Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wha…?” the old man reacted in shock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 20

Once again, we have gathered here to honor the fallen,” a clergyman, who stood at the head of the ceremony room, addressed the crowded room of Rebels. “Another officer has tragically lost their life in the line of duty. It is a hurt that never gets any easier, and today, we must take a moment to let our hearts bleed for him. Losing a member of our community aches as much as losing a string to our heart. Time may heal our wounds, but the scars will last forever. We will never fully heal, but we will make sure that those who sacrificed their life for this cause did not die in vain! We will not stop until we find the cure! Only then will the perished rest in peace! Today, Kennith joins the souls who also died for the mission, and his spirit will watch over us as long as we live. In a way, he never left us. Still, today we gather to say goodbye to his Earthly presence. Let us take a moment of silence for a final farewell.” Gwynivara and the others all bowed their heads, staring at the candles in their hands. After an appropriate amount of time had passed, the clergyman went on, “Thank you, Kennith, for all you’ve done for us as well as mankind. Your efforts will not get forgotten.” A tear rolled down Gwynivara’s cheeks from both the clergyman’s words and the people who gathered here for Kennith today. Kennith was no saint, but his life meant something. The clergyman concluded, “We each hold a candle symbolizing life, and we will each take turns placing them into the fireplace. Our flame may tarnish, but it then becomes part of something greater that does some good for the world. We will honor Kennith’s life in this way and pray that our own flames within stay burning brightly to carry on the wishes of the fallen.” One by one, everyone put their candles into large fireplace behind the clergyman. The combination of his words and a growing fire left everyone feeling warm.

After the service, Gwynivara sat glumly at stone table setup outside of the kitchen. She stared at the orb, wondering why it changed from glowing purple to green. Riley and Bernadette abruptly sat down at the table in front of her. She came out of her funk just as Bernadette inquired, “Any new movement?”

“The creature never seems to visit the same place twice,” Gwynivara replied. “It’s a smart strategy on their part; if it was kept in a place over and over again, eventually someone will notice. Eventually, they’ll take it to a remote location, I know they will! I highly doubt the origin will risk leaving their stronghold to go into our territory, so eventually the henchmen will go to her. I was hoping they would go there straight after the incident, but I guess I have no choice but to stay patient.”

Riley remarked, “Don’t you hate it when the enemy is smart? Though I suppose if they weren’t, we would have gotten them a long time ago!”

Gwynivara chuckled, “Yeah, that would’ve been nice!”

Cody came over carrying a map, which he plopped in front of Riley. “I looked up the addresses you gave me in the phone book. None of them popped as businesses except for one- the Addleson Apple Orchard.”

“The apple orchard?” Riley cried out.

His response peaked Cody’s interest. “Why? What does that mean?”

“Nothing. I just love that place.” Upon seeing Cody’s crestfallen expression, Riley told him, “By the way, good work!”

Overhearing the last part of the conversation, Rebekah commented, “Oh, Cody, I didn’t know you were an officer!”

Cody was about to deny it, but Riley stepped on his foot to stop him. “Oh yeah, he’s been a huge asset to our administrative efforts! Plus, he’s in charge of weapons distribution!”

“Yeah, I am,” Cody responded bashfully. “But they make my job sound way more important than it actually is!”

“But it is important!” Rebekah disagreed in a very admiring tone. “Without our weapons, we couldn’t fight back! So, how do you decide who gets what?”

Riley took the reins of the conversation and said, “Oh, I’m sure he’d love to explain it to you! Here, you two take a seat. We gotta go do the thing…!”

“Oh yes, the thing!” Bernadette played along.

“Yeah, we gotta do the thing!” Gwynivara chimed in.

The three of them got up as Cody, who now seemed pretty pleased with himself, described to Rebekah the process of renting out weapons. Riley, Bernadette, and Gwynivara got to a spot well out of their immediate eyesight, turned back, and watched the scene unfold for a moment. Both of them were smiling broadly while maintaining constant eye contact. “Aw, they’re flirting!” Riley noted delightfully. “Is it cool that I made Cody an officer so he could pick up a chick?”

Gwynivara grinned. “It’s fine. But don’t do that again!”

“Well, obviously!” Riley saw Gwynivara’s face, which portrayed some playfulness but did raise her eyebrows. “And by that I mean yes ma’am!”

Gwynivara and Bernadette giggled. Rebekah and Cody glanced in their direction, so they all scattered to pretend they weren’t staring. At the fork, Riley had gone left towards the training room while Gwynivara went right towards her room. Bernadette fell into her footfall and remarked, “They’re so cute!”

“Yeah,” Gwynivara agreed, “They both obviously like each other. It’s about time they admitted their feelings for each other and become a couple!” After she spoke, she realized that she was walking alone. When she looked back, she saw Bernadette staring hard at her, saying without words ‘Really?’ Gwynivara, now confused, asked, “What?”

Bernadette rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Seriously? That doesn’t ring a bell of truth for you?”

“Truth about what?” Gwynivara genuinely did not understand what she had been referring to.

Bernadette made a noise of slight annoyance, and then she whispered, “When are you gonna admit you have feelings for Kierram?”

Gwynivara nearly had a heart attack from the shock of her accusation. She couldn’t understand how Bernadette even came up with that theory, but the thought of it made her feel a very awkward pressure. “Ugh, I don’t feel anything for him except for a close friendship.”

Bernadette clearly didn’t believe her. “This is a little deeper than friendship. When you talk about him, you smile-.”

“I do?” Gwynivara reacted in surprise.

“Yes!” Bernadette insisted. “And you always find reasons to get close to each other.”

“Only as part of the mission! It’s important to partner up with someone you feel comfortable enough to get close to,” Gwynivara refuted.

“I think you wanna get a little closer than that!” Bernadette said slyly.

“Closer?” Gwynivara puzzled. “We were literally standing against each other! How can we get closer than…?” She caught on to what she meant mid-sentence and blushed furiously. “No! No! No! I’ve never thought about him like that!”

“Maybe you should!” Bernadette suggested. “He is pretty handsome.”

“Well, yeah…” Gwynivara felt a slight temptation to explore the idea of it, but she halted that thought immediately. “No! I’m his superior! That’s not very professional!”

Bernadette teased her, “Your knees are getting weak!”

To her horror, Bernadette was completely right, but Gwynivara would never admit it to her. Instead, she scanned the area to find an excuse to get out of this conversation. She saw the medic coming out of the first aid station with a look of disappointment and frustration. “I should go check on him.” She didn’t look back, but she knew Bernadette was smirking from satisfaction of their conversation. She dashed away before she could say anything more.

Gwynivara approached the medic and inquired, “Are you alright?”

When the medic realized who was speaking to him, he breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, I was about to send for you. You have a difficult decision to make.”

She knew that this could mean only one thing. “No!” She ran into the first aid station to Emorick’s bedside only to see that he had lost consciousness. “No! He can’t be…!” She couldn’t finish that sentence.

“He’s not dead,” a hollow voice from behind her sounded. She turned around to see Kierram slumped in his chair and wallowing in tears. She slowly made her way over to him as he sobbed, “Not yet anyways.”

Gwynivara put a sympathetic arm on his back and pat him gently. “He could still…there’s still a chance…”

“He’s dying, you know it!” Kierram snapped a little. Gwynviara knew what kind of pai nhe was in right then, so she didn’t flinch or get offended by his temper. She continued to hold him as he wept. After a moment, Kierram lamented, “I don’t deserve any sympathy! I’m a terrible son!”

“That’s not true!” Gwynivara emphatically denied.

“I wasn’t nice to him,” Kierram went on. “I pushed him away. He wouldn’t want me here right now!” Kierram cut Gwynivara off before she could object again. “This is just like when Mom died.” Gwynivara fell silent upon hearing this. Kierram so rarely spoke about his past, so she treated this moment with reverence. “She never forgave me for following in my father’s footsteps and joining the military. She kept saying her heart couldn’t take it. Every news story about ‘Nam made her think I was hurt. Every phone call she got, she claimed she had a mini episode thinking that it was the call. I thought she was exaggerating, and she wouldn’t speak to me for years…Then one day, she had a heart attack! The doctors wouldn’t let me see her after surgery. They claim her condition was too awful for visitors, but I’m not an idiot. She told them not to let me in! I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, but maybe I didn’t deserve one after all I put her through!” Gwynivara tried to refute this, but he stopped her, “You wouldn’t understand! Your parents are still alive, and you probably have a close relationship with them. If you didn’t, you would’ve mentioned it by now, I know you would!”

Kierram had just been honest with her, so it was her turn to divulge about her past. “Actually, I’ve been avoiding the subject ‘cause it’s too painful. When I first got Venenatus Sanguis, I became a fugitive. They kept sending police to my childhood home over and over and over again. They followed them everywhere- to work, to the grocery store, the post office…They were so sure I’d meet them in secret. I couldn’t let them live like that, so I wrote them a letter telling them to change their names and get out of town. I told them not to come back until they saw a headline about the cure. They listened, and I never saw them again. I have no idea what name they go by now or where they went. I’d like ot think they went to Florida ‘cause we have family there, but really, I have no clue. That’s the whole idea though, they can’t associate with a fugitive. If I had any idea where they were, I would at least check the paper everyday just to know they’re still alive. You’re lucky you got all this time with your parents! I’d give anything just to hold them one more time!”

Kierram sniffled. “I had all this time to spend with my parents and I blew it! I pushed my mom away and then I did it again to my dad. Maybe it’s just me! Maybe I’m just too messed up! Maybe I’m just too difficult to love!”

“That’s not true,” Gwynivara stated firmly. “I…” She didn’t finish her sentence because she realized what she was about to say what she just got through denying. For a second, she wondered if it was the grief talking or if she meant it. He looked at her incredulously, and her heart raced. He was in so much turmoil, and he didn’t deserve it! She admired his character- smart, incredibly brave, so thoughtful…Her instincts wanted to shower him with affection until he healed his emotional wounds, and with that, she knew that she felt more than mere friendship for him! She didn’t say a word though, she couldn’t tell if Kierram shared this sentiment or not. Tears welled up in his eyes again, and she couldn’t help herself- she pulled him in close and held him tight as he broke down.

This tender moment got interrupted when the medic walked in and gingerly brought up, “I hate to intrude, but this is important.” Both Gwynivara and Kierram turned to face him. “Emorick probably has a blood infection. His only shot would be at a hospital. So, my question is do you wanna take a chance with an emergency room or should he spend the last of his days here?” Kierram and the medic turned to Gwynivara, who was dumbstruck. She didn’t know what to do…

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’d you know?” Riley asked.

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

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

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

“Thank you!” Riley said gratefully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Screw you!” Kierram spat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 13

So, what’s it gonna be?” Kennith challenged Gwynivara. Everyone turned to her and stared in expectation of a decision. She turned away from them, feeling overwhelmed. She had visions of the origin that she couldn’t explain. Their strong, able Rebel leader got brutally attacked and may not survive. She had just fought a bunch of beasts, and she didn’t realize it until then, but it had emotionally drained her. And before she could fully process any of it, she is suddenly placed in charge of everything! She had all of these thoughts swirling in her head so fast that she couldn’t think. She felt kind of short of breath and hunched over a little. At that moment, she felt a rugged yet warm hand gently pat her back. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that it was Kierram. She felt comforted knowing that she had his support. When she looked straight ahead, she saw Cody standing there looking weary and sort of scared. That prompted Gwynivara to put her feelings aside and do what was best for Cody.

She didn’t know if she would do half as well as Emorick at running the Rebellion, but she felt confident that she could form a logical explanation on what to do with Cody. She turned around to face the other officers. She didn’t have particularly favorable opinions of Kennith, but he did make some good points. Cody didn’t have Venenatus Sanguis, and staying in a community with dozens of people who do have it could put him in jeopardy. She didn’t like the idea of someone his age living on the streets, but he was young enough where he could still overcome these obstacles and have a real life. She felt sure that one day he would forget about this place and in time, this would become a strange memory. Gwynivara wondered how long it would take for him to forget…

Before she could make her decision, she heard Emorick strain in his sleep. She briefly speculated about what was going through his head right now. She didn’t know if he had a sense of his current surroundings or if his mind would go back to where it left off- fighting with that policeman on the playground. Suddenly, that triggered a new train of thought for her…These men had tried to kill Cody, and they left him as a witness. Gwynivara started to think out loud, “Eventually, the cops who tried to kill him will go after him again.” Kennith started to argue, but before he could get a word out, Gwyivara went on, “No, really! Maybe they initially left him there not thinking of him as a threat, but eventually, they’ll realize that he knows their secret. What’s to stop him from going to Chief Forsythe and telling him what they did?”

The others agreed that she had a point. One of them suggested, “Well, shouldn’t we let him do that? Chief Forsythe would shut down that operation, and the origin couldn’t use that ruse to spread the disease anymore!”

Since it had been fresh on her mind, Gwynivara kept thinking about Cody’s memory, which made her conclude, “Eventually, those men will catch up with Cody and ask what he did with Emorick’s body after they fled the scene ‘cause they’ll check hospital records and see that no one checked him in. At that point, they’ll figure out that Cody took him to a hideout. They could torture him and force the information out of him. As long as he’s alive, he has something they want. Once they get it, they’ll kill him. Or they’ll torture him to death for not telling them what they wanna know. Either way, both his life and ours are in danger if we have him go. Cody knows too much about the Rebellion, so he needs to stay.”

Most of the officers didn’t like the idea of Cody living in the Rebel headquarters, but they knew that Gwynivara was absolutely right, so they accepted this inevitability. One officer remarked, “I don’t even what rooms are available right now! Has anyone cleaned out Blake’s room?”

Gwynivara suggested, “He could sleep in Emorick’s room for now.”

Everyone looked at her quizzically. Another officer reacted, “But, I thought since you’re in charge that you…”

Gwynivara felt uneasy about taking Emorick’s room. She had come to terms with her leadership position, but she felt like she was merely babysitting the role. Once Emorick got better, she would happily relinquish control back to him. Moving into his room would feel like they officially gave up hope. Gwynivara felt like her sentiments would be viewed as impractical and dreaded the idea of getting argued into it. Fortunately, before she could speak, Kierram rang in, “It doesn’t make sense for her to move into my father’s room and then move back to her old room when he gets better!”

Kennith pointed out, “If we move Cody in there and Emorick gets better, we’ll have to move him out of there too.”

Bernadette conjectured, “In an emergency, Cody doesn’t have the ability to conjure anything like we do, but he is obviously decent with weapons. So, it would make sense to give him easy access to the armory.”

“You wanna put a kid in charge of the entire weapon supply?” Kennith responded skeptically.

Another officer sided with Bernadette, “He’s unbiased. He’d be fair and honest with who gives weapons to.”

“I agree,” Gwynviara piped in. “He can stay in there for now. I’m not about to move anywhere this late in the night!” She could tell she had made her point to them, but soon after she noticed the crowd still gathered in front of the first aid station, so she told the officers, “Everyone’s worried sick right now, but we can’t have the whole Rebellion get into a state of disfunction. Let’s get everyone to their rooms and then go to bed. Tomorrow is business as usual. No mater what happens, we must make sure the mission continues.”

All of the officers, even Kennith, concurred with Gwynivara. Everyone except for Gwynivara, Kierram, and Bernadette went to address the other members and began to persuade them to maintain a normal schedule during this crisis. The other three agreed to set the example for the group and headed to their rooms with Cody. As they walked down the still empty halls, Gwynivara glanced over at Kierram. His eyes still looked haunted by his dad’s unknown fate, but he seemed a little more subdued than before. She asked him, “How you doin’?”

Kierram wistfully answered, “I just can’t ‘til this is over! Then Dad and I can go back to bickering with each other.” Gwynivara snickered, and then Kierram continued, “Part of me thinks I need to be there and just watch him, like by never taking my eyes off him that he’ll stay exactly as he is. Like, if I take my eyes off him, he’ll…” He cleared his throat, unable to think of his father’s possible demise. “But I know when Dad wakes up and sees me there, he’ll be mad. He wouldn’t want me to waste my time worrying. So, I’m gonna do what I can to take care of the Rebellion for him.” He paused, and then he inquired, “How are you doing?”

They had gotten to their rooms, but Bernadette took the reins of showing Cody where he’d be staying in order for them to finish their conversation. Gwynivara knew that she could trust him, so she replied honestly, “I’m terrified; terrified that your dad is in the state he’s in, but taking over his responsibilities is equally terrifying! But there’s a consistent schedule we all follow, so really, I just have to make sure everyone follows it, right? Piece of cake! And it’s only a few hours ‘til he gets better, right?”

Neither of them said it aloud, but both of them had a feeling it wasn’t going to be that easy. Kierram simply told her, “You’re gonna be fine! I mean, you’re doing good so far!”

Gwynivara smiled. “Thanks!” For a moment, neither of them spoke, but they could both sense that each others’ emotions were running high. After a while, Gwynivara sighed, “I guess I better go inside. I definitely gotta set the right example.”

“Yeah,” Kierram responded sympathetically. “If you need anything though, you know I don’t sleep really anyway. So, feel free to bug me.”

Gwynivara laughed, “Oh, I have permission now?”

Her joke managed to crack a smile out of him. “See you in the morning, Captain!”

“Don’t call me that!” Gwynivara called after him as he opened bedroom door. He gave her a small grin before shutting the door gently. Gwynivara’s heart fluttered thinking that she had successfully helped someone feel better. It was a very satisfying feeling.

She shut her bedroom door behind her and sat down on her bed. After everything that happened and everything she was set to face, she knew there was no way she was going to get any sleep. She laid down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling, her eyes staying wide awake. She kept telling herself that everything would be fine, that everyone knew their duties and that she shouldn’t have any problems. Her nerves were still jangled and she tried to convince herself that any notion indicating that something would go wrong was simply from that. Nothing could quell her nervousness, so she kept her focus on planning out tomorrow. She had no choice but to ignore her ill feelings and hope for the best.

The next morning, Gwynivara ate her breakfast in the kitchen. She had instructed the medics to come find her immediately when Emorick’s condition had changed. She truly had hoped that as soon as she left that a medic would tap her shoulders and tell her that he woke up, so when she got a tap on her shoulder at that moment, excitement flooded through her veins. She turned around, and disappointment crushed her optimism. Although she adored Riley, she doubted that he had any news that she had been wishing for. “Oh…hey Riley! What’s going on?”

Riley seemed to have understood her emotional reaction and didn’t comment on it. “Hey Gwyn. I was just wondering if I could go patrolling for a recruitment mission. I can’t stop thinking about last night, and I think it would help to get out and do something productive to keep my mind of of…”

“Yeah, sure, go ahead,” she authorized him. Riley thanked her and left. After he was gone, Gwynivara knew it was time to face the fact that she would have to run the Rebellion today, at least for a little while. She really hoped that Emorick would interrupt and take over! Gwynivara quickly finished her coffee and headed to the training auditorium.

When she arrived, she expected to walk in on the officers sparring with their practice weapons, but instead, everyone sat on the floor with glum faces. One officer croaked, “Any news?”

Trying to maintain a cheery tone, Gwynivara replied, “Not yet.” Everyone’s hopes seemed to have been dashed, and Gwynivara knew that she couldn’t let it escalate further. She clapped her hands once, and it snapped everyone into attention. “We can’t let ourselves get to the point where we create a bunch of beasts again! We have to focus on the mission!” They all agreed with her and were ready to comply. After thinking about it all night, Gwynivara had come up with a simple plan for today. “None of us got much sleep last night, so there’s no use in trying to learn something new. Let’s just focus on fine tuning what we already know. We’ll start with swordplay. Everyone partner up!”

Everyone obeyed and put full effort into practice, but no one really chatted with each other like usual. The room was pretty quiet through the whole session. Gwynivara hoped some good news would come their way so that the officers would get their motivation back. After a few hours, Gwynivara started to get hungry, so she addressed everyone, “Good job guys! Let’s take a break and get some lunch!”

They all agreed and started to head for the door. Before they could though, Riley burst in. His presence in the training room was odd enough in itself, but at that moment, he gave off a very panicked vibe. Gwynivara noticed his clothes and hair were dissheveled, and he was short of breath. Before anyone could ask, he spouted, “We have to go help! They’re gonna kill them all!”

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Riley did,” Bernadette replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 10

How is that possible?” the green skinned woman screeched.

The male that Gwynivara encountered the previous day responded scornfully, “If I had any idea , it wouldn’t have happened!” She gives him a piercing glare, so he quickly apologized, “Sorry, Commander. I just don’t understand how two people in handcuffs and surrounded by police could escape like that!”

The woman sat on her rocky throne and mulled it over. “Did you notice anyone suspicious or unusual?”

“No.” He jogged his memory and couldn’t come up with anything…except…”Unless you count the actual suspect. The one who got taken to the police station.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Why is one more noteworthy than the other?”

“Out of nowhere, she has this ball of light!” he recalled. “She made the alpha creature disappear! Poof! It was there and then it wasn’t! What do you think it…?”

His sentence trailed off when he saw the look on her face. She grew pale, and none of her facial features moved. He had never seen her show any fear, so to see her in this state truly frightened him. Very breathily, she ordered, “We need to find them!” He started to object, but she cut him off, “If they’re successful, the mission will fail. I won’t let that happen to my planet! So, for the time being, finding them will be our top mission.” The man didn’t say a word, but he showed every sign of wanting to argue, so she bellowed, “DO AS I COMMAND!”

“Yes ma’am!” He turned to leave immediately just as a shrill whistle filled the air.

Gwynivara’s head almost hit the counter as she pulled herself back to reality. It took her a moment to realize that she had fallen asleep standing against the kitchen counter. She remembered why she had come to the room, which prompted her to turn off the stove and pour some boiling water into her cup. As she was setting the kettle down, she heard a noise behind her, and her jangled nerves almost made her drop the teapot. She turned around to see Riley in his pajamas, robe, and slippers shuffling into the kitchen. He sheepishly grinned and commented, “Looks like I’m not the only one on edge!” Gwynivara felt foolish for getting scared over something harmless, but she was relieved to see Riley on his feet. Riley inquired, “What are you doing in here?”

“I couldn’t sleep.” Right after the words came out of her mouth, she felt even dumber than before. She told the truth-she had laid awake with her mind racing a mile a minute, so she thought some tea would help her fall asleep. And yet, somehow she had fallen asleep standing at the counter! She knew that Riley would pick up on the irony of the situation.

Sure enough, he did. “Must be some powerful tea!”

Gwynivara begrudgingly laughed and joined him at the island in the kitchen. She told Riley, “I’m glad you’re okay!”

“Me too. Or at least, now I am,” Riley admitted. Gwynivara gave him a questioning look, so he explained, “Okay, I’ll admit it, I didn’t put up a fight when the beast came for me. I kept thinking about the past, and tonight it just really hurt. When it came for me, I closed my eyes and embraced the end. I thought it would end my suffering, but it made it worse. All I wanted to do was save my own life, but I couldn’t! It’s maddening to feel that level of helplessness! I got lucky that you three ladies came in when you did! I got a second chance at life! Not everyone gets that option. Now, I just wanna find as many people as I can and explain where it came from and how it deceives you. Once you cross that line, there’s no going back, so I wanna find more people and make sure they don’t cross that line. I wanna help with recruitment! I’m done passively waiting for this situation to end- I wanna help make it happen!”

Gwyinvara was shocked to hear that Riley had almost let himself succomb to Venenatus Sanguis, but she felt vastly relieved that he now had an ardent desire to not only live but help others find that kind of fight within themselves. “I keep thinking about that woman in the video that Emorick showed me. She just let the monster eat her! I know she was suffering, and it does seem so hopeless sometimes. It’s not like I’ve never thought that. I suffered through all of my twenties, and I kept thinking that right now my peers are all going to college, getting married, starting families and careers, and here I am struggling for basic survival! I wondered if I’d ever get the chance to have a real life. But then I also kept thinking what if my chance comes tomorrow? I mean, you never really know how long it’ll last- days, weeks, years, but at any point in the future, my chance could come, and it’d be worth the wait. And if I went through my whole life without getting it, at least people could say I tried! I was a fighter my whole life, and I take pride in that! Along the way though, I wanna help as many people as possible so that maybe they don’t have to suffer as much in their life as I did in mine!”

“That’s very noble!” Riley complimented. “Do you think we’ll ever find the cure?”

“I have to!” Gwynivara responded. “Someone has to fight for it! President Ford is too busy with his re-election campaign to give us any federal help. The Public Health Center has been compromised by people trying to destroy evidence. No one else is looking for a cure! The only solution people have come up with is to ‘quarantine’ us. People think if we all get killed off that the problem will solve itself. This is a global epidemic, and as long as one beast survives, it’ll keep spreading until our planet gets wiped out! If we don’t find the cure, the whole world is doomed! That’s why I won’t rest until I figure out a way to find the origin! If we find the origin, we find the cure! I don’t care if takes days, weeks, months, or years, I won’t stop ‘til I make it happen!”

Riley listened to her speech and let the emotions of it settle fore a moment. Then he asked Gwynivara, “They’re destroying evidence?”

“Huh?” Gwynivara slipped into an adrenaline-filled reverie from the feelings that welled up from their conversation, so this question totally threw her off. She needed clarification in order to answer it, “What do you mean?”

“That’s the first I’m hearing of it. Did you see them destroying evidence when you went undercover at the PHC?” Riley probed.

Gwynivara thought back to that day. The receptionist, the staff, the patients, not even the orderlies, no one had destroyed anything. The orderlies sure worked hard to seize them, but no one went after the research or even anyone’s notes. Even earlier that day, in that murder victim’s house, the two men’s behavior was odd, but their destructiveness focused on people and not things. And yet, as she had said it, she knew it to be true. When she tried to think of how she would know that, it made her blink. “I didn’t see anyone destroy anything.”

“Did you hear anyone talk about it?” Riley suggested the idea.

Again, Gwynivara had to mentally review the last couple of days, but she couldn’t recall any conversation where people talked about destroying anything other than lives. Still, she felt like she had heard someone talking about it to another person. It didn’t make much sense, and now Gwynivara started to question her sanity a little. She didn’t know how else to explain knowing something without sensing it in this reality! She finally spoke, “Someone must’ve talked about it, but after going through the last few days in my mind, I know I didn’t hear or see anything. I always assumed that the orderlies were protecting valuable information, but if anyone’s gonna destroy it, it’d be them. It makes sense; they work for the origin, so they don’t want anyone to find the cure. They want to get it so they can keep it from spreading. They put agents in places that might find information, and if someone gets close to the truth, they destroy it!”

Before either of them could ponder this any further, Emorick walked into the kitchen. His eyes flickered between the two of them, and a look of disappointment fell on his face. “Please tell me the two of you went to bed early and just woke up.” Neither of them said a word, but the guilty looks they donned answered his question. Knowing the answer already, Emorick regarded them, “Please tell me you weren’t discussing work related stuff!” Gwynivara and Riley ashamedly shook their heads. Emorick groaned, and he too shook his head. Clearly, Gwynivara and Riley now felt horrible, so Emorick assured them, “Don’t feel bad- this is my fault. I’m your leader, I’m supposed to set a better example. You both went through a lot yesterday, and if you don’t get sleep, you won’t recover. You also can’t become so obsessed with the mission that you don’t have a life! So, I’m ordering you to take today off!” Both of them started to object, but Emorick cut them off, “Look at you two! A day off shouldn’t feel like a punishment! Take today off, have some fun, get some rest, and come back to work tomorrow with fresh eyes.”

“Yes, sir,” Gwynivara reluctantly obliged. Riley followed suit.

Emorick, satisfied with their responses, poured himself some coffee and told them, “Good! If you sneak any work in today…”

“You’ll tan our hides?” Riley finished his thought.

Gwynivara felt relieved to see Emorick crack a small smile. He took a sip of his coffee and responded, “I wouldn’t word it quite like that, but yes.” Gwynivara and Riley chuckled, and Emorick said cheerfully, “Now you two behave while I’m gone!”

Riley kidded, “But I thought you said to have fun!” Emorick heartily laughed and left the room.

After they had finished in the kitchen, Gwynivara and Riley walked down the hall. She fell to his gait, which was still slow because of his medical recovery. Yet he had still wanted to work, and so Gwynivara privately agreed with the point Emorick had tried to make. It was still very early, so very few people were out and about. As they passed the ceremony room, Gwynivara saw a sign that informed them of a meditation class at eight a.m. She saw that Riley had read the sign too, so she pointed out, “Emorick did tell us to relax…”

Riley shrugged. “Sure, what the heck. I’ll try anything once! Just ask my ex-boyfriend!”

“Not sure I wanna know more…” Gwynivara laughed, and so did he.

Inside the ceremony room, Gwynivara and Riley waited for the class to begin, but they were way too early for anyone to show up, so they sat on the pews and waited. The room was so quiet that it started to get on Gwynivara’s nerves. She glanced around and noticed a radio. “We could listen to music while we wait.” Riley silently consented, and when Gwynivara turned on the music, she heard a rock song that she loved. Lately everything had been so serious and scary that a fun, lighthearted piece reminded her what she was missing. She felt compelled to dance, which made Riley grin. “Dance with me!” Gwynivara invited.

“I would, darling, but I’m afraid I’ll get too winded,” Riley replied.

“Fine, you can stay in your seat and dance!” Gwynivara grabbed his hands, and he swayed a little in his seat.

They were having so much fun that they didn’t notice Kierram walk in. He saw them dancing and muttered, “God, I hate morning people!”

Gwynivara thought about making a snappy comeback, but she realized that if he was here, Emorick probably made him take the day off too. Figuring that he needed to enjoy himself, she overdramatically posed for him. “Your turn! Dance with me!”

Kierram refused, “No way! I don’t dance!”

“Oh, you’re scared?” she teased him.

“I’m not scared!” Kierram had a look of wanting to prove her wrong but strongly desiring not to dance.

Gwynivara danced up to him. “Oh come on!”

“No, no, no!” Kierram almost frightened and very uncomfortable as she put her arms around him. He soon felt forced to move and stiffly fell into her movements. The more he did, the more he realized he was enjoying himself. As he got into it and they danced together, Riley merrily clapped his hands. In the midst of it all, Gwynivara suddenly slipped on a rock, and Kierram caught her. “What was that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. A rock?” She turned to the floor and found the perpetrator. It was a black, jagged rock, and she peered at it curiously. She had a feeling she had seen rocks like this before. That’s when it clicked for her, and memories of all her dreams came flooding back to her. Overwhelmed, she slumped onto a pew. Very concerned, Kierram and Riley rushed to her side. They tried to elicit a response, but she couldn’t muster one. She was still trying to make sense of it herself. Finally, without thinking, she spoke, “It’s real! It’s all real!” Confused, the two men looked to her for answers, and all she could give them was, “I’ve met the origin!”