Authors: Mike Cooley
Tags: #paranormal romance
Drake walked past Tridian and entered the Augmentor through the archway. A leaded glass shield slid down into place as the machine reached for his arms and legs. Tiny, eight-legged robots swarmed down from the belly of the machine, which hung above his head, and cut his clothes off. And then the pain began.
She found us walking along the highway, right before the junction of 124 and 12. Only she wasn’t on a motorcycle.
“Hey! You two!” A blonde in a black bodysuit pulled over to the shoulder in a black jeep.
“Shit, Silas. It’s her!” I grabbed Si’s arm and stopped.
“Who are you? And how the hell did you survive against all those armed men with guns?” Silas asked. He looked her over while I peered around him.
“My name’s Vena. We call ourselves Sirens. We are trying to save the world. We are on the same side.” Vena opened her right hand and extended it, showing she wasn’t armed. “Now get in before those Daelius assholes show up.”
I looked at Silas. He nodded and then followed me into the jeep. I sat behind Vena, and he sat to my right instead of up front with her. We had left the scuba gear back in the park, and the warm wind had dried us off as we walked. The sun was on its way up through the clouds, and the clock on the radio showed nine in the morning.
“Perfect,” said Vena. She gunned the engine, sending gravel flying and pulled back out onto 124.
“Where are we going?”
“You’re the empath? What’s your name?”
“I’m Melanie. Mel.”
“Nice to meet you, Mel. How about you?” Vena turned her head and looked at Silas.
“A man of few words. I like that. We’ve been calling you ‘wildcard.’”
“You didn’t answer my question.” I leaned forward and watched the road signs going by.
“I’m taking you to meet Tala and the others. It’s west of here. It will take a few hours to get there. Best make yourself comfortable. We’ll stop somewhere for food once we are far enough away.”
“Thank you, Vena. I think you saved our lives.”
“It was necessary, Mel. And I’m already starting to like you.”
“What about Si?”
“I’m not sure about him yet.” Vena laughed. “But he is pretty.”
They were passing through the Cascade Mountains, with beautiful lakes and rivers along the sides of the highway. Some of the lakes had hundreds of tree stumps sticking out of the water. There were train tunnels along the edges of many of the lakes. Vena was humming along to the radio and keeping an eye on the rear view mirror for any sign of pursuit. Vena had put the top up, but the windows were open slightly, letting in the crisp mountain air.
“So what about you, Mel?” Silas turned from watching the pine trees and water and looked at me.
“What about me?” I stretched and rubbed my eyes.
“Where are you from? How did you get your powers?”
“It’s a long story, Si. I grew up in New Mexico, but we moved around a lot.”
“Ah.” Silas leaned toward Mel and watched her lips as she talked. Vena was concentrating on driving and seemed unaware of their conversation. The radio was pumping out classic rock at low volume.
“I found out about my powers when one of my cats got hit by a car; I was four. My dad wanted to put it out of its misery and pain, but I wouldn’t let him. I cried and placed my hands on him—his name was Raven—and I…fixed him.”
“Good for you.”
My face turned pale. “You should have seen how my dad looked at me, Silas. That was the beginning of the end…of my family.”
“I’m sorry, Mel. I didn’t—”
“It’s not your fault. Normal people don’t understand. My dad knew right away that my abilities were going to be a problem. I saw the fear in his eyes. I was fucking four, Si! And he was already afraid of me.”
“What did you do?”
“I tried to hide what I could do. Never use it unless I could get away with it.”
“And your family? What happened to them?”
“They’re okay. I had to abandon them, for their own protection. It was really hard on my mom.”
“Loneliness…” Si reached over and stroked my hair. His touch felt so nice. “We share that.”
“Yes.” I leaned over and put my head on Silas’ shoulder. He wrapped his arm around me.
“How did Daelius get involved?”
“It was only a year ago. About the time Suzi—” I stopped abruptly and looked into Silas’ grey eyes. They flickered with emotion but didn’t betray it.
“Go on, Mel. I need to know.”
“I was in Pasco. Just passing through. I healed a homeless guy. I didn’t think anyone saw me. But word got around. And the next thing I knew Drake and some assholes pulled up in a van and took me.”
“And now we are being driven to a secret location by a girl that is part of the group that Daelius is afraid of.” Silas kept his voice down and his lips close to my ear.
“How old are you, Mel?”
“Twenty-two. And you?”
“Twenty-six. I think. That’s what my ID says, anyway. But I feel older.”
“And your power? You’ve had it since childhood?”
“I don’t remember. I have these…gaps. The first time I remember using it was to win money at a bar. Back then, I could only create small pools of blackness. I’d make salt shakers disappear for ten bucks. Easy money.”
“Do you know where you’re from? Where your family is?”
Silas shook his head. “I can’t remember that far back. I think I must have been in a horrible accident.”
“And something happened to your power when I—”
“When you healed me—from certain death—after Daelius ran my car off the road by the cemetery. You multiplied my power, Mel.”
“I. I’m sorry. I didn’t even know you had a power…then.”
“Stop apologizing, Mel. Apologizing for being
isn’t necessary. What you did to me saved our lives up in the mountains by Cle Elum.”
I smiled and traced the myriad of scars on his arm with my fingers.
“I don’t believe in destiny, Melanie. But we didn’t meet that day in the graveyard by accident.” Silas pressed his lips against mine gently. I responded to his touch and melted into his arms. Vena watched us in the rearview and grinned.
The reinforced glass shield of the Augmentor lifted up with a whirr of machinery. A bright blue glow dissipated, revealing Drake. His arms were extended to the sides and he was on his knees, looking at the ground. The sound of his screams echoed through the chamber and then died away. He tilted his head up, revealing silver eyes. His body was coated with a blue plastic, and silver wires traced through it like spider webs.
Drake stood. “What have you done to me?”
“Your nerves have been supplemented with nanotube shortcuts. Your muscles have been amplified, along with your sight. Your blood has been modified to improve oxygen flow,” Tridian explained.
Drake shot to the other end of the room, his motion a blur. His laughter filled the room. “I’m fast.”
“You’re better than fast, Drake. You are lethal.”
“Are you sending me out to kill the witch?”
“The empath is the least of our worries. You know as well as I that the Sirens are about to do something that could affect the very fate of the humanity. They must be stopped—at all costs.”
Drake nodded. “I understand.” His silver eyes flickered and focused, superimposing data on his vision. The plastic skin relayed information into his cortex through an interface on the back of his neck. He flexed his fingers and arms, getting used to his new abilities. He jumped and caught onto a ceiling beam forty feet in the air, then dropped lightly to his feet, absorbing the impact with his knees. He felt his shoulder for the burn marks and raised his eyebrows.
“All the damage was repaired during augmentation.” Tridian’s smile was cold. He ran his long fingers through his white hair.
“Why not augment everyone?” Drake asked. The other agents in the room looked at Tridian nervously.
“It’s a prototype,” Tridian said. “You are the first to survive it. There are still some…issues to work out.”
“What’s the plan?” Drake looked around the room, as if judging whether he could take out all the agents and leave. Tridian’s expression made him reconsider.
“The Siren that attacked your men at Ice Harbor was spotted driving one of your jeeps. She’s heading toward their base. We know the base is somewhere off the coast of Washington—due to the information you gathered during the interrogations. We have agents in the area and an optical satellite feed. Soon we will know
where they are.”
“And the witch?”
“Reports are that the empath and the wildcard are in the jeep, with the Siren.”
. I will end them.” Drake stood with his fists clenched. He could feel the speed in his veins. The smallest breath sent energy coursing through his system. He felt like he could bend steel. Even with his eyes closed, the data overlay showed him the locations of everyone in the room.
“We are flying you and six agents into the area. You will be dropped at the edge of the rain forest, near the probable location of the Siren base.”
“And my orders?”
“Kill everyone. We know the Sirens are readying a weapon that involves a nano-virus and genetic modification of males. But we don’t know how they plan on deploying it. They must be stopped before they can do so.”
Drake grinned then shot across the room and hit the wall with shattering force, leaving two huge gouges in the reinforced concrete where his fists had impacted. He turned, raised his hands above his head triumphantly, and laughed. “Yes, sir.”
Saving The World
“We walk from here. And I’m afraid I’m going to have to blindfold you, for your own safety.” Vena pulled off the road into the woods. They were on the Washington coast, with the Olympic Mountains rising majestically over the forest to the east. “It’s best if you don’t know exactly where we are.”
“Should we trust her?” Mel asked Silas.
“We don’t have much choice at this point. Not if we want to find out what they are doing and why Daelius is so afraid of them.” Silas kept his voice low.
Vena cut strips from the tire cover at the back of the jeep and tied one around Mel’s face tightly. Then she motioned Silas to turn around and did the same. Then she cut off a piece of tow rope from a compartment in the back and handed Mel one end. “Hold onto this. It’s not far. Silas can hold onto your other hand.”
Mel took the rope in her right hand and reached for Silas with her left. He took her hand. Vena grabbed the other end of the short rope and started walking through the woods, toward the shoreline.
“Once we get to the edge, it’s going to get cold and wet. You’ll need to trust me and hold your breath when I say so.”
“Oh, fuck.” Mel clutched Silas’ hand tighter. He put his arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze.
“No worries, babe. We’ll be fine.”
“Their complex is under water? No wonder Daelius couldn’t find them.”
“Daelius couldn’t find us because they are incompetent, misogynistic bastards. The same kind we are trying to scrape off this planet.” Vena’s voice was full of disgust.
She led them to the water’s edge. The smell of the ocean and crash of waves against the rocks filled their senses. “We’re here. You take the rope now Silas, and don’t let go. You can hold onto Silas, Melanie. First we will jump in the water, and then I will pull you through the tunnel.”
Mel handed Silas her end of the rope and then wrapped her arms around him from behind. He was solid muscle, and her heart skipped a beat as she pulled him close.
“Ready?” asked Vena.
“Ready,” said Silas.
“Here we go.” Vena jumped and Silas followed, with Mel holding on. The water of the Pacific was cold, and Mel gasped when they hit.
“Take a deep breath. This will only take a minute.”
Mel and Silas gulped air. Silas held onto the rope with both hands. Vena dove and pulled them beneath the waves. Mel kept her eyes shut tight and concentrated on Silas. Vena swam strong and pulled them behind her. The time dragged on and on until Mel thought her lungs would burst.
And then they were through. Silas surfaced in the pool next to Vena and pulled Mel up next to him. They both inhaled deeply. Vena took the blindfolds from their faces and guided them to the edge of the pool.
The pool was in a cavern lit by blue-white lights. They emerged from the pool dripping wet. Silas dropped the rope. Vena led them along a silver corridor. They passed small rooms filled with flashing lights, dials, and machines. And then the tunnel opened up into a huge rectangular room with stainless steel walls. The room smelled of chemicals, and there were mechanical noises coming from the far end. The Sirens were waiting for them.
“The empath and the wildcard,” said one of the Sirens. They all looked the same, with black bodysuits, blonde hair, and brown eyes.
“Tala, this is Melanie and Silas. They escaped from Daelius.”
“With your help,” said Mel.
“Come,” said Tala. “Let us show you why Daelius wants us dead.”
“You trust us?” Silas looked from one Siren to another.
“Trust is elusive. Let’s just say that if you prove untrustworthy, you won’t be allowed to leave.” Tala put her hands on her hips, and the beginnings of a smile took the edge off her stern expression.
“Any enemy of Daelius is a friend of ours,” Vena clarified.
“Until proven otherwise,” another Siren said.
“That’s Faye,” explained Vena. “She’s a bitch.”