Rebels of Darkness II, Chapter 26

The station manager went up to Joanette and let her know, “The disturbance turned out to just be the mailman. We had him watched the entire time he was here, and he left without any incidents.”

“You tailed the mailman?” Joanette questioned.

“You can’t trust anyone during a time like this!” the station manager responded. “It’s not unheard of for someone to put on a blue collar uniform to infiltrate a forbidden area!” Gwynivara and Bernadette tried not to snicker as they gave each other knowing smiles after he said that. The station manager glanced at the security guard behind him and asked, “How’s everything now?”

The security guard answered, “Everything’s quiet, so we’re looking good right now!”

The station manager chimed, “Good!” When he turned back to Joanette, his expression still appeared nervous. “It’s just an interview with a few college students, no big deal!” he told himself. His eyes flickered between Bernadette and Gwynivara, who stood off stage, as well as Cody and Rebekah, and he probed, “You’re all in the same class?”

“Oh no! We were Professor Chadron’s grad students. They’re just some freshmen volunteers,” Bernadette fibbed.

“That makes sense.” He took a deep breath and resumed reassuring himself, “Just some college students testing out a theory, no big deal!”

Joanette pointed out, “And a licensed nurse. She’s here to test them for Venenatus Sanguis.”

The station manager nodded in remembrance of this detail. “Right, right! One of these kids took on this serum as a preventative measure, and one of them previously tested positive for the virus. Have you checked out the validity of these claims for yourself? No offense to you guys, I just have to double check you’re not snake oil salesmen in disguise!”

“Of course I checked their claims! You think I would do this if I hadn’t done my homework?” Joanette countered.

“That’s good… So, are we harboring a quarantine evader?” the station manager probed.

Joanette refuted that notion, “No! She’s gonna test negative, so she’s no longer a felon. I guess you could say these two girls harbored a fugative, but considering they found the cure, I’m sure the district attorney would cut them a break!” The station manager still seemed on edge, so Joanette assured him, “Everything’s gonna be fine! We’ll show the world that this cure works, and then we’ll have exclusive access to their story as they bring the vaccine to the Public Health Center and become world famous scientific heroes!”

The station manager tried to quell his anxiety with her logic, “You’re probably right. I’m just being overly paranoid! I got myself so worked up that I’m starting to get flashbacks to the day the Nazis invaded our camp! Something in the air felt different that morning, like a strange electricity in the atmosphere could sense a dangerous presence headed our way… I think those hate letters just took me back to the trenches of Magiskby fields… You know some of the locals in the area got deeply harassed for speaking out against what their German neighbors were doing…”

“You remember who won that battle, right?” Gwynivara brought up. “The ones who spoke out were on the right side of history!”

“You’re right!” The station manager’s confidence buoyed up after hearing that. “I just gotta…” He paused as he listened to someone speaking into his headphones. “Oh shoot! One minute ’til we’re live! Places everyone!”

As everybody prepared themselves for the broadcast, Gwynivara noticed a lot of chatter on the security guard’s walkie-talkie. He didn’t seem worried, but Gwynivara grew a little suspicious and wondered if the station manager’s paranoia actually had some merit…

The anchor at the news desk announced, “Breaking news on the Venenatus Sanguis pandemic! Joanette Joules, take it away!”

“I’m here with two students from Hildegard Bingen University who claim they’ve taken an antidote developed by the recently departed Professor Ezra Chadron, and Nurse Alvaro is here to test…” She trailed off as she heard the security guard whispering urgently into his walkie-talkie, but he gave her a thumbs up, so she continued, “She’s here to test if this cure was, indeed, effective. So, we’ll start with Rebekah, who is actually known to authorities to have…” The ground beneath them shook slightly, and the security guard inquired into his walkie-talkie to find out what was happening. Joanette ushed Nurse Alvaro to keep going with her test as she spoke into the camera, “She’s known to have escaped quarantine, so if she tests negative…” Nurse Alvaro tried to steady her hand as she held up a small device that pricked Rebekah’s finger, and although the quakes grew stronger and more frequent, Joanette felt determined to keep going. “If she tests negative, then it means…”

“Joanette!” After hearing what the security guard said to him, the station manager urged Joanette to stop.

Gwynivara and Bernadette watched as the security guard moved to a position between the set and a station entrance, and they became even more alarmed when he brandished his gun! The camera person attempted to turn off his equipment, but Joanette ordered him, “Keep rolling! Nurse Alvaro, what do the results say?”

Nurse Alvaro frantically replied, “I don’t know, it takes a minute to…”

The walls started to tremor so violently that the dust and small debris above them began to rain down! The station manager shouted, “Joanette! We have to take cover!”

Joantte refused, “No! They’re trying to prevent the truth from coming out, and I just won’t let that happen!”

All of the staff ran in the opposite direction of where the imminent danger stemmed from, but Joanette didn’t budge. Gwynivara and Bernadette ran to the security guard’s die, ready to assist him with what they assumed was a giant beast while Joanette attempted to go on, “Any moment now, this test will prove that she is no longer…”

Suddenly, the entryway to the station burst apart, and it shocked Gwynivara to behold this sight! The massive size of this beast, which resembled the appearance of an elephant with no tusks or trunk but had sharp fangs, didn’t shock her as much as the fact that Abigor and his minions who worked for him were riding on top of it! Everyone but Abigor hopped down and immediately fired incantations at Bernadette and Gwynivara! The security guard hit one of them with one of his bullets, but he soon ran out of ammunition. Gwynivara and Bernadette shielded him as he reloaded, and although they were still outnumbered, they managed to fend them off. Gwynivara could see the beast advancing towards the set where the others stood, but she couldn’t take action on it without getting struck by one of her many adversaries!

Cody ran over to the abandoned camera and swiveled it so it could film the fight. Rebekah tried to produce an incantation, but no matter how hard she concentrated, she couldn’t conjure anything. “Oh, I forgot I’m cured!” Rebekah recalled fretfully.

Nurse Alvaro dropped the testing device and hurried to safety. Joanette picked it up and then commanded to Cody, “Point it to me!” As she used her body to cover Rebekah from the beast, she informed the viewers, “According to this device, Rebekah is-!”

Before she could read the results, the beast nearly bit her. Cody rushed over and kept its jaws held open with all the strength he had. Joanette and Rebekah got up to help, but soon, their endurance started to wane. Just when they feared that the beast might overtake them, a gunshot rang out, and the beast howled in pain. The security guard fired another round, and this time, the beast went limp. The three of them let got of its jaw, but in its last bit of life, it sunk its teeth into Cody’s arm! Cody freed himself, but he couldn’t concentrate on anything else as he stared the wound with wide eyes. Joanette grabbed the Venenatus Sanguis tester, and she directed him, “Quick! Take the test!”

As the beast fell down to the ground, Cody hurriedly pricked his finger. Joanette saw Abigor rising up off the floor, so she grabbed Rebekah and Cody by the wrist and ran them behind the security guard. The security guard had the instinctive ability to dodge the incantations that Abigor hurled at him while returning fire back at him, and both Bernadette and Gwynivara tried to rapidly defeat their opponents so they could go help, but they were still overwhelmed! During the melee, Joanette spun the camera towards herself, and as fast as she could, she rattled off as many facts as possible, “That man works for the FBI in the Disease Safety Unit. They’re supposed to be protecting you from Venenatus Sanguis, but as you can see, they’re trying to spread it! Rebekah’s test came back negative, and in a few seconds, we’ll see that Cody’s will too. They don’t want you to know this ’cause they’re using biological warfare to-!”

Abigor struck the security guard, who fell down and laid motionless! Gwynivara was able to free herself from the other agents, but as she used an incantation against him, he threw one at Joanette! Abigor collapsed, but so did Joanette! “No!” Gwynivara cried out. This distraction almost got her hit by the other agents, and she rejoined the struggle. Rebekah swooped down to take Joanette’s pulse, and when she found none, she gasped!

All of a sudden, police sirens blared! One of the agents aimed an incantation at the heavy lights above them, and everyone had to roll out of the way to avoid the impact of this! The agents swept up Abigor, and right as Gwynivara and Bernadette prepared themselves to take them out, they disappeared into thin air! “How did they do that?” Bernadette exclaimed.

The four Rebels exited the building, narrowly missing the the police’s arrival inside. Some of the staff, including the station manager, warily crept out of their hiding spot, and one of the police officers asked them, “What happened?”

“Our audience can tell you, we’ve been live this whole time!” the station manager answered while ruefully staring at Joanette.

“Nobody touch anything!” the other police officer instructed just as the staff neared the damage to survey it all. “This entire studio is a crime scene!”

The first police officer talked into his microphone, “Dispatch, we’re gonna need CSI and a detective in here stat!”

As he gave the dispatch operator his location, the staff all wept for their fallen brethren. The station manager bent over top pick something up that landed close to them, and sadly told his crew, “Cody’s test results!” They all peered over his shoulders to read what it displayed.

“Ladies and gentlemen, never in my life did I imagine doing the autopsy of one of our own, but Professor Chadron donated his body to science, so we’re going to help the police out with this!” A man in protective surgical gear gazed despondently at Professor Chadron’s lifeless body while a half dozen students, who also donned the same garb, looked at him wistfully. “So, what’s the first step?”

“An external examination,” a female student replied.

The teacher responded, “Yes! This includes less visible places like underneath his fingernails, which could hold important clues to the events leading to the victim’s death. Go ahead.”

All six students positioned themselves at different sections of his body, and they thoroughly inspected it. Another female student stated, “I see gunshot residue.”

“Ah, so the gun the police retrieved did come from him,” the teacher noted. “No bullets were found, so there’s a wounded killer out there somewhere!” He jotted this down, and then he queried, “Any contusions or lacerations?”

A male student asserted, “No. It doesn’t appear that there’s any external signs of his cause of death.”

Another male student put in, “That means the cause of death is from an internal attack, which is strange considering that he physically fought someone off!”

“Indeed!” The professor wrote this finding down. “It’s possible that Professor Chadron had myocardial infarction from the fear generated by this assault. It’s also possible that he ingested some kind of toxin prior to the assailant arriving. Only an internal examination will tell! Who wants to make the incision?”

“I’ll do it!” a third male student volunteered.

As he made a y shaped cut with a scalpel, the teacher informed them, “This process takes days to complete because we have to examine each organ as well as run tests for all of his bodily fluids. WE begin with the vital organs. You’ll need to open up the rib cage with-!”

A fourth male student raised his hand and brought to the teacher’s attention, “I think Rafael found something already!”

The teacher turned to Rafael, who let him know, “There’s an unusual protrusion coming from his stomach!”

“Really?” The teacher briskly walked over to see it for himself, and when he espied what Rafael had seen, his brows furrowed. “What the heck is that?” He swiftly grabbed the scalpel, and as he operated on the stomach, he educated the class, “Normally during an autopsy, we initialize the process with the heart and lungs, but in this case, we’re going to make an exception!” The rest of the class curiously gathered over Professor Chadron’s body and watched with anticipation as he worked. Once he got the organ open, the class reacted in a perplexed astonishment, and the teacher’s brows furrowed even more. “What is that?”

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 9

Nick’s good looks may have made her nervous, but when it came to marketing, she felt significantly more confident. Hadeon may have been a terrible husband, but he had a genius for his craft. The one good thing about him getting overly obsessed with his job was that he dragged her along for everything, so she learned a lot. She took out a notebook and pen from her purse and already wrote down some notes. ‘You said you had a band in high school. What kind of songs did you do?”

Nick recalled, “We wanted to be the next Rolling Stones, but our songs were a little more age appropriate. We wrote one called ‘Homework Rebellion,’ for example.” Nick laughed at his memories. “Teachers hated us, but the other students thought we were bad asses!” Nick grinned at the nostalgia that came to him right then.

Stacy grinned too, and then she observed, “So, you guys wrote your own music! How much of that did you personally contribute?”

Nick told her, “It was a group effort, but our best stuff came from me and Charlie. He was our drummer and my best friend. We worked on our music a lot more than our schoolwork!” He smiled fondly as he reminisced, but he soon started to frown. “I wish we paid more attention in school! Maybe if we had, we could’ve gotten accepted into college and Charlie would have avoided the draft…” He could tell Stacy wanted to follow up about that, so he elaborated, “After high school, Charlie and I both wanted to move to the city where we could get discovered, but we were both broke. We both took up jobs here at Gilmar’s, and we got through the awful work days by dreaming about what our lives would be like once we made it big. We kept the band going for a while, but eventually, with all of our different work schedules, the band drifted apart, so it was just me and him still working on our music. Charlie and I always thought we would form a band and get famous before we got considered for the draft, but, obviously, that didn’t happen. Charlie got drafted and sent to ‘Nam. I begged them to draft me too, I wanted out of this town so bad! In our letters, we still dreamt about making it big when he got back. But then, one day, Charlie’s mom called me and told me… Charlie wasn’t coming back!” He got choked up at this point, but after a moment, he lamented, “I wish we hadn’t focused on silly dreams so much! If we had a back up plan, maybe Charlie wouldn’t have…”

“It’s not your fault!” Stacy reached across and pat his shoulders comfortingly. “The draft went on ’til seventy-three, so Charlie could have gotten drafted after graduation.”

“That’s true,” Nick acknowledged.

“My mom always said everything happens for a reason,” Stacy narrated. “My ex-husband ran to Canada after high school. He claims he was a conscientious objector, but truthfully, he was just being a coward. But if he didn’t chicken out, he wouldn’t have blown away his trust fund, which forced him to move into his uncle’s garage in Nashville. He started his business there, and ten years later, it’s one of the most successful businesses around! Maybe Charlie had to go to Vietnam ’cause they needed a hero.”

“He was a hero!” Nick remarked. “I still wish he didn’t go! I miss him!” He paused and added, “Do you love him?”

“Charlie?” Stacy puzzled.

“NO,” Nick clarified, “I mean, do you still love your ex-husband?”

“Oh! No.” Stacy searched inwardly to verify her initial reaction. “After what he did, there’s no going back.” She could tell he wanted to ask what he did, so she revealed, “He hit me!”

“No!” It took a while for Nick to absorb this, and when he did, his fists tensed up. “That bastard!” His expression softened when he turned back to Stacy. “How often did he do that?”

“That was the first time. Honestly, in more than five years, he’s never done that!” she told him. “I left ’cause if he did it once, he’ll do it again and I’m not gonna walk on eggshells for the rest of my life just to make sure I don’t make him do it again!”

You don’t make him do it again?” Nick cried out. “You aren’t responsible for his actions! Even if you pissed him off, that’s not an excuse! Unless a woman holds a gun to his f’ing head, there’s no excuse to hit a woman! Ever!”

This visibly moved Stacy. She had her hand on her heart, and she was near tears. His logic flowed with her initial view on the matter, but that manager as well as her own doubts on the situation made her question this. She often wondered if it had been her fault or if she had been wrong in same way on the matter, but Nick was completely right, nothing she had done deserved his abuse! She felt heartened that she had an ally who backed her up on this. “I had an interview at Stereo Hut the other day, and the manager made it seem like it was all my fault!”

Nick immediately commented, “Well, we’re never shopping there again!” Stacy gave him an appreciative smile, and Nick emphasized, “I mean it! I’m not gonna go into a business that thinks that you had a perfectly happy marriage and, for no reason, you decided to destroy it and run away from paradise!”

“It’s true! That was exactly how he acted!” Stacy laughed in the ridiculousness of the topic. “Our marriage wasn’t paradise, thing were getting bad for a while. I thought eventually we’d work through our issues, but I don’t think he thought anything was wrong. I felt miserable for a long time, so eventually, if he hadn’t hit me, I would’ve had enough. At some point, you gotta consider your own needs ’cause your happiness matters!”

“Yeah…” Nick hesitantly agreed.

“Your happiness matters too,” Stacy reminded him.

Nick sighed, “This is different! This is a huge risk!”

“No, it’s not!” Stacy respectfully disagreed. “You’re playing music. If you make it big, you’ll be really happy. If you don’t, you’ll still enjoy the process. It’s not like you’re enrolling in the police academy like my dad did. He risks his life every time he goes on patrol, but he does it ’cause it’s what he loves. If he picked safety, he would be completely depressed his whole life! Imagine him going from graduation to retirement like that! His work is dangerous, but he’s lived his life without regret. The only thing you need to worry about is living your life with regret!”

“Okay, so I’m nos happy working in the factory,” Nick confessed. “But I do have a family to worry about. This isn’t fun for me, but they’re taken care of. What if this music thing ends up hurting them?”

Stacy almost pointed out that it seemed unlikely that this could hurt his family, but then she realized, “Wait a second, this is about Charlie, isn’t it? Last time you set out on this path, you lost someone important to you. You’re pursuing this ‘normal’ life ’cause you’re worried if you take a chance again, you’ll lose someone else!”

Nick mulled it over and came to the conclusion, “Yeah, I guess it’s true. I mean, that’s part of the reason anyways. I spent most of my adult life trying to squash the urge to sing and play to an audience, but I can’t help myself, it always resurfaces. Like earlier in the month, we went to visit her grandparents and I snuck away ’cause I saw a recording studio nearby. I had a great time, but it was selfish. Janet had to take time off work right near tax day ’cause her grandfather’s dying and it was his birthday. I should’ve been there for her more! I mean, her grandfather did throw me out, but still…”

“He threw you out?” Stacy responded. “What do you think you were supposed to do? Just wait outside for hours?”

“She ended up not staying that long,” he remarked. “She went looking for me and couldn’t find me. She talked her grandfather into letting me come back, but when I disappeared, that blew it. I shouldn’t have ran off, but I didn’t think he’d invite me back, the guy hates my guts! I went for a walk to blow off some steam, and I saw the recording studio there, and it was just calling me! I thought that after spending all my time helping other people, I deserved to see it! I work all day, spend all night with her, and help my dad on the weekends, I never get to do anything for myself! So I thought, here’s my chance! It felt great! Well, until she found me and we fought.”

“That’s the argument I had with my husband before we split!” Stacy related. “I was late for something I had to do for this big party, and I was wrong for doing so, but if I got to do what I wanted to do more often, that wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t regret what I did, and I guess he felt like I should live only to please him. I was tired of living like that.”

“You have a point,” Nick admitted. “I may have went about it the wrong way, but it wouldn’t have happened if I just made a little more time for what I love. Music isn’t gonna leave me no matter how hard I try! My family may not understand it, but if I don’t do it and keep spending my life trying to make everyone else happy except for me, I’m gonna lose it! I gotta do this! I keep worrying about something happening to them, but what if I don’t and something happens to me? I hope nothing happens to them, of course, but I’m committed to this!”

“Good!” Stacy nodded in approval.

Nick took a deep breath and released. “Wow, this conversation got real deep!”

“That’s ’cause we’re talking about music, and, for you, that’s your heart and soul!” Stacy affirmed. “I mean, I’m no shrink, but I hope you’re comfortable opening up to me. It’s gonna help me help you develop really meaningful lyrics and melodies. It’s not gonna make your pain go away, but it’ll help it become something beautiful. Like, losing your best friend, that’s a great topic for a song!”

“I did make a song about it,” Nick disclosed. “I took a song we wrote in high school, ‘Pay Attention,’ and I slowed down the tempo, changed it into a ballad, and made it about Charlie. Instead of making fun of teachers, I talked about how we get so distracted in our own lives that we don’t savor the time we have with people who matter most to us. If you don’t pay attention, you could miss out and you may not ever get another chance! Back then, I didn’t know how else to react to his death other than music. I was still in the habit from when he was alive.”

“That song sounds amazing!” Stacy exclaimed, and then she requested, “Can I hear it?”

“That was so long ago!” Nick reacted. “What makes you think I even remember it?”

Stacy gave him a playfully reproachful look. “You heard the song ‘Run to You’ once, and not only did you remember every word but you taught the music to that band! You have an amazing memory! So, let’s hear it!”

Nick relented, “Okay, okay, I’ll do it!” Stacy waited with mounting anticipation as he mentally prepared himself to sing…

War of the Mystics: Frozen

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War of the Mystics: Frozen, the Novel

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