The Guardian Chronicles 1: Rise of the Phoenix (20 page)

BOOK: The Guardian Chronicles 1: Rise of the Phoenix
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“Anyway,” Ryan continued. “It’s pretty cool actually, take a look.”

One of the training rings had been modified over the course of the last few weeks. The holographic projectors stood eight feet tall and looked like large blocks of gleaming crystal. The actual equipment for the holograms was located inside the large crystal like structures, which caused them to give off a faint green glow.

“How does it work?” Gabriel asked, as they approached the modified training ring.

“I don’t really know,” Ryan admitted. “If you really want to know I’m sure that Aadesh could explain it to you.”

“No thanks,” Gabriel stated. “It would probably just give me a headache.”

As Ryan spoke one of the younger Phoenix trainees entered the ring. Gabriel recognized him as Michael Monroe. Despite being only twelve years old, the young Guardian was athletically built with brown hair styled into a faux hawk and piercing blue eyes. He carried his weapon of choice, a glowing silver/blue trident.

“He’s doing pretty well,” Tony commented, nodding toward the ring. “He wiped the floor with both Wolf and Lion recruits last week.”

“Just take a look.”

The holographic projectors activated, creating ghostly vaguely humanoid images. Michael took a deep breath and then launched into action, letting his trident fly toward the first attacker. The weapon speared into the projection, causing it to disappear in a flash of light. Michael flipped, forward and grabbed the trident before bouncing back to his feet.

The remaining holograms closed in from all sides, brandishing a variety of weapons. Michael swung the trident in circle, cleaving through two of them before charging forward, swirling the trident around him to create what looked like a shell of blue/silver light.

Every weapon that thrust toward him was turned away and the attacker disappeared in a flash of light. Michael flipped forward, using his weapon to block a flurry of blows before stabbing the projection in the chest, causing it to disappear in a burst of light. He sidestepped another attack attack and then whipped his leg around, around catching attacker in the face and sending him spinning to the ground. The trident speared him through the chest a moment later.

They continued to watch for a few more minutes. By the end of the session the young Guardian had pretty much destroyed every projection that the machine had sent at him. It was a pretty impressive showing and probably ten times better than his own first few attempts at fighting.

“Remind me not to step into the ring with him,” Gabriel said.

Ryan looked down at his phone as it chimed. “Looks like the lycans are here and ready for the briefing.”

They trio headed out of the training room and back toward the conference room.

Gabriel had been getting used to seeing all sorts of things that were out of the norm. Or, at least he thought they were out of the norm before becoming a Guardian. Now, his definition of weird had changed somewhat.

As soon as they entered the briefing room Gabriel’s skin tingled and his hair stood on end. He couldn’t place his finger on what made him so uneasy, at least not until he saw the young man standing next to Day. The man that had red eyes, almost instinctively Gabriel reached for his weapon but Ryan calmly laid a hand on his arm.

“Don’t worry, that’s just Payton.”

Payton was tall, standing at 6’5. He had short stark blonde hair, red eyes, and was packed with muscle that filled out his black tee-shirt. His arms were sketched with various tattoos, as well the stark white marks of several scars. He wore dark jeans that looked like they had seen better days.

“His eyes…he’s Unkari?” Gabriel uneasily asked.

“Apparently we’re just letting anyone inside nowadays,” Ethan muttered.

Gabriel did take note that there were several armed Guardians in the conference room, a lot more than usual.

“That’s hardly productive Ethan,” Jonathan responded. He spoke with an annoyed/exasperated tone in his voice. “Payton is here at the request of Day’s pack and the lycans as a whole. The council has allowed him into Aegis under the condition that he be closely guarded and come unarmed.”

“Well, that makes it all better then,” Ethan grumbled.

“I’m not your enemy,” Payton said, holding up his hands. “Not all of the Unkari are allies with Sainte-Pierre’s partner. Some of us just want peace and the chance to live out our lives without having to worry about the Guardians hunting us down and destroying us.”

“What’s he doing here?” Gabriel asked, eyeing Payton warily. He didn’t care what Ryan had said, so far he hadn’t met a demon, lesser or otherwise that wasn’t out to kill him.

“He’s here at the request of my mother,” Day spoke up. “A few Unkari have been helping us protect our populace, the Guardians are good but there are too few in number and too spread apart to help. Plus, they can’t directly strike at the vampires, but Payton and his team can.”

“Hiring out mercenaries now, huh?” Ethan asked, crossing his arms over his chest. Gabriel took notice of that and the fact that his biceps and chest looked like they both had gotten bigger. He shook his head, he needed to focus on the here and now, not oggle his friend.

Payton shot Ethan an angry look and Gabriel was sure that his eyes had grown an even darker shade of red. The demon let out a long breath before placing his hands on the conference table.

“I mean you no harm but don’t test my patience. We are not mercenaries, we are merely helping those that asked for it. Not all demons are out to destroy the world, some of us just want to live in it.”

“It would be wise to remember that you are a guest here Payton,” Jonathan said. Although his tone seemed almost neutral it carried a subtle undertone that seemed to drive the point home. Payton stood up straight and looked at Day. Day took this as his cue to continue. He tapped the surface of the conference table, which served as a massive computer screen.

“We’ve chosen our target,” Day indicated, pointing to a drab and rather dull looking building. The surroundings were blurred out of focus, which meant that none of the Guardians could actually pinpoint where the target was.

“What is it?” Ethan asked.

“Medical storage facility,” Day answered. He swiped his hand across the table again, this time bringing up several photos that fanned out so that everyone could see them. “It’s pretty lightly guarded, at least given the circumstances.”

Gabriel and the rest of the Guardians looked down at the photos. He recognized Unkari darklings, and even two hybrids. Gabriel couldn’t place his finger on the other three images though. They looked like seven foot tall birds, with razor sharp talons on their feet and an armored exoskeleton. The head of the demon looked vaguely feline, with glowing green eyes.

“What are those things?” Gabriel asked.

“Teckali demons,” Payton answered. “Not overly smart but very dangerous.”

“They look disgusting,” Gabriel spoke, revulsion evident in his voice. “Let me guess they breathe fire? Spit poison? Shoot blasts of energy? ”

Payton’s eyebrows went up at that comment. “No, they just slash you to pieces with those claws of theirs.”

“Oh well handy that,” Cody spoke with amusement. “Guess we know how to avoid getting killed, just stay away from the ostrich with the seriously bad attitude.”

“They are exceptionally fast,” Payton warned them. “And heavily armored. “It might take several direct attacks to bring them down.”

“I’m pretty sure that they can’t fight at all if they are missing a head,” Ethan stated.

“Don’t underestimate them.”

“And you shouldn’t underestimate us,” Tony reminded the demon.

“I’ll be the one that breaks into the network,” Day said, bringing the briefing back on track. “Hopefully I can pull the information that we need off his systems before we get overrun. After that we’ll bring the information back here and see what we managed to get.”

“I’m going to assume that your intelligence is up to date?” Ethan asked.

“We prefer to stay one step ahead of the enemy,” Payton remarked. “Unlike some other organizations.”

Ethan tensed and looked like he was about to take a step forward, at least until Ryan put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“We can airdrop in,” Day stated, resuming the briefing. “We’ll need to break into the office on the second floor, from there I can get into the system and get the information that I need. Assuming that you guys can keep me from getting killed. Our extraction point is just west of the facility, we’ll have lycan forces waiting to cover us.”

“Exactly how are we going to extract?” Ryan asked.

“He’s right,” Everett said, stepping forward. “They are likely to see any air support coming a mile off and blow it out of the sky.”

“We have that covered,” Day assured them. “You’re going to have to trust me.”

“You we trust fine,” Elise said, also seeming to come out of the shadows. “It’s his kind that we don’t care for all that much.”

Payton’s jaw clenched but he kept his mouth shut.

“Payton will do his job just as I hope that the rest of you will do yours.”

“You know that we will,” Ryan said with a nod.

“We leave in two hours.”

 

CHAPTER 13

 

Gabriel pulled on his compression pants and then the shirt. At first, Gabriel didn’t really understand why they had to wear the skin tight garments; though after wearing the armor just once he was thankful for them. They helped to not only keep him warm or cool but they also made sure that the armor wasn’t rubbing directly on his skin and chafing more sensitive areas.

He was alone in the locker room and to be honest he didn’t really know what he was doing just sitting in there. They had at least an hour before they were scheduled to leave on their latest mission so he had plenty of time for doing other things. Problem was, he couldn’t really think of anything else to do. His phone buzzed on the bench next to him; he couldn’t help but contain the smile that came over his face when he saw that it was Alex that was calling. He quickly snatched up the phone and answered it, hoping that he didn’t sound too eager.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Nothing much, you sound like you’re in a cave,” Alex remarked. “Wait are you in a cave? Are you in the shower because if you are that would be so hot.”

Gabriel laughed and despite the fact that he was alone, turned slightly red. “No, just in the locker room. I really can’t say much more than that.”

“You don’t have to say much more than that,” Alex responded. “Since you are a badass and all I know that you’ll survive whatever it is that you are about to do and on that note I wanted to know if you wanted to hang out tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I could finally give you a few lessons with a bow.”

“I’d love too,” Gabriel responded. “I’ll text you tomorrow.”

“Or tonight,” Alex offered instead. “You know, after you get done.”

“Checking to make sure that I’m safe?”

“Maybe. Good luck.”

And with that said, Alex disconnected. Gabriel sat there for a moment just staring at his phone, at least until the he heard the door to the locker room open. He turned around just as Ethan came into the room, carrying his bag. He gave Gabriel a lopsided grin as he walked over to his locker.

“So, making out with Alex, huh?” Ethan asked, setting his bag down in front of his locker.

“Don’t make me go over that again,” Gabriel grumbled.

“Oh trust me,” Ethan said, holding his hands up. “I really have no desire to go through that again. What are you doing in here anyway?”

Gabriel shrugged. “To be honest I really don’t know, I just thought that I would get changed. I guess I should be reviewing mission data or something.”

“And undoubtedly hope to get a glimpse of some chiseled Guardian physiques,” Ethan responded with a wink, stripping off his shirt. “I wouldn’t worry about the mission stuff really, we have only one job and that’s to keep Day and Payton safe. They have the hard part.”

Gabriel groaned, he didn’t want to continue to give Ethan the impression that he thought he was attractive, even though he hated to admit that it was still the truth. He knew that he had feelings for Alex, not just a physical attraction but that still couldn’t seem to stop him admiring the way that his teammates looked. He quickly turned around as Ethan started to unbutton his jeans.

“You aren’t happy with Payton being here are you?” Gabriel asked.

“Not really, no.”

“Why?”

“When was the last time that you met a demon that wasn’t trying to eat you, maim you, use you a target practice for high powered assault weapons, or trying and blast you to hell with a pink beam-o-death?”

“You have a point,” Gabriel admitted. “But they can’t all be like that. I mean there have to be some other Unkari out there that don’t want to murder every Guardian that they come across. I mean look at Payton, I’m not saying that I want to have a sleepover with the guy but he doesn’t appear to want to murder us all.”

“Payton’s a mercenary, he only cares about a paycheck,” Ethan remarked. “He’s not any better than the other Unkari that are working for the vampires or for Sainte-Pierre’s ally.”

“Except that he’s not working for them,” Gabriel pointed out. He had actually slightly confused himself because he almost felt as if he was defending Payton when no more than a half hour before he was ready to cut his head off.

“He could be,” Ethan replied. “Look, Payton and the Black Hand are a bunch of money grubbing jerks. They’ll work for whoever pays them the most.”

“That’s not entirely true.”

Gabriel and Ethan turned to see Payton emerge from a changing stall. His dark tee-shirt and jeans were gone and had been replaced by a suit of dark gray battle armor. It looked like something out of a fantasy game, with interlocking plates and rivets. His axe was hanging off his back and two high powered and destructive looking pistols were strapped to either side of his thighs.

“And what part about that wouldn’t be true?” Ethan asked, leaning against his locker.

“The part about us being money grubbing jerks,” Payton responded. “The Black Hand represents an ideal that even you guys haven’t embraced yet.”

“What’s that?” Gabriel asked.

“The Black Hand is composed of everyone,” Payton explained. “Demon, human, vampire, lycan, every walk of life with one purpose.”

“To do whatever your employer wants you to do.”

“To make a difference,” Payton snapped, shooting Ethan an intense look. “There are certain lines that the Black Hand will not cross. We won’t murder innocents, we won’t participate in the destruction of lawful governments and we certainly won’t aide in genocide.”

“Funny how a large majority of your kind seem to be working for the bad guys.”

Payton’s jaw twitched and for a moment Gabriel thought that he might actually grab the axe off his back and split Ethan in half.

“Guys, I don’t think this is the time or the place for this,” Gabriel warned. Again, he was surprised at himself for standing up for the young demon.

“Remember who the real enemy is,” Payton said. He slipped past Gabriel and Ethan and headed out the door, leaving the two of them alone in the locker room.

“Why do the Unkari hate the Guardians so much?”

“Because we kill their kind,” Ethan stated.

“We don’t kill all their kind,” Gabriel remarked. “And they seem to really dislike us.”

“The Guardians and the Unkari have a long and complicated history,” Ethan explained. “More so than any other demon. No one really knows what went down with them a long time ago, other than the fact that the Unkari were among the first demons to enter the world. Rumor had it they created a truce with the Guardians once and then they broke it.”

“Right,” Gabriel nodded.

“If you’re going to stare at me while I undress I’m going to start charging you for it,” Ethan smirked. He was still shirtless and had his jeans half unbuttoned. Gabriel turned red instantly and looked down at his phone, pretending to be checking email or text messages.

“I mean someone has to know? What about Imogene she seems to know everything.”

“Even if Imogene does know, I doubt that she’ll tell us. She seems to enjoy keeping her secrets.”

Gabriel sighed. “It was worth a shot.”

“Stop worrying about stuff like that,” Ethan said, shutting his locker. “We have bad guys to catch, come on.”

 

Gabriel had only air-dropped into a zone twice. Each time he was pretty sure that he was going to pass out on the way down. Luckily, he managed to avoid doing that both times. Their landing zone was still several miles from their actual target.

Trekking through the woods surrounding the intended target wasn’t all that hard. Day and his people had gathered very detailed intelligence on the facility, making the strike team well prepared. Though the lycans might not have the sheer numbers that the vampire did, they were still well equipped and resourceful.

The facility didn’t look like much more than a warehouse. A high fence surrounded it and although they could see no outward signs of heavy security, they all knew it was there. Day grabbed a tablet from Payton’s backpack and tapped in a few commands.

“I’ve disabled the primary and secondary computer systems,” Day said, looking at the tablet.

“How did you manage that?” Marissa asked. “I’ve been trying to break past their firewalls for weeks and haven’t been able to get anywhere.”

“Our techs have been working on ways to infiltrate vampire computer systems ever since they started using the things,” Day explained. “We can get inside but can’t fool them for long. We need to make this quick.”

The group dashed toward the fence. A magical glyph raced out from Everett’s hand, slicing through the fence like it wasn’t even there. They sprinted inside and to an access door. Ryan grabbed Reaper and pointed at the door.

The door exploded inward, sending shards of metal and wood everywhere. The Guardians stepped through, weapons sweeping through the expansive room. Alarms blared through the complex instantly, causing them all to look over at Day.

“You told us that you disabled the alarm system!” Ethan snapped.

“Apparently they had a backup.”

“You told us that you disabled the backup,” Elise reminded him.

“Clearly I didn’t!”

“Do you think you guys could stop fighting long enough to kill the bad guys?” Gabriel asked. He pointed down toward the other end of the warehouse where they could all make out dozens of bodies pouring toward them, including the racing form of the three Teckali demons. Two hybrids were lumbering deceptively behind the group, almost as if they were hanging back to see what was about to transpire.

The Guardians brought their weapons up and sent a hailstorm of silver bullets toward the advancing attackers. Several exploded into ash and embers as they bullets tore into them. Darklings dropped as well, though they were few in number. Still it didn’t appear to affect a large majority of the advancing force. Cody rapid fired several arrows; dropping five of the incoming Unkari before they even knew what hit them.

“Cody, Elise, and Payton you protect Day,” Ethan ordered. He holstered his sidearm and grabbed his blades. “I guess we get to dance with these guys.”

Payton was the first to move, dashing forward, swinging his rather large axe in front of him as he went. Vampires exploded into ash and ember as the blade sawed through them. Day transformed into his feral form and followed close behind. Elise and Cody were the last to charge. Cody let loose a volley of glowing projectiles as they neared the stairs, sending them slicing through skulls.

As Cody reached the stairs he spun around, loosening an arrow that landed in the center mass of the surging enemy force and exploded. Demons, Darklings, and the few remaining vampires were sent flying in all directions, bouncing off the walls and smashing through the wooden crates that littered the warehouse floor.

That distraction was all the time that the other Guardians needed. Gabriel leapt toward those that were dazed by the blast, swinging Aequitas in a wide arc as he landed. Two vampires disappeared in a cloud of embers and ashes while an Unkari fell as the sword slashed through his chest.  Gabriel turned away another blow and then slammed his foot into the chest of a charging Unkari, sending him sailing backwards and smashing through another crate.

“Looks like they overcame their shyness,” Tony grunted. He sprinted forward and brought his own weapon around; slicing clean through two Unkari before they even realized that they were within his deadly range. A vampire thrust a knife toward him but was turned to ash as Tony’s blade stabbed through his heart.

One of the Teckali demons reared up, bringing its leg down to strike but then was promptly shot backwards as a Everett slammed a sphere of telekinetic energy into it. The demon struggled back to his feet but not before Everett hit it with a barrage of mystical missiles, throwing it into nearby wall. Though it wasn’t dead, it was down for the count, at least for the time being.

“Watch out for the hybrids!” Marissa shouted. Her whip yanked an Unkari off his feet and snapped his neck at the same time, dropping him lifelessly to the ground. She cracked it around again, raking open long wounds on several attackers, they staggered slightly before the whip lashed out again, this time removing them from this world permanently.

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Ryan shouted back. He blocked several incoming slashes with his daggers before exploding into an attack that reduced his attacker to nothing more than a pile of billowing dust on the floor. “I already dealt with these guys once, remember!”

“Keep them away from the stairs!” Ethan ordered. He caught an immortal blade on his own and shoved it aside, thrusting his other sword inside his attackers guard and driving it through his heart. The vampire exploded. Another surged forward to take the place of his fallen comrade.

“Easier said than done,” Gabriel grunted. He caught a demon across the face with a right hook, then spun around and sent his blade slashing through the chest of another. “They seem to have numbers on their side!”

“Then kill more of them!” Ethan snapped back. He was constantly moving, his twin blades slashing out in an arc in front of him, slicing clean through anyone that happened to get in the way. He flipped forward and speared another demon through the chest.

“Heads up!” Gabriel yelled.

BOOK: The Guardian Chronicles 1: Rise of the Phoenix
13.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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