Once we know that, then we’ll use our incantations to escape.”

“I like that plan,” Bernadette chimed in. “The only thing I’m worried about is doing incantations with our hands tied. I mean, I don’t think we have to have our hands free to do it, but I’ve never tried it…”

Kierram asserted, “That won’t be a problem! Watch!” Kierram aimed his hands behind his back and bore a look of intense concentration. They all watched with mounting anticipation, but after a minute of nothing happening, everyone’s hopes deflated. Kierram closed his eyes and tried again, but this time, everyone’s expectations of seeing anything occur grew quite low. After a while, Kierram reluctantly gave up. “I can’t think about anything except how tight these cuffs are! But I know I can produce something! Just give me some time!”

Gwynivara didn’t seem so confident about that. “Okay, that’s a problem. If we need to escape, we need to get out right away. We may not produce an incantation fast enough to save ourselves! WE have to find a way to free our hands!”

“Or at least one person would have to free themselves and then get the key to free everyone else,” a motorcycle cop propounded.

“Are you coming for us too?” another motorcycle cop wanted to know.

A third motorcycle cop put his opinion in, “If you have to, leave us behind. All we did was interfere with an investigation. We had very little to do with your operation, so our charges wouldn’t be so severe, right?”

Most of the people in the van shrugged their shoulders. Bernadette commented, “If they’re not corrupt, they wouldn’t charge you with much. But based on what we’ve seen so far… Get a lawyer!”

“Should we ask for a lawyer too?” John posed to other Rebels.

“Only if we have a shot of winning our case,” Gwynivara advised, “Otherwise it would do more harm than good. If it weren’t for Venenatus Sanguis, I’d never tell anyone it’s a good idea to try to break out of prison, but right now, we’re the only ones who know the truth. The Public Health Center doesn’t have the answers. Abigor and his men destroyed any evidence that got them close to the cure! If we don’t get the information out there, who knows how long it’ll take for them to figure it out! If they try to lock us up, we have to get out! Our planet depends on it!”

Everyone agreed with her sentiments. Kierram voiced, “They’re gonna separate us. If one of us figures out we’re not making headway with the FBI, how will we tell the others?”

Gwynivara reassured him, “They might use different tactics, but they’re all playing the same game. We’ll all know around the same time.”

A motorcycle cop half kidded, “Plus, it’s not like your magic is exactly subtle! It’ll be pretty obvious what’s happening when a giant fireball comes whizzing past your head!”

Everyone chuckled at that, but that sentence really struck Bernadette. “Magic? Is that what we do?”

“I dunno.” The motorcycle cop raised his shoulders and shook his head. “You called them incantations. Isn’t that the same thing?” The Rebels all looked to each other, and obviously, none of them had thought about it like that before.

“Fairy tales really misled me on what magic could do!” Kierram joked, which made them all laugh.

After that moment of frivolity had passed, they were silent for a heavy few seconds. John then remarked, “We still have about an hour to Richmond! I wish it were sooner! I just wanna get this over with!”

Gwynivara recommended, “Keep trying to do an incantation! Maybe we can at least get these cuffs off!” Every Rebel went to work trying to do just that.

A pair of crystal blue eyes suddenly flashed open! A man with clean cut, gray hair and a muscular build awoke to find himself staring at a ceiling laced with intricate pipework that partially covered a drab green ceiling. His brow furrowed. The last thing he remembered seeing was the cavern walls of the Rebel headquarters, so he found it strange to wake up in this place! He knew that he had gotten within inches of death, so it wouldn’t have surprised him if he had turned up in a hospital, but that didn’t seem like where he ended up! He had no clue where he was now! He tried to move so he could investigate, but he found that he couldn’t. He couldn’t determine if this stemmed from restraints or his weakened muscles. He had a strong build, but he had been in a coma long enough that he would have to do a lot of work to strengthen them again. All of a sudden, he heard someone enter the room. He closed his eyes and pretended to still be asleep. He didn’t know where he had gone to, but he had a potent suspicion that he hadn’t gone somewhere friendly!