Authors: Matthew Burkey
Marcus considered himself a very calm man. He tried to not let things upset him but the information that Janus had just given him was pushing his patience to the limit. What was even more unnerving was the fact that Janus didn’t appear to be phased at all by it. As usual, the man remained completely calm and appeared to be without a care in the world. It was almost as if constructing a new world order was as natural as breathing for the man.
“You need to learn to relax,” Janus said, turning away from the window of Marcus’s office. “I knew this was a possibility from the beginning. I am sure that your forces will be more than adequate to deal with them.”
“What about your spy?” Marcus asked. “Surely they have an idea of where the lycans are going to strike?”
“I’ve been informed that the lycan leadership has kept even that secret for the time being. Apparently they don’t trust that the Guardians have fixed their security leak.”
“What good are they then?” Marcus snapped.
“My spy has done well so far,” Janus reminded him. “But not even they can be everywhere at once. We’ll simply have to wait and see what transpires.”
Marcus growled, dealing with Janus could be tiresome at times. It wasn’t as if they had an endless supply of hybrids that they could throw at the lycans and their Guardian escorts, a fact that Janus appeared to be glossing over.
“Soon I’ll have the rest of our forces out of hibernation and then it won’t matter what the Guardians and their little lycan friends know.”
“But until then we are still vulnerable,” Marcus remarked. “And you still haven’t let me in on what exactly the rest of our forces are. I thought that we were partners in this endeavor.”
“We are partners,” Janus assured him. “And as soon as I can reveal the rest of my plan and what was found in the Well of Souls I will. Until then you’ll just have to trust me, I haven’t given you a reason not to yet.”
Marcus took a deep breath, struggling to hold back his building anger. “Although that is true I still don’t like the idea of not knowing where they are going to strike. What about breaking into Gabriel’s dreams?”
“That avenue has been closed to us as well,” Janus spoke matter of factly. “They detected my intrusion and have taken steps to ensure that it won’t happen again.”
“They still pose a serious threat to our operation. We should strike them now, before they have any more time to gather more information about the hybrids.”
“Not as serious as you would think,” Janus said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Your hybrid manufacturing facilities have some of the best security on earth; technological and magical. Assuming that they can even break into your system and locate those facilities, it’s doubtful that they would mount a strike right away. Which would give us time to shore up our defenses.”
“I don’t understand how you can be so calm in all this,” Marcus growled.
“I have faith my friend,” Janus responded. “Let’s wait and see what the Guardians do next. I have an appointment in Rome that I need to get to. It would be wise to remind our forces that you shouldn’t underestimate the Guardians, especially that group. They have a way of causing even the best laid plans to go awry.”
“Oh believe me I know,” Marcus said, with a nod. “After what happened with Faye I’ve come to realize that they aren’t as inadept as I thought them to be.”
Janus merely nodded and then headed out the door, his bodyguards falling into step around him. Marcus waited until the door closed and then slammed his hand down on the table, splintering the wood. He turned to Arthur, who had spent most of the meeting standing in the corner, clutching his tablet PC.
“Are our computer systems safe? Can they be breached?”
Arthur took a few nervous steps forward before tapping some commands into his tablet. “They’re as secure as we can make them. All the Imperial Medical Facilities are on alert status, there really is nothing more that we can do.”
“Except wait to be attacked,” Marcus muttered, rising from his chair. He turned to look out the window at the skyline below him. “I don’t like being defensive, there are too many unknowns. And what if they are successful? Janus seems to dismiss that notion as an impossibility.”
“It would seem that he’s probably right,” Arthur responded nervously. “I mean even if they were to break into our computer systems and get the information it’s doubtful that they could act on it right away. That would leave us time to make sure that the hybrid facilities are safe.”
“I don’t like this,” Marcus spoke slowly. “I don’t like this at all. We are too vulnerable, too exposed, despite what Janus says. Have you uncovered anything about this Well of Souls that he keeps talking about?”
Arthur shook his head and looked a little panicked when he answered. “Not yet, aside from the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant there doesn’t seem to be much information on the topic.”
“I highly doubt that was the army that Janus was speaking of.”
Arthur only nodded in agreement.
“Place extra security at all our key facilities,” Marcus ordered, turning around from the window. “I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out.”
“Sadly, that appears to be our only choice.”
“Fine,” Marcus growled. “I want to be alerted the moment that anyone attempts to breach our systems. Do you understand me?”
Arthur nodded so hard that Marcus was sure that his head was going to break off and drop to the floor.
“I don’t suppose that there has been any luck contacting the Black Hand?” Marcus asked, heading toward his minibar. He needed a drink and if the way his morning started off was any indication he was going to need a lot more. He poured himself a glass of vodka before turning back around to face Arthur.
“No sir,” Arthur answered. “I think that we can count on them not supporting us. We have the rest the Unkari clans in our pocket though.”
“At least that’s something,” Marcus responded with a grunt. He took a long drink from his glass. “Alright, we have work to do.”
Gabriel was pretty sure that he was grinning like a total idiot when he arrived at Aegis the next evening. He had hardly gotten inside and down to the lounge when he was mobbed by pretty much everyone. With the exception of Ethan of course, who merely stood back in the corner and continued playing with his phone.
“So, what happened on your walk last night?” Ryan inquired.
“Did you snog him?” Cody asked.
“Was he an awesome kisser?” Marissa asked.
“Would you give him a moment to breathe,” Tony snapped. “Good lord you’re acting like a bunch of junior high girls.”
“I resent that remark,” Marissa responded, sticking her tongue out at Tony.
“We took a walk,” Gabriel said, taking a seat next to Everett. He appeared to be one of the only ones not overly interested in what had transpired between Gabriel and Alex the night before. “And then nothing happened.”
“What do you mean nothing bloody happened?” Cody inquired, rather loudly.
“I mean nothing happened,” Gabriel spoke calmly. He hoped that he had his blushing under control but one look at Ryan and he could feel the heat creeping up into his face. He knew instantly that his cover was blown.
“You’re turning red,” Tony pointed out. “Something happened.”
“Okay, fine,” Gabriel said, throwing his arms up in exasperation. “We kissed!”
“Like just a peck on the cheek kiss or a full on kiss?” Tony asked.
“Wait a second,” Marissa protested. “Just a second ago you were all over us about asking too many questions and now you’re all over him.”
“Shut it you,” Tony said, with a wave of his hand. “Can’t you see that the man is trying to tell a story?”
Gabriel considered his options for a moment. He had already fessed up to kissing Alex, the question was whether or not he wanted to go into details or tell them how much it really did mean to him and how it made him feel. Then again, they were his friends and sharing was something that you did with your friends.
“It was pretty awesome actually,” Gabriel finally responded. “Alex is one very good kisser.”
“Wait a second,” Tony interjected. “Was he a better kisser than me?”
Gabriel smiled slightly. “Yeah, much better than you.”
Tony looked completely shocked.
“Now wait a second!” Tony snapped, wagging a finger at Gabriel. “He couldn’t have been that much better than me!”
“Well...um...yeah he kinda was,” Gabriel said. He was aware that he had a goofy grin on his face.
“That’s it, come here so I can kiss you again,” Tony ordered.
“What!” Gabriel yelped. “You are so not kissing me again!”
“Well I can’t let you go on thinking that he’s a better kisser than me!”
“That’s because he is,” Cody pointed out.
Gabriel was about to comment on the absurdity of the situation when Tony reached over, grabbed the front of Cody’s shirt and pulled him in for a kiss. The red haired archer barely got out a shout of surprise before everything else was lost in a muffled grunt as Tony locked lips with him. The two broke apart, which left Tony standing there grinning and Cody almost as red faced as his hair.
“See, I am so a good kisser.”
“Um...well I guess that wasn’t bloody awful.”
“And moving on,” Ryan said, looking oddly at his fellow Guardians. “Unless anyone else wants Tony to kiss him?”
“God no!” Marissa barked.
“Well you could have said that with a little less vehemence,” Tony said, rolling his eyes.
“I’m good,” Everett said, holding up his hands.
“I’ll pass,” Ethan spoke up from the corner of the room. “But thanks for asking.”
Elise entered the lounge with Jonathan close on her heels.
“What are you talking about that has you looking so captivated?” Jonathan asked.
“Gabriel kissing Alex and then arguing about whether or not Tony was the better kisser,” Ethan remarked, finally looking up from his phone.
Jonathan didn’t seem surprised by what Ethan said.
“I’ll never understand you teenagers,” Jonathan said, with a sigh. “The lycans will be here shortly. I hope that you can all keep your attention on the problem at hand and not who kissed whom last night. I mean seriously, can’t you all just refrain from indulging your baser instincts for one night.”
“Sounds like Gabriel managed to do just that,” Tony said, with a wink.
They filed out of the room, Gabriel falling into step next to Ryan.
“Was it really that good?” Ryan whispered.
“It was pretty awesome,” Gabriel admitted. “How was your kiss with Elise the first time?”
“Awesome,” Ryan smiled.
They headed toward the training rooms, leaving behind most of the Guardians in the lounge. Truthfully, Gabriel was happy to get away from all the scrutiny of his fellow Guardians. Hopefully, Ryan wouldn’t grill him on his relationship with Alex.
“Have you seen the newest clan Phoenix trainees yet?” Ryan inquired. “Or had a chance to look at the new holo simulator that they installed?”
Gabriel shook his head. “I sparred with Ethan the other night. I never even thought about using it though.”
“How did that go?” Ryan asked. “Give yourself a few more months and you’ll be able to wipe that smirk off his face pretty easily.”
Gabriel left out the part about thinking that he was burning up from the inside out and the fact that he very nearly could have taken Ethan’s head off. He also neglected to tell Ryan about the conversation that he had with Imogene.
“You seem to have an inordinate amount of confidence in me,” Gabriel grumbled.
“Yeah you should have more in yourself,” Ryan stated, nudging Gabriel with his arm. “You are a badass demon killer remember.”
“You’ve killed way more than me,” Gabriel protested.
“You know the way that you underestimate yourself it should be considered an Olympic event,” Tony responded from behind him. Gabriel was unable to hide his yelp of surprise, which only caused a broad grin to break out across Tony’s face.
“I hate it when you do that!” Gabriel barked.
“Why do you think that I keep doing it?”
Gabriel muttered a rather unkind adjective that described his friend’s behavior before looking back toward the training ring.
“He is right, you do sell yourself short way too much.”
“You’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think,” Tony said, clapping his friend on the shoulder.
“That’s rather inspiring,” Ryan stated. “I know that you didn’t make that up, is that like Shakespeare or something?”
“Winnie the Pooh,” Tony responded.
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Wow, that’s impressive.”
“Women love a guy that can quote things.”
“I think they probably prefer one that quotes that are more impressive than Winnie the Pooh,” Ryan added. “But again, Tony does have a point.”
“I hate it when you two agree on things, makes me think that we got sucked into a parallel world or something.”