'I need to be careful, but I must find out how far I can release and still be in control.'
Her pain subsided slightly as she released her hold, the temptation to fully release was enormous. Her power, it felt so good, while holding it under control caused constant pain. For a moment, she was going to just surrender to the euphoria of allowing that other creature take control, but at the last moment she halted the process. She opened her eyes, yellow, slit irises dilated to took in the entire crowd and her ears heard every breath. When a few black fatigue clad men emerged from the furthest van, she focussed in on them and their conversation.
“Have the Scotland Yard been removed?”
“Yes, the last two are leaving now. Our folks at the top are very accommodating. We can breech at will.”
Mashka’s heart skipped. I have to get in there!
The glass doors of the bank shattered and the frames slammed open, followed by a swarm of black clad infantry. Their flash-lights pierced through the thick mist as they scattered and searched for any sign of their targets. They returned to the centre of the room, ignoring the cacophony of the bank patrons who believed themselves saved by the police.
“No sign of them Captain.” One of them reported with a salute.
The broad shouldered man he was addressing spoke with a soothing rasp, despite his irritated tone, “Then half of you tear this place apart and the other half help out our men at the perimeter.” He spoke through his earpiece. “Have any of you seen them?” His body tensed as he heard no reply.
Outside, in the alley beside the bank, four of the SICA agents lay limp; three of them face down on the cement, and one concealed in a skip, deaf to the radios buzzing in their ears.
Aleksei leaned heavily against the cold metal skip as he attempted to regain his breath. He looked around at his companions; Evan, Anya, and the dark, hooded creature he remembered as being The Messenger, who had just joined them from some shadow along the way.
I’m sure glad these people know what they are doing, otherwise we would be toast… at the same time, did we jump out of the frying pan and into the fire? He gave an especially wary glance towards The Messenger having vague memories of their fight months back in Karelia.
“W-what are we waiting for?” Aleksei asked.
Anya responded with a hiss for his maintained silence as she looked cautiously out of the alley.
Though he was tempted to reiterate his question, Aleksei figured that the explosive redhead would not take kindly to being pressed.
Anya directed her attention towards The Messenger. “Can you sense anyone else’s presence.”
A series of hisses and gurgles emitted from the hood that somehow formed into audible words. “No, but that’s a large area, with many obstructions, I could easily miss something.”
“That will have to do then.” Anya drew a gun she kept on her thigh and handed it to Evan. “Don’t misunderstand, I am still going to kill you, but right now, I’m low on competent help.”
“Cheers.” Evan grunted as he accepted the weapon.
Aleksei shuddered at how serious the woman sounded at the “kill” part.
“You two, stay put. We are going to circle around the van.”
Aleksei found himself nodding in unison with The Messenger.
Evan stared directly into Aleksei’s eyes. “Do not leave... his side, got that? He’s the closest thing to protection you have. And only use your power if absolutely necessary.”
A moment later the two vanished around the corner and Aleksei was left alone with a former enemy.
“What are you staring at?” The Messenger’s high pitch, hissing voice sounded perturbed.
Embarrassed Aleksei ceased his vigil of his new ‘partner’. A dull silence filled the space between them, even the rain came to a halt, leaving only the distant drone of sirens.
Aleksei shifted uncomfortably. “This-- is very odd.”
The Messenger’s concealed head moved barely his direction, and then silently turned away, as if it agreed with the description.
The next break in silence was the sound of a few loud “pings” causing The Messenger to stiffen.
Before Aleksei could ask, he received a bone chilling answer from his companion “Sssnipersss, in the direction of our ride.”
Instinctively he raised his hand, ready to use all his strength to vaporize puddles and soaked pavement and bury the surrounding three blocks in impenetrable fog. A skinny hand firmly snatched his shoulder. He looked back and saw The Messenger shake its head warningly as it tightened its skeletal grip.
“Thessse people aren’t asss benevolent asss usss, they will not tolerate sssuch sssloppinesssss that we did.”
“Then what do I do?”
Beneath the hood, The Messenger’s hidden mouth grinned, impressed with the boy’s impulsive determination. He was about to speak when the strangest expression clouded over Aleksei’s face.
The youth’s face was paralysed, eyes frozen wide open, pupils fully dilated, and The Messenger’s felt the presence of another.
The boy went limp and vapors began to pour off of him, spreading rapidly as a thin sheet over the cobblestone and up the walls as the boy established his near invisible sensory web not of his own will. The Messenger shivered; this presence felt eerily familiar. It leapt up to a nearby fire escape to watch its charge from a safe distance and drew its tranquillizer pistol, ready for a fight.
The two snipers had the square almost completely covered from their perch, each one facing down different streets looking intently at possible getaway vehicles. At the same time they each felt a chill and in an uncontrollable impulse fired their rifles, the shots echoing in the silence between them.
"What was that? I could not stop myself!" the young red-redhead hissed.
The veteran besides him removed his own hand from his trigger wondering how he had pre-maturely fired. He looked at his partner to confirm he was just as confused.
The sound of giggling surprised them and they looked over their shoulders to to see a girl whose hair flowed like a golden river in a white dress like a heavenly bride.
She ceased her giggles, “The pawns you hunt are mine. You have committed trespass against me.” The girl’s beautiful face drew gaunt as her mouth widened and curved upwards, revealing a black void and her eyes vanished leaving behind dark chasms. “The pit craves your souls!”
The marksmen let out throat ripping screams as their eyes rolled upwards and they lost consciousness due to the indescribable pain, falling into a hellish nightmare as their bodies writhed on the floor before the girl's feet. She looked at the twisting wisps of vapour in the window sill and nodded her approval at how useful Aleksei's power was in a pinch and then she herself faded as quick as she had appeared.
Aleksei blank eyes blinked, “The coast is clear…” he declared and looked at the Messenger. “Why are you up there?”
"Lasssst time you stared through me you sliced by stomach open."
"How queer... I don't remember that. You must have met Nida."
The Messenger cocked its head inquisitively. Before the dark creature could stop him, the youth hurried out into the open. "Let's go!"
Aleksei spotted Evan and Anya and shouted. “Come on!” He ran towards the blue van, somehow knowing which vehicle was their ride.
The Messenger waited, expecting a cloud of red mist to burst out the side of the boy's skull, but nothing happened, so he hastened to the van and was joined by Anya and Evan, both perplexed.
After the side door of the van slid closed behind them, Anya turned to the front and ordered the driver to take off. Then she glared at Aleksei. “What us wrong with you?! You could have gotten us all killed!”
Aleksei looked genuinely perplexed. “But you said all was clear.”
She raised an eyebrow then looked at the Messenger. “I didn’t say anything!”
The Messenger shook its concealed head.
“But I clearly remember--,” Aleksei’s face froze causing the Messenger to tense.
The Apparition grinned at Aleksei in the side view mirror. He shifted his gaze towards the window next to him where she should have been standing, but there was no one there. In the mirror, The Apparition raised her finger to her lips and mouthed, “Thank you…”
Aleksei decided that it would be wise just to keep silent, before he had everyone questioning his sanity.
As they drove away, Evan asked. “What about Ravi Donnelly, any word from Czech?”
“Dániel and his team are taking care of him.” Anya answered.
Evan nodded, a sense of nostalgia running through him as he was once again a part of field work.
They were all flung forward as the driver hit the brakes.
“What’s the problem now?” Anya snapped.
“There’s a police blockade.”
Anya grumbled and hopped into the front seat. “They acted faster than expected. Then again, I’ve never ‘robbed’ a bank before.” she slumped back in her seat and crossed her arms. “I guess this means plan C.”
“What plan is that?” Evan asked.
The Messenger gurgled slightly. “Czech.”
Sighing in satisfaction, The Apparition twirled the skirt of her white dress as she walked away from the excitement. She intended on leaving to her next task but first she needed to assure herself all was going according to her design. She raised her eyebrow at the sight of a man walking out of a store in front of her.
“What is he doing here?” she wondered aloud.
“Seems that I can hear you too.” Dr. Kerry said as he removed his hat and allowed his golden hair to dance in the breeze.
The Apparition looked around to see if there was someone else he was talking too. “How odd,” She muttered. “Normally only those whose eyes I open can see me. What’s your secret? I’m curious.”
Dr. Kerry grinned wide, revealing a row of pure white teeth.
The Apparition shrugged. “Actually, I’m too busy to care right now, goodbye.”
He grinned wider.
The Apparition’s eyes shifted in worry. Why am I not disappearing?
“It seems my barrier is holding, delightful!” he cheered, his eyes and mouth wide open in a manic grin.
Her gaze fell on the man’s electric blue irises, each having a black, interlaced triquetra design dominating centre where a pupil should be. “Where did you get those?” she demanded. “The seven gifts are hidden from men such as you.”
“I’ll tell you, but only after you are at my place.”
The Apparition bared her teeth as she readied her metaphysical arsenal, but before she could so much as conjure a single phantom or horror, she found herself in a beautiful, aquamarine parlour, filled with sofas and cushions. She could smell salty air blowing in through the sheer curtains through which could be seen a beach of pure white sand lined with palm trees.
Looking down, she saw that she was standing on an oblong, cushioned pedestal. Though she was once standing, she was now lying down, pulled flat to the bed, her arms, legs, waist and neck being pulled down tight by vine like ropes that grew out of the cushion below. She could not move, but turned her head away from the window to her other side. Right beside her was another bed with its own similarly bound prisoner, a man, whose withered feet rested before her face. She strained against the enchanted fabric bindings to look down towards his head. Despite the emaciated appearance, she could make out the once beautiful tell-tale looks and simplistic but dignified clothing design.
“Repha!” she rasped as she strugged against her bonds. “Impossible!”
The SICA captain’s radio buzzed in his ear.
“Marshal here.” he answered.
“Captain, we found Team Scarlet. They were all unconscious and one of them was in the dumpster, naked.”
Marshal ground his teeth. “We have to assume that one of us is an impostor, check everyone’s identifi--.” He froze when he felt the wet tip of a hand gun be pressed against the back of his skull.
“Impostor you say?” Vlad smiled behind the concealing visor. “Call off those dogs you call men, now!” He felt the man gulp in terror and cock his head ever so slightly upwards. Vlad knew fear well, and judging by the lack of satisfaction he was receiving, he realised that he was not the person causing his hostage’s fear.
On pure instinct he jerked nanoseconds before the back of the man’s skull sprayed a fountain of blood. He felt the stinging aftershock of a high calibre bullet pass just over his shoulder followed immediately by a loud ‘ping’ on the cement behind him.
“Kill the hostage eh?” he said, a hint of a smile on his lips, impressed by the dedication of SICA to kill all jinn, even if it meant shooting through one of their own. He ducked and rolled beneath a nearby van, after which he heard another bullet behind him. He glanced around himself, at the tires and the gasoline tank. “Forget this!” A searing blast erupted from his hand.
An explosion rocked the street and windows shattered in a deluge of glass as the van blew apart in a fiery blaze. A needle of smoke and fire burst out of the top as Vladimir flew into the air. He redirected himself with a blast of his hand towards a nearby rooftop. However he had sent himself at too steep of an angle and he slammed painfully into the shingles. He grit his teeth and rose, then ran across the roof to escape.
Vladimir had only run a few paces when a small circle of the roof turned into a small black portal through which extended a calloused hand that snatched his ankle. He fell forward, and fully expect a bloody nose and a black eye to follow but as he neared the roof, a section about his size turned into an inky void through which he passed as if it was water. He tumbled head over heels, landing on his back on a plush bed.
The Czech’s face appeared out of the wall mere centimetres from his own. “Ready to get going?”
“Too close!” Vlad declared as he sat up hurriedly, his head phasing through The Czech’s. Once the youth was again on his feet, the bald man offered his hand in front of him.
“Do I have to?” there was almost a hint of a whine in the blonde’s voice.
“If you want to live.”
Reluctantly, Vlad grasped The Czech’s hand, his fair complexion contrasting with even paler skin of his rescuer. “I take it that you have already gotten the subject moved.”
The Czech’s silence implied an affirmative. Then they were on the move, first phasing down through the floors and then running along the ground level, phasing through walls or floors as The Czech saw fit.
The Czech’s radio buzzed in his ear and he nodded with a slight grunt in reply. Vlad grimaced at his superior’s irritating habit of non-verbal “communication”.
Mashka skid to a halt on the wet rooftop at the sound of an explosion. She looked back to see a bright glow from the banking district nearly a kilometre away. She almost dashed back, but reminded herself of the The Apparition’s words, urging her to leave the area, and that her brother and Evan were safe.
But she felt unsettled. Her brother was in the explosion, on instinct she knew it. She could see someone hurtling above the explosion. Sharpening her vision she saw her brother, but his un-dyed golden hair told her it was Vlad. She still wanted to run back to him, embrace her long missing sibling. But it was not the time, and she was certain as an Association agent, he was more than capable of taking care of himself.
She resumed dashing across the rooftops, leaping with catlike grace over alleys. Her senses were in full throttle as she tried to hear, smell or see any sign of Aleksei and Evan. She had just launched herself from one roof down to another, gathering her flowing skirt mid-leap to maintain modesty. She landed and a sharp pain in her chest that broke through the dull aching that had been plaguing her body since yesterday. She landed by mere reflex and bent over in pain, clawed hand clutching her face.
I released too much. I need to reign it back in a bit.
It was painful for her to tame her body back. She felt an odd pleasure when she gave into her strengths, but pulling them back was agony. She had almost reached the end of her self-control. Feeling something move, she looked beside her at her shadow that was cast by the newly visible sun. A shiver ran down her spine as a part her shadow extended from her back, cast by an invisible being. It formed in the rough outline of a person, waist up as it extended its hands towards the back of her neck. Mashka watched in horror as her own hand moved and grabbed her throat tightly, strangling herself.
Her other hand slowly crept up to her mouth as the head of the shadow from her back fractured, revealing a massive grin upon the shingles. Suddenly the shadow’s mouth closed and the being vaporised. Mashka carefully extricated her fangs from where they had pierced her bleeding thumb. It was the only way she could think of to strengthen her resolve against her beast.
She examined the hand to assure herself that it had begun to heal. I’m going to have to be more careful. My bite is much stronger than before.
She leapt to the next flat roof and halted. She felt them, a pair of malignant eyes gazing at her from somewhere. A shiver ran down her spine as she scanned her surroundings. Something about a building several streets away caught her eye. She quickly enhanced her vision and realised there was a person in one of the windows. She improved her vision again and saw two golden glows from underneath a hood, staring right back into her own eyes. Then she saw whoever it was raise a long rifle right at her. In a burst of speed, she moved faster than she ever thought she had. She eliminated her enhanced senses and focused purely on stamina and strength as she flipped, ducked, spun, dove, from rooftop to rooftop.
She dropped into an alley, landing on the thin ledge above a window and then leapt from there to a fire escape further down. Like a whirling dervish she flipped and tumbled from one foothold to another down alleyways. When she did leap up from between buildings, she had placed a row of taller edifices between herself and wherever the owner of those haunting eyes was. She hurried onward, hoping desperately to find her family.
Over a kilometre away, the shadowed figure lowered the rifle and chuckled. She was more than he had ever imagined.