False Dawn #9: “Lights Out”
Part Three of Three: Divide and Conquer or Aha! I Was Right! Reger’s Evil!
Short Story Format
Devin Leigh Michaels
“Why?” Casia peeped. “Why us?”
Cramped in a small, crate-like cage that hardly allowed her dirty red head to reach to the top, Casia held her legs to her chest, trembling in the dark prison. She was soaking wet, her hair drooping into her eyes.
Next to her in a similar cell, a small hand reaches halfway between the cages. “Because in every darkness, there’s gotta be a little light.”
Casia buries her tear-stained face in her knees. “I don’t want to be their light.”
Reger sighs, and his pudgy face, all of eight, appears between the bars of his cage. “And we won’t be. Not forever. One day, you and me—we’re gonna get out of here.” Hope tainted his voice, and Casia raised her tearful eyes to see his hand. “And we’re gonna find us some heat.”
“One day?” Casia extended a burning hand toward his.
He finished the distance, and together, their hands burned a bright red.
“One day, hottie, we’re gonna find us some light.”
The slap stings across my face, and a bright light blares down at me. When I finally squint to see it clearer, I can see it’s the kitchen light from inside Reger’s apartment. A shadow blocks out the warmth, a silver woman with a deadly smile and sharp eyes.
So does pain and burning ice.
Casia shrieks as Reger’s blue flames course through her body, so cold they burn like fire—or how she thinks fire should burn. Having her own since hatching, she’s never known fire as others do.
When her blood slows with ice and she believes she will freeze completely, Reger drops her to all fours and allow her dry heaves. Her throat raw, her lungs burning, she glares up with half-lidded but venomous eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Reger sneers, blue fire still burning his fists. “You’re the one who left me there to die.”
“I thought you were dead,” she rasps.
“Well, you probably wish I was now.” He stalks forward and grabs Casia by the shirt, lifting her off the ground and to his height. “Don’t worry, hottie. It’ll be over for you and your lover and you little pet, too.”
The warm, Virginia air soothes her slowly thawing skin, “My p—pet? Lover?”
“You don’t think I can see it.” He throws her against the wall, pinning her with a blue-fire hand. “You and Evans—what you two have. I’m not stupid.”
“But blind obviously.”
“And that boy, Ral—he’ll be a great experiment, being a hybrid.”
Casia’s head snaps up. “You leave him alone.”
“Aww, is he nice and cuddly? Does he curl up next to you at night?”
With a howling cry, Casia launches herself toward Reger, her red and yellow flames furious upon her skin. Her flame wings flap from her back, and she catches Reger in the throat.
“You lay a hand on him, and I swear to you—”
Reger knees her in the stomach. “I swear to no one but myself.”
She refuses to fall, though, backhanding Reger across the cheek. “See what good it will do you.”
This time, her flames races up his arms, but he fights back with his own. Suddenly, she lets go of one of his forearms and reaches under her shirt, extending her staff and butting him in the stomach. They part, and Casia slams her staff into the ground. Wind tears through the small garden, entrapping Reger in a mini-tornado and smashing him into the brick wall of a house.
The air stops as quickly as it appeared, and Casia uses her staff as a cane as she comes forward. “Who do you work for, Reger? The Warriors?”
“The warriors?” he cringes as he laughs, holding his stomach. “Oh, hottie. Of course I work for them, but they aren’t the only ones.”
“Who else?” Her eyes widen. “They know where Ral and Lance are, don’t they?”
Reger heaves, his smile demonic. “Oh, hottie, by now, they HAVE Evans and your pet.”
Okay, don’t panic. Just because you have a meta-human standing over you, ready to kick your ass from here to her native Australia doesn’t mean you’re dead. It just means you’re probably going to be in a lot of pain in the next few moments.
So I react like most people would scared shitless.
“All right! All right!” I put up my hands in front of my face. “I give! Don’t damage the merchandise.”
The golden-haired woman smiles sweetly and puts out her hand. “We don’t want to hurt you, Raleigh, but you gave us no choice earlier.” She helps me to my feet and put a protective arm about my shoulders. “There’s no need to fear. You’re safe with us now.”
“A—Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. No one will hurt you.”
Reaching for my necklace, I snap it off with one tug. “I’m sorry I can’t say the same—FOR YOU!” The sword grows faster than she can see, and I hit her across the head with the hilt.
As she falls backward, I dash toward the living room. If they sent Sierra after me, then who did they after Lance?
And just who are THEY?
When I round the bend to the living room, my head snaps back when I hit something hard, and the ground rushes to greet me. Pain explodes in my head, and I’m pretty sure if I take my hand away from my head, I wouldn’t be able to see past the stars.
“Mortals. They’re so infantile.”
Her boot heels urge me to move, to swipe, anything! But the pain’s too great.
“Don’t worry. You’ll learn discipline where you’re going.”
“…and just where’s THAT…?” I mumble.
“Where your friend Lance lost his last life.”
Blood leaks from a large gash across Lance’s forehead, just above his left eye, and from the corner of his mouth. Still, he gives a shit-eating grin to the armored man as he levels his sword.
“You’re going to have to do better than that, Kinsley.” Lance wipes the blood from his forehead with the back of his hand. “I’m not even breathing hard.”
He’s huffing, and the robot man’s left gauntlet brightens with a white laser. “The Director still wants you, Evans. No need to be maudlin. We have use for you.”
“Great. I do so love being needed.”
Kinsley takes a menacing step forward, shaking the wooden floor. “You really think you’re needed?” A derisive laugh. “Please. You’re just wanted for fun.”
Lance’s smile fades, replaced by a hardened scowl. “Want this!”
He pitches forward, his sword pulled back to swipe, when the left wall explodes. The force knocks Lance off course, flipping him over the couch, as I come soaring through the blown wall. I see the robot man turn toward him, his laser positioned to fire, and I’m patient, like Lance taught me to be. Sure enough, the robot man sees his opening and fires.
Sierra behind me gets it right in the stomach.
“SIERRA!” the robot guy screams, but it’s too late. I’m already pivoting, swiping with my sword. First I slice through his laser and aim a little lower, my blade sparking across his nether regions. His shrills become high-pitched.
“I’m not completely metal, you idiot!”
I smirk. “No duh.”
Using the butt of my sword hilt, I crack the glass visor of his helmet and deliver the final blow with a fist. By the time he reaches the floor, he’s unconscious.
Hey, did I just take out two metas?
“Wow, kid.” Lance uses the couch as an anchor to stand, then crosses the room toward the fallen Sierra. He shakes his head in disbelief. “A telekinetic? How the hell did you—?”
“Stove was gas-powered.” I shrug. “She might be telekinetic, but she sure as hell ain’t fire-proof.”
He then wipes the blood from my face with his long-sleeved T-shirt. I’m pretty sure he’s just dirtying my skin more. “What about Casia?” I ask. “Oh, God. If they came after us, then that means they probably went after her.”
Again, who they are—who knows?
Lance pulls out his cell phone. “Let’s go get her then.”
“Go where?” I follow him toward the elevator. “We have no idea where she is.”
Lance snorts, like I should know something I don’t. “Damn, Page. Give us a little credit.” He throws me his cell phone once we reach the parking garage. “We have been doing this a long time, y’know.”
On the screen blinks a little red dot on a map of the city. I stop as Lance’s picking a “new” car for us. “You knew Reger was a plant?”
Lance shrugs, debating between a Lamborghini and a Ferrari. “We suspected it.”
He finally decides on a Cadillac. “Yeah, WE. Casia’s not an idiot, Ral. Even if she wanted with all her heart to believe Reger was back for her, we both knew it was wrong.”
I claim shot-gun. “How?”
“Truthfully?” Lance hot-wires the SUV. “You only trust family, and Reger isn’t family.”
Casia’s eyes burn a deadly blue. “I swear, Reger, if Ral has so much as a paper cut—”
Chortling, Reger stands, albeit with an arched back. “Hottie, you’re in no position to demand anything.”
He lashes out with his blue fire, and though she blocks it with one swipe of her staff, Reger launches forward, scrunching a hand about her throat. “By now, the agents of Project: Avatar have secured them.”
Casia stomped her heel into Reger’s toe, causing him to release her. She reigns back her staff. “Then I will find them.”
“Oh, no.” He catches her staff in his hands and sends blue fire up the edge. “You’re going some place special.”
She screams and tries to let go of the staff, but the orb on top burns furiously, keeping her trapped in its embrace.
“You know what they say,” Reger chortled. “ ‘There’s no place like home.’ ”
Suddenly, the blue fire dissipates, and Casia falls backwards. Just before she reaches the ground, Reger wields the staff like a golf club, whacking Casia across the face. She crashes through a window of the museum, landing upon an ancient table. The weight causes it to collapse underneath her, and Reger grunts as he leaps the window. Bringing the staff down, he shatters the orb upon her stomach, leaving its fragments in her flesh, the staff vertical upon her abdomen.
Reger takes a step back to admire his work. “I’ll make sure they give your boyfriend and pet good cages, preferably a bigger ones than the Warriors gave us.”
With that, he leaves her alone.
Breathing is a chore, the eternal agony profound as she keeps still, except for the tipping of her head back against the cold wood. Upon her clammy cheeks, sweat pools where it once would have evaporated.
She knows the truth now. If she weren’t an extended mortal, she would have been dead. Instead, she’ll live long enough to return to hell, where the pain will expedite.
A fate worse than death, but in Lance’s case, it will be death.
She refuses to think about it.
A shadow casts over her, but its presence isn’t cold.
“Shh, Page. We don’t want to be heard.”
Slowly, Casia finds the energy to open her eyes, and over her kneels Lance, exhausted and bleeding but alive. On the opposite side stands Ral, also worse for wear, but breathing as well.
Lance starts to tend to her wounds as Ral mumbles over and over, “What can I do? Lance, what can I do?”
“Casia’s an extended mortal, Page. It takes more than a little scratch to take her down.” Lance takes out his sword to break Casia’s staff in half. He then gently probes the slits through the cloth. “Find Reger.”
Ral blinks. “You want me to find the guy who did this?” He takes out his sword. “Then what?”
Lance snatches his wrist so fast, Ral cringes. “Nothing. You will not engage. You will simply observe. Make sure he doesn’t come back here, and if he starts to, get here first.”
Wordless, Ral puts his sword away and heads off.
Casia meets Lance’s eyes sternly. “He’s—He’s not going to listen.”
Lance smirks. “Yeah, but for some reason, I think Reger has more to worry about.”
Finally! A mission that means something. Of course, it also means that Casia’s bleeding like road kill on the interstate, which—
There was a lot of blood, and I wonder if…what if…
“She’s a were-phoenix. You said you needed more.”
Out in the garden, I hide behind a flower bed. Still, my vision is good enough to see the warrior—here, in Richmond—with Reger standing before Poe’s head. Reger doesn’t look or sound happy as the warrior admonishes, “We said for you to get Dawson and Evans, not the were-phoenix.”
“Yeah, well, someone else has them, so you’re going to have to make due.”
“The Lord does not tolerate failure, creature.”
Reger snorts and crosses his arms. “Evans and Dawson aren’t my problem, and if the Lord wants them to be, then he’s going to have to pay extra.”
“You paid him with your freedom,” the warrior reminds Reger.
“No, I pay him with continued servitude.” Reger shakes his head and starts back toward the house, his back now to the warrior.
I have to get back. Tell Lance that—
The warrior lashes out. “Perhaps your services are no longer required.”
Reger turns halfway around. “What are you—hey!”
Black tentacles snatch Reger about his arms and legs, like they did to me back in Massaponex. Oh…Oh, God, are they—?
Even with Reger’s flames of blue and violent thrashes, the tentacles tug him into the warrior’s suddenly enlarged mouth.
“Stop! STOP! I’LL GET THEM! AHHH!”
Through his screams, I hear the crunching of the warrior’s jaws.
Then, as if he took a squirt of water, the warrior wipes his mouth on his sleeve and turns to Poe’s head. He places a hand up, and the eyes of the Poe statute glow the blue fire of Reger’s flames before they suck the warrior inside.
Lance finally maneuvers off the staff and begins picking out pieces of the shattered glass. “You’ve really outdone yourself this time,” he admonishes. “Seriously. How the hell did he beat you?”
“He was angry.”
“About you and me,” Casia rasps.
Lance stops his meticulous nurturing to give Casia an incredulous glare. “There is no you and me.”
“You could at least act jealous,” she grins.
Lance returns it mildly before cutting open her shirt to get a better sight of her wounds. “I could.”
Casia laughs, then winces at the subsequent stabs of pain.
Lance works in silence, pressing down on the gashes, before finally saying, “Like I could ever land a girl like you, dame.”
“Reger’s an idiot.”
A shadow casts over the two, and Lance looks up to see me. I can barely speak, my mouth agape. I’m pretty sure whatever color I had is gone.
“Lance, Reger—he—and the Warrior—and then the head—”
Casia hesitantly reaches up to me, and I kneel to take it. “Breathe…What happened?”
I tell them. Once Lance finishes dressing Casia’s wounds, he takes me out to the garden. We stare at the statue. Well, I stare. Lance dissects.
“So…what is it?” I ask.
Lance crosses his bloody arms over his chest. “It’s a portal…to Skadoia.”
My stomach bubbles with excitement. “Does that mean…?”
He slaps me on the shoulder and grants me a smug smirk. “Yep. We’re going after your ma and Connor.”
TO BE CONTINUED…