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.

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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 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabotage, Chapter 12

“What did they do to you?” Seth peered at the scruffy recovery agent, who had googly eyes and, even though he sat in a chair, he swayed to music that no one could hear.

Lilith observed, “Here’s trying to speak!”

Seth, Lilith, Arius, and Elden all leaned in and listened carefully. The recovery agent indeed whispered something unintelligible. The more they listened, the more pins and needles of anticipation grew. Suddenly, he bolted up and sang, “Zephyr in the sky, at night I wonder/do my tears of morning sink beneath sun?”

The other four all deflated. Seth kicked a small table and exclaimed, “Damn it! They broke him!”

She did,” Lilith corrected him. “We taught her how too. Now she’s using it against us!”

Seth concluded, “It’s not safe for us to keep sending out recovery agents after her. They’re good for the entry level who escape. Their minds are weak, and they can get silenced easily. There’ll be no point in trying to get to get to her mind, she’s proven she’s too strong for that…”

“And obviously she’s proven she can outsmart the recovery agents too,” Elden added bitterly.

“Like a ray of light, she’s flying!” the recovery agent crooned enthusiastically.

Lilith sat him down and commented, “Too bad she had a change of heart; she could have been a great asset to Mirage!”

Seth responded, “That’s exactly why she’s so dangerous now! We only have one option-”

Arius stepped in and finished, “We’ll need to go after her ourselves! Since she’s in my region, I volunteer to get her! It’s my region, I have to protect it!”

Seth nodded in approval. Elden looked to his notes and informed him, “The Recovery Agent found her heading towards Provo. The rail heads to Salt Lake City, so, more than likely, she’s heading there.”

“More than likely!” Lilith reacted sourly. “How is it that we can’t get any video of her? They must pass by cameras sometimes!”

Seth and Elden shrugged at each other. Arius disregarded this, “It doesn’t matter! I’ll find her! I’ll go to Salt Lake City and turn every corner!” Everyone but the recovery agent laughed.

As Carmen, Garith, and Zartex walked down a bustling street in downtown Salt Lake City, Garith argued, “Oh come on! We could’ve gotten those tickets for free! It’s not like we have gotten a lot of chances to have fun!”

“Fun?” Carmen questioned. “How is Nightmare on Thirteenth fun? Haven’t we had enough scary people popping out of the corner brandishing weapons?”

“It’s almost Halloween!” Garith pleaded. “Let’s go back and find that guy before someone else grabs those tickets!”

“You really wanna make it easy for them to corner us?” Carmen said wryly.

“Why would they look for us there?” Garith retorted

Zartex opinionated, “I’ve yet to learn why humans enjoy getting scared. How does fear release endorphin?”

“See, we need to go there and find out the answer to his question!” Garith implored.

Carmen shook her head and smiled. She decided to change the subject, “Do you know anyone in San Francisco that’s hiring? You know, in case we make it back…”

“We will make it back!” Garith asserted. “I have no idea what’s happening in San Francisco right now. How can I? I had to ditch my cell phone in Colorado. It has been strange for me, as a reporter, to be so uninformed about what’s happening in the world.”

Zartex pointed out, “Except your involvement in a story that will get broadcast from coast to coast!”

“Thank Captain Obvious,” Garith responded. “I didn’t realize how glued I was to my cell phone until now. I used it all the time for work and communicate with people.”

Carmen inquired, “Is there someone waiting for you back home?”

“Oh no!” Garith replied. “I communicated with my family and friends via text. I hardly had time for them let alone a personal life. I spent so much time in the field interviewing people, but I spent more time doing research in the office. That’s how I ended up with my ex wife. And that’s also why we divorced. Well, one of the reasons.”

“What was the other reason?” Carmen felt compelled to learn more about him. After all this time they spent together, she didn’t know much about him. They had devoted their energy to surviving the journey and writing the article, and now she felt a twinge a guilt for not getting to know him.

Garith blushed a little. “I normally don’t talk about this in front of a lady.”

Whatever response Carmen was expecting, it wasn’t that. “Well…tell Zartex then!”

“Okay, Zartex!” Garith recalled, “She didn’t like having sex. Like, we hardly ever did it, and when we did, she would just lie there like a cold fish. When I love someone, I like to really get into it, like really make her moan and squirm, you know?”

“Do I?” Zartex looked to Carmen, who nodded. “Okay, yes, I know what you mean.”

“I wanted to please her,” Garith explained. “But, get this, she didn’t even like to orgasm!”

“What?” Carmen reacted vehemently. “If Teddy ever gave me a real one, maybe I wouldn’t have ran out on him!”

Garith had no idea she would be so comfortable about the subject, but since now he knew that she was, he abandoned all pretense. “A real one? You mean, you faked it?”

“It’s like we both did,” Carmen divulged. “We were both so convinced we were in love that we believed our lovemaking was passionate and pleasurable. I realize now that I brainwashed myself to loving him as much as I tricked myself into liking that job. I moaned deeply because I thought I was supposed to feel orgasmic. Teddy did too. But really, I felt nothing. I mean, how could I? We were lying perfectly still!” At this point, Garith burst into mirthful laughter. “It’s not funny!”

“Are you kidding me?” Garith howled. “You were both lying still like statues but still shouted in passion? Teddy must’ve looked like a beached whale!” Garith stood perfectly still and let out a huge moan.

“Stop that!” Carmen playfully hit him. Now that she heard, and saw, it out loud, she did realize how comical her relationship was. Everything about it was fake, just like Mirage. They made everything look flashy and prestigious, but it was just theatre. She got so lost in the act that she never realized that she was just playing a role. She had adopted a whole other identity! “We should probably stop talking about sex so loud. Isn’t this the Mormon capitol?”

Garith pointed to a sign in front of them. “There’s a bar! Look around, do these people look like religious fundamentalists? Plus, it’s not like Mormons don’t have sex. How do you think they make so many kids?”

Carmen laughed, “You have a point. Not that all Mormons have a particular ‘look,’ but these people staggering out of the bar definitely don’t look like Mormons!” She had referred to a group of young people dressed up to clubbing.

“That guy definitely isn’t.” Garith pointed to a rabbi that passed by them. The three of them laughed.

Zartex joined in, “Well, we know that guy isn’t Mormon! Not enough morals!” Zartex pointed to the distance and laughed.

Garith and Carmen stopped dead in their tracks. The man he pointed to was Arius! Garith and Carmen hid behind a building around the corner, and Zartex followed. “What is he doing here?” Carmen groaned. She was not mentally prepared to see him again. She was starting to move on with her life, and seeing a person from her past was like seeing a ghost. She figured she would run into nameless henchmen, but she didn’t think she would have to confront him or any of the Mirage executives unless they were in court. At that point, more time would have passed and they would have the barrier of police and legal teams to prevent them from hurting anyone. Now there would be very litte to stop him, especially since Mirage had the police convinced Carmen was a murderer.

Zartex remarked, “They know you can outfox their recovery agents, so they didn’t have a choice but to send their best and brightest.”

Carmen began to panic, so Garith snapped his fingers. “Don’t you give up on me now! Don’t let your fears cloud your mind! Now think…you’ve known him for several years, and you know these executives better than anyone. You know his strengths and his weaknesses, so tell me, what do we do?”

Carmen’s mind raced. Arius always reminded her of a wolf, and when he’s on the hunt, he chased his prey until the bitter end. He rarely made mistakes. Zartex suggested, “That bar is playing music, maybe we can do another song.”

Garith liked that suggested, and the two guys started to head out, but Carmen physically stopped them. Zartex’s suggestion triggered a memory for her. “A bar…he’s a booze hound! That’s how we’ll get him! Zartex, is there any music that won’t give you an emotional overload?”

“Country,” Zartex replied firmly.

“Let’s find a country bar!” Garith directed.

Arius walked down the streets with a determined look on his face. He scanned every person’s face and even read between the lines. His instincts told him she was close by. Suddenly, from across the street, he heard a small crash. He saw Carmen recovering from tripping. When she saw him, she suddenly grew a deer-in-the-headlights look and bolted into a nearby bar. Arius darted after her.

His heart pumped knowing that he was getting close to catching her. When he entered the bar, there was no sign of her. A couple of people in Western wear sat at the bar. The jukebox played a country song that reminded him of home, which made him feel at ease. At the opposite side of the bar stood a beer pong table. After he noticed that, a very tall man came up to him and jovially invited, “You up for a game? I’m losing terribly. You any good?”

“Are you kidding? I’m the best!” Arius boasted. “But I can’t right now. I’m looking for someone important.”

“You mean that girl?” Zartex said as casually as he could. “She got chased out by police.”

“Really?” Arius seemed pleased. “She’s not a very fast runner, so they probably got her. So, yes, I do have some time to play!”

Zartex and Arius played against a couple of strangers, and Arius had not lied aobut his prodigious skills at this game. He helped Zartex win easily. As the evening went on, the bar got different patrons, and since his adrenaline was up, he challenged more people each time they finished a game. After a few hours, Arius had less control of his body and slurred speech. He craned his head to the front door to welcome a new challenger. He saw Carmen, which prompted him to remember his mission. “Youuuu! Y’er supposed to be in ja-il!” Arius uttered.

Carmen ducked away, and Arius clumsily went after her. At that moment, Garith shouted, “Bartender! That man’s trying to run out on his bill!”

Arius stopped and swiveled around. “What bill?”

The bartender informed him, “You said you would cover the tabe from all these beer pong games!”

Arius got a confused expression on his face. “Wha….? No, I gotta go!” Arius ran out and ignored the anger from the people in the bar.

He went out on the street, but everything felt blurred. “Wherrre did you go?” He meandered down the road, glancing at everyone. People could tell he was drunk and felt uneasy by his appearance. He asked multiple people if they were Carmen, but they shook him off.

He came to a statue and saw her from across a plaza. He stumbled, and the next thing he knew, he was being awakened by a police officer poking him with a baton. “Wake up, buddy!”

Totally disoriented, he woke up to see himself on top of the statue buck naked. “It wasn’t me!” he slurred. “It wasss the wanted killller, Carmen!”

“Sure, you lush!” The police clearly didn’t believe him. “You’re wanted on multiple charges: larceny, drunk and disorderly conduct, public nudity…” Arius protested more, trying to get the police to look for Carmen. They ignored him and put him in their squad car.

Just outside of town, Zartex, Carmen, and Garith hiked along a railroad. Carmed buzzed, “Oh, I wish I could see the look on his face as he got arrested!”

Garith wondered, “We are safe from him for a few days. But, do you think he’ll go after us again once he’s released?”

“No,” Zartex stated. “They’ll try again with someone else to solve their problem faster. You know what’s ironic though? He got arrested for stealing, but technically, I’m the only thief here!” Garith and Carmen stared at him in disbelief. “I technically ran up that bar tab. I also stole that food from the dumpster. Oh, and I stole that boat at the lake on your wedding day!”

“That was you?” Carmen was shocked, but she felt a rush of gratitude for him. If Zartex hadn’t done that, she may not have been able to escape. Garith also played a huge role that day too. If weren’t for the two of them, who knows what would have happened to her? She may have escaped one day, she was certainly capable of it. But she realized that no one could do everything alone all the time. She now had powerful allies. She didn’t know if she would be successful, but, thanks to Garith and Zartex, she at least had a chance. She compulsively gave them both a hug. They were surprised by this gesture, but they accepted it and hugged back.

Sabotage, Chapter 7

“Come on!” Colt frantically flipped through a stack of paperwork, which sat on top a myriad of scattered files. When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he flung the file in frustration. He laid his hands on his temples and just sat there, trembling. He almost hit his head when Colt walked in with an intimidating man. This guy had dark skin, clean shaven hair, and cold, dark eyes. Seth greeted curtly, “Colt! You remember our head of security, Elden Gundulf?”

“Of, of course,” Colt replied shakily.

Elden, with a thick South African accent, asked Colt forcefully, “Did you find anything helpful?”

Colt groaned, “Carmen has been such a gypsy in the last five years! I have no clue where she went! She could be in Florida with her grandparents…”

“Bull!” Seth exclaimed. “Where did she say she wanted to open up a branch?”

“California,” he supplied unhelpfully.

Elden commented, “California is a very large place. Can you narrow it down?”

“No, I tried!” Colt said ruefully. “I never narrowed it down ’cause she wasn’t even close to getting promoted!”

“Where did she live before she moved to Grand Junction?” Seth asked swiftly.

“I don’t remember!” Colt wailed. “She lived near a beach. I know, I know, that doesn’t narrow it down much. I’m sorry! I wanna find Carmen as much as you do!”

Elden picked up a torn file and handed it to Seth. “Sir!”

Seth read the file, his face twisting into an angry confusion. “This is Carmen’s employee file. Her personal information is gone!”

“I know!” Colt showed him a couple more files which had similar tears. “I don’t know what happened!”

Elden eyed Colt suspiciously. He stepped up to just inches of his face and propped open his jaw. “Ink stains on the tongue!”

“You ate her personal info?” Seth shrieked. “You knew we needed it, and you purposely destroyed evidence!” He glared at all of the strewed documents. “You destroyed anything that may help us locate our fugitive!”

Colt abandoned all pretense. “Carmen is a good person and doesn’t deserve to go through this!”

“You know that this kind of defiance leads to termination?” Elden pointed out menacingly.

“I don’t care anymore!” Colt picked up a picture frame with his wife and son, staring at them forlornly. “I started with this company to make money, but I stayed ’cause I thought I was doing good for the world. I thought I could positively influence some of our erroneous policies. It’s clear that I’m doing more harm than good, so my time with Mirage is up. It’s time for me to go! I miss my family! It’s time to leave this place and join them!”

“Ohhh Colt!” Seth stood behind him and put his right hand on his shoulder. “You had so much potential! But I’m afraid that you’re officially terminated!” With his left hand, he shot Colt in the back of the head! Colt instantly died with head landing on top of the photo, his blood trickling down the desk. With a tissue wrapped around the barrel, Seth handed the gun to Elden. “You know what to do.” Elden nodded and left the room.

Hank came home late that night. He opened his front door with one hand while he held his cell phone with his head and while he cradled an armful of blueprints. “No, Mister Windshift! You misheard me! I didn’t say that I wouldn’t make your changes, I’m saying you’d put yourself in an impossible situation.” He took his keys out of the lock and used his leg to shut the door. He tossed everything but his phone onto a glass coffee table and sat on his sofa. He rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Listen, I’ve heard all of the reasons why you want to move the kitchen to the back. I know, I wouldn’t want to walk into my kitchen right when I got home either, but we can’t move it!” He turned on the light and rolled open one of the blueprints. “I’m looking at the floor plan now. The back of the house doesn’t have the equipment you need to function as a kitchen. There’s no pipes and no-” The man on the other end asked a question. “Yes, in theory, we can have them installed, but you’re already at the top of your budget for renovations. If you really want to move the kitchen, you’d have to finance it outside your home loan. If you come up with the money, I’d be happy to accommodate. But really, we toured the house before you purchased it…didn’t you have some idea of what you were getting into?” The man on the phone relented and said goodbye. “Alright, have a good night.” Hank chucked the phone and sighed.

A black cat hopped onto the back of the coach and meowed. Hank pet the cat, which reminded him, “Oh yeah, your mom got married today!” He picked up his cell phone and checked the time. “Well, it’s an hour ahead in Colorado, so the ceremony is definitely over. I’m sure the reception must be winding down too. Perfect, I can catch her before they take off for their honeymoon. You think she’ll answer?” Hank half expected the cat to answer, but it simply stared blankly. “Well, I don’t get a lot of chances to talk to my little girl, so I’ll always give it a shot, even if it’s a long shot.” He went to his contacts and dialed the number for someone named Mija. It came back as an operator saying the phone was out of service. “That’s weird! Well, I can always write to her online. I’m sure she’ll check it eventually.” He clicked onto the Facebook app, and his brow furrowed. He read aloud, “Traitor! How could you? Traitor! Traitor! You deserve what’s coming to you…”

A wave of fear washed over him, and his parental instincts kicked in. “Something is wrong!” He turned on the television, and it was at a commercial. “Come on, come on!” His nerves were completely on edge. Finally, a young anchor appeared on the screen. “Finally! Come on, give me a clue!”

The young anchor somewhat awkwardly informed the audience, “Breaking news from Colorado! A local businessman is dead, and the suspect is on the run. Carmen Alvaro ran out on her wedding, which is where she was last seen. The attendees searched frantically for her whereabouts only to find her former boss, Colt Duncan, dead at his desk. The police don’t have any leads as to where she’s fleeing to, but they believe that my colleague, Garith Kendric, may be connected to her. He, too, disappeared after attending the wedding ceremony. It is unclear whether he’s a hostage or an accomplice. Grand Junction detectives set up a hotline for anyone with information about her current location. Please, if you see them, call the number that is on your screen now.”

“Those bastards!” Hank fumed. He turned off the television and threw his phone across the room. The cat folded his ears, obviously alarmed. “She’s getting framed! I know my baby girl didn’t do this! She wouldn’t! I know it!” He stopped his pacing as he had a realization. “I’m an idiot! This place sounded fishy from the beginning, but Carmen always had an explanation for everything. I believed her! I thought she was happy! God, I could’ve prevented this! Now this cult is pinning a murder on her!” He slumped back onto the coach. “Well, she’s escaped. She might come here. We’ll have to prepare for it if she does.” He talked directly to the cat now. “They’ll come looking for her here, regardless if she’s coming here or not. We don’t know what they’re capable of, so we’ll have to prepare ourselves. Prepare for what? Well, clearly they’re capable of anything, so we gotta prepare for everything. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open, and if push comes to shove, we’ll be ready to shove!” The cat gazed at him blankly. The phone rang, and it made him jump. He picked it up and after he saw that it was one of his clients, he rejected the call and threw it again. He collapsed onto the coach in tears, and the cat curled up next to him to comfort him.

“Say cheese!” a man in a mid 1800’s outfit pointed a camera and tripod at a cardboard cutout of a train conductor, a man, and a woman at an old timey train station. Zartex, Garith, and Carmen stuck their heads in the cardboard cutouts, and while Garith and Carmen smiled awkwardly, Zartex beamed from ear to ear. After they took their heads out, the photographer informed them, “It’ll just be a few minutes while the picture prints.”

Zartex rejoiced, “This is great! I’ve never gotten to go on an adventure before! The other humans I observed were so dull. For the most part, they stick to the same routine every day. I literally don’t know what to expect next! What’s gonna happen tomorrow? No clue! How exciting!”

Garith responded less enthusiastically, “I’m glad you’re having fun. By the way, this will have to be it for souvenirs. I only had three hundred in cash in my wallet. This is so strange! We have to live like pioneers! No credit cards! No cell phones! No place to stay!”

“At least we won’t go hungry!” Carmen pointed out. “If we’re careful, we can use the last of our money on a bus so we don’t gotta walk the whole way. Jeez, after quitting my door to door job, I thought I would do less walking!”

They saw that the souvenir shop was still open, so they wandered inside. Zartex had fun playing with the various knickknacks that had the Greenriver, Utah logo on it. Garith looked at the clothing section while Carmen explored the small grocery area. “This souvenir shop is so small!” Garith observed.

“Well, Greenriver is a small town,” Carmen responded, “I think most just pass through it.”

Garith held up a pair of hiking sandals with a gawdy pattern. “What do you think of these?”

“They’d look great on you!” Carmen replied sarcastically.

Garith tossed them towards her. “Try them on.”

“What?” Carmen reacted, appalled. “I’m not wearing those things!”

“Well, they look like they’re the only shoes that will fit you.”

“Are you saying I have big feet?”

Garith held up a pair of children’s flip flops. “It’s either these or you can walk to California in your stilettos. I don’t care!”

Carmen refused to admit he was right, but she did try them on. “They fit.”

Garith took them from her. “You’re welcome!”

Before Carmen could argue, Zartex came over and said seriously, “Guys!”

He pointed to an old television set playing the news. The anchor informed the viewers, “The Runaway Bride was last seen at the train station in Grand Junction, Colorado with the missing San Francisco reporter and a very tall man. They could be anywhere tonight, so police are urging everyone to be vigilant. These people are considered to be armed and dangerous.”

Zartex whispered, “They’re accusing you of murdering Colt.”

Carmen felt her stomach drop. She knew Colt for almost two years now, and while they were never really as close as other coworkers at Mirage got to each other, but she liked Colt. He was always kind to her, and she just saw him at her wedding! She couldn’t believe that he was killed! “He’s dead?”

“And they think we had something to do with it?” Garith also appeared extremely troubled.

The cashier shouted, “You three!” Zartex, Garith, and Carmen all had their nerves shaken as they cautiously turned to the cashier. The cashier pleasantly told them, “Your picture is ready!”

They breathed a sigh of relief. Garith asked, “Can we buy it with some supplies here?”

Garith helped Carmen rinse her hair in a railroad bathroom sink. “Is it out yet?”

“Yeah, it’s out and I’m doing this out of sheer enjoyment,” Garith answered sardonically.

“This water is freezing!” Carmen complained.

“What did you expect? A four star hotel?” Garith finished washing her hair. “There’s an electric hand dryer over there.”

“I know that!” Carmen grumped. She squat under it but nothing came out. Zartex waved his hands below it periodically so it would dry her hair. When it was finished, she peeked at herself in the mirror. Her new hair color was extremely dark and clashed garishly with her pale skin. “I look like Snow White!”

“As long as you don’t look like Carmen Alvaro it’s perfect!” Garith handed her a tee shirt, and she begrudgingly took it inside a stall to change. Garith took off his suit jacket and put on a baseball cap with a picture of a train going up a mountain. “I’m sure ready to hit the road! We were seen in our old clothes and hair here, so we need to get out quickly! Which we will since now all that we’re waiting on is for you to get out of your wedding shirt thing.”

“It’s called a bodice,” Zartex put in.

“How do you know that?” Garith remarked.

Before Zartex could answer, Carmen awkwardly told them, “Uh, guys, we need to get one more thing…I need some, feminine items…”

Zartex inquired, “You mean like jewelry?”

“No!” Garith cringed. “Come on, man! Everyone on the planet knows that’s code for tampons.”

“I use pads,” Carmen stated.

Garith grumbled, “Are you serious? Why now? We’re about to go on a long journey and you get your period?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Carmen disputed. “And believe me, I’m just thrilled about it!”

Garith moaned, “Ugh, my money is sure disappearing fast!” He left in a hurry.

Carmen asked Zartex, “You seriously don’t know about women’s menstration?”

“Is that a bathroom thing?” Zartex answered with another question. “I don’t observe humans in their private mode, remember?” Carmen laughed unexpectedly, so Zartex probed. “What’s so funny?”

She explained, “Tonight was supposed to be my honeymoon! I don’t know if you know the tradition, but it’s custom to have passionate sex on your wedding night. Teddy never did it with me during this time of the month, so he would’ve been so devastated!”

“And that’s comical now because you hate everyone associated with Mirage after what they did to you?” Zartex tried to understand.

Carmen had not thought about it before. “Yeah, I guess I do. It’s so strange to have these feelings come out when not that long ago I felt so much loyalty to them. How weird is it that I could fool myself like that?”

“You find that weirder than talking to an alien while you sit on the toilet?” Zartex asked curiously. Carmen cracked up, and Zartex even guffawed a little. “Is that a yes?”

Garith came back with a package of pads and slid it under Carmen’s stall. “I don’t know what kind you like, but the girl on the box looks happy, so…”

“Thank you!” Carmen told him sincerely. She came out wearing a purple shirt with a cat that had a train conductor hat on. She still had her tulle wedding skirt on, so that coupled with her outlandish sandals made her look a little goofy. “Wow!” she said while gazing into the mirror. “Well, I doubt anyone will associate me with murder! My only crime is against fashion!” She sighed, and then she declared, “Alright, I’m ready to go!”

Forgotten Society, Part 13

EXT. MORNING STAR APARTMENTS. MORNING.

The five arrive to a place of huge disarray. People are evacuating the building, and firemen are trying to put out the fire. Some of them go inside to rescue people. The police are there trying to get everyone to safety. Some of the civilians volunteer to help with the evacuation. The five spread out and do the same. Things seem chaotic enough when suddenly people look to the sky in horror as a second dragon appears and flies straight into the apartments. As it crashes, it blows fire and explodes on impact. The building is in really bad shape.

FIRE CHIEF:
All units, cease rescue efforts. Everyone,
immediately! Building looks ready to collapse!
(beat)
Why aren’t they responding?

CURTIS:
I’ll go get them!

FIRE CHIEF:
Here’s a gas mask. Don’t delay!

Curtis runs into the building. William is helping police against people who are reluctant to leave. Miguel is carrying people to places where they can get aid. Tiffany finds a camera and is taping both the scene and people’s reactions. Renee is showing people to safety. She sees Curtis enter the building and this bothers her. She sees a little Haitian girl crying.

GIRL:
Mama! Papa! Où-est vous?

Renee sees a piece of debris about to fall on her, so she runs to her, scoops her into her arms, and runs away just in time. More pieces of debris fall down. The rescuers make an urgent effort to get people out of the way.

EXT. REMONT HOTEL. MORNING.

The Remont Hotel, a fancy lodging, is a safe distance form the apartment. Renee sees a frantic man who looks like he could be the girl’s father. She gives the child to him, and he looks so relieved.

FATHER:
Vous la savez! Merci!

He kisses her cheeks and runs inside. Renee is taken aback from his gratitude.

EXT. MORNING STAR APARTMENTS.

Tiffany is still video taping everything. William and Miguel are evacuating everyone.

INT. STAIRWAY. MORNING.

Curtis finds the firemen.

CURTIS:
Your radios aren’t working! The chief
said to evacuate. The building is about to-

He hears some loud creaking, and the ground begins to shake.

EXT. MORNING STAR APARTMENTS. MORNING.

People are horrified as the building starts to fall. People run as fast as they can to escape the smoke and billowing ashes.

EXT. REMONT HOTEL. MORNING.

Everyone watches in horror as the apartments collapse. Renee lets a blood-curling scream. After it is finished collapsing, Renee searches the crowd. She finds an ash-covered William and Miguel. They find Tiffany too, who is still filming.

RENEE:
Did Curtis make it out of the building?

William and Miguel gesture that they do not think so. Renee, Miguel, William, and a bunch of others rush to go help any possible survivors.

EXT. APARTMENT REMAINS. MORNING.

People begin to dig through the rubble. They bring any body they can find out of the ruins. A lot of people are calling out for their missing loved ones.

RENEE:
Curtis! Curtis!

She gets no response. Suddenly, she hears some beeping. She starts digging.

INT. STAIRCASE RUBBLE. MORNING.

It is pitch black. Curtis and the firefighters hold each other’s hands so they know where they are.

CURTIS:
We’re still alive?

FIREMAN 1:
Yes, but we have about thirty floors above
us. Who knows how long it’ll take for them
to find us!

FIREMAN 2:
Do you hear that beeping? That’s activated
when a fireman’s body is still for too long.
At the very least, they’ll find our bodies.

After a long moment, Curtis notices some light.

CURTIS:
Look! There’s light!

FIREMAN 3:
Wait, that’s sunlight! We’re at the top now!
(shouts)
Hello?

RENEE (OS):
Hello?

CURTIS:
Renee?

RENEE (OS):
Curtis? Thank God!

CURTIS:
We’re gonna climb out! Keep digging!

EXT. REMONT HOTEL. NOON.

KENNETH (Tiffany’s father) stands outside directing people.

KENNETH:
Welcome to my hotel slash hospital slash
rescue shelter! Please, come in and find a
spot!
(beat)
Tiffany?

Tiffany runs to her father and they hug.

KENNETH:
My God, where have you been?

TIFFANY:
I got the attack on video!

KENNETH:
Of course you did! Well, tell me about
your adventure later. Help me organize
all this!

Curtis and Renee (covered in dust) come in sight.

TIFFANY:
You guys made it!

She gives them both hugs.

KENNETH:
You saved my daughter’s life, didn’t
you? Something didn’t seem right
about what they said in the news.
Tell me about it later. Get inside and
get some rest!

Curtis, Renee, and Tiffany go inside. A moment later, Daniel tries to enter with a couple of his guards. Kenneth blocks them.

KENNETH:
This is private property! You can’t
enter without a warrant!

Daniel looks surprised at his defiance.

DANIEL:
We believe you are harboring a fugitive.

KENNETH:
Come back with a warrant.

DANIEL:
Fine. Just a warning, you may want to
take caution with those you associate
with. It could determine your future
with me.

KENNETH:
I’ll that in mind if you get elected. Now, leave!

Daniel raises an eyebrow but leaves.

Forgotten Society, Part 7

INT./EXT. SCHOOL PARKING LOT. MORNING.

In front of a private school, a Cadillac is parked under some trees by the entrance. TIFFANY (a senior in high school with pulled up blonde hair, blue eyes, a skinny physique, and a prep school uniform) sits in the Cadillac talking on her car phone.

TIFFANY:
Yeah, this is Tiffany Cartwright. Yes,
that article I gave you is legitimate.
My housekeeper’s husband is in the
military, and she said he is busy
protecting the president from-

In mid sentence, Tiffany gets hit in the back of the head, which knocks her unconscious.

INT. CADILLAC CAR. MORNING.

Tiffany wakes up and finds herself in the backseat of her own car. She sees Daniel driving. Daniel sees her and points a gun at her.

DANIEL:
Don’t you dare try to escape!

TIFFANY:
If you need money, my father-!

DANIEL:
Shut up!

Tiffany stifles a sob. Daniel continues to drive. Tiffany pulls a pin off of her uniform and holds her hands behind her back. She pricks her finger until it bleeds. She then leans against the window. She uses her head to block what she is writing from Daniel’s view.

INT/EXT. RENEE’S MUSTANG. MORNING.

Renee is driving with Curtis and William. Curtis, who is in the backseat, leans over to ask Renee a question.

CURTIS:
Can I ask you a personal question?

RENEE:
(angry sigh)
Every guy wants to know if my
boobs are real, and yes they are.

CURTIS:
Oh. I was going to ask you how much
you made at the coffeehouse.

RENEE:
Really? That’s all? Five an hour.

CURTIS:
So, you’re a natural D cup?

Renee hits him playfully but still hard enough to send him into the window. William laughs. Curtis’s smile fades immediately as he sees something out the window.

CURTIS:
Hey guys, look over there.

They all look to the car next to them, which is Tiffany’s Cadillac. The backseat window has the words “help me” written in blood. They are at a red light. As soon as traffic moves again, Renee slams on the gas, and she slams her car into the trunk of the Cadillac. The Cadillac is wedged between Renee’s Mustang and the car in front of the Cadillac. Daniel gets out of the car as does Renee, Curtis, and William. Daniel points his gun at them and fires. They all duck out of the way. Curtis and William move to the girl while Renee pulls out her gun and fights Daniel. Curtis and William pull Tiffany out of the car and sit her in the Mustang. Renee runs out of bullets and reluctantly runs into the Mustang. They speed away just as police arrive.

EXT. CROSSGROVE HOLLOW. LATE MORNING.

Miguel and Abdul are outside when they see William, Renee, and Curtis rush over with Tiffany.

MIGUEL:
What happened?

TIFFANY:
I don’t know! One minute I’m talking to
the editor of the school paper on my
car phone, next thing I know I’m in
the backseat of my Cadillac with a
gun in my face!

MIGUEL:
Who was it?

RENEE:
Daniel. The prick got away again!

TIFFANY:
He had these weird, red, glossy eyes.
I don’t think he was human! Oh God-
he must’ve been a dragon! They
must’ve found out about my article!

WILLIAM:
Your article?

TIFFANY:
My housekeeper’s husband is in the
military, and her husband said his
role is to protect President Clinton
from dragons. I know it sounds crazy,
but people need to know the truth!

She starts to cry. Miguel puts his arm around her.

MIGUEL:
We know about the dragons. I’ll
explain everything you should
know about them inside. Warner,
I still would like you to take Stevens
to get weapons. Get some for her too.

Miguel takes Tiffany inside. Abdul and William follow them. Renee leaves and Curtis quickly follows her.