Saturday, September 24th
Dark wings, darker secrets,
Weeping forever inside,
Twin hearts mourning,
Embrace where bleeding love died.
Clad in Sheepskin
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“Greetings sir, I apologise for the time.”
'Carlyle…' he grumbled inwardly as he rolled his eyes skyward.
“Spit it out.”
“Nyra and Nezzar…”
“Well, what about them?”
“They’re dead, sir.”
He carefully maintained his composure, not wanting to rouse his spouse. “Is that so?” he replied with an edge in his tone.
“Yes, and judging by their injuries, we’re dealing with new aberrations, at least two. And according to the Mohini scanner, one of them might be this ‘herald’ we keep hearing about.”
“The Advent is a myth, spread around by the Association to throw us off. There is no ‘herald.’”
Carlyle’s pause betrayed his doubt, but he continued, “We’ll need a replacement, should I reply to Ookyou concerning their offer?”
“Yes, begin a probationary agreement. Perhaps they’ll be able to produce a better product than we have.”
“I’ll get on it then.”
He hung up and laid back in his bed.
“Is something the matter dear?” his wife asked.
“It’s not important, go to sleep, love.” Though he kept his tone pleasant, his heart seethed. He did not particularly care for Nyra or Nezzar, but so much time, money, and effort had been spent on those two that to have them so quickly eliminated by some unknown person was inconvenient.
'But if Ookyou can deliver on their promises, the Nebuchadnezzar project would have become obsolete with time.' he reassured himself.
An hour before sunrise, Aleksei’s eyes opened in the darkness as he grasped his chest. He extricated himself from his sleeping bag, impressed that he had been able to fall asleep on the cold floor of the safehouse, but fearing for one’s life proved to be an exhausting endeavour, so the slightest sense of security sapped him of his strength. But now something thrilling buzzed through his core.
“It’s back!” he hissed. He looked in the darkness and saw the steady rise and fall of The Messenger’s and Jack’s chests. His roommates were growing stranger by the day.
A half hour later he sat on a stool in the kitchen. He had placed another stool in front of him with a glass of water resting on top. He felt almost completely unaffected by the cold air which blew about the fifth story, and he knew that meant he still had his power. The question was whether that he could actually use it. He focused on the water, moving his hand close then drawing back. He repeated the motion, but the water remained still.
Did I imagine that? He looked at his hand then reached for the glass. A strange, fuzzy sensation ran past his wrist almost to his elbow, followed by a pleasant ache which seemed to gently squeeze his bones. It was very slight, but he could feel it. Did I always have this sensation? He had never really thought before how it felt physically to use his power. There was always the thrill, the freedom, the joy… and the malice, they all distracted him from how he physically felt. The feeling was closest to an anticipation of a feeling, like when one waits for the doctor to insert a needle, only to find the actual needle felt less than the anticipation.
He returned his focus on the glass, trying to reach for that sensation, drag it out, and touch the water with invisible hands. He became so focused he jumped when he heard a voice.
“You can relax—,”
He looked up at the woman in surprise, then at his surroundings. He was sitting on the railing of an ornate, blue/green stone balcony overlooking a seemingly bottomless sea of grey fog. He hopped off the railing and backed away from the edge.
“—you did not lose your gift.”
He looked back at her. She was obviously another repha, as she was someone else in his inverse and wore similar apparel to Nida Ixela. “You, I saw you! You were beside me when I attacked Nezzar!”
“Yes, you did. My name is Rinnei Ixela. I am another part of us, and I am happy to make our acquaintance at last.”
“Nice to meet you, er, I mean me.”
She smiled warmly and said, “To make things simpler, we can use conventional pronouns for a conversation between two people. Nida likes to stress the point that we are all one being, but I think right now that there is still much time for you to take in and grasp that concept.”
Aleksei sighed, relieved that she seemed a more relaxed personality than Nida. “Thank you, that’ll be easier. You were saying I did not lose my gift, what is going on?”
“That would be my fault,” Rinnei admitted sheepishly. “I almost severed the Nophsha Thread in my panic.”
“It is the invisible tether which connects your soul to your brain. For a Jinn it doubles as the conduit for your power. Normally there is a constant, immeasurable flow between the soul and body. However, I drew out our soul too quickly and the thread grew thin.”
At once Aleksei remember the shrieking blade of mist which formed just before Nebuchadnezzar3 tried to hit him the last time. “That was you?”
She nodded, her short hair bobbing guiltily.
“And I’m probably going to regret asking, but what would happen if you severed my-, our Nophsha Thread?”
“We would die.”
He responded with a nervous chuckle. “I see…” a pause passed between them before Aleksei continued, “About what you said previously, I have not lost my power, so when will I be able to use it again?”
“Technically you are using it right now. The Nophsha Thread is simply restoring flow. You should have your full powers back in less than an hour, especially since you haven’t forgotten this time around.”
“In the meantime, want me to teach you the basics of the whirling blades?”
“You mean what I was suddenly able to do yesterday?”
“You’ve done similar actions in the past, and so have I. Though, I don’t think you remember that night in the boathouse, when you were fighting The Messenger last spring.”
“I do, vaguely, better when I’m in the Inverse. You were the one who cut him, right?”
She nodded, “Guilty. Wait, him? The Messenger?”
“Yes, him, I realised it today when he was injured. His voice is really high pitch normally, but behind it, there’s timbre that I recognised. It is a he, I’m sure of it.”
“Yet you still kissed him?” Rinnei teased.
“It was not that kind of kiss!” he retorted, hoping he did not blush in the Inverse.
She laughed then guided her hands gracefully about her. She spun and a massive cloud flooded through the grandiose windows into the stone hall.
Aleksei panicked for a moment. “Wait! Let me prepare myself.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m not going to launch you out the window, relax. We can practice here. I would only do that if you irritated me.”
“Oh… alright,” He widened his stance, wary of tricks, and moved a portion of the mist towards himself, enjoying the ease at which he could manipulate it in his realm.
“So, I’ll begin. The basics of using mist blades can be split into four simple steps; breathing, channelling, honing, and compressing.”
The new hideout was perhaps the humblest yet. They slept in a run-down, three-bedroom apartment, accompanied by flaking wallpaper creaking floors, and cloudy glass windows and the quiet skittering of bugs in the walls. Bruno, Mashka, Evan, and his son Jack sat in the miniscule parlour. Jack was redressing the large German’s leg. He had initially been less than enthused about having an outsider pulled in on their organisation, but he quickly came to like the younger man.
“This not first time having bullet removed, but—Jack was it?—none of them quite as quick and painless as this!”
Jack chuckled. “We had a string riots and gang violence a few weeks ago, so I had plenty of practice with bullets, shrapnel, knives, nails, you name it, I’ve had to extract it.”
“So it fun, then?”
“Of course, every day is a thrill, not to say I liked the riots themselves that much,”—he gave a sideways grin—“just the aftermath.”
Mashka stamped her foot and rose. “What are we even doing?!”
“It’s called hiding.” Bruno responded flatly.
“Da, I seem to spend my life doing that. And it would be fine, if I did not have to hide with the same people who made my life the nightmare it is! I have control of my power! The Apparition and Administrator hold nothing over me, so why are we still here?”
Evan stood and tried to reach for her, but she smacked his hand aside moodily. “Mariya, if you want, we can go back home. But Sentinel is still out there, and because of the state you left their top agents in, they are going to be looking for you.”
“So this is my fault? They would have killed us!”
“No, it’s not, you did the right thing Mariya, but I think the best thing for you, me, and your brother is to just stick it out for a while. I don’t trust The Administrator any more than you do, but Sentinel is so much worse.”
I read your file, Miss Sharov. The memory of Nyra’s words stunned Mashka. She had been in a foggy state when she heard them, in the midst of fighting against and using the beast. A shiver ran down her spine, “Sentinel already has my files.”
“Vhat?!” Bruno exclaimed, his German accent seeping into his speech, “Dat’s impossible!”
“Nyra, the woman who attacked us, said she read my file. And she knew about my regenerative abilities.”
Bruno’s face went ashen. “That… that explains it! We could not figure out why as soon as we found Jinn, Sentinel would show up and kill them. We store the Jinn files on an isolated database, only accessible by a few people. But how could they have accessed it? I can’t even get on it! Only The Administrator and two others have access.”
“Didn’t you give your agents any information when their assigned to catch us?”
“Of course, but we gave them edited versions. The fact that Mariya could regenerate was unknown then, and after we found out, that data was kept strictly confidential. We feared that if our agents knew she could recover from most injuries they would act less careful and endanger her.”
“But if you’re right,” Mashka added, her face souring, “then The Association’s leadership cannot be trusted. How else would Sentinel know that side of my power?”
Bruno paused a moment and looked at Evan, trying to convey his thoughts non-verbally. Seeing the other man maintain a clueless face, he continued, “Oh wait, you left the five before Doctor Kerry perfected it.”
“Perfected what?” Evan asked.
“Our blood screening methods. If anyone knows how to trace down Jinn, he does. It is just a hunch, but I’ll bring it up with The Administrator.”
Mashka looked around. “Whatever happened to that doctor anyway?”
“He went to France to support Vladimir, Anya, and Dániel. And if I am right, we need to follow him.”
“Because, he might be the traitor.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Evan began, “what would he have to gain, Sentinel wants him dead just like all the rest of us.”
“You don’t understand. Doctor Kerry’s eyes are very special, and he’s always experimenting with his power. The fact that he can see the difference between a Jinn and a normal human, means that he would be an asset Sentinel would want to keep around. He would be the only one of the five that might have a motive.”
Jack’s eyes widened at the turn of the conversation, his mind reeling from super eyes and secret organisations. This is dad’s world—at last I understand why he never let me in on it. He looked at his father with a sense of understanding he never had before. I suppose it makes sense, why these kids are more important to him than me.
“If Kerry is a traitor, you need to warn them.” Evan declared.
“That would be unwissse.” The Messenger interrupted. “He can sssee thingsss we can’t, soulsss, emotionsss, sssussspicionsss… he would definitely know if he was being sssussspected.”
Bruno muttered inaudible explitives and began. “Alright, new plan, we need to go to France. When we inform the team of our suspicions, we have to ensure we are ready to take on Kerry. The doctor will have mehrere contingency plans, so we need to corner him. Miss Sharova, your senses and skills would be very helpful here.”
“I fail to see how this involves us,” Evan countered.
The balcony door opened, letting it an oppressively humid gust. Before them stood Aleksei, covered in dew, with mist cascading off his body and across the parlour floor.
Aleksei “Vladimir is in danger, Evan, how does this not involve us?”
“Your brother chose his employer; he’s not your responsibility.”
Mashka’s face fell, betraying that she was in agreement.
Aleksei eyes hardened at his sister. “I am my brother’s keeper, you two can stay or go.”
“Lyosha!” Mashka exclaimed then scolded in her native Russian, “You were nearly killed, both of us were! We should not be involved in any of this!”
“I’m more powerful today than I was yesterday. And I am going to protect my flesh and blood with that power. What about you Mashka? Would you not come after me if I was in danger?”
“Then why not Vova?”
Mashka looked at her brother in indignation. “If this is what you want Aleksei, I will do it for you. But know that you ask so much of me.”
Aleksei’s continence softened, knowing how much his sister had already sacrificed for him. He was about to apologise when The Messenger drew a cellular from his coat.
“Quiet!” he snapped from beneath his hood then dialled.