Welcome to the 10th and final installment in the Hyraaq Tobit Series. For those of you new to the series, please start at The Demon Tobit of Delphia
The Blood Star
Who is Hyraaq Tobit?
“Who, or what, is Hyraaq Tobit? Who or what is Delphia? How, if at all, do these repeated names correspond to the strange red star that recently appeared in the sky? We will try to answer these questions and more next, on Newsroom: The Blood Star.” A male voice announced this with vigor and canned fear lacing his voice as families all across the United States and much of the civilized world gathered around their televisions in anticipation.
The program opens with a well-dressed man, a man of science and importance, sitting across a table from celebrity newsman Jack Elder. Elder was a long trusted source of honest news in many American homes. Over the last two weeks or so, the world had fallen under the spell, or perhaps curse, of what was called the blood star. From the moment it appeared in the sky on a rather uneventful August afternoon, the world had begun to go mad.
Jack Elder turns to the camera without introducing this guest, and starts talking to John and Jane Q. Public. According to network executives, tonight’s show was slated to be the highest rated news program in the station’s history.
“Good evening, America. I am Jack Elder, and you’re watching Newsroom. Tonight we are going to try and get to the source of what has been on every man, woman and child’s mind, this phenomenon known as the Blood Star. As most of us know, two weeks ago, August 17th, the Blood Star first appeared in broad daylight across the entire continent of North America. Most of us, myself included, ignored it at first. Then it was revealed that this same red glowing object was appearing across the entire world. No one had any idea what was going on, and honestly and to my truest knowledge, no one really knows what it is now. My guest tonight is Dr. Brian Teag from NASA, who has led the investigation from the moment the star appeared. We will also be speaking to several members of the President’s Staff and Security Advisors from the White House who have been trying to contain the surge in violence that seems to have risen along with the star itself. We also have several other high profile guests who will address the mysterious name that continues to tag along with many of these acts of violence, this Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia. Who are they, what are they, the people want to know. Now, Dr. Teag, what can you tell us about the Blood Star as of right now?”
“Well, Jack,” Teag replies, “we know that it’s some sort of celestial body. We’ve observed it from Hubble and have turned all other resources on finding out exactly what sort of star it may be, and where it actually came from. All of our current data, as insane as this sounds, suggests that it simply appeared out of nowhere on August 17th. The area of space that it resides was mapped as vacant before the star’s appearance.”
“But tell me, doctor, isn’t that the nature of stars? They have to start out somewhere, right?”
“Yes, but if a new star were to have appeared, we’d have been aware of it long before it would have become visible by the naked eye.”
“Indeed, and from what I’ve been told, there are quite a few other behaviors that set this star apart from any others in the night sky, is that true?”
“Yes, Jack. It’s visible around the clock, in both hemispheres. That alone shouldn’t be possible. Even Sirius, our brightest star, cannot be observed by the naked eye all day on both sides of the globe. The red hue of the star is also strange. While many stars don’t subscribe to the traditional white sparkle we’re all used to, the color shouldn’t be so consistent. The star is clearly not dwarfing, so that doesn’t explain the color. If the red were caused by chemical compositions, it should alter a bit. Using Sirius as the example once more, it is often known to flicker different colors. This is caused by its light coming through Earth’s atmosphere and creating the optical illusion. Blood Star, or Alpha Eso, as we have technically classified it, doesn’t behave in that manner. One of the greatest mysteries, though, is that it gives off an energy pattern that we cannot yet identify.”
“Can you elaborate on that, doctor?”
“Yes. See, stars give off tons of radiation and have a massive gravitational force. We can learn much of a star’s nature simply by studying those factors. With Alpha Eso, while we can tell that it is giving off large amounts of energy, the energy doesn’t follow the same wave patterns as previously observed radiation or gravitational forces. To be honest, we believe that once we identify that energy source, we can unravel much of what this star actually is. We believe it may be a new form of energy altogether. This could explain a lot about the star, such as where it came from and why it can be seen 24 hours a day anywhere on Earth. Until then, we can’t even start to guess at the age or true origins of the star.”
Elder nods. “Doctor Teag, what are your thoughts on the surge in violence and crimes that we’ve seen since the star appeared?”
“Truth be told, I’ve been far more interested in finding the source of the star than studying the criminal aspects that it may be causing in people around the world. However, if you ask me to make a guess or venture an opinion, I would say it’s a result of panic. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and with fear often comes violent tendencies. But, that is just my opinion.”
“And this name, this Hyraaq Tobit. It’s showing up in lots of places, always associated with violent acts and often accredited to being connected to the star. Any idea what that is?”
“None at all Jack,” Teag replies.
“Okay, folks, we’re going to turn our attention to Professor Marcus Gordon, Director of Historical Studies at Harvard, along with Arch-Bishop Dwight Townsend of the Catholic Diocese to discuss exactly who and what Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia might actually be, and how they may or may not relate to the Blood Star, when we return from this short commercial break. Don’t go anywhere!”
Elsewhere across the world, people were dealing with the Blood Star in their own fashion. In the 8th District Police Station in New Orleans, a Detective by the name of Calvin Drexler was helping with the influx of suspects being taken into custody.
“Should he be under this kind of stress?” a uniformed officer quietly asks the watch commander, Francis Lombardi.
“Drex is fine. He took his time off, he grieved the loss of his daughter and he came back when he was ready,” Lombardi responds. They were speaking of the Queen Justine political murders that ravaged the city last year. Drexler had lost his teenage daughter Marissa in what most believed to be a revenge murder. The main suspect in the crimes had sought Drexler out, confessed a bizarre story of creating a killer cartoon character, and while he was busy telling his tale, someone, still unidentified, had gotten into Drexler’s home and murdered his daughter. It was quite a mess.
Drexler himself was walking about the large holding room within the station. Men and women, usually drunk out-of-towners, typically occupied the rows of steel chairs that were bolted to the floor. Since this damned star appeared though, police stations across most large cities had been working overtime to deal with the surge in violence that came with the star’s arrival. New Orleans had not been immune to this problem. Drexler, though, actually felt better dealing with the chaos. Marissa had been the only thing on his mind since that bastard Craig Morgan had stumbled in and told the tale of his little ultra liberal activist group and the killer they believe they’d spawned. In the end, Marissa, who Drexler found out far too late drew up the image of Queen Justine herself, had paid with her life. Drex had been crushed. For the longest time he believed he was done with police work. He took several months off and just cried and mourned. It was actually his wife, Simone, who’d suggested one day that he try going back to work, even if just for desk duty. He argued that it was too soon, but eventually he himself grew tired of sitting about his home feeling miserable. He took his wife’s advice, and was now glad he did. All of this nonsense with this star had finally taken his mind off of his daughter. He felt that healing was within real reach for the first time.
Then the bum began to speak.
Drexler hadn’t been paying any attention of the vagrant that was handcuffed to a nearby steel chair. The vagrant, a frequent flyer of the NOPD that most of the cops referred to as “Chewy” due to his lack of teeth, was in for his weekly public intoxication arrest. Chewy had never been a problem really, just a local drunk that picked bad spots to urinate, typically someone’s front door, or even the occasional shoes of a tourist. Chewy sometimes spit at people as well. This would prompt a call to the authorities. Sometimes the cops wouldn’t even arrest him, if he were willing to move along on his own. Depending on the amount and quality of liquor that was powering Chewy on any given night, his reactions to the NOPD’s request for compliance ranged from polite understanding to out right vulgar displays of insolence. Drexler assumed that tonight had been an insolent night, and Chewy found himself in his usual spot, sleeping off a lifetime of bad choices. Therefore Drexler wasn’t really paying much mind when the homeless man began to chant a phrase over and over, raising the volume of his voice a bit each time. Chewy was known for his gibberish as much as his bad breath, so it wasn’t until the man was nearly screaming that Drexler and the other officers in the room took notice.
“Tobit gives me eyes to see…. Tobit gives me eyes to see…. Tobit gives me eyes to see….”
“What’s he rambling about now?” asked a young officer named Marshall.
“Nothing, he does that all the time, don’t pay him any mind,” Drexler replied.
“No, I think he's saying Tobit. That’s the word all the wackos keep shouting out right before they gut someone, isn’t it?”
Drexler and Marshall walked towards Chewy, who was still repeating his chant, growing in tone and volume each time.
“Tobit gives me eyes to see… Tobit gives me eyes to see… Tobit gives me eyes to see!”
“What the fuck are you going on about?” Marshall asks the bum, leaning in towards him.
“Tobit gives me eyes to see!” Chewy screams back into Marshall’s face.
“Hey, you calm your drunk ass down!” the young cop shouts, his anger showing. It was at that moment that Drexler noticed the object in the vagrant’s free hand, the one not chained to the chair.
“Hey, look out!” Drexler shouted, but it was too little too late.
Chewy shouted once more, the loudest bellow yet, “TOBIT GIVES ME EYES TO SEE!” With this, he stood from the chair and drove the switchblade into Marshall’s throat. The young cop spit blood and grasped at his throat.
“Medic, medic in here now!” Drexler screamed, and moved in to catch Marshall before he fell to the floor. However, as he stepped forward, his eyes watched in shock and horror as the homeless man continued to stand up, de-gloving the flesh from his right hand as he forced it from the handcuffs. Chewy turned his eyes onto Drexler, still repeating, “Tobit gives me eyes to see!” He raised the blade and lunged. There was a single report as Drexler’s service pistol fired once, taking the homeless man in the chest. Chewy staggered back, clutching his bleeding chest, before falling back into the chair he’d been previously chained to. The switchblade fell to the floor with a loud clink. Drexler quickly kicked it away.
The homeless man died uttering one last time that Tobit gave him eyes to see. Medical staff rushed in, Calvin Drexler stepped back. He knew he’d have statements to write now. Perhaps Simone’s advice about coming back hadn’t been so good after all. Lombardi walked over, perhaps to offer words of comfort. Drexler handed him his pistol, as would be protocol anyway, and walked back towards the station’s break room. He needed to sit down now. In the break room the television was turned to Newsroom, as were most televisions across the country at this time. Drex wasn’t really paying much attention though as the host Jack Elder introduced his next guest.
“Gentlemen, thank you for joining me tonight on Newsroom. We’ve already talked with NASA’s lead scientist about this Blood Star, and now we turn to you to hopefully shed some light on the violence and strange words that continue to be accredited to it. Of course I am speaking about Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia. Let’s start with you, Professor Gordon. Hyraaq Tobit, Delphia… what do they mean and why are they now so abundantly going hand-in-hand with violent crimes?”
“Well, the name Tobit can be traced to Judeo-Christian roots. It appears as a chapter in the Bible, though it’s a rather grim tale itself.”
“How so?” asks Elder.
“Tobit was an Israelite who was, according to scripture anyway, blinded by bird droppings. God heals him though because he was a righteous man, so goes the story anyway. Really, the chapter of Tobit deals more with his son, Tobias, than Tobit himself.”
“And you, Arch-Bishop, what say you of the biblical Tobit?”
“I think the professor summed up the story fairly well. Tobit was chosen by God to be healed, by the Archangel Raphael, to be exact, due to his pious nature. There is mention of the demon of lust in that particular story, Asmodeus by name, but all in all, while no book of the Holy Bible is any lesser or greater than another, the Book of Tobit is a rather minor piece of scripture.”
“And the name Hyraaq, is that at all associated with the biblical Tobit?” Elder inquires.
“Not at all,” both men answer together.
“So, what, in your opinion, is Hyraaq Tobit?”
Gordon answers first. “The only other time I’ve ever heard anything remotely similar mentioned in any historical context was during the reading of the Triassic Journal last year. During the story of Epor and his dealing with the Primes as they were called, there is mention that when the Primes were raiding his city, they continued to chant some sort of name. The translation on that name wasn’t perfect as I remember, though, but I do remember them saying, ‘High-Rock Two-Bit.’
“I believe we have a clip of that,” Elder states, and suddenly America’s news viewing audience is witnessing Clair Nobles giving the press conference on the findings of the Triassic Journal. She can clearly be heard, during the story, quoting the translated text, and it certainly does sound as though she is saying Hyraaq Tobit.
“It is worth noting that the true origins of the Triassic Journal were never really revealed. We know it is a very old book, we know that this collection of scientists were able to translate it, but what it speaks of, a race of humans existing before the dinosaur, I’ve never believed that.”
“And you, Arch-Bishop, your thoughts on the Triassic Journal and how it may apply here?”
“I have to agree with the Professor here. As a Catholic, I believe that God created all life. However, even if I were a strict atheist, I doubt I could ever believe that some race of human existed before dinosaurs.”
“It is quite a story. Now, let’s discuss Delphia, its meaning and how it could apply here.”
“The word Delphia is likely of Greek origin, relating to the city of Delphi. It could also be a name, or even some sort of strange abbreviation for the city of Philadelphia. In Greek mythology, one of Apollo’s oracles lived in Delphi. When we’re trying to apply this to some sort of religious or mystical meaning though, we sort of end of chasing our tails,” Gordon asserted.
“And what about the team of scientists that were assembled to study the Journal. My sources tell me that one of them, a Dr. Walter Hart, died of a heart attack shortly after the book was translated. Furthermore, we’re told that the other three scientists, Dr. Clair Nobles, Dr. Janice Batiste and Dr. Christopher Allens have not been seen since shortly before the Blood Star appeared. Any thoughts on this, gentlemen?”
“That is true, Jack. We did some digging, and after speaking to several members of their respective universities, it would appear that the three remaining researchers took on the task of studying the Triassic Journal after the collaboration was complete. They continued to rent the office space in New York out of their own pockets and were allegedly doing further study into the matter. Then one day, not very long ago, all three of them just stopped coming in. According to a Dr. Redbay at Dartmouth College, Clair Nobles had been lead on that project. She was checking in with Redbay fairly routinely, and then just stopped.”
“And no clue where they might be now, Professor Gordon?”
“None at all. It is worth noting that in the Epor story, the main focal point was about a red stain in the sky, what he called in the writing, the bleeding sky. Piece together the name Hyraaq Tobit appearing in that same story, add in the scientists that have vanished and you almost have to wonder if there isn’t some larger conspiracy afoot. But as I said before, when we really try to dig into this mystical folklore and religious icons, you wind up really just chasing your tail.”
“Chasing our tales indeed,” Jack Elder stated firmly. “Well folks, stay with us, because up next we’ll be talking to Homeland Security Deputy Director Leslie Freemont about these violent activities that have been going on since the Blood Star appeared. We’ll get her take on what’s happening and what you can do to keep your family safe! Stay tuned!”
In Greenwich, Connecticut, Cynthia Lawrence, formerly Cynthia Tierney, pauses Newsroom.
“What gives, Cindy? I want to see what the Homeland Security people have to say,” her husband, Brian Lawrence states in response to her pausing the program.
“We’ll finish it, Brian, but, I have to tell you, this has me really worried. This Tobit stuff.”
“Baby, you don’t think it’s connected to The Foundation, to Haller’s cult or Un, do you?”
“No, not at all, that’s over. No, it’s just, I’ve heard of Tobit before, a long time ago this way, before the incident with the Foundation.”
Brian, who as a teenager had actually helped in rescuing Cynthia from the clutches of Father Haller and his insane demon Un, turned all of his attention to his wife. They married after college and had a son together whom they’d named after Brian’s departed brother Joe. They’d done this to honor the man who’d, even in death, helped save them both.
“Wait, why haven’t you ever told me about this?” Brian demands, more out of concern than anger.
“Well, for one thing, it was such a small and insignificant event in my life, especially compared to what we went through with Haller. It was really just two people that showed up at my front door one day when my parents were at work. This was about two months before Haller’s people contacted my folks, pretending to be a college looking for applicants. It was strange though, and, like I said, I only recently started making the connection between what they told me, and what’s happening on the news right now.”
“What happened, who approached you?”
Cindy, last surviving daughter of a warrior king, sighed. She stood from the couch and went to quickly make sure their son was still sleeping. She was always afraid that he might have inherited some of her… sensitive abilities when it came to things of a mystical nature, and she didn’t want to open him up to anything that might be evil. After all, she and her husband had experienced enough evil to last a lifetime before they were old enough to buy beer. Joe Junior had only recently been born, was still an infant in fact, but just the same, Cindy knew that Tier blood brought all sorts of strange and dangerous gifts. If she were going to tell this story, she wanted it to only be heard by Brian.
“It was just a normal afternoon in Rhode Island, which is to say, boring as hell. I was home alone, just flipping the channels and hoping to find something interesting to watch, when suddenly there was a knock at my front door. Now, this was back when we were kids, Brian. You know, back when people weren’t afraid every time they heard a knock at the door. Plus, like I said, this was Rhode Island; worst case scenario was a salesman or a Jehovah’s Witness or something. Best case, could be a friend of mine come by. So, I wasn’t exactly crawling in my skin when I opened up the door.”
“Who was it?”
“A man and a woman, I remember that much. The man was short and chubby, but really nicely dressed. The woman that was with him, I can’t remember much about her, except that she was really pretty. She had this really short haircut, but on her it looked good. I was always a little jealous of other women that could pull off super short hair. Her name was… something with a ‘T,’ like Tammy of Tabby, like I said, it was forever ago, and only recently did it suddenly seem important to me.”
“Should I go and make toast?” Brian suddenly asked, and Cindy gave him a sharp pinch on the arm in response. This was his little phrase he’d use when he felt that his wife was dragging a story out.
“Let me tell it, Brian,” Cindy scolds, and her husband nods for her to go on. “The guy is all charm, but not like, movie star George Clooney charm. No, this guy had a really weird way of talking, like one of those southern gentlemen, or maybe like Foghorn Leghorn, but more reserved. He called me ‘Miss Tierney’ all properly, never using my first name. I later came to realize that I’d never introduced myself to him. Strange that he knew me. Anyway, he tells me that I’m special, that I have some gifts. By then I already knew I had those weird psychic abilities; I’d used them on and off throughout a lot of my life. But he had a unique way of dancing around that, so, I stayed on this weird fence of not knowing if he somehow knew about my abilities or if he was referring to my grades in school or something. He tells me that he’s been watching my progress, and that was when I started getting a little nervous. He was all smiles and charm, but I felt something was sinister about him. He wanted me to call him Mr. Pinky; I remember that part clearly, which was weird as hell to me too. That’s when he told me that his boss, Hyraaq Tobit, could really use someone with my particular set of blessings.”
“What did you tell him?” Brian interrupts.
“I told him no thanks, and that’s when the woman spoke, Tammy or Tabby or whatever. She wasn’t nearly as pleasant as her companion. I remember she kept calling me ‘girlie’ and had this really snarky tone. She said a girl like me could perhaps become a sister. I was getting really nasty vibes from both of them. There was something, vile about them, that’s the best way I can explain it. So, after I keep trying to be polite and firm at the same time, trying to tell them to get the hell off my porch, the guy Pinky, he gets really nasty. He tells me that some really bad men are also after me. He tells me that they won’t be so kind as to offer me a place within their family, not like he and Tabby or Tammy are willing to do. He tells me that if I don’t go with them to Delphia, that I’m as good as dead.”
“Delphia? Like, this word they keep using on the news?” her husband asks.
“Yes. He made it sound like a place, but somewhere only he could bring me. Once again I got a really bad vibe. I guess my gifts were really coming in handy. I told him no thanks again and started to close the door. That’s when he grabbed the door and held it open, refusing to let me close it. He went into this whole speech about how if I refuse his offer, he’ll leave and never return. But that I’d come to regret it, that when the really bad folks, who I guess were Haller’s men, had their hands on me, that Pinky and Tammy or Tabby would be no where around to help me. Then he let go of the door and told me that it was my choice to close it or open it to my future.”
“What happened then?”
“I slammed the door in both of their faces. Pinky and his creepy friend with the short haircut and intense eyes. God, Brian, her eyes could cut through diamonds. I called my dad at work, who called the cops and came right home. The cops said they searched the area for any people matching their descriptions, but found no one. I was scared for a few days, but my senses were telling me that they were gone. Like, not just gone from Rhode Island, but gone from America, hell, maybe gone from this world. A few months later I wound up in Haller’s church, and, well, you know the rest. I never really gave the weird little man much thought again until this Blood Star business started. When people started talking about Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia, I sort of put two and two together. I get a feeling, like, this is all connected.”
“And you’ve never seen either of them again?”
“No, I just, I just wonder sometimes, especially now with all this insanity, what exactly Delphia and Tobit were, and who those people that showed up at my door really were all about.”
Brian pulls his wife into his arms and holds her tight. “It’s going to be okay, baby. That was a long time ago; you’ve got nothing to worry about now.”
“Brian, it’s not me I’m worried about,” she replies, and resumes the Newsroom program before her husband can push the issue any further.
Back in New Orleans, in a bar called The Whirling Dervish, the bartender turns the juke box down to mute and turns the television up. There are a few groans from the patrons in attendance, but the majority on hand is glued to Newsroom, as Jack Elder continues his investigation into The Blood Star.
“Okay folks, welcome back to Newsroom. We are still here trying to figure out exactly who and what these strange entities are that seem to all connect together here. We know that this Blood Star has appeared in the sky. We know that the words Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia seem to go hand-in-hand with the violence that has followed in the wake of this star, and we now believe that perhaps those answers lie within the pages of the Triassic Journal. Even more chilling is the fact that out of the four research scientists assigned to investigate the Journal, one is dead and three are missing. I turn now to the Deputy Director of Homeland Security, Leslie Freemont. Welcome to Newsroom, Agent Freemont!”
“Thank you, Jack,” the woman replies.
“So, you’ve been at the helm of investigating these violent outbursts that have taken hold over the world in the last two weeks since the star appeared in the sky. Tell us, what is Homeland Security doing to keep Americans safe?”
“Well Jack, right now we believe we’re working against a collaborated effort, perhaps some sort of terrorists' attack being implemented with code words.”
“Codes such as Hyraaq Tobit?”
“Possibly, yes. We think this cell may have formed at the time of the reading of the Triassic Journal. It could be some sort of fundamentalist religious group taking cues from the findings in the book. It could be something more complex, foreign enemies of the country perhaps. We haven’t even ruled out some sort of mass drugging of people.”
“So, you don’t believe that there is any mystical connection to the crimes and the folklore read in the Triassic Journal?”
“Not in the direct sense, Jack, no. I don’t believe this star in the sky is from the same source that, according to the Journal, made a group of cavemen go insane, not at all.”
“So what then, what do you think is causing all the crime and destruction, crime and destruction that started almost the moment that star appeared in the sky?”
“As I said before, we think it’s a collaborated effort. The group, or groups behind these attacks may have been inspired by the story in the Journal, sure, and maybe this star appearing was just the catalyst they needed. As your last guests stated, it is hard to ignore the similar occurrences going on right now. The red star does compare to the bleeding sky and the name Hyraaq Tobit does line up with the term ‘high-rock two-bit’ that was read by the research team. However, I think these similarities are simply bad people taking a piece of fiction and trying to tie it to reality as much as possible. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen people use works of fiction to justify criminal acts.”
“You mentioned terrorism. Does Homeland Security believe that foreign entities are behind this?”
“We haven’t ruled that out, Jack, no.”
“And what about the missing scientists? Where do they fall in your priorities here?”
“Very high; we really want to talk to them. We are also aware that they apparently were conducting their own personal research into the Journal after the official study program was complete. We’d like to know exactly what they may have found out, and why they vanished right before all of this began.”
“And, with respect to your investigation, where do you stand in locating them?”
“Well, I can’t speak much on the matter, as it’s an open investigation, but I can tell you that Clair Nobles purchased a plane ticket from New York to New Orleans shortly before she vanished. Records show that she made her flight and checked into a hotel in New Orleans. She was seen around the hotel for a day or two, and then just didn’t come back.”
“And the other two scientists? Allens and Batiste?”
“They also bought tickets, but it appears they didn’t make it to New Orleans.”
“Where did they wind up then?”
“We’re still looking into that.”
“Okay, let’s talk about their lab in New York. Newsroom has obtained some photographs that we think the American people deserve to see. Let’s get those on the screen.”
Several photos appear on television screens across America. They show the lab in New York, apparently badly vandalized. Broken computers and shredded documents can be seen littering the floors.
Jack Elder’s voice speaks up, but the photos remain. “These are pictures of the lab. Clearly something did some damage there. According to the rental agency that was leasing the lab to the researchers, they found it much like this after the doctors stopped coming in to conduct their studies.”
Leslie Freemont’s voice joins Elder’s, and there is an unmistakable edge of annoyance in her tone.
“Looks like simple vandalism to me Jack.”
“Yes, but watch what the cleaning crew found when they applied black lights to the walls.”
Two new pictures appear, corresponding to the two already on screen. Perhaps across the country an audible gasp could have been heard. The black light revealed ‘Hail Tobit’ and ‘Hail Delphia’ written over the walls.
“Those messages were determined to have been written in blood, Agent Freemont,” Jack Elder stated, as the screen slowly faded from the images of Clair’s former lab and back to the host and his guest.
“Can there be any doubt now that the Triassic Journal and what is happening in the streets of America, and much of the world right now, are connected?”
Leslie Freemont did not respond.
“Alright, folks, we’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more about the Blood Star and how a team of scientists may have found this dark secret long before it found its way into our streets. Stay tuned!”
As Newsroom cut to its next commercial break, a young man sat at the bar in The Whirling Dervish. The bartender could tell he was antsy, nervous and waiting for something or someone. The patron, Brock Felton by name, was in fact waiting. He’d been instructed through email to wait here for an escort. He had been invited somewhere very cool, and now he began to feel like he’d been set up.
“Still waiting for that friend, eh?” the bartender asked.
“Fucking seems that way, huh? Give me another beer,” Brock replied. However, before the beer could arrive, he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder as a young and attractive goth girl stood behind him.
“I’m Jodie, and you must be Brock,” she stated, rather than asked.
“Yes! You’re from the…” he began, but she made an aggressive shushing gesture.
“Are you ready?” she asked him.
“Baby, I was born ready!” he replied eagerly. He paid his tab and was led away.
They walked through the French Quarter together. As they did, Jodie explained to Brock that this was his first back out point. Brock brushed this off. He was a little drunk and very fired up to find out all about this secret bar that he’d somehow found invitation into.
“Very well, Brock, we’re almost there,” she assured him. He was sweaty, intoxicated and obnoxious. However, Din had marked interest in him and she had received her instructions to bring him down. She honestly just wanted the walk to be over.
As they rounded the corner and walked towards the small house that sat around the 1200 block of Dauphine Street in the Quarter, Jodie was shocked to see a familiar face sitting on the small stoop outside of the home.
“Jackson? What are you doing out here? Who’s watching the bar?”
Jackson was tall and dressed in garb that would suggest an old-timey bar keep- white shirt, black bow tie and a mustache that curled at the ends.
“Who the fuck is this?” Brock demanded.
“Be quiet,” Jodie snapped back at him.
“Jodie, you’re going to have to call this one off tonight. This whole Blood Star business has some of our superiors in a tizzy; they want everything shut down until this sorts itself out.”
“I understand, Jackson,” she replies, and turns to Brock. “Look man, we’re going to have to reschedule this or something; the bar is closed tonight. Sorry.”
She turns from him, dismissing the loud and drunk frat boy as though he simply ceased to exist, when she suddenly feels a strong hand grab her shoulder.
“Look, bitch, you invited me out here, okay? I’ve been sitting down there for two hours waiting on your ass, and now you tell me the whole thing is called off? Fuck that, I want to go to this bar of yours!”
Jackson was upon Brock in less than a second. “PISS OFF, FUCKER!” the bartender screamed in a voice that was far too loud to come from any normal human being. He jabbed his finger into Brock's chest, pushing the young man to the ground with no effort. Jodie took this moment to step behind Jackson. Fear wasn’t a normal emotion for her, but due to some recent activities out in Pearl River, she’d learned to be much more cautious.
“Hey, that’s assault you asshole!” Brock shouted from the ground.
“Would you like to try for battery next?” Jackson asked him.
The drunken Brock seemed to consider this for just a second, but in the end found his brains and decided this wasn’t worth losing any blood over. He climbed uneasily to his feet and began to stagger away, rubbing his chest where he could still feel the force of Jackson’s finger jab.
“I’m going to sue you fuckers for this, you goddamned psycho. You’ll fucking see, I’m going to own your bar by next week!” Brock rounded the corner and moved out of sight, still spewing his litany of legal threats. Once he was gone, Jodie St. Amant, servant of Din, turned to Jackson with real concern in her eyes.
“Jax, what the hell is going on? Why was that guy’s appointment canceled?”
“It’s this Blood Star business. Apparently Hyraaq Tobit’s people are making some sort of big move. None of this went through the Council of Nod though, and some of the folks upstairs are getting a bit nervous.”
Jodie gazed up at the Blood Star, which she recognized from the start of all this as the Red Star, and rubbed her chin in thought.
“I do find it strange that Tobit’s people are doing this right now. What do they really have to gain?”
“That’s what no one knows. Exposure I guess, but why now, that’s what everyone upstairs is wondering. Tobit’s avatar was said to have spoken about revealing the star a couple weeks ago. He didn’t give any solid reasons that I know of though. I mean, technically just showing the star doesn’t break any Council of Nod rules, but still, it’s sort of a balls-out move that no one can figure out a reason for.”
“I don’t think I like it, Jax. That damned Red Star of his is making a lot of people nutty.”
“I think that’s why they want all operations to cease for the time being. They want to see what Tobit is up to and how much damage control it’s going to require to restore balance once this little stunt is over. I guess that means, for the time being at least, we’re on a bit of a vacation.”
Jodie smiled a bit at that. Some time off would do her well. “Hey, thanks for getting rid of that asshole Brock for me. I didn’t like him from the start. Bad choice I think.”
Jackson put his arm around Jodie St. Amant and walked her into the house that would allow entrance to their secret domain. “No worries, kiddo; I have to look out for you after all. Now, let’s discuss where we’d like to go on vacation.”
“Anywhere but Antarctica, that’s for damn sure,” Jodie replies, and they both chuckle at that as they close the door to the small house behind them.
Across the city of New Orleans, in a neighboring suburb called Metairie, a large man sat in his easy chair, a bottle of whiskey in his right hand, watching as Jack Elder, famed newsman and long time voice of the American people, continued with his program. The man, Hector Castro by name, had been inseparable from his bottle of whiskey for almost a year now, since his only son, Sergio Castro, had vanished while sailing his Hector’s yacht around South America. However, since the Blood Star had appeared in the sky, and terms such as Hyraaq Tobit and Delphia had begun to appear on the nightly news and in all the papers, he and his bottle had become even closer friends. His wife had moved into their mother’s home because Hector’s anger had become too much. He raved about the house all day, liquor in hand, screaming about Derrick Reynolds, screaming that the little shit had been telling the truth. Now he sat, drunk and depressed, watching as America’s most trusted voice hammered those truths even deeper into Hector’s beaten and broken mind. Tears rolled down his cheeks with each word, tears that tasted like whiskey and shame.
“Alright, folks, we’re almost out of time here tonight. I wish I could have uncovered more, but as you’ve heard from our panel of experts, whatever this conspiracy may be, it is still rooted deep in mystery. Exactly who and what this Hyraaq Tobit may be still evade us. Who or what this Delphia may be does the same. And how it connects to the Blood Star and the rash of violence that is terrifying out nation and world also hides in the shadows. But trust me, folks, we here at Newsroom will not rest until we have for you the answers that you deserve. That is a promise, from me, Jack Elder, to each and every one of you at home. From our offices here in New York City, we bid you goodnight and God Bless!”
Hector turned off his television after the credits rolled. He was now alone in the dark. “He was telling the truth the whole time, the little fucking punta was telling me the truth the whole damned time!” Hector shouted this before taking a large gulp of whiskey and throwing the now empty bottle at the wall of his home, shattering it into pieces.
“My son, are you really there, in that city that Derrick described to many time after time? Did they really do those things to you?” This question was asked to the son who was most certainly not available in Metairie to answer. Should Sergio have been able to reply, he’d have confirmed that yes, Derrick was always telling the truth. All the shit about Valium-induced dreams and hallucinations was nothing more than bullshit thrown out to mask the reality of Delphia and his fate.
“I should have listened. I should have believed him. I’ve known that kid forever. Why didn’t I listen to him?”
Hector had tried feverishly to contact Derrick Reynolds since the moment the Blood Star appeared and the names of Tobit and Delphia became household entities. He recognized them right away. After all, Derrick had explained it to him at least a dozen times or more since he returned from his rescue. However, Derrick was nowhere to be found. His phone went to voicemail and his apartment was vacant. Hector had knocked on Derrick’s door every day since the star showed up in the afternoon sky, and had never received a reply. On one particularly drunken evening, he’d finally stopped caring about the law and simply kicked the door in. What he found inside confirmed his fears. The apartment had that feel, that empty feel that told Hector Castro what he feared the most, that Derrick Reynolds, the only person that had been honest and knew the fate of his son, had left. Where he went was unknown, as well as when and if he’d come back at all. To Hector, this simply punctuated his failure as a father.
He'd had so many chances to believe Derrick, so many shots at working with the kid to perhaps do something to help his son. However, he’d never come close to believing that some cult in Antarctica had kidnapped the boys. He’d never been willing to remotely believe that Sergio could still be alive, waiting for a rescue, waiting perhaps even, for his papa to come and save him.
Hector walked into his kitchen and reached into his cabinet for another bottle of whiskey. However, mid-grasp he saw something else that he kept tucked away in his kitchen cabinets. A pistol. Something he’d purchased for home protection, something that, due to his expensive home, he felt he might need some day. However, the Castro family was wealthy and lived in a gated community. The need for home defense had never come. Yet now, as drunken tears rolled down Hector’s face, as he realized that he’d missed chances to actually perhaps help his beloved Sergio, perhaps the pistol had a purpose after all.
Hector sat down at his kitchen table, the loaded gun in front of him. He dealt out in front of him a series of photos, like playing cards, and began to look them over. Sergio as a baby, Sergio at Disney World when he was a child, Sergio graduating high school and of course, Sergio standing behind the wheel of the Castro family’s yacht.
“Fucking boat, I hate you fucking boat. Where is my son, WHERE IS HE?” The photos did not reply.
Hector wrote a note on the back of a baby photo of Sergio. He addressed it to his wife.
My lovely Eva,
Derrick Reynolds told the truth. I was a fool and would not believe him. Now I sit here, a fool, a broken fool. I will never heal from this my love. I am beyond healing. I leave everything to you. May you find happiness in my death that I could not give you in my life. I go now to join our son, if God will have me.
Farewell my dearest love,
A single gunshot echoed through the lavish halls of the Castro home, as the curse that is Tobit and Delphia claim yet another.
Life in the Tower
As the credits rolled on Newsroom with Jack Elder, two more avid viewers watched. They did not watch from New Orleans or Connecticut though, or anywhere else that could be found on a traditional map. In fact, the two viewers watched from the very heart of the controversy, one might say. Gregory Leary and Tabitha Shaw sat on a huge overstuffed leather couch in Shaw’s personal chambers, viewing the Jack Elder program on a massive flat screen television. How Tabitha had such modern marvels functioning here in a city where electricity and running water did not exist for most of its residents was still a mystery to Gregory. He’d asked her several times over the last two weeks, and she always replied with a dismissive note of sarcasm, ‘Tabby gets what Taby wants,’ or ‘Rank has privilege.’ Eventually he stopped asking and simply took a bit of joy in having such home comforts here. He’d not been able to return to London as soon as he’d planned, and recent events ruled that almost impossible now anyway, at least for the time being. Neither he nor Tabitha knew exactly what Pinkerton had ventured off to accomplish when he left Delphia in their hands, but now it seemed apparent, and Gregory was furious, though he did not want to show it.
He’d worked his entire life to mask the existence of Delphia. After all, that was his family legacy. He’d defied his father’s final wishes and brought Trevor into the fold, also in the name of keeping Delphia and Tobit out of the minds of the world’s population. And now, in just a matter of two short weeks, all of his efforts were in vain. Everyone from sea to fucking shining sea on all continents was talking about this mysterious entity that was Hyraaq Tobit. Scientists and government officials were digging into it. He was shocked to see his and Trevor’s little scare tactic back in New York make the national news as well. All that damned effort, dashed by Pinkerton, and for what? What could Thaddeus Pinkerton hope to accomplish by turning the whole world on to Tobit? According to the news it was causing panic, riots and crime. People were going nuts and giving all the thanks to Tobit. Was this always the plan? And if so, why wait so long? If all it took was revealing some damned star in the sky to put the world under Tobit’s spell, why wait at all?
Of course, Gregory, perhaps being optimistic, perhaps being realistic, or maybe both, suspected the news wasn’t that grim. There were billions of people on Earth, so even if Tobit effected just a million or so, the overall losses weren’t that bad, right? If it wasn’t Tobit causing chaos, there was still lots of other evils out there, just like he’d explained to his bullheaded uncle, leader of the failing Unwashed upon his arrival. There would always be terrorists groups like ISIS; there would always be neo-Nazi groups, the KKK, the Westboro Baptist Church, the IRA, the Taliban and so many more. If Tobit terrorized a few, he was really just another small fish in the big pond of evil assholes trying to ruin the world.
No, Gregory Leary was far less concerned about Tobit taking over the world than he was simply enraged that his life long ambitions, all of his work and sacrifice, had essentially led to nothing. He wanted to confront Tabitha Shaw, his newly found lover who both enthralled him and scared the shit out of him at times, but he knew that was a very dangerous game. Since the Sister, Lena Vazquez, returned with Derrick, Clair and Trevor in tow, turning them over to Tabitha like a prize, there had been one major issue; the death of Lacy Suzino.
She had been Tabitha’s favorite. She wouldn’t go into detail, but she always said that she saw something in Lacy that reminded her of better times. Gregory never pushed for details on that statement. He knew Pinkerton had recruited Tabitha at a young age, and that Tabitha herself recruited Lacy at a young age, so perhaps that was their connection in her mind. They’d both grown from girls to women in the care and custody of Hyraaq Tobit, so he could imagine there might be a bond there.
When Lena had come marching into the tower, with Derrick, Trevor and Clair tied up and at gunpoint, Tabitha had been all smiles. She couldn’t wait to tell Pinkerton of this success. Another win for her Sisters, another notch in the belt of Tabitha and one-step closer perhaps to Tab’s dream of moving up that the so-called Council of Tobit. However, it didn’t take long for Tabitha to notice that she was missing an agent. Before Clair and Derrick were even hauled away to the dungeons to join Timothy Van Buren and the other captured rebels, she’d asked where her girl Lacy was. Lena took Tabitha’s hand, and being very cautious, explained that Lacy had not survived the mission. Tabitha’s rage was beyond comprehension, as was Gregory’s fear.
He still believed that he killed Lacy in the hotel room, when he shot her in the stomach. As far as Gregory Leary was aware, that’s when the deed happened. And now Lena was here with his brother, and should she inform Tabitha of that particular little fact, no one would be able to escape her kill zone alive. However, Lena lied. Just like that. She blamed it on the New Orleans Police. She chose her words carefully, making sure not to imply that Lacy had been sloppy or at all at fault in her own death. She said it was simple dumb luck on the part of some beat cop, just some guy in the right place at the right time that witnessed Lacy at work. Lena promised that she’d dealt with the cop, avenged their fallen Sister and forced the man to scream and bleed in more ways than one could describe. Tabitha thanked Lena, appearing to believe every word of it. Gregory, for the life of him, could not figure out why she was lying. Was she trying to help him, or was she trying to spare the others from Tabitha’s wrath? Just more mysteries in an already overflowing sea of them it would appear.
“You’re all going to fucking die,” Tabitha had said flatly to the newly captured group, and promptly marched back towards her chambers. As she walked up the stairs, she called back to Gregory, “Have them put in the dungeon; they live because Mr. Pinkerton will want to see them. You can put your little piss-ass brother in your chambers if you want. Now, I want to be alone. Don’t bother me today, Gregory.”
Gregory and Lena were left staring at each other, no words exchanged. They were both equally shocked at where the other stood. His uncle had stated that one of Tabitha’s Sisters was working for the Unwashed. Since it clearly wasn’t Lacy, that only left the stern faced Colombian woman standing before him. And if she really was working with his uncle, why was she bringing in Trevor, Clair and Derrick in chains with a gun pointed at them? Had she flip-flopped back over to the side of Tobit or was this somehow part of his uncle’s grand scheme? He now knew he would have to make time to speak with her as soon as possible.
Lena was also confused. Not as to who killed Lacy, that much she did not have to ponder, but rather, what the hell a Leary brother was doing walking about free in the Great Tower, apparently taking orders from Tabitha herself. She knew he’d struck a deal with Madison, Trevor had told that that much. She knew he’d likely misused a warping amulet and wound up in Delphia, but in all truth, she could not understand what he was doing here and not in the dungeon, or perhaps dead. Much like Gregory, Lena decided that a sit-down between the two of them would have to take place at the first chance. Luckily, with Tabitha throwing a fit and locking herself in her room, that might be too difficult. Lena whispered something into Trevor’s ear; Trevor nodded and made eye contact with his big brother.
Lena looked them all over as she was joined on either side by two of the blue uniformed Delphia cops. “Listen, shits, I’m taking your asses to the dungeon, yeah, the ol’ calabozo. We’re going to have a nice, safe walk there, no funny shit or I’ll have these fine officers here bash your heads in. Mr. Pinky wants you alive, but he didn’t say alive and well. Plus, if you happen to be brain dead, we have magic here that can still make you talk, so just walk, be nice and we all get where we’re going in one piece, comprende pendejos? As for the sissy here, I guess Tabitha said you could bunk with your big brother, who, somehow has a room here. Amazing. I go away for a few days and come back to madness. Now, you two fucks, walk!”
Trevor was unchained by one of the blue uniformed guards and handed over to Gregory. “Sir, by declaration of Mistress Shaw, I turn this prisoner over to you. Good day to you Champion, Hail Tobit, Hail the Champion.”
Trevor was too shocked to speak. The sheer magnitude of simply standing in Delphia itself would have been enough to render him silent, but now it would seem his brother had come here and somehow been appointed to a position of respect and authority. He could have laughed at this, had it not brought him much closer to tears.
Gregory reflected on that day as Newsroom finally ended its credits and Tabitha flipped through the channels until she landed on Bachelor in Paradise, one of all time favorite shows. Gregory found this to be an endearing trait with her. For such a cold-blooded killer as Tabitha was, her taste in television was around the level of bored housewife. Bravo was her favorite network, and she watched all the Real Housewife shows with a studied fervor. Big Brother and Survivor were two other all time favorites of hers as well, and before long Gregory knew more about the dynamics of those reality shows than he ever had really cared to find out. However, they'd kept Tabitha somewhat calm over these last two weeks, and that was all he could hope for. Still though, he could not contain his outrage, and felt that if he were careful in word, he could perhaps vent to this woman who was both his girlfriend and captor.
“Tabs, try and understand how that shit makes me feel. I’ve been honest with you; I’ve told you from day one that I spent my entire life trying to prevent the exact events that are happening right this very second around the world. My entire life, babe, dedicated to keeping the name of Tobit and Delphia out of the mouths of people. I sacrificed it all- friends, life, marriage and family, all to carry on the family legacy. And Pinkerton, just like that, went and pissed it all away.”
Tabitha paused her program, holding the remote high and letting it fall to the floor. This instantly caused Gregory fear. He recognized this little tradition as a sign of frustration with her. She didn’t like to be bothered while her shows were on, that was made clear from almost day one. But with the death of Lacy, it now seemed that anything could set her off. Gregory could only hope that he was safe within her company, that she valued him more alive than dead. Perhaps Pinkerton had long term plans for them to work together; either way, he could do nothing more than hope that those possible plans would be enough to keep him safe.
Tabitha looked at Gregory and held up one hand, snapping her fingers in rhythm with her words. This was yet another sign of her agitation, though a new one for Gregory to witness. “Lover, listen, listen to me really good right now, okay?”
He nodded carefully and she continued. “I like you a lot, Greg, I really do. You’re smart, your handsome, you’ve got a set of balls on you that requires a damn dump truck to move around, and the sex…. Well, that’s enough to keep you around by itself. But listen, Lacy was like a daughter to me. I know you don’t have kids; you sacrificed all that to stifle knowledge of Tobit and blah blah fucking blah. Hell, I don’t have real kids either, but Lacy was damned close. Sort of like the way your pussy of a little brother is to you, get it? Now, imagine he was killed, and imagine that the ones indirectly responsible for his death, perhaps, were locked up in a dungeon that you could access anytime. Think about how much force of will it might take you to keep from storming down there and tearing them apart. And Greg, killing is easy to me. You did in Madison, big thanks for that by the way, but that was more of a revenge killing for your dad, right? Me, killing isn’t even a hobby; it’s like breathing, you know? I don’t even know what the fuck guilt feels like. So, while you might hesitate on avenging even your brother, for no other reason than the fact that killing isn’t second nature to you, for me, well, I could go into your room right now and slice open Trevor’s neck. Then, I could trot on down to the dungeon and do in Clair and Derrick. Then I could come up here, eat a big dinner and watch The Amazing Race or something and not lose a moment of sleep over it. That’s just how I’m wired, lover. So, right this second in time, Gregory, I am fighting every impulse in my body to stay here on this couch, next to you, instead of going out and doing what all those gory little impulses are just begging me to do. You get that, Greg, do you? And, while I’m doing all that, and being an amazing hot girlfriend for you at the same time, you sit there and want to complain that your little life project failed. Well, here’s the deal, so did mine. Lacy was my favorite, like I said. I wanted the sky to be her limit. I always thought, once she got her blood lust under control, that she could very well take my place as leader of the Sisters once I stepped up to the Council. I loved her, Greg, the same way you love that sniveling little vagina you call a brother. And you wanna know the kicker? I don’t quite believe Lena’s story about some random cop taking Lacy out. Sure, it could have happened, absolutely it could have. It’s happened to my girls before, just like it’s happened to Madison’s, or should I say, your Faithful. People out there get lucky from time to time. Hell, that’s one of the reasons the Sisters of Tobit were formed, to take care of the lucky ones that didn’t scare as easy as most. But the whole story, it just seemed to clean, too easy.”
Gregory, sensing a chance to get back into Tabitha’s graces, risked a question. “Well, Tabs, what do you believe happened?”
“I think one of your brother’s friends did it. I think there was a struggle and someone, probably that fucking kid Derrick, got the drop on her. It’s unlikely, Lacy was so damned stellar, but still, accidents happen. I think Lena might be lying to save me, though, which is why I’m allowing it to happen.”
“Save you how?”
“Mr. Pinky wants them alive; he wants to question them, toy with them, fucking who knows. I think Lena knew if I found out one of them killed Lacy, that I would have lost my shit and ended them all right where they stood. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. As good as that would have felt, I would have had to answer to Mr. Pinky for that, and I can promise you the price for a mistake of that caliber is high. I doubt he would toss me to the Red Star, but there would have been repercussions. Nasty ones at that, and Lena knew that. She told that lie to keep me from going ape shit right there on the spot, you know, just to give me time to be mad at some made up cop instead of lashing out at the real offenders.”
Gregory feared the day that Tabitha might learn of his encounter with Lacy in the hotel room. He’d since learned her real fate from conversations with Trevor, but still, he could have killed her. He did not want to know how his psychotic little lover would react to learning such facts. Instead, Gregory continued to do his best to soothe Tabitha and win her back from her earlier rage at his comments. He wouldn’t make that mistake again, that much he promised himself.
“Tabs, I do want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sparing Trevor, from both the dungeons and your blade. He is important to me, he is my family, really all the family I’ve got left. I… I can’t thank you enough, that’s what I want to say. You are an angel in my eyes.”
Tabitha allowed a smile to form briefly on her lips. Gregory knew without having to be told that he was forgiven. He would just have to be more careful from now on. He’d actually wanted to talk to her about being allowed to return to London for a few days in order to keep his business affairs in order, but he now realized that would be a risky request. It would simply have to wait.
“Greg, if you want to thank me, then you need to get your brother on board, okay? I get that this is all very new and scary for him, and his lack of spine is no doubt making it all that much tougher, but still, you got to get him in line. When Mr. Pinky gets back, he’s going to want results. He’s going to want this whole Unwashed thing squashed. We still haven’t gotten VanBuren or the other captured rebels to talk either. They can sure as hell take some pain, I give them that much. Having your brother moping around up there like some emotional fucking high school kid is not going to exactly endear his being here to Mr. Pinky. So, if you really want Trevor to keep breathing, I do suggest you make some time and try to bring him around.”
Gregory at first intended to go and talk to Trevor later that evening, but as Tabitha unmuted the television and Gregory’s ears were assaulted by the harsh voice of some Real Housewife verbally attacking the camera because some friend didn’t attend some party, he decided that there really was no time like the present, and politely excused himself from Tabitha’s chambers.
Trevor Leary paced about what he still could not believe were his brother’s chambers atop what was known as the Great Tower within Delphia. Apparently it housed the important folk around here. Tabitha had a room within the tower, as did a man named James Craven who’d been identified as the city’s Magistrate. What that meant or exactly what his duties might be was a mystery. Another man named Brighton Levy lived on one of the lower floors. He was the Chief Constable, so Trevor had been told, and was in charge of the blue uniformed cops. Over the first few days here, Gregory had told Trevor all about how he’d come to be somewhat in charge of the very city they’d once fought so hard against. He told of his encounter with the ever so charming Pinkerton. He told of his affair with Tabitha, which was still ongoing. He told of how he’d finally gotten to the bottom of their father’s death and had held the bastard Madison accountable for his actions. All of that led to his new, strange and quite exciting status of loft within Delphia. As much as it was inconceivable that his own brother was somehow running Delphia, he knew that if any man out there were capable of such at power grab, it would be Gregory. That much didn’t surprise him.
Over the last two weeks, Gregory spent most of his days splitting time between Trevor and Tabitha. He slept most nights in her chambers, but did occasionally share the Grand Magus’s room with his brother. It was almost like old times in a bizarre way. Trevor and Gregory, lying awake in the dark, fighting sleep and talking. It was during those late night talks that Trevor was finally able to understand all of the what’s and how’s that led to his brother essentially taking Madison’s place.
Trevor had also told Gregory the details of how they’d come to Delphia. It was on his first night in the city. Tabitha was still in a blind rage over the loss of Lacy, so Gregory decided it would be quite prudent to give her the space she needed. Plus, Trevor would need company. It wasn’t going to be easy for him to adjust to this. So, much like old times, Gregory made up the small antique couch in the Grand Magus Quarters, and settled in as he allowed his brother to take his bed. Talking in hushed whispers, not wanting Tabitha or perhaps some other unseen force to hear too much, Trevor began telling Gregory of their final night in New Orleans, before coming through the door that Lena enchanted and walking into Delphia.
Stealing Mail and Applied Mythology
Trevor began the story by telling Gregory the ultimate fate of Lacy Suzino, of Lena revealing that she was working with none other than Brandon Leary, the brother’s long distant uncle and apparent leader of the Unwashed. He told of the little girl Soka, who’d crossed through a dreamscape in order to deliver a pass-phrase to Clair, the very phrase that informed Lena it was finally time to move forward with their operation. Once the prelude was told, Trevor moved into the story of their last night before coming here. Gregory found it to be a nice story, at least up until the end that was, when madness found its way back in. For the most part though, it reminded him of what a good soul his younger brother was, and it caused him to feel resentment towards Tabitha for the constant insults towards Trevor. Gregory listened intently as Trevor told his tale.
Trevor and Derrick shared a room in their last couple days in New Orleans. Clair had gone and gotten her own room. Derrick had teased Trevor, but not in a malicious manner. Lena informed the group that she needed to go and properly mourn Lacy. They told her they understood, although Derrick, who’d spent some time as Lacy’s private captive, didn’t think that he could ever come close to feeling anything that remotely resembled pity for her fate. Her death was a good thing for the world as far as Derrick Reynolds was concerned.
They all met in the lobby the next morning. Lena instructed them that today was for getting their personal affairs in order. Clair stated that she had a few calls to make and some emails to send, and promptly went to her room to do so. Derrick and Trevor made quick work in taking care of their personal matters. Derrick informed his superiors at One Shell Square that he had a personal emergency arise out of state, and that it might take up to a week or two to iron it all out. There was some resistance on the part of his boss, but in the end, what was he to do? If Derrick had to go and get affairs, then that is what he had to do, and trying to force him into work would not change that. Derrick also took the time to pay his landlord the next month’s rent, just in case they were gone a while. Trevor rode with him back over to his apartment so that he could drop off the rent check as well as clean out any perishable items from his refrigerator. They didn’t linger long at Derrick’s place though. This was the site of a murder now, and could have easily been the site of all of their deaths had Clair’s pass-phrase not worked.
“Once this is over, Trev, I don’t think I’ll be able to really live here. I might just break the lease and let my credit score take the hit. I just, I can’t see myself watching a movie on the same couch where we were held at knife point by Lacy. Hell, I don’t even want to sit on the couch where Lena sat her corpse. If there are such things as ghosts, just try and imagine what it would feel like to be haunted by Lacy Suzino for the rest of your life.”
“I agree with you. I’ve been holding on to hope that Gregory is alive and safe, even if he did wind up in Delphia. That guy could talk Satan into going to Sunday Mass if he set his mind to it. Still though, should my brother not have survived, I’ll probably sell out estate in London and just move into a flat or something. That house, my father was murdered there; all the secrets of Tobit and Delphia were hidden there. I know there is no way I could live there alone. Even if Gregory does come out of this safely, I think I’ll still move out. Too much bad stuff there; it’s cancer for the soul.”
“Wait, Trevor, didn’t you tell me that you’re a lawyer?” Derrick asks.
“Yeah, got a practice in London. Gregory had me use a lot of my connections back when we were trying to keep the Trisetta Stone from being dug up from under Whitehall. Why do you ask?”
“Well, you were worried about cancer of the soul, but Trev, if you’re a lawyer, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“How do you figure?”
“Cuz brother, you ain’t got no soul!”
Derrick laughed hard at his own joke and lightly slapped Trevor on the back. Trevor found himself laughing a bit in spite of it all though. It was somewhat nice to know that even in this madness, such simple concepts as lawyer jokes remained intact.
On their way back to the hotel Trevor took care of his own personal affairs. His were rather easy as well. As partner in his law firm he didn’t exactly have to ask permission to take time off. He was already on vacation as far as his employers knew anyway, and adding another couple of weeks to it was no big deal. Trevor had to remind Derrick a few times that the general attitude in Europe compared to the United States about taking time from work was quite different. Most companies in England encouraged regular use of time off and vacationing, at least in Trevor’s experience. He actually felt a bit bad for American workers, chained to their desks year around. As far as the house that Trevor and Gregory shared, it was a family estate, long owned by the Leary clan. No need to worry about paying any bills. Plus there were cleaners and other service folk that would ensure that place was as pristine as they’d left it once the Leary brothers returned to London.
“One of these days, Trev, I’m just going to show up out there and become the couch riding slob friend of yours. You know it would be fun.”
“You know, Derrick, I’d actually like that. Believe it or not, I don’t have many friends; especially since my brother revealed the Tobit origins and I started seeing the goat-heads and all. I’ve seen two of them just since we left the hotel.”
“Dude, that sucks. I mean, thank God that didn’t happen to me. I never had any problems after my little escape from Delphia, besides normal nightmares and anxiety at first. The worst was no one believing me. I went to therapy for a while, and had to essentially sit there and be called a liar by the very doctor I was paying to try and fix me. I met this girl there, Lisa. She was nutty as hell and didn’t even have Delphia as an excuse. We dated for a time. You know she had to have her mother call her every night and sing her a lullaby or she couldn’t get to sleep? Yeah, even on the nights that I slept at her house, she had to get that call. I remember one night her cell phone ran of juice, and she couldn’t call her mom. I mean, I had my phone, but Lisa didn’t actually know her mother’s number, can you believe that? She had it programmed in the phone to call, and without that, she had no way to call. So, here we are, at my place. I have an Android phone, she has an IPhone, so my charger is of my use to her. I was drunk, so there was no way I was driving her back to her apartment to get her charger, and she couldn’t drive stick shift. So, she is totally freaking the fuck out, crying, singing a lullaby to herself, and trying to do it in her mom’s New Jersey accent. I’m just sitting there, drunk and trying my damned hardest not to laugh at her, as mean as that sounds.”
“Well, what did she end up doing?”
“Get this man, she went outside and started knocking on all of my neighbor’s doors. Yeah, it’s around 2AM, and this hysterical girl with smeared make-up is frantically banging on doors. I was 100% sure someone was going to call the cops. Luckily, my neighbor Sue is a real sweetheart. She used to train therapy dogs for military veterans. She has a real soft spot for people in pain. She came out, Lisa told her what was going on, and Sue actually drove her over to Walgreens to buy her a new charger, all so she could call her mom and get her good night song. Sue is a good person; she’s like the anti-Tobit in our world.”
“Sounds like Lisa went through a lot. Was it abuse as a child or something?”
“No, at least not as far as I could tell. She was just way too attached to her mom. I’ve heard that boys are supposed to be more inclined towards mom while girls reach out to dad, but Lisa broke that rule a million times over. She told me that all the way from when she was a baby up until she got her scholarship to the University of New Orleans she’d always had that lullaby. When she moved down here from Jersey she just couldn’t function without it. Other than that, she was a good girlfriend, I guess. Never cheated on me that I know of, didn’t flirt with guys in front of me, and thank God she didn’t have that horrible gaggle of girlfriends like so many others I’ve dated do. It’s like, to date one you have to win them all over. Lisa was cool in that regard, I guess.”
“So, why did you break up with her? Sounds like you had a good relationship, despite her weird nightly routine.”
“I told her about Delphia. I figured, this girl would understand. As crazy as she was, and as understanding as I’d been, I thought for sure she was a safe bet to open up to about all of it. I told her everything, the yacht ride, Delphia, Tobit and my escape back to the Dakota Science Station. I really felt that Lisa was the one that would believe me.”
“I’m guessing she didn’t,” Trevor stated.
“She laughed at me and accused me of trying to prank her or some shit. She then went on to say that if I really did believe all of this and wasn’t just messing with her, that I really needed to spend more time with the therapist.”
“How did you take that? Did you really lay into her, Derrick? Give her a good reality check about hypocrisy?”
“At first I wanted to. I even wanted to make her feel bad, tell her that a girl that needs her mommy to sing her lullabies every night is not in any position to judge. I wanted to tell her that at least I was working through my affliction, that at least I had a chance to heal. Lisa just went to the therapist to please her mother; she even told me that. She admitted that there would never come a time that she could see herself getting to sleep without the song. I was so mad that I almost wanted to remind her that her mother wouldn’t be alive forever, and then what would she do? But Trev, I fought that off. Really it wasn’t even Lisa’s fault. Weird mental problems or not, she was reacting to my story of Delphia like any sane person would. So, instead of making a big scene, I just calmly handed her back the key she’d given me to her apartment, and told her she could just toss out the extra toothbrush I kept there. I didn’t have any other items there that I could remember; maybe some spare socks or something, but not anything worth going back for.”
“And how did she react to this?”
“Poorly. She got really pissed. At first it was apologetic anger almost. Like, ‘I’m sorry, okay, Derrick, I didn’t mean to laugh at your little story.’ But when that didn’t work, she got really angry and showed some nasty colors. Before I’d told her my story that day, she considered me the best boyfriend she’d ever had. We’d even halfway discussed getting matching tattoos or something. One Delphia later though, and I’m a small asshole liar with a small penis and no future. She actually spit in my face, Trev. I guess I was lucky that I got out of that relationship before we got tattoos or moved in together or… God, imagine if I got her pregnant. I mean, she’d be singing a lullaby to the kid while her mom was on the phone singing to her. Fucking too real, man. Glad I moved on. I stopped going to that therapist shortly after that, even though I rescheduled my days so as not to bump into her. That was around the time I sort of got this crazy ‘fuck-it’ attitude. Lisa, man, what a nut, but she had a damned grade-A handy-jay, I’ll tell you that much.”
Derrick and Trevor arrived back that hotel and met up with Clair in the lobby. Clair was ready to go out and see the sights. She wanted to relax and actually have something akin to fun before probably venturing into Delphia to die. She told the others that she’d taken care of her personal business, and when Trevor asked her what she had to take care of, Clair responded in what could only be described as rude annoyance. She stated it was personal business for a reason, though she did so with such false politeness that it created the rudeness that would likely not have existed had she just told him to shut up and mind his own. Trevor blushed and felt pangs rise in his stomach. Derrick saw this and jumped in, knowing that Trev had a bit of a crush on Clair; this embarrassment was almost painful to watch. So, being a good friend, Derrick took one for the team.
“Clair, for real, who’d you have to call, the Council on Nerdy Affairs?”
This worked, and Clair turned her agitation to Derrick, which gave Trevor some much-needed relief. After a moment of awkward silence, Trev stepped in did an admirable job of smoothing things over and getting some quality face time in front of Clair.
“Listen, guys, let’s not fight. Sorry that I butted into your business, Clair. I was just curious. Derrick meant nothing by his comment; I think he was just trying to pull some heat off of me. You got a real scary face when you get annoyed, Clair.”
Derrick raised his hand and announced, “Yeah, guilty. I just couldn’t stand there while you mean-mugged Trev. But yeah, I’m sorry for being a dick, friends again?”
Clair laughed and also threw in a quick apology to both men. She realized she’d been rude and owned up, thus repairing all.
“So, no Lena?” Derrick asked Clair.
“No, she said she’ll meet us here tonight around 10pm. She’s really taking the Lacy thing hard. She told me that once we got all of our stuff taken care of, that we should head out and try to relax, as it might be our last chance.”
“Agreed, Clair, and since we have Derrick here, we touristy types have our very own native New Orleanian to play tour guide. So Mr. Guide, take me and our lovely Dr. Nobles out for a good time, please and thank you!”
Derrick had to admit to himself that Trevor seemed to be showing some backbone with Clair. He decided he’d play wingman tonight and try to get some romance going between the two of them. After all, if you’re going to head into a frozen hell and to eaten alive by demon worshipers, and in Derrick’s case, twice, you may as well get laid the night before.
“Okay then, folks, let us be off!” Derrick announced with genuine excitement, and stood in the middle of Clair and Trevor, taking them by the hands and leading them out of the lobby doors and into the French Quarter.
Derrick showed them around the usual tourist spots, and for the first time in a long time, all three members of this little rag-tag group of survivors felt like normal people. They walked around and told stories, some ranging from boring and bland ‘getting to know you stuff’ all the way to some pretty wild antics. Clair surprised them most with some of her college hijinks.
“Okay, tell it again,” Derrick asked, and for the third time in two hours, Clair went into her more wild youthful misadventures.
“Okay,” she said while sipping a daiquiri that Derrick knew would likely have her head spinning if she didn’t slow down, “this was back in the mid-90s when I was a kid growing up in damned Manchester, New Hampshire. So, seeing as how I am not a millennial baby like you, Derrick, we didn’t have all this crap like Tinder and OkCupid and whatever other ‘get me laid’ websites are out there. People back then did those dating profiles, and get read… through the mail.” Clair announced this while laughing. The Hurricane daiquiri, or which Clair Nobles was still consuming too fast, was working its magic. The normally prudent, well-mannered woman of science was no giggling like a child telling a funny story.
“Okay, okay, so when was a kid, we grew up in the apartment complex in Manchester. Did I tell you I was from there? Yeah, so yeah, the complex was fun. It was huge so it was like its own city, and me and all my friends would always run around there and sort of get into trouble.”
“Was this back before you became a book worm science nerd?” Derrick asked, laughing as he sipped his own drink.
“Fuck you, and no, I was always a nerd. But, having a 4.0 GPA doesn’t mean I was like this little geeky kid that sat in my room with a textbook all day. I still did kid stuff, right? So, there was this guy that lived in our apartment complex, and his mailbox, those cabinet style ones I guess, you know the kind, well, his was broken and we could just open it.”
“What did you do, put something in his mailbox?” Trevor chimed in.
“No way, we would steal his pornos. Yeah, he would get porno mags mailed to him, and I guess he didn’t care that his mailbox didn’t lock, or shit, maybe he didn’t know we could open it by jiggling it around. Holy crap, I bet that’s why he kept getting the magazines. EUREKA! I just made a discovery!” Clair shouted this and got comical looks from some of the passers by.
“Never mind her, she’s retarded,” Derrick announced loudly.
“Oh, fuck you, my IQ is like 150-ish. You know how rare that is?”
“The story, Clair. Finish the story so Derrick can stop asking to hear it again and again,” Trevor interjected.
“Okay, so one day we went in there to steal his pornos, because we’d sell them to some of the boys in the neighborhood. I think that’s a felony, but whatever. So, we go in there and find this dating service that I guess that guy belonged to. I was a survey thing to try and find him his perfect woman. I guess he was tired of all his girlfriends coming in glossy print. So, we take it back to my apartment and decide to fill it out.”
Derrick was now grinning from ear to ear. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was just the fact that Clair had once been out there pulling pranks, but this part just floored him every time.
“So, we fill it out, me and my friends. And we make it horrible, like we paint this guy out to be as bad as we could. For his job, we put garbage collector. For religion we put devil worship. We made him out to have a foot fetish. We described his ideal date as going to McDonald's, dutch of course, as we made him out to be really broke. I think we even wrote that the perfect first date would be one where his mom could come along. Anyway, we keep everything else, like his name the same, but we use my friend Danielle’s phone number, so if any potential ladies were to call, we might have a chance to actually mess with them too.”
“And this actually worked, unbelievable still,” Derrick added.
“Oh yeah, it worked. When Clair Nobles, excuse me, DOCTOR Clair Nobles sets out to do something, it gets down.” She concluded this statement with another huge swallow of alcohol, looking sad when she realized the cup was empty. “I think I’m going to be needing another one of these,” she announced to Trevor.
Derrick laughed harder and urged her to finish the story, even offering to buy her next Hurricane.
“So, as luck would have it, or, wait, I should call it serendipity, yeah, gotta keep the New England pretention alive, so as serendipity would have it, a couple weeks later the phone rings while we’re all over at Danielle’s apartment. She answers the phone, and this woman who says her name is Charlotte is on the other end. She says that she read the guys dating profile and wanted to meet him. So, lucky us, Danielle had an older brother. We got him on the phone and told him to do a really deep voice, and pretend to be the guy…. Shit I wish I could remember his name. Either way, we set up a date for the next night over at this Chinese restaurant that was close enough to ride out bikes to. So, we went over there and waited, just to see what kind of woman could possibly be interested in this guy. She told Danielle’s brother that she’d be arriving in a big black car, and that’s she’d be wearing a navy blue dress. She told him to be there at 6pm, sharp.”
“And the fucking chick showed up,” Derrick once again added.
“She did. And let me tell you Derrick and Trevor, she was actually pretty attractive. I just remember she was wearing these big thick boots, and keep in mind this is like the middle of summer, and I couldn’t stop laughing because I remembered the foot fetish part of his profile. So, she goes into the restaurant and we wait outside for about 30 minutes. Keep in mind, no cell phones back then. Finally Charlotte comes back out, looking really annoyed. I guess I can understand why, she thought she’d just been stood up. She’s heading to her car and my girlfriends and me just can’t stop laughing and I think that finally caught her attention. I don’t know if she recognized our giggles from the background when she was talking to Danielle’s brother, or maybe she was some sort of devil worshiping, foot domming psychic, but she stopped, turned around and walked over to us. I still remember what she said,
‘Garbage men actually make pretty good money,’ and then she says, ‘And it’s not nice to waste people’s time, girls, especially people who now have one of your phone numbers.’
With that, she left and got in her car. We never messed with that guy’s mailbox again; we were really spooked for the rest of that summer. Every time Danielle’s phone rang, she thought it was that scary-ass lady calling. When nothing happened after a few weeks, we forgot about it, but still, weird ass prank.”
They walked on a bit, telling tall-tale after tall-tale. Clair’s little dating company story had jumpstarted the competition, and the three of them spent the better part of the next hour walking around, taking in sights and trying to 1-Up each other. This would have likely continued until Clair stopped them in front of a used bookstore. She consumed another Hurricane during their walk, and was now full of what was commonly known as older folks as ‘piss and vinegar.’
“Oh God, they might have it here, we have to go in and check!” she announced to both men, and led them by the hands into the store.
“What are you looking for?” Trevor asked, but she ignored him and went straight to the clerk behind the register.
“Sir, do you guys sell non-fiction here?” A rather silly question, but the clerk was good-natured and simply pointed at the large wall with a blue sign above it with ‘Non-Fiction’ printed in black.
“Of course you do, sorry, I’m a little drunk,” she told him in a low voice, as though her intoxication was some great secret just for his ears.
“No worries, darling. Now, is there a particular title you’re looking for?”
“Yes, Applied Mythology by Clair Nobles. Do you have it?”
The man clicked at computer’s keyboard for a moment before looking up with a smile. “In fact, we do. Follow me.”
They were led over to a small shelf marked ‘Science and Related Materials.’ He looked over the rows of books for a moment before his hand darted to a rather thick hardcover and pulled it out, handing it to Clair.
“There you go, ma’am. That one is actually marked down 80%. If you want to buy it I’d be happy to take an additional 5% off. We’re trying to move these boring ones out of here, but the owner won’t just let us throw them out.”
By this point Derrick was laughing well past the point of ever regaining self-control. Trevor was doing his best not to join in, but he was losing that battle quickly. Even if it meant never getting that romantic shot at Clair, he just couldn’t keep it in. He began to laugh in a deep, honest and throaty manner. This of course got Derrick going, who quickly grabbed the book from Clair’s hands.
“Oh my God, man, 85% off, because the boss won’t just let them throw it away. Holy crap, dude, I think I’m going to puke from laughter.”
Clair was giving them both a tight-lipped look of disapproval. “Hey, at least I wrote a book. I had to do that for my PhD. And it’s good; they just don’t know what they’re missing down here!”
Derrick flipped the book over and observed the price. Three dollars was the asking price. He couldn’t resist.
“Sir, oh sir!” he called to the clerk.
“Is this price with the 80% off, or is the discount applied to the price tag?”
“That’s the price before discount, sir.”
This set both Trevor and Derrick into such erupting laughing fits that they actually had to sit down.
“So that’s… oh God, that’s 45 cents. They only want 45 cents for this book, Clair; 45 cents!”
Trevor took a quick glance of Clair’s face before continuing with the jokes. He really didn’t want to offend her, and not just because he was finding himself attracted to her more and more, but because he cared about her as a friend. However, he saw no signs of anger on her face. She was laughing drunkenly at and trying to grab at the book as Derrick held it about his head.
“Oh man, Trevor, look at this. It’s even got her picture on the back… Look, it’s even got her picture.”
By now all three of them were laughing, shouting and cheering. “And they put the bloody price tag on her forehead!” Trevor added, causing another uproar of laughter from the group.
Finally, the clerk, resigned to play the role of killjoy, spoke up. “Guys, you’re being a bit loud. This is a book store, you know; people are trying to read. Are you going to purchase that book or not?”
Clair, in full drunken insolence, took the book and walked over the clerk. “I… I sir, I wrote this book. I have, sir, I have a PhD in History. So, why is my book only 45 cents?”
The clerk was becoming annoyed and did not appear impressed or phased that he was talking to the author of said poor-selling book. She was holding the picture on the back next to her face, and whispering, “See, it’s me,” over and over again. Derrick was starting to think Clair had the tolerance of a toddler when it came to liquor.
“I’ll buy the book, sir,” Derrick announced, and lay two quarters on the counter.
The clerk thanked them and wished them a nice day in the tone that suggested ‘get out’ far more than ‘pleasant afternoon.’
Dinnertime rolled around and Derrick took them to a moderately pricey place in the Quarter that he knew wouldn’t make a fuss about not having reservations. As they ate, and slowly began to sober up, the conversation went from the crazy antics of the day into more serious territory. Delphia.
“So, by show of hands, who here really trusts Lena?” Derrick asked. Neither Clair nor Trevor raised their arms from the table. “That’s what I thought,” he continued. “I get that she killed Lacy and reacted to your pass-phrase, but still, this could all be one elaborate trap.”
“Honestly I get a good vibe from Lena, but yeah, that could all be part of the act too. She is leading us straight into Delphia, and once we’re there, we’ll be at her mercy. If she screws us, that’s a wrap,” Clair added in.
“So, this idol, the one from the Epor story, that is what the Unwashed believe anchors Delphia to the world, eh?” Trevor asked.
“According to Lena, yeah. I spent some time chatting with her this morning, before you guys came down. She says the idol is protected by some sort of sustainment energy, like one of those orbs that Epor used to preserve the Triassic Journal. That’s why they can’t just run in there and break the thing themselves. Lena tells me that there is some sort of incantation written in Dawning. She believes it’s an encrypted set of instructions of safely handling the statue. The Unwashed seem to believe that by reverse engineering those instructions, that we can maybe dispel the protections around the idol. That’s their working theory anyway, and they think I’m the one to make it happen.” Clair finished this with a sip of water, clearing her throat a bit.
“Christ, Clair, you’ve got one hell of a duty on your shoulders. I get that we all sort of have a part to play in this, but they really saddled you with the heavy stuff,” stated Derrick. He wasn’t joking around anymore and had taken on a concerned tone that made Clair a bit nervous. She was already worried sick about this little mission of theirs, and seeing their resident class clown suddenly becoming the stuffy teacher’s aid didn’t do much to lighten her mental load.
“Don’t worry, we are all in this together. If Clair is the one to break the spell, Derrick and I will be working overtime to make sure she can get it done. You’re not in this alone, I swear.” Trevor said this with a certain strength that neither Derrick nor Clair had really seen in him yet.
“I want to rescue my best friend, Sergio. I just know he’s got to be alive. I just wonder, since they did that Masking ritual shit on him, can he even leave the city or does his soul belong to Tobit? Of course, there’s Timothy as well. You guys have heard me tell the story a million times, but that guy is the reason why I’m alive right now. I will get both of them out of Delphia.”
“I have to get to Gregory as well. If Lena is right and he’s back in Delphia, who knows what tortures he’s enduring as we speak. I just can’t believe he made a deal with Madison. He really was dedicated to freeing our family from the Leary curse by any means necessary, even making deals with the devil, I suppose.”
“We’re going to do this, guys, I know it; I have a good feeling. We’ve all survived this long. Derrick, you even escaped from them once, so I know you can do it again. Lena told me there is a crate of supplies for us to use that should be waiting for us when we get there. She told me that the police in Delphia only carry clubs, so, maybe if we have better stuff…” Clair trailed off, pondering this.
“Yeah, I guess guns will be the way to do it. I remember the cops there; they look like those old Irish stereotype police from all the old movies. I remember them being really aggressive though, so, don’t expect the Officer Friendly experience.”
Clair looked at her watch and saw that it was nearing 9pm. Lena wanted to see them all in the hotel lobby by 10pm. She informed her companions of the time, the check was paid and the three left out intending to walk down Bourbon Street back to the hotel just to take in a few last sights. However, Derrick had what he believed to be a better idea.
“We have time to take the long way back. We can take the River Walk back up to Canal Street. It’s pretty over there, and sure beats getting puked on by some stranger on Bourbon.”
“Agreed. I don’t know when I’ll be in New Orleans again after all this is said and done, may as well be a tourist while I can,” Clair stated.
“The river it is,” Trevor chirped in good nature, and the three of them walked away from the crowded nightlife of Bourbon towards the darker and less populated River Walk.
Conversation lulled until Clair and Trevor saw the gorgeous view of the Mississippi River at night in New Orleans. There was a full moon in the sky that cast a gorgeous reflection into the water. The Crescent City Connection Bridge spanned the river, connecting New Orleans to the West Bank. The bridge was lit up and shone brightly in the dusky night sky. To the right was the Central Business District with all the skyscrapers lit up for the night. This was a common sight for Derrick, but for Clair and Trevor it was beautiful, and they had to take a moment to enjoy it. Derrick took a few casual steps back, wanting to let Trevor and Clair have some time alone. He was still determined to make a match out of them, and figured if this view couldn’t do it, it likely couldn’t be done. So it came as no surprise that Derrick wasn’t really paying attention to anything in particular while he tried to let his friends have a second alone. Therefore he never saw the small homeless man approach him from his left side.
“You’re going to die,” the man said, and continued to walk along the River Walk.
“What was that?” Derrick called to him, but the man ignored him.
Then there were more; vagrants crawled out from beneath the piers along the river where they frequently slept, and began walking towards Derrick and his friends.
“Guys, check this out,” he called over to Clair and Trevor, who quickly came out of their trance from admiring the cityscape to realize they were being surrounded.
“Tobit sits upon his black throne and watches us all,” another one spoke as he walked past.
“You are marked by the Molder of our Minds. You shall scream upon the Red Star for all of eternity,” said yet another.
Clair was becoming terrified, and the three huddled together. “What are they doing, what do they want?” she asked, her voice laced with panic.
“Hail Tobit, Hail Delphia,” a woman stated, moving along the river.
“You shall be food for our Master of the Void. We shall feast upon you,” another threatened.
That’s when Trevor realized that the vagrants weren’t simply making their threats and moving on, but rather forming a human gauntlet, standing on either side of the concrete walk way.
“There is no escape or freedom from Tobit; there is only freedom through Tobit.” Statement after statement, a litany of terror, and as each homeless person walked by stating their opinion on what fates awaited them at the hands of Tobit, they continued to form that gauntlet.
Derrick spun around and saw that the double row of people had also been forming behind them as well, as if all of the city’s homeless had gathered up to give praise to Tobit tonight.
“We need help over here! Someone call the police!” Derrick shouted. By now he had to shout over the homeless, as even after taking their position in the lines, they would still continue to chant threat after threat. Derrick looked over their shoulders, hoping to see a pedestrian, but he knew this was a rather untraveled part of the French Quarter. It had no bars or clubs; therefore most tourists had no interest in the River Walk. From what he could tell, they were alone out here.
The double line of insanity now stretched at least 50 feet in either direction. Clair had no idea if they were simply meant to walk it, like some demonic version of Soul Train, or if this was where those in Delphia had finally made their move. She realized grimly that this could very well be the end. As if that realization had been heard, the walls of people actually began to take steps forward, closing in on both sides. They’d finally coordinated their verbal threats it seemed, as ‘Hail Tobit’ was repeated over and over again.
“Fuck this, not this way! Follow my lead, Derrick!” Trevor suddenly shouted.
Derrick was able to look and observed as the normally peaceful and unaggressive Trevor Leary stepped forward and drove his fist into the first transient’s face that he could reach. Derrick understood and followed suit, striking the next one and creating a small gap. Both Derrick and Trevor grabbed Clair by both hands and began to run. They made it about 25 feet before they risked a quick glance back. The lines of fanatics were still where they’d been left; they were not chasing them, it appeared.
They turned to run, desperate to get back to their hotel room, desperate to just get back to people, when suddenly the moaning began. The entire line of homeless, perhaps 40 or more in all, began to emit a low, guttural, almost growling noise, coming from deep within their throats.
“It’s just like in Epor’s story,” Clair whispered. “When the scouting party found that the Primes were cannibalistic. They started doing this. I know it’s the same sound! I just know it!”
“No time for this now! We have to get back to safety! Let’s go, NOW!” Derrick commanded, and they made their way quickly back into the heart of the French Quarter, and into the safety of numbers.
The trio arrived safely into the crowded mass of tourists and finally sat down to rest on a stoop.
“What in the hell was that?” Trevor asked.
“It was like when I was fleeing Delphia. All the fanatics lined up to attack,” Derrick replied in gasps, out of breath from running.
“No, I don’t think that was meant as an attack…” Clair corrected, also trying to catch her breath.
“If that wasn’t an attack, then I don’t know what it was!”
“A warning, that’s what I think- just something to scare us,” Clair answered. “Think about it. If they wanted to attack us, grab us, throw us in the river or whatever, they had every chance to right then and there. Yet all they did was stand there. That was a last ditch effort, I think, by whatever is running Delphia, to turn us away.”
“They’re damned determined, aren’t they?” Trevor asked, his voice settling back to its normal tone as his body recovered from the run.
“Yeah, but so are we. Come on, let’s get back to the hotel,” Derrick replied.
The walk back to the hotel was tense. They continued to catch glimpses of people staring at them, and their overtaxed minds, now on full alert, wrestled with whether or not they were just still being stalked.
“Look, there, do you see it?” Derrick suddenly said, voice shaky as they made their way across Canal Street. “On top of that building there, look!”
Clair and Trevor followed Derrick’s finger and indeed saw what he was gesturing to. Standing atop a 4-story building, staring down, were about two dozen goat-masked Faithful.
“What are they up to?” Clair asked.
As if in response to her question, all of them raised their fingers to their lips in the “hush” gesture.
Derrick looked around at the droves of people walking past them, all around them.
“Think anyone else can see them?”
“In my experience, no.” Trevor answered. “One used to appear to my brother almost all of his life, ever since the night our father told him of our family legacy. Once Gregory told me about our connection to Tobit, one started appearing to me as well. I never saw more than one, though, and in all my dealings with it, no one else was ever able to see them.”
“I want to get back inside of the hotel. I don’t feel safe out here,” Clair insisted, and they finished making their way back to the hotel.
Lena was waiting for them as they returned to the hotel. She was sitting in one of the chairs in the lobby.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“Just a little shaken up. We had a visit from the Delphian welcoming committee out there,” Derrick stated flatly.
So, they explained to the former Sister of Tobit, a woman they were now forced to trust, exactly what happened with the homeless people and the fanatics on the roof. She listened, nodding here and there, as if all of this were as normal as the sunrise in the morning and the sunset in the evening.
With the previous good cheer drained out of them from their shared encounters with the dark forces of Tobit, sleep was determined as the next step. In the morning, they agreed to all meet at Lena’s room, where she would enchant the doorway, either doorway or bathroom would work just fine, and cross over into Delphia. They’d all expected to be plagued with nightmares on that last night in New Orleans. However, they all awoke and reported a solid night's sleep with no midnight visits from demonic entities. They’d spent the morning silently preparing themselves for what awaited. Once everyone was ready, they met at Lena’s room. She already had the door prepped.
The Enchanted Door to Delphia
They gathered around her hotel room closet. Nothing looked particularly special about it.
“So, this will really take us to Delphia?” Derrick asked.
“Yes, once you step through, you will be there. If I set this up right, we should arrive in a small safe house. Weapons will be there for us. We will meet up with the Unwashed after we arrive, and move into the next phase from there.” Lena explained.
No one seemed to be in a big rush to go first. Finally, Clair stepped up. “Okay, if this works, I’ll see you all on the other side.”
She didn’t wait for any noble goodbyes or stoic words of commencement; she simply stepped into the closet. Once she crossed through, small snow flurries began to float from the closet.
“Clair?” Trevor called into the closet.
“She’s in Delphia now. See the snow?” Lena answered.
Derrick and Trevor took one last cautious look at each other, and then stepped through themselves, followed by Lena, leaving the sane world behind them and stepping into the heart of madness.
“When we stepped through the closet and into the little safe room; it turned out to not be so safe,” Trevor had stated to Gregory, nearing completion of his story. “We arrived in this tiny little gray room. We still weren’t even sure where we were, honestly. Clair had gone through first, and she was standing there, a look of relief on her face as we all came through. Lena came in last. She told us to all hold tight while she grabbed some armaments. Turns out there was only one firearm waiting there, hers. She opened a crate and pulled out a pistol, and in the next second she was ordering us all down on our knees. We all just sort of stood there in shock for a second, not knowing what to do. Then the blue uniformed cops came busting in through the door, pushing us to the floor. We were shackled and brought to the tower.”
Since then, Trevor lived in the former Grand Magus’s chambers. He’d not been allowed to see Clair or Derrick; he had no idea what was going on. The last time he saw Lena, when she handed him over to his brother’s custody, she'd whispered, “Don’t trust him,” into Trevor’s ear. So far, that was the last he’d seen of her. His brother came by daily to visit, and they would talk. Gregory had told Trevor all about how he’d become the Champion of Tobit, about how he’d fallen into the good graces of Pinkerton and Tabitha. Over those last two weeks, he was fed well, given whatever he asked for as far as comfort items were concerned, but received no information as to what was going on outside of the chamber walls. The fates of his friends were still a mystery. His own fate was also still shrouded in fear and uncertainty.
Gregory now walked towards the Grand Magus’s chambers, a room he’d thought of as his own for a little while, and then started thinking of as Trevor’s room. Now he didn’t quite know what to think of it. He’d lived long enough to have seen many efforts and projects of his destroyed. That was quite normal in the business world. He’d had proposals that he’d worked weeks on shot down in minutes. He’d had ideas ignored. He’d seen failure enough times to know it from a block away. However, today, as he was watching television with Tabitha, he’d see a legacy destroyed. A legacy that was not just his, but one that had spanned several generations of Leary blood. Starting with Brandon Leary, working its way down the line, finally landing on his father, and then on Gregory and Trevor themselves. That legacy to keep Delphia out of the public’s mind, to keep Tobit locked away in secrecy. He’d always taken great pride in that, and today, in the course of a one-hour television program, he’d seen it all destroyed. He was furious.
He kept thinking of everything he’d given up in life to pursue this, the family he’d never started, the trips he’d never taken. He thought back to his interview when he was fresh out of college, the day a man named Mr. Blackman sat him down for a dream job, a job lost because a member of the Faithful had arrived and made flesh puppets behind Blackman’s head. He thought about all the mental conditioning that he’d had to perfect in order to adjust to seeing the Faithful around every corner. Learning to live with them as though they were friends of his. Worst of all, he reflected on the night not very long ago, that night he made the painful choice to open Trevor up to the horrors of Tobit. When he allowed himself to ponder on the fact that just a short time later the whole world would be talking about Tobit regardless, it was enough to drive him into a blind rage. However, he could not allow his anger to take him here. It was too dangerous. Whatever accord he’d developed with Tabitha Shaw and Pinkerton, Gregory was willing to bet was delicate. After all, they’d watched in glee as he gunned down Lance Madison, a man who’d worked his way up to a high position here, a man who’d sold himself to Tobit. They’d demonstrated no real loyalty to him in the end. So what could Gregory hope to achieve here? Sure, they called him the Champion, but he knew pandering and manipulation when he saw it. He was content to allow them to believe he was strung along for now, if that’s what it took to keep himself and Trevor safe. However, Gregory knew things inside of him had changed since seeing Newsroom, since listening to the cold hard facts, that the whole damned world was now aware, at least on some level, of Delphia and Hyraaq Tobit. Decisions would have to be made now, dangerous ones.
He arrived at the Grand Magus’s chambers, originally intending to enter and try and talk to Trevor, get his younger brother on board around here. He agreed with Tabitha that he’d have a hard time selling Trevor’s residence here should he still be brooding when the man known as Pinkerton returned. Pinkerton had been absent from Delphia since the day Gregory had arrived, and it was now apparent exactly what he’d been up to. Gregory extended his arm to the door handle, then stopped again.
Tough decisions, that’s what he’d thought. Dangerous choices too, that’s what had been on his mind as he’d walked towards his chambers. Pinkerton had gone out and destroyed his family’s legacy, that was also Gregory’s original conclusion on the idea. But had he? Gregory realized that there was still one last option on the table here, one he’d initially dismissed. He wanted to work with Delphia, that much was true. From the belly of the beast he was confident that he could keep everything under control. However, there was more to it than just that. He also had other interests in Delphia. For one, the oil, all that oil. Gregory was well aware that Antarctica housed tons of oil and natural gasses just waiting to be refined and sold. He also knew that due to a treaty signed a long time ago, that there could be no drilling on Antarctica for many more decades to come. The idea of using Delphia, a place masked from the world by magic, to dig into that oil was something he’d considered for a while. He could bring the men in himself to set up the equipment, and then just trained the sea of slaves that lived against their will right here in the city to work the machinery. He could sell it and never worry over competition. He’d actually crunched the numbers on this project and written it all up in his little notebook that he kept in his jacket pocket. He considered showing it to Tabitha, so that he could go to Pinkerton with some real support when he proposed it, but due to her mood since the arrival of Lena, he’d decided it might not be such a great idea to bother her with such requests right now. He’d wait on that one.
That, however, had been when he believed that he’d won by becoming Tobit’s Champion. He was confident that he’d ridden his family of the curse of Tobit, and therefore had completed his goal. He had been overjoyed at knowing he was the first, in a long line of Learys, that had actually finished what his uncle had started. However, the Newsroom report changed it all.
Now Tobit was all over the news. He remembered the night that he decided not to show the police the little chalk drawing of his murdered father that he’d found in the small utility building. It was evidence, the police should have seen it, but he’d declined that because he did not want the name of Tobit spreading about. He gave up so much more than just that throughout his life, all in the name of the Leary family legacy. He even stood before Tobit’s congregation and accepted their madness in order to continue the family business. But Pinkerton had felt otherwise. He’d somehow revealed that Red Star to the world, and now, at least according to Jack Elder of Newsroom, the whole damned world was talking about Tobit.
This now opened up options to Gregory, or rather forced them on him. He, without knowing it, began using the Theory of Two for his own gains. On one hand, he could remain here in Delphia and work his best to contain things. Perhaps he could convince Pinkerton to remove the Red Star from the sky, but that choice opened up two more options that he didn’t really want to explore. He could imagine trying to convince that slimy little man to do anything against his own devices to be a task born in Hell. He had no desire to take that ride. Of course, speaking out against the will of Pinkerton, even as a simple matter of opinion, could result in a fate worse than death. He couldn’t forget how easily they’d turned on Madison, a man who’d been loyal for longer than Gregory cared to imagine. That left Gregory with the other option, one he didn’t like any more than the other, but one that perhaps could be accomplished yet. He wanted to sample it at the very least, to see what lurk there. It was a gamble, but of course, so was just about everything these days. So, without allowing himself too much time to dwell on it, he walked passed the Grand Magus’s chamber doors, allowing Trevor to remain undisturbed, and made his way out into the city of Delphia.
Nephew and Uncle Divided
It didn’t take long for Gregory Leary to be marked. They’d been watching him intently, ever since his little stunt at the Cathedral when he turned on Clive and Emily, giving them over the Pinkerton. It’d been a bizarre night to say the least. First they’d watched him shoot Madison, and their first thoughts had been that Gregory was in fact their savior, a man finally striking a real blow to the forces that be. He’d then turned, claiming ownership of rank in Delphia, and giving two Unwashed away without a second thought. Where the man stood and where his loyalties lie was still a mystery, so they’d been watching him over the last two weeks. Over that time they’d found that he rarely toured Delphia alone. He was almost always in the company of Tabitha Shaw. Today, though, he was alone, and from the look on his face, not in good spirits. Perhaps something had happened that’d changed his perspective on things. Perhaps he was just having a bad day and needed time to himself. Either way, the outcome was the same. The time for action was here, things needed to be done now, and Gregory Leary had proven to be a bit of a monkey wrench in the grand machine of things. Now, though, he was alone and vulnerable. What value he may have still sits in mystery, but the time for wondering was behind them. Things were moving too fast now to stop and think about anything except for the immediate goal. They watched as Gregory moved from the populated hub of Delphia, the shops and the restaurants, the street vendors and the masses of people moving about. He turned towards the warehouses, a place where foot traffic was seldom. The watchers began to wonder if this was a ploy; he seemed to be moving in that direction intentionally. However, as was stated before, the time for concern about the unknown was moving on, and the time for action was here. It was time to take action. Once he was in an isolated part of the city, they made their move.
Gregory left with the intention of being seen. He was hoping for contact; however, he was not sure how it would come to him. Once he was alone among the storage buildings, he made himself look like a man looking for a man, if that makes sense. He had his head down, but his ears were up. He figured contact would be made quickly. When he rounded a building and found himself in a small and narrow alleyway, he wasn’t surprised to hear footsteps coming behind him quickly.
“Took you long enough. I was starting to…”
There was a heavy ‘thud’ that cut off Gregory’s sentence. He heard it more in the back of his head than he actually felt it. The world slowly started to go gray around him as he noticed the ground was suddenly rising up to meet him. He had no real time to register any solid thought on the matter, for as the ground met his face, his world went black.
Gregory Leary awoke sometime later in a small room lit with a gas lantern. He was aware of an intense headache and a throb on the right side of his face. His hands also sent waves of discomfort through his arms. He rubbed his fingers into his palms and felt scratches there. His mouth was dry and his back hurt. He attempted to stand and found that his arms and legs were bound to the chair. A nervous fear began to eat into the pit of his stomach.
“Where… where am I?” he spoke weakly.
“You’re awake at last, lad. At first I was starting to think you were going to sleep through the night,” a familiar voice replied.
“Brandon…” Gregory asked into the darkness around him.
“Indeed, nephew, it seems we meet again,” the voice of Brandon Leary replied.
“Why did you bring me here? Why did you jump me from behind?”
There was a flicker of light from a corner of the room, Gregory could see his uncle lighting a cigar. The match flicked out and Brandon Leary walked into the light. He dragged a chair from the darkness behind him and sat down opposite of his nephew.
“Bring him some water,” Brandon ordered.
A large dipper was suddenly in front of Gregory’s face, and water sloshed out into his lap. It was cold, and the bound man’s lips suddenly wetted with want.
“Go on, give it to him.”
The dipper rose to his mouth. Gregory couldn’t see who was holding it out for him, but he didn’t care. He was thirsty. He ducked his head down and began to drink greedily from the dipper. Once his captor felt that he’d had enough, the dipper was pulled away, leaving Gregory to face his uncle once more.
“We’ve gotten ourselves into a fine mess here, haven’t we, lad?” asked the leader of the Unwashed.
“Tobit, the whole world knows about him now. Pinkerton revealed some star and it’s causing people to go crazy,” the nephew replied.
“And now you know how it feels to have your entire life’s mission crushed, is that what brings you here, Gregory? Your failures?”
“I wanted to talk to you, Uncle, to make things right.”
“Ha!” Brandon replied, saying the word more than actually laughing. “You want to make things right now? Now that you’ve gone and tossed this entire operation into the shitter, now you come out here and want to make things right? I trusted you, Gregory, I really did. I didn’t like the nephew that I met, but I believed in our family. You have let me down, lad; let us all down.”
“I’m sorry, Uncle.”
“No, you’re not, Gregory. You’re sorry that you lost control of things, that’s what you’re sorry for. I gave you every chance to come in with us, to help in really bringing Delphia down. I gave you the identity of Emily and Clive in hopes that you’d do the right thing. I shouldn’t have, and that is my cross to bear every second they are sitting in the dungeon. I was a fool for that, and do you know why I wanted to trust you so badly, Gregory? Do you really want to know why?”
“Because, lad, I’m tired. I’ve been here for almost two centuries. Fighting the same fight all the time. Praying for the day that Delphia falls so that I can finally rest. When I saw you show up here in Delphia, I just wanted so badly to believe that you were here to relieve me from this duty. I wanted to believe that whatever gods govern all of this shit, that they’d finally decided to give an old man a day off. My body may not age here, but lad, my mind surely has. When I first arrived here, stowing away on Madison’s boat, sneaking into the city, I intended to arrest the man. Yeah, that was the plan. In the name of Scotland Yard and all that, I was going to arrest Madison and bring him back to London to stand trial for his crimes. Imagine the shock when I realized that I was trapped here with him. No escape. To make matters worse, I find out that this city has its own damned army, those coppers out there, plus all of the Faithful. Can you picture a fat man going into the Cathedral, removing my badge and just ordering Madison to come with me? I wouldn’t have been dead before the arrest order could leave my lips. So, I did the only logical thing I could think. If they had an army, I would need one to. It took me over a century to really get the Unwashed together, to get the right people in the right places. Eventually I recruited enough high-ranking folks in Madison’s court, enough for us to learn this city’s one great weakness. However, for every step we took forward, Pinkerton was there to push us two steps back. If we took a foot, they pushed us back a yard. It was always an uphill battle, Gregory, a daily battle it would seem. So imagine my joy when one of my very own shows up here. I thought it was a sign that the tide was turning. They warned me, hell, everyone did, not to trust you just because of who you were and what family line you came from. I should have listened, but I gave in to my own mental fatigue and I trusted a snake, you. And now two of my most trusted people are in the dungeon, undergoing God-knows-what kind of torture, because of my own nephew.”
“They’ve not been tortured, Uncle; this I know. Tabitha has been too caught up with the death of one of her agents; she hasn’t even been down there. They’re waiting for Pinkerton to return to make any big moves.”
“I won’t bother to beat the truth out of you, lad. It’s not my style anyway. No, it’s your new friends that are fond of the heavy hand. We are making our move now. No more waiting. You at least were useful enough to show me that the time for patience has passed. When a man cannot trust his own flesh and blood, there is no more time left at all. You will stay here, you will be kept company. Know that the man in this room with you is armed with a loaded pistol. Should you make any wrong moves, he is under instruction to blow your head off. Once we are done, once the mission is carried out, the man will untie you and leave with the rest of us. You will wait a few moments for him to clear the room, and then you are free to make your way to the main gate as well. I don’t have the brains nor the heart to kill you, although every instinct of mine says to do just that.”
“Uncle, please, if I am gone for too long, Tabitha will come looking for me, and if she finds me like this, people will die, likely your friends first!”
Brandon Leary stood up and began to walk towards the exit. “Lad, we’re moving into action now. Your girlfriend up there in the tower isn’t going to have time to look for you. Remember, don’t try anything funny. I don’t want you to be killed, but I doubt I’ll lose much sleep if you are. Too many regrets robbing me of my rest as it is; you’d be so far in the back of the line that I’d die of old age before you made it halfway.”
With that, Brandon Leary left his nephew tied up and under guard. Gregory could hear the man breathing close behind him, watching him from the darkness, ready to kill him if necessary.
The Logic of Grief
Back in the tower, Tabitha was impatiently flipping through television channels. She wasn’t really watching the programs any longer. No, her mind was elsewhere and was simply hoping that her shows could distract her from what she knew she really wanted to do. Lacy continued to bob in and out of her mind, her face, smiling and so full of joy, so dedicated to all the tasks before her. She remembered the night with the dead baby, the night she’d shown up and taken Lacy away from her world of rules and bloodshed, and brought her into one with one simple goal- serve Tobit in all ways. She’d always been Tabitha’s favorite; there had never been a doubt. And now she was dead, supposedly taken down by a very lucky police officer. As she’d told Gregory, she didn’t believe that, not even for a second. She wanted to believe that Lena had lied to her to spare her the punishment for the actions she’d no doubt have taken. She wanted to move on as well. She’d lost agents before. Serving Tobit, as a Sister was never going to be a job that came without very high risks. Still, she wasn’t letting it go, she wasn’t moving on. Tabitha was a young woman who knew herself better than most others in this world. She knew she couldn’t, and wouldn’t, let it be, not until she was satisfied. She also was starting to develop anger towards Lena for lying to her. She had done a fairly good job of keeping herself at bay by simply telling herself that Lena had done these things for the good of her leader, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that lying was still lying, and Tabitha was not a woman that appreciated lies from her subordinates. Lying is like any other bad habit- you do it once and get away with it, and suddenly you feel that you can do it all the time.
“Wait for Pinkerton, girlie,” Tabitha said out loud. It was good advice. She already knew that the little girl, Soka, was a big supporter of the Unwashed. She had yet to make a move against her though, wanting everything to come together as a beautiful surprise for Mr. Pinky when he came back to Delphia. She’d hand over Derrick and Clair, and she’d tell Pinky all about how she’d learned the identity of the little psychic girl among the rebels, and how the whole damned Unwashed was about to crumble. It was a good plan. A plan that would mean rewards for her and a much brighter future ahead. This was a good plan.
“Sounds like a pussy plan to me, girlie,” a voice spoke inside of Tabitha’s head.
“It’s not, it’s the right course of action. We wait,” she replied to the voice.
“Wait-and-see, eh? Sounds like you’re losing your edge, Tabby, that’s what I think. I would never have imagined the little girl that survived the shack could grow into something so pathetic,” the voice answered.
Tabitha stood up, and gazing back at her from the mirror on her wall, was her stalwart companion in the goat mask. The same woman who’d told her to kill Soka when she was in the dream world with them. Tabitha gazed at her own reflection, the only difference being the mask. She listened as her own voice ordered her to take action.
“Listen, girlie, you can sit up here in your big room all day if you want, just brooding, watching television, fucking your new man, and all the while, the Unwashed laugh at you. Big bad Tabitha, too afraid to come out of her own room and face what must be done. You know Lena is lying. But do you know why she’s lying?”
“To protect me,” Tabitha answered her reflection.
The reflection laughed. “To protect you? Tabby, you really are stupid, aren’t you? Do you remember the night we went and rescued Lena? Remember the choices that you gave her? Join you or be brought back here and fed to Madison’s congregation? Remember that? Yeah, you should, because I bet you all the money in the world that Lena sure as hell remembers it. You really think she’d lie for you? Girlie, I worry about you sometimes.”
“Then she lied to protect herself, to avoid being punished for losing a Sister,” Tabitha argued back to the mirror.
“That makes even less sense, Tabby, much less. The truth or a lie would have added up the same for Lena in most cases. If she was killed by Derrick Reynolds, as you believe, or if she were killed by some police officer, as she told you, losing a Sister is still losing a Sister, isn’t it? So who was that lie to protect? Her? It wasn’t. Unless of course….”
“Unless of course what?”
“Lena never wanted to come here, did she, girlie?”
“Not at first, no, but in time she…”
“Think about it. In time what? She had decades to think about you, Tabitha, to think about her place in Delphia, did she not? You loved Lacy because she was so eager to be part of it all, but you always wondered about Lena, didn’t you?”
“She never gave me a reason to question her.”
“Not until recently anyway, right?”
“So, test her, Tabby. Test her now and be done with it, rather than spending the next decade wondering what really went wrong on that mission.”
Tabitha nodded to her reflection slowly, knowing now what needed to be done.
Many Moving Pieces
Soka Ito was restless. The Unwashed were moving quickly around her. Things were being done now, and done quickly. Something was about to happen, but she couldn’t get any of the grown-ups to slow down long enough to tell her anything. She knew that Emily and Clive were in trouble; that’s why she’d been sleeping at different houses almost every night. She knew something was coming quickly, and she understood it was happening now. She wanted to know what it was, and more importantly, what she could do to help. They’d been gathered into a large warehouse, at least 50 by her count. They were preparing things in small boxes, but she couldn’t tell what they were. Her poor English skills made it hard enough to ask questions, but when no one would even look at her, she was really in for confusion.
Her dreams had been bad recently. In them she saw the Red Star of Tobit, but so did everyone else. Not just the people in Delphia, but people everywhere. The star was making them do bad things. In her dreams she saw murders and rapes. She saw innocent people losing their minds to the will of Hyraaq Tobit. She knew that these dreams meant something very important, but couldn’t figure out what. Now, now all of her friends were running around, grabbing supplies, talking quickly to each other, and she had no idea why.
She felt that she would lose her mind if someone didn’t talk to her soon, and then, without warning, all the noise stopped. The Leader, Brandon Leary himself, had arrived. All the busy people stopped what they were doing and lined up in rows to listen to him speak. She listened too, doing her best to understand the words that she could.
“People, people of the Unwashed, our time has come!” Brandon announced.
There were cheers from the crowd. He raised his hand and they got quiet again and listened.
“It would seem that our time to strike has come now. We all know what parts we have to play; we all know the risks ahead of us. We’ve seen for ourselves just how dangerous these enemies of ours are. They will not show us mercy, nor give us quarter should we surrender. I will not order any of you to die fighting, but I will remind you that should we surrender, an even worse death will await. I have already initiated the first step of our plan. Those of you on the strategic teams, you know where your points are. Once I dismiss you all, you will go to your points and carry out your tasks. To those on the assault team, I will lead you personally. We shall converge on the Cathedral and take it. Our path to freedom lies there, and if the plan works as I predict it shall, all we will have to do is hold that building until what needs to be done is done. Afterwards, we shall make our way to the Mendez Gate. I cannot promise you that any of us will actually be able to leave Delphia. I do not know what Tobit’s magic has done. For those of us who have been here longer than a normal life span should permit, I cannot promise you what will happen once we are outside of Tobit’s magic either. I may age to dust in a matter of seconds, or I may resume aging as though I never missed a day. These are all the mysteries that await us. However, my friends, I know that I cannot sit here a day longer, and I doubt that the lot of you wish to either. If we are to die, let it be on our own terms, fighting! For I would rather die free than live a slave to Tobit a day longer.
“If any of you do not agree, if any of you have doubts or fears, you are welcomed to leave. I will not force anyone of you to fight tonight. For those of you that choose to stay, though, that choose to fight by my side, know that I love each and all of you. We have fought together here for countless years, all in hopes of seeing this day come. Let us fight together one more time, as brothers, sisters and friends. If there is a life outside of these walls for us, let us battle hand in hand to win it. God speed to all of you, I shall see you on the battlefield!”
Roars of applause followed this speech, and Soka watched as men and women grabbed the boxes they’d been preparing, and made their way out of the warehouse and into the night. Soka saw that many of them were carrying guns, and she knew without a doubt that tonight would either be her last night in Delphia, or her last night alive.
“As for the rest of you, gather into ranks and prepare to march on the Cathedral on my command.”
If they were moving against the Cathedral, Soka knew that tonight was the night. She’d been told what to do, and over the last couple weeks she had been successful in making contact with the right people. Now it was her job, a very important job at that, to let them know it was time to head towards Delphia. Soka Ito closed her eyes and began to search. She fell into a meditative state, faces flying by, people that she could perhaps reach if needed. However, she was looking for two very specific faces, and she prayed that they would be able to receive her message.
Lena arrived upon summon to Tabitha’s chambers. She had a feeling she knew the nature of this summons, and was prepared for the worst. As she went to knock, the door opened for her. She saw her leader, dressed for combat, leaning against the wall of her room and twirling a dagger. Lena prepared for her boss the throw that dagger right at her heart, but that didn’t happen. Instead, she beckoned Lena to enter.
“Lena, we haven’t had much time to really talk since you came back from New Orleans. I wanted to congratulate you on the successful capture of Derrick and Clair. Bringing back the whiney little brother was not necessary, but a nice touch. I always appreciate it when my girls go above and beyond.”
“Of course, Tabitha,” Lena answered cautiously.
“About Lacy. You told me that she’d been killed by a police officer, right?”
“I did tell you that, yes.”
“Because, Tabitha, that is what happened.”
“Doesn’t that seem a bit unlikely, Lacy being taken so easily?”
“Tabitha, she was a little overly risky on this last mission. I had to keep reminding her of that. I think she… I think she was trying too hard to impress you.” Lena chose this excuse carefully. She wanted to somehow avoid painting Lacy in a negative light, while still explaining how a common officer of the law could take the girl down.
“I see… I wish all of my girls were so eager for my favor.”
“Why do you say that, Tabitha?”
“I forced you to be a Sister, didn’t I, Lena? I dragged you into this under threat of death. Do you begrudge for it?”
Lena knew that Tabitha had grown suspicious; there was no denying this game. She already suspected her of lying, and another lie would no doubt seal her fate. She took a risk with her next answer.
“At first I did, yes. The night you saved me from Ortiz, you told me that I could go with your or die. It was hard for me at first, I will admit that, but I’ve had plenty of chances to try and escape, and yet I’ve come back to you each and every time, carrying out your missions. There is no other life for me now, Tabitha. What would I do anyway? Return to Columbia and try to explain to my family, to Interpol, to everyone that ever knew me how I’ve hardly aged in over 20 years? No, Tabitha, that is no option for me, that life; the life I knew is over. You are my life now, you and the Sisters. I swear it!”
“So, you wouldn’t mind proving it then, now would you?”
“Anything! Let me show you my loyalty!”
“Very well, I intend to have a little private ceremony tonight. We haven’t had much use for the Cathedral since Madison has been dead. Gregory certainly doesn’t know how to conduct a proper sacrifice, and with Mr. Pinky away, well, I guess that makes me in charge, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose it does.”
“Good, go on down to the dungeon and gather me up Clair and Derrick. I think it’s time that Tobit is appeased once more, and I can think of no two better candidates for the task.”
“But Tabitha, won’t Pinkerton be furious should he return and they’re dead?”
“I just watched the news today, Lena, and you know what I saw? Seems that ol’ Mr. Pinky convinced the Council to reveal the Red Star to the world. That tells me that Pinkerton has been playing his own game all along. Seems as though he’s turned his sights to bigger things than Delphia. I’m not sure what his end-game is, but I am certain that when he does return, he will be happy to know that the rebels are squashed and his little trouble makers from the outside world are dead. If he isn’t, I’ll deal with the results. After we finish in the Cathedral, I’m going to go and track down that little girl Soka as well. She’s had more than enough time to play, and now it’s time for the game to conclude. So, go down to the dungeon and bring Clair and Derrick to the Cathedral. I’m going to head there first and prepare for the ritual.”
“As you wish, Tabitha!” Lena walked away quickly, heading down the long rows of winding steps that would take her to the pit of the tower, where the prisoners were held.
Tabitha summoned one of the uniformed guards that patrolled the halls.
“Gather several of your comrades and follow Lena to the dungeon. She is to remove the prisoners and bring them to the Cathedral. If she doesn’t anything besides that, kill her.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the guard replied, and marched off quickly to carry out his orders.
Tabitha closed her doors and began to make her way out of the tower. As she passed the Grand Magus’s chambers, she suddenly had other ideas. She was in the mood to cause pain, and she felt that the whiney little prick Trevor was in need of some real advice. She figured she could spare a bit of time with him before making her way to the church. She didn’t really need to prepare much anyway; she really just intended to kill them to avenge Lacy. She figured that she had enough time for a quick stop. As she turned to open the Grand Magus’s doors, she caught sight of her reflection in a mirror hanging in an alcove.
“Don’t dawdle, girlie, you know what you need to do,” the goat masked woman informed her.
“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up already?” Tabitha replied to her reflection, and gripped the door handles.
Trevor heard the approaching footsteps, and at first thought that it was Gregory coming to see him. As distant as he felt from his brother these days, he still welcomed the visits eagerly. Never in his life had he felt so alone anywhere like he did here in Delphia, so the act of simply having his brother around did wonders for him. No matter what Gregory had allowed this place to turn him into, he was still Trevor’s brother. They’d only had each other for the majority of their lives, and that couldn’t be changed by anything. Then he heard the female voice of Tabitha Shaw. It sounded as though she were talking to herself. Asking herself questions and answering them. Trevor patted his waistline once, nodded, and prepared for what would come next.
Tabitha entered without being invited, and took a long and fierce look at Trevor Leary.
“How did you and Gregory come out of the same damn womb, that’s what I want to know?” Tabitha asked him.
“Well, not all of us were spawned from Hell, Tabitha,” Trevor replied, actually surprising her a bit with his nerve.
“Watch yourself, pussy-boy. You’re only alive as a favor to your brother, who I am a little bit fond of. Test me too much though, and there are a million ways I can make you hurt. Do you believe me Trevor?”
“In fact, I do. I have no doubt that you would not think twice about putting a knife in my back.”
“Good, I like that we all know where we stand here. If you do survive this, you will be expected to get on board with the way things are done here. I’m sure Gregory has tried to explain that to you a few times, and from what he’s told me, you are proving to be just so stubborn. So, allow me to help you. This isn’t home, this isn’t jail, and this isn’t a kidnapping. You have no rights, there are no police that are going to come and look for you here, you have no lawyer and you don’t get a phone call. What you may get to do is live, and that depends on how much longer we keep your brother around, and how much longer we can tolerate you. And let me tell you something, Trevor- if you keep acting like this, that won’t be very long at all.”
Trevor chose to remain silent through all of this. He could tell Tabitha was on edge, and she wouldn’t need much help to push her over it. Trevor was determined to just let her say her piece and be done with it. That was, until Tabitha made that choice impossible.
“I just wanted to come by and let you know a couple of things, to sort of help you fit in here. For one, Gregory isn’t getting to leave. I know he thinks he is. He has this whole plan in his head; to go back to London, manage his business from there. He talks in his sleep you know, and I am a pretty good listener. He might have these ideas of drilling for oil here, making lots of money off of Delphia, coming and going as he pleases, but guess what, Trevor- none of that is going to happen. Gregory might be given a real title one day. That ‘Champion of Tobit’ is just something that Mr. Pinky made up on the spot. He really does like your brother- as do I, like him a lot, in fact- but not enough to grant him too much special favor. Sure, he can have the big bed in the private room, he can have you, so long as you don’t become a nuisance and hell, he can even have me so long as he remains so passionate. But guess what, Trevor- that’s all it’ll be. He is as much a full time resident of Delphia as you and the rest of these poor bastards are out there. Delphia doesn’t change, it just changes people. We’ll get a new Grand Magus and the old rituals will pick right back up. The Maskings and the Feastings and all that other good stuff. After all, it’s not a ritual if you keep changing it. Me and Pinky knew right away that your brother was a real ‘shaker and a mover’ and we decided to let him keep believing that he was going to come here and just shake stuff right on up. If that makes him happy, all the better.”
Tabitha took particular pleasure in watching Trevor’s face change with each and every new fact she dropped on him. Perhaps he really had believed that Gregory had some real power around here. Perhaps he thought that any day now they would just head right back to London together and resume their lives. She was enjoying this so much that she was almost drooling with the anticipation of the next piece of reality she was going to give him.
Smiling, she continued, “As for your friends, Clair and Derrick, tonight will be their last night on earth, I’m afraid.”
Trevor’s eyes went wide and his face was swallowed with horror. This fueled Tabitha even further.
“They’re going to be sacrificed, by me, tonight. They’re already being taken to the Cathedral. I just wanted to stop by and tell you. Maybe you’d like to come along. I’ll even give you a front row seat, how’s that sound?”
Trevor had never been known for his courage. Gregory was always the brave one. Trevor had never been known for speaking out; Gregory had always been the bold one. Trevor had never been known for taking actions; Gregory had always been the adventurous one. However, if someone were to line both of the Leary brothers up, arm and arm, and asked who was the noble one, the honorable one, the one that could come through for anyone in a pinch, they would have pointed to Trevor each and every time. Trevor was kind, Trevor was selfless and Trevor was loyal. Perhaps to a fault.
Upon hearing that Clair and Derrick would be killed by the very woman standing before him, Trevor took action in ways that he was not familiar. Even as his own hands and arms moved towards the waist of his pants, his own mind screamed, ‘What are you doing?’
He had always been cautious, and should he hesitate for even a second and allow himself to question what he knew had to be done, he was fully aware that he would lose all chance. He ordered the rational and cautious part of his brain to be silent as he followed through with the only course of action that he deemed could be useful.
“I love you, brother! May you find your self once more!” Trevor whispered as he pulled from his waistband the pistol that Gregory had used to shoot Madison. The powers that be had allowed him to keep it, and from the moment Trevor found it during the many hours that he was left alone in Magus’s chambers, he’d hoped he would never have to use it. He’d checked the magazine and found that there were three bullets still left. Three chances, should he be forced to actually fire it. And now, as Tabitha Shaw came to inform him that she would now murder two of his friends, he knew that the time to draw the gun had arrived.
Trevor was not a trained combatant as Tabitha was. He did not have a killer instinct, as Tabitha did. He did not have her enhanced speed or reflexes. He knew nothing of the craft of fighting. Still, his sudden actions took her by surprise. She was a woman that was never surprised anymore, and perhaps it was her sheer disdain for Trevor as a man that had allowed her to believe he was incapable of fighting back. Maybe it was her focus on Lacy that made her sloppy. Her rush for revenge had perhaps taken her eyes off the prize. Regardless of what or who she blamed, the end result was the same; Trevor Leary had gotten the drop on her. She had no time to react, and in that moment was almost drowned in shame.
Trevor locked the gun on her chest, something his father had perhaps once told him, to aim for the chest, not the head, because the chest was easiest to hit. He was aware somewhere in the back of his mind that he was about to murder someone, but he refused to allow that part of him, the London Trevor, the nice, weak, happy, lovable, pathetic and weak Trevor, to dictate his course of action. In that moment there was no Trevor, just a man who wanted to survive and help his friends.
Trevor pulled the trigger; Tabitha closed her eyes, awaiting the report and the pain that would follow. However, there was no report and there was no pain. She immediately opened her eyes and saw the problem. Trevor hadn’t pulled the slide back on the pistol; there was no bullet in the chamber.
Trevor had only a split second to realize something was wrong. He didn’t know if the safety was on, or if the bullet were just duds. His mind told him to look at the safety or something, but by then it was all too late. His chance had come and gone. He saw Tabitha reach towards her belt, her hands moving quickly, so fast they were almost a blur. He wanted to say something to her, beg, plead, anything. However, the look on her face told him that there was no amount of begging in the universe that would stop her now. He decided instead that he would die with dignity. He thought of his brother, the times they’d spent together. He thought of Clair, a woman he’d developed a small crush on. He remembered them in the French Quarter, going about laughing as though life was normal and they were just tourists on vacation. He thought of his mother and father. He remembered the night Gregory told him all about the cult of Tobit and what it meant to bear the Leary name.
He saw Tabitha bring out a dagger and raise it to the level of his head. He could almost hear it as the blade cut through the air. He knew it wouldn’t miss. In his final moments, Trevor thought of Gregory. He forgave his brother, who’d only been doing what he’d done their entire lives, trying to protect his family. As the blade buried itself into Trevor’s skull, his final thoughts had been of forgiveness and love. In the next second the blade pierced into Trevor’s brain, ending all thoughts forever.
Old Friends in Bad Places
Derrick and Clair had been prisoners now for two weeks. They were kept in the dungeon, which also housed Emily Pert and Clive Andrews, as well as Timothy VanBuren. Together they had formed their own little think tank over the last 14 days or so.
Derrick had initially been thrilled that Timothy was still unharmed. However, hearing the rest of the situation brought his thrill down to dread. Apparently Gregory Leary had joined the side of Tobit, being appointed the rank of Champion, for whatever that was worth. His first official act, besides killing Madison, had apparently been to turn Emily and Clive over to the Delphian authorities. They’d been promptly locked away, and had learned that they were being held until the return of someone known as Pinkerton. When Derrick asked who that was, Timothy was happy to inform him.
“He’s the Avatar of Tobit, a man who has gained so much favor from him that he is allowed to carry out the will of Tobit directly. His words are considered to be the very words of Hyraaq Tobit, and he is not questioned here.”
“Worse then Madison then, huh?” Derrick had asked.
Emily replied, “Far worse. If Madison is a pimple, think of Pinkerton as full blown AIDS.”
“Derrick, just what in the hell are you doing here anyway?” Timothy had demanded, and so they told them, Derrick and Clair taking turns telling bits and pieces of their story. In the end, Timothy looked at Derrick with a sense of sadness and disappointment.
“I wish you hadn’t come back here, son, I really do. I didn’t rescue you from this place just to see you come back. Still, thank you for remembering me. I am sorry to see that it was perhaps for nothing.”
“It won’t be,” Clive spoke. “Lena is still out there, right? She still knows what to do, doesn’t she?”
“I hate to break it to you, Clive, but it was Lena that double crossed us. As soon as we got here, she tied us up and brought us to the dungeon. Seems as though she decided that her loyalties lied somewhere else,” Derrick explained.
“Then we are doomed,” Timothy stated sadly.
“Wait, just wait!” Clair had told them. “Maybe this is bleak, but we’re not dead yet. I doubt everyone else, the rest of your Unwashed group, has just given up, right?”
“Clair is right,” Derrick joined in. “There could still be a chance. I’ve survived this once before, and the odds looked bad back then, worse even. I’m not saying this is the best-case scenario, but we are still alive. Wouldn’t your leader try and rescue us?”
“I don’t know,” Clive answered. “If he sees a chance to rescue us and bring down Delphia, then yes, but if he gets his chance to bring the city down, I think he’ll take it no matter what.”
“Then we wait and see. We can’t do anything else anyway,” Clair stated, and that is what they did.
During that time they spoke and got to know each other a bit. Clair told them all about the Triassic Journal, how she’d been slowly pulled into the world of Tobit. She told them how Soka had helped her in her dreams, and even when awake, when she’d delivered her ‘magic word’ to Clair when they were prisoners in Derrick’s apartment. She wanted to meet Soka in the real world quite badly, thank the little girl for all of her help.
During their two weeks they shared more stories, becoming closer friends. Timothy eventually brought the bad news out to Derrick. Sergio had been captured on the very night of Derrick’s escape. He’d been quickly punished for opening the doors and allowing him to escape Delphia. The mob had dragged him back to Madison, who did not see the same use in him that he did in Timothy. Sergio had been killed the following night at a large ritual; the intent was to remind everyone that no one tampered with the will of Tobit.
Derrick did not speak at first. He’d been afraid that Sergio did not make it, but somehow he’d always hoped his friend was still alive. Hearing the news that he’d not made it left Derrick feeling as though he’d been punched in the stomach and all his air was forced form his lungs.
“He died bravely,” Clive suddenly spoke. “I was there when they did it, in the Cathedral. He didn’t cry and beg, didn’t give Madison an ounce of pleasure.”
“Damn this place,” Derrick spoke softly.
“He wouldn’t have made it on the outside anyway, if it helps any,” Timothy stated sadly. “He’d been Masked, brought back to life in the service of Tobit. He would have spent years here as one of Madison’s Faithful, and that is a fate worse than death, Derrick.”
Derrick didn’t reply though. He sat down in the corner of his cell and allowed tears to flow. There was nothing more to really say on the matter after all. Just more death in a sea of dying.
As their two weeks in the dungeon carried on, hope began to dry up for all of them. Derrick and Clair began to believe, more and more with each passing day, that the small shred of hope they’d come down here with had in fact been false, and that now they were simply awaiting death. Food was brought to them once or twice a day by a uniformed guard. Sometimes they would demand answers; sometimes they would ask to see someone in charge. The guards would never reply; they would simply drop off the meal and move along.
So, on the present night, as Derrick watched from the tiny window at the top of his cell as the stars and moon came out once more over Delphia, when he heard the large metal door swing open at the top of the stairs, no one thought this visit would be any different. Just another drop off of whatever Delphian delicacy was being brought in tonight. Only this time it wasn’t a silent guard that came down to greet them, but rather a very familiar face- Lena.
She rushed in quickly, her keys dangling from her belt, and went about opening the cell doors.
“Lena, what the fuck is going on here?” Derrick snapped.
“It’s time,” she replied.
“Time for what?” Clair asked.
“A ritual, of course,” she answered again.
“What have you done, Lena? What is going on?” Emily demanded as Lena opened her cell.
“Look, we’re going to the Cathedral, all of us,” she answered, and suddenly was struck from behind by a blunt object.
“Traitor!” shouted the guard. He’d followed his orders from Tabitha. Lena was ordered only to bring Clair and Derrick, so when he saw her open Emily’s cell, he took action.
“Lena, watch out!” Emily cried as the guard raised his baton for another strike.
Lena watched him raise the baton, and should that baton come down on her head it would likely kill her in one hit. Then she saw the man taken off of his feet as Derrick tackled him to the ground. As Derrick and the guard struggled, Emily once again shouted a warning to Lena. “There are more coming, Lena, be careful!”
Two more guards, the ones the first had been ordered to bring along, came running down the steps. Clair, who was still caged, could do nothing other than watch in horror. Emily’s cage was open, but she felt helpless to do anything. Derrick was holding his own against the guard, but she didn’t like his odds against two more.
“I’ve got this!” Lena shouted, as she moved up to meet the two incoming guards. She drew a small pistol from an ankle holster and took aim.
“Unauthorized tool!” the guard shouted.
As his mouth was still moving, still shouting his condemnation of the gun, Lena fired once, the bullet striking the guard in the head and silencing him forever. The next one was swift, sidestepping Lena and avoiding the second shot that she fired. Using his baton, he knocked the gun from her hands and took her by the neck. He pushed her to the wall and pressed the baton against her throat, pushing upwards and actually raising her off the ground. She looked down at his face and saw no mercy, no thought, and no concern. He was a cold, heartless killer who was beyond reason or compassion. She struck out at him with both hands, aiming at pressure points, trying to force him to loosen his grip. It did no good; he was too determined, and he would not stop until they were all dead.
Just as she felt that all hope was lost, she saw Derrick rise up behind him, baton in hand.
“I got your unauthorized tool right here!” he screamed, and began beating the man with the club. He dropped Lena to the floor as he attempted to turn around and fight, but it was too late for him. Derrick slammed the club into his head over and over again, until he fell to the ground, blood gushing from his head, his nose, his mouth and even his eyes. Derrick continued to pound the club into the man’s skull long after he was dead. Tears were coming from his eyes, and as the noise finally began to settle, she could hear that he was chanting over and over again each time he swung the club. “Sergio, Sergio, Sergio,” was what he said with each swing.
Once Lena regained her feet, she went about opening the rest of the cell doors. Clair ran over to Derrick and put her hand on his shoulder. He was still trying to swing the baton, though he was now too winded to do much more the lift it weakly and drop it. He’d apparently killed the other guard as well, as his body lie still where they had struggled.
“That’s enough, Derrick, you did it, okay? You saved Lena, you avenged Sergio, we have to go now,” Clair said to him soothingly. Eventually he let the baton drop out of his hands. He was still weeping.
“She’s right, we do have to move. We are going to the Cathedral. I had to convince Tabitha to sacrifice you all to Tobit tonight,” Lena stated.
“Why?” Clair asked.
“To make sure the idol is out on the altar, for one thing. Also, to have an excuse to get us all into one place; once the ritual starts, we’re going to have some company.”
“So the old man has finally pulled the trigger on raiding the Cathedral?” Clive asked.
“Yes. The other teams are already moving through the city setting everything into place. Once I give the signal, Brandon will lead the assault team on the Cathedral itself. Clair here is our best hope of cracking the defenses around the idol. We will all need to give her the breathing room to do that. We have to hold off the Faithful, keep her safe. With Madison dead and Pinkerton gone, the worst one here is Tabitha, and if it comes to a fight, I think I can give her a hard time. Either way, the gun shot down here is going to attract attention. We need to go now!”
Clair and Derrick started to make their way up the stairs followed by Lena. However, Clive, Emily and Timothy didn’t follow.
“Come on, what are you waiting for?” Lena demanded.
“We’ll stay here with Timothy. He’s in no condition to walk, much less run or fight. Leave us the pistol. I’m sure you’ve got weapons stashed for everyone anyway,” Clive informed her.
“You’ll die if you stay here,” Lena replied.
“You said yourself reinforcements are coming. Let us stay here and slow them down a bit. If we make it, we’ll join you all in Cathedral. If not, we’ll die doing our best to slow them down for you. The longer it takes them to report the escape, the longer you’ll have time to work on the idol,” Emily stated.
Lena handed her the gun. “Make it hard for them, Emily.”
“I will, we all will.”
Derrick had come back down the stairs upon hearing this new plan. He walked over to Timothy VanBuren, who was still sitting on the cot in his cell. “So you’re staying behind again. That must be your hobby or something.” As Derrick spoke, tears ran down his face.
“Derrick, thank you for coming back for me. Now, let me make the trip worth your time. That idol has got to go- destroy the idol and no more Delphia. Go out there and fight.”
Derrick gently hugged the frail man who’d once led him to freedom. It would appear that Timothy would once again lay down in the line of fire for him. “Thank you, I’ll never forget you, Timothy.”
“Then survive so you can remember me. Now go, go before this place is swarming with guards and we all die like fools together!”
Derrick and Clair followed Lean up the stairs. Derrick looked back one last time at Timothy, who once again stood, although with the support of Emily and Clive, and prepared to face the powers of Tobit again. Derrick knew there would be no third time to save him. He knew this really was the final good bye. He hated himself for leaving Timothy behind, but he was determined to obey the man’s last wish, for him to survive.
Once Lena and the others were gone, Clive, Emily and Timothy gathered together at the bottom of the stairs. Clive held on to the gun now, ready to fire at the first sign of Delphian guards.
A few moments later they heard the door above smash in, followed by the aggressive footfalls of guards. Clive stood and readied the pistol. Emily and Timothy armed themselves with batons from the dead guards.
“Well now, it would appear that we fight one last time. Very well, stiffen those upper lips, for you fall under command of an Officer of the Royal Navy. Let's make these fools pay for every step they take!” Timothy mustered.
Clive aimed the pistol and had time to take one shot. It went wild and to the left, missing the advancing guards. In the next second they were swarmed, batons brought down upon them. The gun was knocked away from Clive, who collapsed to the floor. Timothy attempted to swing the baton, but months in the dungeon, months of malnourishment and confinement rendered him weak and frail. He was quickly disarmed. As Emily was struck across the head with a baton and felt herself drop to the ground, her last thoughts on Earth were, “You better succeed, Lena, you better succeed.”
Gregory was still a prisoner within the small room, being held at gunpoint by forces unknown. He knew it was a member of his uncle’s group. He knew that his uncle had clearly decided to allow his nephew to live. He also knew something big was going to happen, apparently tonight and apparently very soon. He had to get to Trevor. Whatever was about to go down, he wanted, in that moment only, to protect his little brother. During his time tied to this chair, he’d not been able to get the man behind him to speak. He only heard breathing that had slowly become heavier and slower. Whoever was back there was in no mood to speak or move around much. After an hour of this, he began to suspect that his captor had fallen asleep. He couldn’t be sure though, so very slowly he began to test the waters. He moved his wrists about, attempting to loosen the ropes that bound him. From his captor he received no resistance. He began to twist them about more persistently, taking pleasure in the slow loosening of the ropes. He was no expert on bondage, but he got the feeling that he’d been tied down quickly. If it really was his uncle's intention to make some big more tonight, it stood to reason that he wouldn’t waste a lot of time just on making sure that his untrustworthy nephew was properly tied down. Still, though, he didn’t want to risk being shot in the back in the process.
After about an hour of slowly moving his wrists in a back and forth sort of motion, he finally felt that he could slide his hands free. Now was the time for the gamble. He knew that the man behind his could just be bored, could just be watching him fully prepared to bring down the hammer should the man in the chair actually succeed at getting his hands undone. Still, he had to try, and now he almost thought he could hear snoring coming from behind him. He didn’t want to risk it, but he knew this was the only way. He had to go for it.
Slowly he pulled his arms forward from behind his back, careful to keep hold of the rope so that it wouldn’t fall to the floor and wake his companion from his slumber. Now that he’d managed to free his hands, he was convinced that the man behind him must have been sleeping. Now was the hard part- his ankles were tied to the chair as well. He bent forward in the chair and very carefully went to work undoing the knots. They were in fact sloppy and he found that he had little trouble working them off his ankles. Now it was time to stand up. Very slowly he rose from the chair, careful to give his legs and arms time to get some good blood circulation. He didn’t want to stand up just to collapse from weak legs. Turning around very cautiously, he finally made eye contact with his captor. Just some chubby bastard with curly hair and a beard; he did have a gun though. Gregory was overjoyed to see that this man had actually sat the gun down on a crate next to where he was sitting. Then he’d simply dozed off, likely from boredom.
Very slowly, making as little noise as possible, Gregory approached. He reached forward and took hold of the pistol, when the man’s eyes suddenly shot open.
“You!” he had to say.
“Nice to meet you!” Gregory replied, before bringing the butt of the gun down onto the top of the man’s head.
“There you go, mate, right back to sleep with you, just like you like,” Gregory whispered. He thought about tying the man up, but didn’t want to spend that much time in here. He had to get to Trevor quickly, before whatever his uncle had planned took place. He exited the small building, tucking the gun into his jacket, and made his way towards the tower.
Lena led Clair and Derrick from the tower at a run. They were moving towards the Cathedral, but making sure to take the shadowy streets, staying close to buildings to remain unseen. On their way across town, Lena had stopped along the side of a rather bland building. She’d searched around for a moment, before finding a loose cobblestone.
“Help me lift this, Derrick,” she’d ordered, and Derrick obeyed. Underneath the stone were several firearms. Lena took hold of what looked like a sniper rifle to Derrick. She examined it, ensured it was loaded, pocketed an extra magazine and nodded. Derrick and Clair grabbed two pistols. “We have a nice stockpile of weapons hidden around the city. We get them from the storage warehouses. Lucky for us, Madison wanted to keep everything he took off of his new residents. I just thank God he never wanted to arm the guards with anything bigger than a baton. Guess he was afraid of the inmates running the asylum.”
They continued to make their way slowly about the city when Lena stopped once more. Again she searched about the ground, and brought out an orange flare gun. “When I fire this, it’ll let Brandon know to bring his men to the church. We have to protect Clair until she figures out how to dispel that idol.”
“Gee, no pressure, huh Lena?” Clair stated.
“No, Clair, none at all,” she replied, “it’s only our lives at stake here.”
Once Lena led them within sight of the Cathedral, she fired the flare once in the air.
“No going back now,” she stated, and the three ran across the small town square to the side of the Cathedral. “Tabitha will expect you to be brought in from the side, this way.”
They made their way to a side door. Lena fished through her set of keys and opened the door. “This will take us through a small rectory and then into the main Cathedral. Tuck your guns into the back of your belts; Tabitha has to think that I’ve taken you by force. Put your hands behind your backs and hold onto your guns. It’ll give the illusion that you're bound. Once we get in there, I’ll hold off Tabitha. Derrick, you use your gun and hold off the Faithful if they show up. Clair, you know what to do, right?”
“Right, try to destroy the idol.”
“Okay then, let’s go.”
The Siege on the Cathedral of Delphia
Lena led them into the dark rectory, towards their unseen futures.
Soka had been told to stay back in the safe house, to wait until Brandon or some other trusted adult came back. Two adults had been left to watch over her. Brandon introduced them to her and told her to obey them no matter what. Then the flare had gone off in the sky, and Brandon and the rest of his friends, about 25 or 30 in all, left the building, walking towards the Cathedral. They looked like they had guns too. Soka knew she should listen; she knew that Brandon knew what was best. However, she was worried about Clair. Over the last two weeks, Clair had been on her mind all the time. She knew she was here, somewhere in Delphia, but she hadn’t been able to make a connection with her. There was something blocking her. She knew, however, in the ways that she knew most of the things in her life, without a real reason, that Clair would be at the Cathedral. She would be with Derrick Reynolds, and Soka knew that they were important people. She wanted to be there to help them. The two grown-ups left to watch her weren’t paying any attention to her. They were sitting across from a table and talking to each other. Soka could pick up their intentions. She didn’t quite understand them, but she knew they wanted to do ‘grown-up’ stuff with each other. They’d instructed her to sit still and wait for Brandon to come back.
“Ummm, I need to use the bathroom,” she walked over and told one of the adults.
The man, she didn’t know his name, rolled his eyes and looked at the lady sitting across from him.
“You take her, she’s a girl and all. I’d feel weird,” he said.
“Christ, Benjamin, all you have to do is stand outside of the door. You don’t have to wipe her,” replied his female companion.
“I can go alone, I know it’s right in the other room,” Soka replied.
“I don’t know, Brandon said not to let her out of our sight,” the woman instructed her friend.
“It’s just the bathroom, we’ll be right out here,” Benjamin said, and the lady friend gave in.
“Okay, sweetie, but hurry up and come back quickly, okay?”
“Yes, ma’am” she replied, and quickly walked towards the far room with the small chamber pot.
Once inside she shut the door and looked around. There was a window. She turned the chamber pot over, disgusted when a foul liquid poured out all over the floor. Very carefully she stood on top of it and pushed up on the window. It took some effort, but slowly the window rose until Soka was confident that she could fit through. Without hesitation, she slid out and ran around the side of the building. She could see Brandon’s people, all walking towards the Cathedral. She ran a bit but stayed behind them enough to remain unnoticed. She followed them as they made their way to the Cathedral doors.
As Lena led Clair and Derrick into the main Cathedral, Derrick was awestruck for just a moment; he never imagined that he’d have to see the inside of this place again. Now that he was here though, he felt that this was exactly where he needed to be. He would avenge Sergio and Timothy; he would ensure that Delphia no longer stood to hunt its prey. Clair’s eyes immediately fell to the altar and to the idol that sat atop it. She knew at once that this was the very idol that Epor had watched the Primes carry away after they destroyed his city in the name of Hyraaq Tobit. Looking at it, remembering back to her notes, she knew right away that it could, and would, be shattered tonight. She only hoped that the other part of this plan would still go properly. It was a long shot, but one she felt confident could work.
“Well, well, looks like the gang is all here!” the voice of Tabitha Shaw suddenly spoke.
Lena looked over and saw her former leader sitting a few rows back. They’d failed to notice her upon entering.
“Lena, I see that you brought the sacrifices as instructed, good girl. I was starting to doubt you there for a minute. Glad to see some people are still reliable around here.”
Now that Lena was actually faced with the woman, she was feeling the nerves really kick in. Her first thought was just to fire the rifle at her, try to end Tabitha Shaw in one shot. Should she succeed, this could be an easy night; should she fail and give Tabitha a chance to make a move, she could doom them all.
“Derrick and Clair,” Tabitha began, “so nice of you to join us. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to come down and visit with you sooner; it’s just been a real madhouse around here. Now, here’s what’s going to happen. Me and Lena here are going to have a little private Feasting. No big fancy ritual, no fanatics chanting for more, just us. You’re going to die really slow, for what you did to Lacy. Unless one of you would like to confess, then maybe we can move things along a bit nicer. Maybe there can be less screaming between when I start cutting and when you finally stop bleeding. I’m a reasonable person like that.”
Tabitha stepped from around the pews, and Lena saw that she had several knives tucked at the ready into her belt. She’d seen Tabitha take birds out of the sky with those knives, so she knew that any move she made against her would have to work the first time. She’d have to get Tabitha to drop her guard for just a second, long enough to raise the rifle and take the shot.
“Okay now, Lena, you can go ahead and put your rifle down. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I’d feel a lot better if I were the only one with a weapon right about now,” Tabitha ordered.
“It’s now or never,” Lena thought, and prepared to raise the rifle and take her one shot at Tabitha.
As Lena went tensed her muscles to raise the gun, another shot suddenly rang out.
“You bitch, you fucking bitch, you killed my brother!” A male voice bellowed from behind them.
Derrick and Clair spun around to see Gregory Leary burst through the small side door they’d entered through. He’d come in shooting and missed on the first shot. Tabitha turned all of her attention to Gregory, who was advancing upon her, ready to shoot again.
Lena did not waste this precious moment. As Tabitha turned her attention to Gregory, Lena raised the rifle and fired. She saw blood fly from Tabitha as the leader of the Sisters dropped behind the pews.
“Did you get her?” Derrick shouted, pulling his own gun from behind his back.
“I don’t know!” Lena shouted, moving around to flank Tabitha from the other side.
“Where is she, where is that bitch, I’m going to kill her myself!” Gregory continued to scream.
“Trevor… is dead?” Clair asked, feeling tears form in her eyes.
“No time to think about it, Clair, you have to do whatever it is you have to do to that idol!” Derrick shouted.
Clair ran over to the idol and began to examine it, doing her best to remember what she’d read concerning this item. There was a way to destroy it, she and the rest of the think tank knew it. Now it was time to see if she could actually do it when it mattered most.
Lena scanned between the pews for Tabitha, but saw no sign of her. She was still alive.
“You, Gregory, is it? She’s still alive, so if you really want to avenge your brother, look alive and don’t let her get the drop on you!” Lena called to Gregory. He looked over at her, his eyes still in a haze of rage, but nodded once.
Derrick looked back and forth. He wanted to make sure Clair was safe, but he also thought just standing here was a waste of time. When suddenly he became very glad he did. Two of the unformed guards came rushing through the small door, their weapons raised.
“Protect the altar!” one of them yelled.
Derrick, who’d never shot a gun in his life, suddenly had no trouble at all doing so. He aimed at the guards and fired a volley of bullets. One of them went down. The other ducked back into the door for cover.
“We’ve got company!” he shouted to Lena.
“Make sure Clair is safe, that’s all I need you to do!” Lena yelled back.
She knew if Tabitha was hiding, that meant disaster for her. There was no sneaking up on Tabitha Shaw. Lena’s best bet was to get up high and use the sniper rifle to its fullest potential. Above the pews was the choir box. From up there she could watch over the whole place, and even provide cover fire for Clair and Derrick. She quickly made her way up the stairs and took up position in the in box, using the oak railing for cover. Scanning the pews, she still saw no sign of Tabitha. However, she did see that Derrick was about to be overrun. Three guards had made it through the door and were advancing to surround him. Locking her sights on one, she fired, taking him clean in the head. “Uno,” she said to herself.
Derrick shot the other one, causing the one lone guard to take cover behind a pew. More footsteps could already be heard coming from the small rectory though, and Derrick was afraid he’d run out of bullets before Delphia ran out of guards.
Clair continued to work on the idol. She knew the symbols. The instructions were fairly easy to follow, once she and her think tank had figured them out. She just wasn’t sure how long it would take.
“Where are you, Tabitha?” Lena whispered as she scanned pew after pew.
Gregory continued to move about the aisles himself, making no effort to conceal himself or move about tactically. He was lost in bloodlust and wanted only one thing. “Why’d you have to kill him, you fucking whore? Why? He was no threat to anyone! He was my baby brother! You just, left his body there! Did you not think I’d know your fucking knife when I saw it?”
More guards now were trying to push their way in. Derrick fired at them, but they weren’t falling back now. They simply used the one in front of them as a human shield. The lone guard that had hidden behind the pew now made his way around, flanking from Derrick’s blind spot. Lena saw him and picked him off with one shot. “Dos,” she whispered.
“I’m losing ground here!” Derrick shouted, and fired at the guards again, this time taking one of them down. This left two, and they ducked behind the nearest pews.
There would be more though. Derrick had to lock that door. He fired his gun until it ran empty at the guards hiding behind the pews, and attempted to close the door leading to the rectory. As he neared it, he could see more guards making their way in. It would only be a matter of time before they were completely outnumbered and outgunned. He shut the door, looking for a way to lock it. As he did, though, he saw the two guards move towards him. He backed up, waiting for them to swing their batons, when two more gunshots rang out. One guard was taken in the head, another in the back. He looked up and saw Lena moving to reposition herself in the choir box. “Tres y cuatro,” she whispered.
Momentarily free from the distractions of the guards, Derrick ran up to the altar and grabbed a sturdy looking wooden chair. It was heavy, and he hoped that it would serve to bar the door for a while. As he advanced to the door, he felt a hot wind pass in front of his face, and suddenly realized that a knife had missed him by less than an inch. Tabitha stood up long enough to try and take out Derrick, but quickly ducked back into the pews as one of Lena’s rounds tore through the wood right next to head.
Gregory saw Tabitha pop up and quickly ran over, pistol at the ready, only to find she was gone again.
“Okay, Lena, you gotta go!” the voice of Tabitha rang out, but she saw no sign of her former leader.
Derrick was able to plant the chair in front of the door, the backrest underneath the doorknob. He backed up, hoping it would hold. Derrick could hear pounding on the other side of the door, men trying to get in. He saw the chair buckle with each hit and realized this wouldn’t hold for very long. He also knew that Tabitha was still running loose. The pounding grew louder and louder, until it seemed as though it were coming from everywhere.
Derrick climbed up on the altar and pulled Clair’s gun from her waist. He needed it more than her; she had to focus on that idol. He aimed the fresh gun at the door, watching as the chair weakened a bit with each strike.
In all of the confusion, no one, not even Lena, who had gained an over watch of the entire room, saw the little Japanese girl climb in through a small air vent on the floor of the Cathedral. Soka had followed Leary’s group. They were preparing right now to storm the Cathedral. She wanted to stay near them, near safety, but the strange knowledge that always seemed to guide her told her to find another way in. It told her that it would take the Unwashed a long time to get in, that the door was sealed and very strong. Yet, there was a way for a small girl like herself to get in. An old way that very few people knew about. A little air duct around the side that would take her right into the church, where Clair and her friends needed her the most. She stayed in the shadows, avoiding the familiar faces of the Unwashed as they prepared to start kicking down the door. She moved around the side of the building and found her way in, just where she knew it would be the whole time. Working her way through the small space, she could see the lights of the Cathedral ahead, and hear the shouting of people from inside. It was scary, but she knew she had to be in there.
Clair continued to do her best to work on the idol despite all the commotion going on behind her. There were gunshots and shouting. She was vaguely aware that Derrick had grabbed the pistol she’d had tucked in her waistband. That was fine with her, as she’d never even held a gun before in her life and was afraid that she’d shoot her hand off the first time she tried to use one. So far her friends had been doing a good job of holding the advancing guards off. She was aware, somewhere deep in her mind, that Derrick had just barred the door with a chair. She didn’t have any idea how long that might last, but she knew that any additional time was a blessing. She examined the idol closely. It was stone for one thing, a stone goat’s head. She guessed by the age of the idol that as soon as she was able to remove whatever was protecting it, that it might very well turn to dust. Either way, smashing it on the hard floor of the Cathedral would also do the trick. The problem was in removing the spell that protected it. Looking closely at the words written in Dawning, she did her best to compare each one with the instructions left behind for her. According to her notes, the idol could be safely dislodged from its stand, thus breaking the barrier, if it were twisted in the right order. She compared this to opening a safe, easy enough. The clues to removing it, though, were written in Dawning, and although she had translated the language, that didn’t exactly make her fluent in it now. Luckily, the instruction and the necessary combination were only a few words; it was just a matter of knowing how to use those words the right way. She’d been working her way through the first line of code while Derrick and Lena held off the guards. The first line was easy; it was the rest that became more cryptic.
“Okay, first word, second line is ‘twyn.’ Twyn means ‘to face darkness’ essentially. So, face darkness, what could that mean?”
She let her mind explore these options. The people of Epor’s tribe, while advanced for their time in history, also had a limited understanding of the world around them. To face darkness might mean to face away from the sun. That would make sense. However, facing away from the sun during the day would still be to look into the light, so does this mean facing away from the sun at dawn, or dusk?
“Okay, see it through the eyes of Epor. He was scared and alone, so any work that he did would have been done during the day, that just makes since. So, to face away from the darkness would be to face away from the morning sun. Alright, the sun rises in the east, so if I were looking at a compass, that would be to turn away from the light would be to rotate the idol one click…”
She held her breath as she turned the idol, bracing herself for any trap that might trigger should the wrong combination be applied. When nothing happened, she breathed easier and continued.
“Next word is ‘chisme.’ In Dawning chisme sort of translates to ‘star.’ Okay, next to chisme is ‘vod’ and that means something like… big or grand. Okay, grand star. This is another sun reference. I don’t get it. How does that tell me which way to turn the damned thing?”
“Think it through!” the voice of Dr. Redbay spoke up in Clair’s head.
“How? This clue makes no sense!” she snapped at no one.
“Picture it through his eyes, Clair. How would someone try to reach the sun back then?”
“I don’t know!”
But she thought she did. The Primes had not only become cannibalistic but also ritualistic. If they were out during the day, praising the sun, they would likely be reaching straight up, with… two hands, one of either side.
“It’s absurd, that’s too obscure to be remotely correct!” Clair yelled again at nothing.
“Great scientists have always been called absurd, Clair, but they follow their instincts. Now, you follow yours!” Redbay scolded, as if he shouldn’t have to waste his time explaining this to a woman as accomplished as Clair.
“Fine, two arms up, a click left and a click right, but in what order?”
Her imaginary Redbay did not answer again. He’d given his advice and moved on, much like the real Redbay would.
“Fine, okay, most people are right handed, it’s the natural order of things. Let’s just hope that same rule applied for Epor.”
Clair squeezed her eyes shut again as she clicked the idol once right and once left. She saw several sparks fly from the base, and was amazed to discover that the pole that connected the idol to the base was now wobbling about in place a little. She was almost there! Just a few more puzzles to solve and she would have it. She just hoped her friends could buy her the time.
Derrick was now doing double duty, guarding the door and watching out for Tabitha. She was hiding in the pews and he knew it wouldn’t take much for her to nail him. Gregory continued to pace up and down, screaming for her to show herself. Lena was still perched atop the choir box, scanning the entire Cathedral with her rifle.
Suddenly pounding began at the door, hard and loud. Derrick readied his gun, prepared for more guards. He took a quick glance up at Lena and saw that she was waiting, taking aim. That was when the door crashed forward, but what entered was not guards but rather goat-masked Faithful. Unlike the guards, they did not flinch when Derrick pointed his gun at them, nor did they seem to care when he shot at them. They started advancing with break neck speed. Derrick climbed the small row of stairs leading up to the altar, trying to stay near Clair. She still needed more time to figure out the idol. He shot at one of the Faithful, striking it in the chest. It grunted and fell to a knee, but did not appear to die. Two more entered around it. Lena sighted in and took her shots.
“Cinco, seis,” she whispered as she dropped two more. She saw the one that Derrick had shot getting back to its feet. She took aim, but was pleasantly surprised when Derrick shot it again, this time putting it down.
“Now, where are you, Tabitha?” Lena whispered. As these words were leaving her mouth, she saw two more Faithful dart through the doors, moving fast for their size. She sighted in on the one nearest Clair, but never had a chance to fire. As her finger tensed on the trigger, she suddenly felt the presence of someone standing directly behind her.
Slowly, Lena turned her head, praying that it was a friend. It wasn’t. Tabitha Shaw had made her way up into the choir box. Her right shoulder was in bad shape; that was where Lena shot her. Blood coated her face and arm.
“Tabitha…” Lena whispered.
“Boo!” Tabitha shouted and drove her knife forward. Lena never had a chance to spin the long barrel of the sniper rifle around to aim. Tabitha drove the knife into Lena’s heart. The rifle fell from Lena’s hands as her eyes went from registering shock to registering nothing at all.
Derrick looked up just in time to see Tabitha roll Lena’s corpse over the side of the choir box. It hit the Cathedral floor with a sickening thump.
Gregory noticed this as well, and upon seeing Tabitha, opened fire on her position with his pistol. Tabitha ducked behind the railing, laughing as she did so.
“Gregory, keep her from coming down from there. If you see her pop up, shoot her, please!” Derrick screamed. He wasn’t sure if Gregory Leary couldn’t even comprehend simple instruction at this point, as the man’s rage had clearly taken over all sensible thought.
Derrick turned back to guard Clair but was suddenly lifted off of his feet and driven into a nearby wall. A Faithful had caught him. Its strength was inhuman. Derrick struggled, but the monster took a strong hold around his throat. Derrick struck the Faithful in the arms and chest, but his punches had effect. He aimed the gun down at its foot, the only place he could hope to shoot it in his current position, and fired. The man behind the mask grunted and loosened its grip. Then the other one was on Derrick as well, both of them. He was struck hard into the wall again, this time dropping the pistol. He looked over to see Clair rotating the idol, still not finished. How much longer she’d need he didn’t know. He glanced to Gregory, but he was busy screaming profane threats towards the choir box. Derrick tried to call for help but the Faithful were back at his throat again and he could form no words.
From the choir box Tabitha watched all of this. She’d taken the bullet in her right shoulder, which threw off her knife throws just a bit. However, Gregory was close and she was attacking from an uphill advantage. She quickly popped her head up again, waiting to see his reaction. He was firing the gun erratically. Judging by the small holes in the wall where the bullets were striking, he was off by at least 5 feet with each shot. Easy enough, she stood and made her move.
The knife readied in the left hand that she would now have to trust; she stood up, took aim and watched as Gregory went to shoot back at her. She could tell just from the way he was holding the gun that he would miss on this one. Taking her time and using the blade as a guide, she took aim for his chest. With a flick of her wrist, she let the knife sail. It whirled in a long arc, almost appearing to be a wild shot that would have no chance of striking him. However, as she predicted, the arc continued, closing itself back as gravity did its job. The knife took Gregory in the lower abdomen. Perfect.
Gregory had a moment to register a sharp pain in his stomach, and looked down to see the hilt of the knife and the blood forming on his shirt. He attempted to raise the gun one last time, Tabitha wasn’t even attempting to hide at this point. However, he couldn’t keep his arm up. The gun suddenly felt as though it weighed a ton. Gregory Leary tipped over, landing between the pews.
“Now that all of that is taken care of, let’s get down to business!” Tabitha shouted with glee. The two Faithful were pinning Derrick to the wall. Others came into the room, preparing to advance on Clair.
“Stand down, boys, Clair is mine. This little bitch has been a thorn in my side for long enough. I’ll do the honors. You make sure Derrick over there stays pinned to that wall. I want him to see this,” Tabitha ordered with demonic joy and anticipation. The Faithful obeyed and stood down. Clair, so caught up in being so close to finishing here, didn’t even notice Tabitha approaching.
Outside the Cathedral, Brandon Leary continued to rally his men. No sooner had they marched on the church then a huge platoon of guards stepped out to meet them. They’d had to advantage through much of the fight, using guns against batons. However, batons didn’t jam, batons didn’t run out of bullets, and the guards were doing a fairly admirable job of holding them off. They had the numbers, and that was starting to become a problem.
“Listen, boys, we must gain entry to that church! Break off into groups. Those of you with ammunition, focus on the guards! The rest of you, attack the damn doors!” As Leary shouted this command, a cheer went up through his ranks. “We’re coming, I swear it!” he shouted towards the walls of the church.
Back inside, Tabitha continued her slow pace towards Clair. As she walked, a dozen or so Faithful had made their way into the Cathedral and taken up position around the altar. They stood waiting for orders. Derrick had time to glance at these numbers, to see Tabitha now only a few feet away from the altar and realize that all hope was lost.
“Stop, you won’t hurt her!” A small yet strong voice suddenly filled the room.
Tabitha turned at the sound of the voice, and almost had to fight through laughter at the sight of Soka Ito standing in the isle.
“Really, Soka, and what are you prepared to do to stop me? This isn’t your little dream world anymore; it’s just you and me. So you know what, I’m going to let you and Derrick here have the pleasure of witnessing the death of Clair Nobles, and then you and I, little girl, we are going to have a nice long talk, real close up!”
Soka didn’t flinch at this threat, but rather took another step forward.
“No, no, NO!” she screamed, and for a moment Tabitha was a little shocked at such a strong voice from such a tiny child. Who could imagine?
Soka stepped forward again, and Tabitha actually had to blink and rub her eyes. She was sure she was seeing things, but it almost looked like the child’s eyes were… glowing.
It was then that a massive force shook the Cathedral, followed by another and yet another. At first Tabitha thought it was an earthquake, but the booms were a pattern, spaced just far enough to be, almost, the footsteps of a giant.
That was when she saw it. Derrick saw it too and even in his current state of shock, on the doorstep of death itself, his logical mind couldn’t believe what his eyes were telling him. From behind the pews, rising as though from out of the ground, rose the largest alligator he’d ever seen. Easily 20 feet long and perhaps 10 feet high, its dimension defying all logic and reason; then, just to prove that things could get crazier, it spoke.
“Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!!” the massive reptile shouted, in what Derrick recognized as a rather stereotypical Cajun accent. And to make matters even more insane, if that were possible, riding on the gator’s back appeared to be a black cat wearing a dress.
“Hey dere, Soka, dey tells me ya’ll could use a little gator muscle!”
“Al, Maria, please, help Clair and Derrick!” Soka shouted.
“Oh, dat be easy, watch dis!”
Tabitha watched in horror as the giant reptile charged its way through the Cathedral, destroying pews as it stomped past. She actually had to duck out of its way to avoid being trampled. “How is this fucking possible… how!” she screamed.
Faithful cultists rushed towards the alligator only to be met by crushing bite after crushing bite. After five or six of them were left in pieces, the rest seemed to back off a bit, not knowing what to do.
The cultists that were holding Derrick to the wall dropped him and ran over to join the fight.
“Get them, Albert!” Maria demanded in his ear.
“I’m trying to, Maria, but you be distactin’ me wit all dat chatter! Now hush up and let me CHOMP!”
“Don’t just stand there, you cowards, kill it!” Tabitha shouted, standing up from her hiding spot.
“You be quiet back dere, you damn hoodoo woman! I thought you learn’t yo lesson, but I guess not!” Al followed this scolding by swinging his huge tailing towards Tabitha. She leapt out of the way as several rows of pews were crushed.
“C’mon, boys, I be hungry!” he shouted, and ripped into the two cultists that had been attacking Derrick. Bloody robes were all that were left.
The remaining cultists seemed at a loss for actions. They stood back, looking from Al to the small rectory door.
“Albert, do not let them escape!” Maria ordered, and Al obeyed. Lunging forward, he crushed three of them beneath his enormous body. The remaining two actually drew daggers and brandished them at the monster before them.
“Look, Maria, des ones right here come wit dey own toothpicks, how nice!” In one chomp the cultists and their daggers were nothing more than memories.
“Only one left now, and I been savin’ room for ya!” Al announced, turning his huge and hungry eyes on Tabitha.
“Where… where the fuck are the reinforcements, where the fuck is everyone!” she shouted in panic, backing away until she felt her back touch the wall.
Tabitha closed her eyes for the second time tonight in anticipation of death. The gator’s teeth were inches from her face. However Soka had done this, the damn thing was real. She felt its hot breath on her face, felt its drool dripping onto her arms. She braced herself for the end.
“ENOUGH!” a familiar voice suddenly bellowed through the church. There was a force that went with that voice, a voice Tabitha recognized at once. She opened her eyes in time to see the gator and cat whisk out of existence like dust in the wind. She looked around, saw that Soka had collapsed and appeared to be unconscious. The illusions were gone. Standing now, in the center of the Cathedral, was the answer to her prayers…. Mr. Pinky had returned.
“My, oh my, oh my. I go on a little trip and this… tomfoolery is what I return to?”
“Oh, Mr. Pinky, you made it back just in time,” Tabitha shouted, running over to the man.
“Miss Shaw, you had better start explaining this mess.”
Tabitha knew that there was no right answer in the situation. If she tells him that Lena was a traitor, he would blame her for having Unwashed infiltrate her Sisters of Tobit. If she put the blame on Gregory, she would still take the fall for trusting him. She couldn’t think of a good answer, so instead she with the most urgent matter.
“We have to stop Clair Nobles! She intends to dislodge the idol!”
“Nonsense, such an act cannot be done! You are speaking madness!”
“Just look!” Tabitha shouted, and Pinkerton finally turned his head, just in time to see Clair and Derrick raising the idol from its base. Through all of the insanity, Clair had managed to solve the riddles and break the protection.
“You there, woman, put that back! You do not know what will happen if its balance is disturbed!” Pinkerton shouted at Clair.
“Well then, let’s find out!” Clair shouted, and she smashed the stone idol onto the hard Cathedral floor. The old stone, now without magical influence to keep it safe, shattered into dozens of tiny pieces, some of it grinding down to dust.
“We did it, Clair, it’s over,” Derrick whispered.
Derrick didn’t know how the fabric of Delphia would react to the idol’s destruction, but he pictured something big. However, nothing happened. No earthquakes, no crumbling of buildings, no nothing. Delphia still stood.
“Clair, what went wrong?” Derrick asked, panic in his voice.
“Have a little faith, Derrick,” she whispered back.
Pinkerton begun to laugh, an evil and shrill sound that made Derrick’s head hurt. “You see, nothing can bring down Delphia, for the will of Tobit is indestructible. You two however, are not. I am going to enjoy tearing you apart. Why, I might even have to take my jacket off for this one.”
“Okay, what now, Clair? Faith is really running out!” Derrick pleaded.
“Mr. Pinky, would you be so kind as to allow me the honor of dealing with the little brat on the floor over there?”
Pinkerton smiled, “Of course, Miss Shaw, feel free to be creative.”
Pinkerton advanced on Derrick and Clair. As he came forward, they attempted to make a break for the small door leading to the rectory. Pinkerton simply flicked his wrist and the door slammed shut in front of them. They backed up behind the altar, searching for something, anything to defend themselves. Derrick remembered the pistol that he’d dropped. He grabbed Clair’s hand and made a run for it, only to find it was gone.
“Looking for this, Mr. Reynolds?” Pinkerton announced, holding the gun in his hand.
Tabitha was closing in on Soka, a knife held in her hand. “Goodbye, little Soka,” she whispered.
It was at that moment that the main doors of the Cathedral came crashing down in one tremendous strike. Standing in the door was Brandon Leary.
“There boys, Pinkerton and Tabitha, just the two we were hoping for. Take them, give no mercy, for they would surely show us none!” Brandon shouted, and led a charge into the Cathedral.
Pinkerton looked over his shoulders to see dozens of armed men charging in. Tabitha was sprinting towards him, looking over her shoulder, face full of fear.
Brandon Leary stopped long enough to scoop up Soka and laid her on a pew. He screamed for two armed men to stay with her until it was over. Clair and Derrick backed away from Pinkerton, who now seemed to be the one caught.
“Get back all of you, damned heathens!” Pinkerton screamed. He thrust his arms forward, and at least ten of the charging men were thrown backwards, crashing into pews, striking the floor and slamming into walls.
Brandon Leary continued his charge, fists balled. Pinkerton raised his arms again, preparing for another attack, but was suddenly struck from behind. Derrick, wielding the pole that once supported the idol, struck Pinkerton hard across the back of his bald head, sending the portly little man stumbling forward. Brandon was waiting, and delivered a fierce punch, taking Pinkerton across the face and sending him to the floor.
“Get up, you bastard! I’ve been waiting a very long time for this brawl, and I don’t intend for it to end so easily!” Leary shouted at Pinkerton.
Delphian guards rushed in through the rectory entrance and met the mob of Unwashed; however, it was the guard’s turn to be outnumbered. They were only succeeding at slowing the attack down, but lacked the weapons or numbers to stop it.
“So, Detective Leary, you wish to fight me. Very well, allow me to show you what I can do!” Pinkerton shouted, and was on his feet so quickly that it was almost as if he teleported to a standing position.
“Observe Tobit’s power!” With this, a barrier suddenly formed around the altar, isolating Brandon Leary, Clair and Derrick with Pinkerton and Tabitha. The Unwashed who’d broken through the line of guards tried to breach the barrier, but with each attempt were knocked back, left on the ground twitching.
Leary reared back to throw another punch, but Pinkerton caught his hand with ease. He began to apply force, and Derrick could tell by the Brandon’s expression, that his hand was being broken. The sound of crunching bones followed, confirming his suspicions. Pinkerton, still holding onto Leary’s hand, threw the large man across the altar. He landed in a heap near Derrick, who stepped up, still brandishing his pole.
“This ends now, Mr. Reynolds. I do not know who you think you are, how you have the audacity to stand before me in my own city, but I promise you that your screams will break the walls around you. I will….”
Pinkerton’s words were suddenly cut off as the entire world around them shook. Every window in the Cathedral shattered, and Pinkerton and Tabitha were both knocked to their knees.
“What… how… how did they find the other one…?” Pinkerton gasped.
Clair answered him. “You mean the other half of the idol? Yeah, it was all there in the Triassic Journal. Epor did a little more research and writing before he buried that book. But you were so aggressive with your little nightmares early on that my think tank and I realized it was best if we kept some things to ourselves. Like the other half of the idol, buried outside of the city, locked under Bannister Church. The one that is being ripped from the ground right now.”
“No… impossible… no one could know of it… you….” Pinkerton was gasping. The barrier around the altar collapsed.
“Tabitha, get out there to Bannister, stop whatever is happening out there… Now!” Pinkerton screamed.
Tabitha only nodded and ran out through the rectory door. Derrick and Clair were stunned for a moment. Delphia was still standing, which meant that the idol below Bannister had yet to be broken.
“We have to help,” Clair shouted.
“Go!” The voice of Brandon Leary spoke. “Take Soka and make your way to the Mendez Gate! I’ll stay here and deal with Pinkerton!”
“Thank you, for everything!” Derrick shouted to Brandon as he grabbed Clair’s hand and made his way towards the main doors to the church. He knew the way to the Mendez Gate; it’d been his escape the first time he was here. They reached the last pew and saw Soka there, still unconscious. Derrick grabbed her up and he and Clair made their escape.
Brandon Leary moved slowly towards Pinkerton. They were both injured.
“Now, lad, let us finish what we started!” Leary shouted, and charged towards Pinkerton. As Leary closed in, Pinkerton stood. Brandon prepared to deliver another haymaker, but was suddenly stopped cold. His legs were frozen in place.
“Any last words, Detective?”
“Christ, you fat little shit, kill me now so I never have to hear you speak again!”
Pinkerton snapped his fingers. “Granted.”
As Leary fell to the floor, his heart slowing to a stop, he felt pride in death. They would succeed, he knew that well enough. Pinkerton was just too stupid to realize he’d lost.
Pinkerton quickly walked towards the main doors of the Cathedral. He had to restore some order, one way or another.
The Cathedral now empty, no one was there to witness Gregory Leary slowly rise from behind the pews. Tabitha’s knife had struck him in the stomach, that was true, but the bandages that he’d been using to wrap his wound from his fight with Lacy had served to stop the blade from fully entering his abdomen. His mind was still fierce with revenge; he would avenge his brother yet. While he’d been lying there playing dead, he’d listened to everything, and he knew his next move.
The Escape, the Gate and the Fall
Outside of the invisible gates of Delphia stood Bannister Church. It’d stood there for longer than anyone knew, and would likely remain that way. A snowmobile sat parked outside of it. The church, normally a dead place of rotting silence, was now hosting guests. Within its basement, locked away from prying eyes, sat the other half of Tobit’s idol. It too came with a puzzle written in Dawning. It would take a brilliant mind to solve it, one like Clair Nobles's. However, if Clair herself was not available, she had two fill-ins who could solve the riddle just fine.
“Blast it, Janice, we’re going to freeze to death before we figure this thing out!” Christopher Allens snapped.
“We’re almost there, we already loosened it. Stop complaining and help me figure out this last line,” Batiste scolded.
Many plans had been changed from the time Clair Nobles boarded the plane from New York destined for New Orleans. One of which had been this. As Clair had explained to Pinkerton, there were more entries in the Triassic Journal than the think tank had actually read. At first they would have likely read the entire thing, as that had been their duty. However, once the nightmares began, it became apparent that some things needed to be kept secret, even from the scientific world. The last chapter in Epor’s journal was a detailed report of him following the Primes into what would become Delphia. Epor had observed how they erected the idol, how it snapped into place on its pole by a series of puzzles, like a combination. He’d also seen that it came in two pieces, each one, in Epor’s opinion anyway, equally vital to anchoring Delphia to earth.
The night before Clair, Lena, Derrick and Trevor left New Orleans for Delphia, once Clair knew for sure that the mission at hand was destroying the idol, she’d called Batiste and Allens and instructed them of what to do. They would have to get to Antarctica somehow, and then find lodging at the Dakota Science Station, as it was the closest to Bannister Church. It was actually the appearance of the Red Star that enabled them to do so. Christopher Allens had put in a call to Dr. Redbay and told him that Clair needed them at that particular science station as soon as possible. Redbay didn’t know much about Allens or Batiste, but he knew Clair had been missing. Allens assured him that them getting to the Dakota was paramount to Clair’s safety. Redbay had tried pressing for more answers, but Allens had held strong, promising the man full disclosure once their job was complete. From there it took the combined efforts of Allens, Batiste and Redbay, all using their school’s full influence, to convince the researchers at the Dakota that these two scientists were vital in unraveling the mystery of the Blood Star, but could only do so from Antarctica. After several days of tense conversation, the arrangements had been made.
“I had to call in a lot of favors for this, so you better be telling the truth about Clair!” Redbay told Allens on the day he and Batiste left for Antarctica.
It was then that the little Japanese girl began to contact them. At first, Allens or Batiste would wake up and simply think they’d had a strange dream; they’d certainly had enough of those to where it had become the norm. However, when they began to compare the dreams, they realized that this was intentional. Clair was reaching out to them from Delphia through the little girl. In most of the dreams the girl would simply tell them that Clair was safe, followed by ‘it’s not time yet.’
However, this last dream had been very different. Had Allens not dozed off into one of his frequent naps, he may have missed the cue. Luck was on their side though, as he’d dozed off and met the little girl once more.
“Dr. Allens, it’s time. Go to the church, you know what to do. Clair will be doing her job here with me, please, hurry!” Soka had given him this urgent message, and as he awoke, he grabbed Janice Batiste and they made their way out to Bannister Church.
“I still don’t know why we didn’t just smash this thing when we first got here! Now it’s a big rush!” Allens continued to complain.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Christopher. Had we meddled with this horrid thing before Clair took care of her task, they might have just come out here and repaired it or something. This all has to be together, give the bastards no time to react!”
Allens smiled. “Why, Janice, I do believe there is a little pepper left in you after all!”
“Wait, Christopher, I think, I think I have it!” Janice screamed, and gave the idol two deliberate twists. She applied upward pressure to the idol and was thrilled to see the pole rise up.
“Whoa, whoa, what are those?!” Allens shouted.
Looking below the base of the idol, the two scientists could see a large stockpile of glowing orbs. There was a hook attached to the base of the pole which fed down into the pile of orbs.
“You don’t think?” she asked.
“Those exploding orbs from Epor’s story? Yes, I would wager that is exactly what those are. The damned thing is booby trapped!”
“What do we do, Christopher?” Janice Batiste shouted.
For the first time in Dr. Christopher Allens’ long career in science, he did not have an answer.
Clair and Derrick, with Soka on his shoulders, continued to run through the streets of Delphia. They were accompanied by the few remaining Unwashed who had not fallen in the raid. They believed they were home free when suddenly the saw a mob waiting for them. At least 20 men and women stood barring their escape. They all held torches, and this reminded Derrick far too much of his first frantic run from Delphia.
“What do we do?” Clair asked.
“Go around them somehow? A side street maybe?”
One of the Unwashed came over. “We have a contingency for this,” he said, and removed a flare gun from his jacket.
“Get ready to hold your ears!” the man shouted as the flare popped in the sky. The mob, clearly having seen enough, began to march towards them. That was when the streets were suddenly lit up with fiery explosions.
The Unwashed had planted boxes of dynamite in strategic locations, and now they were setting them off to clear a path of escape.
“Look!” Derrick shouted through ears that were still ringing. Coming towards them from the direction of the Cathedral were several dozen Faithful cultists, being led by Pinkerton himself.
“You two go, get Soka and yourselves out of here. We’ll slow them down!” the man shouted.
“What about you and the other Unwashed?” Clair asked.
“We’ve been here too long, been through too much with the bastards. We decided a long time ago that going home might never be an option. But watching this place burn, that is most certainly something we want to see!”
“Good luck to you!” Derrick shouted.
The mob that had formed in front of them was still rolling on the ground, taken by shock at the sudden explosions all around them. The Unwashed split into two groups of about 8 men each. Half assaulted the mob that was still rolling on the ground and trying to regain themselves; the others ran straight towards Pinkerton and his men.
“Come on, we can make it!” Clair shouted, and she and Derrick ran through the scattered crowd towards the Mendez Gate. As they ran, they could hear more explosions behind them, as tactically hidden explosions slowed down the forces of Delphia. It wasn’t until they reached the gate and found it locked that they began to fell fear once more.
Batiste and Allens continued to silently debate their next move. To remove the idol would be to set off the orbs. To fail to do so would be to condemn Clair and likely themselves as well. They may have stood there and stared at each other a while longer had a voice not spoken up, breaking their silence for them.
“I would stop right there if I were you two!” a commanding female voice ordered.
Batiste and Allens looked up and saw a woman, bleeding badly from her right shoulder apparently, walking down the stair to the basement. She had lost a lot of blood and was starting to feel the part, but she knew that she still had enough gas in the tank to stop two middle aged fucks from destroying the City of Delphia.
“You’ve lost a lot of blood, young woman, are you okay?” Batiste asked.
“Oh, I’m pretty fucking far from okay, but if you’re worried about my little wound, then I think you’re missing the point here.” With that comment, Tabitha drew a knife, preparing to take aim.
“What do you want, who are you?” Allens demanded, although he had no doubt that she was part of this cult of Tobit.
“I want you to step away from that idol. If you haven’t noticed, it’s rigged to blow. Then I want you to stand still so I can kill you both. Think you can help me out with that?”
Neither scientist moved. They kept their hands firmly gripped around the idol.
“Okay then, stand there and die, it’s all the same to me!” Tabitha shouted as she raised her knife, ready to throw.
As she raised her hand knife at the ready, a gunshot suddenly rang out in the small basement, causing Janice to scream. The bullet struck Tabitha in her side. She dropped the knife and rolled down the stairs, landing at the bottom. Looking up through eyes filled with shock, she saw Gregory Leary standing at the top of the stairs, gun trained on her.
“I told you I’d get you…” he gasped. The running he’d had to put in to catch up with Tabitha had re-opened the wound on his stomach. He too was bleeding badly.
“Gregory, you, you shot me!” Tabitha stated, as though she were surprised in the end that he would follow through with his threat.
“I paid you back for my brother,” he said through short gasps.
Batiste and Allens shared a quick glance of concern, and decided that it was indeed time to make a move.
“Wait!” Gregory shouted to them.
“You’re not stopping us from doing this,” Allens shouted.
“No, you’re right, this has to be done. Delphia is a disease on this planet. It must be removed. I’ll destroy the idol. You two get out of here, go and catch up with Clair!”
“Can you lift it in your state?” Janice Batiste asked.
Gregory began walking over, holding his stomach. “I’d lift it on my deathbed if it meant an end to this.”
As the stepped forward, intending to relieve Allens and Batiste of their duty, he suddenly saw their eyes go wide, “Look out!” Allens screamed.
Gregory had no time to register a response. He felt the knife dig into his shoulder, pull out, and then dig into the small of his back. Gregory fell backwards, landing in a sitting position against the wall. Falling next to him was Tabitha, blood-dripping knife in her hand.
“Sorry lover, but I don’t like to lose,” she said through raspy breaths of her own.
“We do it now!” Allens commanded.
“I’m scared,” Batiste told him.
“Do not be afraid, my dear, for we are in this together.”
Without another word between them, the two scientists lifted the idol from its base and smashed it on the floor besides them, reducing it to rubble. As this happened, the hundred or so orbs, once used by Epor’s people as explosive weapons, began to glow, working their way towards detonation.
“Christopher, will you accompany an old woman into the next world?” Batiste asked.
“My dear, it would be a duty and an honor,” he replied, taking her hand.
“Well, it’s about to get really hot in here. Hope you’re satisfied, Greg,” Tabitha spoke weakly next to Gregory.
However, in a strange moment of humanity, she held her hand out to him. Gregory, in his final moments, decided that he too could show compassion. Gregory Leary and Tabitha Shaw joined hands and shared a quick smile.
“You’re the only guy that ever won me over, Gregory,” she whispered, and in the next moment as the orbs began to erupt in massive explosive force, all those in the small church were removed from the face of the earth in one blinding ball of light.
Clair and Derrick suddenly felt heat and pressure building on the other side of the Mendez Gate.
“Get back!” Derrick shouted, pulling Clair to the side. There was a massive explosion on the other side of the door, one they could feel more than actually see. The Mendez Gate rocked on its hinges and fell open. Derrick looked over and saw that Pinkerton and his Faithful were closing in. There was no sign of the Unwashed or any other form of resistance.
“Let’s go, now!” Clair shouted, and she and Derrick threw open the Mendez Gate and fled from Delphia, running out into the freezing chill of Antarctica.
Much like Derrick’s first escape, no one followed. This time, though, Bannister Church was gone, and what he and Clair stepped out into was a massive crater. They pushed forward, looking back, seeing the faces of those sworn to live and die in Delphia once more staring out, their eyes filled with that same strange jealous rage that Derrick had seen last time.
“Why aren’t they chasing us?” Clair asked.
“I don’t think they can leave the cit. They didn’t chase me last time either,” Derrick gasped, shifting Soka to his other shoulder.
“Well, let’s count our blessings and keep going!”
“We have to try and get to a science station before we freeze to death out here!” Derrick shouted.
Suddenly from behind them, explosions rang out. Clair and Derrick turned in time to witness Delphia falling. The city was suddenly visible to them, a huge stone metropolis behind a large wall. They saw the enormous stone buildings collapsing by the dozens, saw the massive cathedral collapsing on itself as though it were imploding. Far to the rear of the city they could see the Tower, once the home of the Grand Magus and his most trusted, tipping over. Rubble flew, dust filled the sky, and then the light show began. Bursts of light and energy shot in every direction and in all colors. There seemed to be strange storms, isolated just within the stone walls. Derrick saw a twister, like a tornado of energy, tear among the few rooftops that still stood, and then, without warning, the entire city began to disintegrate towards the sky, being carried upward in huge chunks. Clair and Derrick began to run, but would look back every second or two and watch as more and more of Delphia was wiped from existence.
They ran on for about another ten minutes, still looking back and catching glimpses of the city as it was pulled off the face of the earth. By the time they stopped to rest, they turned and watched the final pieces of Delphia vanish. A massive white energy built up around the remaining pieces of city. It built and built, humming and buzzing until Clair begin to fear the explosion would take out the entire continent. Derrick placed Soka between himself and Clair, and then turned, shielding them both with his back. The light roared and rose in enveloping the entire city from wall to wall. Then, in a massive flash, it all shot into the sky.
When Derrick and Clair finally felt it was safe to look, they saw that where Delphia had stood, there was now massive scorched earth, the dimensions of the burn perfectly set to those of the fallen city. It was over.
“Okay, let’s get out of here!” Derrick shouted. He and Clair began to briskly walk, hoping they would make it to help before freezing, when a sight of horror was suddenly blocking their path.
Thaddeus Pinkerton stood in the snow, blocking their path. He no longer looked like the proper southern gentleman now. Now his suit was ragged and torn in many places. Blood oozed from his mouth. His eyes were wide and wild. He looked insane.
“You little fuckers, you meddling little shits!” he screamed. “You’ve ruined it all, eons and eons of work, undone by you. Do you really think you can stand against Hyraaq Tobit? Do you think so highly of yourselves?!”
Derrick handed Soka to Clair and stepped towards Pinkerton. “Get out of our way! We’ve all had a rough day but from the looks of you, I think I can knock your head off. Step aside or I’ll hurt you, man!”
Pinkerton laughed, an ugly, ear grating sound. “Is it fisticuffs that you want, Mr. Reynolds? Oh my no, we are far from that. I have come out here to show you the meaning of power, and power you shall know! The game ends here! It’s time for you to meet The Master!”
Pinkerton held his arms up the sky, “Hyraaq Tobit, I summon you here! Come to my aid and smite these fools directly!”
A massive roar filled the air. It was so loud and deep that it knocked Clair and Derrick off of their feet. Pinkerton stood, laughing as The Demon Tobit of Delphia came into existence beside him.
Clair’s brain could barely compute what she was seeing. A massive creature, taller than some buildings; a masculine body with the head of a goat. Its head had three burning red eyes, two in the normal places and one in the center of its forehead. Its horns extended another ten feet from its head, long and twisting.
“Hyraaq Tobit, Molder of our Minds, King of the Void, I beg you, destroy those two now!” Pinkerton shouted, and Clair and Derrick had just enough time to see the monster reaching towards them. They closed their eyes and waited.
The Child-Tobit of Delphia
Clair felt a hand on her shoulder, and was sure that it was the hand of Tobit, though it felt too small. Derrick felt the same.
“Do not be afraid, for he means you no harm,” a male voice spoke. It was soothing, like the voice of a father very much beloved by his children.
Derrick and Clair risked looking, and saw that they were now flanked on either side by what appeared to be a man and a woman, both dressed in, well, the only way she could describe it was ‘regal attire.” They even wore crowns.
“Hyraaq, stop this at once, you’re scaring these nice people,” the male stated in a rather conversational tone, the same tone a father might use to gently correct a wayward child.
“I believe we must have a conversation with Thaddeus Pinkerton, for it seems he’s overstepped quite a bit,” the woman stated. Her voice also carried that comforting quality, a loving mother’s voice to be certain.
Derrick looked over and saw two things that amazed him. Tobit had shrunk. No longer was he a hulking beast, but now he was the size of a child, maybe just a little taller than Soka. He still had the head of goat, but even that had more of a cartoonish quality to it now. Not really frightening, just strange. The other shocking development was that Pinkerton, apparently first name Thaddeus, had dropped to his hands and knees and was groveling in the snow before the two beings that had just appeared. This day was indeed full of wonder.
“My name, well, it’s a bit hard to say, so you can call me Queen if you’d like. I’m not really a queen, mind you, but it seems to be what humans like to see me as, so we shall keep it simple,” the woman said in that same kindly, almost addictive voice. Derrick saw that she was beautiful, with long blonde hair and eyes that were, well, a color that he couldn’t quite identify. She looked both young and old at the same time, as hard as that could be to explain.
“You may call me King then, I suppose. Same explanation as my wife just gave, it’s just easier that way,” the male stated. He too looked handsome and stately, and Clair had to agree later with Derrick, that he somehow too looked both young and old.
“We are from the Council of Nod, and we have come here to intervene. It would seem that Thaddeus has committed a rather grave crime here today, haven’t you?” King asked.
“Forgive me, Masters, forgive me, my Lord and Lady, all I did I did for Hyraaq, for his growth,” Pinkerton sniveled, his face still buried in the snow.
“Are you… gods, angels?” Derrick struggled to ask.
“Neither and both, I suppose,” Queen replied. She walked over to Soka and caressed the girl’s face. Soka began to wake up. “There we are, sweet-girl. You’ve had a long day.”
“What’s happening?” Soka asked in that tired way children do when they wake up and go right into talking.
“So, who are you exactly?” Clair was bold enough to ask.
King began to explain, “As we said, we are the Council of Nod, or at least, a small fraction of it. We are also the parents of Hyraaq over there, who I see has been quite naughty recently. We let him out of our sight for a few days and look what he did.”
“A few days?” Derrick asked, but he felt as though he understood.
“Of course,” Queen replied. “What seems like billions of years to you is really just a couple of days to us. We have a very different concept of time.”
“As I was saying,” King began again, “we come from the Council of Nod. Our race, you see us as gods, but in reality, we are much like you, just a bit more advanced. We were born from the nothing that was the first universe. Lots of energy with nothing to do with itself. Just like your first beings born from proteins and such, we were born from the pure, chaotic energy of the first universe.”
“We created galaxies, planets and star systems as art, did you know that?” Queen asked. “Indeed, we were a species with no wars to fight or conflicts to resolve, so, we turned to art. And as we created, life began to form on our own creations, like painting a picture and watching the people in it suddenly start walking about and having conversations.”
“For what you would call eons, we and the rest of our people were content to live this way. However, we too fell to the same follies that your race falls to quite often. Greed and envy, jealousy and pride. As each of the little pieces of art began to develop, the artist would brag that their people, you mortals, were superior to the others. This started off innocently at first, just a creator taking pride in his or her work, but over time some members of our people began to hedge their bets. They would gift their people with more intelligence, more aggression, more tools or more lust. We were fools ourselves at first, you know?”
King nodded towards Queen to tell from there.
“Yes, fools. We saw mortals as ours, our property. It was not until much later that we started to realize you were all just like us, just on a smaller scale. You had families and lives; you built and created, governed and built societies. We eventually deemed that it was no longer right for us to use you to compete with each other. So, the Council of Nod was formed.”
“Think of it as rules for gods,” King stated, picking the story back up. “As you all became more advanced, we stepped back. There are many rules that we follow, and it would take us decades to explain them all, so I will tell you this: we, as beings, are not allowed to directly interfere with your lives. We can have some influence, sure, but no direct contact. To do so would defeat the purpose of you even living your lives on your own.”
Clair, Derrick and Soka were enthralled in all of this. They hadn’t noticed, but the temperature around them had been raised to perfect comfort levels.
“Anyway, Hyraaq here is our child. He was one of the first of our kind of be born from two parents. He was considered quite a prodigy. He’s young though, only a couple trillion years, really just a kid by your standards. We gave him Earth, yes, we’ll admit that, and perhaps it was a mistake. Your people were very primitive, and we felt that he couldn’t mess things up too badly, and we watched him carefully to make sure things went smoothly. For a long time, they did.”
“No disrespect, but I wouldn’t call what he did with the Primes an act of kindness,” Clair risked saying.
King responded, “It was and it wasn’t, I suppose. The tribe of humans that lived then would have been wiped out eventually anyway, much in the same fashion your dinosaurs were. Hyraaq preserved the Primes in what would eventually become Delphia. Their gruesome nature, the cannibalism and such, was more of their own hearts acting out than any real influence from Tobit. I suppose they saw meat as meat, whether it came from man or beast. Hyraaq was actually lawful to Nod in not correcting them for that, but rather letting them form their own ways. We could not fault him for that.”
“Pinkerton, though, isn't he one of your people?” Derrick asked, a bit of anger dancing on his lips.
“Thaddeus, one of us? Oh no, my son, he is just another mortal from earth, like yourselves.”
“But, he commanded Tobit?” Soka spoke. “And he ruled over Delphia, he spoke to the Council of Tobit, he…”
“Easy, my child, Thaddeus here is nothing to fear. First of all, there is no Council of Tobit, only Nod. Thaddeus would call on Hyraaq for favors here and there, and then report back that there was some sort of greater tier or power. In reality, the only Council of Tobit to ever exist was Thaddeus himself,” Queen explained.
“As for where Thaddeus Pinkerton came from, it was certainly not the heavens. He came to us from Louisiana; the year, as you know years, was 1699. He was a poor landowner who was trying to stake his claim, I suppose. He’d traveled with a man of some importance in your history named LaSalle. It was actually during a rare family vacation that myself, Queen and Hyraaq met him.”
“Oh yes, he was a charmer. We appeared as humans, of course, wanting to blend in with you all. We decided to seek lodging, and the first place we found was a small house owned by our very own Thaddeus Pinkerton. He did invite us in. We paid him for the room and he did in fact amaze us with his ability to speak. Such a charmer was he. He told us stories and we did laugh. Hyraaq though, Hyraaq liked him the most. He and Thaddeus bonded, I suppose. When it was time for us to leave the next day and continue with our journey, Hyraaq refused to go. He cried and begged for ‘Mr. Pinky,’ as he called him, to come along with us. Honestly, as parents we simply wanted to make our child happy. So, we revealed ourselves to Thaddeus, a moment of foolishness if ever there was. Of course he agreed to come. He promised that he would do his best to guide and aid Hyraaq as he grew. We saw him as the perfect steward, a man Hyraaq loved and who could guide him in the ways of humanity.”
“That was our mistake,” King interjected. “The problem was, though, by the time we realized just how toxic Thaddeus was, we’d already stepped back. Our very own rules of Nod prevented us from just stepping in and undoing the damage that he was causing through Hyraaq. We did try and talk to Hyraaq a time or two, tell him that perhaps he was spending too much time with Thaddeus, but they were best friends, at least in Hyraaq’s eyes, and there was no convincing him otherwise.”
“The only thing we could do at that point was wait, simple as that. The rules of Nod are very specific, and even when Thaddeus convinced Hyraaq to reveal the Red Star, even that wasn’t a direct violation of any of the Nod guidelines.”
“No, Thaddeus did not fully cross the line until he summoned Hyraaq here, to appear before you and commanded him to attack you. At that point he’d violated the Council of Nod, and we were free to intervene.”
“I… am… sorry,” Hyraaq Tobit whispered in a low and almost shy voice. Derrick wanted to laugh if the situation weren’t already so insane.
“Hyraaq, don’t be sorry. It’s your friend Mr. Pinky here who is to be sorry, and he shall be,” King stated.
Pinkerton looked up from the snow. “My Lord, my Lady, please forgive me, please understand my intentions were always for Hyraaq. It was what you wanted me to do when you hired me on, to help him grow and…”
“Be silent, Thaddeus,” King shouted, and raised his hand towards the portly man.
“Please don’t hurt him!” Hyraaq suddenly cried.
“See the problems of parenthood? You always have to put your children above all else,” Queen said to Clair and Derrick.
“Very well, Hyraaq, we shall spare Thaddeus. We’ll bring him back with us and perhaps in time he can learn how to live as a man instead of just a fool who thinks he’s a god.”
“Oh thank you, thank you, My Lord and Lady, thank you all!” Pinkerton sobbed.
“You can wait for us on the Red Star. We’ll pick you up in a few days… a few or our days,” King snapped. “I’m sure there a quite a few people there who would love to see you again.”
Pinkerton’s eyes went wide with terror, and with a flick of King’s wrist, he was snuffed from the earth in a small flash of red light.
“A real shame he was. I suppose now we’ll have to find someone else to try and mentor Hyraaq on his role in humanity,” Queen said softly.
Soka stepped forward. “I’ll do it!”
“Soka, no!” Clair shouted.
“No, listen, Clair,” she explained, language no longer a barrier between them, “he needs a friend. I sense a goodness in him that just needs the right person to bring it out. I can do that, he needs me.”
“Soka, you can’t be serious, stay with us!” Derrick exclaimed.
“I have no family here. My parents were killed in Delphia. If I go back to Japan I’ll be forced to live with relatives that I barely know. I want to do this, please, please let me.”
King and Queen looked at each other and nodded.
“You are a brave little girl, Soka Ito. It is really your heart’s desire to come home with Hyraaq?” Queen asked.
“Yes. If he wants to be my friend.”
“Well, go and introduce yourself,” King suggested.
Soka walked over to Tobit, no fear or hesitation. She extended her hand. “I’m Soka,” she said softly.
“I am Hyraaq,” replied Tobit.
“Can I come home with you? I can show you lots of fun things,” she said to him.
“It won’t be scary there. My castle is very nice,” Tobit replied.
“Are you really going to let her do this?” Derrick asked the King and Queen.
“It’s her heart’s desire, so it seems. I can tell they are already bonding,” King stated. “And we will be there with them. We have learned our lesson about allowing one ‘friend’ to have too much exposure with our son. However, with her I sense that things will go much smoother.”
Clair and Derrick ran over to Soka. They hesitated for a moment at the sight of Tobit. He still bore too many bad memories for them to simply forgive so quickly.
“Soka, you don’t have to… you know that right?” Clair said, tears falling down her face.
“Miss Clair, if I don’t help him, then who will? Another Pinkerton? No, he needs a real friend, that’s all,” Soka answered.
Clair hugged the girl hard, tears soaking into her hair.
“Don’t be sad, Clair. I’ll come and visit you, in your dreams. You too, Mr. Derrick.”
Derrick knelt down and hugged her as well. He too was crying.
“Alright then, looks like we are about settled here,” King announced.
Queen approached Derrick and Clair. “You two are amazing humans. You are what many of our own kind should aspire to be. As for this whole mess that our son caused, we have taken the liberty of removing the Red Star from the sky. I think you’ll find that in time, with its influence gone, that your people will return to normal. Humans heal quite remarkably that way.”
“Yes, oh yes, you do,” King announced. “Now, this is normally the part where we wave our hands so you two would wake up in your beds with no real memory of any of this. Perhaps in dreams, perhaps inspiration. You’d be amazed at how many of your great artists are just men and women whom we have made to forget.
“But that seems wrong to us. We shall not remove these memories. You have fought hard for your people today, and to take this away from you somehow seems like a sin. You shall both live long and incredible lives, that much we can promise you. Your journey is far from over. You will go on to accomplish feats beyond comprehension.
“After we leave, just wait here for a minute or so; rescue is already on the way to get you,” King informed them.
King, Queen, Tobit and Soka stood together.
“Goodbye, Miss Clair, goodbye, Mr. Derrick! I love you both! I’ll see you again one day, I promise!” Soka called out.
Tobit gave a single nod; he and Soka were holding hands.
“Farewell, brave mortals. We shall be watching over you. You forever have our gratitude!” King and Queen called in unison, and in the next moment, they were gone.
One Year Later
“So that, folks, has been Derrick Reynolds and Dr. Clair Nobles, explaining their experience in what has become known as the Big Burst. Demonic cities, cults and god-like beings, really quite a tale!” Jack Elder recapped from behind his desk as Clair and Derrick sat across from him.
The Big Burst had been the largest scale explosion ever recorded on Earth. It left a huge portion of Antarctica scorched, and even now, a year later, no snow will fall on the burnt ground. People felt the explosion all over the world and the light that flew up into the sky could be seen from thousands of miles away. Its source had been one long mystery, and when Derrick and Clair stepped forward, claiming to know its origins, Jack Elder had been quick to invite them on his show.
“You don’t believe us, do you?” Clair asked him.
“Well, Dr. Nobles, I must admit, that’s quite a story to take in.”
“Look at the proof, man. The Red Star vanished at the exact same time as the Big Burst in Antarctica, and you cannot deny what the satellite images showed in the moments before the Burst took place. You saw it, a city, outlined in white light. You could see buildings, streets, zoom in enough and you can almost see people!” Derrick argued back.
“Those are the facts, Mr. Reynolds, but I do believe that my audience, along with experts from around the globe, simply can’t just blindly believe that this Delphia was some sort of hidden city, and that this Tobit was a god-child trying to learn right from wrong,” Elder replied.
“If you went through what we did, there would never be a question,” Clair replied.
“Well, anyway, we are out of time on Newsroom. I’d like to thank my guests, Derrick Reynolds and Dr. Clair Nobles, for sharing their story. We’d like to hear your opinions too folks, so feel free to email us here at Newsroom with your thoughts on the Big Burst and the Blood Star. For Newsroom, I am Jack Elder, good night!”
Derrick and Clair shook Elder’s hand and left the studio.
“So you’re flying back to New Orleans tomorrow?” Clair asked.
“Yeah, gotta get back to work, you know,” he answered.
“Are you sure I can’t convince you to stay a couple more nights?” she asked him.
“Don’t you have book signings all this week?” Derrick responded, smiling.
“Yeah, who would have thought that the author of Applied Mythology would now be America’s best selling author?”
“I would have. Trevor, Lena, we all knew how special you were from the start,” Derrick told her.
They arrived at Clair’s car and leaned on the hood.
“The stars are coming out,” Clair said smiling.
Derrick looked over at Clair Nobles. They’d become close over the last year, best friends perhaps. In that moment, looking at her underneath the stars with the New York City skyline behind them, he wanted very badly to kiss her. He thought she would let him; perhaps they’d even wind up back in her hotel room. However, he didn’t. In Derrick’s mind, Clair would always be Trevor’s girl, a romance that never got to happen.
“Drive me to the airport?” Derrick asked.
“Sure, but lets sit here a little longer, Derrick. Let’s sit here and watch the stars. Maybe Soka is out there somewhere, looking back at us,” Clair said, tears forming.
Derrick Reynolds put his arms around Clair Nobles, and the two sat under the stars together.
Almost a decade later, under the same stars, way down south in New Orleans, a woman of perhaps her mid 30s sat on the River Walk at the bank of the Mississippi. She wore a filthy black hooded sweatshirt and reeked of body odor. The last few years had been very difficult for her, living on the street, separated from all she had known.
Tobit was gone, Tabitha was gone, Pinkerton was gone and Delphia was gone. She had become a ship without a sail. She’d awoken in a shallow grave somewhere in the woods. Her last memories had been of her best friend literally stabbing her in the back. Her friend had meant to kill her, but she didn’t know everything. Those Delphian herbs, the same ones she’d used after a certain British fuck-boy had shot her in the stomach, had still been powerful in her blood stream. Their healing effects had cured her of the stab wound, and her heart had begun to beat once more.
What she first felt was a blessing, though, had turned out to be a curse. She was alone for the first time in her life. The gifts that Tobit had bestowed upon her were gone as well. She was now just another average slob in a sea of them. In her hand she clutched a knife. Not a lovely dagger of Tobit, nothing as special as that, just some piece of shit she’d stolen from some other homeless person. She still didn’t know what exactly went wrong, how those little fucks had done it, but she knew now more than ever that Derrick and Clair, along with the Leary brothers, had succeeded in the very mission she’d been sent down to New Orleans to prevent. She had decided that tonight was to be her last on Earth. She didn’t know what awaited someone like her on the other side, but she knew it had to beat sleeping on the streets and eating out of the trash ten ways from Sunday. The knife, clutched in her hands, her soft wrists, held out in anticipation. She closed her eyes and prepared to cut, when a voice suddenly spoke to her.
“Lacy… is that you?”
She set the knife down and looked up in annoyance. Who would have the nerve to stand between her and the fate the rest that she felt she so deserved?
“Who the fuck are you?” she asked without looking up.
“Robert. You know, Bobby Mayonnaise,” the man replied.
She looked up at him, and sure as hell, standing before Lacy Suzino was the adult Robert Mayo, the very baby she’d once bludgeoned to death.
“My god, Robert, you’re all grown up,” she replied.
“Lacy, I’ve searched for you my entire life. You… you did something to me. I’ve dreamed of you since I was a child. You… opened my eyes.”
“Sorry kiddo, that was Tabitha that woke you up. I was just the dumb bitch that beat your brains out. Are you here to kill me, Robert, because I’d rather do that myself.”
“Tobit used to speak to me, Lacy. He told me that you were the one who brought me to him. Now he’s stopped speaking, but before he did, he told me where I could find you,” Robert Mayo stated.
“Yeah, sorry to tell you, but Tobit is gone, poof, he just left,” Lacy replied.
“Then I give myself to you!” he suddenly cried, and fell to his knees before her.
“I… I’m so fucking confused right now,” Lacy stated, looking at the man groveling on the filthy ground at her feet.
“Lacy, there are others like me, who Tobit has abandoned. We need you, we need you to lead us!”
“You don’t say? I don’t suppose you guys have a nice big house and a fancy car, something to help a girl like me off the streets, do you?” she asked.
“We will give you everything!” Robert cried into the earth. “Please do not abandon us as Tobit did.”
A smile suddenly took over Lacy’s face. She threw back the hood of her sweatshirt and stood up. She tapped Robert’s forehead with her Doc Martin boots and ordered him to stand.
“So, Bobby Mayonnaise, tell me more about these friends of yours,” she commanded.
“Of course, they are ready to be led by you. They need your guidance as do I,” he replied.
“Okay, let’s go. My calendar just happens to be free, so let’s see what you and these friends are all about,” Lacy stated, and she and Robert began to walk towards his hotel.
“Hail Tobit!” Robert suddenly shouted.
“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Lacy corrected him. “Tobit left, remember? Let’s try… ‘Hail Lacy!’”
“Hail Lacy!” Robert screamed, and Lacy Suzino found that she could get used to this. She found that it fit her perfectly.
"Lacy, I was so afraid I'd never see you again," he told her as they walked. "I thought it was over."
Lacy smiled, "Nothing is ever really over, now is it, Robert? Why, I believe there is more to come, even after most people like to believe it's the end."
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published September 23rd, 2016
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