“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Her delicate fingers pulling tear moistened hair from his cheek. Her throat quivered as she exhaled.
He sat, looking away from her, staring at some part of the floor. Her eyes, beginning to well with liquid, moved up and down his countenance. She noticed more strands of glistening turquoise against the un-natural midnight black of his skin. Her fingers trembled, they touched his hair, and a tear ran down her cheek. He uttered a sound, a muffled protest to the passionate question that hung in his throat.
She looked away, his feelings shot into and through her. She couldn’t help it, her empathic abilities teamed with her love for him, gave his emotions free course.
She sobbed, knowing what his question would be, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
He looked up, his yellow eyes catching hold of her glistening emerald eyes. His voice cracked as the word broke free of his lips.
She gave into the flood that washed over her. “Why did Manitou have to die?” she cried. She looked away, she had to. “It was horrible, Janeah,” his voice laboring through tears. “His broken body crumpled on the floor, and,..and…,” he fought to catch his breath. “His throat torn away.” His eyes again moved to the floor.
“And the Blood.” He paused. “It was horrible.”
Trying her best to speak through cries, she said, “I know it was horrible.” She gingerly touched his shoulder. “I also know that we can’t seek a reason why.” Her fingers recoiled from him, as from an electrical shock.
“I can,” he said wiping tears from his eyes. “I have to.”
“You can’t,” she replied. “You’re not ready…none of us are ready.” Her voice panted with another tear.
“I should…” He stopped, then in a quieter tone, said. “I should have been…” She gently took his hand in hers, and her eyes welled again with tears.
“How could you have been?” Her voice adapted a more soothing tone. “It’s not like we’ve been trained to fight Vampires.” His eyes again caught hers. “For Christ’s sake, they’re not even supposed to exist!” He turned away from her.
“There’s something I haven’t told you…” His voice cracked. “It’s something I haven’t told anyone.” Janeah’s brow wrinkled with curiosity. ” When I was on board Shan-Shammar-Kothon’s City-Ship.” He paused, clearing his throat. “I fought Vampires.”
“But….” she interjected. He placed his fingers gently to her lips.
“Shhhh,” he pleaded. “Not only did I fight them, but I destroyed some of them.” His hand moved to her cheek, as a look of puzzlement changed his expression. “This is weird.”
“What,…what is weird?”
“Well, I didn’t remember destroying any of them until just now as I was telling it. Like trying to recall a disturbing nightmare that is best left forgotten.”
“Would you rather not talk about it?” she asked, as she gently stroked his fingers.
“No, its O.K., I think I should. Maybe I’ll remember something that can help us.” Her face
warmed with a caring smile. “The Lead Creature said that he was of an ancient race of Aliens. He also said it was he and his kind that was the basis for the Vampire legends of Earth.” Spook looked curiously to the ceiling, as if to pry another secret from his memory. “It’s getting a little fuzzy.. Oh yes, there is a place…”
“A place? Where? On the City-Ship?”
“Yes and No. It’s not really a physical place. He referred to it as the Soul-Sphere. It’s like
another Dimension, or Plane, or Ethereal crossroads. Anyway, that’s where HE took me, and tested me.”
“Tested you?” Her brow rose. “Tested you for what?”
“My eligibility,” he responded, quietly. “My strength of character, my willpower, my desire.”
“Luckily you failed….Right?”
“No, I passed.” His voice carried the tone of shame. “Apparently I had all the qualities he desired for ascension to his form of existence. However, my willpower was a little too strong. “He took a long deep breath.” I fought him and his cronies off. After their failure in the Soul-Sphere, they had to vote on what to do with me. “He offered a nervous chuckle.” 1) Let me go. 2) Drain me and make me one of them, anyway. Or 3) KILL me. As you might have guessed they chose option number three. “He laughed again, as his hand wiped a tear from his cheek.
“Oh my God!” Her eyes widened. “Then what happened?”
“As corny as it sounds, I remembered that fire is a powerful weapon against Vampires, or so I thought from the movies I watched as a kid. So I transformed to my Fire-form. That’s when things got really ugly, ’cause they decided to transform as well.” He moved both of his hands down onto his lap, arched his back, and exhaled nervously.
“Oh God, I should have gone with you!” She placed her hands on his.
“I’m glad that you didn’t.” His voice softened. “I don’t even want to think about you being in that position. To see the face and form of naked evil. Complete with leathern wings, fangs, talons, and a Hell-born lust for blood and Death…. I thank God that I was the only one that went.” She suddenly felt a rush of love from him, and it warmed her. She smiled.
His chin quivered as he again spoke. “Janeah, when I was there… I was afraid…” he stammered. “But I could hide it behind my bravado…” She wanted to touch him. “But now that I’m backing here, back on Earth…I…” He struggled with the words. “Back here… with.. you.” He glanced away, trying to hide his tear. “I just don’t know what I would do…” He turned to her. “If something happened to you….” She threw her arms about him, and drew him in tight. Her voice choking through tears.
“I love you, too!” She clutched him tight.
“Oh Janeah, I love you so much. I would slay all the Demons in Hell for you!”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad,” she whispered. “Maybe you should rest now, and we can talk later, about how to fight these things.”
He pulled softly away from her, saying, “I’m O.K., for now, besides I’m remembering more.” He stood up and walked to the window that was made of stained glass. He gently ran his right index finger down its incongruous surface. “When I hit them with a fire blast from my hands, they burned…” He tilted his head up. “But when I tuned the flame… almost like changing the frequency…” He turned to face her, his face radiating with realization. “That’s when I really started to destroy them… It was almost like I was issuing forth fire that erupted in my SOUL!” He moved quickly to her side. “That’s it!” He dropped to his knee, and faced her. “I think I can kill them!”
“Of course you can, you already said that you destroyed some of them.”
“Well it’s not that easy.” He again looked down, trying to pull something from his memory. “That frequency, I’m not sure how to get there again. It’s like trying to recall specific details about some horrific shadow filled nightmare… I was fighting for my life.” The words raced from his lips. “I tripped across it—wait.” He paused. “It’s not something I can think, it’s something I have to FEEL.” At that word he looked into her eyes, and she knew what he was going to say. “Janeah, you can help me find the trigger for that special intensity of fire. There’s a certain emotional key to it! “She was speechless.” You must help me find that frequency so I can go out there and destroy… that… that…” his face contorted as he thought of the fowl creature, “…THING, that killed Manitou! Before it kills anyone else!”
“You don’t even have to ask me,” she said staring into his eyes. “Manitou was my friend also.” He embraced her, as his body rocked with his cries.
Meanwhile, three floors down in the main center of Goth-X Headquarters, three members of the team were involved in emotional discussion of another Variety.
“Well, when do we go?!” Gorgon spat gruffly, as he pulled the remnants of his tattered shirt off his body. He then threw it into the trash receptacle at the end of the control terminals. He sighed, ran a hand through his sweat soaked silver hair, and turned to face Witch and Golem. ” When do WE go? …or do I GO?! ”
Witch placed both of her hands firmly on the surface of the immense oaken meeting table. She stood there a moment, looking at the beautiful silver and ebony Goth-X signet imbedded in its gleaming shell.
“We wait,” she whispered, as her eyes met her reflection in the table.
“BULL-SHIT!” Gorgon shouted. ” Wait?! Wait for what?!”
“For Spook to decide what we’re going to do.” She looked at him, his torso bleeding, bearing witness to the intensity of the combat with the Vampires in the warehouse. ” And maybe for us to heal our wounds.”
“Aghh,” he growled. “I’m not going to wait. That God-Damned monster eviscerated our friend! Doesn’t that mean anything to you people?!” His voice shook.
“Of course it does,” Golem interjected calmly. “However, I don’t want to rush out there, without a plan, and end up as he did.”
“I can’t believe this,” Gorgon said as he clenched his fists, and walked sternly to Golem. “You’re nothing but a coward!”
“I am not a coward,” he protested. “I just don’t see how we can help anyone if we run right out and get ourselves killed,” his dark grey eyes unflinching from Gorgon as he approached.
“You never did like Manitou, did you?” Gorgon said. “You always said he was too unstable for your taste. What else was it you said?” he questioned, his turquoise eyes narrowed in anger. “Oh yeah, Manitou represented a threat to the future functionality of Goth-X!” Gorgon pressed the index finger of his right hand to Golem’s chest. “Where were you when he got his throat torn out, anyway?” Golem grabbed Gorgon’s accusing finger and bent his hand back from his chest.
“Listen here you impetuous, child. It’s true, I didn’t like Manitou, I never hid that, but, if you ever poke me in the chest again, I’ll take that precious arm of yours and shove it up your….”
“Guys!” Witch shouted, as she placed her six foot five inch frame between them.” Knock this crap off, or I’ll kick both of your asses!” She pushed them apart. “The world outside is crawling with nasties straight out of Dante’s Inferno, and you two would rather tear each other to pieces!” Gorgon turned from her. Golem placed his hands gently on her shoulders.
“You’re right, I was acting foolish. I’m not trying to justify it, but things around here have been pretty stressful. We’re all liable to do and say things that we don’t really mean.” He ran his hand through his thick black hair.” Maybe we should get some rest.” He glanced around. “Hey, where’s Goth?”
“The last time I saw him, he was headed this way from the warehouse,” Gorgon answered. “That was about the time that we boarded the shuttle. ”
“I’ll try his voice-link,” Witch said, as she made her way quickly to a series of monitor screens on the other wall. Gorgon glanced back at Golem. “Goth, this is Goth-X Headquarters, please respond, over.” Radio hiss was the only response.
“Repeat, this is Goth-X Headquarters, Goth please respond.” She listened patiently. “Goth, this is…”
“Goth here!” His voice shouted over the radio. Witch smiled.
“Hey, where are you? We were worried.”
“I’m outside !” Her face expressing puzzlement, she turned and looked at Golem. He mirrored her expression.
“Why don’t you come in?” She asked. The reply was, again, silence. “Goth, why don’t…..”
“I want some time to myself!” he shouted, cutting her off. “Just some time to think! Is that all right with you people?! ” Witch then turned to Gorgon. He shrugged. She looked back at the monitor.
“Yeah, that’s all right, Goth. If you need any help…”
“I know, I’ll call ya! Goth out!”
“Wow!” Gorgon said as he made his way for the hallway. “I’m gonna take your advice, Witch. I’m gonna clean myself up, and try to rest.” He paused a moment at the entrance to the hall. ” Golem, you’re right, we’re all a little stressed. I didn’t mean it. ”
“I know; good night, kid,” Golem said.
“Would you really have torn his arm off and shoved it up his…” Witch asked smiling.
“I think so,” he retorted, cutting off her question. “I’m just as glad that we didn’t get to find out, though. He’s a pain in the ass, but I like him.” He eased himself into one of the plush chairs surrounding the meeting table. “He reminds me of myself when I was his age.”
“Oh, like you’re so much older than he is.” She sat across from him.
“I’m twenty-four.” He exhaled.
“Big deal, you’re six years older than him, and five years older than me,” she said, pulling her thick silver hair back from her face. Her deep black eyes gazed out of the glistening metallic blue of her skin. “Are you O.K.?” He found himself staring. “Golem ?”
“What? Oh, I’m sorry.” He rubbed his eyes. “I think I better get some sleep.”
“Golem, what did you do with Manitou? His body, I mean,” she asked quietly, as he rose from the chair. He stood silent for a moment. He turned his back to her, sighed, and said, “I took care of him.” He paused. “…and hopefully, I saved his soul.” A lone tear made its way down her cheek. “Good night, Witch.”
“Golem, my name is Taleria.” He turned slowly.
“Good night, Taleria.”
Once alone, she cried.
Outside, atop a nearby building, a lone crouching figure that could easily be mistaken for a gargoyle, sits and gazes at the stone steeple of Goth-X Headquarters. This is Goth. The most animalistic member of the Goth-X team. Covered in a thick green fur, he has two large leathern wings, pointed ears, two fingers and a thumb on each hand, fangs, and a tail. A monster by most accounts. A monster constructed in a lab, the same lab that made all the members of Goth-X.
They were the products of a foreign power’s desire to create new weapons.
Obviously, the engineers of these new weapons lacked the understanding to control them, and they escaped. It wasn’t easy, but they did it. Got away, and traveled thousands of miles to find sanctuary here in the country of Columbia.
This country granted them asylum, and shortly after, gave them the responsibility of safeguarding the Portland region against forces that are beyond the capabilities of the regular Constabulary. A responsibility that they greedily accepted, partially out of a sense of gratitude to their saviors, and partially out of a need to be needed. For Goth the decision was based on the need for companionship. He loves Spook like a brother, and did not want to leave him, or Manitou. Now Manitou is gone, and he has another problem.
“I can’t believe it!” he snarled to himself. ” That fucking monster bit me! It bit me!!” Anger tore at him as he flexed his muscles against the stone and steel of the top of the building. He stared through tears at the sanctuary that he could no longer enter, since the Goth-X Headquarters is secreted in the shell of an old Portland Church. ” I’ll try again!” He barked as he leapt from the roof. He fell silently through the air, until his wings flashed open catching the air and driving himself upwards. “I gotta make it!” he growled, as he rose above the steeple. He hovered for a moment, looking at the warm light shining through the beautiful stained glass window. He knew his friends were waiting for him inside. He squinted his eyes as he slowly glided toward the roof of his sanctuary. As he neared, his hands froze with sweat, his head clouded, and his throat burned. He could not breathe. His hands reached to his throat as if to pull some invisible hand loose. He struggled with the air, and his will to win. Finally, his instinct for survival took control, and his powerful wings pulled him away from the hallowed walls.
“AAAGHHH! I am truly damned!” he screamed as his wings pushed him over the skyline and into the clouds.
[More to come!]