Warning: Adult Content

Gala Opening, E-Town

Lyta fidgeted with her champagne flute and stifled a sigh. She glanced towards the bathroom that had swallowed Joe. I wonder how long we have to stay to be polite. What does Mom always say–two hours? An hour and a half? She always overdoes things. An hour should be enough. But in the meantime, I have to pretend to like the paintings. She turned to the art-laden wall a bit too quickly and almost spilled her drink over the man who was crossing behind her.

Nathan jumped back as the movement caught his eye. The liquid splashed over the young woman's hand.

"My most gracious apologies madam, I appear to have made you spill your drink. Here, let me clean that up for you." Nathaniel removed a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his tuxedo jacket and gestured toward the woman's hand. He flashed her an apologetic smile.

Lyta answered the smile with a chuckle. "Your second-best would be too much, seeing as it wasn't your fault. I didn't get you, did I?"

"I seem to have remained dry," he said.

Lyta took the proffered handkerchief and swabbed her hand. "Thank you." She refolded the handkerchief and returned it.

"My pleasure. I am Nathaniel Hawkins, professor of Humanities at the University of New London. Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?"

"Lyta Forrester. Nice to meet you." She extended her hand in a businesslike manner.

"Hey sweety." Joe wandered out of the bathroom, drying his hands. "Sorry I took so long; just being here is enough to make someone consti– Oh. Hello. Who are you?"

"Nathaniel Hawkins," he said, offering his hand to the man. "I was just introducing myself to Ms. Forrester. I take it that the two of you are here together?"

Lyta started to grin, then toned it down to a pleasant smile. "Dr. Hawkins, I'd like you to meet my fiance, Joe Tatsunoko."

"Please call me Nathan. I am still working toward my Ph.D. and the Board loathes the thought of having to pay me more money. Good to meet you, Mr. Tatsunoko. The two of you seem nearly as uncomfortable to be here as I am." Looking distracted, Nathan glanced across the room and then back to the conversation at hand. "I was hoping to meet some interesting people here tonight; you see I haven't been out much since I moved to town and I don't know many people outside of the university."

Lyta made a sound halfway between a sigh and a raspberry. "Not many people here. Just a bunch of mannequins on parade. Look at that," she said, gesturing to a marabou-trimmed monstrosity with a speckling of rhinestones and a six-foot train. "That thing is dwarfing the artwork. I'd rather have come some nice, quiet Sunday afternoon to look at the pictures, and skipped this fashion show entirely."

Nathan laughed, "It does seem to be a rather… unusual crowd, doesn't it? Then this is not a typical example of local society, I take it?"

"Depends on what you'd consider local." Joe shrugged. "Or 'society', for that matter. Normally I avoid these things like the plague–no comments, please, dear–but I suppose these would constitute the area cognoscenti and their wannabes." Joe leaned in towards the other two. "I sure can't tell the difference."

"Yes, well may I ask what professions the two of you are in?"

"I'm an entomologist and a pathologist by training, so I've sort of oozed my way into the city's Forensics department as a medical examiner." Joe grinned wryly. "Not sure whether or not this is going to be a permanent thing, but for the moment, it's okay."

"I'm an aerospace engineer at a company called Third Age. Not to be confused with rocket science. What's your area of academic specialty, Nathan?"

"Ancient Egypt; my Doctoral Thesis is a dissertation on the fall of the great empire. The board is a little skeptical since the subject has been broached before, but I have a few new theories which may just set the Egyptology community on its ear." Nathan looked thoughtful for a moment then apologized, "I must remind myself not to prattle on about my work. It tends to bore people." He smiled. "Engineer, hmm? What exactly do you do at Third Age?"

"Pretty much everything from design to prototype testing. We're a small place. We have contracts with a lot of the big players, though–Scott, Seventh Heaven, a little government work. That's our bread and butter. The really neat stuff we do in our own R&D. Well, I like it, anyhow, although most of it'll never fly." She laughed. "I sound like a mad scientist. You mentioned 'the fall of the great empire.' Which one? There were so many dynasties. I can never keep them all straight."

"What I am writing on is more about the gradual decline and eventual fall of the great line of the Pharaohs and collapse of Egypt as a major power. There is a lot of interesting mythology which surrounds the God-Kings which ruled during the period and rumors that their fall from power was associated with divine infighting. My thesis supports the supernatural element in the stories, which is why I am held somewhat in disrespect within my field. You know scientists; no imagination." He smiled warmly, showing off his perfect teeth which contrasted handsomely with his dark-tanned skin.

Lyta smiled her most charming smile in return. "Au contraire! I have yet to see a more creative use of statistics than that I saw in my college anthropology class. You know how we engineers are, though… always stuck in our own little worlds in our own little minds. Oh dear, my hands are a bit sticky. Would you gentlemen excuse me for a moment?" Lyta handed her glass to a passing waiter and strode to the bathroom with minimal grace.

After Lyta left, Nathan looked at Joe and extended his hand again. "I'm afraid I will have to say my goodbyes. It was nice meeting you and your fiancee. Please tell her goodbye for me when she returns. I've got a bit of work to do tomorrow."

Eventually, Zoe went to the washroom. As she was washing her hands one of the women she had talked to came in.

"Wow, Zoe, he's a hunk. Is he your partner or your bodyguard?" She smiled at Zoe in the mirror. "He sure has a big gun."

A devilish smirk played on Zoe's face. "Wouldn't you like to know!"

"So, aside from Terry, have you noticed any interesting or unusual guests?"

"Ohhh, you always got all the good ones. Interesting? Hon, Desmond Reach is here. Talk about unusual." The woman's face was a little flushed. She was a petite woman with brown hair wearing a simple white gown. "Ah, and let's see. Julian Locksley was here for a while."

"Locksley? He isn't still here then?" Zoe asked with sudden interest. She was of medium height with long, wavy brown hair and probably in her late twenties. She wore a soft velvet dress of deep forest green which seemed to complement her green eyes quite nicely. She appeared to be quite attractive and fit, though not particularly athletic.

"Well, there was some commotion and then he disappeared." She checked her makeup. "So, are you and Terry an item?" the first woman asked with feigned innocence.

"An item?" she responded with some embarrassment. "Um… ah, no… not yet. Er, what I mean is…we're just really close friends."

After recovering her bearing somewhat, she continued, "What I'm trying to say is that we've been good friends for a long time and we've never thought of each other as anything more than that."

Even the expression of Zoe's face wasn't convincing. She released her breath and smiled. "Okay, so now I'm not sure… anymore," she said nibbling nervously on her lip as eyes wandered.

Zoe noticed that another woman had entered the bathroom. She was a brunette, fair-skinned with very dark eyes. Her makeup and hairstyle were competently done, but simple, more classic than stylish. She was wearing a long, full-skirted, burgundy silk halter dress and matching high-heeled pumps. She was washing her hands at the sink nearest the door.

Well, that sounded comfortable, thought Lyta. Nothing like having to reevaluate your feelings in public.

Glancing at the stranger and then turning back to Lyta, "Well, wish me luck. I better get back to Terry before he thinks I've disappeared. Have fun and see ya," Zoe said as she left the bathroom.

Jeez, Zoe, what're you doing? she scolded herself. I sound like a silly school-girl again! OK, so I have feelings for Terry. There, I admit it! And I want him to hold me… and God, I really want him to kiss me! So what's my problem…? He might not feel the same… but he does, I just know it. Besides, even if he doesn't… no, I could never do that. I'll just have to do the hard way…

Satisfied that the ginger-ale residue was gone, Lyta finished up, left the bathroom, and looked around for Joe.

"Mr. Sophisticated has removed himself from our plebeian presence," Joe remarked as she returned.

"Mm. The poor guy scares that easily?"

"Said he had work to do; requested that I convery his farewell to you. I think he's hot for you."

"Nah, he's okay. But I do think this is the biggest public rutting I've seen since high school. The prom clothes must be taking everybody back."

"Oh, that's what it was? I thought it was alley cats yowling. You know, I read once that the male cat sprouts these little spines from his–"

"Which is why the female throws him off and bites him. Let's get out of here."

"Good idea. I think the crowd's reached that thrown-off-and-biting stage."

Sara let herself be propelled from the garden. "Mom's going to kill me for being out so late," she murmured. She looked at Elizabeth and smiled shyly. "You're very pretty. Are you Brother Raymond's girlfriend? He's such a nice guy. He deserves one."

Elizabeth smiled. "Yes, he does."

"Where are we going?" Sara looked around hesitantly. She didn't recognize anything she saw, and still had no idea where she was.

"Out to my car. And then to my place. We'll have some cocoa and a nice shower." I'll check on Sebastin. "Raymond will meet us there and talk to your mother. Is that okay?"

Sara nodded. "I hope Mom isn't too angry. Or worried."

Elizabeth helped her into the car, noticing the how carefully Sara began to sit down. "Why don't you lay down in the back?"

Akemi rolled to her feet, her mind and body shifting into action mode as she did so. She was in one of the basic fighting stances of her art before she registered what had just happened. It's a good thing he did whatever it was he did, she thought, because if there's one thing Wing Chun is light on, it's nonlethal disabling techniques. I doubt I could have done the same thing without injuring him.

She heard Father O'Mallory's words, then approached cautiously. Looking at the two unconscious figures, and then at him, she asked, "Are they all right? Who exactly are you?" Her tone and manner indicated that she wasn't asking his name, rank, and serial number.

He smiled. "I'll tell you but I doubt it would mean anything to you. I am the Guardian of Western North America."

At these words, Akemi took a deep breath. Her stance, while not returning entirely to normal, still relaxed visibly. "Well, clearly you've got something going for you," she said softly. "All right, I'll go tell the hostess that the four of you have been suddenly indisposed, and were sorry that you couldn't say good-night personally. Will that be all right?" Then she added, with a look at Josh's prone form, "You seem to know why the two of them are like this, so take good care of them."

With that, she returned to the main hall. After finding the hostess and using her best diplomatic manner in making profuse apologies for the two couples, she spared a glance toward the entrance to the other veranda. As usual, her mind seemed to be working on two or three tracks at once. If Desmond can get me an appointment with that doctor he mentioned–Jackson?–I must remember to ask him if he has any idea why superhumans are showing up in this particular area, in such concentrations.

Then she looked back the way she came. I hope that man who fucked me won't have any problems with the way things turned out, she thought with a smile. He certainly had nothing to be ashamed of.

With that, she grabbed another drink, and prepared to wait for Desmond to finish his business, all the while keeping an eye on the way things were going on the inside.

A few minutes later an arm encircled her waist and Desmond kissed her neck. "Did you have a good time? We can leave anytime."

"Nnnh," Akemi purred as she leaned back into his arms, "best offer I've had all night. What do you say we go someplace with some action now?"

O'Mallory leaned down and humming softly, concentrated his power to a pencil thin line. He removed the spell that lay over the young hero. She stirred and opened her eyes.

"Sorry, I did not mean for you to get caught up in that. My name is Father O'Mallory."

Velocity blinked, sitting up. How did he do that? Wow… it takes a lot to make me fall asleep. "Hello… I'm Velocity… um, are you a mutant?" She regetted the bluntness of the question immediatly but it was too late. There it was.

He smiled. "No. I am a servant of God. What those in times gone by would call a sorcerer."

April blinked thinking then went full speed ahead. "But isn't the church not real big on magic… I mean… they tend to jump on Wiccans and stuff like that." April knew from her mom's anti-church tirades in the past. "Not to be really nosey, sir… hey, where did everyone go?"

Father O'Mallory sighed. A theogical discussion was not what I expected. "The Church frowns on those who claim that their power comes from other than God. Now, Velocity… I unfortunatly do not have time this evening to fully discuss this with you, but if you would like to discuss it further, my parish is The Church of Holy Sanctity in Hamilton. You can visit me there at any time. I also have to ask you not to mention what you saw here this evening. For the Guardians to do their job well, it is a good idea to keep a low profile. Are you okay with that?"

"Yeah, I don't wear this mask for nothing." She tried to let the smile show in her voice. "Maybe I'll drop by or something." She kipped up to her feet. It was a little disturbing to her quickly she had succumb to that… well, whatever it was… Am I vulnerable to magic… never seen it before… it's not like magic… it's more like praying for things and it happens like that… sort of like Moses and the plagues… "Um, I don't guess ya can tell me what the Guardians are, huh?"

"We can discuss that if you decide to visit me." O'Mallory also stood up and walked over to the sleeping man. "I am pleased to have made your acquantance, Velocity, I only wish it could have been under more favorable circumstances."

Having said that he began to speak again, leaning down to touch Josh. The Father touched his cross and in a blink of light the shattered gazebo was empty.

"Kewl…" She looked around then zipped toward the building proper.

10:41 p.m., somewhere in New London

The PRIMUS agent sighed and turned the page of the report. He was tired and didn't really feel like doing homework. But he had better know his stuff.

The mayor, Chelsie Lancaster–lawyer, popular at the moment, neutral towards metas. The chief of police, Colin James–well liked on the force, reputation as a fair man, a cop's cop. How the hell he managed to wade through the mire of politics that came with his job was beyond the PRIMUS agent's capacity to tackle this evening.

Flipping through the index cards he has written a speech on, the man known as Jumping Jack Flash nodded to himself. He was ready. "Let's just hope the scum of New London, are not."

He sighed and closed the report. Tommorrow PRIMUS made its first offical appearence in Canada. His mind drifted as he leaned back staring at the ceiling. He thought of his family back in the states. He thought of the tasks before him. He thought of his boss's last words, "Make us proud."

"Always do," he whispered into the night.

He picked up the cellular phone from the edge of the desk, flipping it open and activating it with a code. A drawer opened, revealing a number of small electronic gadgets, all on loan from the company. PRIMUS prides itself on only the best for its Silver Avengers. In this case, anti-bugging and eavsdropping equipment for those in the field is just another item in the long list of necessary items.

Wistfully, he selected a small blue box with a switch and dial on its side and thumbed it on. A bright green led signaled that it was ready.

He dialed the number on the now secure and scrambled cellular phone, glancing at the clock, nearly 11 pm–making it close to 2 am in Louisiana. The late show should just be finishing up about now. He pressed the Send key, then waited and listened to the ring at the other end.

Four thousand miles away, an elderly woman picked up the phone on the third ring, simultaneously muting the television showing an old movie from the 1940's.


The PRIMUS agent smiled in recognition. Even at two in the morning, her voice had an uplifting quality in it that defied her 88 years of age.

"Hi Mammy. I didn't wake you, did I?"

"Heavens, no! Bless me but its good to hear from you…"

Their conversation continued from the personal to the inane, but satisfying still.

Even Silver Avengers get homesick on occasion.

11:00 p.m., the home of Kate Lowe

His name was Gatecrasher. The energy that he generated dispersed with a flip of his cloak. He wondered if he would ever not owe the company. How long can a man be owned and still be a man? Two people stepped out from under his cloak. A man and a woman.

The woman had long ago taken the name Deadbolt. Her twin hand crossbows lay easy in her hands as she scanned the area, her whole attitude that of a warrior. She had been one for most of her long life. And barring death in battle, she would outlive her companions by many decades. Because no matter what they were called through the ages, Deadbolt was one of the Sisterhood.

She glanced contempously at her two companions. Gatecrasher was a coward, prefering to run from battle then confront it in all its glory. The other was a lech. Only a crossbow bolt through his hand had persaded him that she was serious.

The man who insisted on no other name then Contract, slowly clenched his black gloved hand. It always ached in damp weather. He glanced around and then checked his photographic memory. This was the place. He walked up and knocked smartly on the door.

A few moments later it was opened by a black and pink woman. Contract blinked. Ah, the woman was wearing calamine lotion, an allergic reaction to something.

"Dr. Lowe? My name is Contract."

11:00 p.m., The Pier, Harbourside

Mary Pecton leaned on the railing and gazed out onto the storm-swept sea. It swelled, playing its inviting, haunting melody. The sea was an unforgiving mistress, ignore her once and you paid.

"Please, Lord, I know I haven't spoken to you in a long time, but please let Jack be okay. Please let it be the work. Please let Desmond find him."

The being who had taken the name of Kraken, watched the dock and the woman on it. His heart ached. Mary. Oh God, she deserves better. With a wailing cry Jack Scully turned his massive body, driving it at best speed out to sea. But he couldn't outswim her face or his heart.

Mary jumped as the cry wafted through the air. So sad, so filled with despair. Mary Pecton let her tears fall, blending with the rain.

11:28 p.m., Cookston, the Weiser home

Rebecca Weiser tossed and murmured in her sleep. The storm raged on outside, drumming on the windows, whipping branches, moaning wind. Rebecca dreamed.

The fog hung thick as Rebecca walked. All around was a whitish grey, silence. She walked. She did not know how long before the sound reached her. It was evenly paced, a scrunch, a soft whistle and a pause. Scrunch, soft whistle and a pause.

After a few seconds, Rebecca zeroed in on the sound, moving towards it. As she did, the fog becames wispy. Hard, grey stone slabs poked out of the disappearing fog. Stautes of Angles, square buildings and the sound.

Then she saw them. Her parents. Her father was making the sound. In his hands was a shovel. He was wearing his favorite busness suit. Behind him stode her mother, dressed in a red gown, her hair done up. The dress was revealing and Rebecca had never seen it before.

They stood in an open grave. Her father was digging it deeper, her mother watched.

Footsteps. Rebecca turned. A man walked towards the grave. Rebecca knew him. The strange man from Tiffany's. The one who had saved them from the car. He paused at the edge of the grave. Her mother looked up.

The man held out his hand. Her mother reached up and took it. With little effort, he pulled her out of the grave. Her father kept on digging…

Rebecca started awake. Her alarm clock blinked 11:30 p.m. Outside, the storm lit the sky and gave voice to its power.

11:32 p.m., Harbourside

Flint Caruso walked along the docks. It had only been a few weeks before that he was being framed by the Witches, sentenced and exiled to this dimension.

It might be all to the good, Flint thought. This world needs law and order. It was what he was trained for. What he knew. He was framed, exiled, new to a world that often confused him, but he was still a cop.

No matter where he went, he always had his training and his oath. It was time to bring these to his new home.

The home of Rebecca Weiser

For a long moment, Rebecca was tempted to go back to sleep. If she went to sleep, she half-thought cravenly, she might be able to forget it all in the morning. But she knew that ignoring unpleasant reality was a dangerous habit, and it was more so for her than for most. And, truth to tell, Rebecca did love her mother, even if she did not respect her greatly.

No. Get up. Rebecca slid out of bed, her slender young-girl's body enveloped in a flannel nightgown several sizes too large for her. She padded down the hall in bare feet to find her mother and confront the mess that her life seemed suddenly to have become.

Her mother was just sitting on the bottom step. She glanced up as Rebecca paused and instinctively moved so that only half her face was showing. "Did we wake you?" She sounded tired, no resigned, defeated, drawn out.

Rebecca gently but firmly took her mother's chin in her hand, turning her mother's face to her.

Rebecca's voice was surprisingly, even shockingly calm. It contained only the slightest hint of the violence of what she felt. "Is this the first time?" she asked, surveying the rising bruise.

Gina shook her head, and gently took Rebecca's hand. "Once before, right after we lost everything." She pulled Rebecca down next to her. "He had been drinking then too. Only it wasn't my face, it was easier to hide. And tonight I said some pretty harsh things." One last attempt to jolt him.

She sighed and looked at Rebecca. "Your father is a good man and he loves you. He just…" Gina looked away, wondering what to tell her. "…he just exists in the past."

Rebecca looked her mother in the eye. She was confused and frightened; something buried deep inside her was howling, "Why can't I just have a normal childhood? I didn't want any of this to happen! It's not FAIR!" But Mom didn't need that right now. She needed strength, and Rebecca was the only one available to give it. More than that: she needed a moral sanction.

"Mom…" she said gently. Her voice almost broke. "Mom, once is too much. Twice is intolerable." So what was she saying? Was she actually going to encourage her parents to break up? Yes. Damn it, yes. If for no other reason than to save her father's life.

"Mom, you mustn't put up with this. There's no excuse for it, no reason good enough. Listen. We have to leave here. Tonight. Now. I am not overreacting. Maybe we can negotiate something with," her voice almost betrayed her, "him later. But we mustn't be here when he gets back. Because if we are," and now her voice showed no sign of breaking; it hardened, and she pronounced the next words with a dark glee, "I will kill him."

Of course Gina could not know how capable Rebecca was of fulfilling her threat, but the words were uttered with a bleak resolution which carried more conviction than rage.

Gina stared at her daughter in shock. It was as if a stranger sat there and spoke with her daughter's voice. She felt a shiver of fear as a small voice told her that Rebecca would try just as she had said. And that she would destroy him.

"Listen to me Rebbecca. You must not think unwell of your father. What happens between us is between us and does not affect what we feel for you. You are the one bright spot in his life. Besides, where would we go at this time of night?"

She reached out and brushed back Rebecca's hair. "It will be all right. I doubt he'll be back tonight." Gina stared down the steps at the front door. "I am sure he has places to sleep, flavor of the month." Gina sighed and turned back toward Rebecca, only just realizing how drunk and tired she was herself. She hadn't ment to speak out loud beyond 'tonight.'

Rebecca was implacable. "No. We go now. Pack what you need. I'll call a taxi. I know where to go." She realized what she sounded like. All of a sudden she was giving her mother orders like a top sergeant. This was rude and dangerous as well. But she was certain that neither of them must remain in the house.

Her voice softened. "Trust me, Mom. We have to get out of here. If we have any chance of making it–as a family…" Emotion broke through her stern facade for a moment, but was ruthlessly suppressed. "…we have to get out of here. We have to get some distance, some perspective. To think how blind I've been all this time! I can't go back to pretending that we're the perfect family, because…" Her own pain resurfaced, and she tried to fight it back with irony, "…we obviously aren't."

"We can talk about this–with him–" she was suddenly and inexplicably blinded "–later. Now we have to go. It's our only chance, Mom. Either way, it's our only chance." She realized that she was talking through tears, and felt vaguely annoyed at her own lack of control. "Please." She was squeezing Mom's hand. She was definitely losing self-control and dignity at a rapid rate. "Mom. it's killing you, I know it is. That was what it meant, I didn't want to know it but I do. It's killing you, we have to go."

Abruptly, with a savage effort of will, Rebecca lurched to her feet and began stalking blindly to the hall to call a cab.

Gina watched her daughter stalk off. Killing me? What did that mean? Gina struggled to her feet and wandered into her room. She packed a light bag and sat down on the edge of the bed. This was crazy. First Nathan and now Rebbecca. When did her life get so out of control?

Of course, Rebecca didn't really know where to go. Amos's retreat would be best–if she could uncover the memory fast enough. The Pink Pearl was another possibility, but it could get awkward and dangerous. Probably they would be better off finding Eye of Horus. It would make her feel vaguely like she was pimping her own mother, but she knew that he would help. And it would not be so hard to find him–or, rather, to find his amulet. She would simply have to tap into a power source and use its energy to enhance her own natural power to detect magic. The spell would not be too hard to rig, since it was only enhancing a faculty which she already possessed. But she would try to remember the location of the retreat first.

She bullied her mother out to the taxi and told him to drive around Midland Park. The taxi driver looked to the woman, who was huddled in the back of the taxi, holding her overnight bag against her chest. There was a fading red mark on her cheek, and her eyes were overly bright. She nodded.

Rebecca threw herself into a trance, desperately trying to find the retreat. An eternity later she gave directions again, her voice eerily calm and serene. The taxi cab driver looked again at the woman, who nodded. He noticed the look she kept shooting the girl. Why the hell did I ever agree to the graveyard shift?

"STOP!" Rebecca shouted. She was out of the car before it came to a complete stop. She turned around frantically searching for the landmark that Amos's memory had produced. It was not there. The whole area had changed from his memory of it.

Her only link to possiblly finding the retreat, unless she stumbled on another landmark, had been rezoned.

Rebecca knew that she had to act fast, to retain her momentum, or Mom might realize how crazy this whole situation was. Or she might. She got back into the cab and directed the driver towards the nearest leyline. She would have to try to find the Eye of Horus.

Of course, Rebecca had no guarantee that the man in the turtleneck would help (she thought of his amulet as "the Eye" and of him simply as "turtleneck.") But there was the dream; and he did seem to regard himself as a hero of sorts. And, if he got stubborn, Rebecca did know his secret identity… she would blackmail the man if she had to, but no one was going to hit her mother any more. It was the one thing that Rebecca could be sure of: that must not happen again.

Gina was begining to think her daughter had no idea what she was doing. Rebecca was also beginning to scare Gina with her erratic behavior. This was silly. She should never have let Rebecca talk her into this. They really had no place to go. And the way Rebecca was putting on the time, a hotel would be out of the question. Her hand brushed her purse. There was one place. But not with her daughter.

She leaned over and started to direct the driver to the nearest hotel when Rebecca sat up suddenly and began giving directions in that far off voice. It was almost trance-like. Turn left here, now right.

Rebecca was deep in her directional trance, unware of the way her mother had moved away from her. She had been unable to find the amulet. Its shielding was too good. It was hiding. Frustrated, she had screamed, ignoring the warnings from inside her own mind. Then that voice fell completely quiet.

It was very quiet as if the city was holding its breath, and then she was assulted from all sides. Child, where are you? A woman's voice she recognized was distinguished from the others. And then waves of evil shut out the voice. She was numbed by the sudden gressy feel on her mind. Then a strong presence strode through the evil, which hissed, drew back. A sword of flame moved in the man's[?] hands. Yes, it was male, that presence. A feeling of great power, of peace.

The evil fled before the man's power. And then the Eye was there and rest disappeared. She could feel a cord between the two of them drawing her, drawing…

Nathan sat straight up in bed as the Eye flared to white heat against his chest. She comes.

Elizabeth and Fr. Raymond O'Mallory's home

The drive seemed to take forever, but soon Elizabeth had Sara in the shower, relieved the baby-sitter, checked on her son and started making cocoa. She carefully kept herself from thinking about the evening. She had a vague idea what was going on but preferred not to make any solid calls. She didn't have any facts, and most likely would not.

No use worrying about it now. Raymond explained all this in detail before he asked you to marry him. You know that anything told him is between himself, the person and God. She sighed, placing the cocoa and some cookies out.

Sara finished drying herself off, being very careful between her legs. Why do I hurt so much back there? she thought, touching her anus carefully. She remembered the stinging pain from the soap. I hurt like that before when… Did that man…? No, he couldn't have. He had his pants on. He's not at all like the others. He seemed really upset and concerned.

She put on the man's sweatsuit that Elizabeth had left for her. Sara then gathered up the clothes that were on the bathroom floor. She looked again at the weird black underpants she had been wearing. Where did I get these, and why was I wearing them? They had been soaking wet and a bit slimy when she had taken them off, so she rinsed them out in the sink. She still didn't know why they were that way when she removed them.

Sara hid the underpants in the long see-through socks she had been wearing and rolled them all up into a ball. The back of the dress had been wet and a bit slimy too. She didn't know whether she should try and rinse out the section or just leave it, and there was no label in the dress. Sara decided to leave it, and folded the dress carefully in half, tucking the roll of stockings into the fold. She folded the dress in half again then put the toilet lid down and put the dress on the toilet. Sara tied her hair back into a ponytail with one of the elastics she had found, then walked out of the bathroom and looked for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was just returning to the living room, rocking Sebastin and cooing to him. The baby was content now that Elizabeth was holding him, and drifted back to sleep, thumb in mouth.

"Feeling better?"

Sara nodded. "Yes, thank you." She smiled when she saw the baby. "What a cute little guy. What's his name?" Sara took a step closer.

"Sebastin," Elizabeth smiled with motherly pride.

Sebastin, hearing his name, started up, and looked around. His eyes were a very light grey-blue. He stared at Sara for a bit and then grabbed her hair.

Sara laughed slightly and tilted her head so the baby wouldn't pull on her hair. "His eyes are a lot like Brother Raymond's," she commented. "Hello there, Sebastin," she said, rubbing her finger along the hand holding her hair.

Sebastin cooed and leaned towards Sara, having already identified her as a known voice. He jumped up and down in his mother's arms and gave Sara a big, drool-filled smile.

Sara laughed. "Is he always this friendly with strangers?" She reached out her hands to catch Sebastin if he started to fall.

Elizabeth gave a faint smile, wishing that Raymond would get home. "Only those he likes."

Sebastin was now laughing and yanking on Sara's hair. His only words seemed to be "ddd, ddd, ddd."

"Did you want to hold him?"

"You're sure it's all right?" Sara asked, trying not to wince at Sebastin's playing. At Elizabeth's nod, Sara took the boy into her arms. "Here, let's get your hand out of my hair, little guy." She carefully tried to work her hair out from his grasping little fingers.

A brief scene flashed in her eyes, of her holding a little boy with curly black hair and ice blue eyes, along with a feeling of longing, as if it were some forgotten wish. A baby with my eyes? Why do I want a baby? I don't even think I ever want to have sex, let alone a child. How could I, after what happened to me?

Sebastin's gurgle of delight brought her back to reality.

Sara played with Sebastin until Elizabeth mentioned that they should both get some sleep. At that moment, Raymond stepped out of the bedroom, closing the door softly behind him. His eyes met Elizabeth's, and she picked Sebastin up and headed for the baby's room.

"You should get some sleep Sara. The guest room is made up."

There was suddenly a nagging thought at the back of Sara's mind. There was something wrong. Someone she had to talk to. Somewhere she had to go, and it was important. "I… I can't. There's something wrong. I have to do something. Why can't I remember!" Sara's voice was full of frustration, and she slapped her clenched fists against her thighs.

Raymond knelt down. "Do you trust me, Sara?"

"You know I do, Brother Raymond."

"Lay down, close your eyes."

Raymond began to pray, crossing Sara. At each point of the cross, a soothing and warm sensation spread out until Sara felt as if she were floating. She opened her eyes. She seemed to be in space, darkness with pinpoints to light.

"Approach one," came Raymond's disembodied voice. "They can not hurt you, Sara. These are your memories, everything that has made you, you."

She hesitantly chose a light at random and approached it. When she could almost touch it, it opened up and drew her in. Sara saw herself at a clothing store. She must have been eighteen years old. She was looking at bathing suits. She took one down off the rack. It was white, practically transparent, and she was fighting to keep herself from blushing. She fled into the change room, locked the door and stood in front of the mirror. Sara watched herself change into Diamond. I am Diamond. She quickly put on the suit and looked at herself in the mirror. This is the day I bought the outfit that I wear as Diamond. The image faded away.

Sara chose another point of light. She saw herself looking around an apartment. Our apartment? She was very excited, and very happy. Sara heard a deep voice and saw herself turn and fling herself into Josh's arms, talking about how she loved the place, and it was the perfect for the two of them. She saw herself kiss Josh, deeply and lovingly, then dance out and down the stairs hand in hand with him.

Another point of light opened. She and Josh were were lying in bed, cuddling after having made love, and they were talking about what their children would be like if they had them. Josh wanted a little girl that looked just like Sara, while Sara wanted a little boy…

Then she was at a party, wearing a long strapless dress. Sara was in a garden, in a gazebo, with Josh. They were making love. He was filling her ass. The cold. The dark. The pain…

Sara's eyes flew open, and she found her cheeks were wet with tears. "Oh, Father Raymond. I remember now. Josh. Where's Josh? I have to talk to him. I have to tell him…"

"He's asleep in the master bedroom. Maybe you should wait until morning. You can go sleep with him if you wish."

Sara nodded and whispered her thanks and wished Father Raymond a good night. She got up off the floor and padded silently to the bedroom and opened the door. Slipping inside, she shut the door behind her and leaned against it, looking at the sleeping form of her love on the bed.

I'm so sorry, Josh. Sara's heart ached. It must have killed you to see me like that. It had been so long since we made love that intensely, and to have this happen… Mindful of where she was, she took off only the bottoms of the sweat suit. As large as Father Raymond was, the bottom hem brushed the middle of her thighs. Sara slipped into the bed next to Josh, moving close enough to him that he could sense her presence, but far enough away that they weren't touching. I'm here, love. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Raymond watched the door close with a worried frown, knowing that his part was played out. He stood and went into the baby room. Putting his arms around his wife, he gazed down at his son.

"Guest bedroom for us, dear one."

11:45 p.m., The Pink Pearl

The woman known as Destiny turned over the next card and pondered its signifigance. The Tower–upright. The hand of a deity taking part in events. Confusion reigns.

Slowly she pulled the next card. The Devil–upright. Evil lurks. Backstabbing and hatefulness. Goals obstructed.

The next two cards where drawn in quick suscession. The Eight of Swords–reversed, The Fool–reversed. Lifting of bonds, but hard times to cope with first. A chapter begins. Risk is great without caution.

Not promising. She sighed and swept the cards back into the deck. She looked into the storm, extending her senses. There was a indeed a storm coming but it had nothing to do with weather.

Peoke, raised his head and hissed. Destine spun to look in the direction the cat stared. But there was nothing but a slight afterimage. Unreadable.

Who had taken a look a at her defenses? Destine shivered. When would the storm break? And would those that could be enough to stop the destruction?

The home of Father O'Mallory

Elizabeth sighed, knowing that she would get no explanation of the night's events. A short time later she cuddled up to Raymond. His body was stiff, and he was staring straight ahead. She ran her fingers over his chest, knowing that this sometimes soothed him enough for sleep. He suddenly sat straight up.

Elizabeth sat up as well and, recognizing that far off look, eased him back down. Well, at least his body's here this time.

Father Raymond materialized in the astral plane, his body aglow with his power and faith. Finding the source of that scream wasn't hard, evil billowed and closed in around it. Raymond moved. In his hands a sword materialized, flaming it seared the darkness that was the evil, driving it back from the young power it strove to reach.

He was shouting, in a language he didn't recognize. But he didn't worry, if God had meant him to understand, he would. The darkness hissed and rolled away from him. He had almost reached her, when another presence appeared and wisked her away.

O'Mallory frowned, wondering if the young power was safe. More work for the Guardian, he sighed. Tomorrow I check the Web.

Nathaniel Hawkins' residence

Quickly assuming a meditative posture, Nathan steadied his breathing and cleared his mind. Briefly considering how inconvenient it would be to have to fight in the nude, he pushed the thought away and concentrated. What had awakened the Eye?

He heard a car door slam and a car leaving. Going to the window, he pulled aside the curtain. In the street stood a woman and a little girl. The woman looked around, they spoke. And as one raised their heads to brownstone.

Nathan felt shocked as the street light revealed Gina's face and that of her daughter.

Rebecca blinked and looked up at the brownstone. Her mother was counting out bills to cab driver, who was looking at her strangely. Rebecca was utterly exhausted.

Rebecca stood numbly in the street as the taxi sped away. Speaking seemed like far too much effort, but she knew she had to; Mom was looking tired and desperate.

"Mom, I'm sorry, I know this is weird. But I know what I'm doing. Sort of. This place belongs to a… friend of a friend. I trust my friend, and he trusts this guy. And he is a person whom you… have reason to trust." Her voice was flat with exhaustion, and the phrasing was not that of a young girl. But there she stood, a weary young girl in jeans and a "Calvin and Hobbes" T-shirt. Her long red hair hung stringy in her face.

Everything which happened to her increased her confusion. Who was that? The evil? Was it always on watch for the vulnerable like that? Was it Mother Yei who called? Who was the man with the sword–was he the Eye? Rebecca shouldered her confusion and her exhaustion. She smiled bravely at her mother, and began walking up to knock on the Eye's wielder's front door.

Quickly throwing on a robe, Nathan hurried downstairs to the front door. Wondering how Gina had gotten his address, he opened the door. "Gina, is that you? What's the matter?"

The young girl stood with her hand raised to knock. She looked exhausted. Gina looked tired, confused and afraid. Of her daughter? There was also a bruise on her face. Left side, an open hand.

They both stood there gaping at him. Gina's eyes dropped to his waist and then went back up quickly. How much does Rebecca know? Am I that transparent? Gina thought, feeling heat rise to her face. She didn't know what to say. How did Rebecca know where he lived?

Rebecca sensed something off-kilter in her mother's reaction, a reaction too strong to be simply her recognition of the man who had saved them. But she did not have time to analyze it at the moment. "Excuse me, sir; I know that our appearance here at this hour may seem a bit strange. But we are in somewhat… desperate straits tonight. I was referred to you by a… mutual friend. You have done us a service or two recently, and frankly, I am here to ask another. We have come to beg sanctuary, sir."

Rebecca knew that, in her exhaustion, she was drawing more than she should on Amos's resources. But neither Turtleneck (Bathrobe? She really should learn his name) nor Mom seemed in any condition to notice. Both of them seemed excessively stunned. Perhaps they had had dreams like hers? In that case, the dream might not have been honest prophecy after all. She might have made a mistake.

But there was nothing for it now; Rebecca had no other cards to play. She would have to make the best of the situation, which was becoming even more awkward than she had feared. She started to prepare for a simple spell of mental contact, with which she might speak privately with either Bathrobe or the Eye.

Quickly recovering his composure, Nathan ushered them inside. "Of course, of course. Come in, please." His initial reaction at seeing the bruise on Gina's face was anger. Who had done this to her? The answer seemed obvious as did the reason for their being here; they had nowhere else to go. So the bastard had finally resorted to physical force! He must be punished… later. For now Gina and Rebecca needed assistance. He quickly surveyed Rebecca for similar damage. Good, there was none. She was looking at him strangely again, though. There was something about her which raised his curiosity. She seemed to be in charge of the situation more than her mother, which marked her as an extraordinary girl of what, twelve? But there was more to it. She commanded a presence far beyond her years and she had an aura of… what? He looked into her eyes to gently probe her thoughts and encountered resistance! Hello, what was this? She was shielding herself! Nathan took the girls' bags and closed the door while maintaining eye contact with Rebecca. He had no doubt that the girl had noticed his probe.

Rebecca squeezed her mother's hand and looked up at her. For a moment she looked like a very normal girl, unsure of herself in a strange place. In fect, she had not planned beyond this moment. She realized that she had no idea what to do now. She was too tired to plan coherently. Mom was being no help; she had not spoken yet. She was still staring at Bathrobe in… fear? Despair? Awe? Rebecca followed the man silently. Someone else would have to start the conversation.

God, what am I going to do now? Of all the people my daughter brings me to… Why is he looking at her like that? Gina shook her head, No. My take on him couldn't be that wrong.

Her head was throbbing and her stomach clenched. The night was finally catching up. First she had all but committed herself to an affair with this man, then the fight with her husband, and then Rebecca acting so strangely.

"Nathan," she whispered, growing pale, "bathroom?"

"Down the hall, on the left. Rebecca, make yourself at home while I put these in the guest room. Then I'll make a pot of coffee and we can discuss this situation." Nathaniel turned and mounted the stairs. This was a potentially dangerous situation he had gotten himself into. He couldn't refuse them shelter, but something about Rebecca bothered him. She had power, that much was obvious, but where did she get it from?

Rebecca dragged herself into the living room and collapsed into a comfortable chair. The Eye must give turtleneck–"Nathan"–minor telepathic powers, but it seemed unlikely that they were potent enough to crack her shields. On the other hand, he must now be aware that she had such shields.

Nathan felt a gentle, polite mental pressure. Someone was requesting a private conversation.

With brief reluctance, Nathaniel opened his mind to the presence.

A dry, rather sardonic voice spoke in his head. It sounded like the voice of a mature woman, with a hint of an Oxford accent, yet it was recognizably Rebecca's voice. Would you perhaps care for a more voluntary and mutual form of mental communication?

Mentally, Nathan apologized, "Yes, of course. Please forgive my earlier indiscretion. I was merely curious and did not suspect that you would perceive the attempt. There is obviously more here than had I previously realized. Other than the obvious, may I ask why you have come to me? He placed the suitcases near the bed in the guest room and walked back downstairs.

The dry voice seemed somewhat strained. My mother and I needed sanctuary. I may as well admit to you that I have certain rather… extraordinary abilities. I have used the same means which I am now employing to communicate with your amulet. An intriguing personality, to be sure. I communicated with it when you rescued us, and again tonight when I wished to find you.

Why did I wish to find you? Among other things, I have the gift of prophecy. It is not entirely predictable, but it indicated to me that you would… rescue my mother a second time. Tonight, I was desperate, and Mom is still not entirely cognizant that she stands in need of rescue. I had few alternatives.

I may be part of the reason that she needs rescue, she continued, rather enigmatically.

That you have unique abilities is, I think, obvious. What is that you say about the amulet? You've spoken with it??? Besides that, and as far as your mother goes, the two of you are safe here. I will not let harm come to either of you if I can prevent it, that I promise you. Who is it that you are running from–your father? And what is that about you being the cause of your mother's dilemma? I must know all of the details if I am to help you. He entered the living room and, casting a significant look at Rebecca said, "I'm going to make a pot of coffee for the three of us and then we can talk about things."

While your questions are entirely valid ones, they might be better answered when Mom gets here. Which will be very soon; I can hear water running. Right now, we need to concoct a reasonable answer to the very reasonable questions which Mom will no doubt ask: how did I find you? And why? Of course, we could tell the truth, but that would compromise secrets which both of us would rather keep. On the other hand, a good lie could divert her attention from the facets of those secrets with which she is already familiar… Even as a little girl, Rebecca had had a certain talent for mendacity. Amos's experience enhanced this ability; his life had been long, eventful, and not entirely blameless.

"Good point. I suggest you tell her that The Eye of Horus contacted you in some manner and warned you that you were in danger. Horus also guided you to my house and assured you that I could be trusted. I will then explain to her that I am familiar with Horus as I interviewed him for my thesis and he uses me as his agent on occasion.

"Very well. That is acceptable. I will leave the link open; inform me if there is anything else I need to know."

Gina stepped out of the bathroom feeling a bit better. She was thinking about her daughter. She didn't like where her thoughts were going. She could remember when she was a girl and her grandmother would tell her stories of the women in their family with the gift–or curse, depending on how one looked at it. Either way, all those women met with a grisly and untimely death. Gina found she would rather believe that her daughter had used some otherworldly power to find Nathan. It was better then the other thoughts going through her head.

She paused at the kitchen door. Rebecca was sitting in a chair, looking tired and every inch the 13-year-old. Nathan, still in his robe–Gina felt her heart skip–was making coffee.

Gina cleared her throat, "Okay. Rebecca, how did you know where Nathan lives, and why did you bring us here?"

"Well, Mom, it's, uh… kind of hard to explain. When we got in the cab, I had very little idea where to go. But… do you remember the guy who saved me the day before yesterday? The Eye of Horus? Suddenly I could hear his voice. It was speaking in my head! He said that he had been keeping an "eye" on me… something about psychic potential, I didn't really understand it. He said that he knew we were in trouble, and he directed me to come here. I didn't know until I saw him that we were going to see Turtleneck… er, I mean Nathan. I don't know how they know each other, but the Eye told me he could be trusted, and I was desperate. I was going to tell you in the cab, but it just sounded so weird… I didn't think you'd believe me."

She turned a weary, rueful face to her mother. "It's all pretty crazy." She gave a brave, sad smile, as if trying to avoid being overwhelmed by everything, maybe even fighting off tears.

That's very good, young lady. You should try a career in the theater. "That is true, Mrs. Weiser. I have had a working relationship of sorts with The Eye of Horus since I interviewed him for my thesis a few weeks ago. He said something about "psychic potential" to me also and asked me if I would act as his agent on occasion. He established a mental link with me which allows either of us to contact the other when necessary. That was how he showed up so quickly friday at Tiffany's; I contacted him as soon as trouble began. He apparently knew somehow that you were in trouble and directed young Rebecca here to my house for your own protection."

"I only wish he had informed me that you were coming." Nathan glanced down toward where the "Eye" was hidden under the bathrobe. So you'll talk to a strange girl but not to me, huh?

A voice answered from the back of his mind, Communication requires willing reception. Nathan started, nearly dropping the coffee cup in his hand.

Gina shifted her gaze to Nathan. "Okay." I'll buy that for now. "Nathan, do you have some place that Rebecca could sleep? She looks really tired." Gina walked over and ran her hand through Rebecca's hair with a faint smile. "Then you and I can talk."

"I've prepared the guest room and placed your bags there. It is up the stairs on the right. The bathroom is on the other side of the hall. Get some rest, young lady. You've earned it." Nathan smiled winningly and added mentally, You and I will talk tomorrow.

Gina poured herself a cup of coffee and kissed her daughter goodnight. She waited until she heard the door close and then turned to Nathan.

"You know this Eye of Horus person? For some reason he takes an interest in myself and my daughter? Nathan, the only danger is in the mind of my daughter. We were perfectly safe where we were. She just…" Gina sighed and made a small movement of her hand.

"I do know Horus, and he is very perceptive. If he thought you were in trouble, then maybe he saw something that you didn't." Nathan touched the mark on Gina's face tenderly. "Gina, maybe you weren't in immediate danger and Rebecca actually contacted Horus knowingly or unknowingly because she was afraid. It doesn't really matter right now because your daughter apparently feels better about being here than she would at home. You are both welcome to stay as long as you like; the spare room is quite comfortable and big enough for two people."

"Now I realize that we hardly know each other, but if you want to talk about what happened tonight, I am a good listener."

Gina trembled at his touch, remembering his kiss. She turned her head and kissed his palm. She was surprised by the strength of her desire. On impluse she stepped closer, letting her head rest on his chest, smelling him, feeling him solid beneath her.

"There's nothing really much to say. We aurgued. I said some things I shouldn't have. I know how easy he is to push when he's drunk. He hit me and left." She slipped her hand inside his robe, letting her fingers run through the hair on his chest. "He is not a violent man, Nathan. Really. If he remembers, he'll apologize." Her fingers began making slow circles around one of his nipples, her touch so light.

Nathan set his coffee on the counter and embraced her. His strong arms tightened protectively around her body, drawing her into him. He could feel her warmth and smell her scent. Something instinctive reacted to his senses and his desire mounted. Part of him cried out that this was wrong. He was taking advantage of a vulnerable woman with her daughter just upstairs.

"We shouldn't be doing this," he said. "Gina, I want you with every fiber of my being but this is wrong and we both know it. You are hurt and lonely and vulnerable right now, and if I take advantage of that, I would never be able to respect myself."

"Yes," she whispered, letting her fingers dip lower. She brushed the ties on the robe and then abruptly moved away, hugging herself.

"This is going to be so hard. I want you, Nathan. But I can wait."

She walked back and kissed him lightly. She then followed her daughter.

Nathan gulped down the hot coffee, sighed deeply and went back upstairs to his room. After a long cold shower, he retired to restless sleep.

Monday, May 29, 2000. Midnight. Port Albion

Sometimes it's just not worth it.

He looked up at the nearby street light, watching the precipitation fall in the cone of light. The rain was now more of a light drizzle, than anything else. The occasional traffic on the street, made a loud shushing sound as the cars rolled by, headed for who knew where, drowning out the light susuration of the rain hitting the sidewalk.

The pounding throughout is body is gone, replaced by the curious feeling of a combination of overly full with nervous energy. Sometimes he can almost feel the pills dissolve as they hit the stomach acid and release their magic contents to his soul racked system.

Jacomo Jones glanced around, to get his bearings. He had been walking for perhaps half an hour, heading aimlessly. The light weight jacket was now soaked through across his broad shoulders, the moisture seeping to his cable knit sweater. A large hand comes up, and rubs the back of his neck.

"Port Albion district. OK Jacomo, good job, you've just walked halfway across town."

His deep baritone quickly falls off in the moist night air, as Jacomo reaffirms his locale verbally. He shoves his hands into the pockets of the jacket, his left tricep pressing against the empty shoulder holster.

Oh right, I left the piece on the end table… Well, I don't actually need the damn thing, now do I?

He walked slowly to the corner, his heavy jackboots making a hollow clomp on the wet, broken cement that passes for sidewalk in this neighborhood. Through the thick and misty night, the signpost was difficult to make out, until a passing van's headlights reflect off the letters.

Pacific Way, 1600 block.

Remembering a diner in the area, Jacomo headed towards Barkley Sound. For some reason, a large bowl of hot chowder and a big mug of cold beer seemed like a good idea. The soup would warm his insides, and the beer would warm his insides. Of course it wouldn't be gumbo, or jambalaya, but Georgia was a long way from New London.

Jacomo moved through the casually strewn refuse, overturned dumpsters, and broken pallets from the many warehouses that lined the street, toward the faint blue and red glow of neon signs that could be seen reflecting off the street about 6 blocks down.

Jacomo stepped over a half-filled garbage bag, contents unknown, but surely fetid, putrid, or highly undesirable, judging from the unnatural bulge of expanded gases within. As his foot contacted the wooden pallet on the other side, a noise like that of garbage cans being knocked over clawed its way from a dark alley between two abandoned storage facilities across Pacific Way.

With the moon hiding behind the low clouds of the evening, and the city planners not deigning it necessary to place street lights on that side of the street, everything in that direction was as dark as India ink spilled by a careless artist. Jacomo looked longingly at the multicolored glow from the suspected diner down the street for a moment, then shrugged and headed for the alley.

Maybe it will be something to let me work off some steam.

He could always hope.

As he neared the entrance to the alley, the muffled distinction of voices, pitched high with nervousness, fell upon concerned ears. Unconsciously, Jacomo shifted his gait, his boots falling soundlessly on the aggregate.

A flicker of orange-yellow light, a brief shadow cast on a windowless brick wall, the only clues to someone lighting a cigarette. Jacomo paused at the side of the alley, knowing that he would be in silhouette for any of its occupants.

His ears strained to catch glimpses of the conversation. He could clearly make out two male voices, almost whispering, barking a conversation in clipped tones that don't carry far at all on the thick, dark night.


The voice was small, a female's, the terror evident in the silence that embraced the single word. In his mind's eye, Jacomo pictured the owner of said voice, a young woman, sitting in garbage bags, arms raised in supplication for mercy.

That was all he needed. The imagined scene burning across his inner vision, Jacomo stepped into the alleyway. Immediately, he noted the presence of three men, and one woman. The faint light from across the street was only enough to paint black-shadowed outlines against the dingy grey wet walls.

He knew that should he get noticed, someone would turn and shine a light at him, destroying whatever semblance of night vision he had left, so he raised a hand to preemptively block such an attack.

A quick, calculating eye told him there were two adversaries, a lanky fellow with a watch cap and stringy hair, and a shorter man, smoking the cigarette Jacomo had noticed earlier, wearing a long khaki surplus jacket from some branch of the armed forces.

"Hold your actions."

Jacomo called out the command in a clipped voice, tensed to spring to one side or the other. Both men turned and raised pistols, or clubs, or knives. What the objects were was unimportant; that they offered the punks the bravado to continue in the face of being caught was enough.

"Go away, man, this ain't your biznis." Tall and lanky gave the warning.

A whimper came from the pair huddling on the trash bags.

Jacomo moved a step closer and also to one side, his form now blending with the shadows of the piled boxes to one side. "Nor is this yours. I say again, hold your actions."

"Or what? You'll get shot and bleed on me?" The sarcasm was as thick as the evening.

"No, or I'll rip your friggin arms off." Even before he could finish the sentence, Jacomo crossed the distance and grabbed the more silent man, orienting on the burning weed in his mouth. Jacomo's fingers closed an iron grip on a baggy leather jacket, and lifted the surprised man off his feet.

Tall and lanky paused a moment, watching the burning cigarette fall to the ground with a hiss as it hit a puddle.


Tall and lanky's small caliber pistol spat a chunk of soft metal at near the speed of sound. The bullet hit Jacomo in the upper thigh, tearing a hole in his jeans, and flattening out against the tough muscle of his quadricep.

In quick retaliation, Smoker was tossed into Tall and lanky. A satisfying audible 'ponk' was heard as the two punks got a forced physical meeting of the minds. Both dropped to the ground with a squelching sound, similar to stepping in dog droppings.

Too shocked to say or do anything the man and woman remained squatting at the end of the alley for a good five count.

Jacomo waited for one of them to move or say something. Finally, the woman asked, "Di–did he shoot you? Are you OK?"

"No ma'am, I'm fine. Let me help you two up."

Two hands reach for two disheveled heaps, lifting and supporting as the threesome leaves the alley.

Returning to the street, Jacomo lays an appraising eye on his two recent wards.

Young. Late teens, early twenties, definitely generation X'ers. By the looks of the grunge and dirt of their clothing, living on the street. The girl had unkempt stringy hair, falling just past her shoulders, and wore a hat made of the same overly large houndstooth pattern as her trenchcoat. The young man seemed to be Asian; his hair was short in the back and hung over his eyes in the front like a wet shower curtain. He had a dark cotton jacket, shiny with moisture, mottled with stains. Jeans with more holes than cloth. They both wore surplus combat boots, and looked pathetic.

Neither returned his gaze, both staring back at the alley, perhaps expecting more rings of gunfire or Tall and lanky to come bursting out at any second.

Jacomo gave them a few moments to calm down, before continuing. He decided to change the subject. He didn't need to know who these ragamuffins were. That they'd live another night in Port Albion was enough.

"You hungry? I'm headed for Mel's over there."

He pointed with a tilt of his head, paused, then headed toward the diner at a slow leisurely pace.

A pair of footsteps loudly echoed his own still silent ones. The rain had stopped, but the mist still swirled. Jacomo made a silent vow to himself, Just one side of the menu, nothing more.

Midnight. Victoria Midori (Tango)

Victoria awoke slowly. Her whole body ached. Her mind moved slowly. Where was she? Slowly memory returned. The egyptian priest. The dagger. The pain. The black tendrils digging in, sucking her life. And then darkness.

Scars? Her body was as smooth as she remembered.

Somewhere there was music. Her mind finally indentified the instrument. Flute. So sad. She shifted and opened her eyes. Soft light, flickering. Candles. Rock and cement overhead. A room. Very large, old style construction. A large bed. She was under furs. She was naked.

Memory exploded. The hunger. Him. His flesh against hers, moving. The lust, the hunger. His blood. So sweet, so powerful. She licked her lips and sat up.

Her hand reached out and closed over the dagger, strength flooded into her. She stood. The place was a jumble of scavenged furniture. Old oak desks, chairs. Some looked like they properly belonged in the 1700's. Some bore burn marks, others were splintered or water marked. A piece of driftwood off to one side bore the name "Inito" the rest broken off. She followed the music.

He sat on the edge of a stone statue, naked as she, his eyes closed as he played. He was beautiful. She remembered his lovemaking, his blood. He opened his eyes, let the music die off.

"Hungry, my dear?"

"Always… and for knowledge, too," she replies with a smile. "Umm… I don't normally even kiss on a first date, but seeing as how we're already far beyond that… Hi, I'm Victoria, what's your name? Love the music, but could you find something a little more–romantic–to match my mood? And the decor is fab, where are we? Sorry for talking so much, I'm just a little… OK, a lot nervous."

She looked down at the dagger in her hand. "You know, there was a reason I didn't touch any drugs back in high school–they give you the illusion of power, while actually dictating your actions. Funny how a slave can think they're the master." Victoria carefully placed the knife down on a nearby shelf. "Beautifully designed, and the offer of power is attractive in itself, but I don't think I'd like what it would do to my soul."

Victoria moved forward, towards her mysterious benefactor. "I don't think I've properly, well," she looked down, blushing a little, "consciously thanked you for saving me."

See the subplot Blood to find out what Victoria and her benefactor talk about.

Monday, May 29, 2000. 12:23 a.m. St. George Cemetary

The wind and rain lashed the cold grey stones of the graveyard. A lone figure moved among the head stones, seamingly oblivious to the storm. Perhaps the figure welcomed the storm.

The figure paused in front of a pair of graves and then slowly climbed a hill several rows behind them. A flash of lightning revealed the figure to be a woman. She was dressed in traditional samurai armor, complete with the two swords of the samurai.

The woman who had chosen the name of Sentry knelt beside the a single gravestone. For long moments she knelt silently, then she bowed, head to stone and stood.

As she walked away another flash of lightning revealed the headstone.

Diane Susan
Beloved Daughter
June 12, 1990
June 12, 1990

12:25 a.m. UNL Dorms

Katrina groaned and banged her head on her desk. The paper was not cooperating. Damn that Doctor for being a criminal. How was she to get her degree if the people she kept trying to interview, turned out to be criminals? It was damned difficult to write a decent report when half the necessary information was missing!

It could only happen to me, she thought, feeling depression coming on. If she was lucky, she'd pull off a 60 which would drop her mark to an 86. Any less, and she'd be Katrina Dorris: Fifth Year Senior. Or maybe sixth-year, depending on whether or not she could get into the class again in the fall. She banged her head on the desk a few more times for good measure.

The blankets on a bed in a shadowy corner of the dorm room stirred, and a blonde head poked out. "I do have an 8 AM class," Mara Davidson raised her head briefly to look at the clock, "later today, you know… try not to break the desk with your forehead, OK?" Mara wasn't usually very gracious about being kept awake by her roommate.

"Do you want me to play Quake with the speakers turned up full?" Katrina retorted, reaching for the joystick attached to their computer. Mara groaned and retreated back under her covers, clamping a pillow down over her ears.

I wouldn't, of course. Too much work to do, Katrina thought to herself. She forced herself back to the screen trying to focus on the words she had already written. What else could possibly happen this month?

1 a.m., Hamilton, HQ for the Werewolves of New London

"But you hate people!"

"Yes, but I love gatherings. Ironic, isn't it?"

Laughter echoed through the clubhouse. The big screen TVs that lined every wall were currently playing "Clerks". At the most lavish table sat four men. Three of the four didn't look any different from the others in the clubhouse. One had most of his body parts pierced, like many others within those walls. Another possessed a body that consisted of more scar tissue than flesh, much of it self-inflicted. There were some like him in those walls. The third possessed jewelery that could not be worn outside the clubhouse, for it was made out of ears and others assorted body parts of his enemies. This was rare, but there were others like him in the club. The fourth, however, was unique. No man dared dress or act as he did. For no man could do what he did.

He was Curse and three hundred men had died merely because he said they would. The methods varied; some died of natural causes, others less so. But they all had one thing in common. They all died a day after he said they would, after he cursed them. The last person to tempt his wrath had died of a stroke two hours later.

He sat dressed in his gang leathers, wearing a Mexican wrestler's mask. His flesh had not seen the sun since he or anyone else could remember. At first the gangs he had joined as a youth thought him to be a freak. Then the leader of the gang died in a bizarre car crash five minutes after being cursed. Curse moved up the ranks quickly that day. Until he reached the pinnacle. Leader of the Werewolves. Unofficial head of all the gangs in the city that paid even lip service to the Chessman. And tonight he sought to add to this elite force, the Werewolves, for tonight was initiation night.

The city gangs had sent their finest to join. The task was simple. Each person chose a section of the city at random. Commit a crime of note (that's the key) within that section. That's it. Simple, if you don't get caught.

For there are many predators in the night and Curse made sure that every one of them knew about the initiation. The boys from Hamilton and Sarita, they were survivors, but these punks from Grandbridge and Moseby, they were sheltered. They didn't know what the ghetto kids knew. The fear you felt when a black car pulled up beside you. The engine with that death hum, perfectly tuned. Only three things sound like that: A cop, a drive-by, or him. Pray its one of the first two.

But tonight, some of them would learn.

At that very moment, in Ramfield

It had been so easy. The other gangs had laughed when they arrived, saying that they wouldn't get in. But so far, who's laughing now?

There were four, all from Evergreen Heights, all who had never had to work a day in their lives. The Porsche they drove was Dirk's, or at least his dad's. It was his idea to form a gang in the first place. They had been bored, and besides, Bobby's dad was a judge, so even if they were caught, they would get off.

Currently, they were seeking out an appropriate shop to break into. The old lady they had beaten up for her purse probably wouldn't cut it. As they pondered the question a black car pulled up beside the Porshe. They took no notice as it was just another poor person driving around and they were the rich and powerful and criminal. So fear us.

They never even heard the shot that made Dirk's head explode like an overipe melon. Bobby practically fell out of the car in shock. Biff and Lance were in the backseat screaming when He walked up to the car.

"They just get dumber," he spoke, with a voice like Death himself. Biff reached into his pocket for the gun they always brought with them. The figure moved, his cape swirling aside to reveal the saber in his left hand. Biff's hand was still in his pocket when his head left his body.

Lance rolled out of the car to follow Bobby who was now well down the block. The figure leaped over the car and landed beside Lance. Lance opened his mouth to beg for mercy but the figure's right hand flew up and crushed his voicebox before any words could come out. The last things Lance saw was the figure turning to the direction Bobby was going.

The figure moved swiftly, rounding the corner. He stopped, amazed by the sight he saw. The one known as Bobby lay on the ground, two darts in his neck. Dead. A sinister laughter filled the streets. The figure looked around but could not find the source. "Another hunter" the figure thought.