Authors: Matthew Burkey
Eve lead them inside, where they changed and then went down to a lavishly decorated dining room. A long table had been filled with a wide assortment of food with Eve sitting at the head of the table. Two waiters waited near the large fireplace behind Eve at the end of the room, apparently just waiting to be told what to do. The Guardians took their seats, with Everett and Marissa taking the seats closest to Eve.
“So, you said you had information for us?” Tony asked.
“Such impatience,” Eve smiled.
Everett and Marissa shot Tony an annoyed look.
“I think that Tony is trying to say,” Marissa started, taking a drink of water. “Is that things are getting more complicated with the lycan and vampire problem and we think that this partner of Sainte-Pierre’s, who you said you had some information about, might be involved. We’d like to try and figure out what his end game was before any more blood is shed.”
“Such a diplomatic answer,” Eve said. She took a drink out of her glass, which was filled with a dark red liquid. Everyone at the table hoped that it was merely red wine. “Your parents would be so proud of you for that. They always were good negotiators.”
If that comment about Marissa’s parents was supposed to strike a nerve she certainly didn’t let it show. She returned Eve’s smile before Everett jumped in.
“She has a multitude of talents.”
“Oh I bet she does,” Eve responded, a wry smile crossing her face. “Very well but before I can give you what you want, I need something from all of you.”
“I knew it!” Tony snapped, nearly jumping out of his chair.
Gabriel was taken aback by Tony’s reaction, though he could hardly blame him. He didn’t like being played either, which was exactly what it felt like Eve was doing.
“Calm down,” Eve quipped, rolling her eyes. “I’m not going to ask you for anything that you won’t be able to give. I have a new client he has an artifact that he wants retrieved. Sadly enough, it’s not exactly some place that is all that accessible for a women such as myself.”
“What do you want?” Everett asked, his jaw tightening. He too appeared to be annoyed with the request from Eve, although he was doing a better job at hiding his own feelings.
“It’s not what I want,” Eve responded with a shrug. “It’s what my client wants, which happens to be this.”
Everyone turned to look at the painting above the fireplace behind Eve, which was no longer a fireplace but instead a large monitor screen. Slowly rotating in the monitor was a graphic of a crystal skull.
“Isn’t that from a movie?” Gabriel asked.
“Sadly, no,” Eve responded. “I mean I can find movie replicas fairly easily. This one is the real deal, said to amplify telepathic powers by several factors. That is, if you believe in that sort of thing. Really, though I think that this person just wants it for a very expensive paper weight.”
“You’re an information broker,” Tony responded, leaning forward. “Why would clients be coming to you about something like this?”
“Because I’m the one that had the information to find it,” Eve explained. “And this client happens to have some very important information that I would really like to get my hands on, that’s why I offered to help him recover the skull. You’re defensive actions with the lycans are taking a toll on your ranks. You really need to hear what I have to say.”
“Are you kidding me?” Ethan snapped.
Gabriel winced at Ethan’s outburst, although he could hardly blame him. Jonathan had said nothing yet, though the tense look on his face told everyone that he was just as unhappy with the request as the rest of the Guardians.
“Do you think the information that she has is worth it?” Jonathan asked.
“She knows more than she is letting on,” Everett said. “I think we can all agree on that. What isn’t clear is what she knows. But I think that it’s worth looking into. We are already here after all.”
“I don’t like this,” Ethan seethed. “She’s using you for a dangerous mission to get something she wants and we have no clue whether or not her information is even worth it!”
“Calm down Ethan,” Jonathan interjected. “Regardless, things are getting worse with the lycans. We need that information sooner rather than later. You should have adequate supplies and equipment, anything else you need we’ll get to you.”
“Alright,” Everett nodded.
“I hate to point out that I told you so,” Tony grunted. “But you know, I told you so.”
“Be that as it may,” Jonathan continued. “We have other concerns.”
Ryan, Ethan, Elise, and Cody went on to explain their encounter with the strange creatures that attacked the lycans and went after Faye. Images from the fight and the body afterwards began to stream into their tablets, Gabriel picked his and started looking at the images.
“Did you recover a body?” Everett asked.
“It’s being looked over Aadesh and the staff at Aegis,” Jonathan responded. “They should have a report to us soon.”
“I don’t recall ever seeing anything like that,” Gabriel said, looking up from his tablet. “I mean you guys have had me studying everything in the codex and I haven’t ever come across anything that remotely looks like that or that moves the way that thing did.”
“Neither have we mate,” Cody admitted. “What I find more annoying whatever the hell that this is, it didn't bloody die easily.”
“Yeah, that much we can tell,” Tony said, looking up from his own tablet.
“Faye’s father sends his regards and his appreciation,” Jonathan continued. “Is there anything else?”
“Other than Gabriel hasn’t kissed anyone, you know like ever,” Tony added.
“Oh for the love of all that is holy and pure, how is that important?” Gabriel snapped. He could feel the red seeping into his face despite his best efforts not to get embarrassed.
“What about Alex?” Ryan asked, from the other end.
“Nothing about Alex.”
“You didn’t kiss him goodnight?” Elise asked, quirking an eyebrow.
“No!” Gabriel practically shouted. He took a calming breath before speaking again. “Look, can we please talk about something else other than my love life?”
“Please,” Ethan commented. “His is so boring. Now Tony’s love life or mine, those are some stories. Gabriel, you might want to leave the room this might be more than you can handle.”
“Knock it off!” Jonathan stated. “This is neither the time nor the place of such discussions.”
“Thank you,” Gabriel sighed.
“I’ll expect your mission outline in the morning,” Jonathan continued. “If you need any additional equipment please let me know and we’ll have it to you by morning. Make this quick, we need you back here.”
Everett nodded and closed the connection. He sank back in his chair and rubbed the bridge of his nose before speaking again.
“Are you going to gloat this entire time?”
Tony looked up from cleaning his sword. “Hmm, probably at least for another day or too.”
“I don’t suppose I could appeal to your sense of maturity?” Marissa asked.
“Oh hell no,” Tony said, shaking his head. “I am not letting this go for a while.”
“I was afraid of that.”
“So?” Gabriel asked, looking at the gathered Guardians. “Where are we headed off too?”
Marissa picked up her tablet and typed in a few commands which transferred a file over to the rest of their computers.
“According to the information that Eve gave us, it’s located in Lubaantun.”
“Central America,” Marissa continued. “Modern day Belize.”
“Great,” Tony grunted. “And since Jonathan wants to make this all fast like I am guessing that he won’t want us lounging around on the beach.”
Marissa smacked him on the back of the head.
“Don’t be stupid.”
“Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?”
“How are we getting there?” Gabriel inquired.
Gabriel didn’t relish flying on a plane that had been provided by Eve, mainly because he wasn’t entirely sure that he trusted her. She had already used them once by luring them here with a promise of information. They really didn’t know what she was capable of or what her real motives were.
“He’s right,” Tony added. “I’m not going to trust anything that Eve gives us. We don’t even know what she really wants.”
“We can fly into Belize on our jet,” Marissa responded. “After that we’ll have to hike into the jungle and head toward Lubaantun.”
“Oh this just keeps getting better and better,” Tony grunted. “Have I mentioned how much I hate jungles?”
“It could be worse,” Gabriel offered. “We could be stuck dealing with whatever it is that attacked them in Paris.”
“How do we know we won’t?”
That comment from Tony brought silence to the room.
Marcus wanted to smash in the head of everyone that had failed in their latest attempt to kidnap Faye and gain the upper hand in dealing with Franklin. Marcus had not been prepared for the fact that they would come back empty handed. Luckily, the hybrids had proved their worth, which only marginally improved his mood. Arthur shrunk back from his boss. When Marcus got this mad, there was no telling who he would strike out at next.
“They were well trained,” the young vampire stammered.
“Of course they are well trained, they’re Guardians!” Marcus yelled. The young vampire took a step backwards. “You had to capture one sniveling animal! You couldn’t even get that right. Get out of my sight!”
The young vampire bowed and then quickly exited the room, leaving Arthur and Marcus alone.
“How could those idiots screw this up?”
Arthur winced backing further up into the corner.
“And they left the body there! That means that the Guardians are probably already dissecting it as we speak, trying to figure out what it was and where it came from!”
“Even if they do ascertain its origins, they won’t be able to trace it back to you.”
“I’m not worried about them tracking it you fool,” Marcus hissed. “I’m worried about them discovering a weakness that they might be able to exploit.”
Arthur thought about that a moment before responding. “They won’t be able to find one. They are hardened against silver, blessed metal, even magic. They are faster and stronger than the Guardians, it took three of them to even take down one. They are rather well designed creatures and the runes placed on them means that they’ll keep fighting no matter the injury until they are dead.”
“You are putting a lot of faith in your creation doctor.”
“Our creation,” Arthur corrected him.
Marcus’s computer chimed, indicating an incoming video call. Marcus smoothed out the front of his suit and took a deep breath before striking a key and answering it. He was surprised to see image of Janus’s masked face on the screen. Generally speaking, he usually only contacted Marcus on a pre-arranged bases.
“Janus, it’s good to see you again.”
“You look a little upset Marcus, is something wrong?” Janus responded.
“We were unable to secure Faye Delacart,” Marcus answered.
“Ah,” Janus nodded, leaning back in his chair. “It is but a minor setback, once my people have finished in the Well of Souls, none of this will be an issue. How did your hybrids perform?”
“Well,” Marcus admitted. “These Guardians are going to be harder to get rid of than I originally thought.”
“I warned you that Ethan and his team were very good at what they do, still I trust that your attack did manage to take out some of the lycans. That is always a plus.”
“And it showed that although one of the hybrids was killed, it took considerable effort on their part to finally take it down,” Arthur meekly offered. “Had it not been for the arrows to the head it’s likely they wouldn’t have succeeded.”
“Arthur is right,” Janus agreed. “With the amount of hybrids you are now cloning we will have an army that not even the Guardians will be able to stand up too. You’ve done well Marcus.”
“We haven’t won yet,” Marcus cautioned. “There are still many more battles to fight.”
“And we will win,” Janus assured his colleague. “Once all the power that dwells within the Well of Souls is mine no one will be able stand against us.”
“I hope you are right,” Marcus spoke.
“Have I led you astray yet?”
“No,” Marcus answered.
“I’ll contact you again tomorrow at the normal time.”
Janus’s image winked off the computer, leaving Marcus and Arthur looking at the screen. Marcus sighed heavily, although Janus was right, he still wasn’t happy that they hadn’t been able to capture Faye. That was the key to ending the war with the lycans before he lost any more of his troops. The council would not be pleased to hear about this failure and would no doubt blame him, despite the fact that they managed to inflict some fairly heavy losses on the lycans.
“Franklin will no doubt tighten his security,” Marcus thought aloud. “Which means that we lost our only chance to get close to her.”
“It sounds like Janus wasn’t too concerned about that,” Arthur stated. “He makes it sound like everything will be solved once he finishes in the Well of Souls.”
“I might be more comforted if I even knew what he was talking about,” Marcus answered. He stood up and went around to credenza, which he kept stocked with supply of alcohol. After pouring himself a drink he turned back to Arthur, who had remained near his desk. “Talk to the boys in research, tell them that I want to everything about anything named the Well of Souls.”
“Do you think that Janus is not being honest with you?”
Marcus considered that for a moment. “I think that Janus is a very smart man, if he even is a man. That being said, I do believe that he won’t lay all his cards out on the table. I think we want the same thing but I prefer to have all the facts.”
“They might not come up with anything.”
“They better hope they come up with something,” Marcus grunted. “What else do I pay them for then?”
“I’ll get right on it.”
Arthur scurried from the room.
“What is that thing?” Jonathan asked.
“Dead,” Ethan offered, playing with this phone. “Oh, sorry did you not want a smartass comment?”
Jonathan ignored that comment and turned his attention back to the body that barely fit on the exam table in the infirmary at Aegis. Cody and Aadesh had spent the last several hours poking, prodding, imaging, and dissecting it an attempt to figure out what it was.
“A very good question,” Aadesh responded, gesturing toward the bank of monitors above the table. “On the surface it appears to be a creature that we have never encountered before. But after closer examination we’ve found the answer to be much more disturbing.”
“Than that?” Ryan asked, pointing at the body.
“We ran a number of scans and imaging studies,” Aadesh explained, pointing at several of the monitors. “As well as a genetic profile.”
“The results were pretty amazing really,” Cody stated. “This thing has components of vampire, lycan, and demon DNA in it.”
“Wow,” Ryan said. “That doesn’t sound good.”
“Wait, is that why they were kidnapping lycans?”
“I’d say that is good assumption,” Aadesh nodded.
“It gets worse mate,” Cody said, tapping his tablet. The monitors changed from showing helixes that represented the genetic structure of the hybrid to several bones, each with some sort of glyph tattooed on them.
“These are obedience glyphs,” Cody explained. “Means that this thing will do whatever it’s told and won’t stop, even if you bring a world of pain to it.”
“That explains how it kept attacking after you drilled a half dozen arrows into it,” Elise stated. “What are those other ones?” she pointed.
“Resistance glyphs,” Cody pointed. “These things are hardened against magic, seriously old school stuff. We had to go digging through the mages archives to even find out what the bloody thing was.”
“But why even play god and splice all these things together?” Ryan asked.
“I’m going to guess it has a variety of advantages,” Aadesh spoke. “I would say that they took the best features of each species and blended them together to create a rather sturdy organism, as you saw firsthand.”
“So, how do we kill them?” Ethan asked. “Aside from sending three arrows into its skull.”
“Therein lies the problem,” Aadesh added. “They are extremely robust. Conventional weaponry won’t cause enough damage to kill them, they can regenerate tissue at an alarming rate.”
“So, what does kill them?”
“Blessed metal and massive trauma still seem to be the best course of action,” Aadesh suggested.
“That seems reasonable enough,” Elised nodded.
“Not that easy though,” Cody responded. “Their heart is surrounded by a series of bony structures that are extremely thick, that combined with their raw power and speed makes getting in close for a killing blow bloody tricky.”
“Why not just hit them with magic?”
“It won’t work that way,” Cody said, shaking his head. “Those bloody glyphs make them pretty resistant to damage, it would take some awfully powerful spells to knock them on their arse and keep them there.”
“Did you learn any other weaknesses?” Jonathan asked.
“They have a fairly high metabolism,” Aadesh responded. “It would take further study but I would suggest that they probably require a great deal of food, including fresh blood.”
“That’s something at least,” Ryan sighed.
“As for any other signs of weakness, well we haven’t really been able to find any. Like I said before, the problem will be getting in close to actually land a killing blow. Unless of course you shot them in the head like Cody did.”
“Yeah, three times,” Ethan grunted. “Wait, you can still chop its head off right?”
“Bloody hell you sure can,” Cody responded.
“But why would the vampires make such a thing?” Elise inquired. “Assuming they are the ones that made it.”
“We don’t know if that’s the case,” Jonathan finally spoke. “It is possible that someone is supplying these hybrids to the vampires, though they would certainly have the resources to create them on their own.”
“Then it’s probably a safe bet that they are behind these things,” Ethan answered. “Which means that we need to figure out where they are keeping them and take them out.”
“You’d need more than just the four of you,” Aadesh frowned. “These things are incredibly dangerous. And we are hardly in a position to send an entire strike force off on a mission like this. And I’d also point out that we aren’t at war with the vampires, the lycans are.”
“Well we bloody well can’t just let these things continue to run loose out there,” Cody snapped. “What’s going to happen if they send a whole squad of these things at us or the lycans? They won’t stand a chance!”
“I understand your anger,” Jonathan said. “I will report this to the council and the lycans but there isn’t much that we can do right now. Aadesh is right, our resources are limited and we made a promise to protect the lycans. Not fight a war for them. Still, the thought of the vampires turning these weapons against us merits investigation.”
“That’s going to take a lot of work,” Cody sighed. “A lot of work.”
“Then we should get working on it,” Aadesh nodded. “Although I would not hold out too much hope that we will find anything.”
“I’ll contact the council,” Jonathan said, heading out of the room.
“I’m going to need coffee,” Cody grumbled. “It’s going to be a very long night.”
Ethan, Ryan, and Elise exited the infirmary, leaving Cody and Aadesh the task of finding out exactly where they hybrids were created. No one seemed to envy the task of the two Guardians.
“You want to go grab something to eat?” Ryan asked, as they entered the lobby of Aegis.
“You two should go get something,” Ethan suggested, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“You can come if you want,” Elise responded.
“And play the third wheel, no thanks,” Ethan grunted. “Besides, there are plenty of girls for me to woo out there.”
He wandered off to his car and took off out of the parking lot, leaving Ryan and Elise standing there awkwardly. Ryan stuck his hands in his pockets and before finally getting the courage up to say something.
“Are you hungry?” Ryan finally asked.
“I could go for a bite,” Elise smiled. “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to ask.”
“Sorry,” Ryan blushed. “With everything that’s been happening lately, I haven’t really had time to sit down and think of some huge big romantic date.”
Elise took his hand and smiled. “It doesn’t always have to be some big huge romantic thing, just spending time with you is enough. I know that our lives have been busy lately.”
Ryan smiled back. “Alright, where do you want to go eat?”
“Any place is fine with me,” Elise responded with a shrug.
They settled on a Mexican place that wasn’t all that far from Aegis. Ryan had never been there but Elise insisted that it had some of the most amazing food in the city. The waiter lead them to a small patio and a table not all that far away from a fire pit. Ryan would admit that the atmosphere certainly seemed inviting.
“So?” Elise asked, leaning forward. “What took you so long to finally ask me out?”
Ryan shrugged. “I was worried about what happened between you and Ethan.”
“Let’s do both of us a favor and stop bringing up my ex-boyfriend.”
They again sat in silence.
“Wow, this is awkward.”
“Probably because we are making it that way,” Elise stated. She took a drink of water before settling back into the booth. “We’ve been friends a long time, this really isn’t all that different.”