Many Moons Ago
Jonathan Wheeler stared out the window of the helicopter and watched The City That Never Sleeps slowly pass by beneath them. The city was electric, the latticework of gridded streets and avenues lit up like brilliant arteries illuminating the anonymous hustle and bustle within the modern monument to civilization. In the distance he could just make out the imposing shape of the Chrysler Building, its big brother, the Empire State Building, illuminated in matching white light. Further to the south Battery Park City beckoned wealthy urbanites while to the north the large stretch of Central Park stood out as a black patch
of emptiness in a sea of luminosity.
Eyes silently watched the iconic skyline, memories taking him back to a performance of the Nutcracker years ago. He had not known, then, how taking his daughter to see that show would launch them all on a collision course in the same city years later. He was here because of Madeline, Josette’s mother. Unsatisfied with current doctors she had sought a second opinion of a “specialist” in New York for their sick daughter and unconsciously started off a chain reaction whose final explosive moments currently hovered over the city in a helicopter. He’d warned Madeline this would happen should she defy him. She didn’t listen. Madeline never listened.
His daughter was different. Just like her older brother, Isaac. Both had inherited more than just the Wheeler name and family. The pair had inherited so much more. But such things were closely guarded secrets…had been for generations throughout centuries…and equally sought after by states and governments seeking to control, harness and use such abilities. Madeline’s quest for a second opinion had caused Josette’s unique nature to be discovered and consequently taken by those who opposed what Jonathan Wheeler and the others had fought so strenuously to build. A sudden jolt of turbulence accompanied his impassioned thoughts regarding what he would do to those who had taken his daughter.
It was raining and the darkness combined with the cascading sheets of water created an angelic halo effect on the largest of lights. It was fitting, Jonathan thought with a wry twist to his lips, that such a group of devils be witnessed by such radiance. Movement to his right pulled his attention away from his private reverie, Jonathan’s eyes coming to rest on the man, one of those devils, sitting opposite him in the cabin of the helicopter. In contrast to the expertly tailored and expensive suit that he wore, the man…and the five others just like him…was fitted and kitted in modern urban camouflage, radios and protective body armor.
A large caliber rifle hung easily from a strap around his shoulder and chest. His face was concealed by a black balaclava ski mask, the only part Jonathan could see were the man’s eyes staring coolly back at him, the raised night vision goggles mounted to the man’s helmet framing those eyes from above. Gray eyes…like the color of his eldest son’s. He had not seen Isaac in several years and the resemblance haunted him for a few moments, tore open old wounds that had yet to fully heal…and probably never would.
”Three minutes out. Target building in sight.”
The call came from the pilot, the radioed message arriving in the ears of everyone situated in the passenger cabin.
“Walk me through it again, Theron.” Jonathan gestured a circle with his hand as he spoke to the man opposite him. The order had not come from a place of apprehension or anxiety. The Order had given him these assets to help effect the necessary outcome…one Jonathan himself had meticulously planned to the most minute detail. Jonathan knew his role…he would not put his daughter at risk because the others did not know theirs.
“Two teams…Phobos and Deimos.” Theron Renshaw answered into his mic without hesitation, right hand indicating which three-man group fell under which title. “Will insert alongside you, Ares, atop the target building. Phobos goes where you go, personal protection and target, codenamed Nova, extraction. Deimos secures the server room and laboratory, eliminates all records. Both teams collapse back to the rooftop for extraction from Icarus.”
“And resistance?” Jonathan asked.
“Extirpated.” Answered without fanfare as two of the other soldiers sitting next to Theron men bumped knuckles.
”Ninety seconds…going dark. Happy hunting.”
The red light illuminating the cabin went dark when the pilot spoke. One of the soldiers moved to pull the helicopter’s door open as the hydraulics thumped and indicated the landing gear were descending. Jonathan seemed satisfied as the soldiers began to ready themselves as they adjusted their gear, lowered their night vision equipment, and readied their rifles. Cold air rushed in from outside and the hard, staccato whump-whump-whump of the helicopter blades could clearly be heard as the aircraft angled to approach the helipad atop the building and yawed the nose to the right in order to bring the open over the pad first.
“The fuck? You see that, Ramos?” A uniformed guard asked his
companion atop the roof as he squinted towards the obvious sound and shape of a blacked-out helicopter coming into view over the building’s helipad. The pair huddled beneath a small overhang in hopes of keeping just a little dry.
“We expecting anyone tonight, Mason?” The second guard, Ramos, asked as both men grudgingly stepped into the rain to investigate.
“Nothing’s on the manifest.” Mason answered and held a hand up as the helicopter set down, the guard making a slashing gesture beneath his chin to indicate that the pilot should cut the engines.
Six quick, suppressed bursts of light revealed the true intent of
those in the helicopter as two of the soldiers engaged the guards with lethal shots to their center mass just moments before the seven men leapt from the helicopter. The two guards fell where they stood, one collapsing onto their chest…the other crumpled onto a side. Phobos and Deimos teams tactically crept forward and past the guards, statures compact and bent at the knee with weapons out and held at the ready while Jonathan coolly moved behind them, hand up to shield from the rain. He glanced back over his shoulder as the helicopter’s engines powered back up and the aircraft took back to the air to await their call.
“Hostile contact…rooftop…” Ramos managed to mutter into his mic, the last of his energy expended in raising the alarm before Jonathan choked off his last breath with the heel of his shoe.
“We’re locked out.” Theron radioed as the facility responded to
Ramos’s last warning and went into a hard lockdown. The electronic locks clunked heavily into place, the key card reader illuminating an angry red to indicate the frozen status. “Running a by-pass.” Theron continued, gesturing to one of his fellow soldiers to turn about and present his pack of equipment.
“That won’t be necessary, soldier.” Jonathan said as he approached the locked door and touched the bare pad of an index finger to the cold, rain-soaked metal. A small orb no larger than a dime appeared after a moment’s concentration, the man’s eyes darkening to obsidian shades of blackness. Jonathan stepped back with a gesture of head and hand for the soldiers to do likewise.
There was a groan, a subtle shake and shimmy in the door and its
reinforced frame…a sudden series of creases and folds fractured into place along the metal as the door began to buckle and fold inward with all the resistance of a crushed can. A loud metallic crack tore through the door, the frame following suit as it began to get pulled towards that onyx orb. Metal ripped and folded, sheared from itself to get sucked into the singularity that Jonathan had created until, seemingly all at once, the remaining parts of the frame and larger housing were ripped from their bolts to be consumed. The orb winked out and revealed the descending stairway beyond, the concrete stairs bathed in red light, the resonating sound of an alarm’s klaxon sounding from deeper within the building.
“Time is of the essence.” Jonathan spoke as the soldiers stacked up in two columns and began to descend the stairs.
* * * * * * * * *
“Maman? “ Josette weakly asked for perhaps the sixth time that day.
She only vaguely remembered being transferred from one hospital to another but that felt like days ago. They had only been in New York for a week…a few days…it was so hard to remember and recall through the fog her brain was in. It made her think of other dimensions where the atmospheres felt very heavy. She had no windows in her room. This made her sad. She had always liked looking outside when forced to be in any hospital. That celestial patina revealed itself in her eyes as she forced them open to look up at the masked and goggled nurse who loomed above her in sterile white scrubs.
“She’s just outside, Josette. She’s just waiting for us to finish
this one last little test.” The nurse answered with a cool sterility that she thought sounded reassuring—the same way as she had all the other times. “We all want you to get well and not be in any more pain. You might even be able to help others get well. You want that, don’t you? Your cells are very special.” Adding as she injected another dose of the powerful sedative into the girl’s IV line.
“Prep the harvester.” The nurse said sternly to the other technician in the room. She will be out in under thirty with the dose we just gave her. “We need more samples if Doctor Thorne is going to be able to synthesize her DNA. The last batch proved too unstable.”
Josette felt rather than heard the stentorian and stringent
tone coming from the other two people in her room.
Josette squirmed in her bed and fought against the sedative which coursed through her body, only vaguely realizing she’d been restrained with straps that restricted the movement of her limbs. “No. No I don’t want that. Please. Where is Maman? Where is…” Her eyes widened as they settled on the large needle meant to penetrate into her bone marrow, the two prongs on either side of the thick needle with saw-like teeth for biting into her skin and holding the needle steady.
“Easy now Josette…it will only hurt more if you resist. Like last
time. This is for your own good.” The nurse reminded her as the man brought the device closer.
“N…no…” Josette said again, eyes locked on the device, focused so intently she could see the fractal lines within the glass, focused on them and found their resonant harmonics which caused the entire device to rattle, shake and vibrate in the tech’s hand before exploding in a shower of glass and steel, shrapnel sticking into the tech’s hand and arm…his groan silenced by the sudden alarm as the room was bathed in a threatening crimson.
Two guards came through the only door in the room, both of them armed with weapons that, to Josette, looked far too aggressive for hospital security. “We’re in lock down. Stay here until otherwise instructed.” One of the guards shouted over the blaring alarm as bursts of gunfire could dully be heard somewhere beyond the insulated and locked room.
* * * * * * * * *
Both Phobos and Deimos teams pushed forward through the wide hospital hallway after exiting from the stairwell. Each column of three crept forward with deliberate intent and speed though overlooked nothing as they assaulted forward. Infrared lasers swept potential targets, the beams invisible to the naked eye, and when they settled on one of the armed adversaries a quick burst of suppressed gunfire dropped them. The six men, with Jonathan in tow, came forward with the inexorable inevitability of a rising tide. Theron waved off the three men of Deimos as they came to an intersection in the hallways, the three men rapidly turning in the indicated direction to break off towards the laboratory and server rooms.
Loud bursts of gunfire continued to echo in various places throughout the facility as armed guards encountered the men of Phobos and Deimos. The soldiers continued to prosecute their mission with ruthless efficiency. The violence of action was on their side as they moved through the hallways.
“Sixty seconds to target room.” Theron announced over the radio. “Three minutes till rally and extraction.” Finishing as the point man dropped another guard who rushed into view at the end of the hallway.
* * * * * * * * *
“What the fuck is going on out there?” One of the guards asked as he braced a shoulder against the wall.
“They’re coming for her.” The other guard said as he moved around Josette’s bed to nakedly use the girl as cover against whatever was coming.
“We need her…” The nurse began, her slender figure on one knee as she helped her assistant bandage his arm before pressing a scalpel into his hand so he could defend himself.
Josette tugged and pulled on her restraints, squirmed and tried to curl up as she saw the shadows coming for her again as she had seen back where they had first discovered something was wrong. Too many violent tendencies, too many nightmarish intentions swirled about her. They frightened her. She wanted to leave, to flee this place and find her brother…but she could not…something kept her tethered there as well. If only she could focus….
She looked to the door then, saw the dark, malevolent frequency
spinning like a sphere on the other side a moment before the door crumpled and living shadows flooded into the room. But there was a ghostly white energy with them, something pure and unquestionably good despite its silhouette being outlined with that same dark wickedness.
* * * * * * * * *
“Phobos One clear.”
The three members of Theron’s team spoke one after the other after coming into the room hard just moments after Jonathan had devoured the door with his energy. The sphere’s attraction was so strong that it actually distorted the passage of time in its vicinity, allowing the soldiers to come into the room in slow motion relative to what the others witnessed. By the time they could make sense of what they’re minds were processing…three heavily armed men breaching the hospital room, those same three men had neutralized the four hostiles in the room.
Jonathan came forward then, oblivious to all of the sudden death so efficiently delivered around him. He came forward to tear the
restraints off his daughter and lift her frail body against his chest
for a crushing hug. “I’d never let them take you. You’re safe now.”
“Ares has Nova secure…prep for extraction. Break. Deimos, ETA extraction?”
“Phobos, Deimos One. Charges set…90 seconds for extraction. Multiple hostiles engaging our pos. Left flank…left flank…”
Theron could hear numerous bursts of gunfire crackling over the radio as the men of Deimos team prepared their charges in the laboratory and server room. He surmised, correctly, that the bulk of the security force had been posted and responded to Deimos’s incursion.
“QRF just arrived…they’re in the lobby now and heading up.” One of the other soldiers informed Theron. “Word’s out. Our window is closing fast.”
“Two…assist Deimos. Three…prep for extraction.” Theron keying his mic then. “Icarus…assault team is a go for extraction.”
“Copy.” The soldier moved quickly and without hesitation from the room to follow his orders and assist his teammates.
“Papa?” Josie asked, hugging her father instinctively even though she had no comprehension of why he was here. “Why…why are you here?” The drugs had had a powerful effect on her clarity and focus but she would know her father’s vibration anywhere.
“We’re going to The Nutcracker…just me and you.” Jonathan smiled as tears stung his eyes and he gently eased all the needles from his daughter’s delicate limbs before wrapping her in a thick blanket and picking her up. “Marie and Fritz, the Prince and Sugar Plum Fairy…” Jonathan continued to speak to soothe his daughter as the two remaining soldiers stacked at the door and prepared to leave.
“Ready soldier.” Josette heard her father say and saw him as her very own Cavalier.
Theron gave his fellow soldier a squeeze on the shoulder, the gesture set him moving forward with Jonathan and Josette right behind him and Theron walking backwards just as quickly, weapon held up and ready to protect their egress.
“Phobos One, Deimos One…we’re moving. We are moving. Charges set. Two minutes.” More gunfire crackling over the radio as the three men of Deimos plus Phobos Two rallied and moved towards the rooftop stairway.
They group emerged out into the rain just as the helicopter was
setting down on the helipad. The six soldiers ran towards the copter before turning and taking up defensive postures while Jonathan and Josette made straight for the open door. Once on board the soldiers would peel away and join them, the last man aboard being Theron who hopped into a seated position, one leg dangling free. He kept his weapon up and trained on the stairwell until Icarus banked hard and lost altitude to race between high rise condos.
“You’re safe…you’re safe now…” Jonathan repeated over and over to his daughter. He wanted to go back, he wanted to destroy the entire building with his darkness that knew no satiation, but his Order had not sanctioned such open revelations of their existence. Too many loose ends to explain away. As is, the explosion in the laboratory would be written off as a tragic accident…oxygen storage carelessly ignited with devastating effects.
But it was not enough for Jonathan. Nor would it be in the coming months and years.
And yet, what he held wrapped in that blanket and safely in his arms…was enough.
“I love you…and I will always protect you. They will never know what you are.” Murmured against her ear, a tired…weary look of thanks given to the strike team sitting about him.
((Co-written with Isaac’s writer. Thank you!))
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