CRISIS SEQUENCE BOOK THREE
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I need to look on the bright side—I’ve not been eaten alive…yet—Jonathan Parks
Laughter—maniacal laughter. This is what Brody West hears as he sweeps Malak-esh behind his head, striking a charging zombie before driving it forward again into the chest of another. The sound seems to be coming from everywhere, or perhaps it is only in his head. No one else—none of the zombies, or the soldiers fighting in vain for their lives—seems to hear it. Brody cannot block it out.
He uses his divine weapon as a focus for his power. Each time he strikes one of the rabid creatures, Brody discharges his power through the blade, igniting a white-hot flame within the raging monsters that devours in seconds. Each swipe of Malak-esh reduces another human monster to ash.
These plague victims resemble their former human selves only because they have the characteristic shape of men. Otherwise, they appear as monsters. Their clothes are shredded, hanging as soiled and bloody ribbons upon their gaunt frames. Despite what flesh these ravenous creatures may have recently consumed, their hyper-metabolism burns the calories away, leaving them only with an insatiable appetite for prey. A hunger that knows no bounds drives them to kill everyone that crosses their paths.
Once a watcher from afar, Brody West now becomes a warrior, entering the fray this horrifying plague has generated. Brody has killed these monsters before when necessary, but never has he faced so many. He strikes another down, and another, and another.
They come from every direction, relentless and unyielding. There is no notion of fear upon their faces. There is no sign of retreat, even when he raises Malak-esh to rend their flesh with white-hot fire. Rather than flee at the danger, they rush forward and are cut down.
Sheer numbers continually force Brody to retreat. He can only engage so many at one time before leaping away. Open ground is rapidly becoming hard to find.
Throwing himself away again, before the onrushing ghouls can get hold of him, Brody lands upon one of the parked support vehicles. Only a moment ago, a soldier had been attempting to hide inside, or at least barricade himself within. It didn’t last. Zombies crashed through the windows of the van, chasing him from the front of the vehicle into the rear compartment. There they had him.
Brody lands upon the roof of the van. Almost instantly, the tide of plague victims changes course to pursue. They scrabble over one another like insects, attempting to be the first to reach him upon his perch.
Malak-esh shines with brilliant light each time he strikes down one of the horde, discharging its power through the victims, immolating them in seconds. The sword creates a strobe effect, illuminating the GCHQ building behind him, casting shadows of grizzled forms with reaching hands upon the walls. Still, Brody realizes his efforts here outside the building are not doing much good. The soldiers in the courtyard are already dead, or dying, and his great grandchildren await him inside. He had hoped to stay the tide of zombies from gaining access to the flying saucer-shaped building, but it doesn’t look like he or anyone else will be able to stop them.
The laughter in his head only increases with his efforts.
“Bravo!” the voice shouts between bouts of cackling as Brody swings Malak-esh, dividing a raging man’s head from his body.
He wants to believe that it might be Black or Southresh, but either appearance would be impossible. Black’s host was destroyed back in the city of Trinity upon the spiritual plane before a terrible conflagration from the Lord destroyed it all. Southresh, also, was defeated and sent back to the angelic prison of Tartarus. His own Sadie had accomplished the task. Brody had not sensed the angel’s presence in the world even once since that time.
Of course, that only left one of the Fallen in the world; only one who had tormented him through the long years of his life. He had first come to Brody during his brief time as a penniless waif upon the streets of London over one hundred years before. His father had been murdered by two thugs attempting to rob them, and Brody had fled the scene in terror for his life. In his time of need he had no friends, no one who would give him the slightest help.
It was in the disguise of that good angel that Lucifer had first appeared to him, presenting gifts and seemingly good advice when he was at his lowest point and ready to receive any kindness. Not long after this, the angel appeared again just in time to save the life of Oliver James from an act his mentor believed might rid them of Black. Lucifer had also shown up within the angelic prison of Tartarus—again as that same seemingly good angel—to defend him and Oliver from the mad god himself, Southresh.
In all these things, Brody had been fooled by the arch-villain of the ages. It had not been until after Oliver sacrificed himself to imprisonment within Tartarus that it became clear who this good angel really was. Brody had eventually guessed at Lucifer’s identity, but he had possessed no way to defeat his adversary.
Now, Brody has not a single doubt in his mind as to Lucifer’s involvement in all that had transpired since that time—the Word of God being quite clear on his nature and his devices. In ways Brody has little specific information about, Lucifer has always been there, operating behind the scenes to bring about his malevolent ends upon him and his family. The events surrounding the rise and fall of the angel’s descendant progeny, Grayson Stone, have been only part of the whole matter.
This maniacal laughter now, as he fights for his life among a horde of ravenous plague victims, can only be Lucifer again, inserting himself into Brody’s life in order to cause him misery and pain. Decades of separation from all of those events and the descendant races themselves clearly has not erased his existence from the mind of the Devil. His old enemy is here, gloating with every kill or evasion Brody makes.
“Are you afraid to show yourself?” Brody growls, kicking away a horrid female creature scrabbling up the side of the van to the roof.
More snickering at his challenge. Then he hears the voice say, “Very well, since it pleases me.”
Lucifer appears then in multiple locations all around the makeshift compound. Brody’s gaze is drawn to the nearest first and then the rest, all while doing his best to fight off the raging horde dogging his movements around the crowded parking lot. Some of the apparitions—for he knows they are not all physical embodiments—laugh again at his predicament. Others shake their heads in mock pity.
In anger, Brody throws his arms outward, producing a kinetic bubble that explodes, becoming a shockwave. Numerous bloodthirsty plague zombies are thrown into the air and across the blood-stained pavement. Several vehicles are pummeled with enough force to topple them onto their sides.
Those who remain little effected, however, surge toward him like floodwaters, relentless in their ferocity. Lucifer howls with laughter again. “You’ll have to be more creative than that, if you hope to survive this night, Mister West.”
Brody considers hurling lightning at the angel, but he knows already that his efforts would be wasted. He doesn’t know which one is the actual Lucifer and he cannot spare the time or energy upon him. Still, there is Malak-esh. It alone has the power to harm angelic beings.
For the briefest moment, he considers giving it a try. However, the challenge remains to figure which one is the real Lucifer. The arch enemy of God is no fool. The scriptures make that very plain. The possibility of Brody using Malak-esh upon him may even be the very reason Lucifer has manifested his presence in this way. And, even if he did manage to strike at the right one, would it have any real effect on him?
Lucifer, so far as Brody knows, is not implanted in a mortal form. He is also definitely not imprisoned within Tartarus, as Southresh and his brothers in anarchy are. The mercurial blade might do him no harm at all, for all it ever did do was to sever the tethering link between angelic spirits extending themselves into the physical world and the human forms they inhabit.
The battle seems over before it has even begun. Brody can discern no way to fight with Lucifer. And these ravenous plague victims are as relentless in their pursuit as ever. He must focus on his goal here tonight: to rescue his great grandchildren and escape this horrible plague.
Brody strikes several more down and then retreats into the air, taking the form of a falcon again. The zombies clamor below, not knowing how to follow. He wonders if Lucifer will attempt to attack him while he is in this form, but the angel’s various apparitions only smile and applaud while Brody hurls himself toward one of the upper GCHQ windows.
“Bravo!” He hears Lucifer call after.
Brody ignores the angel and sends a burst of power at the safety glass, shattering it. The humans standing behind the clear pane, watching the grisly attack unfolding below, are thrown backward. They never seem to notice the small peregrine falcon against the night sky, or when it bolts into the room, unfurling its wings among the scattering of glass pellets. Only a few further from the window notice when the falcon morphs into a man in long coat carrying a sword with a shimmering, mercurial blade. By the time the hungry zombies scale the side of the building like monkeys and begin to pour through the broken window, no one in the control room cares about the mysterious figure in black anymore.
The end of one world can be the beginning of a new world—Jonathan Parks
A man with a Russian accent speaks calmly into the unregistered cell phone earpiece seated snugly inside his ear canal. He is dressed in black fatigues with a brace of black throwing knives across his chest and two Glock 10s resting in holsters affixed to his thighs.
His appearance is slightly reminiscent of an old west gunslinger—but only slightly. He wears no ten-gallon hat, no spurs or leather chaps. There is no faithful steed waiting to carry him off toward a dusty sunset in the west.
The room he stands in is large, a warehouse, and filled with various kinds of military grade equipment, vehicles and weapons. It is relatively dark; a place of shadows, but his eyes are quite accustomed to darkness. This place affords Gregor Malakov a convenient staging ground for the missions his superior appoints him to, and the number of those operations has been many.
“Yes, sir,” Gregor agrees. “What about the others?”
On the other end of the conversation, the smooth baritone voice confirms what Gregor had already expected would be the case. The other youths to whom Gregor is referring are not to be extracted. They will be left to whatever fate the horde of plague zombies have waiting for them.
“I understand, sir,” Gregor replies when the order is given and the parameters of this operation are finalized.
Gregor’s superior ends the call on his end.
In a small way, Malakov is disappointed by this last detail. After all, these youths are all Descendants. It seems a shame to leave them to the viral outbreak that has swept over London and which has already spread as far in country as Gloucestershire and out of country into France and parts of Ireland.
Malakov wishes he could extract the others with the boy his superiors want taken from the GCHQ building. At the very least, they might prove useful in some way in the future. Even better, would be to turn them into allies of the Syndicate.
Still, he understands the reasoning. The parents and grandparents of these two individuals once fought against those who would make the Syndicate what it is today. Gregor knows that old grudges never die easily.
He straightens, putting the matter out of his mind. There is a mission to perform. He cannot waste what little time he has for getting the boy out of the GCHQ.
Around him in the shadowy darkness, figures in similar black fatigues stir, awaiting their orders.
“The boy only,” Gregor confirms. “We move now.”
Having previously made their preparations, the men now move into action. A bright light emits brilliance around the warehouse. The men move into this light quickly, one after the other. It accepts them and removes them all from the warehouse, transporting them. Gregor follows after, and the portal snaps shut upon his entering.
Alarm chimes punctuate the strobe lights as chaos takes over at the GCHQ building in Gloucestershire. A calm female voice, speaking in a smooth British accent, instructs the Doughnut’s personnel on the best evacuation routes to lead them away from the building into the surrounding parking lots where they can convene safely away from the present danger. Only, the computerized voice has no idea of the present danger.
There is no place of safety in the conjoined lots surrounding the GCHQ building. Those are now filled with ravenous, flesh-eating, disease-carrying plague zombies. The soldiers who once held a strong perimeter defense of the GCHQ are all dead and their bodies ravaged. The fences are down. The sniper and machine gun nests are overrun. There is no safety here.
The building itself is now breeched. The more aggressive zombies have climbed to the shattered second story window where a bird flew through only moments ago. These plague victims now have access to the GCHQ’s inner parts and they are taking full advantage of their new liberty.
Soldiers fire from positions in the room, but are overrun quickly, or are forced to retreat by degrees as the tide of plague zombies confounds their attempt at defense by sheer ferocity and overwhelming numbers. Many lose their lives in the attempt to flee. Closed doors do not stem the advance of the horde. It is now only a matter of time before the entire building is overrun. Its human inhabitants can only pray and run for their lives before the storm.
Cassie waits inside the interrogation room where Scott Bishop left her not long ago. The alarm that sounded and took him away was silenced soon after. She had assumed this alarm had something to do with her friend Jonathan.
Now, there are more alarms instructing everyone in the building to evacuate. Cassie had hoped that staying put might help to prevent anything further happening to Jonathan, but whatever is taking place now is something worse than him simply getting away from them. She can’t stay put any longer.
A guard stands in the corner of the small room. He stepped in when Bishop stepped out. Until the alarms began to sound a minute ago, the man had remained as stoic as a brick. Now, he looks antsy. He wants to know what’s happening, maybe even run for his life.
“Don’t stay on my account,” Cassie says. “If you need to check on that…”
The guard glares at her, but she can see he’s considering abandoning his post.
“You can lock the door behind you,” She suggests. “I’d kind of like to know what’s going on too.”
The guard considers this, nods, and then instructs her to stay put. He leaves the room. Cassie sees individuals running past the open door. Then the guard shuts the door behind him and locks it.
Cassie stands and moves around the table to the door. She listens, hearing people yell at one another. Screams come to her from some distance away. She realizes something very bad is happening. The word zombies comes through the din of noise over and over.
I’ve got to get to Jonathan, she thinks.
She applies her thoughts to the locking mechanism. By the time she reaches for the door handle, it has already clicked and is separating from the frame for her. Quickly, she passes through into the hall.
In every direction, Cassie finds people, both civilian and military, running for their lives. The guard who had been with her is nowhere to be seen. Probably, he has abandoned her outright to a plague of zombies.
“Thanks for the warning,” she mutters and begins to move in a certain direction, though she is unsure why. Cassie feels a sense of power, of something drawing her this way. She can only assume that this must be Jonathan’s special abilities she is sensing. After all, she can usually feel Garth’s emanations of power quite strongly, and this sensation is very similar.
She passes a group of people wearing lab uniforms and terrified expressions. They run by her with hardly a glance in her direction. Cassie might have supposed that a group of responsible adults, finding a youth like herself in a dangerous situation, might tell her about the danger she could be walking into. Not one of them bothers. It appears to be every man for himself.
She now has little doubt in her mind that the building has been compromised by plague victims—though it’s hard to view a ravenous horde as being victims of anything. How these bureaucrats ever thought they could keep themselves safe in the middle of this plague is beyond her. This place is like an island in a sea of death. They were fools to think their luck would hold out.
Cassie rounds a corner, pauses for her sense of direction, and then moves on again down a long curving corridor—the kind you might expect to find inside a building often referred to as the Doughnut. She is not in the outer ring where bulletproof Plexiglas would allow her to see what’s going on outside. Here, strobes flash in her eyes, and the alarm chime seems blaring.
She notices blood upon the walls for the first time here and Cassie suspects that she may have come too far. Hearing the rasping breaths of plague zombies, she turns her head back the way she came. A steady parade of the menacing creatures pours into the corridor behind. Almost instantly, they spot her and begin sprinting in her direction.
Panicked, Cassie forgets her abilities and gives in to her fear. She screams and runs in the opposite direction for her life. The zombies pursue her in growing numbers.
Then, as she charges toward the junction at the end of this long, curving corridor, something happens that one might only expect in a cheap horror film. Cassie stops dead in her tracks. Another group of zombies is coming at her from up ahead. She is trapped between two ravenous mobs of flesh-eaters and has nowhere to hide.
In a moment, they are upon her. She cannot think what to do. Within, she feels the mounting pressure of her welling power, but she isn’t sure it will come to her in time. It requires some measure of concentration, and right now she has none. She might as easily kill these murderous fiends or blow out the entire side of the building, possibly killing Jonathan in the process.
Something luminous flashes brightly between Cassie and the zombies coming from the way she had been going. A clear pane of energy materializes inside the corridor. These rushing zombies crash into it and disappear from the hallway. One moment they are there, the next this energy swallows them up and departs with them.
Behind Cassie, the onrushing horde has caught up to her. Several leap for her where she stands frozen with terror against the wall. An arc of white hot fire cuts the air, dividing the bodies of the leaping zombies before they can touch her. Again and again, the bar of light sweeps the way between her and her attackers, cutting them down with its every turn.
A man in dark clothing, wearing a coat more akin to a cape than anything currently in style, wields this energy with steely grace, defending her from those who are trying to destroy everything in their path. Cassie finds that she cannot tear her eyes away from the spectacle he weaves. Then, he throws his hands out in a desperate move that brings with it a thunderclap and telekinetic energy enough to pummel to the ground most of the remaining zombies.
Still, Cassie finds there are more coming through to replace those who have fallen. She wants to scream at them. They never stop coming.
The man turns suddenly and grabs her by the arm. Cassie feels a tingle of energy, sees a brief flash that blinds her momentarily, and then realizes the zombies in the corridor are all gone.
She realizes this is not the same corridor she was just standing in. The man has somehow teleported them both away from the danger. She just can’t understand how.
Cassie attempts to catch her breath. It feels as though all of the air has been somehow sucked out of her lungs in that moment of transport. “What happened?” she gasps.
But the man is already dragging her away from the place where they materialized. “It’s not safe here,” he says.
The voice is smooth but completely foreign to her. He pulls her after, and, despite the strangeness of the entire situation, she follows dumbly along.
“We have to find your brother,” the man says as they round another corner.
Cassie jerks her hand away, halting their advance down the corridor. “I don’t have a brother! And who are you, anyway? I feel that I should know because I’ve seen you in my dreams, but I don’t know and I’m not taking another step until I find out.”
Finding no immediate threat present with them, the older man turns to her. Cassie is surprised to see him wearing a bit of a smirk on his face.
“You’ve seen me in your dreams?” he asks, not sounding entirely surprised by the revelation.
Cassie looks at him with a puzzled expression. She has no idea what to make of the man. Obviously, he is very powerful…but a powerful what she cannot decide.
“Interesting,” he says, turning to scan the corridor ahead of them.
“Who are you?” she asks less severely this time.
He turns to her with a gentle smile. “I’ve often wondered what I would say when this moment came,” he says. “I have a hundred well-thought phrases, but they all escape me at the moment.” He sighs. “There’s just no easy way, I suppose.”
Cassie waits, mystified, looking up into his kind eyes.
“I’m your grandfather,” he says. “My name is Brody West.”
Cassie’s face goes slack with shock. She suddenly feels that breathless sensation again. “My grandfather?”
“Well, great grandfather, actually,” he amends. “But there’s no time to explain right now. We have to find your brother before these plague victims get to him.”
Cassie stammers, still reeling from the news the mysterious Brody West has delivered. “But I have no brother,” she says through her bewilderment.
“Perhaps not that you knew of, but believe me when I tell you it’s true,” Brody says. “And we have to get to him now.”
A scream erupts from Cassie when she sees several zombies leaping at them from the corridor ahead. Her great grandfather, if she can believe such a thing to be true, does not realize the creature is about to pounce upon them. Without consciously deciding to do so, she acts.
An explosion bursts in the hallway between them and the attacking zombies, hurling the ragged creatures away while also setting them ablaze. The concussive wave from the blasts also sends her and Brody smashing into another wall together, leaving them in a heap upon the floor. The plague victims screech through their last breaths and subside among the flames created by Cassie’s panicked thoughts.
Brody extricates himself from their tangle first and then offers his hand to her, pulling Cassie to her feet again. He examines the damaged scene briefly before commenting. “Well, you certainly are my granddaughter,” he says. He turns back to her, grinning. “We’ll have to work on control when we have the time.”
Malakov’s team emerges in the dimly lit subbasement of the GCHQ. The portal delivering them snaps shut like a light winking out. Immediately, Malakov and his men set to work, some securing the area while others plant remote charges upon the gas lines feeding the complex. Wordlessly, Malakov controls his team with subtle hand signals.
Their actions are decisive and quick. There is no wasted motion. In moments, their work is done and Malakov is leading them up the nearby stairwell marked with an emergency sign above the push-door. The door closes behind them, leaving only dim lighting and the blinking red LED indicators on their C4 detonators.
They climb stairs, ascending in near darkness with only emergency lamps to punctuate each flight. Malakov knows exactly where he is going. The Syndicate has access to nearly every surveillance camera on the planet; at least the ones that still have power. In the GCHQ, cameras identified the place where Jonathan Parks was taken when he was shot with a tranquilizer upon his earlier escape. No less than three cameras are watching him every moment in his new cell.
When the team reaches level three, they hear the unmistakable sounds of panicked flight. Malakov and his team are well aware of the situation here at the Doughnut. An unrelenting horde of zombie plague victims have breached the perimeter defense of the GCHQ and now its very walls. These terrified individuals, coming haphazardly down the stairs above, are undoubtedly attempting to flee the zombies before they can be infected or consumed.
Malakov pauses momentarily, his team halting in the darkness behind him. A group of people—three men and five women—come racing down the steps heedless to any dangers waiting for them below. They never even get a good look at the shadowy agents before it’s too late.
The Russian surges forward, his person taking on the characteristic blur of an object moving too fast for human eyes to follow. There comes after him two leading members of his team and then the cracking of bone and the popping of torn sinew. All eight bodies are lobbed over the railing. They fall in rapid succession to the concrete floor at the very bottom of the stairwell. All of them are quite dead before they ever hit the ground. Malakov and his team move quickly on.
He anticipates some zombies managing to push through the crossbar activated exit doors, but by the time his team reaches the fourth floor none have emerged. Most of the action appears to be on the lower second and third floors which suits Malakov just fine. The less resistance to his team’s activities the better.
It’s not that Malakov and his soldiers fear the plague victims. In truth, they are very slow to his preternatural perception—almost as slow as normal humans. If not for their overwhelming numbers, they would be no threat to him or any other Descendants. Unfortunately, the newer manifestations, following metamorphosis, are not nearly so easy to deal with.
The team reaches the fourth floor access door and pauses. Malakov peers back into the darkness at his men, grinning despite himself. He could have easily opened a portal directly into Jonathan Park’s cell from the basement after their charges were placed. However, these missions being fewer in number and frequency than he likes, Malakov prefers the more visceral approach, prowling through the op and taking down whatever threats present themselves.
For all their modern ways and technology, he and his kind still thrill at the hunt. Even after millennia, the old instinct still drives the Breed. Malakov can only assume a similar yet uncontrollable urge rages within the plague victims, forcing them beyond inhibition to do unspeakable things to their fellow man.
He draws in air through his nose, sniffing what scents may be had near the door. Malakov discerns at least half a dozen humans beyond in the corridor. Jonathan Park’s cell is the only reason any of them are up here. Otherwise, this floor is now only being used for a supply store.
The Russian opens the door quickly and moves out of the stairwell with his men following. The soldiers in the corridor beyond are only just beginning to react to the door opening when Malakov reaches the first and snaps his neck. Seven persons remain, which he leaves to his own men following after.
These humans appear so slow in their movements. He is reminded of an American movie where the protagonist dodged bullets by moving at a higher rate of speed. He and the others of his kind move much faster than humans, seeming to become little more than shadows in their sight. In the tick of a single second, all eight human soldiers lie dead on the tiled floor.
Malakov places his hand upon the reinforced door. Even the walls have steel plate on them. Evidently, Angela Sayers learned not to underestimate the boy’s strength. She’s leaving nothing to chance. Malakov isn’t quite sure how strong the boy actually is, but his master suspects he would be even stronger than a Breed warrior, which is considerable—something to do with Jonathan’s parentage though Malakov was not given those details.
Still, he has no need of extraordinary strength in order to deal with this prison cell. Malakov opens a portal where the wall is and then closes it again. This section of wall has been teleported to a location outside in the GCHQ parking lot.
Inside the cell, Jonathan is still out cold under sedation. Malakov smiles. There is no guard inside with him. He motions his men forward as he walks inside.
Malakov opens another portal inside the cell as two of his Breed soldiers heft the boy off the mattress, supporting him under his arms on either side. The others come through the hole in the cell wall…all except for the last man, Thomas, who stands in the corridor with blood seeping from a fresh wound in the middle of his chest.
Garth and Holly move quickly through the corridors, Garth sensing his way toward Cassie, dispatching zombies as necessary. He has been able to seek her out every since the girl arrived in the Tombs laboratory complex. Not having many other specials to interact with, he can only assume that it has something to do with their powers since Cassie is able to search him out as well.
Something else is there also, something he has sensed before. He can’t place it exactly. He pauses momentarily in the corridor, hesitating, unable to figure out which way to go.
Holly pauses just ahead. “Are you okay?”
“Something isn’t right,” Garth replies. “It’s Cassie, she’s nearby, but something or someone is also here.”
“Jonathan?” she asks hopefully.
“I’ve never been able to sense Jonathan,” he says, considering the matter.
Holly touches his arm. “We don’t have time to delay. Whatever it is, we’ll find out when we find her.”
Garth nods and then hurries past her. Holly follows behind, a pistol in her pocket and a submachine gun cradled in her hands, taken from a fallen soldier. They move upward swiftly and silently but encounter no other zombies on their way.
Garth leads the way onto the floor down a short corridor. He stops cold in front of her, obscuring Holly’s view of what lies ahead of them. Then she hears Cassie’s voice calling out to them.
When Holly looks past Garth, she finds Cassie in the corridor, looking disheveled and frightened. However, this is not the most shocking thing she sees. A man is standing just beyond the girl, holding a sword with a polished mercurial blade. This blade is currently thrust through the back of another man wearing what appears to be black combat fatigues.
Holly does not know the man with Cassie, but Garth reacts almost immediately, rushing forward in a rage, drawing his katana, screaming at the stranger. Holly raises her pistol, perceiving the man as a clear threat based upon Garth’s reaction. Cassie leaps away from the stranger as he is forced to pull his weapon from the now dead soldier in the black fatigues in order to defend himself against Garth’s attack.
He tries to speak, to appease Garth, but the young man strikes nonetheless. When the two swords clash together, the sound reverberates like a cracked bell. The concussive wave that results knocks down every individual in the corridor. Holly blacks out, her last image of Garth, Cassie, and the stranger falling around her.
Brody hits the wall hard as Malak-esh rebounds from the boy’s sword. Had Garth’s weapon been a normal katana, Malak-esh would have sliced cleanly through, but that is not the case. The boy holds a particular and special sword, and Malak-esh cannot destroy itself.
Garth is thrown away from him when the swords clash together, Brody merely attempting to defend himself from the boy’s raging attack. Undoubtedly, he is reacting to seeing an unknown armed man with Cassie, but there are many things still to tell these youths. Whether they realize it or not, Brody is not the enemy here.
Unfortunately, there is no time for explanations just yet. The building is under siege, and Jonathan is being taken from the GCHQ by a contingent of soldiers sent by an unknown agency. Brody hadn’t realized anyone else was coming for him. This was going to be a simple matter of extracting all three youths himself, but things just got a lot more complicated.
A portal shimmers with power inside the cell where Jonathan has been kept unconscious. These are not covert operatives of the purely human kind at all. Superomancy is involved, which means Descendants.
One of the soldiers stares at Brody as he attempts to stand, pushing his weight against the wall in order to slide his way up to his feet. Malak-esh vibrates in his hand. His entire arm dangles numbly at his side, tingling from the release of energy a moment ago. He attempts to raise the sword, but his arm feels like an angry swarm of ants, and the limb will not obey.
Soldiers carrying Jonathan have already stepped through. None of the others in the hall with him have gained their feet yet, not that they would stand much chance against this Descendant force. Cassie and Garth are young and lack formal training. They have never encountered Descendants other than the brief glimpses of him he has allowed. The woman with them is merely human.
It’s up to him and he can barely stand. Still, the final soldier waits and watches as Brody tries to compose himself and intervene. It’s the kind of thing only a leader would risk; someone who is confident enough not to attack. The other soldiers, including the one he just ran through with Malak-esh, wear dark glasses, something meant to hide their identity, possibly. However, this soldier’s eyes are visible, glittering with delight as Brody attempts to stand and come after him. Despite the increasing glow surrounding Malak-esh, as he finds his strength again, this man stands grinning.
Brody tries to seize the soldier with his mind to keep him from passing through the portal and getting away with Jonathan. A brief struggle ensues—a moment when they are locked together like two wrestlers grappling for dominance. They pull against one another and Brody can sense the man’s power. He is definitely a Superomancer of some degree, but both of them quickly realize Brody is stronger. This man may be powerful, but he is not one of the Sons of Anarchy as Brody is, being born directly in the line of the mad god, Southresh.
The soldier’s smile vanishes in that moment when he understands he will quickly be overtaken by his opponent’s greater ability. Brody’s pained expression begins to be replaced, stealing his adversary’s grin from him when they both understand he will prevent the soldier’s escape. His only recourse will be to close the portal despite not getting away himself. Realizing this, Brody sends out a pulse of energy to follow the path of that portal to its destination and return unto him the knowledge just as if he had created the gateway himself.
It is a technique Oliver never taught him. Still, it had seemed a possibility to him and he had been pleasantly surprised to find that it worked when he tried. Even vampires, who normally did not possess Superomantic ability of their own, could access the trace elements of portals and reactivate them. As long as those trace energies were not too degraded, the Breed were able to follow their Superomantic prey through complex escapes.
A split second into their duel, at precisely the moment when Brody overcomes his opponent, Garth finds his feet and attacks. The boy launches at him. He has no choice.
Brody releases his hold on the soldier. The man’s surprise crosses his face in that moment of realization just before he nearly stumbles back through the portal of his own making and disappears. Fortunately, Brody’s energy trace has successfully told him where the portal leads. He can only hope the soldiers do not employ one of his own tactics, using a multiplied portal construct that will reroute them again and again before finally delivering them to their true destination. His trace would not have been able to follow such a construct to its end and back again. Still, he might have other methods to track Jonathan.
As the soldier vanishes from the cell, Brody gives his full attention to Garth. Malak-esh dematerializes from Brody’s hand as he thrusts out toward the boy, pummeling him with force that hurls him backward onto the ground. No use trying to engage him with Malak-esh since his weapon and the one Garth wields will only cancel out one another’s power and render them both dazed and confused again.
“Stop it, Garth!” Cassie cries out nearby. “He’s not hurting me, he says he’s my grandfather!”
This declaration instantly halts the boy’s further attempt to come at Brody. The sword in Garth’s hand pulsates with brilliant energy, but he stands still, looking stunned.
“What on Earth are you talking about?” he says.
Brody straightens, glancing back into the cell, shaking his head in exasperation. This hasn’t worked out nearly as well as he had hoped. Instead of an amazing rescue on his part, the whole affair has become muddled. He never intended on such a mangled disclosure of his true identity, but there is nothing to be done about it now. Jonathan has been taken, and Garth is ready to kill him; not to mention the fact that this entire complex is currently being overrun by plague victims in a rage state.
“He’s bewitched you somehow with his power,” Garth tells her, still keeping his gaze warily upon Brody.
“No,” she says, turning her own attention to Brody, “he rescued me from the zombies. I’m not sure why, but I can feel that he’s telling me the truth. There’s a connection. I can’t explain it. I believe he really is my grandfather.”
A small grin crosses Cassie’s lips as she states this with more assurance than she showed earlier.
Brody grins in return. “Great grandfather,” he corrects gently.
“What?” Garth asks.
“I’m Cassie’s great grandfather,” he replies, “and not hers only.”
“That’s right,” Cassie says. “We came up here to rescue Jonathan. You said he is my brother?”
“Not exactly,” Brody says, stepping over to help Holly groggily regain her feet.
Garth takes a step toward him, meaning to keep him away.
“Garth is your brother, not Jonathan,” Brody says, abruptly halting Garth’s advance.
Cassie smiles. “Garth is my brother?”
“I am?” Garth stammers out.
“Oh, yes,” Brody says lightly, pulling Holly to her feet.
For her part, Holly doesn’t appear to know who is assisting her, stranger or otherwise.
“I’ve been watching over you both since I found you in that laboratory below MI6 headquarters in London,” Brody continues.
“I’m her brother?” Garth squeaks out again, still looking stunned by the news.
Cassie steps closer, looking into the now empty holding cell where Jonathan had been kept since his escape and recapture. “If Garth is my brother, then who is Jonathan?”
Brody smiles impishly. “Not your brother,” he says. “I’m afraid we really don’t have time for this right now. This whole complex has been overrun. We need to leave. Further explanation will have to wait until we get to a safe location.”
Holly has regained her composure by now. She notices this stranger—the same stranger Garth attacked on sight—and withdraws her arm from his grip. Still, she does realize the earlier hostility has vanished. “So we’re good now?” she asks Garth.
He gives her an uncertain glance. “I honestly wish I knew.”
“Well, while you decide whether I’m who I claim to be, let’s move on to another location,” Brody suggests.
“What about Jonathan?” Cassie asks anxiously. “Those soldiers took him through whatever that was.”
“The whatever was a portal,” he explains, “which is what we are also going to use to escape. The soldiers who took Jonathan aren’t human.”
“What do you mean ‘not human?’” Garth asks.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Brody says with a grin, “you and Cassie and Jonathan and I aren’t human either.”
“Now that’s the first thing I’ve heard recently that actually makes some sense,” Holly says sarcastically.
Cassie and Garth can only look at one another in bewilderment. Brody raises his hand, waving it as though pulling a sheet around them all. Instantly, the scene changes from a dim corridor inside the GCHQ building to open air and near darkness. The smell of smoke filtering through the GCHQ is replaced by a cool breeze carrying the unmistakable scent of the Thames and the hint of decay. In the distance, beneath a waning moon, their group sees the towering Millennium Wheel, also known as the London Eye. The huge Ferris wheel stands still and dark like all of London around them.
Director Angela Sayers fires her pistol until it empties. Several plague zombies are taken down, but others replace them immediately. Major Bingham pulls her back, placing himself between her and the onrushing horde. His shotgun pummels several more, spraying gore. Dr. Scott Bishop hurls his spent submachine gun into the crowd of ravenous predators, turning to run.
The zombies catch hold of him, pulling him back into their ranks before he can make his escape. Bingham and Sayers barely register his screams, as they flee the wave of death coming hard on their heels. They only manage to put a single reinforced door between them and the swarm of zombies.
“This isn’t going to hold,” Bingham says, trying to keep his weight against the door, as plague victims pound it from the other side.
Angela Sayers finds a body on the floor behind them. One of the soldiers under her command lies on the ground with a single, fatal head wound. His pistol lies next to him.
He took the quick and easy way out, if there is any easy way. Her first thought is revulsion at the man’s cowardice, but the pounding upon the door and the ravenous zombies on the other side quickly change her mind. She picks up the pistol, checks the magazine. She only needs two shots—one for Bingham and one for herself. It’s the least she can do. There’s no way out of this supply room and the door won’t hold.
Bingham’s concentration remains on barring the door. The big man does not notice Sayers stepping up behind him with the pistol in her hand. She raises the weapon, lining up the front sight on the back of Bingham’s skull.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers too low for him to hear.
Angela’s gun never goes off. Unknown to everyone left alive in the GCHQ, charges have been left behind by a special ops unit of the inhuman kind. Magnetically fastened to the main natural gas lines feeding the massive facility, they have been ideally placed.
Green LED indicators sit like docile fireflies in the darkness of the subbasement. Before Sayers can pull the trigger on the 9mm handgun, half a dozen floors below these steady green lights change color to red, blink three times, and explode as the charges are triggered. Gas lines rupture instantly, forcing fuel into the fire. The GCHQ erupts in a fiery cataclysm, scattering flames, debris, and charred bodies in every direction.
Strolling through the wreckage of what was, only moments ago, the GCHQ, Lucifer finds the bodies of mutilated humans and those of plague victims who were shot down as they attacked. The scene is of absolute carnage. It resembles so many countless examples of human battlefields. He always enjoyed humans killing one another.
There is no sign of any normal humans still living, as he moves throughout the facility. Malakov has already taken the boy. However, he had hoped that Brody West might still be present with his grandchildren when the bombs detonated. He senses traces of Superomancey. They already abandoned the building. “Of course they did,” he says.
There is nothing more to do here, no satisfaction beyond the human lives lost. At least, he thinks, that’s something. Still, there is much to accomplish.
“Time to subjugate my new army,” he says, taking a final look around.
With a single thought, Lucifer, now inhabiting a human form as one James Solomon, vanishes from the GCHQ building in Gloucestershire. At the same moment, he appears in London beneath a barely visible moon. A march of a different kind is already in progress—plague zombies walking at a sluggish pace toward the darkened transit tunnels ahead. There they seek to sleep and transform into aggressive monstrosities like so many who have already reached the final stage of this viral evolution.
The human, James Solomon, strides forward. His figure blurs, carrying him forward like a bullet among the herd of sated beings who now only long for sleep in this place of darkness. This tube station, abandoned by London’s citizens, has become a processing plant—a place for transformation from what these hideous lumbering creatures they are to the feral predators they will each become.
It is among these new beasts that Solomon soon finds himself as he comes inside to stand among the newly birthed mutations. They prefer to dwell among the iron girders above the others who have come to change. As he gazes overhead, Solomon finds the support beams filled with perching beasts. Though the other crazed human zombies cannot see him within the glamour Lucifer has created to hide himself here, these mutated hunters all appear to be looking right at him as he stands upon the floor of the tube station.
He observes their statuesque behavior, much like the menacing Breed warriors. Vampires often remain stone still, watching their prey until just the right moment when they descend to pounce upon their intended victims. They do not, however, look anything else like vampires apart from their almost luminescent red eyes.
Solomon does not speak, and the creatures still do not move. He senses no fear from them. Curiosity might be a better word. Undoubtedly, they must be wondering what manner of mortal could happen to get past all of their lumbering brethren without being assaulted and devoured. What manner of fool would dare to stand here in their midst?
Nevertheless, Solomon shows no hint of fear. After all, he is no mere mortal. An angel resides within this form—the most malevolent force to ever exist in all of creation now stands among them. A human form does little to betray this reality, but perhaps they now see more than just his physical appearance. It has been his hope that this viral pathogen caused more than a simple physical transformation in mankind. He hopes also that something of Descendants has been imparted as well—an element that now allows them to know more of his true nature and therefore more of the spiritual world around them.
After several minutes of watching one another, Solomon takes a single step further toward the mass of them. None of their sleepy-eyed brethren notices, as they continue to file deeper into the tunnels past the abandoned trains. However, one entity finally does reveal himself.
Solomon pauses as the beast rises to its feet on one of the steel girders above and ahead of him. It cries out with a barking call that seems to be part warning and part challenge. Solomon reproduces the call with exacting complexity, able to accept the challenge in whatever crude language these beasts are speaking.
The slightest ripple of unease and anticipation sweeps among the mass of individuals among the girders and supports overhead. It would seem they understand. The response from the challenger is nearly instantaneous.
Hu Takashi, now a feral creature of tremendous strength and agility, leaps from the steel girder where he was perched, watching the odd interloping human upon his arrival in the tube station. Barking calls resound in response to this alpha’s challenge to the being standing upon the platform below. They all sense something strange about the man who shows no fear of them, but Hu is not going to allow that courage to stop him tearing this man apart before his kindred.
They will only follow the one who shows himself strong, and Hu has managed to do just that. Already, he has been challenged by no less than seven other males attempting to usurp his dominion. All of these, Hu Takashi has killed. More ferocious than a lion guarding his pride and stronger than a silverback gorilla, Hu leaps toward the human, roaring furiously.
At the last moment the human steps aside, letting Hu stamp the ground and pass him carried by momentum. He whirls and leaps from the ground not three feet away. Hu reaches for him with blackened talons outstretched, but the human glides out of reach again. Hu keeps coming.
All this time, the man is smiling at his missteps and misses. This only infuriates Hu. He swipes with a vicious clawed hand and then another, pounding forward in pursuit. Several times Hu makes contact, tearing through the finely tailored suit the man has worn into the station. Blood soaks the man’s clothing now, but he continues to grin at Hu devilishly. The pain of his wounds goes unnoticed.
Hu swipes at him again, but this time the man catches his powerful arm at the wrist and twists it with such ferocity that the shoulder joint explodes with pain. Hu tries to go after him again, but the arm hangs limp at his side. His fury allows him to drive forward, ignoring the white hot pain, but anger won’t make the arm work again. It’s useless for now.
The man responds to Hu’s next advance with a foot to his chest that propels him back into a newsstand. The kiosk explodes upon impact, scattering magazines, newspapers and assorted snacks across the platform with Hu writhing among them. He gets back to his feet, hardly believing what this human is doing, yet unable to consider the possibility of defeat.
Hu leaps at him again, his good arm outstretched, bearing his claws again. The talons push out to their full length at nearly three inches. If he can just manage to land a strike at this stranger’s chest, then he can pierce his breastbone and his heart beneath, ending the fight quickly to once again secure his place as the alpha.
For a single moment in time, while Hu remains in flight toward his human adversary, his eyes behold not the frail mortal form before him but the visage of a terrible and beautiful monstrosity. He sees an angelic presence and the instantaneous degeneration of this form to that of a hideous demonic creature with horns and scales and wretched torn wings caked in blood and filth. What Hu has not been able to experience since his mutation is now felt with overwhelming clarity: fear.
Unable to backpedal in midair, but trying nonetheless, Hu lands on the man. It’s like smashing into a brick wall or plate of iron. The man is unyielding despite Hu’s momentum and weight. He catches his throat in one hand, holding him struggling aloft. With his other hand, the man or devil, pummels him about the head. As Hu’s mutated consciousness slips away, he clings to this fear, beholding the being in all of his hideous beauty.
Lucifer, in his human form as James Solomon, tosses the unconscious creature away like so much discarded refuse. His right hand and forearm are soaked in the beast’s blood. He dares anyone to challenge his supremacy.
Solomon lets loose a barking cry akin to the former alpha’s. He is informing them of his ability to lead them. He is demanding their loyalty.
Then, in a move that visibly rattles the entire hoard watching him from the rafters above, Lucifer reveals his true self, allowing them to see what he really is. Almost as one, the beasts jerk back from the image. He can sense the fear come over them—even these creatures, for whom fear has been burned out of what is left of their minds.
He knows the moment he has them under his control. He puts his thoughts—his very will—into their minds now. They will obey him. They will follow him as their alpha, at least until another rises to defeat him and take his place. Solomon grins. That isn’t going to happen.
Still, these creatures can only last so long before the virus wastes away all of their reserves. A candle can only burn so long. He’ll use them as long as they remain useful.
My eyes open to surroundings I do not recognize. I’m lying upon a soft couch in what appears to be a modern high rise office. A plain but modern desk and chair combo is the only other furniture in the room. Several inset shelves feature brick-a-brack that someone probably considers tasteful art. One entire wall is nothing but floor to ceiling window with a nighttime view of a well-lit city beyond. I have enough wits about me already to know that this is not the GCHQ and not London.
A man in dark fatigues stands before the only door in the room. He is muscular with tanned skin and a buzz cut. Five-o-clock stubble adorns his face, but no smile. He stares at me with an impassivity that tells me I’m not considered a threat.
I have no idea where I am. I don’t recognize the surroundings beyond the window. This nightscape is not Gloucestershire.
Could they have moved me from the GCHQ? I remember escaping their cell earlier. I remember taking the scientist as my hostage and the confrontation in the hallway with the woman and the soldier. He shot me with something after the woman unexpectedly shot the scientist in the leg.
That was a cold move on her part—shooting her own man to get at me. Very cold, but also, obviously, effective. Here I am in their power again, under guard, even if I’m not in a prison cell like I was before.
Still, after what I was able to do to their soldiers before, they only appointed one guy to watch me? I’m through playing games with these people. I just want to find Cassie and get away from them.
I stand quickly. The guard doesn’t react. That seems pretty strange. I start to cross the room toward him and the door. He grins at me like a wolf ready to devour a bunny that’s coming right to his den.
Well, they obviously haven’t explained to him what this little bunny can really do. I start to pass the desk on my right side. The massive window, overlooking whatever city happens to be out there, is behind it.
I reach out with my right hand, placing my palm against the side of the desk and heave it at the man and the door. I have confidence in my strength now. I am beginning to understand my power and I’m ready to unleash it.
The desk lifts from the carpeted floor into the air, sailing toward the door. The guard’s eyes bug in surprise for the briefest moment, then he moves, but not in the way I expect.
Instead of ducking to the side, like any normal person might do, this soldier springs upward, inverting mid-air to attach himself to the ceiling. The desk drives through the door, smashing it and the surrounding frame like some unstoppable juggernaut. It stops halfway into the corridor wall beyond.
My way out of the room is open, but the soldier is clings to the ceiling, looking at me with a wicked grin like some demented fly. He lunges toward me, hands outstretched. The whole sticking-to-the-ceiling bit has startled me. I’m not sure what I’m fighting here, but it certainly isn’t human.
I dodge sideways at the last second, then leap back at the soldier as he hits the ground. My martial arts training takes over. As he turns on me with newly elongated canines gleaming, I bring my knees up, planting them in his chest. My combined weight and momentum drive the man down. When we hit the ground, I’m straddling the soldier’s chest, the breath forced out of his lungs. I hammer him with a swift elbow to his forehead, rendering him unconscious.
I wait a moment, making sure he’s really out. Pulling the man’s upper lip away, I examine the canines. I know what I’m looking at, but I don’t want to admit it to myself. Surely, it’s not possible that this man is actually a vampire.
Then again, three months ago I wouldn’t have believed a virus could really turn London’s population into ravenous plague zombies either. I definitely wouldn’t have believed my blood would be the cause of it all. So much has transpired. At this point, why not add vampires into the mix? Almost anything seems possible.
Clapping resounds in the room. I turn back toward the couch where I had previously lain unconscious. At first, there is no one there. However, as the clapping continues, a man begins to materialize.
He is tall and muscular, bearing a similar Mediterranean look to the vampire lying on the floor beneath me. Still crouching over the soldier, I tense, readying myself for anything. However, there is a casualness about this man. He is not concerned that I am loose, or that I have just incapacitated the vampire set as my guard. Instead, he is amused.
Still, I do not relent. I have every reason to believe some danger is coming my way. If I have to, I’ll do the same to this man as I have to the guard.
“‘Who are you?’ would seem to be the appropriate question,” I say cautiously.
“Someone like you,” he says.
“I’m pretty sure I can’t become invisible,” I respond.
“Maybe not, but that matters very little,” he replies. “Surely, you already understand you are not human.”
This statement jolts me a little. Of course, I do realize I’m not like others around me, at least not like most. I would venture that Cassie and Garth are similar, even if we don’t share the same abilities. Still, I have never considered myself not human. It feels like saying I’m not a real person.
I try not to let my inner struggle show, but the man grins at me anyway, as though he already knows. “You and I are superior to mere mortals,” he continues.
“What does that mean exactly…that I’m some vampire like this one?” I reply, nodding at the guard
“You’re not a vampire and neither am I, but we are all similar,” he says. “We are Descendants.”
I stare at him blankly, not making the connection. “Descendants of whom?”
“Descendants of the Fallen,” he replies, smiling.
My blank stare remains. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say after a brief pause.
“As I feared, Jonathan,” he says. “Your education is sorely lacking.” He stands, walking toward me. “But I’m being rude,” he says, holding out his hand. “My name is James Solomon.”
I stand over the vampire still lying unconscious at my feet, but I don’t bother taking his hand. Instead, I back away toward the opening I’ve made with the desk. This might be my only opportunity to escape. Solomon comes to stand beside the fallen vampire, replacing his hand at his side when he sees I’m not going to offer my own.
“I can assure you that you have nothing to fear from me, Jonathan.”
I pause. “I’m still listening.”
Solomon smiles. “The Fallen are a group of angelic beings who rebelled against the Almighty. They were subsequently cast down from the third heaven to Earth.”
“Angels?” I mutter uncertainly.
“Fallen angels,” he corrects.
“And you’re a Descendant of these fallen angels?”
“We—you and I and Dathan here,” he says indicating the unconscious vampire, “as well as many others—are descended from them.”
“Yeah, right,” I say, dismissing this extraordinary notion out of hand.
His smile fades. “Then explain why you are the way you are, or how you just tossed a three-hundred pound desk through a wall.”
I pause in my retreat. This James Solomon has an undeniable point. After a moment, I say, “I suppose I can’t explain it.” I pause, gathering my thoughts. “Does that mean we are demons, or something?”
Solomon laughs. “Nothing quite so tragic. It means we are partly human and, to varying degrees, part angel. With our humanity comes mortality, though on a lengthier scale than normal people. With our angelic nature comes power.”
I listen intently to this information. If Solomon is telling me the truth, then many questions I’ve had have just been answered. However, many more questions are now formulating in my mind. One of those needs an immediate answer.
“We’re not in the GCHQ?” I ask.
Solomon nods. “That’s correct. We’re not in Gloucestershire at all. My men extracted you from that building when it became compromised.”
“Compromised how?” I ask, straightening. “My friend is there. What’s happened?”
“It has been overrun by plague victims.”
“Cassie,” I whisper, feeling the breath sucked out of my chest.
“Ah, the girl from the Tombs laboratory,” Solomon says. “It has been reported to me that she is safe, for the moment.”
“How is she safe?”
“She was under the protection of a Superomancer of considerable power when my people took you from the prison cell where the humans were keeping you. They turned you into a lab rat, Jonathan, but I’m offering you sanctuary and the power your birthright entitles you.”
“What’s a Superomancer, and why does that mean Cassie is safe?”
“No education about who you really are,” he replies pitifully. “That will be one of the first things I rectify, but as to your question, Jonathan, a Superomancer is a Descendant possessing abilities like telekinesis, power over elemental forces, shape-changing, and even the power to alter matter, control a person’s thoughts, or their physiology.”
I give him a puzzled look. “Sounds like magic to me.”
Solomon grins slightly. “That is precisely what the uneducated would think; at least that is if they ever got a glimpse of what Descendants can do. Mostly, we keep them ignorant of our existence. There are exceptions to the rule, but most humans never have an inkling about the Descendants of the Fallen.”
This all feels like way too much information to process at the moment. My mind is still on Cassie’s safety, especially with the news that zombies have overrun the Doughnut in Gloucestershire. “This person with Cassie can do all those things?”
“That and more,” Solomon says, “a very dangerous individual. I’m glad we got you out before he arrived at your prison cell.”
This statement alerts me. “What do you mean? You said Cassie was safe him.”
“Oh, she is,” Solomon says. “After all, West is the girl’s great grandfather. You on the other hand…well…”
“I didn’t want to get into this with you right now, Jonathan, but Brody West would kill you if he could.”
“How do you know that?”
Solomon gives me a grave look. “Because I stopped him from killing you when you were just newly born.”
Learning that someone tried to kill me when I was an infant has shaken me, to say the least. I’m still not sure I believe James Solomon, but I’m curious now to hear what this man, or Descendant, has to say. After all, there seems to be almost no one I can trust these days, and at least he has provided me with some answers as to why I am the way I am.
More startling, Solomon waves his hand and the entire scene changes around us. The office, with its ruined walls, is replaced by a large open room inside a cabin. He and I are now seated before a roaring fire burning within a river stone hearth. The nightscape beyond the office windows becomes log walls with curtained windows and falling snow beneath pale moonlight.
I gasp a little when the change occurs.
“How are you doing this,” I ask, gripping the chair arms reflexively. “It’s a bit unsettling, like dropping in an elevator or something. Is it an illusion, or are we really changing location?”
“We are no longer in the office building,” Solomon says. “We have traveled a thousand miles in seconds. There are those who work in mere illusion, but I don’t have to resort to such things.”
“You must be very powerful then. Is that all you can do, or is there more?”
Solomon grins. “Much more.”
“You said this person with Cassie—”
“Her great grandfather—”
“—yes, her great grandfather. Why did he try to kill me? If what you say is true, I was just a baby. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Solomon shifts in his seat, leaning toward me. “The truth is difficult to explain, Jonathan, and it will be hard for you to hear.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The primary problem is history, Jonathan. History has relegated our kind to myth and legend. As far as the human world is concerned, we don’t exist.” Solomon grins. “And it’s a good thing they don’t know…each time humans have discovered Descendants, they have waged a bloody campaign to destroy us.”
“I’ve never heard of any humans trying to destroy…us,” I reply. Including myself in the number of these Descendants, as Solomon calls them, takes a little effort. However, considering what people like myself and Cassie and this James Solomon can do, I find no other explanation to trump his story.
“Well, of course, you wouldn’t see anything in human history,” Solomon says irritably. “They make events out the way they wish, and Descendants continually work to remain hidden. Their history books say nothing about their persecution of our kind, but they can’t do away with all mention of us either. So, we become myths and legends.”
“Like vampires?” I venture, remembering the tell-tale characteristics of the guard who was left to keep me in the office where I woke.
Solomon grins as firelight plays across his chiseled features. “Yes, vampires. There are many other kinds also.”
I lean in a bit, the excitement over getting answers to my questions so freely beginning to build within my chest. “You mentioned my father…is he still alive? What manner of Descendant is he?”
Solomon’s downcast expression answers at least one of my questions. “Regrettably, Jonathan, your father is no longer with us, but he was an extremely powerful Descendant. He spoke with such authority that men obeyed his every command without question. He was also quite strong, like you, and he could incapacitate or kill his adversaries by force of will and a touch of his hand.”
“How did he die?”
“Brody West killed him prior to his attempt at killing you when you were still an infant,” Solomon says.
“Cassie’s grandfather?” I ask, bewildered. “But why?”
“Because humans discovered our kind and used one of their wars to hide their persecution,” Solomon says. “They even produced a man to impersonate your father publically in order to defame him. The brutality of humans knows no bounds, Jonathan. When they discover us, they do everything in their power to eradicate us. They fear our abilities because we refuse to be controlled by them.”
“But if Brody West is also a Descendant?”
“He sided with the humans against us long ago, Jonathan,” Solomon says. “In exchange, they left his family alone. He gained incalculable wealth for his betrayal of his own people.”
I sit for a moment, trying to absorb everything Solomon is saying. Anger burns in my chest with a desire to avenge my father upon this Brody West. Sitting in this chair seems nearly impossible now. I feel like I have to do something, even if I don’t know what.”
“You knew my father?” I ask.
“I knew him well,” Solomon says. “He was a cherished friend.”
“What was his name?”
Solomon sighs, nodding reflectively. “His name was Adolf.”
If you’ve ever been sucker-punched in the gut real hard, so that you’re gasping for breath, then you understand how I feel at this moment. Mentally I’m flopping around on the ground, wondering what in the world is going on. It’s not a common name: Adolf. In fact, only one usage comes to mind—immediately comes to mind.
“Adolf?” I ask hesitantly.
Solomon’s look is both grave and knowing. “Yes,” he confirms. “And I know what you must be thinking.”
“Surely, you aren’t talking about Adolf Hitler,” I stammer finally. “I’m too young. He’s been dead for what, like fifty years or something?”
“Closer to seventy-five, actually,” he replies, seeming more contemplative than shocked, like I am at the moment.
“Okay,” I say, growing more agitated. I stand and begin to pace. “So, seventy-five years dead and I’m supposed to be the son of…that isn’t possible.”
“Did you know your father, Jonathan?” Solomon asks.
“No, I didn’t,” I reply, “but that doesn’t mean he has to be Adolf Hitler. It’s crazy!”
“We’re not talking about a normal timeline here, Jonathan,” he begins to explain.
“What, time travel now?”
“Not exactly,” he says. “How old were your grandparents?”
“Ancient,” I say. “I’m not really sure.”
“Did they ever tell you what happened to their daughter?”
“Not any details,” I admit. “There was some disappearance that was mentioned, but my grandfather would never talk about it.”
“The fact is your mother was very young when she went missing—when she knew your father,” Solomon says. “Your grandparents were young then, as well. By the time she reappeared, she was still very young but they were already in their waning years. You’ve probably never seen any photos of your mother that showed her beyond her early twenties.”
I consider my own memory of her face and the picture in my grandparent’s home. My mother was quite young in the photo, even though it was an old picture. It hadn’t even been in color. My mind reels again as these peculiar details begin to fit into the puzzle Solomon describes for me.
I sit down again, looking at him. “But how would that be possible?”
“I know many of the details, but I was not there personally,” Solomon says. “Still, they do seem to support what we know and what has happened since your mother’s arrival in this time, as well as Brody West’s.”
“He came from that time also?”
“Jonathan, allow me to deal with what human history tells you about your father,” Solomon says. “Adolf came from an extremely powerful Descendant named Grayson Stone. He fought for the rights of Descendants like his father before him. And, like his father, he was opposed by Brody West and the humans. West was the one who killed your grandfather while they were both still young men.”
“But why would he do that, I mean betray his own people?”
“Pure and simple pride,” Solomon says. “West wanted to usurp Grayson Stone’s power with our people. Grayson was uniting the various clans of Descendants, preparing to wage war against those who seek to destroy us. Brody West betrayed him to the humans in order to take away his power for himself. The same thing happened with your father, Adolf.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. “Hitler was a terrible person who tried to exterminate the Jews throughout Europe.”
“The person those humans put forward as Adolf Hitler was a terrible person, not the man who was your father. The human doppelganger they planted in order to defraud our people and your father took his own life and the life of his human wife in that German bunker. Your father, the real Adolf and a leader among the Descendants, was killed by Brody West. He never had an opportunity to unite our descendant tribes like your grandfather attempted to do, and, thanks to Brody West, he was never able to defend his name. West and the humans took care of that.”
“This is unbelievable,” I say.
“You don’t believe me?” Solomon asks. “Even after what I’ve shown you about the powers our people possess?”
“No, I didn’t say that,” I reply, standing to pace again. “It’s just a rude awakening. I only just met you. How do I know this is the truth?”
“Perhaps it was rescuing you from the humans back at the British GCHQ that has caused you to doubt,” Solomon says angrily. “Would you have gotten the truth if we had left you there? How was your treatment with the humans? Locked in a cell weren’t you? And before that you were experimented on like some wretched lab rat.”
“I apologize,” I say, the weight of my guilt pressing upon my conscience. After all, this man has done me no harm. He has, however, given me answers to questions I have had and other questions I never thought to ask. “You’re right. They did terrible things to me, housing me with plague victims and such down in that hole beneath their MI6 headquarters. If your intentions are sincere, then I am grateful for the rescue.”
Solomon’s frustration melts away. “Of course, you are concerned about your young friends. After all, they cannot help what their grandfather has done.”
“Yes,” I agree, nodding. “Exactly. I’m worried about Cassie and Garth, especially if this Brody West is as bad as you claim.”
“The true damage that man has done to Descendants cannot be calculated,” Solomon says. “Fortunately, my people were able to get you out of there before West finished off your line once and for all.”
“I do have a question you haven’t mentioned anything about,” I say. “Why am I the carrier of this plague?”
Solomon nods thoughtfully.
“I mean this can’t be the work of humans because it’s wiping out humans,” I point out. “Does this also have something to do with West?”
“You’re perceptive on that point,” Solomon says, “but perhaps your faith in humanity still blinds you. West was only part of it, to what extent we don’t really know. This plague was developed by the Nazi, Josef Mengele. West may have tried to undo his own involvement at the last moment. He knew that your mother had been infected with the virus by Mengele, thereby transferring it to you when you were, as yet, unborn.”
“Which is why West followed my mother through time?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Solomon says. “Technically, there is no such thing as time travel. The entire notion is patently impossible. Despite all the science fiction in the world, time is simply the counting of that which passes.”
“I don’t understand,” I admit. “Then how is it that my mother was born before World War II?”
“You’ve seen the way some Descendants can travel through portals,” he says. “That is essentially how I brought us from my office building to this place far away. We traveled through a portal on the spiritual plane. Now, suppose one became trapped in such a portal, suspended for many years before emerging at their destination.”
His reasoning dawns on me then. “That person would seem to travel into the future without aging?”
“Essentially yes. The processes upon the body would be extremely gradual while they were in stasis,” he explains. “Your mother was sent forward by your father, knowing that West was trying to kill your family. Your father died trying to defend you, but West came after you and your mother. Only our intervention saved you. We weren’t timely enough to save your mother, and for that I am very sorry.”
“No,” I reply, “It’s alright. I do thank you for managing to stop him from killing me. However, what about this plague. By saving me, you may have doomed us all.”
Solomon smiles. “Not so, Jonathan. The plague only does what it does to humans, and it is not the destruction to them you might think. It’s not killing humans, but reshaping them.”
This bit of information gives me pause. “What’s that supposed to mean? Those were bloodthirsty monsters me and my friends were running from over the past week.”
Solomon stands then. “Perhaps, it’s better that I show you rather than trying to explain it.”
I stand with him expectantly. In a single moment, the lines of our surroundings blur and become another place. Solomon never explains where we were among snow covered trees. However, this place I recognize. We’re back in London.
Brody manipulates the energies he is using to trace through the spiritual plane, following Jonathan’s abductors. As he feared, the route seems to be changing from one destination to another, yet he is still able to follow the remnants of each portal construct as they move from one to another.
“Do you have anything yet?” Garth asks impatiently.
Cassie sits quietly, observing her grandfather, but saying nothing that might disrupt his concentration. She starts to chastise her brother when Brody responds.
“It’s alright, Cassie,” he says. “I can understand your impatience. Believe me when I say that I feel the same way. The more time that passes, the less likely I can find him this way.”
“Can you find him?” Cassie asks hopefully. “I do hope you can, Grandfather.”
She watches his grinning response, blushing.
“You don’t know how good it is to hear you say that,” Brody says, still searching the lines of energy trailing through the spiritual ether. His eyes remain closed, but he is grinning nonetheless. Garth doesn’t add any comment, but looks at his sister with some surprise.
“I still don’t understand what’s happening,” Holly confesses with some bewilderment. “Exactly who are you and how can you do the things I’ve witnessed today? It’s impossible.”
Garth lays a hand upon her shoulder for comfort, but he doesn’t give the obvious response. Cassie, however, does.
“Surely, you won’t deny all that’s happened over the past few weeks is beyond any of our expectations,” Cassie says. “I mean we’ve witnessed the collapse of modern civilization recently. Human monsters roam the streets. Not to mention the things you’ve known for quite some time about what Garth and I can do. Is my grandfather’s power really so strange after all that?”
“Do you have to keep calling him that?” Garth says irritably.
Brody arches an eyebrow at his frustration, but does not reply.
“Well, he is our great grandfather, Garth,” Cassie snaps back, showing an equal amount of irritation towards her brother. “You feel it the same as I do.”
Garth shoots Brody a glare, but says nothing in rebuttal.
“Besides, I’m glad to know that we aren’t alone in the world,” Cassie continues. “Can you honestly say that you aren’t satisfied knowing that we’re related in the way we always felt was proper. I’ve thought of you as an older brother as long as we’ve known one another. And you said as much to Holly a few days ago. Now, we know why we always felt that way about one another. We’ve blindly searched for clues to who we are for so long, and now we’re finally getting answers that make sense.”
Garth’s irritation fades as his sister berates his previous frustration. Finally, he nods to her, relenting despite not stating so.
“The whole story will seem far-fetched to a mortal mind,” Brody says to Holly. “Unfortunately, we really don’t have the time to sit down and go through it all properly. I’m afraid you’re all just going to have to trust me for the time being.”
“Have you found Jonathan then?” Garth asks, his tone gentler now than before. “Grandfather?”
Brody’s eyes open in astonishment at this. He smiles and nods. “I can feel where the trail ends. He has passed through several portal constructs, leaving traces all along the way for me to follow. I believe Jonathan has stopped traveling for the time being.”
“Good,” Garth says, “I’m tired of waiting. A little action suits me just fine.”
“Before we go looking for a fight, Garth, I think I should share something with you about that sword of yours.”
“What do you mean?”
Brody makes a slight flourish with his hand and his ebony cane with the silver wolf’s head materializes in his hand with no more effort than cards appearing for a street magician.
“Nice trick,” Holly says with a slight edge of sarcasm.
“That’s not the trick,” he says, grinning.
As he raises the cane, it turns to quicksilver in his hand, forming an elegant, brightly-shining sword. Light dances over the surface of the blade like flames under glass.
“Whoa,” Holly says, “that’s definitely a better trick.”
Garth steps closer, examining Brody’s weapon with wonder in his eyes. “No wonder my sword was repelled when I attacked you back in Gloucestershire. It radiates such power.”
“Actually, that’s not the reason at all,” Brody says. “It’s name is Malak-esh, meaning Angel Fire because that is the kind of heat necessary to forge it. The sword you carry is the twin of Malak-esh, forged from the same sample of metal as this one.”
Garth smiles now despite himself, drawing his sword from the scabbard on his back in order to examine it next to Brody’s weapon.
“I imagine you’ve had that with you for—”
“As long as I can remember, Grandfather,” Garth replies.
“It used to belong to my mentor, a great Superomancer named Oliver James,” Brody tells him. “When Oliver knew the time of his death was imminent, he bequeathed the sword to my daughter, Sadie.”
“Our grandmother?” Cassie asks.
Brody smiles, remembering his daughter. Tears well in his eyes as he continues. “She used that sword to vanquish a terrible fallen angel called Southresh. You see, that is Malak-esh’s great power and the reason why all of the Fallen are filled with dread and trembling at the sight of either sword. These alone have the power to vanquish them to the nightmarish spiritual prison called Tartarus.”
“The same mentioned in the Bible?” Garth asks.
“The very same,” Brody confirms. “They do not die there, but they suffer nonetheless.”
“Sounds like you know about it firsthand,” Holly observes.
The look in Brody’s eyes confirms the truth of it.
“It is a place of horrors too grim to describe,” he says, “so I will not bother trying to do so.”
A moment of silent awe hangs between them.
“I just wanted you to know how powerful and special that weapon is,” Brody finally says. “I can only guess that my daughter passed it to your mother and she passed it to you. The circumstances of their deaths remain a mystery to me.”
“I knew nothing of my parents,” Garth says with a downcast expression.
Cassie places her hand on her brother’s shoulder reassuringly. “Our parents,” she says.
Another moment of silence.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Holly interjects, checking her remaining ammunition in the pistol she’s still carrying from the slaughter at the GCHQ.
“Where does the trail lead, Grandfather?” Cassie asks eagerly.
“If my senses are correct then Jonathan is back in London.”
“London,” Isaac says.
The young elf stands, watching the unfolding conversation from behind what appears to a shimmering transparent pane of energy. The group of four, including: one human and three Descendants of varying degrees of power appears to have no knowledge of his presence or of his companion. This woman, a sprite of uncompromising beauty, stands with regal composure, listening to the group. Her eyes rarely leave the face of Brody West.
“London is where those creatures are,” Isaac says, attempting again to gain some reaction from her. “Asha?” he asks when she still does not respond.
“It is unfortunate,” she says at last, allowing her attention to leave the group in favor of her young friend.
“But we can’t follow them there,” he says, wringing his slender hands in agitation. “Those beasts were able to sense our presence even through the barrier. What if they have some way of coming through?”
“That is exactly why we need this man’s help,” she says. “Those creatures may eventually find their way through, especially if Solomon sets them to the task.”
“Good thing you know him,” Isaac remarks.
“I said, I knew of him,” Asha replies sharply. “I did not say we are acquainted.”
Isaac and Asha watch the group for a moment longer.
“Do you think he will help us?” he asks finally.
Asha turns to look at her younger friend. “I believe he is able to help,” she says. “It remains to be seen whether he will.”
“When will you make contact?” Isaac persists.
After a moment of contemplation, Asha says, “They are very intent on rescuing the boy, Jonathan. Brody will undoubtedly follow this trail to London hoping to secure him.”
“But the creatures.”
“I know, yet he will go anyway,” she continues. “Once we breach the barrier, we cannot return until it is time to seal it permanently.”
“You’re not going to breach now, are you?” Isaac asks in a panic. “Then we would be forced to accompany them to rescue the boy from Solomon…he knows who we are.”
“And we know what he is,” Asha says disdainfully. “Brody needs to understand exactly who he is dealing with.”
“Maybe that knowledge would allow him to realize the futility of a rescue attempt,” Isaac reasons. “He would then, hopefully, be able to focus upon our predicament before it’s too late.”
“No,” Asha says.
“I don’t believe Brody West would let Solomon’s true identity stop him from trying to rescue Jonathan. He’s no coward…and he’s been watching over that boy all his life.”
“But he can’t win,” Isaac argues.
Asha sighs. “Normally, I wouldn’t think so, either.”
“But I just have a feeling we’re underestimating him.”
“Oh, there they go…they’re leaving already,” Isaac observes.
Beyond the invisible barrier separating dimensions, Brody and his companions stand in a circle preparing to go. West motions with his hand, as if to draw a curtain around them. In a moment, the entire group vanishes from the place where they had been standing. No flash of light, no visible portal created; just gone, as though they never existed.
“Interesting technique,” Isaac notes. “Not as spectacular as I might have expected from one of the Sons of Anarchy, but not bad.”
Asha grins while observing the maneuver. “Real power doesn’t need to be showy, Isaac. He’s practical. I like that.”
“Nothing,” he says, grinning to himself. “Well, at least we don’t have to go to London now.”
“Wrong,” she says. “We still need to observe what happens, so get on with it.”
Isaac groans, but does as he’s bidden. With a wave of his hand, the two of them vanish from their point of observation in their own dimensional plane. Isaac pulls off basically the same maneuver as Brody West, but with his own flare, a slight wash of sparkling lights accompanying their departure.
When the scene changes, we are back in London…at least, I thought we were back in London. As it turns out, I’m alone. Solomon is nowhere to be found. Then I realize I am not quite as alone as I first imagined.
In the distance, the London Eye looms over the gray waters of the Thames washing by beneath. The city is just as colorless. Dark clouds brood in the sky above fed by fires smoldering in too many buildings to count. London looks like a world-war-torn version of itself.
Here and there, pockets of lumbering fiends make slow progress toward a nearby train station, walking along the tracks toward the distant darkness of the tunnels. There is no power in this part of city, and their shadowy movements are the only thing to catch my eye.
These plague zombies are not an immediate threat. That’s not to say there isn’t danger. Something else is here with me.
I’m alerted to its presence before my eyes finally find it in the haze that blankets the city. It’s as though some supernatural sixth sense has been triggered. I’m immediately reminded of the comic book hero, Spiderman, with his ability to know danger just before it presents itself. It feels something akin to that.
My eyes survey my surroundings, my thoughts fueled by this new hair-raising paranoia burning in my awareness. It is not movement that alerts me but the feeling I’m being watched. I find two burning coals in the shadowy darkness, boring into my person with the intensity of a lioness waiting to launch herself at her prey.
The attack comes just that quickly. I’m already running before I realize what is happening, my heart hammering out its cadence like a panicked rabbit in flight. I haven’t even had time to process what I saw watching me, or my response to its sudden onrush.
I take flight like a startled deer, not even looking back at the predator who pursues me. I don’t really have to see it to know it’s there, closing fast upon me, dogging my heels. I can hear its breathing, even the beating of its heart. But perhaps that’s simply my own thudding in my chest. No way to know at this point.
I pass a derelict car left on the side of the road among many. A moment later I hear shattering glass and the unmistakable crumple of sheet metal as the beast bounds over the vehicle. It’s that close.
Then it occurs to me that the car might make a nice springboard, allowing this predator to launch itself at me from higher ground. Immediately, I dodge right, turning on a dime and leaping over the hood of the next abandoned car in the line. I hear its heavy bulk land on the road where I just was, its claws grinding on the pavement, seeking traction in order to change direction after me.
I’m off the street now, crossing the sidewalk when I come up short. A dark building with its windows busted out looms over me. I could go inside, but that might trap me rather than help me. Still, the possibility of hiding myself also seems very appealing at this point.
I turn my head only a moment and see my pursuer. Its dark skin shines as though it’s been oiled. It is human like, but definitely not human—something akin to a hairless lycanthrope, or a vampire from the movies. Only, it seems more animalistic, making me think that it’s not like a vampire. I don’t have time to figure it out. If I don’t keep moving this thing is going to kill me.
Then I notice something worse in my peripheral vision. This monster is not the only one coming for me. Perhaps dozens of the creatures trail in our wake. I’m not sure if they are after me, or simply responding to the first as it took off in pursuit.
My head begins to throb. Bad time for a migraine, but the pain is nearly paralyzing. I cry out. I can’t help it. The pain is suddenly too much.
My pursuer comes up short on the other side of the car not ten meters from where I’m standing. It looks puzzled, unsure whether it should attack me.
I take a step, and the burning pain in my head explodes. What is happening to me? This can’t be the way it ends for me. I can’t accept that. I want to run, but my body won’t let me.
A surge of adrenaline courses through my veins, fueled by more pain than I’ve ever felt in my life. The vampire or werewolf or whatever it is lunges at me. I can’t think what to do, I just react violently.
It hits me and tries to knock me down, but the force feels less than I expected. My strength deals with the creature’s weight and momentum easier than I could have imagined. I don’t fall back with the beast on top of me tearing my throat out. Instead, I reach and take hold of its throat with one hand and its upper arm with my other.
It pushes against me, but I push back, and it stumbles backward. However, its talons are biting into my shoulder and my side as the creature attempts to hang on and reverse my maneuver. Did I mention that I haven’t stopped screaming since it leaped at me?
I sound like a raging animal. I feel like a mother bear protecting her cub. Only, the cub is my own life and I’m not surrendering it to this monster. That is not going to happen today.
The determination that has replaced my initial fear is incredibly strong, and I have no idea where is stems from. Moments ago, all I could think of was to run. Now, for some unknown reason, all I can feel is the urgency to fight and kill these things—to kill them all with my bear hands.
I release the creature’s throat and throw my arms outward, breaking the hold it has on me. Then I bring my fists together and pound it in the breastbone with a hammer stroke that sends the beast reeling backward into the side of an abandoned car. Glass shatters and metal caves in beneath its weight. It writhes on the pavement, clutching its chest, laboring to breathe.
I can’t believe what I’ve done. I look at my hands and see blood running down my arms, dripping from my fingertips. The blood is my own. I can feel the burning on my upper arms, but I don’t have time to worry about that now.
I have barely noticed how fighting the creature caused the pain in my head to subside. At least, I don’t notice until it comes back, throbbing in my skull as strong as ever. I wince, squeezing my eyes shut, but not before a glimpse of the other creatures fills my vision.
I can’t stay here. Maybe I could take down one of them, but not this many. I’ll be overrun and overwhelmed if I don’t escape quickly. I have no choice.
Darting back toward the building, I leave the writhing creature behind me. It still hasn’t gotten to its feet yet. Maybe it never will.
The noise of the others coming to investigate resounds in the street behind me as I slip through a partially open door and move deeper into the darkness. I hear a barking call as the group finds the injured beast I’ve left in the street. They’re definitely communicating with one another.
I can distinguish the anguished return call from the wounded beast. Not as dead as I might have hoped. So much for killing them with a touch like Solomon said my father could do. Yet, I certainly felt a power welling up within me while I held the creature by its throat. I felt like I could end it right then and there, if I had wanted to, like its life force was a tangible piece that I could rip away from the whole.
I stand still in the dark, waiting inside a room with overturned furniture and a musty smell where the weather has invaded through the broken windows. I hear them approaching. Some of the beasts are near the door. Others are climbing the building, scaling it like spiders to enter higher up and make their way back down as they search for me.
Their movements would be practically silent to a normal person, but I can hear everything they’re doing with ease. I can smell them, which means they can probably detect my scent as well. If I were normal, I’d be easy prey, but their caution is warranted. I’m not normal, and I’ve just wounded one of them.
If need be, I’ll do so again. My head still feels like my brain is swelling inside my skull, but I fight back the urge to scream. My breathing is deep and focused, a technique I learned in martial arts training. It helps a little to keep my mind off the pain, but not much. I would like nothing better, at the moment, than to go after my pursuers with a full frontal assault, but I still have enough presence of mind to know that I would lose. There’s just too many of them.
Scuttling noises come to me from every direction, like rats in the walls. I close my eyes and try not to think about how close to death I really am. I’m surrounded by creatures—monsters—I don’t even know what to call them. Nightmares has a nice ring to it.
The floorboards to my right make the slightest groan beneath the weight of a creeping monster. I’ve been found, or at least I’m about to be. The pain in my head intensifies again. It’s like a taskmaster, whipping me until I do its bidding.
I have no choice. I attack. The pain recedes as I do, being replaced by a white-hot fury and desperate self preservation. It’s either me or them, and I’m very determined that it’s not going to be me.
I reach for the beastly head as it rounds the corner, driving my right knee up under its chin. I feel the satisfying crunch of bone breaking, but I don’t stop there—I can’t stop there. As it tumbles over, moaning out its pain because I’m holding its jaw closed with my knee, I pummel it with rapid-fire blows to its misshapen head until the body is only twitching.
The noise brings others, but I move off quickly, leaving the battered beast on the floorboards. As they close in, I find another hiding place in the darkness behind a couch. I can hear them nearby, investigating my handiwork. Their rumbling growls inform me of their disapproval.
For the moment, the ache in my brain is satisfied, but I can feel the pressure beginning to well up again. I don’t know what to think about it. If not for this driving compulsion, I would already be dead, hunted down like a terrified gazelle on the Serengeti. Yet, I’ve never acted with this much brutality in my life, never even thought I could.
I can’t stay here. I’ve ended up in what appears to be a living room or parlor. There are couches and a coffee table, but no windows here and no other way out. I managed to leave the fatally wounded monster beneath the archway leading into this room. Now, the others are here. I’m trapped, and I don’t think I’m the only one who realizes it.
James Solomon stands on the street opposite the building where Jonathan entered only moments ago, following his altercation with one of the fiendish plague victims. “They do have an interesting appearance, don’t they?”
Gregor Malakov stands beside him, still dressed in his dark fatigues. He rarely wears anything else, a mark of the dedicated soldier he is. “They are gruesome animals,” he replies. “Worse than the humans they used to be.”
“You don’t find them reminiscent of your own kind?”
Malakov gives his master a perturbed sidelong look. “I trust you are joking, sir.”
With a slight chuckle at Gregor’s annoyance, Solomon says, “I am. However, they do bear some real resemblance to Lycans.”
Gregor smiles a little at this comment. “That I can certainly agree with, sir. As I said, brute beasts.”
“But they will be a devastating army in the right hands,” Solomon observes.
“I still believe my Breed warriors would be better suited to the task of taking Haven. Look what the boy did to that one,” Gregor says, pointing to the dead creature on the opposite side of the street.
“Look what he did to one of your finest, Dathan, after he awoke,” Solomon replies with a grin. “And he wasn’t even under the kind of pressure I’ve placed upon him here. He’s fighting for his life and it’s bringing out the dormant power within him.”
Gregor doesn’t reply immediately.
“Besides, I want these brutes to sweep through Haven like a storm, like locusts. They’ll devastate it, and that is what I want, not military precision. I want glorious chaos.”
“The city itself could be useful to you,” Gregor counters. “Why not preserve it and be rid of the cowards inhabiting it?”
“Do you think me one dimensional, Gregor?”
“Of course, not,” he replies. “I just don’t understand why we don’t take over and bring them under submission.”
“It’s not always about ruling over more people,” Solomon says. “Sometimes, it’s just about destroying one’s enemies and relishing their pain.”
Gregor remains silent, contemplating the mind behind such a statement. He is a soldier. He follows commands to accomplish the goals of his master. This goal of pure destruction with no favorable outcome is foreign to him. Yet, it is not for him to question his master’s desires, only to fulfill them.
Solomon’s attention strays for a moment. “Someone is coming,” he says.
Suddenly alert, Gregor asks, “Who?”
Solomon grins devilishly. “Mister West has managed to track the boy here.”
“We should have involved the humans already—set them to tracking West down and destroying him for this plague.”
“As interesting as it would be to use him as a convenient scapegoat, West is too powerful to be taken by human law enforcement,” Solomon says. “He’s one of the so-called Sons of Anarchy. He could be standing right in front of them and they would never notice him.”
Malakov nods, accepting the truth of his master’s statement. It is certainly true that most Descendant races can weave glamours to hide their identities from mortals. Some, like the Breed, are simply so quick in their movements that they can move undetected; particularly in the night. But, for all that Descendants can do, someone with Brody West’s power can do so much more.
“No, Gregor, it is our new recruits here that will help us destroy Mister West, and if not them then our young Jonathan will do the deed with some further coaxing on my part.”
“And those with West?” Gregor asks. “The boy fancies the young girl.”
“Brody’s great grandchildren will become his Achilles heel,” Solomon replies, waving his hand with a flourish that takes them from street level to high upon the ledge of the building across the street from the one where Jonathan has taken refuge. The two of them watch as a portal delivers four individuals onto the street below: three Descendants and one human woman.
Gregor Malakov turns to ask his master for permission to kill West. He pauses before the words form on his lips. James Solomon is gone.
I’m not the first to notice a disturbance out in the street before the building where I’m currently attempting to hide from my gruesome pursuers. The creatures hiss in agitation amongst themselves. I can only assume this is some form of communication. Whatever is going on, they are highly irritated and ready to leave off pursuing me to face-off with whoever is outside.
Could it be the police? I consider that possibility and almost laugh at the absurdity of it. London is a dead zone following the plague that transformed so many into flesh-eating zombies. And now, apparently, that same disease, somehow concocted with the aid of Cassie’s grandfather, Brody West, has also transformed those same zombies into worse things than they were before.
He has come for you, Jonathan.
I hear this as a whisper, but there is no one with me. The voice seems to be inside my head. My own thoughts? With my brain trying to pound its way through my skull, I feel disoriented. I can’t tell any longer what might be real or imagined. There is only this incessant pain and the drive to dispel its grip by fighting the creatures and killing them.
I look up to find a man in the doorway to the parlor. He appears middle-aged, but something in his eyes tells me he is much older than this. I feel as though I should know him. I’ve never seen Brody West, the man James Solomon told me tried to kill me as an infant and murdered my parents. Yet, I sense that this must be him.
He looks right at me with disdain in his eyes and then speaks. “The one that got away,” he says. “Time to finish what I started.”
Flames ignite upon his fists, but he doesn’t appear to be in pain. The creatures who were pursuing me, wait in the hall around West to attack. Is he their master?
The pain in my brain erupts again, and my anger explodes like a caged animal wanting to be released. The urge to kill this man becomes overwhelming. I stand from my hiding place in the dark behind the sofa.
Brody West laughs at me.
One of the beasts waiting to be loosed speaks through a barking call to the man. He listens but doesn’t take his eyes off me. The creature appears to be expressing some concern about me. I get the feeling it is warning West about what I did to its companions.
He grins, showing no concern at all.
“His parents were easy enough,” he says. “I imagine their pathetic pup won’t present any difficulty.”
The pounding rhythm in my head is too much. I unleash my anger, leaping at West. The flames on his hands erupt towards me, but I hit the ground, rolling beneath the attack. I spring upwards to my feet, connecting a well-placed palm strike under West’s chin that sends him backward through a sheetrock wall.
The fighting makes my pain subside again. Fighting this man, after what he just said about killing my parents, feels satisfying in a primal way that courses through me like my own blood. It is pure and raw, welling up, needing release. West is the best possible outlet. I’m going to kill him. It’s just that simple.
For his part, West isn’t going down without a fight. He leaps out of the wreckage, soaring through the air at me. Bolts of flame erupt from his hands. I leap over them as he rakes the ground with flames, scorching the pavement. We collide in mid-air.
West is strong—stronger than I would have given him credit for, but he still has nothing on my recent surge in power. When we collide, I hammer him in the breastbone with my full momentum behind my fist. West flies backward again through the same fractured wall. As I land on my feet again, I hear him call in his reinforcements.
“Kill the boy!” he croaks, trying to get air back into his lungs.
I go after him, but West’s minions are ready and quick. They intercept me, driving me away with tooth and claw, sheer ferocity and overwhelming numbers. Reluctantly, I dodge away, attempting to circumvent these predators and get back to West. He is my desire now. I must kill this man.
Strangely, I want to do it with my bare hands. I’ve never felt this way before, never had the desire to kill anyone. This savage need alarms me and exhilarates me. What is happening to me? This thought is driven out of my mind by the return of the pain.
Lucifer stands out of the rubble of the wall, wearing the body of James Solomon, wearing a glamour which makes him appear exactly like an aging Brody West. Jonathan flees his horde of plague monsters, unable to remain in the fight with him with so many creatures in pursuit. Lucifer grins and then drops the glamour of West, appearing again in the body of Solomon. He vanishes from the spot, materializing in the street not far from the real Brody West and his group of followers.
West immediately identifies the Superomantic power emanating from nearby, just as Solomon anticipated. He stops crossing the street toward the building where the plague monsters are fighting against Jonathan Parks. His expression is puzzled. He has never met James Solomon before. It’s not until a terrible burst of power sweeps his entire group off their feet that he realizes the stranger materializing on the street with them is an enemy.
Brody stands firms, allowing the energy of the stranger’s attack to divert around him. He immediately sends out several bolts of lightning that connect with Solomon from different angles. He is astonished to see their energy easily absorbed.
“That’s not good,” he whispers to himself, rethinking his options. The average Superomancer would have shielded himself to absorb the attack or redirected it away into some other object. Not this man. He absorbed it right into his body. Only one kind of being he knows could do something like that.
Malak-esh comes to Brody’s hand instantaneously, as Garth, Cassie and Holly get to their feet behind him. “Reveal yourself!” Brody demands.
“Solomon is the name, James Solomon,” he says.
Brody’s eyes narrow on the man. “I mean your true name, not the name of the body you wear.”
“What is he?” Holly asks, holding her gun on the man but unsure if she should fire.
“One of the Fallen,” Brody says through gritted teeth. “An angel.”
Garth flourishes his twin Malak-esh. “Then we’ve got just what we need to deal with him.”
Garth runs at Solomon, quickly blurring, dodging back and forth upon his approach, looking as though he is teleporting from point to point along the way. However, when he makes his final lung for Solomon, holding Malak-esh aloft, its blade glowing with power, a blast of mental force pummels Garth, slamming him backward into a derelict automobile nearby on the road.
Almost as quickly, Solomon wrenches another vehicle off the road with his mind, sending it at Garth’s splayed form resting within the metal imprint on the first car. Brody reaches out to him, whipping a line of energy at his grandson to ensnare him within a portal envelope. The automobile smashes into the other. Garth reappears behind Brody, deposited just in time by his portal.
Garth, still dazed by Solomon’s defense, examines himself, wondering that he hasn’t been smashed flat between the two automobiles.
“Nobody move!” Brody demands, still holding Malak-esh, its blade glowing with power.
James Solomon laughs as though he’s just heard some wonderful joke. His unconcern only serves to further reassure Brody of the nature of his opponent. The calamitous fight taking place in the nearby building also hasn’t left his attention, but they cannot simply walk away from a fight with one of the Fallen to see to Jonathan’s safety.
Brody raises Malak-esh, preparing to attack with the only weapon at his disposal that can defeat a fallen angel. Then James Solomon changes the game. Duplicates of Solomon appear before them, behind them, and on all sides. So many images of the man materialize—hundreds at least—that Brody and the others soon lose sight of the original individual. Then they all open their mouths, issuing one command.
“Kill them and bring me their mutilated corpses!”
Bewildered, Brody, Garth, Cassie, and Holly stand still with powers and weapons ready. Turning around and round, Brody expects the real James Solomon to attack from the direction they least expect. Unfortunately, the tactic is working. He has no idea where the real Solomon will come from.
Then every image of James Solomon morphs into one of the vicious predators spawned by the viral plague. Brody swallows hard against the lump gathering in his throat. They are not surrounded by mere apparitions, but an army of ravenous killers with bloodlust in their crimson eyes and death’s dank breath issuing through gnashing teeth.
I launch myself off a wall then up over a banister, trying to evade my pursuers. West has sent an entire horde after me. Every time I think I’ve found an exit from this building, more creatures hem me in again, keeping me on the run.
The burning pain within my head is subsiding just when I wish it would spur me on to fight. However, I know there are too many to for me to handle. I would take down some of them, but the rest would quickly overwhelm me and tear me apart. I stay on the move, dodging away with them on my heels.
I think about Cassie. Hard not to. Pretty girl who’s shown interest in me—any guy with half a brain would. I wonder if I’ll ever see her again. I wonder about her grandfather, Brody West. How can she be with such a person—the man who is trying to kill me, the man controlling these monsters, the man who obviously masterminded this entire plague against mankind and used me as his guinea pig to do it?
Clearly, Cassie has no idea who her grandfather really is—the kind of man he is. I wouldn’t have known if not for James Solomon telling me the truth about him. I wouldn’t even be here if Solomon hadn’t saved me from West trying to kill me as an infant.
I must find a way to stop Brody West. I must rescue Cassie from him, show her the truth about who her grandfather really is. Hopefully, her biological connection to him will keep her safe for now. Solomon believes she’s safe. Hopefully, West won’t be able to do what I really fear—turn her against me. I don’t think I could handle it if Cassie joined him, or if she came to kill me herself. That would be the day of my death. I can’t imagine myself trying to stop her.
I round a corner, still ascending through the building with a hundred plague monsters behind me. I’ll soon reach the roof and run out of room. I contemplate the possibility of leaping from the top of this building to an adjacent roof. I might make it. I might not. One thing is for sure. I can’t stay here.
Then, James Solomon is standing in front of me with a panicked look in his eyes.
“Jonathan! Thank the gods, I’ve found you!”
He holds out his arms as though to embrace me. I run straight for him, feeling an amazing amount of relief at his sudden appearance. It’s not like I couldn’t use a hug right now, but I’m hoping for a bit more assistance here.
Solomon gathers me to himself. The pursuing monsters come around the corner after me. I feel the electric charge of Solomon’s power. A whirl of light sweeps around us. The building, with its terrors, vanishes. This man has saved me from Brody West for the second time in my life.
Brody throws a concussion, battering the plague monsters like a wave, knocking them back. However, the effect is short-lived. While many of the creatures are momentarily down, he whips his hand over his head, creating a minor vortex that envelopes Cassie, Garth, Holly, and himself, sweeping them away from the street through a portal.
They appear several miles away on another darkened street of London. The scene is dreary and not much different besides the absence of monsters. The block of flats has been replaced by office buildings and a nearby pub with patio chairs overturned and most of its front windows shattered.
“We’ve got to keep moving!” Brody shouts.
The others look around them as Brody starts running down the damp street toward one of the abandoned businesses. There are no creatures to be seen.
“Grandfather?” Garth shouts, taking up pursuit, wondering what in the world is the matter. After all, they’ve just escaped the place where they were being attacked.
Cassie and Holly run after them, not quite as quick as Garth. A whirl of light flashes from the place where they were standing just a moment ago—from the place where they appeared on the street. One after the other, plague monsters come through the same portal, hitting the pavement, still charging after them.
Holly turns her weapon on them, firing the submachine gun in a sporadic spray of bullets that does little to stop their attackers coming after them.
Garth draws his sword, Malak-esh coming to life with power in his hand. “How did they follow us?” he shouts ahead.
“No time to explain,” Brody calls back. “These things can activate the trace elements left by portals.
Brody stops in the street. “Get behind me!”
As the others gather behind him, Brody thrusts his hands towards the creatures, flames leaping away at his bidding to engulf the first wave of pursuers. The others dodge away, but keep coming.
Brody then aims his flames at the road, sweeping a wide arc in both directions to encompass his group all around. The creatures gather on the other side of this wall of fire. Gnashing their teeth, they growl and bark calls back and forth among themselves, looking for a way through to their prey.
“They’ve stopped,” Holly observes, still holding her gun on the beasts.
“I don’t think it will hold them for long,” Garth says, keeping Malak-esh ready should one of the creatures break through the flames.
Brody feels a tingling energy sweep over his body—an energy that isn’t coming from him. He turns to find Cassie hyperventilating beside him. Waves of power roll away from her, invisible to the naked eye, but easily discerned by Brody’s Superomantic senses.
Her fear is generating a power she cannot control, and the breaking point is approaching fast.
“Cassie,” Brody says, holding her by her shoulders, trying to calm her down. “You have to stop this.”
She looks into his eyes, the terror written on her face. A hushed reply escapes her trembling lips. “I can’t.”
Then Garth is upon them, searching Cassie’s expression. “Holly, take hold of her!”
Understanding dawns on her face, and she rushes over, pushing her weapon behind her back on its strap as she takes hold of Cassie’s arm.
“What are you doing?” Brody shouts as the buzzing energy resounds all around them, drowning out everything else.
“Hold on to her!” Garth calls back.
Without understanding, Brody takes hold of Cassie’s shoulders again. Her eyes roll back into her head. He wonders if she is about to lose consciousness. The tingling energy builds to a peak, coursing over them all.
The plague monsters leap through the flames, taking their chances on getting through fast enough to survive. Brody turns back to look, feeling that he must disengage and deal with their attackers.
“Don’t let go!” he calls as the mounting pressure builds in their ears, blocking out all sound.
The release of Cassie’s pent up power comes like a thunderclap. White hot fire rolls away from her in a wave that destroys everything it contacts. The light threatens to blind them. Brody can’t see anything that’s happening around them.
Sound returns in a rush, like a vacuum suddenly filled again. White fire rolls away and diminishes, leaving only devastation around them. Brody opens his eyes, surveying the scene. One moment the creatures were rushing to kill them. Now, these have been reduced to ash and scattered with the shockwave of Cassie’s power.
Cassie hangs limp in their arms, on the verge of unconsciousness. They hold her up to keep her from falling to the pavement in a daze. Her energies are spent.
The street has been scoured of every predator. Only Brody, Garth, Holly, and Cassie remain. The only survivors are those in physical contact with the girl.
“Thank you for telling me,” Brody says to Garth.
“She’s done this before,” Holly says. “A similar situation when we were surrounded by zombies.”
“These beasts are the zombies you are referring to,” Brody says. “This is the next phase in their evolution—the next phase in the disease. It’s changing them into these creatures.”
“You mean all of the people infected with this virus are going to mutate into these things?” Garth asks.
In reply to his question, sparks leap from the air not far behind them. The same whirl of light that delivered the other creatures brings even more. The portal is activating again.
“We’ve got company,” Holly says.
Brody holds up Cassie while Garth draws his sword.
Holly whips her assault rifle around aiming it at the group of the creatures coming through after them. More than a dozen come through in seconds and charge at them once more.
Sparks of blue light race past their group from behind, hitting the creatures one by one, freezing each in place, translucent ice washing over them. All eyes turn to find two individuals, a woman and a young man standing behind them. The blue lights leap away from her fingertips like sparkling diamonds, each time turning the monsters into statues frozen to the pavement.
“The portal, Asha,” the young man says, pointing at the origin of the creatures.
The woman wastes not a second, pulling at the air with gestures that translate her power. A dome of ice crackles and builds itself from the ground up, completely encompassing the portal construct being used by the creatures to keep up their pursuit. As more monstrosities come through, the light of the portal still flashing within the ice dome, they find themselves trapped in a prison of ice.
Holly turns her gun on the woman, but the boy whips a finger at her that pulls the gun out of her hand, tossing it yards away into the street.
“That’s gratitude,” he says to the woman.
Brody pays the exchange little attention, however. He hasn’t taken his eyes off the woman since he saw her intervene. He has no idea who she is, or her companion, but clearly they aren’t from around here.
“Isaac, please,” Asha says. “We are the ones who need their help.”
“No,” Brody says, interjecting. “I do thank you for your assistance. Holly was just being cautious. We’ve had a bit of a rough time over the past few minutes.”
Asha smiles at him. “We know,” she says.
“I suspected you might,” Brody says. “Which leaves me with a great many questions. Is there someplace we might go to discuss them?”
The young man, Isaac, looks at Asha, shaking his head vigorously. “Not there,” he insists.
Asha gives him a perturbed look.
“We don’t know if we can trust them,” Isaac reminds her.
She appears to consider it.
“Your companion is correct, Asha is it?” Brody inquires. “You can’t trust strangers, so we should retire to a different location and become acquainted. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Behind them, the plague monsters roar furiously, beating their fists against the ice barrier barring their way. They rake their claws in anger and frustration, but cannot find a way of getting through the thick dome Asha has created around them and the portal they are using. More and more come through, but only to join their fellow creatures in the prison of ice.
Garth watches the exchange between Brody and the woman. “Grandfather, how do we know we can trust them?”
“Again, we don’t. However,” he says turning to look at Asha once again, “saving our lives is a good place to start.”
Asha glances at Isaac. “Take us to one of the old places,” she says. “We will talk.”
Reluctantly, Isaac complies. The others watch as the young man completes a gesture with one hand. By the time he is finished, the street in London has been replaced with completely different location. Pavement has been replaced with moss and short grass. Buildings have become monolithic stones stacked in a unique yet mysterious arrangement.
Brody’s eyes widen under the star-filled sky, and a smile brightens his face. “Stonehenge.”
I am grateful for the sudden and unexpected appearance of my recent benefactor, James Solomon. His arrival on the scene no doubt saved my life, yet again. However, it is Brody West’s arrival and his demand that his creatures kill me that plagues my thoughts now.
“He was so close,” I say, pacing the spacious room where Solomon transported us only moments ago.
We have traveled from London to another destination I’m uncertain of. The building looks like a castle, elegantly appointed and grand in all its construction. A roaring fire blazes in a hearth large enough for a grown man to walk upright within it. Tapestries adorn the walls, depicting scenes from centuries ago. Some I recognize, most of them I do not.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Solomon says from his leather chair before the fireplace. “I can only assume West countermanded my spell somehow in order to separate us while in transit.”
While he puzzles over how the man was able to divert me from Solomon’s intended destination to that hellish place in London, I grow more frustrated by my own failure at the scene.
I stop in front of him. “I almost had him,” I complain. “I should have killed him when I had the chance. Then all of this mess would be over.”
James Solomon stands, placing a comforting hand upon my shoulder. “Killing him will be harder than you think,” he says. “West may be a villain, but he is also an extremely powerful Superomancer—one of the Sons of Anarchy.”
I give him a quizzical look at the title.
“It means he was born of the Fallen—the son of an angel and a human woman,” Solomon explains. “He may be the most powerful descendant still living.”
“I had my hands on him,” I say. “He mentioned my parents—mentioned how he killed them and how he would do the same to me.”
“Like I said, he’s a villain, and he wants to destroy your family line, Jonathan. I believe he will stop at nothing to get to you. He’ll try again to take you from me, to separate us so I can’t protect you from whatever he has in store.”
“Let him try,” I reply under my breath. “I’ll make him pay for what he’s done.”
Solomon sighs, turning to look at the fire. “You’re not powerful enough, yet.”
Remembering what he said about my father, earlier, I seize upon a chance at revenge. “You mentioned that my father was able to kill with a touch.”
“Actually, I said your grandfather,” Solomon replies. “When he touched an individual, he was able to alter their internal chemistry to such a degree that they died. He could stop a person’s heart while shaking their hand.”
I grin now. “Is there any possibility that I possess this same power?”
Solomon returns my grin. “Perhaps. However, I’ve considered a proposal by Gregor to use my political connections to get more help. If the humans understand the role Brody West has played in this debacle, then they will hunt him down.”
“But if he is so powerful, then what good can humans really do?” I counter. “This is something we should handle ourselves.”
Solomon nods approvingly. “An excellent point, Jonathan. You are a wise young man. You see to the heart of the matter.”
I appreciate the man’s compliments, but how to accomplish the task of stopping Brody West still eludes me. The risk to Cassie, as well as the risk to my relationship with her weighs heavily upon my mind. I don’t want her to hate me when all is said and done, but someone must show her the truth. Someone must stop Brody West.
“Maybe we should pray about this,” I interject.
Solomon’s expression turns sour for a moment, before his smile returns.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. “You believe in God, don’t you, James?”
Solomon sighs, turning away from me. “Oh, I believe in Him,” he says after a moment.”
“Then surely, the Lord can help us figure out how to stop someone as wicked as Brody West,” I reply. “He’s destroying people’s lives.”
Solomon turns to me again with a placating expression. “It’s not as simple as all that,” he says. “The Almighty doesn’t deal with Descendants in the way He deals with normal humans.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We’re not like mortals,” Jonathan. “He doesn’t show the same care for Descendants. After all, we are related to those who rebelled against Him in the beginning.”
“But we’re also human,” I argue. “And Jesus died for all mankind upon the cross. I placed my faith in Jesus when I was just a boy.”
Solomon’s expression darkens at this, giving me pause. “Is there some problem with my faith, James?”
“No problem at all, Jonathan,” he says. “I’m not here to quip about theological differences. It has been my desire only to protect you from West, and to offer you my wisdom regarding your heritage and the power you possess. Like you said, if you can learn to tap into that power, then you will be able to stop Brody West from ruining any more lives.”
I feel pressure in my head again and shake it a bit trying to find relief.
“Is there some problem, Jonathan?” he asks. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“I just wish this throbbing pain in my temples would go away. It started when I was in London and those things attacked me.”
“What do you think is causing it?” Solomon asks.
“I have no idea,” I reply. “All I can say for sure is that it gets better when I’m fighting. Every time I went after one of those monsters, the pain subsided. The same thing even happened when I struck back at Brody West.”
Solomon begins to pace around, as though he is scrutinizing me. “You may indeed have abilities trying to emerge. This pain you’re experiencing probably represents the power you are suppressing.”
“So, what do I do?”
“If fighting releases that power and diminishes your pain, then you must continue to fight until all of your suppressed ability is unleashed.” He smiles to himself. “I imagine you will have to be in real peril before the process can occur. You must really need to fight to survive. Every time the pressure builds, you must do your best in order to release it.”
“But what about West?” I ask, rubbing at my right temple.
“Only when you have unleashed all your latent power will you be able to defeat Brody West,” Solomon says. “And when you do, you will be able to save your friend, Cassie, and the others with her from certain doom at his hands. Surely, you must realize West cares for no one but himself. It is only his desire to use the girl to get to you that keeps her alive.”
I listen to this in astonishment. “But she’s his granddaughter. He wouldn’t—”
“Jonathan,” Solomon says, staring me in the face, “I’ve not yet told you why the girl and her brother were orphaned.”
I know what he is about to tell me, but it seems too terrible to consider. I want to hear the truth, but I don’t.
“Brody West killed his own daughter and her husband,” Solomon said. “They tried to stop his plans for this plague, just like your father did. In fact, Cole and Adolf were the best of friends. But West killed them anyway. He didn’t stop there. He killed their daughter, as well, when she tried to stop him. She was the mother of your friends.”
“What a monster,” I reply in my astonishment. “His own family.”
Solomon nods. “He is a beast, just like the angel that sired him.”
“And who was that?” I ask.
“His name is Southresh,” Solomon replies. “A twisted, malevolent spirit if ever there was one. He is often referred to as the mad god. His offspring is just like him, and he must be destroyed. You must be the one to do this, Jonathan.”
I nod my head, the pressure welling up again as I think about Brody West and all the terrible crimes he has committed against my family, his own family, and all of humanity. “He must die,” I say under my breath, and the pressure in my head eases once again.
Brody breathes in the predawn mist with satisfaction. The very air tingles with latent magical activity. This was once a connection between worlds, a transport hub of vast capacity to all the realms upon the spiritual plane. At least, it was a millennia ago.
By the time Brody was born, Stonehenge only housed one such portal to and from the realm of Greystone. A place of perpetual twilight, Greystone was once inhabited by the great race of vampires known as the Breed. He remembers his friend Charlotte, a vampire who had been introduced to him by Oliver James.
Memories of his loved ones come flooding into his mind. Tears well in his eyes for a moment, but he wipes them away, choosing not to remember the people lost to him in this war. He has more important matters to attend at the moment, and his nostalgia will have to wait. Oliver, Tom, Charlotte, his beautiful Sophia and Sadie, Cole, and the others are gone. Despite all his power as one of the Sons of Anarchy, there is no way to bring them back and no possibility of returning to days gone by when they fought this war together.
He feels very much alone. Brody has his grandchildren, of course, but they hardly know him and have no real understanding of the greater conflict raging around them, a conflict that spans thousands of years. A conflict he fears he will not be able to win. After all, the chief protagonist in this battle between Descendants and the Fallen is Lucifer himself, and Brody has enough understanding of God’s word to know this archenemy of the Lord will not be defeated by anyone except Jesus Christ.
Still, he feels little choice but to go on fighting. Perhaps, he might only save the lives of his precious grandchildren. Perhaps, and he hates to consider it, he will not even be able to save them. All he can do is try.
“Are you all right?” Asha says, pulling him from wistful thoughts.
Brody smiles, raking a sleeve across his cheek, hoping the woman hasn’t seen his tears, but knowing she probably has. “Yes, of course.” He turns to look at the stones set in their familiar ring. “This is still a place of power.”
“Yes,” she agrees, “and a place of memories?”
Brody blushes. “Yes.”
Asha places a hand upon Brody’s arm. “We have all lost people in this conflict. There is no shame in keeping their memories alive in our hearts.”
For a moment, he thinks he might almost permit himself a few more tears. Then, he relents, nodding to the woman. “But the present matter is more pressing, and I have many questions for you and your friend.”
The others survey the ruin, evidently content to let Brody conduct this interview with the two individuals who arrived just in time to help them escape. Tensions are a bit more relaxed at the knowledge they are far from London and the horde of creatures festering there. These may be strangers to them, but at least they appear to be on the same side.
Brody wastes no time. “Clearly, you are Descendants, so I’ll not bother with asking your clans,” he says. “What I really want to know is where you came from and how did you know to come and help us back in London?”
“We currently dwell with many others of our kind upon the spiritual plane,” Asha says.
“But the realms of the spiritual plane were all destroyed many years ago,” Brody interjects. “I was there when it happened. There’s nothing left.”
“There was nothing left,” Isaac says, interrupting. “We built Haven after.”
“Isaac speaks truth,” Asha confirms. “The spiritual plane is inhabited once again, if not to the vast degree it was before. Haven is a construct city formed from that which was left after the great calamity you speak of. Many thousands of Descendants now call Haven their home, including Isaac and myself.”
“Haven,” Brody says to himself.
“Sounds a little like Heaven,” Cassie observes.
Brody grins. “Well, I had no idea there were so many of us left, and I certainly never guessed that another city had been constructed upon the spiritual plane. I feel like I’ve missed so much.”
“You have,” Isaac says bluntly.
Asha is more gentle with the subject. “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to you all these years. Descendants looked for leadership after the destruction of our worlds. Your influence was well-known to most of us, but after everything happened you just seemed to have abandoned us.”
Brody clears his throat. “I can assure you I did not abandon anyone,” he says. “After I killed Adolf Hitler—the real Adolf—I followed his wife through a portal. She was carrying this plague he created and she was also carrying Adolf’s child.”
“Go on,” Asha says.
“The portal, as it turns out, was a time-stop.”
“A what?” Garth asks.
“A portal that holds you in suspension,” Isaac interjects. “You aren’t deposited directly at your destination. The portal holds you. You barely age while you’re within it. Amazing construct, if you ask me.”
“We didn’t,” Asha says, scolding her young companion.
“It’s alright,” Brody says. “You’re correct, Isaac.”
Isaac’s face brightens in triumph.
“Adolf’s wife and child and myself were kept in suspended animation within the portal until the turn of the millennium,” Brody explains. “When the woman emerged, she was near to be delivered of her child. I followed her.”
“Did you kill her?” Cassie asks.
“I did not,” Brody assures her. “However, due to complications, she did not survive long after giving birth. Her son, however, did. I watched him and even considered ending his life, but I couldn’t do it.”
“Who was the child?” Holly asks.
Brody looks at Cassie. “I think, perhaps, you already know.”
“Jonathan,” Cassie says quietly.
“Jonathan,” Brody confirms. “And he was also carrying this plague in his blood, as we now know.”
They stand together silently for a moment, each considering the implications of Brody’s action, or rather inaction.
“If it’s any consolation, Grandfather,” Cassie says, “I’m glad you didn’t destroy Jonathan.”
“But so many have died,” Isaac says.
“It wasn’t Jonathan’s fault,” Holly says. “He couldn’t help his own birth, and he didn’t know the plague was in his blood. For that matter, he wasn’t the one to start this. He was viciously attacked by another boy.”
Brody returns her a wan smile. “Well, it’s too late now.”
“Actually, I’m more concerned with the damage he might still do,” Asha says.
“What do you mean?” Cassie asks.
“He’s with James Solomon,” Isaac says.
“And that is?” Brody asks.
“Only the head of the Syndicate,” Isaac says, “and one of the most powerful Superomancers left alive.”
“He is the one who attacked you in the streets of London,” Asha adds.
Eyes widening, Brody responds quickly. “That man was no man at all. He isn’t a Descendant, he’s one of the Fallen.”
Asha and Isaac look at one another, surprised by his statement.
Brody continues, nodding in his eagerness to convey this truth. “I hit this James Solomon with a brutal lightning attack. He didn’t shield himself, or divert the energy. He just stood there and took it right in the chest without blinking.”
Asha and Isaac give each other looks of concern.
“No mortal could take that kind of abuse upon their body,” Brody says. “Not even the most powerful Superomancer living.”
“Which is probably you,” Isaac says. “That’s why we need your help.”
“I don’t understand,” Brody replies, looking at them with a curious expression.
“James Solomon, whether an angel or mortal, has been trying to breach the wards upon Haven for some time,” Asha says. “He controls a great many of the Breed with the aid of his vampire associate, Gregor Malakov. Many years now, his army has attempted invasion. So far, we have repelled them, but our ability to maintain these powerful wards will not last against Solomon’s continued attacks.”
“And its imperative that we defend against him, if he really is one of the Fallen,” Isaac adds.
“So, where do I come into this equation?” Brody asks. “I’m incapable of repelling one of the Fallen. Their power is far beyond any mortal’s.”
“We have many fine Superomancers to help you, Brody,” Asha says. “And you have something none of us does.”
“Malak-esh,” Brody says, understanding dawning upon his face. “You want me to use Malak-esh to fortify your wards.”
“What better way to defend against one of the Fallen than with the only weapon which is able to defeat them?” Asha says. “If Solomon breaks through our wards, he will no doubt send forth not only Malakov’s Breed army but these new abominations as well. He means to destroy Haven.”
“But why?” Holly asks.
Asha glances at her, but remains focused upon Brody for her explanation. “When we believed him only to be another ambitious Descendant, gathering power for himself in the world, his motives meant more. However, if he is one of the Fallen—”
“His motive might be nothing more than pure malevolence,” Brody says, finishing her thought. “I see your point.”
He looks at his grandchildren and Holly. “I have to help them,” he says. “Descendants are my people.”
“Our people,” Garth adds to everyone’s surprise. “And, if one sword can make these wards stronger then, surely, two would be added value to whatever you intend to do.”
Brody smiles at him. “I suppose you’re right.”
“Then we should return to Haven posthaste,” Isaac says, eager to be away from the mortal plane.
“If you open a portal here, it might be used by Solomon to jump through after us with his army,” Brody says.
“Oh, we aren’t returning from here,” Isaac says.
“It is impossible for us to return to Haven from any location save one,” Asha explains.
“Then you must have an established portal somewhere,” Brody surmises. “Where is it?”
“At a warded location,” Asha replies. “Isaac will transport us. The spell to go through will require both he and I to be present.”
“Then I suggest we waste no more time,” Brody says, preparing to be whisked away to the place where he will find what wonders his fellow Descendants have conjured from the ruins of those once great realms now destroyed.
Cassie interrupts before Isaac raises his hand to perform the gesture that will transport them. “What about Jonathan?”
All eyes fall upon the teenage girl in their midst.
“Surely, Grandfather, you haven’t forgotten about why we went back to London,” she says, entreating him. “You tracked Jonathan to that building, and we were about to rescue him when that angel attacked us.”
“Cassie—” he begins, trying to explain the circumstances.
“He’s still there,” she implores. “We can’t just leave him.”
“Cassie,” Asha says, attempting to reason with her. “Jonathan is with James Solomon.”
“How do you know that?” she asks in an accusing tone. “How do you know anything about any of us?”
“We’ve been watching you all from beyond the veil,” Isaac says. “We’ve seen Jonathan.”
“Then why not rescue him while we have the chance?” she pleads.
“Because, at the moment, we don’t have that chance,” Brody says, drawing everyone’s attention. “If I’m not mistaken, it must be this James Solomon, one of the Fallen, who spirited Jonathan away from that cell inside the GCHQ building in Gloucestershire before we could get to him there. That means he had a purpose in taking him, and we don’t yet know what that is. We cannot simply run headlong into a battle with an angel and expect to save him.”
“But you have Malak-esh, and so does Garth,” Cassie argues. “Use them to destroy the angel.”
“It’s just not that simple,” Brody says. “We need to regroup and come up with a viable plan. It sounds like Asha and Isaac have more information on this James Solomon persona the angel is using. We should take the time to learn more about him before we charge in foolishly. After all, the goal is to rescue Jonathan, not get him or us killed in the process through haste.”
Hot tears run down Cassie’s cheeks, flowing as much from anger and frustration as sorrow at Jonathan’s loss. She sighs after a moment, resigning herself to the circumstances as they stand. “But you do still intend to rescue him?”
Brody nods. “We will do our best, Cassie. I can promise you that.”
“We should get to Haven as soon as possible,” Isaac says, holding Asha’s gaze with a concerned look.
“So, where is this portal we have to use?” Garth asks.
“We required providing unique characteristics—the ability to focus energy in an efficient way,” Isaac explains.
Garth gives him a curious look. “So, we’re going where?”
With a grin, Isaac says, “Next stop, Paris.”
It is not James Solomon who guides me to the next site I am meant to tour. Gregor Malakov, for all intents and purposes a Russian soldier, directs our path onto what appears to be a freight elevator, descending into the bowels of the Earth. James Solomon said he intends for me to train with Gregor and his men. If I am to tackle the problem of Brody West, then I must learn how to use my abilities more efficiently. According to Solomon, Malakov is just the man for the job.
The Russian vampire does not speak to me on the way down. He did not speak to me during the car ride to this location. Curious that a vampire would be riding in a Mercedes Benz driven by a hired man, but that’s exactly what it was. No portals like James Solomon might conjure. Just good old fashioned mortal transportation like every other nobody on the planet.
To tell the truth, it is a little disappointing. I was expecting more from someone working for a powerful man like James Solomon, not to mention the fact that Malakov is a vampire—beings I have always considered to be myths. These days, in a Twilight pop-culture, I consider asking the Russian if he sparkles in the sunlight. But that’s probably a bad idea. He doesn’t appear to have the temperament for jokes about his blood sucking nature.
I have many questions on my mind, but most of them don’t have anything to do with the fact that I’m currently riding down an elevator with a vampire. I’m thinking about what Solomon has already told me, like that my father was Adolf Hitler. That freaks me out because every time I’ve ever heard the name it has conjured in my mind images of a wildly gesticulating man shouting in German to his Nazi followers. I think about a man with a ridiculous square mustache. I think about a man who wanted to eradicate the Jewish people, establish a master Aryan race, and take over the world.
However, according to James Solomon, this was not the person my father was. I mean he must have looked very similar, if the Hitler from the news reels was a surgically altered doppelganger. However, the man people associate with that name was also meant to discredit the Descendant leader who was my father. This is what James Solomon has revealed to me. My real father was set up by his enemies. He was set up by Brody West.
A question occurs to me then.
“Why hasn’t James Solomon killed Brody West by now?” I ask the vampire standing in the elevator beside me.
He doesn’t answer at first, but I’m tired of the games people play, so I ask him again.
He gives me a sidelong glance. Gregor is annoyed by my inquiry. Maybe he’s even annoyed enough to actually speak to me. After all, in a way, maybe I’ve insulted Solomon by the question. I’ve definitely inferred that he should have destroyed West already, if he could destroy West. I’m really hoping for a little team spirit on Malakov’s part, at least enough to pry his mouth open long enough to tell me off.
“West is a powerful Descendant,” he says finally.
“I thought Solomon was pretty powerful, too,” I reply. “And what about you? You’ve got all these vampires working for you, right? Some sort of army?”
“You don’t always win a battle with numbers,” he says. “And Solomon is extremely powerful. Much more than you or I.”
There it is—go team! He doesn’t like the implication that West is too powerful for his master. But, hey, at least he’s talking now. Maybe he’ll give me insights I didn’t get from Solomon.
“Like I said, why hasn’t Solomon finished him off then?”
Malakov exhales heavily through flaring nostrils. “Brody West is one of the most powerful Superomancers alive,” Gregor says. “Vampires are not Superomancers. We are strong and fast—good hunters. We don’t possess the kind of abilities West does.”
“What kinds of abilities?” I ask.
“West is the spawn of Southresh,” Gregor says.
“What exactly does that mean?”
“Southresh’s elemental power is fire,” Gregor continues. “West could burn you to ash.”
I nod my head, feeling a few beads of sweat break out on my upper lip. “I guess that’s pretty good.”
Gregor barks a little laugh. “Good, he says.” He garbles a curse in Russian under his breath. I have no idea what he’s just said, but it probably means he thinks I’m an idiot.
Now he faces me. “He can shape-shift, become different kinds of animals great and small. He can teleport. He can conjure all manner of energy attacks and he can shield himself, as well. Those are just a few that come to mind, child. I’m sure there are others, and those are not even his greatest advantage.”
“West possesses an unparalleled weapon—a sword with the power to thwart any kind of energy attack.”
I consider all he has told me for a moment. Obviously, I don’t have the kind of power West does. It doesn’t sound like I could even touch him without being turned into a smoking cinder.
“What if someone stole the sword? Would he be vulnerable to someone using it against him?” I ask.
“No,” he says flatly.
I wait a moment for more information but he doesn’t offer it. “Why wouldn’t he be vulnerable?” I ask, feeling a bit exasperated. Killing Brody West can’t be impossible, can it?
“Only he can wield that sword,” Gregor says. “Even if you managed to steal it somehow, it would only return to West. The sword is connected to him by blood. It knows its master and will not serve another.”
By the time the elevator doors open, I’m feeling completely hopeless. How can I kill the man I must kill? Is there no way to defeat him? I ask Gregor this very question before we step out together.
“Brawn is not the only weapon we have,” he says. “Solomon will find a way to destroy West. He may be powerful, but he also has weaknesses we can exploit. His grandchildren for one.”
I don’t like the sound of this one bit. He’s referring to Cassie and Garth. Surely, Mister Solomon doesn’t have plans to harm them. I wouldn’t allow that, and he knows it.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I ask, looking for clarification. “I won’t be a part of anything that would hurt Cassie and Garth.”
“But you would like to get them away from Brody West?” Gregor asks.
“Yes, of course,” I answer.
“By getting them away from him, we would both save them from his influence and make him think they were in danger if he did not surrender himself,” he explains, raising an eyebrow at me, tapping his temple with his index finger. “You see?” he says. “We may be unequal in many ways, but a powerful mind is stronger than the mightiest opponent.”
I can’t help smiling at that. He had a good point. Wish I had thought of it. At any rate, Gregor makes good sense and my faith in Solomon is instantly restored. Rather than hurting my friends, we would save them from the one who has destroyed my family. We can save Cassie and Garth before West decides to harm them himself.
When we step out of the elevator, it feels like Gregor and I have made some sort of connection through our discussion. Maybe, vampires aren’t the vicious creatures created by man’s myths and legends. Maybe, the movies are wrong about them. Then, the doors to this underground training facility part before us, and I realize myths are not as wrong as I might hope.
The first sight I lay my eyes upon is what appears to be a climbing wall. At least, this is my impression because of the number of vampires scaling it. However, there are no hand-holds to be found anywhere on the concrete edifice. These Breed soldiers are practically running on all fours up and down a sheer wall. It’s like watching a bunch of spiders, and they’re fighting one another in the process.
Men in black fatigues—all of them are wearing the same uniform—leap from one wall to another not far away. The only difference between these teams are the armbands, some yellow and others red, worn around their biceps. They fly at one another, clawing, kicking, and punching each other with terrible ferocity. Some fall away from their wall while their opponents move on to the next combatant.
It’s pretty brutal stuff. I spot severe wounds on one fallen man. He’s bleeds for a moment. Then, the wounds close up and the bleeding stops. I guess they have a similar healing factor working for them like I do. The wounded vampire springs back to the wall, entering the fray again.
“Am I supposed to do all of that?” I ask, feeling a little apprehensive about jumping into the midst of a bunch of vampires.
“Mr. Solomon has expressed his desire for you to train with the Breed,” Gregor replies, grinning noticeably.
He looks like he can’t wait for me to take on some of his soldiers. Maybe he is smarting after I beat down one of his men in Solomon’s office, or maybe he’s unhappy with the favor his master has shown me since my arrival among them. Either way, I get the feeling training isn’t exactly what Gregor Malakov is most concerned with here.
A hand claps my shoulder then, surprising me since there was no one in the elevator with us. I turn my head to find James Solomon standing there behind us. He is dressed in a finely tailored suit, as seems to be usual for him.
“I’m sorry, Jonathan but I’m afraid Gregor’s instruction will have to wait,” he says.
Malakov shoots him a curious look.
“Something has happened,” Solomon says, “and we must act fast if we are to make the most of our opportunity.”
Minutes later, I am whisked away with Gregor Malakov and his host of tactically outfitted vampires. James Solomon conveys our team of hundreds toward a gate within the facility. Only the gate doesn’t appear to go anywhere. It just stands like a frame against the concrete wall. I stand with Malakov at the head of the group, waiting like everyone else for James Solomon to make clear our intentions. He waits for our assembly to form up and quiet down before speaking.
“Brody West has been located by one of our scouts in Paris,” he begins. “Clearly, my network of detection spells has paid off. He and his group triggered one at Stonehenge, and our scout was able to follow them through their portal to Paris. I suspect this will be West’s attempt to escape this world with your friends. If that happens then we may never be able to rescue Jonathan’s friends.”
We can’t let West go. There is no time for any training on my part. We have to catch up with West and save Cassie, Garth, and Holly. And I must kill Brody West, although I have no idea how I am going to accomplish what seems to be such a monumental task. Still, West killed my parents. I want to be the one to take his life.
My mind buzzes with every word Solomon says, which is weird because my head is literally hurting. This is just like earlier when my anger burned for the monsters under West’s control. My vision blurs as I listen to Solomon’s instructions.
The tension in the room is high. We’re going to intercept West in Paris, hopefully before it’s too late to rescue my friends. With a motion, Solomon applies his great power to this underground gate, energizing it.
The space of wall within the large frame is suddenly replaced by a bright green light that quickly coalesces into a window to another place. There is light and trees and a paved road. People pass by, going in different directions. In the distance, I now see a huge structure dominating the cityscape. It’s the Eiffel Tower.
“What do you mean we can’t teleport any closer?” Brody exclaims, pointing at the tower rising over Paris. He is practically yelling at Isaac now.
Asha tries to intervene, placing her hand on Brody’s shoulder. “It’s complicated,” she says. “It’s meant to be complicated to keep enemies away from the entry point.”
Brody sighs in his exasperation. “You realize we’re being followed.”
“That’s impossible,” Isaac counters.
“Are you certain?” Asha asks, ignoring Isaac’s protest.
Brody ignores the young man, focusing on Asha. “I felt someone reopen the portal construct leading away from Stonehenge.”
“I didn’t notice anything,” Isaac says. “After all, I’m the one who activated the portal in the first place.”
Brody looks at him. He has no desire to get into the details of his own abilities or the depth of his power in comparison with Isaac. As talented as he may be, he doesn’t appear to comprehend how much difference there is between himself and one of the Sons of Anarchy.
Asha, on the other hand, considers Brody’s warning carefully. “What should we do, stand and fight?”
“Considering James Solomon’s true identity, I think that would be a bad idea,” Brody says.
“We should get to the portal now,” Garth adds. “If they can’t breach the barrier to Haven then that’s probably our only hope of getting away from this angel.”
Brody and Asha nod together.
Isaac, looking defeated, finally concedes to the notion that his portal nexus has allowed their enemy to find them and probably guess the identity of the gateway into Haven.
“Let’s hurry then,” he says.
“What is it, a mile away?” Holly ventures, shielding her eyes from the bright sunshine to gauge the distance.
“About half a mile,” Isaac offers bleakly. “We didn’t want them getting close enough to notice traffic through the gate.”
“If we are being followed, then why haven’t we been attacked?” Cassie asks.
“A lone watcher wouldn’t make himself known,” Asha replies.
“But he would certainly notify Solomon,” Brody adds. “If he shows up this is going to get ugly fast.”
“We could split up and meet at the tower,” Isaac offers. “They wouldn’t know which one of us to follow.”
Brody shakes his head. “More likely they would pick us off one by one easier that way,” he says.
“Like lions separating the young and weak from the herd,” Asha adds, watching his eyes.
Brody smiles slightly, returning her gaze for the briefest moment of recognition. “Exactly.”
“So, they want us to open the gate,” Garth says in frustration. “Maybe we shouldn’t try to go through to Haven just yet. They’re waiting on us to open it so they can also come through, right?”
“But if we wait now, and they’ve already guessed the location, then we’ll never get through,” Holly says.
“So, this is our best opportunity,” Cassie adds.
Brody starts walking toward the tower, motioning to others to follow. “We’ll have a fight on our hands, but we’ll make it,” he says. “Just be ready.”
The rest of the group follows, each checking what weapons they have on hand. Garth brushes his fingers across the pommel of his sword for reassurance. Brody turns his head to find Cassie catching up to him. He can see it in her eyes—she is going to plead once more for Jonathan.
He whips out his hand, Malak-esh appearing in his grip. He holds the sword out to his granddaughter. “Take it!”
“Your sword?” she asks, forgetting her previous question in her surprise. “But I’m not a swordsman. Garth taught me a few basics, but I’m far from his level.”
Brody smiles. “Just point the sharp end at the people trying to kill you. If they don’t run away, then hit them with it until they stop breathing.”
Despite their situation, Cassie smiles at this, taking the sword from her grandfather. “Thank you. I’ll try not to lose it.”
“As long as I live, Malak-esh will always return to me when I call,” he says.
Asha catches up to Brody. “I will weave a glamour to distract human eyes from our progress. We will need all of your power focused upon our adversary.”
He smiles weakly at her compliment. “I only wish I had the power to stop him,” he says. “Malak-esh is the only thing I know that can withhold an angel’s power.”
“Still, if God is willing…” Asha offers.
Brody smiles broadly at her now. “An excellent point,” he concedes. “Thank you, Asha, for reminding me.”
“It’s too bad Malak-esh is not a gate rather than a sword,” she says jokingly.
Brody’s eyes widen upon hearing it.
We pass through Solomon’s portal into the city of Paris. I must admit, this wasn’t what I was expecting. Nevertheless, if this is where Cassie and Garth and Holly are, then I need to rescue them and stop Brody West.
Malakov waves skyward to his vampires and immediately many begin a rapid transformation, taking on the forms of various kinds of birds. The majority appear to be ravens. They leap into the air, beating blackened wings, shedding their earthbound forms as quickly as smoke disappears on the wind.
Gregor remains with me. I don’t have this vampiric power of transformation and, apparently, the Breed commander is unwilling to let me out of his sight. Maybe, Solomon ordered him to keep an eye on me, since he hasn’t followed us through the portal.
Garth is the first to see the horde of vampires rising into the air in the form of birds. Others rush toward their location upon the ground, weaving through pedestrians on their way to and from the famous Eiffel Tower monument. The humans don’t appear to notice anything peculiar yet.
“Here they come!” Garth shouts to his companions as they run together toward the tower.
Brody finds their pursuers, noticing the same combat gear and uniforms as those who took Jonathan from the cell. Then he spots Jonathan running alongside their leader and wearing the same dark garb as the others. He can’t help but believe that Jonathan has turned against them.
There is no doubt in his mind now: a serious fight is about to erupt here below the tower in the midst of all these unsuspecting human bystanders. They might not notice the strangers among them due to the power of glamour, but when humans started dying they would all be exposed as the masses turned into a panic-stricken herd out to save themselves.
Then an idea comes to him: a way, perhaps, to save some of these innocent people before the worst happens.
“We’re going to have to split up!” Brody shouts to the others. “Asha, Isaac, and Holly, you must go on to the tower and open the portal. Keep it open until we can get there.”
“But what are you going to do?” Asha asks, ready to offer up complaint. “You said we shouldn’t split up.”
“We can’t allow all these people to die when this cuts loose,” Brody says. “However, I might be able to save them and create a nice diversion in the process to cover your progress to the tower.”
“How are you going to do that?” Garth asks, still watching the approaching army of vampires with Jonathan at the head of their ranks.
“How do you start a stampede?” Brody asks.
Holly chimes in, “Make them think they’re going to die?”
“Precisely!” Brody says, igniting a fireball between his open hands and then hurling it into a group of parked cars ahead.
The resulting explosion is anything but concealed from the human public around them. In fact, everyone for several miles hears the blast. It shatters windows for one hundred yards in every direction. It sends a massive plume of fire and black smoke rising into the air in plain view of everyone in the vicinity. And it causes all the humans to instantly flee for their lives, believing some manner of terrorist bomb has just been detonated at this historic landmark in Paris.
However, while the mortals are now aware of the danger around them, and they were running desperately to save themselves from whatever terrorist threat might be among them, they are not all running in the same direction like a herd of cattle, or a school of fish. Chaos has erupted below the Eiffel Tower.
Brody signals his companions and they break away from each other, taking varying paths towards the tower. Instead of presenting a clear target for the onrushing vampires, they are now ants rushing among a swarm of other ants, nearly indistinguishable from the crowd running from the explosion near the base of the tower.
Still, some of the vampires manage to locate them among the crowd. They fly in on the wings of dark birds, transforming themselves into warriors once again to attack. Brody pummels them with concussions and hurls lightning at them, setting many ablaze. He misses Malak-esh in his hands, but giving the sword to his granddaughter was the right thing to do. She needs its protection, and he has many other defenses at his disposal.
For his part, Garth stays close to his sister, wielding his Malak-esh with flourishes, faints and thrusts worthy of any samurai warrior. Brody looks on in admiration, though the distance is growing between him and his grandchildren as the vampires continue to attack. The resulting violence only furthers the panicked atmosphere below the looming tower.
Malakov and his vampires rush toward West and his companions. For a few moments, I spot Garth and Cassie. I wonder how I can both save them and kill Brody West. However, before I can formulate any sort of plan, an explosion rocks the area, originating with a car bomb or some such thing in one of the parking lots ahead of us. The human bystanders panic, running for their lives in every direction.
I lose sight of Cassie and the others in the ensuing chaos, but I still have West in my sights. Gregor has gone into the fray, leaving me to my own devices. I pause at a parking meter sitting atop its metal post fitted into the concrete sidewalk. Realizing this might be my last opportunity to save Cassie, I tear the meter and post from the concrete in a sudden burst of berserker like rage.
With my crude weapon in hand, I stalk West through the raging crowd of swarming humans, keeping his back to me until I am close enough to strike. He turns as I rush him, a pale light flashing with his sudden ignition of electrical discharge. I catch the odor of ozone and something burning as the charge connects with my metal post, but I do not falter.
The blow glances him. Despite his late defense, the glass casing on the parking meter shatters upon impact with his left side. I feel something in him give way, hear the snap of bone. I’ve not done the damage I hoped, but I’ve definitely wounded the man.
Brody falls to the side, bracing himself against a parked vehicle. Only then does he find, a look of astonishment and regret upon his face at the realization. It seems he cannot believe who has gotten the better of him.
I cry out, coming at him again while his own bewilderment has him tamed. A shield of some kind, air vibrating at terrible frequency to produce a bubble around him, comes between us, blocking my assault. I do not relent, hammering at it in my fury with the steel post and battered mechanism.
“If only you had been strong enough to kill me when you killed my mother!”
I’m screaming now, unleashing all the hate I hold in my heart for my mother’s murderer. It’s quite simple: I want Brody West to pay for her life with his own. I mean to exact this price personally.
I had no idea when coming through Solomon’s portal how I might ever accomplish my revenge upon West. My ambition appeared completely out of reach. How easily a simple flanking maneuver with a basic sucker punch takes down the mighty.
His shield holds, but I can see the pain on his face. His breathing is ragged and shallow, that much I can see through the intensely vibrating air current protecting him. No doubt I’ve fractured several ribs with my initial blow. There might even be a punctured lung involved. He is growing weaker by the second.
The buzzing in my brain is at a fever pitch now, spurring on my anger and determination to end this man’s life. For all he has done to me and my family, for all he might still do to my friends, I will end him. The pressure and pain in my head are held at bay as long as I continue to batter his defenses.
Then his bubble of air bursts outward. I’m flying backward through the air, my makeshift pipe still in my hand. I smash into another parked car about thirty yards from West. I land on the vehicle like a wrecking ball, but I barely feel the pain. My healing ability is set to maximum burn. He won’t stop me that easily.
Around us, people continue to run. The vampires are fighting with others, trying with difficulty to overcome the others in West’s party. I’m vaguely aware that two of them fighting Malakov’s Breed soldiers are Cassie and Garth. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to care much about this fact. The pressure in my head urges me back to the matter of killing Brody West.
The man is on his feet, backing away, holding one hand on his left side, blood seeping through his clothing to run in rivulets over his fingers. I pursue him at a run, wielding my makeshift weapon. Lightning bursts from his fingers, some of it hitting me, most of it finding conductors in nearby objects that suck most of the energy of the attack away. I barely notice the tetanus in my muscles as the electrical charge seeks to halt my progress. I do not stop.
Clouds gather overhead, terrible purple mountains that blot out the sun. The wind increases to a gale in seconds. All these portents only serve to fuel my desire to kill him. Could I be causing this? I wonder at it, but I don’t know and really don’t care. West will be mine in seconds.
He looks terrified. He is trying to speak to me, some kind of warning, but I don’t heed it. Then, I notice resolve wash over his features. There is some measure of regret in his eyes too, but still he does not withhold.
Flames fly from points in space just beyond his fingertips. I feel the heat approaching. I falter in that microsecond before his fire envelops me. The pressure and pain in my head that urged me on relents. I realize the terrible noise I hear over the roaring flames is my own screaming. My own private Hell engulfs me.
When the fire relents, the sudden loss of that terrible burning is just as painful. It feels like I’ve been immersed in an arctic sea. The numbing chill frightens me, and I wonder if this is death claiming me. But this too passes quickly, and my pain tells me the truth again. I’m still alive, but horribly burned.
Brody backs away from the boy writhing upon the ground. The makeshift club lies on the pavement nearby warped by the heat of his counterattack upon Jonathan. He whispers to himself that he had no choice, but seeing the boy in such agony brings tears to his eyes. Never had he looked at the babe in his crib so many years ago and thought this would come to pass.
Jonathan screams in his anguish, a piercing sound that seems to command the attention of everyone on this makeshift battlefield.
“What have I done?” Brody says under his breath, gasping for air as his collapsed lung saps away his strength.
He hears Cassie screaming in the near distance and knows she has seen. Then he notices Jonathan’s burns—already they are beginning to heal, his flesh returning from blisters and black char to a sunburned appearance and finally healthy skin again. Amazing, he thinks.
Multiple peels of lightning from the gathering clouds overhead converge upon the pavement nearby. Something akin to a bomb explodes at the spot, sending people everywhere below the tower to the ground in shock. When the cascade of arcing electrical discharge dissipates, James Solomon is left standing there.
Brody collects himself, gasping for breath, noticing the angel in human form for the first time. He hears behind him calls from Asha and Isaac and Holly. They want him to hurry, but he cannot—not with these wounds so grievous. He can barely stand, barely capture air enough to keep from passing out.
Brody notices Cassie at Jonathan’s side now, cradling his head in her hands, weeping over him, her tears falling upon cheeks that continue to transform from welts and burns to soft skin once again. The boy’s screaming has subsided, but his eyes remain shut against the pain, his entire body trembling under the healing metamorphosis.
Solomon takes a lingering look at the pair upon the ground as he approaches the place where Brody lays. Jonathan’s eyes open then, beholding the man towering above them beneath the darkened sky. His expression is still pained, but curious, as though he doesn’t recognize Solomon.
The angel casts a disdainful look upon Cassie and Jonathan. “Worthless,” he says to Jonathan. “You couldn’t even manage to kill him.”
Jonathan replies in sudden fear. “Who are you?”
“He’s an angel in disguise, lying to you, Jonathan,” Cassie says angrily. “He wanted to you to hate my grandfather, wanted you to kill him.”
Solomon laughs at the girl’s accusation. “Like I said, Worthless. I’ll just have to do it myself.”
The angel turns back to Brody, a devilish grin playing upon his lips. “Time to die, Mister West.”
Brody feels hands seize him then. He looks up into the eyes of Asha at his side. But where has she come from?
“Hold on,” she says, helping him to his feet with strength he didn’t realize the woman possessed.
The world around them blurs in an instance, people slowing to a crawl as they pass through the panicked citizens still hoping to save themselves and the vampires trying to reach the Eiffel Tower and the open portal waiting with Isaac and Holly just on the other side of a translucent pane of energy.
Arcing bolts of lightning blast away from Solomon’s fingertips, the angel trying to hit a target that has suddenly become too fast to track. Brody realizes happily that Asha has been withholding the knowledge of this gift of speed. He surrenders to the pull of gravitational forces, feeling flashes of pain because of his wounds, but feeling gladness for her unexpected rescue.
They pass through the portal envelope, coming into the presence of Isaac and Holly on the other side. Brody sees sunlight all around them, finding they are upon a small grassy island in the midst of an endless sea dotted with other little islands. Hovering over this sea nearly a mile up in the sky is another massive island with what appears to be a city nestled atop it.
“Bless my soul,” Brody says in wonder at the sight.
“Haven,” Asha says in his ear, laying him upon the soft grass as the slowed speed of their surroundings becomes normal again.
Garth stands, barring Solomon’s way with Malak-esh in his hands. Bolts of energy lace the air, but surrender all their power upon impact with the sword. Vampire soldiers retreat as their master pummels the place where Garth stands just ahead of the open portal into Haven.
“Give it up, boy!” Solomon says, attempting in vain to circumvent Garth’s defense of the portal. All his great energies appear to be pulled toward the sword, absorbed by the blade called Angel Fire in the ancient language.
Garth backs toward the portal, but stops when he notices his sister in the background behind the angel-man with Jonathan. He finds drying tears upon her cheeks and a burning anger emerging in her expression. Resolve blossoms, and a sword appears in her hands, the very twin of the one Garth now uses to defend Haven’s entrance portal.
James Solomon hears Garth shout at him but the words don’t make much sense.
In that single moment, Solomon understands the girl is moving behind him. Too late he tries to turn. A blade drives through him from back to front, emerging from his breast as cleanly as a hot knife through butter.
The spirit is catapulted away from the mortal body as the sword cleaves between the two, driving the angel from its habitation. However, this angel is not forced into the bowels of Tartarus. He remains even when the body bursts into flames and falls as ash to the ground where Cassie stands holding Malak-esh.
Lucifer’s unbound power bursts forth, pushing Cassie backward. Garth, having let down his guard when his sister struck with the sword, is blown backward through the portal, nearly knocking Isaac over in the process. Asha rushes forward collapsing the portal construct before Lucifer can rush through into their world.
Brody attempts to rise, holding a hand out to the portal. “What are you doing? Cassie is still in the world!”
Asha turns to him, her expression resolute. “We cannot allow Lucifer to enter this realm,” she says. “Everyone here would be destroyed.”
I feel my skin returning to its normal state. The experience reminds me of what it might be like to have ants running all over my body. I manage to stand, trying to reach Cassie. She stands only ten feet away, but beyond her a malevolence unlike any I’ve ever known rises off the ground in translucent form.
The earlier pressure in my mind is gone now, replaced by a thrumming noise emanating from the wicked angel in our presence. James Solomon, the man, is gone. His body is already scattering as dust upon the violent wind whipping at us and everything else beneath the tower.
“Who are you?” I shout over the gale, hoping to draw the angel’s attention away from Cassie.
“I am the desolate one,” the angel intones. “Life and death are in my hand.”
The thrumming increases in volume and intensity. Light issues forth from the spirit. He looks at Cassie and laughs as she moves back to stand with me.
“Did you really believe Lucifer could be cast into outer darkness by your pitiful weapon? My time is not yet come!”
Energy swells from Lucifer’s form. Already, Malakov and his remaining vampires have taken to the sky in their bird forms, fleeing the scene in terror. Those unable to fly are running for their lives. Something terrible is about to happen, and Cassie and I are standing at ground zero.
“Hold onto the sword with me,” she says in desperation.
For whatever reason, she believes this weapon might protect us. There is no time to run. Some kind of angelic meltdown is occurring. We have no time to escape.
Lucifer screams with terrible fury, and white hot energy erupts from his hovering form. All life remaining in the area around the Eiffel Tower is vaporized instantly. The monument of peace between France and the United States still stands, a crippled and warped version of its former glory, its framework still glowing red hot when the angel disappears. In the place where Jonathan and Cassie stood a moment before there is now only scorched earth.
Brody stands with Asha’s assistance, his hands outstretched and trembling. His breaths still come in ragged gasps, though Isaac stands near working through a healing spell meant to mend bone and sinew. The blow Jonathan dealt him was severe, piercing his side with a jagged piece of metal from the head of the parking meter. Several ribs are fractured, and his left lung is punctured. His friends are surprised he can stand at all.
Fortunately, this endeavor requires no spellcasting, no use of his power. All that is necessary is his blood, or at least the recognition of his blood. The others wonder if he will be successful, doubts begin to win over their minds when nothing happens. Perhaps even Malak-esh cannot transcend the barrier that guards the realm where Haven dwells among the clouds.
Just as Brody finds himself too exhausted to continue, the sword appears. Only, it does not appear in his hand. Another holds the blade upright, or rather, two individuals are holding it together.
Cassie and Jonathan blink several times as the bright sunshine peering from behind the massive city above lights upon their faces. Seeing their friends assembled in this strange place, completely different from the scene in Paris, shocks their senses.
“Grandfather?” she asks hesitantly.
Brody lets out the breath he has been holding too long. He falters and Asha catches him before he can collapse completely. Garth rushes to his sister, but casts a wary eye upon Jonathan. Jonathan notices Brody, his condition, and the others assembled in this strange place.
“Don’t worry,” Cassie says to Garth and the others. She turns to Jonathan gauging his emotional state. “He knows Lucifer was lying to him about Grandfather, don’t you Jonathan?”
Jonathan wets his lips, suddenly aware of his predicament. He has believed the lies told him about Cassie’s grandfather, to the point he tried to kill him. Fortunately, he did not succeed. The anger he was feeling so urgently before is gone with the pressure and buzzing in his brain. Clearly, the angel was using him to do his dirty work.
“I apologize, Mister West,” he offers. “I’m not altogether sure what’s really going on, but, apparently, I’ve been led to believe a great many things that aren’t true about you.”
Brody does his best to smile at the young man. “Don’t worry,” he says. “We’ve plenty of time to sort through all that. I have much to share with you.”
Hu Takashi feels the deep, dreamless sleep calling him again. His breathing grows ragged and shallow. Pain worms its way through his chest and belly. He does not want to surrender to it. Yet, his vast energies are failing and he knows no cause for it.
Around him he sees his kindred. They, too, are experiencing this same overwhelming desire to cease from the hunt. The burning in his belly to seek after humans has faded to nothing. A cycle is completing itself, coming full circle. Many have fallen and move no more.
Carrion birds light upon so many, but Hu pays them no mind. In his thoughts, he does not reckon himself a future meal for them. He does not remember his former life in any way, barely recalls his days before his present muscular form. Already, the great purpose he felt for himself and his kindred is wasting away like smoke upon the wind.
Hu stops abruptly. Another has collapsed before him, blocking his path along the road. He doesn’t feel like going around, or expending the necessary energy to step over them. Where was he going? He can’t remember.
Falling to his knees, Hu observes the sun peeking from the dark clouds over London. He notices a machine of some kind, hovering overhead. A spinning device at its top beats the air, creating a wash of noise that drowns out even his few remaining thoughts. Wind drives away dust and debris around him.
He sees prey approaching, only these are strangely brave in his presence. Always they ran from him, feeding the urge to pursue and consume, but not these. The men sweep through streets, finding his kindred in their weakened state. Each time they come upon one of his kindred, they raise a mechanism—a weapon Hu remembers—to their head. With a loud cracking sound, his brethren fall, and the men move on.
Hu blinks several times, then he sinks down to support himself with his outstretched hands. Violent convulsions shake his body and then dissipate once more. He notices a shadow approach, stretching itself over the ground until it comes into contact with his own.
Hu looks up, finding a dark man-shape backlit by the bright sun. The weapon extends toward him. Hu is about to voice some protest, but the loud crack of the gun silences him forever.
Garth has his reservations about this, but he surrendered Malak-esh, hoping his grandfather’s assumptions were correct. He claims Asha gave him the idea back in Paris. Still, Garth doesn’t like giving up the sword he’s held so long as his own. What if something goes wrong?
Brody completes his spellcasting, merging the combined power of both swords of Malak-esh with the complex shield construct known by the city’s citizens as Haven’s Gate. He opens his eyes, applying all the personal energy he can muster to complete the binding. Nearly one hundred other spell-casters and Superomancers of varying ability stand by, Asha and Isaac among them, adding their power to the conjuring, attempting to regenerate Haven’s shield construct with the combined energy of Malak-esh.
A low thrumming noise increases in intensity. The swords glow with white light. Brody releases them, but they do not fall, hovering before him and growing hotter by the second. The next moment, the swords are gone, their power merged with Haven’s gate. The thrum recedes like an engine powering down.
Relief washes over the assembled crowd. Hope mingles with doubt on faces. No one is quite sure if success has been achieved, or if the swords have simply been destroyed. Asha steps nearer to Brody, whispering in his ear. “How do we know if this worked?”
“I suppose we won’t until Lucifer attempts to breach the gate again,” Brody says. “However, I’m fairly certain we could not have destroyed the swords. Since they are gone, we must suppose the marriage of their powers with the gate is successful.”
Isaac, listening in, announces success to the rest of the assembly. He appears to have no doubts in his mind. Relief, again, comes over the Descendants present. They have hoped for security for so long, and now, hopefully, they can rest safe from the Fallen.
Asha and Brody watch his grandchildren and Holly and Jonathan mingling with the crowd of Haven’s citizens. He takes a step and winces a little, feeling some pain from the wound at his side.
“It still looks better than it feels,” he says.
“We can do more treatments,” Asha says.
“I’m sure time will help,” Brody says. “Heals all wounds I hear.”
Asha stares at him for a moment. “Are you sure you don’t mind being trapped here in Haven with us?”
Brody smiles at her. “I wouldn’t call it trapped exactly. I think safe is a better word.” He considers this for a moment longer. “Yes, after all I’ve been through, I’m happy to finally feel safe.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Descendants Saga. There’s always another adventure around the corner.