Authors: Matthew Burkey
“Because of his father?” Ryan inquired. He was starting to think that he was the only one of their friends that thought Gabriel could take care of himself. “Elise pretty much said the same thing, I really don’t think that Alex is out to hurt Gabriel or steal secrets from us.”
Ethan shook his head. “There’s something about him that makes me uneasy, it doesn’t always have to be about his father betraying us…”
“He didn’t betray us Ethan,” insisted Ryan.
“I know, I know,” Ethan said, shaking his head. “It wasn’t Anton directly but someone in his organization. Doesn’t mean that I have to be okay with a friend of mine dating his son though.”
“Why does everyone think that Gabriel is some sort of helpless animal?”
“I don’t think he is helpless,” Ethan frowned.
“Have you seen him in training lately?” Ryan asked. “The guy can pretty much mop the floor with me and Tony, hell with a lot of people. He’s not the same guy that saved from that demon attack, he’s one of the best Guardian’s that I’ve ever met.”
“I just feel this stupid need to protect him.”
“I think that’s called being a friend,” Ryan responded.
“That hasn’t always gone well for me,” Ethan muttered.
“Ethan, Dominic wasn’t your fault.”
A brief flash of anger swept over Ethan’s face but then subsided; replaced by the same look of vulnerability that Ryan had seen earlier. The subject of Dominic always dredged up emotions, most of everyone on the team was still dealing with. But at least they were dealing with it, Ryan had sneaky suspicion that Ethan had never dealt with it.
“I gave the order,” Ethan said. His voice was low and thick with emotion.
“He knew the risks.”
“I let my best friend die,” Ethan mumbled. “What does that say about me?”
“It says that you made a hard choice.”
Ryan placed a hand on Ethan’s shoulder. Ethan flinched slightly at the contact but then relaxed. “Look man, I know this sucks there isn’t a way around it. We all miss Dominic, probably not as much as you do but we do miss him. That’s normal, you’ve got to let yourself grieve.”
“We’re wandering dangerously close to hugging territory,” Ethan warned.
“I realize that, we should probably stop here.”
Ethan nodded and got up off the couch. “Guess that means that I should probably stop acting like such an ass to Gabriel, huh?”
“I’d give the guy some credit,” Ryan said, with a shrug. “You should try sparring with him again sometime, I think you’d be surprised at how far he has come.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Ethan grunted. “I’ll see you in the morning. All this heart to heart and closeness has me exhausted.”
“Good night Ethan.”
Tony had been complaining ever since they left Rome. Everyone appeared to be ignoring him for the time being, although he was getting dangerously close to getting on everyone’s nerves. Gabriel was lucky and managed to nod off for a bit on the flight, which meant that he was spared some of Tony’s ranting’s, though not all of them. They touched down in Belize at a small but privately held airfield and taxied to a waiting hanger.
“Can’t you put a silence spell on him or something?” Marissa asked, as Everett lowered the ramp.
Sunlight streamed through the door followed by a warm breeze. Everett was the first off, followed by Marissa, Tony, and finally Gabriel. As he stepped outside Gabriel took in the clear blue sky and the lushness of his surroundings. A black Range Rover was parked near the entrance to the hanger. Several people were already loading up their gear into the back of the SUV.
“Wow,” Gabriel finally said.
“It’s not that impressive,” Tony huffed.
“I’ve never been out of the US before,” Gabriel answered, as he made his way down the ramp. He took the sunglasses off his shirt and slipped them on.
“We’re in Belize and we don’t even get to go to the beach,” Tony muttered.
“Things could be worse,” Gabriel pointed out as they approached.
“Don’t say that,” Everett warned. “Otherwise Murphy might show up.”
They climbed into the Range Rover, Tony taking the driver’s seat.
“Any idea where we are supposed to go?”
Marissa shuffled around some things in her bag before pulling out a GPS unit that she handed to Everett who was in the front passenger seat. He attached it to the windshield and then tapped it on.
“It’s programmed in,” Marissa offered. “We need to head west into the interior of the country, after that we’ll need to take a hike about 55 kilometers through the jungle.”
“That sounds like oh so much fun,” Tony grunted, as the Range Rover shifted into gear.
They rode in silence as they exited the airport and started toward the coordinates that Marissa had programmed into the GPS. As they drove, Marissa pulled out her tablet and started scanning through emails, stopping when she got the latest update from Jonathan, which included the information about the hybrids.
“Apparently that thing that they found is a hybrid, a cross of vampire, lycan, and demon DNA.”
“That does not sound like it’s a good thing,” Gabriel stated. “Who or what could do that?”
“Medical technology has advanced a lot past what the general public knows,” Marissa responded, with a shrug. “You’ve been working in the Aegis bio labs for months, you should know that.”
“We don’t have anything remotely close to that though, I mean do we?”
This time Everett spoke from up front. “No, because we have ethical beliefs and practices. There are those out there don’t have such ethics and therefore have been able to push the envelope of medical science resulting in some rather unethical decisions.”
“Like the hybrids.”
“I would say so,” Everett remarked.
That thought made Gabriel shudder; though he understood what Everett was talking about.
“Imperial Medical,” Marissa exclaimed. “They have to be behind this!”
“Who or what is Imperial Medical?” Tony asked.
“Imperial Medical is one of the biggest biomedical technology companies in the world,” Marissa explained. “They are also owned and operated by the Marcus DeVore head of the Blood’s.”
“Seems to be a reasonable assumption then,” Everett concluded. “The question is what can we do about it?”
“Nothing at the moment,” Marissa responded. “Aadesh and Cody are looking into trying to figure out exactly where these things came from and if they can even tie them to Imperial Medical.”
“I’m guessing that they’ll send any information that they get to the lycans,” Tony added.
Marissa nodded. “And the lycans don’t have the resources to press an attack on that scale, judging by what Ethan and his team told us these things are deadly - they might be more than the lycans can handle and we can’t carry out an attack on a vampire installation.”
“I don’t like this,” Gabriel sighed, shaking his head. “Feels wrong to me.”
Marissa shrugged the comment away as Tony started down the road. Gabriel didn’t know why the mention of the hybrids got him freaked out but he did know that it was another step toward something even more sinister. Hopefully, whatever information that Eve had would point them in the right direction.
They rode in silence for almost two hours, not really exchanging anything other than the occasional comment about the scenery or the weather. Eventually, Tony turned off a paved road and headed toward a large field that nestled up a sprawling and dense looking jungle. The Range Rover bounced over the uneven ground, finally coming to a stop near the start of the tree line.
“Looks lovely,” Tony grunted, as he climbed out. “Are you sure that’s where we need to go?”
“Yup,” Marissa nodded, grabbing her backpack out of the trunk. She reached inside and grabbed a smaller tablet that was about the size of an iphone and secured it to her wrist with a series of straps. She tapped it, bringing the small screen to life as the rest of them gathered up their stuff.
They changed into long cargo pants, long sleeve form fitting compression shirts, and heavy duty combat boots. Each took a machete and slipped it into holsters that were fitted around their thighs. Each member of the team carried Enforcer pistols and several spare magazines.
“That looks like we are going to get hella hot rummaging around in there,” Tony sighed. “Shall we get this party started?”
Tony headed into the jungle first, drawing his machete and starting to whack through the underbrush. Marissa followed in behind him, then Gabriel, with Everett bringing up the rear. One of the first things that Gabriel noticed about the jungle was the awful humidity and heat. After only trekking through the jungle for forty five minutes, Gabriel’s shirt was already soaked through down his back and his chest.
“At least the scenery is pretty,” Tony grumbled, hacking through more plants. “I don’t suppose you found out anything more about this skull?”
Marissa followed close behind Tony, occasionally glancing down at her wrist mounted display. She was covered in sweat like everyone else.
“Not really,” Marissa admitted, as they crossed a small stream. “Other than it amplifies psionic abilities. How the Mayans that built Lubaantun came across it, well no one really knows.”
“Did you happen to come across any information about Lubaantun or what could be lurking there?” Everett asked. “You know like some ancient guardian or something?”
“There’s always an ancient guardian,” Tony barked from the front of the group. “Sometimes its giant freaking scorpions, or huge killer bats, or maybe zombified skeletons or my personal favorite radioactive squid.”
“Wait a second, radioactive squid?” Gabriel asked.
“Don’t ask,” Tony muttered.
“I really don’t want to,” Gabriel answered. “But part of me wants to hear all about this radioactive squid that you mentioned. How in the hell did you come across radioactive squid?”
“We’re not going there,” Tony warned him.
The jungle continued to grow thicker around them, seemingly pressing in on them from all sides. It didn’t seem to slow them down, with Tony in the lead they continued hacking and pushing their way through the dense foliage, pushing further into the sea of green.
“Do I even want to ask how much further?” Gabriel panted, taking a long swig from his canteen. “It feels like we’ve been trekking through here for hours.”
Marissa consulted her tablet. “We’ve got a ways to go. We need to cover another twenty kilometers by nightfall.”
They could have moved a heck of a lot faster over open ground. The layout and vegetation that they were encountering was slowing them down considerably. Gabriel wasn’t surprised at all when they finally slowed to a crawl and Tony suggested that they stop for a water break.
“Do you think that we’ll reach it by tonight?”
Tony took a long drink from his water bottle before responding. “Dunno, probably not. There’s no telling what or who could be waiting for us when we get to the temple. Generally speaking ancient civilizations don’t leave powerful skulls behind without some sort of booby trap. I’d like to not go wandering in there feeling completely exhausted.”
“You’re never ending source of cheer, you know that,” Gabriel grunted.
“I do what I can,” Tony responded.
“We should set up camp soon,” Marissa stated, looking at the setting sun. “I don’t think trekking through this jungle at night is such a good idea.”
“She’s probably right,” Everett remarked.
They set up came near the bank of a river, Tony got a small fire going as Everett walked around the perimeter placing glyphs at the cardinal directions which would create a barrier that should keep most things out and alert them if someone or something tried to get in. They spread out their packs around the fire and tore into the rations that they brought. Soon, the sun disappeared behind the trees and darkness crept over the land.
“It if wasn’t for the fact that I know there are ton of things out there that could kill me, this would actually be kind of peaceful,” Gabriel commented.
Everett was still rummaging around in his pack, clearly looking for something.
“What are you doing?” Gabriel finally asked.
“I’m looking for some of the supplies that I brought with me…here they are!”
Everett pulled a series of smooth stones from his pack followed by a small crystal orb.
“What are those?” Marissa inquired.
“I had them discreetly send me some things,” Everett answered. “I wanted to see if we could help determine if something else or someone else was mucking around in Gabriel’s head, influencing his dreams.”
Gabriel swallowed hard. “Are you sure we should be doing that way out here? I mean what if something goes wrong; we don’t even have Cody along to help.”
“It’ll be fine,” Everett insisted. “We’re going to try some dream walking, one of us will enter into your dreams with you and observe things. Maybe we can find a clue.”
“You said breaking into your dreams is hard,” Gabriel responded, trying to keep the nervousness out of his voice. Judging by the gentle looks that he was getting from everyone else, he was pretty sure that he wasn’t being all that successful.
“If you’re willing to let me in it’s a lot easier,” Everett assured his friend. “Trust me on this; the worse that could happen is that we don’t find anything at all.”
Everett did have a point.
“Alright,” Gabriel nodded. “I trust you.”
“Good, give me a few moments to get everything all set up and ready to go.”
“Have you ever done this before?” Gabriel asked, as Everett went about setting things up. The thought of someone else entering his dreams made Gabriel slightly uneasy. What if he didn’t have the nightmare again and instead Tony ended up in some other more personal dream. He gulped, that would be an embarrassment that he would never live down.
“Once or twice,” Everett answered, taking note of the look of concern on Gabriel’s face. “I really do know what I am doing.”
“What if I don’t have the nightmare?”
“I won’t be sticking around for anything else,” Tony spoke. “Trust me I wouldn’t want someone wandering around in my dreams if they didn’t have to be either. They might see something unpleasant.”
“Yeah,” Everett agreed. “Like you naked.”
Tony made a face as Marissa let out a snort of laughter.
“Me naked is not funny!”
“Depends on who you are,” Marissa responded, with a shrug.
“Alright, lay down.”
Gabriel lay down on his sleeping back, trying his best to maintain his calm. He could already feel his heart beating faster and his breaths coming quicker. For whatever reason the very thought of someone walking around in his dreams was starting to fill him with dread.
“Tony lay next to him,” Everett commanded.
“Just do it,” Everett snapped.
Tony pulled his sleeping back over next to Gabriel and laid down. Unlike Gabriel he appeared to be completely relaxed.
“I’m going to help you fall into REM sleep,” Everett explained. “After I pull Tony in I should be able to see any breaches in your mental barriers. Tony won’t be able to interact with anything in your dream; in fact you won’t even know that he’s there.”
Gabriel let out a deep breath. “Okay.”
“Tony, hold his hand.”
“Really?” Tony asked.
“Just hold his hand!”
Gabriel felt Tony grip his hand and give it a squeeze. He closed his eyes as Everett held his hands over him, he could feel his heart and breathing slow down. His body started to feel heavy, as if he could simply sink into the ground around him. Soon, he passed from this world into the world of dreams, hoping for once that the nightmares did come.