Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 21

I can’t!” Gwynivara didn’t have a problem making important decisions for the Rebellion anymore. At first, it overwhelmed her, but after some time, it became more and more comfortable to do. This felt different though, and she figured out why- the people involved with missions knew the risks and accepted responsibility for any consequences resulting from that decision, but Emorick had no say so on this. He was dying and couldn’t give her advice on his fate. She held his destiny in her hands! The pressure twisted her insides into a knot. The wrong choice could have devastating results, and she didn’t know if she could live with herself if that happened.

“Yes you can!” Kierram gently encouraged her. “You always do the right thing. I trust you.” He pat her hand reassuringly.

His support at that moment was successful in bolstering her spirits, but she still felt on edge. Her nerves were still jangling, but she knew that a call must be made and that she had to be the one to do it. Kierram was his family, and his presence made the process easier because if he didn’t think it was the best idea, he would voice that opinion before anybody acted on it. She placed her head inside her cupped hands and took a deep breath to clarify her mind. She cast out all doubt and mentally prepared herself to do this.

She reviewed the facts of the situation. Emorick was knocking on death’s door, and if he had to pick a final resting place that would give him the most comfort, Gwynivara felt confident he would pick inside the Rebel headquarters. If she sent him to the hospital, he pass away without anyone he cared about by his side. He created the Rebellion, and his zealous passion to find the cure for Venenatus Sanguis brought them all together. The people here loved him and held such a high regard for his character. She witnessed how heartbroken everyone was when they couldn’t bury Kennith, and she knew that no one would want to go through that devastation again. For a brief moment, the choice seemed obvious.

She almost said it, but she couldn’t get the words out. Something was holding her back as if she was missing something. Her logic dictated that if she had to choose where Emorick should die, she knew the Rebel headquarters made much more sense than a hospital. She stared at Emorick almost as if she hoped that he would wake up and make this decision obvious. All of it sudden, it clicked for her- Emorick was dying, but he wasn’t dead yet. If he stayed here, it would totally seal his fate. However, if he went to the hospital, there was a small chance of survival. When he first went into a coma, she was sure he would wake up and want to be here when that happened, but now she was sure if he stayed here, he wouldn’t wake up. The medics couldn’t bring him back, not with the limited supplies they had here, but surely the doctors would have everything needed to save his life. He wouldn’t like waking up in side the hospital, but it was better than not waking up at all! Gwynivara felt a small glimmer of hope, and she didn’t want to dim this light inside of her.

She now felt that taking him to the hospital was the right thing to do, but part of her wondered if she was being selfish. She didn’t know if it’d be right to keep him alive if he awoke to a tortuous life. If he did recover, there was still a chance that he would get his identity revealed and spend the rest of his days in quarantine. It would be cruel to send him back there when he worked so hard to escape that place. They held dozens of people here who chose to stay in the Rebellion than risk going there, no one wanted that. She wondered if it would be more humane to just let him spend what little time he had left at the place where he felt the happiest…

Before she could make a call, a snarling beast that somewhat resembled a reptilian tiger skulked onto Emorick’s bed, snarling at them! From the corner of her eye, she saw a crossbow glimmering in the first aid station’s supply closet. Instinctively, she grabbed it, stood up, and shot the creature right between the eye! It sprawled across Emorick’s bed and became motionless. Gwynivara gazed at the weapon she found curiously and asked the medic, “Why is this here?”

He answered, “When people get badly injured, emotions run high. The risk for monsters are extremely high, so we keep a small stash of weapons here, just in case.”

“I’m sorry,” Kierram apologized. “My dad’s dying and I couldn’t help it! I-!”

“Don’t ever apologize for being human!” Gwynivara cracked a smile, her head brimming with warm memories. “Emorick told me that my first day here. Before I even entered the catacombs, I started crying and created a beast. The thing got killed easily, and I apologized, but he didn’t make me feel bad for it. Then we toured the Rebel headquarters like nothing happened.” Both she and Kierram chuckled while they reminisced. “Funny, when he showed me this room, I never thought I’d seem here like this.” Suddenly, it dawned on her- Emorick already told her what to do!

“What?” Kierram reacted with concern for her sudden change in mood. “What is it?”

She turned to the medic feeling almost giddy from relief that Emorick had made the decision, and now all she had to do was relay his message. “That first day, he told me that if anyone here gets hurt or injured, but our supplies are limited, so if they’re injured enough, they gotta go to the hospital! So, don’t you see? He already gave the orders! We’ll take him there immediately!”

Bernadette peeked out from under a manhole cover with he eyes barely visible above the ground, and when she saw no one around, she sprung up and quietly exited the sewer. She scanned the area, and when she confirmed that no one was around, she motioned to others to come up. Kierram and a couple officers darted out while Gwynivara and a few more officers maneuvered Emorick’s body up the metal ladder and out of the sewer. Kierram and Bernadette received him by grabbing his arms, and the other officers all hovered around him one by one. Everyone hoisted him up and moved him across the factory floor as quickly as possible. This part of the plan made Gwynivara the most nervous. Their uniforms would easily explain their presence at the bakery factory, but it would be awfully hard to explain why they were carrying a body! Luckily, after a very long few seconds, they made it to the back of the truck fast enough! They opened up the back and heaved him inside. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief; they were safe, but their job wasn’t over yet.

Gwynivara quietly ordered, “Okay, now we gotta find a phone and-”

Before she could finish her sentence, an elderly custodian came shuffling into view. Everyone stood still like deer caught in headlights silently praying that the darkness would conceal them. It did not! The old man hobbled over to them and inquired, “What are you doing here?” Before they could blurt out the excuse that they rehearsed, the old janitor jovially remarked, “They sure have been working you guys to death!”

“You don’t know how right you are!” Gwynivara responded. “There’s a half dead man in the back of that truck!”

“Wha…?” the old man reacted in shock.

Bernadetted urged, “Quick! Call 9-1-1!”

He understood the sense of urgency and moved with a surprising amount of agility. The officers took this moment to escape. They all flew back into the sewer, but Kierram, Gwynivara, and Bernadette peeked to watch the scene unfold. After a couple of minutes, they saw the old janitor shuffle back out there, who looked a bit confused about where everyone went. It didn’t take long for police to arrive. They went to the back of the truck and confirmed the old man’s story. Shortly after that, paramedics arrived, and the Rebels took that as their cue to leave. They quietly covered the manhole cover and sped away to catch up with the others. They had done it, Emorick was on his way to the hospital!

On the way back, when they were at a distance safe enough to avoid detection by the police, Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram slowed their gait, walking with heavy steps and long faces. Gwynivara thought out loud, “I wish there was a way we could’ve done this better. I mean, I know that this was the fastest way to get him to the hospital, but it feels so impersonal. I know, I know, when we planned this out, it logically made sense to keep his cover as a John Doe, but it happened so fast! If we could’ve brought him to the hospital ourselves, we could’ve had a chance to say-.”

“We didn’t need to say goodbye!” Kierram reminded her. “He’s still alive, and we’ll see him again real soon!” He aimed these words for her, but she could tell he was also trying to convince himself to believe this.

Bernadette sadly put in, “He’s gonna pull through this, I know it! He’s a fighter! He will…” She had to stop mid-sentence to stifle a sob. Gwynivara put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, so Bernadette said, “I’ll be alright. It just made me think of Daddy. He got shot and he almost made it.” Gwynivara and Kierram fell reverently silent as she revealed a piece of her past that she had been so protective on keeping secret. “I was at a yacht party when it happened, I had no clue that the last time I saw him was the last time I was gonna see him. You don’t always get a warning when someone leaves us forever. We all wanna have one last sweet moment with the people we care about, but life doesn’t always give us that option. You have to do it in your own time in your own way sometimes.” She paused and added, “Not that you’ll have to worry about that with Emorick. He’s gonna make it, I can feel it!”

Gwynivara had so many questions for her that she didn’t know where to begin. Just before they got to their exit point, Gwynivara tried to narrow it down to what she wanted to ask Bernadette first. She didn’t get a chance to ask anything though because her pocket began to get really warm. She stopped to investigate while Bernadette and Kierram stared curiously. She fished the orb out, which felt almost hot to the touch. She found it so strange, but when she saw what it displayed, she gasped, “Oh my god!” She didn’t get a chance to explain herself. Her heart nearly dropped as a figure ran towards them…

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 19

Gwynivara knew that he intended to intimidate them, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction! She craned her neck to confirm that the man was the same dirty cop that tried to attack them outside the military supply store, and indeed he was. She turned back around quickly, hoping that he wouldn’t recognize her. If he did, he may attack them sooner than they planned, and she couldn’t have that. She really thought that she had killed him with her Venenatus Sanguis outburst! She did notice a slew of bandages scattered throughout his body, which did put a slight smirk on her face. It fell pretty quickly though- she didn’t see Kennith with him.

Kierram obviously observed this too and, cutting straight to the chase, asked him, “Where’s Kennith?”

“You’ll be with him soon enough!” he leered. He watched their faces, and when he saw such a lack of emotion coming from his captives, he remarked, “Oh, are we putting on a brave face? That’s cute! We’ll see how long that lasts!”

Gwynivara had to fight the urge to give him a snappy retort. If she opened her mouth, she knew that he would figure out her identity and would change his tactics, so she had to bite her tongue. She trusted Kierram completely though, so she knew he would he would take the reins and do the right thing to keep their plan in motion. This belief got confirmed when Kierram snidely commented, “There’s two of us and only one of you. I think we can take you!”

“You think I would come alone?” the man laughed him off. He motioned behind him as if he beckoned someone to enter. Gwynivara heard a floor board by the door creak three different times, and she had to fight her curious desire to see who they were. It was still too soon for her to reveal her presence, so she had to conceal herself as long as possible.

Unexpectantly, Rick poked his head inside the kitchen and asked, “Hey Abigor, you want me to guard this one?” Gwynivara’s interest peaked, wondering if she would finally be able to put a name to the face of the orderly turned police officer that kept popping up in the course of the mission.

Her suspicions were confirmed when she heard him snap at Rick, “No! Go guard the front door like I told you to!” Rick started to object, and so Abigor bellowed, “Do as I command!” Rick reluctantly slinked away. Gwynivara had already figured that Abigor must hold some sort of leadership position in the origin’s ranks, but Rick was a fairly powerful man himself, so she wondered what sort of leverage Abigor had on him.

Abigor ordered, “Sam, guard the female.” A very lanky young man in a monk-like robe stood before her harboring a creature somewhat resembling a dog, who snarled at her. She discretely dug into Kierram’s pocket as Abigor spoke, “I recognize you, brotha! You helped her escape the Public Health Center. you’re her little stooge, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kierram lied.

Abigor made a noise of irritation. “Sam, is that her?”

Sam tried to study her face, but she hid it by looking away and partially covering her face with her hand. Adrenaline surged throughout Gwynivara’s body. This was her favorite part of the plan, the part where it appeared as though they were loosing control when they were actually gaining it! Same tried to pry her grip away with his one free hand, but she stiffened her muscles so he had to struggle. When he finally pried her hand away, Gwynivara had to take action before he could confirm who she was, and so she spat in his face! While he reacted as if she had spilled something life-threatening in his face, the dog-like creature became defensive. It barked and put its forelegs on top of Gwynivara, who pretended to fall and cower down to it, holding its jaws so it couldn’t bite her.

At that moment, the doorbell rang, and their captors grew as still as statues. Their nervousness was palpable, and even the beast’s attention waned. Abigor whispered, “Get it off her.” Sam’s face protested the idea, so Abigor hissed, “Whoever’s there could hear a girl getting ripped to shreds. Get it off!” Sam reluctantly did as he was told. Gwynivara sprang up and waited for the rest of their plan to unfold.

Rick popped his head back into the kitchen, and he inquired, “You want me to get that?”

“No, you idiot!” Abigor spat. “It could be a threat!”

“It’s just a little old oriental lady,” Rick reasoned.

Abigor relaxed a little upon hearing this. “Fine. See what she wants and send her away.” Rick obeyed the instruction, and then Abigor warned everyone, “Stay quiet until they leave!”

Everyone remained silent and listened intently at the interaction. They heard Rick’s muffled voice but couldn’t make out what he was saying. They heard Niqun’s voice asking something frantically. Gwynivara and Kierram knew that she had a map with her, and at any second, she would point to it, making him bend down to see what she was referencing. Once that happened, they would hear…whack! Something hit Rick’s head hard, making the captors go on guard. The doors burst open, and the first thing they saw was a a shot gun being brandished towards them. Bernadette declared, “Don’t move! We have you surrounded!” Kierram and Gwynivara linked arms and concentrated fiercely as she made her entrance. As soon as she finished speaking, the walls of the house fell down as easily as a house of cards, revealing a dozen Rebel officers surrounding the scene!

Gwynivara finally faced Abigor, whose expression fell from shock. “You!”

Very coldly, Gwynivara told him, “You’re only alive right now ‘cause we need to know…where’s Kennith?”

Abigor scoffed at her, “You’re bluffing!”

The Rebel officers surrounding them, which he just now noticed wore all black with shirts that said ‘FBI,’ all cocked their guns. Abigor also realized that the people who lived in the nearby homes gathered outside and watched the scene totally astonished. He knew he couldn’t do anything out of the ordinary or else a witness would report him, so he knew there would be only one way out of this. “See that well in the backyard? He’s in there.” Gwynivara could’ve prevented what was about to happen next, but they needed the captors to think that they had outsmarted the Rebels, so the officers all turned their attention to the crumbling well in the weed-filled backyard. The captors used their distraction to push past the Rebels and shrieking neighbors and ran out of sight.

Gwynivara and the other officers ran after them…very slowly. The idea was that the origin’s henchmen needed to think they were in the clear. After a while, they lost eyesight of them and stopped. They had to play the part, and FBI agents would go after an escaped criminal. But this alos gave them the perfect excuse to escape the scene. Eventually, the Great Dismal Falls police department would catch wind of what was happening and would head to the area to investigate. They couldn’t risk staying there because they were all wanted criminals, and Gwynivara couldn’t risk anyone going to jail or quarantine. This rescue mission was challenging enough! The Rebel officers all marched back towards headquarters as planned. Most of their plan went down without a hitch, but everyone walked dismally for the part of the plan that went wrong- Kennith was supposed to be returning with them.

Gwynivara’s heart ached for the Rebels’ fallen comrade. Abigor hadn’t been dishonest, Kennith’s body was indeed stuffed in that well. She had really thought that they would keep him alive to bait the Rebels properly. She wondered at what point they killed him. It was hard to say if they murdered him right away and staged him being alive because they knew that the Rebels were watching or if they had done it while the search party’s back was turned. She could only hope that whenever they did it, however they did it that his suffering was minimal! She admired Kennith immensely for acting so heroically for their cause! If he hadn’t stepped in, those children may have been stuffed in that well! He died doing the right thing, which made the whole situation so tragic. She knew that it was a possibility going into the predicament, but that didn’t stop her heart from hurting.

When they got to the graveyard, everyone rushed in hoping to find Niqun. To their great relief, she was in the catacombs waiting form them! “Oh thank god, Niqun! You’re okay!”

“Of course I’m okay!” Niqun responded. “You think I would go down so easily?”

Gwynivara couldn’t help but to grin at her spunky attitude. “Did they give you much trouble?”

“Nah,” she replied. “They asked me what I saw, I pretended not to speak English, and they let me go. Works every time!”

Bernadette probed, “Did they…did they bring him out of the well?”

Niqun sadly nodded. “They put him on a tarp on the grass to examine him as they searched the well. I left before they took him away.”

One officer exclaimed, “We have to get his body back and give him a proper burial! We can’t let them throw him into a potter’s field!”

Kierram opinionated, “He does deserve a proper burial, but he wouldn’t want us to risk our lives for this. I know it’s hard, believe me! Do you know how many men we had to leave behind in ‘Nam? So many heroes got left in the battlefield! It’s an unfortunate frequency in times of war.” Everyone seemed disappointed at the idea, but they had to accept that he was right.

Gwynivara put in, “Maybe when this is all over, we can go back for his body. But for now, we gotta put all our energy into another risk.” She pulled the orb out of her pocket, which showed a blank, black canvas with a small, red dot.

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 18

We think he got kidnapped!” Bernadette revealed.

“Kidnapped?” Gwynivara couldn’t wrap her head around the idea. It just didn’t seem possible, and her mind just wouldn’t accept it. “Kennith is a big, strong dude who could easily fight off an attacker! With or without his Venenatus Sanguis abilities! He’s one of the least likely people for this to happen to! Are you sure?”

Riley explained, “When you all left for the mission, I formed a search party like you said. We hadn’t even left the graveyard when we ran into two kids, scared to death, hiding behind a couple of tombstones. They told us after they escaped quarantine, they were trying to run to their grandmother’s house when some really tall man snatched them up and tried to bring them in his house. The kids were kicking and screaming enough to slow the man down, and Kennith heard them. He held a sword up to the guy’s neck and ordered him to let the kids go, which he did, but then he slapped the sword out of his hands! They started fighting physically, but the other guy was so big that it was easy for him to get the upper hand. At one point, he threw Kennith to the ground by where the kids were, and he whispered to them, ordering them to run to the graveyard. The man used this split second distraction to knock Kennith out. The kids did as they were told, but before they got out of eyesight, they looked back one more time and saw that he was gone.”

Gwynivara knew that the kids more than likely didn’t lie about the situation-they’d have no motive to do so, but something still didn’t feel right to her. “You said you think he was kidnapped. Kidnapped, not killed. How do we know he’s still alive?”

Bernadette told her, “The search party staked out the place. They saw what looked like a backhand slap to someone on the couch. No one actually saw him, but they heard some banging around. We were waiting until you started the officers’ meeting to determine what to do about this situation.”

Gwynivara found this so odd. She tried to comprehend what would possess the man to capture Kennith and hold him against his will. She mused whether or not the man got off on pain and torture or if he had a more sinister desire. She briefly considered calling the police and letting them do some good for a change by putting this prick behind bars, but that would risk Kennith getting arrested for quarantine evasion. She concluded that they would have to rescue him themselves, but something still gnawed at her. Before kidnapping Kennith, he tried to take the kids…that’s when it clicked for her. She uncermoniously got out of her seat, brusquely telling the others in the room, “Come on!”

They followed Gwynivara as she marched into the training room. The officers that had already assembled got startled by Gwynivara’s abrupt determination and snapped into attention. As soon as Bernadette, Riley, and Cody fell into place, Gwynivara stood before them and stated boldly, “It’s a trap!”

The officers were surprised by her assertion, and one of them reacted, “How do you know?”

“Because,” Gwynivara justified her belief, “the man tried to kidnap the kids first. He didn’t try to take them to authorities to claim the reward for capturing quarantine escapees. Then, when he’s stopped from doing that, he kidnaps someone totally different than who just tried to nab. Who does that? Criminals who prey on people stick to a type, and yes, I suppose it’s possible to kidnap anyone who just happened to be available for the sole purpose of torture, but how likely is that? The victims do have one thing in common though- they all have Venenatus Sanguis. If the man knew that, why would he risk his own life by putting them under extreme stress and making them conjure up a beast? What are the odds a kidnapper would pick up people at random not knowing that they all have this commonality? The only other explanation is that this guy works for the origin, and they’re trying to lure us in. They know we’re getting close to the truth, and they’re hoping we’ll feel we have no choice but to go in and save him. As soon as we’re inside that place, they’ll give us nowhere to run and do us in. That scenario seems more likely, don’t you think?”

Another officer inquired, “So, you’re saying that we shouldn’t rescue Kennith?”

“No!” Kierram refuted that notion. “She has a plan to use this knowledge to our advantage. We’re going to pretend to buy into it and spring a trap of our own!”

“Exactly!” Gwynivara didn’t expect Kierram to rush to her defense like that, but she felt so grateful to have that kind of solidarity. She continued, “We’re going to use this opportunity to plant the tracking device. We’ll deliver them what they want, at first…”

If it wasn’t for the adrenaline from anticipating an ominous mission, Gwynivara would have been exhausted! The walk took longer than she thought it would, and she wished that it wasn’t so far out so that they could get this done and over with! To keep her nerves from paralyzing her, she made small observations about her surroundings. The houses lined some grassy hills, and she guessed that the residents here liked being nestled close to town while simultaneously living almost within walking distance to the mountains. This neighborhood seemed like it was lower middle class, and she briefly wondered if they stood out walking through the area with their crisp, black suits. Kierram noted, “We’re almost there.” Butterflies fluttered through her stomach. She rubbed her head slightly, wondering if the wig would stay on during the battle. She didn’t know for sure what would happen, but she had a feeling it wouldn’t be so easy to rescue Kennith or to outwit the origin!

They didn’t need to see the address to know that they had come to the right spot. The house looked as though it had never been painted, and the wood was so dilapidated that Gwynivara was surprised that it stayed structurally sound. The fence, made of the same shabby material as the house, was lopsided in some areas, and the holes gave them a clear view of the unkempt grass on the side of the yard. When they rounded to the front of the home, they saw a void in the grass by the backyard gate, and the two of them instantly knew that this was where Kennith got knocked and dragged into the house. They both exchanged worried glances and tried not to think about it as they entered the front yard.

The pathway to the front door, made of that same rickety lumber, buckled slightly under their feet. Reaching the front porch didn’t provide much relief for them. Dirt covered everything except for the dead plants, and the state of the windows and door gave the place an almost abandoned feel to it. The only personal touch came from the slender, white figures dangling from the low hanging ceiling that made an unusual clinking sound in the wind. Kierram commented, “Wow, what strange wind chimes!”

Gwynivara studied them, and a sickening feeling rose in the pit of her stomach. “Those aren’t wind chimes!” Kierram took a closer look and realized that they were pieces of bone! He practically jumped away from fright, and Gwynivara inquired, “Do you think they’re human?”

Kierram pulled himself back into focus and replied, “Either way, it’s not a good sign!” Gwynivara grimaced and knocked on the door.

The few seconds it took for someone to answer seemed to last forever. Gwynivara heard footsteps creaking towards them, and she quickly fell into character. That didn’t stop her heart from pounding wildly as the door swung open. She expected to see a stereotypical convict, but what she got was a very tall man with straw-like hair matted down by a cowboy hat with alligator teeth around the base, which clashed terribly with the olive-drab green zebra striped vest he also wore. For a second, his cartoonish appearance threw her off, but the pronounced scowl and intense glare let her know that they had found the right guy. He growled, “Can’t you read?” He pointed to a sign that said ‘No Trespassing.’ He seethed, “Get off my property!”

Gwynivara coolly pulled out a piece of paper and informed him, “FBI. We have a warrant to search the premises.” While he read the sheet in total astonishment, Gwynivara pushed him aside and entered the building with Kierram.

Kierram and Gwynivara pulled out their flashlights and scanned the small living room. Bernadette had told her that the search party had seen the man slap someone in this room, but all they could see was old-fashioned, hardly used furniture. Gwynivara reasoned that he must’ve moved Kennith to somewhere less conspicuous, but that didn’t comfort her much. Although they had planned for this, she had partly hoped to get in and get out quickly. While they roamed the living room, the man staggered over and remarked, “I ain’t hiding no quarantine children!”

Kierram responded, “A witness placed them in your yard the night of the fire. If you’ve got nothing to hide, then you don’t have anything to worry about.” He saw some mail on a coffee table and casually glanced at the name on the address. “So, I assume you’re the homeowner, Rick Actaeon?”

He answered snidely, “I dunno, am I?”

“That’s him,” Gwynviara confirmed. “If he wasn’t, he’d deny it.” Rick pouted, not being able to refute her logic. As she peered at the couch by the window, she noticed blood spatter on its arm. “What happened here?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Rick said spitefully. “It ain’t kids’ blood.”

From behind a pair of wooden swinging doors, Gwynivara and Kierram heard a loud bump. Kierram asked, “What was that?”

“None of your business,” he retorted.

“We’ll see about that!” Gwynivara stated. They each took a door and slowly eased it open. The doors revealed a decrepit, neglected kitchen with flies hovering around a sink full of dirty dishes. The room appeared empty, but they were not so easily fooled. They tiptoed into the room, ready for an ambush. They heard another bump coming from a room in the nearby hallway. While Gwynivara crept towards the hallway, Kierram put his back to hers and eyed the room before him.

Gwynivara peeked down the hallway, which seemed dark and empty. She knew that they had not fully vetted the kitchen, but there was no signs of Kennith there. However, she did not budge. Something didn’t feel right. She thought, perhaps, it stemmed from the lack of escape routes in that part of the house, but her instincts seemed to indicate that they weren’t done in the kitchen. She heard another bump sound from what looked like the bedroom, but this area gave off an aura of being completely vacant. Puzzled and unsure of what to do next, she stayed rooted to the spot. A split second after she made that decision, a familiar male’s voice leered, “Well, well, well! What have we got here?”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 17

Where am I?” Gwynivara lifted her heavy eyelids, and all she could see was a dark, stone ceiling. Her body felt totally drained, and her mind struggled to regain its focus. The last thing she remembered was fleeing from a menacing adversary and a chaotic scene. She didn’t remember falling asleep, so she had no idea where she was waking up. Her strength slowly returned, her mind began to race, and her natural curiosity compelled her to find out what happened.

A very hoarse voice croaked, “You’re alive, and you’re home!”

That voice sounded so familiar to her, but its scratchy tone made it so hard to decipher. Whoever he was, he sounded sick. That thought instantly made her think she was in a hospital, but the man stated clearly that she was home. She thought furiously- she knew that voice! Suddenly, a light bulb went off in her head. She felt almost sure it was…but it couldn’t be…She bolted out of bed and whipped her head to the right. Sure enough, it was Emorick! He barely had his eyes open, but he craned his head towards her and smiled weakly.

Gwynivara’s heart skipped a beat, and her impulses wanted her to dart over there and give him a big hug, but when she tried, she found herself bound to the bed. She then realized that she had an IV bag in her, so she gingerly took it out, threw it aside, and dashed to his bedside. “I’m so glad you’re okay!” She almost hugged him, but she hesitated. He wasn’t moving much, and he emitted this overwhelming aura that something was still very wrong.

Emorick made a skeptical face but didn’t express his doubts. Instead, he asked her, “What are you doing here?”

“Well, um…” Gwynivara didn’t know how to explain it to him, especially since she had a hard time understanding it herself. She started off with what she did know, “So, you saw that the new police force has been infiltrated by pawns of the origin. We figured out that they’re trying to spread the disease faster, and our theory became clearer when they set the quarantine building on fire. Some of the victims escaped, but instead of dispersing and creating more monsters to infect more people, we intercepted them. One of them was Chief Forsythe’s daughter, and she has us pretty convinced that he is ignorant of his crew’s true intentions. There’s no way that those dirty cops are bringing the creatures back to the police headquarters, so they must be storing them wherever the origin is hiding. So, we made a goal of tracking the beasts, and Cody helped me realize that the best way to do that would be…” She hesitated at this point. She had no idea how Emorick would react to her plan. She would hate to see the look of disappointment on his face if he viewed her tactics as foolhardy, but he stared at her expectantly, so she knew she had to tell the truth. “…tracking devices.”

Emorick’s initial reaction was surprise. “Wow! Well, that certainly would work, but the only way we could could our hands on it would be to…” He saw her face twist in guilt, and he remarked, “You didn’t!”

“We did!” Gwynivara’s face flushed from her mortification. “We stated a hippie protest to distract the military supply store workers while Kierram found it in the aisles.”

Gwynivara fully expected to hear a lecture about her recklessness, but instead, to her astonishment, Emorick laughed as heartily as his body would let him. “You got guts, kiddo! It’s a miracle you didn’t get caught!”

“We did!” Gwynivara revealed. “The orderly that survived the incident at the Public Health Center is now a cop, and he threatened to kill Kierram. I couldn’t let him do that, so I channeled my Venenatus Sanguis to shoot electricity at him!”

Emorick appeared pleasantly shocked to hear this. “You did that?”

“Kierram started to teach me,” Gwynivara admitted. “We wanted to send data gathered from the tracking device to your orb to track down the origin.”

“That’s impressive,” Emorick complimented, which really rallied up Gwynivara’s spirits. “Only really strong people can fully control their Venenatus Sanguis. It takes a hell of a lot of focus and energy.”

“That’s why I’m here!” Gwynivara felt so vindicated to hear this information, but she witnessed Emorick using his enchantments without collapsing, so she thought it prudent to ask, “How do you do it without fainting?”

He weakly replied, “Black coffee helps.” He let out a guttural cough, and Gwynivara’s heart sank a little. She waited so long for him to get a little better, and now that he showed some progress, she couldn’t bear the thought of him regressing back to ill health. He feebly told her, “Your plan is solid. Keep up the good work!”

She knew what this sounded like, and she refused to accept it. “No! You’re better now; It’s your Rebellion; you’re in charge again!”

“I can’t…not right now…” Emorick coughed again. “Take care of Kierram for me, okay?” He glanced over to Gwynivara, who’s eyes were brimming with tears. “Don’t worry about me! Our people need you right now, go to them!” He noticed that she couldn’t or wouldn’t move, so he mustered the strength to tell her. “That’s an order!”

It registered to Gwynivara that the Rebellion general had indeed given her an order and she had to obey his command. “Yes, sir!” He weakly smiled at her. She requested, “Please get better!” Emorick’s fingers made the okay sign, but his face still showed a lot of doubt. It was hard to leave his side, but she knew she had to. As soon as she got out of his eyesight, she wiped the tears from her eyes. She walked down the hall trying to think only positive thoughts about Emorick’s recovery. She had to- she had a job to do!

Riley sat at the island in the kitchen and looked at notes while he ate pancakes when Gwynivara walked in. “Oh good, you’re awake!”

“Sort of!” Gwynivara poured some coffee and took a sip right away. She wasn’t used to black coffee and shuddered a little. “Now I’m awake!”

Riley laughed, and then he suggested. “You must be famished! I have some extra pancakes- help yourself!” Gwynivara didn’t feel hungry, but she couldn’t recall the last time she ate anything, so she thought she ought to eat something. As soon as sat down and took a bite, she realized that she was starving and starting wolfing down her food. Riley raised an eyebrow in surprise but smiled in amusement. “No need to ask if you like them!” Her mouth was too full of food to say anything, but she nodded in agreement. Riley chuckled.

At that moment, Cody walked into the kitchen in a sort of daze. He seemed surprised to see people in the room and looked tempted to shy away, but Riley greeted him, “Morning! Want some pancakes?”

“Alright.” Cody slumped into a chair next to Riley. Gwynivara, who was already up to get seconds, made him a plate and served it to him. Riley and Gwynivara dove right in, but Cody sighed before taking a bite. Riley and Gwynivara started at him inquisitively. Cody apologized, “Sorry! I just feel so blue today!”

Riley reacted jokingly, “A depressed teenager- how cliché!” Cody gave him a slightly offended look, so he changed tactics, “Alright, let’s hear it.”

“Well, it’s just…I…” Cody stammered. “Okay, so I think I have a crush on Rebekah!”

Gwynivara inquired, “So, why does that make you sad?”

“Because I’m a bum!” Cody lamented. “She’s a beautiful girl, why would a girl like that want me?”

“Oh, sweetie, we all feel that way when we like someone!” Riley said sagely. “We never feel like we’re good enough. But don’t sell yourself short! You have a home here, so you and her are in the same boat. But you’ve got the hero aspect going on. Tell her all about how you selflessly rescued a marine officer and she’ll be all over you!”

Cody looked nervously skeptical about that idea. “I don’t know…”

“You don’t have to propose to her!” Riley responded. “Just be her friend. Most romances start out that way.”

“Really? Okay…” Cody’s mood seem to embolden a little. “I can do that!”

“Of course you can!” Riley replied. “Now, go on, eat up!”

Cody gave him a look of admiration. “You’re a father, aren’t you?”

“How’d you know?” Riley asked.

Cody shrugged. “That’s just how I always pictured it’d be like to have a normal dad. Your kids are so lucky!”

Riley’s usual swagger diminished a little. “My son wants nothing to do with me.” Cody reacted in astonishment, so Riley explained, “I spent my whole life trying to pretend to be something I’m not. Once I turned forty-five, I realized that while I was doing good on pleasing everyone else, I spent the first half of my life unhappy, so I told everyone the truth. They all got upset, and my wife took our son and left. My son still won’t talk to me. He’s too ashamed to have a gay dad.”

“That’s terrible!” Cody exclaimed. “Who cares who your parents date- as long as they’re happy! I wish that was my biggest problem! My mom’s boyfriend won’t stop beating her, and no one cares! I called the cops a few times, but they never arrested him. She would lie and say nothing happened every time! The rest of my family would just let it happen, saying it was her choice to live like that. He almost killed her the last time! I couldn’t take it anymore and ran away. I’d rather live on the streets than deal with that. Your son has no idea how lucky he has it!” Riley was clearly touched by his speech, but he couldn’t speak. Cody suddenly felt awkward, so he clumsily tried to change the subject, “Great pancakes!”

“Thank you!” Riley said gratefully.

Gwynivara watched this scene unfold and got a little choked up herself. Before she could react, Beranadette walked in. “Hey guys, we’re ready to…Ooh, pancakes!”

Riley informed her, “Sorry, hon! Gwyn got the last ones!”

With a mix of betrayal and amusement, Bernadette stared at Gwynivara, who chomped on the last bite mockingly. The two women locked eyes for a while, but soon both burst out into laughter. Bernadette told them, “Everyone’s ready for the officers’ meeting.”

Gwynivara responded casually, “Everyone? Does that mean Kennith came back?”

Bernadette and Riley shifted uncomfortably, exchanging worried glances. Bernadette slowly revealed, “Kennith isn’t coming back.”

“He’s dead?” Gwynivara’s heart plummeted. She never liked him, but he was an officer and one of her people, so the thought made her incredibly sad.

“No,” Bernadette stated ruefully, “It’s much worse than that…”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 16

Concentrate!” Kierram’s voice echoed through the training room as he gave Gwynivara direction. She stood before him with her eyes closed and her hand clasped tightly onto the lustrous orb. “Send all of your energy to what you want to happen.”

“I’m trying!” Gwynivara’s voice cracked a little when she spoke.

Kierram gently instructed, “Ignore any thought that says you can’t do this! Take a deep breath and really feel it in your core!”

Gwynivara took a deep breath and turned off her thoughts for a moment. She listened to her heart pouding, and after a while, she could feel a vibrant fore pulsating through her veins. She sent her entire focus on everything going to the orb, which she held in her left hand. That entire arm tingled as it quickly flowed to the purple glass. Suddenly, the orb lit up and became very warm very quickly! She opened her eyes as it emitted a couple of sparks. Automatically, she opened her palm and dropped it. Kierram caught it before it hit the ground. “Sorry!” Gwynivara was alarmed from how breathy her voice sounded, and then she realized that she felt pretty physically drained.

“Are you okay?” Kierram’s eyes swept over her left arm, looking for marks. Gwynivara had to take a deep breath, but she nodded. Kierram let her catch her breath and saved her from the effort of speaking by checking for injuries himself. He brought her left hand to his eye level and examined it. Once it seemed like she was breathing normally again, he asked her, “Is that what you were trying to do?”

“No!” Gwynivara shamefully admitted. “I was too busy trying to send energy to it that I forgot to tell it what to do!”

“Don’t beat yourself up! You made something happen, and that’s a start.” Kierram assured her, which made her smile gratefully. Gwynivara noticed that Kierram still had her hand, and he rubbed his thumb across her palm. “It’s still warm! You’ve got a lot of potential there. Be careful!”

“Well, obviously!” Gwynivara sassed him, grinning while she did so.

“Okay, wise guy!” Kierram playfully threw her hand back at her. Gwynivara chuckled, and Kierram had a very toothy smile. Gwynivara relished in the fact that his mood was light enough to render such a reaction. It was quite the change from when they first met, and she hoped that it would last, especially because he had such a great smile. At that point, she became very aware of how close they stood to each other. She would have stepped aside for anyone else, but for a reason she couldn’t explain, she stayed rooted to the spot. She thought it should feel awkward right now, but it actually felt very natural. For a brief moment, they didn’t move or think, they were simply gazing at each other.

The spell was over as fast as it came. The training room door opened, and officers began to pour in. They stepped apart in order to assume their roles in this upcoming meeting. Gwynivara silently wondered what just happened, but she quickly dismissed it, reasoning that this sort of enchantment involved a lot of high emotions, which will always leave a strange effect in people. She saw Bernadette’s eyes flash a shade of twinkling, which made her decide that practicing before meetings were a terrible idea, especially today’s session. The Rebels would soon embark on a dangerous mission, and she needed everyone’s mind on its serious nature.

Once the majority of the officers had assembled, Gwynivara noticed something different about the group. “Where’s Kennith?”

The other officers looked around to confirm that Kennith had not shown up. They looked to each other for explanation but answered with a shrug. Riley flipped through the notes on his clipboard and told her, “Officers have been trickling in all night. Jose came in a few minutes ago actually.” Jose nodded to acknowledge the accuracy of this statement. “Let’s see…nope. I don’t have a record of Kennith returning. He could still turn up.”

“While we’re out, keep an eye out for him,” Gwynivara ordered. “If he doesn’t return within a couple of hours, form a search party.”

“I take it we’re going on a mission?” Bernadette inquired.

“Yes,” Gwynivara replied. “To pull it off, we’ll have to evaluate our newcomers and recruit as many officers as possible. After that, we’re gonna need a hell of a lot of disguises…”

Inside a military supply store, one worker sat behind a glass case of guns and played solitaire while another worker perpendicular from him sat behind a cash register while reading a newspaper and eating a donut. The shop is small, but since it was totally empty, every time one man flipped a card or turned a page, it echoed. The man playing solitaire gave a bored sigh. As the man with the newspaper flipped a page, he noticed a moving mass out of the corner of his eye. At first, he dismissed it and kept reading. After it registered in his head that this was an unusual sight, he lowered down his newspaper and squinted his eyes to see what it was. He could tell it was a group of people, but he couldn’t see who they were or what they were doing. He told his coworker, “Hey Ed, can you take a look outside?”

The man playing solitaire seemed confused but complied. “What the hell?” He could see that they were coming closer, and once he got a better clue of what was going on, he reacted repulsively, “Oh no!” He flung his cards down and stepped out from behind the counter just as they burst in.

A group of hippies chanted angrily and held up protest signs as they filled the store. The man with the newspaper barked, “Hey! You need to leave! This is private property!”

Bernadette responded, “No way, man! You’re encouraging violence and destroying the planet!” The rest of the Rebel officers vehemently agreed with her.

The disguised officers spread across the front of the store, shaking displays and knocking items down. The two clerks were so distracted by their chaos that they didn’t notice Kierram sneaking through the aisles and searching through the shelves. After a minute, he found the box he was looking for. He stashed it inside a wooden guitar case and dashed back to the crowd. He shouted, “Make love, not war!” The rest of the officers began to shout that too and started to pile out of the store.

Gwynivara expected them to head back to the Rebel headquarters without much fuss, but she knew trouble could be lurking around any corner. What she didn’t expect was to encounter it as soon as she left the store! A police officer pointed a gun at them and commanded, “Freeze!” Everyone stopped and put their hands in the air. The policeman radioed for backup, and the Rebel officers waited calmly. They had been prepared for this to happen eventually, and even though they didn’t know it’d be this soon, they weren’t too worried. “You dirty hippies are under-!”

“We didn’t do anything wrong!” Gwynivara interrupted him. “We made our point and left. There’s no law against that!” The other officers expressed their agreement with this point.

The policeman eyed them suspiciously, but after a moment, he reluctantly stated, “Fine. You’re free to go. But if I hear you guys causing trouble in this town again, your asses are all going to jail.” He picked up his radio and ruefully said, “Dispatch, this is two-four-five. Go ahead and cancel back up.”

As the Rebels started to leave, another police car showed up. The policeman immediately jumped out and brandished a knife. “Freeze! Don’t move!”

The other officer remarked, “What are you doing? I just canceled backup!”

The policeman ignored him and circled the bunch like a bird of prey closing in on their hunt. “All of you, hands up!” Everyone complied, but worry began to set in as his behavior became more and more unhinged. When he passed Gwynivara, she instantly recognized him as the surviving orderly! She now understood what sparked his behavior at the moment, but it didn’t help much. She thought furiously of a way to get out of this situation before he eliminated the threat on behalf of the origin!

The mad officer noticed that Kierram only had one hand up. “Put down that guitar!”

“Screw you!” Kierram spat.

The rogue policeman’s lip curled, and he brandished his knife, ready to strike. Gwynviara had always felt protective of her people, but something about seeing Kierram in harm’s way woke up her primal instincts. Before he could strike, she stepped out and seethed, “Leave him alone!”

The policeman, amused by her audacity, strolled over to her. “Sup babie! Allow me to introduce myself- I am the law! What I say goes- ya dig?”

“That man is also the law.” Gwynivara pointed to the other policeman, who looked too scared and confused to move. “He let us go, so you need to leave!”

The malicious officer stepped up to her face and growled, “I’m not going anywhere!”

Gwynivara could see his face twisting in thought. She inferred that him being this close to her allowed him to see past her disguise and stirred up some memories for him. She couldn’t let him identify her, and with fresh rage still pulsing through her veins, she acted swiftly. “Yes, you are!” She felt the heat of the moment surging through her body, and she quickly sent it to her fingertips. Purple sparks beamed electricity at him, sending him flying backwards! The Rebel officers were shocked, but the other policeman as well as the spectators who had gathered couldn’t even fathom what just took place! Gwynivara suddenly felt drained and almost collapsed. Kierram and Bernadette caught her, and everyone ran away before anyone else tried anything on them.

The green skinned woman awoke suddenly from her sleep. She immediately dug inside her dress pocket and pulled out a green orb. She needed confirmation! When she saw the orderly policeman unconscious and laying on a newspaper stand with papers scattered everywhere and electricity still popping up on his body, she knew that this could only mean one thing. Outraged, she let out a blood-curling scream!

Gwynivara jerked out of her sleep and let out a gasp. Bernadette covered her mouth and whispered, “Shh! We’re almost there!”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 14

What are you talking about?” Alarm bells went off in Gwynivara’s head after Riley announced such an ominous predicament, but the details were too vague for her to take any immediate action. She needed more details, but Riley seemed too rattled to speak. After his instincts got the words out, he started to shut down. Gwynivara could tell that something traumatic had happened, so it was imperative that Riley got the words out. “Riley, what happened?” Riley couldn’t speak; he just shook his head. “Are people hurt?” Riley was practically shaking. “Who’s attacking them?” Riley tried to utter an answer but couldn’t. Gwynivara knew time could be of the essence, so she lost her patience with him and shouted, “Riley, talk to me now!”

Riley’s common sense snapped into place. The Rebel officers were all rapt with attention as he revealed, “The policemen! They set the quarantine on fire! I hid in the bushes until it was safe. As soon as I knew they couldn’t see me, I ran here. Half the building was in flames! Before I got too far though, I heard…”

He had trouble finishing his account, so Gwynivara leveled with him, “Riley, I know it’s tough, but if you really believe we need to go help, you gotta keep talking! So far, I’m inclined to let the fire department handle it.”

“The firemen said…” Riley exclaimed, “There were too many victims escaping for them to contain them all. Dozens of quarantine residents are missing, but someone said Chief Forsythe considered them a threat to public safety! The police were ordered to bring them back dead or alive! But they were laughing- like ‘Why would we bring them back alive?’ They’re offering a reward for their capture, so even the public is looking for them!”

“Wait, wait, wait!” Gwynivara reacted. “Chief Forsythe ordered the quarantine victims to be found dead or alive, and then they ask for the public’s help?”

“My god!” Bernadette commented. “They just gave the whole city a license to kill!”

“Let’s go find them before they do!” one officer declared. Most of his colleagues agreed and were ready to go.

“Wait!” Kierram called out to them. “We can’t just run out there while everyone has a blood lust! Do you forget that we’re all on a list of quarantine evaders? Then me, Bernadette, and Gwyn are on a most wanted list! They’re probably expecting us to go help the escapees! This is probably a trap!”

Kennith sneered, “So, we’re supposed to just let them die? What kind of marine were you?”

This cut deep for Kierram, and he chested up to Kennith, who didn’t back down. Gwynivara stood between them and yelled, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Stop it! This isn’t helping!” Kierram and Kennith begrudgingly stepped away from each other. Once they separated, Gwynivara addressed everyone, “Kennith did bring up a good point- Kierram was a marine.” She turned to Kierram and asked, “What would you guys have done if a unit was in trouble?”

Kierram looked surprised to get asked this. Gwynivara knew that his past, especially his military experience, was a touchy subject for him. She hoped that he wouldn’t explode from her asking him to share some of his memories, but she genuinely felt he was the best person to get advice from at this moment. Without Emorick’s keen insight, Kierram probably had the most knowledge of how to survive in a crisis of this level. Kierram thought back to his days as a soldier and after a moment, he told them, “We would look at the maps and pinpoint areas where the enemy might ambush us.”

One officer mused, “We don’t really know where they would all go, but anywhere we could think of, they will too. Maybe we should take a look at the maps and figure some back routes.”

Another officer added, “We also need to figure out a way to smuggle dozens of people to our headquarters without anyone seeing where we’re going.”

“Do we have any maps?” Gwynivara asked the officers.

“Tons!” Kennith ran to a small closet and retrieved half a dozen different maps. Gwynivara felt grateful for his change of attitude, but she still detected a sense of urgency in his manners. He quickly plopped the maps in front of her as if he wanted to plan this out as fast as possible. Something about this incident really rattled him! He had always had an abrasive attitude, so to see his swagger disappear like that actually worried her. She paid astute attention to him as he explained, “We were marking down where we found Venenatus Sanguis attack victims to see if we could triangulate an area for the origin, but it got to be too much, so we haven’t been keeping up with it.”

Gwynivara unfurled each map one at a time to see which one would be most helpful. She came across one map that had various factories, stores, and charitable organizations with footnotes on what was there and how to get it. Bernadette explained, “That’s a resource guide. It’s how we got supplies for the Rebel Headquarters.”

“Makes sense.” Gwynivara had always been curious about that, and although it felt satisfying to get that question answered, she didn’t think any of this would help at the moment. Before she put it away, something caught her eye. She noticed a bakery factory with a label that read: ‘Trucks, easy to hot wire.’ Suddenly, inspiration struck her. “I’ve got an idea!”

A young woman ran down the street paying no mind to the puddles she had been sloshing through. She paused to catch her breath, and in the distance, she could hear splashing behind her, which made her cringe. She knew they weren’t far behind her! If she could hear them, they could hear her, so she knew she had to get out of the rain. She spotted an alleyway between two restaurants, and the one on the left-hand side had a fire escape staircase whose landing was solid enough to provide some cover. She dashed to it and hid amongst the trash bags next to a dumpster bin. She didn’t move a muscle or make a sound hoping they would just overlook this area and continue their hunt somewhere else. She sat still and listened, ready to hear them pass by. She knew then she would have mere seconds to run…

But run to where? she wondered. She couldn’t stay in Great Dismal Falls with her father being who he was. She was too recognizable, especially with the red hair. It mirrored his image too closely to be a coincidence. Going back to quarantine wasn’t an option, she refused that idea! But if she kept running, sooner or later, she would get caught, and she didn’t think she would survive this time. She heard footsteps drawing closer, and dread began to fill her body. Then, she heard footsteps coming from the opposite direction. At first, she thought danger would seek her out from both directions, but as the second set of footprints grew closer, she sensed something different about them. They were softer, slower, and something else that she couldn’t quite put her finger on…

She heard the second set of footprints stop close by, and she dared to take a peak. She saw two women in delivery uniforms searching the alley with a tall, empty crate. The pale skinned woman pointed directly at her hiding spot just as she heard the dangerous footsteps grow closer. The two ladies tipped the crate down, and one of them hissed, “Get in!” She didn’t know why, but her instincts told her to trust them. She sped to the crate and slid inside in a flash. The two women tipped the crate back up and quickly sealed it up. She could hear her hunters approach just as the women finished, so she held her breath and silently prayed that the two ladies would drive them away.

Gwynivara could see who the girl was running from out of the corner of her eye. She could see that they were policemen, but the uniforms were different than the normal ones. They were lighter colored and more of a thinner material. They also had a much smaller utility belt, and if it wasn’t for their badge, she would’ve guessed they were security guards! Gwynivara and Bernadette lifted up the crate and ignored them as the two policemen approached. One of them bellowed, “Excuse me!”

Gwynivara and Bernadette continued to work, but Bernadette responded gruffly, “Little busy here, boys!”

The policeman who spoke before told her cordially, “And what kind of gentlemen would we be if we let two ladies do such heavy lifting on their own? May we?”

Bernadette and Gwynivara shrugged and let them help load the crate onto the truck. The other policeman grunted, “Oof! What’s in these things?”

“Fresh fruit for the pies,” Gwynivara fibbed.

They opened the back of the truck, and the four of them wedged this crate between the others. Bernadette remarked, “Well, thanks for the help.”

The first officer handed Gwynivara a business card. “We’re looking for some fugitives who escaped from quarantine. Give us a call if you see anything.”

“Hard to believe anyone with Venenatus Sanguis could get past you!” She hid her grin as she tucked the business card into her pocket.

The second policeman proudly assured her, “Don’t worry! We have special training and can spot them from a mile away!” Gwynivara could tell it took all of Bernadette’s will power to not bust out laughing. They simply tipped their caps at the policemen, who said goodbye to them as they got into the truck. After the policemen left, Bernadette hot wired the truck, and they drove off.

Bernadette parked the truck in the back of the factory with a few others. When Bernadette and Gwynivara opened the back of the truck, Kierram, dressed as a dock worker, helped them carry three crates off of the truck. He took a crowbar and opened each one up. Two men and the red haired girl crawled out. They seemed scared and very confused, but there wasn’t time to explain anything. Kierram opened up a manhole cover and directed, “Get in.” The three quarantine fugitives had no choice but to trust them and followed him down.

The young girl followed the others through the dank and watery sewer tunnels. The journey seemed to go on forever, and she didn’t have the faintest idea where they were going. She desperately wanted to ask, but she didn’t want to disturb the quiet, figuring it was part of their cover. Finally, the three people in uniform stopped at a point they recognized. They climbed a metal ladder, and she was surprised to see that they were outside of a graveyard. The three uniformed people looked all around, and the man concluded, “It’s clear! Let’s go!”

Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram led the three people they rescued through the graveyard, which Gwynivara knew made them nervous. “Don’t worry,” she assured them, “we’re going to a safe place for people like us! We’ll explain everything when we get there.” She knew that wasn’t much information, but she hoped that it quelled their curiosity for the moment. She very much wished she could start explaining everything just as Emorick had done for her, but the air was still buzzing from the mass quarantine evacuation. Even though the area they were in seemed empty, everyone agreed that the smartest course of action would be to get everyone to Headquarters where they knew for sure they were safe and then explain it all. She felt bad for being so cryptic and quiet, but she knew what waited for them on the other side would make it all worth it.

The three quarantine victims seemed very nervous as they entered the crypt. In fact, one of the quarantine victims whispered, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Gwynivara could understand his concern. It seemed like a dead end from their vantage point. She was surprised to hear the girl retort, “If they wanted to kill us, they’d be better off sending us back to quarantine!” Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram chuckled, and the two men relaxed a little more. As they headed towards the back of the crypt, Gwynivara was proud of the teen for her tenacity, although she vaguely wondered where she got her sharp mentality from at such a young age.

The three quarantine victims were sort of impressed by the secret door, but they grew nervous again when Kierram shut the door behind them. Their only light was from a torch, and the old, stone staircase didn’t offer much comfort. Bernadette shouted the Celtic protocol, and Gwynivara could tell that the three quarantine victims didn’t feel at ease when Riley answered back. No one said anything as they descended down the staircase. The three newcomers clearly didn’t know what to expect when they reached the bottom, but Gwynivara smiled as they reached the curtains. She knew the look on their faces would be priceless, and she wasn’t disappointed. When she pulled the drapes, a mix of current rebels and newly rescued ones greeted them with applause and cheers! Gwynivara beamed, “Welcome to the Rebellion!”

Everyone could see the relief flood the newcomers’ bodies upon their reception. Whatever they had been expecting, it certainly was a warmly lit hall with dozens of friendly faces! Although they knew they were safe, they weren’t sure how to react next. Riley helped break the ice by grabbing his clipboard and asking them, “Can I get your names?”

“Jerry Kwan,” the first man replied.

“Max Magnar,” the other man replied.

The girl replied, “Rebekah Forsythe.”

The people who heard her gasped, and Riley seemed so shocked that he almost dropped his clipboard. Gwynivara didn’t want to believe it at first, so she decided to clarify what they all suspected. “Forsythe? As in Chief Forsythe?”

“Yeah,” Rebekah confirmed. “He’s my father.”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 11

We believe these individuals to be armed and dangerous!” Chief Forsythe held up a picture of Gwynivara and Bernadette in their maid outfits as well as Kierram in his fedora. “If you see them, do not approach them! Find the nearest phone and call nine-one-one. Be assured the Great Dismal Falls police department has stepped up its patrols for the safety of its citizens! Go about your business as normal, but keep an eye out for these criminals! I’ll take your questions now.”

A flurry of reporters threw questions at him, but Chief Forsythe ignored them until he called on someone. The reporter he pointed to asked, “You mentioned earlier that these three were responsible for the death and serious injuries of five doctors, but reports show that they were attacked by Venenatus Sanguis creatures. Is it your opinion that the three fugitives have the disease?”

Chief Forsythe mulled it over for a second, and then he replied, “At this point, we cannot make that determination. The creatures in question may have come these individuals, however, the amount of chaos that ensued as a result of their escape may have triggered the emotions of other unreported cases. Either way, we have a team of specifically trained to hunt these people that are set to patrol for the first time later today. With the extra manpower, we’ll round up all of these lawbreakers and put them in quarantine where they belong. Next question.”

Another reporter asked, “Chief Forsythe, do you have any clues as to the identities of these individuals?”

“Our team is working hard to identify the individuals in question. We will contact the press with any new developments. That’s all the time I have. Thank you.” He turned away from the reporters and walked into the police station, which still had visible damage from the earthquake. The reporters chased him down and continued to barrage him with questions until Chief Forsythe slammed the door in their faces.

Gwynivara turned off the radio in disgust. She sat on her bed and rubbed her face in frustration. Bernadette walked in without knocking and shut the door behind her. Gwynivara didn’t look up at her. She now felt ashamed that her behavior garnered her some pity and compelled someone to check on her. Bernadette sat on her bed and tried to make eye contact with her, but Gwynivara turned her head towards the bathroom door. She felt like crying but refused to let the tears come out. Bernadette calmly told her, “Stop trying to be strong all the time! If you keep it all pent up, you’ll create another beast! What’s wrong?”

Gwynivara knew that she was right, but that made her feel a little guilty. “What’s wrong? I got someone who had a knife in her back and could’ve died worried about how I’m doing!”

Bernadette softly chuckled, and then she assured her, “Believe it or not, I’ve been through worse!” Puzzled, Gwynivara looked at Bernadette questioningly. Before she could ask about it, Bernadette went on, “We can talk about that later though. Talk to me! Let it all out!”

“Well…” Gwynivara took a deep breath. She didn’t know where to begin. She decided to go with the freshest wound. “Chief Forsythe has our picture out all over the media! I mean, I realize we’re all technically criminals, but now people know what we look like. Someone will recognize us, so I guess we can’t go on patrols anymore.”

“That’s not true,” Bernadette refuted. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to hide in plain site.” Gwynivara looked skeptical, so she added, “No, seriously! My father is…um…was rich and somewhat famous, but no one has made the connection. Change your hairstyle and lay low, and you’re instantly invisible! Besides, I’ve heard that you’re already good at changing your identity. It’s not that different.”

Gwynivara’s curiosity peaked after hearing this. She had so many questions reeling in her head about Bernadette’s past, but she had already indicated her disinterest in explaining her history, so she forced herself to table the notion for the moment. Gwynivara knew she was probably right about patrolling, and she was intrigued about the methods of execution. Again though, she had to table the notion. She knew Bernadette would insist on talking about her feelings and wouldn’t let the subject go until it was all out, so she decided to get it over with. “Did anyone tell you about my dreams?”

“Riley did,” Bernadette replied.

Of course he did, she thought. His story probably was what prompted her to visit. “No one believes me. They don’t think my dreams are anything more than pure fantasy.” She paused and added, “I don’t need anymore reminders of that!”

“I wasn’t gonna say that!” Bernadette refuted. “Dreams can be a powerful window into the subconscious. It’s a part of your brain that tries to sort out problems you conscious brain can’t. I would still share what you learn from them, but if you want them to take your insight seriously, I just wouldn’t present the dreams as real.”

“But the dreams are real!” Gwynivara objected. “If I don’t tell them the whole truth, then it’ll feel like lying! I could be leaving out important information that could lead us to finding the cure! I have to tell them everything!”

“How do you know it’s real?” Bernadette’s tone wasn’t judgmental or argumentative but more of observant wondering.

Gwynivara felt she had a valid point. She hadn’t really questioned how she knew it was real before but accepted it as fact. After evaluating it, she noted that she never got out of her bed, so she obviously hadn’t actually been there in real life. She didn’t personally know the woman she saw, and the only reason she knew any of her men stemmed from the fact that they had tried to kill her. She didn’t know any of them enough to have a psychic connection either. Actually, she remembered that she didn’t even believe in that stuff. She could now understand Riley and Kierram’s reactions. It didn’t have much logic to it, and they may have even pondered about her sanity. She told Bernadette, “All I have for proof is is this strong feeling in my gut. But I understand what you’re saying. I really don’t have any solid proof. I guess I figured that the feeling was strong enough that people would take my word for it. I won’t mention my dreams until I have more proof.”

Gwynivara could tell that Bernadette didn’t believe in the idea of her dreams being real visions, but she knew Gwynivara’s conviction was so strong that there was no point in arguing. Instead, she smiled and then changed the subject, “You must be starving! I know I am! Let’s go grab a bite to eat!” Gwynivara agreed and they left for the kitchen.

As they walked down the hall, they saw a small group of people gathered with plates in the activity room, so Bernadette exclaimed, “Ooh, someone’s cooking something!” They went inside, and the people who had gathered scooted over to make room for them. It was a tight squeeze, but no one seemed to mind. Gwynivara didn’t recognize the people there, but they all seemed very cordial. Even though the group ranged in ages and cultures, she felt like she was attending a family gathering. After everything she had went through lately, she definitely needed this! Despite all evidence otherwise, Gwynivara had a gnawing feeling that this was too good to be true. She shook the feeling off and forced herself to enjoy the moment.

From the kitchen, a male shouted, “Food’s ready!” The people gathered were excited, and Gwynivara couldn’t wait to meet the cook. To her astonishment, Kierram walked in carrying a wok of steaming food! He met her eyes and also seemed stunned. For a moment, they just stared at each other. But before they could process the moment, they heard the hallway behind them fall deadly silent!

The dinner guests turned towards the hallway, and they saw everyone taking cover. They felt confused until they heard Niqun shout, “Tha coigreach an seo!” The dinner party gasped, snuffed out the lights, and hid under the table. Gwynivara whispered, “What’s happening?”

Kierram answered, “Do you remember when I trained you on door guard duty? If you shout ‘An bhfuil tú ina chara?’ and they don’t say ‘Is cara liom!’ back, you shout-”

“Tha coigreach an seo!” Gwynivara remembered. With horror, she realized, “An intruder!”

They strained their ears to hear what was happening, but they couldn’t hear a thing. Bernadette observed, “It’s too quiet! Something’s wrong!”

Gwynivara responded swiftly, “Well, whether Emorick likes it or not, we got work to do!”

They quietly crouched down and tiptoed out of the door. The hall was dark and eerily quiet, and they couldn’t hear anything happening near the stairs. They crept close to the curtains, and Bernadette spoke in a barely audible whisper, “Niqun, are you hurt?”

She whispered back, “I’m fine. He’s still up there.”

Gwynivara couldn’t tell if the man had heard them or not, but right after Niqun spoke, he shouted, “Hello? Is anyone still there? Please, we need your help! It’s dark, and I can’t do it alone!”

Without speaking, Gwynivara could tell that Kierram was ready to fight off the intruder, and Bernadette seemed seriously skeptical. Gwynivara detected as sense of urgency in his voice that sounded genuine, but she didn’t totally let her guard down, just in case. She grabbed a lighter and relit the torch. Bernadette and Kierram gave her a panicked look, so she told them, “If there’s an enemy, I wanna see who I’m facing!”

As they accepted her explanation, the man hollered, “Are you someone who can help us?”

Gwynivara put a foot on the staircase. She felt like her nerves were on fire, but she had to investigate. If danger laid on the other side of the staircase, she wanted to face it right then and there so she could corner him and give the others a chance to escape. If the intruder wasn’t an adversary, she felt mystified as to who else it could be. “Who’s us?”

He replied, “My name is Cody. I don’t know who this is, but he told me to come here.”

Gwynivara took the torch and slowly climbed up the stairs. Kierram and Bernadette immediately followed her, ready to fight as backup if Cody attacked her. Gwynivara probed, “If he told you to come here, why didn’t he give you the password?”

Cody answered her, “There wasn’t time!” They got closer to the top, and they saw Cody for the first time. He was a skinny, pale boy in his late teens. He wore overly baggy clothes that had numerous dirt stains, and coupling that with the troubled expression on his face, the three of them let their guard down a little as they didn’t totally think he was a threat anymore. They still held a little caution as they listened to his claim, “He’s badly hurt and told me to take him here! Please help him! He saved my life! I don’t want him to die!”

Gwynivara saw a hand on the ground, and she now absolutely had to see who it was. When they got to the top of the stairs, their hearts stopped. His body was limp, and blood poured out from his chest! Gwynivara’s mind wouldn’t accept what she saw. Without thinking, she instinctively shouted, “We need medics now!” She heard people downstairs scrambling, but she couldn’t think about them. She raced to his side to feel his pulse. She couldn’t accept that his life could be in danger, she absolutely wouldn’t! She closed her eyes, and with trembling hands, she put two fingers to his neck. With her her heart pounding, she got the result…