Friday, February 27, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 2. Cyrus

Outside Cyrus saw no sign of the police. Good, he thought. That’s one less complication in my life that I don’t need right now.

He turned to Rosa and Garrett. “Will you be safe getting home?”

Garrett nodded. “She doesn’t live far and we can find transportation from there.”

“Are you okay with this, Rosa.”

She looked at Ian. “I still do not trust him, but I do not have much choice but to wait. I won’t let him escape though should he show his true colors.”

“I’ll take that,” Cyrus said. He turned to Marilyn. “Ever flown before?”

“On a plane?” Marilyn said. “Not any time recently.”

Cyrus took Marilyn by the hands. He gripped her tightly and gave her a smile to keep her from worrying that he might hurt her.

“I didn’t mean in an airplane.”

Cyrus unleashed a pulse of pure sound straight down out of his legs. The force of the waves propelled them both straight upwards.

Marilyn screamed as they soared into the air, but it quickly turned to a giggle. Within moments, she laughed loudly across the River City sky.

She truly is a remarkable woman, Cyrus thought. The way she so easily seems to adapt to any situation is nothing short of wondrous. I wish I could even come close to be able to relax and enjoy my life.

Relax and you’re dead, he reminded himself. It was a credo that kept him safe for years. He knew it would do so for many years to come as well, but only if he got moving soon.

Cyrus knew he could not stay in River City. He needed to move on, find another city to set himself up and keep undercover.

“This is amazing,” Marilyn yelled. “I don’t know why you would ever stop doing this!”

“I like to keep a low profile.”

She laughed.

“Low profile? Why keep a low profile when you can fly? Don’t be so dour all the time! Enjoy yourself. Live life!”

“I—” Cyrus’s words were cut off as Marilyn suddenly pulled her hands away from him.

Cyrus slowed his flight patch, but knew he was already too late. They were flying too low for him to catch her on a return path. It didn’t stop him from slowing and turning to go after her.

He looked down as he swooped back around, but he didn’t’ see her anywhere. She should have struck the ground below, but she wasn’t there, nor did he see her on any buildings. It was like she vanished completely—

—until she soared up and past him. Her arms were out, but they no longer were exactly arms. Her entire body from her arms to her feet had changed. Flaps of skin rose up between her elongated arms and outstretched legs. Her body was flat and the large membrane caught the air and allowed her to glide across the airwaves with ease.

She laughed as she circled around him. “I told you to lighten up.”

“I didn’t think you meant it quite so literally.”

Marilyn laughed as her great wide wings carried her up and past Cyrus. He couldn’t help but smile. There was something about her sheer joy that was nothing short of infectious.

“Follow me,” he said. “Try to keep up.”

With a roar of sonic energy, Cyrus propelled himself forward and upward. Soaring quickly through the River City sky, he could see hundreds of cars slowly flowing through the tight roads of downtown below. It was almost beautiful in its mix of simple motions and complex grid work. It was breathtaking, as if he was seeing it all for the first time. He so rarely saw the city—any city—from this angle, but this was better than any flight he ever took in the past.

Marilyn was right. Flight was joyous.

But I don’t have time right now for joy.

He raced down towards his apartment building. The roof had a community garden squared out. This meant everyone had a key to the roof door. As he swooped over it, he saw it was free of any of his neighbors as he swooped down towards it.

He landed as softly as possible. One slip with his sonic powers might cause massive structural damage to the building. He alighted only a few feet from the door of the elevator.

“Head’s up!”

Cyrus turned as Marilyn fell down at an angle, straight towards him. He caught glimpse of her wings as they shifted back into her normal form before she crashed down on top of him.

The impact knocked Cyrus off his feet. He tumbled hard to the concrete rooftop. A sharp stab of pain emanated from his backside, but the embarrassment of failing to catch her was the greater trauma. Marilyn sprawled on top of him though and he forgot about his worries very quickly as her cool flesh pressed against his own.

He stared up into her beautiful blue eyes. She smirked as she met his gaze.

“I guess we made it. This is your place?”

He nodded.

She leaned down and planted her lips against his.

Her tongue snaked into his mouth. He knew what they were doing was wrong, but his body disagreed with his mind immediately. His self control withered away. He kissed her back, his hands clutching her hips.

She ground her body against his. He could feel his body react to the stimulation. So could she.

Marilyn wasted no time. Her hand slipped around his belt. She worked the buckle loose with a practiced grace.

His hands traveled beneath her dress. He found her naked between her thighs. His fingers found her warm folds. He slowly rubbed his forefinger between them, finding her already slippery and wet.

She gasped as she dragged his pants down to his knees, bearing him to the cold fall air.

Marilyn pushed him back against the rooftop. It took her only a second to sink down on to his manhood. She fit him like a velvet glove as she began to ride him.

It took her all of thirty seconds before she bounced up and down on him. Cyrus reached up, his hands fondling her chest. The strap of her top popped behind her neck and the dress fell open to expose her.

She gasped and shook as her pleasure overtook her. It had only been a matter of minutes. Cyrus clenched his fists to keep from exploding with her.

Cyrus’s hands fell to her hips as he took control. He pushed up into her, grinding hard against her.

“Oh, yes. Give it all to me, Cyrus.”

He drove up into her again and again. It took only a minute for him to feel her orgasm again.

He pulled her down close to him. With one quick move, he lifted her up and rolled them both over. Now on top, he drove down hard into her again and again.

“Yes,” she screamed. “Yes, give it to me. Give it to me!”

“I—protection—”

“It’s all right,” Marilyn said, pushing up against him. “Give it all to me, Cyrus.”

With a grunt, Cyrus let himself go, the force of his orgasm nearly blinding him.

They lay together in the cool air, still connected. Marilyn slowly stroked Cyrus’s arm, still awash in the afterglow of their actions.

Cyrus realized with a start that he needed to move. He let himself become distracted. He needed to pack. He needed to move. He needed to get out of here before he brought hell down on River City.

He pulled himself free of her arms. He struggled to pull his pants up as he stood.

“Cyrus, what is it?”

“Marilyn, I—”

“Yes, Cyrus, what is it? Where are you going in such a hurry?”

Cyrus turned and saw her on the edge of the rooftop. It was too late.

“Melinoe.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 1. Ian

Rosa lunged at Ian. She moved at blinding speed. Ian could only watch as she came towards him, faster than he could react. The shock of what he did—of Doppelganger’s suddenly emaciated form—was too much.

She didn’t strike fast enough. Ian watched Marilyn move, or rather flow, faster than he could ever imagine. It flowed up and between himself and the speedster to cut off her path.

Rosa struck Marilyn with every ounce of speed and strength, but it was like striking gum. Ian saw each blow as it struck Marilyn’s body, but her elastic skin only absorbed it with a ripple of amorphous flesh. Nothing Rosa did could slip past Marilyn’s super-elastic skin. Marilyn body flowed down and over Rosa, even as the speedster delivered more ineffective strikes. Within seconds, Marilyn’s body wrapped around Rosa’s, locking her in place like a vice.

Ian could only watch. He still couldn’t begin to understand how he beat Doppelganger. How he left Doppelganger unmoving on the floor, unconscious or worse.

“Calm down,” Cyrus said. “Ian isn’t your enemy. He brought us here to rescue you.”

“Rescue me? I know El Sanguijuelo’s mark. That beast has killed hundreds. You think he’s here to rescue us? He is a bloodsucker, a destroyer of metahumans around the world. He wants to kill us all. It is his nature.”

“The Leech,” Stomp said. “That’s what El Sanguijuelo means, right? Is that how he stopped Doppelganger, some kind of energy draining power?”

“Your supposed friend is the greatest murder of metahumans in the history of the world.”

All eyes fell on Ian. He could feel them looking at him, but his focus remained down in front of him. He stared at his hands, still unsure of what power they held. He said nothing. He didn’t know what to say.

“Ian, are you alright?” Stomp’s voice echoed through Ian’s head, but he didn’t—couldn’t—respond.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be all right again, he thought. I feel more alive now than I ever thought possible. I feel as strong as a dozen men, like I could run a thousand miles. It’s wonderful, so amazing.

So intoxicating.

“Ian!”

Alli grabbed him by the shoulder, pushed him. “Answer us. What’s going on?”

“I—I don’t know. I killed him, didn’t I? He’s dead. I just—I just wanted him to stop. And then—then it was all so easy. All so natural. I—what am I?”

“You’re a monster,” Rosa spit. “A creature of pure evil that deserves only destruction. If these people were smart, they would kill you right now.”

“Hold on,” Stomp said. “Everyone is way too hot now. Way too much adrenaline flowing through here. We need to get to the bottom of this, but we sure as heck ain’t killing nobody. Rosa, we barely know you, but Ian has saved my life. He brought us all here in the first place. If he wanted us dead, he wouldn’t have gathered us all here. He would have picked us off one by one. But he didn’t.”

“I don’t understand,” Rosa said. “He’s a killer. He leaves no one he touches alive. There’s a reason why we know so little about him, just a few accounts from normal humans that happen to see his crimes. But I would recognize his signature anywhere. He leaves all his victims the same way.”

“And I’m telling you, he let us live. Obviously. Make of it what you will, but I say it makes Ian my friend no matter what he is or what he was. We will find out the truth either way. We will help Ian discover who he used to be before his amnesia. I promised I would help Ian and that is what I plan to do. Now if you want to keep fighting, that’s fine. But you will have to go through all of us. You’re fast, but you’re not that fast. I don’t want to fight, but it’s up to you, Rosa. Make your move.”

Marilyn released her grip on the speedster and resumed the form of her namesake movie idol. She slowly backed away. Ian watched Rosa’s line of vision move back and forth between Stomp and himself. Ian braced himself for her strike.

She dropped her hands and shook her head. “I don’t want a fight. I came here to leave all that behind. But I still don’t trust that man.”

“What would you have me do?” Ian said. While Stomp’s words helped make him feel like he at least had friends, he couldn’t get over the feeling that Rosa was all too right about him. He was a monster, but how or why was he this thing?

“I wish I could give you answers, Rosa. But I really don’t have any memories of my time before this Lab. I could have been this Leech of yours. Or I could have just been a normal kid. Now I’m scared to ever go back to that, in case you are right. So what would you have me do?”

Ian panted, out of breath. He realized the rage he felt inside boiled out in his words as the others looked at him. But his focus remained on Rosa.

She just shook her head.

“This is getting us nowhere,” Cyrus said, finally breaking his silence. “We’re going to manage to nothing but get arrested if we stay here and argue.”

“That’s strange,” Alli said. “Where are the cops? They can’t be this slow.”

“Unless they were paid off,” Stomp said. “Maybe Ian was right about that too.”

Ian said nothing. There seemed no point now. He couldn’t even begin to consider his life, let alone anything else. Only the gnawing sensation that he was a beast, a horrible killer of dozens, maybe hundreds of people.

“I think it’s time we split up,” Cyrus said.

He turned to Rosa. “This Leech, could he steal energy, life, whatever from humans?”

Rosa shook her head.

“All right then.” Cyrus turned to Alli. “I would like you to take Ian in the Spirit-Mobile. Since you are a non-meta, he won’t be able to hurt you. Take him somewhere secure: your headquarters, your apartment, whatever.”

“We can see what we can dig up on this El Sanguijuelo,” Alli said. Ian saw she already had her cell out. She quickly entered and sent a text. Ian wondered what the heck it could be about.

“Rosa, I know you’re new to town,” Cyrus continued. “I want you to go with Stomp. He knows River City. He can show you around and keep close to you in case more of these goons are out there. We still don’t know what they wanted any of us for, but it couldn’t have been good.”

“What about me?” Marilyn said.

“You can come with me. I have a few ideas I want to cover with you.”

She looked around the destruction and back into the office.

“I hoped we could find out something about where I came from here.”

“We don’t need to find it here,” Alli said. “I had Peach copy Ian’s flash drive while he was out. She’s working on the decryption now. Hopefully we will find out what they know before they can come after us again.”

“That will work,” Cyrus said. “You and Ian can get to work on that.”

“I—” Ian looked at the others. He wanted to say something to comfort them, to allay their fears of him. But he didn’t even know how to calm himself.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “I didn’t mean to kill him.”

“We know,” Marilyn said. She looked past him, to Alli. “Take good care of Alli for me, okay?”

Ian could only nod as Alli grabbed his arm. She pulled him towards the door and away from the others. Away from everything.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

River City History: The Civil War and beyond

Finch would be one of the casualties in 1862, when an army of local Confederate sympathizers tried to take the city in the name of the south. Finch would be murdered at the hands of the group’s leader along with half a dozen other civic leaders. Finch’s granddaughter Esther would lead a group of local women in a short skirmish with the segregationists. Not a single man survived the incident still known as Finch’s Fury.

River City would suffer no other ills during the War Between the States. Esther served as de facto mayor during the war. She would marry Richard Candle upon his return from the war. Candle would take over as mayor, one of over a dozen mayors over the next thirty years.

With fertile land around it, River City quickly became a major shipping center on the Mississippi River. Alongside St. Louis, it would serve as one of the two greatest American river ports. By the 1880s, it had grown to be America’s sixth largest city but its growth came with much corruption and industrialization. The city quickly turned from fertile prairie to muddy dirt roads and dangerous industrial runoff.

The advent of rail brought a new path through River City, but it also increased the squalor of the city. Mordecai Finch, nephew of Esther and grandson of Jedediah, would lead the city in a series of breakthroughs by the late 1890s as he sought to modernize the city with asphalt roads, artificial lighting and the modern communication of the telephone. In the process, he would make a cleaner, stronger city.

Meanwhile, a series of citywide business reforms worked against Mordecai’s plans for the city. A young progressive named Geoffrey Wainwright would implement strong labor laws. These reforms ultimately would make city workers’ safer, but Wainwright quickly became despised when multiple businesses left the city for areas with more lax protections.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

River City History: The founding of River City

River City can trace its history back to the year 1817 and the early days of the United States’ western expansion. Located at the intersection of the Mississippi River with the west-bound Champion River, the city quickly grew as a waterway transport to the west.

The city was originally founded by explorers Lester Champion and Montgomery Rivers, a pair of Philadelphia based businessmen that set out to make their fortune after the War of 1812. Upon discovering the junction of the twin rivers, they quickly formed a trading post that the later town would sprout up around. Rivers would become the city’s first mayor as well as the owner of the trading post, hotel, saloon and brothel. Champion would remain in the city for several years before relocating to the city of Federation, where his family would gain greater fame.

The city continued to grow for the next two decades. While it remained a relatively peaceful locale for most of its history, scandal rocked the city in 1838 when Montgomery Rivers was murdered. A freed slave and local blacksmith named Morgan Smith was accused of the crime and hanged after a speedy trial. Even at the time, many considered Smith to be falsely accused for the crime. Rivers’ chief rival for River City’s business, Jedediah Finch, was suspected by many for orchestrating the crime, even as he swept the election for mayor in the wake of the crime.

Jedediah Finch would control the city single-handedly until Civil War rocked the United States.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 15. Ian

Ian disappeared as soon as the tornado struck the room. He felt the winds buffet the room and his natural instinct kicked in.

Something about the wind—and the unnatural force that created it—seemed all too familiar to Ian. Like any other stray inclination from his past, he couldn’t hope to place the feeling’s origins. He just knew it was something he felt he should know.

The cyclone ripped through the room and Ian realized the damage it done must have killed the devices that inhibited his powers here. He would need them. He needed to survive. He needed to escape.

It took him several long moments to overcome the all-consuming urge to run. But he had brought his friends in to this mess and he knew he would need to take it to the end, like it or not.

He was ready to show himself when the tornado turned back into a Mexican girl. Rosa Acevedo, just like her powers, seemed strangely familiar to Ian. He didn’t know why, but something deep inside told him to be wary of her. Ian remained invisible.

He hadn’t realized their attacker had escaped until he struck Cyrus. Ian listened carefully to Rosa’s description of Doppelganger’s powers. With them all here, this Doppelganger would be nearly unstoppable, but only if he knew which powers he had and when to use them.

Ian realized he might just be the only able to stop Doppelganger.

He waited for Rosa and Cyrus to strike back. He knew they did not stand a chance. Doppelganger was a trained killer that hopelessly outmatched them. But he knew that wouldn’t stop them. He knew they would try their best to win the fight.

The others were all easily too hurt or too confused to fight. Marilyn was still down from Doppelganger’s attack while Alli tended to her. Stomp sat in the corner of the room, a hand on his head, awake now but still clutching at the burn on his chest.

Cyrus lashed out with a sonic blast that distorted the room as it flew towards Doppelganger. Doppelganger waited to the last second to move away from the blast at high velocity. Rosa used his hubris to speed in herself, a blur striking out at another blur.

Doppelganger met her at the same speed. Ian could barely make out their strikes and parries, all flying at speeds nearly faster than the human eye. Suddenly Doppelganger’s arms shot out, stretching to two then three times their usual size. He was using Marilyn’s abilities now.

He wrapped Rosa up in his own arms, squeezing her like a python crushes his prey. Rosa struggled to escape his clutches.

Cyrus was on the other side of the room now, struggling to get Alli, Marilyn and Stomp back into action.

Still hidden from view, Ian ran towards Doppelganger. This was his chance—maybe his only one. He needed to strike and he needed to make it count.

Doppelganger was too proud of slowly crushing Rosa to use his super-speed. That worked to Ian’s favor. He had plenty of time to slowly and quietly work his way behind the villain. Doppelganger may have had speed and strength on his side, by Ian could still surprise him.

He lunged forward at the last moment, wrapping his hands around Doppelganger’s neck. He meant to throttle the power-mimic. But his hands and arms didn’t come down and lock in tight.

Instead they moved in a more natural way to him. His hands fell on each side of Doppelganger’s neck. His palms pressed into the skin there. If felt right. It felt perfect.

Suddenly, Ian was in heaven.

Doppelganger roared with pain. The pale man writhed as the veins throbbed beneath his skin. His body quickly fell into seizures. Within seconds, Doppelganger was on his knees. But Ian couldn’t—or wouldn’t, he wasn’t sure—release the hold.

He felt power rush through him. Strength like he never felt before. Finally Doppelganger’s eyes rolled into his head and his body pitched forward. He lay unmoving, perhaps dead. Ian wasn’t sure. Ian wasn’t sure he cared.

He only stood and stared at his hands. He didn’t know what he did to Doppelganger, but he couldn’t quite get over the joy and the horror of it. His body felt alive with energy he never dreamt, but the withered dead or dying body before him made him question everything he knew in his brief memories.

Marilyn, Alli and Stomp were all looking his way now. Cyrus rushed to his side.

“Ian, what did you do? Are you all right?”

Ian nodded, but gave no answer to the first question. He wasn’t sure he had one. Rosa was safe, but Ian couldn’t get over the looming despair he felt, the sense a dark revelation haunted him.

“You!” Rosa’s cry echoed through the room. Everyone turned towards her as she rose up. Her eyes were on Ian. They burned with rage, a fury filled with hat. She sped towards him, her words echoing off the walls.

You murderer!”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 14. Cyrus

The faceless man laughed a mirthless chuckle. “You want answers now, do you? And you think I’m just going to give them to you. I ain’t no snitch, kid, and I’ve met a lot tougher folks than you. Been beaten and broken more times than I can count. I’m untouchable. Unbreakable, at least as far as you’re concerned. You can’t make me talk.”

Cyrus smashed his fist against the other man’s cheek. He didn’t have time to play this fool’s games. He needed answers and he needed them now.

“Keep trying, kid.” He smiled through his broken, bloody teeth and half-formed lips. “But you ain’t going to beat nothing out of me. You can’t scare me. I’ve seen monsters twice as big as you and way more terrifying.”

Cyrus glanced back at the others for just a moment. They were glancing his way, but everyone else seemed more concerned with Garrett and Marilyn. Good. They didn’t need to see this. They couldn’t see this, not if he ever wanted to stay in this city. But he needed answers and this was the man that could give them to him.

He turned back towards the man. He dropped his voice low. “You’ve never met anyone like me.”

Cyrus’s eyes glowed as he felt the darkness rise in him. The pale man’s head beaded with sweat as they met eyes.

“I don’t know nothing about you, kid,” he said. “All I got is a list of names and powers. I know they wanted to duplicate your abilities somehow, but I don’t got a clue where you came from and don’t really care.”

“Who are you?”

“I used to have a name decades ago, but for as long as I remember, folks just called me Doppelganger.”

“Doppelganger, where is she? Where is Rosa Acevedo?”

“She’s in the other chamber,” he said quickly, panic evident in his voice. “There’s a wall between the two. The other lab is only accessible through the back gate. We set it up that way in case any freaks tried to rush to the rescue.”

Cyrus growled at the psychopath. He wanted to tear Doppelganger’s throat out. Watch him bleed out on the floor. He deserved that. He deserved every ounce of pain Cyrus could give him as he watched the bastard slowly die.

Cyrus breathed in deeply. The power threatened to consume him, but he willed it back downward. He knew its power, what threat came with its use. He fought it back, willing it down to the core of his soul. He forced it back into the pit deep in his soul where it rested.

The monster was buried again. He hoped it would never be released again.

But he also knew it was already too late. Unleashing the darkness would be like a beacon. They would know where he was. His family knew his location. He didn’t have much time.

“How do we open it? How do we get in?”

“You have to enter through the loading bays in back,” the pale man said. “One of the garage doors opens on to a different area and you can get in through there. But you can’t get in. It is DNA coded so that—”

The room shook violently, like it was struck by a massive earthquake.

Cyrus lost his footing, falling away from the trapped armored man. He hit the floor hard, even as he saw the others fall around him.

The walls seemed to crumple around them. Winds broke through the wall, raining circuitry and plaster everywhere.

Cyrus looked up to see the whole wall shattered. He could see through to a separate hall. It was broken and heavily damaged, but was nearly identical to the one they were in.

A whirlwind of dirt and debris filled the other hall. It slowed and deep within it, a female form slowly came in to view.

She stood in a tattered blouse and slacks. Her feet were bare, her long dark hair hung wildly about her head.

Cyrus slowly climbed to his feet. “Rosa Acevedo, I presume?”

“Who are you? How do you know me?” She spoke with the barest hint of a Mexican accent. English wasn’t her first language, but she spoke it well. Certainly better than Cyrus could speak Spanish.

“My name is Cyrus. My allies and I are here to rescue you. We’re here to help.”

“What? Why? Are you River City’s local crimefighters?”

“We’re just people,” Cyrus said. “People with special abilities that were made in to targets by these monsters.”

“Monsters,” Rosa said. She looked around wildly. “Where is Doppelganger?”

Cyrus and Rosa both turned to the wall where Doppelganger hung just moments before. The remnants of the glue remained, but Doppelganger was gone.

Cyrus turned back to Rosa. “How? Where?”

A blur sped towards Cyrus, just slow enough to catch his eye, but far too fast for him to react. He was struck hard in the chest and immediately staggered back at the blow. Two more quick strikes landed in succession. Cyrus stumbled, but refused to fall.

The blur passed him as fast as it came. It stopped only when it reached the other side of the hall, past both him and the others. Doppelganger smiled a malicious grin, his half-formed lips curling as if in rigor mortis. He sped forward again, but slower this time, slow enough for Cyrus to see him coming. And to see the fist aimed directly at his head.

Something struck him from the left and Cyrus sprawled hard to the floor. He caught only a blur of motion as he looked up. He realized it was Rosa. She possessed some kind of super-speed power just like this Doppelganger.

She sped down around Doppelganger, but dodged the high-speed blows from her foe. A second later, the blur had stopped and she was helping Cyrus to his feet.

“We need to go,” Rosa said. “We don’t stand a chance otherwise.”

“What?”

“He duplicates our powers,” Rosa said. “He’s mimicking them all at once. My speed is only the beginning. Within seconds, he will have an entire arsenal of abilities from you and your friends.”

Doppelganger stood across the room as Cyrus met his eyes. Cyrus could tell the villain knew Rosa’s words. His evil glee made that plainly clear.

Strength from Stomp, speed from Rosa, stretching from Marilyn, Ian’s illusions and his own sonic abilities—how could they ever beat this man?

He glanced around the room at his allies. They all stood at the edges of the room, none of them quite sure what to do. All of them, but one.

Where was Ian?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 13. Rosa

Rosa heard the fight even through the soundproofing of the walls. She knew someone was here and she could only hope they were here to save her. She wondered if it was Suicido or Dragonfly, but she then remembered that neither hero knew where she was. She planned it that way on purpose. She regretted that decision now.

Of course, they could have always still kept an eye on her. It wasn’t like her “aunts” and “uncles” weren’t known to put loved ones under surveillance. She remembered with crystal clarity the day she first learned Laser-Eye kept a HUD in his helmet with a constant feed to his home. He even had a floating surveillance bug that followed his wife and children to work and school.

It could be anyone of them, but she couldn’t be sure until they found her.

“I’m here,” she yelled. “I’m here!”

She doubted they could hear her. Investigador would have been able to find her in seconds, but he was dead and buried. He wasn’t coming back. She saw what little was left of him after The Leech was done with him.

Rosa knew that even in the aftermath of the fight, even if whoever was out there beat Doppelganger, it could still be hours until they might find her in this room.

She needed to make herself known. She needed to get their attention. She needed to break free. But she couldn’t use her powers outside this room. She couldn’t just walk out.

But maybe, just maybe, she could bring someone to her.

She took a few moments to examine the blank walls of the room. They were all concrete, unlike the halls, but they also didn’t have any of the power dampening effects that were also out there. She knew that might be her key.

Doppelganger knew her, but didn’t know all the tricks her mother taught her. He might just not know this one.

She stood up, closed her eyes and started to spin around in place. Her speed quickly ripped well past two hundred kilometers an hour. At that speed, the vortex quickly started to swirl around her.

Within thirty seconds, a mini-tornado spun around her. She concentrated and focused her spin up and out.

She hoped she was good enough at this that her aim would be true as she felt the room shake. She focused her attention to the ceiling and let the vortex arch upward.

The ceiling crumbled even as she turned her body and aimed the destructive wind tunnel forward and towards the door. The metal bent and buckled under the hurricane force winds. It crumpled in before it flew out into the hall.

The door ricocheted across the walls, tearing large gashes in the padding. The force of the winds did even more damage. The lights exploded and the walls cracked and splintered at the impact.

The continued winds completed the damage. It tore the hallway apart, finally bearing a layer of circuitry deeply embedded inside.

The winds ripped still, finally pulling at the circuitry as it echoed down the hall. She hoped whoever was here heard the din of the storm. But she wasn’t stopping. She felt her control weaken, but if she kept up the winds, she hoped she could also destroy the power dampeners.

She screamed as she spun out into the hallway. The vortex destroyed everything around her, but it didn’t stop.

The dampeners were gone, damaged beyond repair, even as the walls exploded around her.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 12. Ian

Ian slowly struggled awake. As his vision gradually returned, he stared up in to the face of an angel. She was brown-haired, cut in to a sloppy bob that looked perfect over her thick-rimmed glasses. A stud sparkled in her nose, as did another in her tongue as she smiled.

“Hey,” she said. “You’re finally awake.” She wiped his head with a lukewarm cloth.

“Where am I?”

“Oh, sorry. I forget we haven’t met yet. You’re at Spirit Cop Incorporated.” Her voice changed as she spoke the last three words, suddenly taking a higher lilt as if promoting something. “I’m Peach. I answer the phone when it rings and handle all of Ms. Finch’s paperwork and books. Not to mention nurse unconscious but kind of cute boys back to health.”

“Um, thanks,” Ian said. “The last thing I remember—” He clutched his forehead as a wave of nausea rolled up from his stomach.

“You collapsed in some girl’s apartment. Alli and your friends brought you here. They seemed a bit paranoid about bringing you to the hospital, so I got nurse duties.”

“Thanks for that. I don’t know what happened.”

“It’s no problem. I can use the extra cash from Ms. Finch for working overtime.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Ian wasn’t quite sure why he was disappointed she was being paid to watch him. But then again she did say she thought he was cute. Maybe…

He shook the thought away as Peach wiped his forehead again.

“Well you look like you’re going to be fine. As fine as I can make anyone anyway. Like I told that Stomp guy, you probably should get a CT scan. Make sure nothing is rattling loose up there.”

“Loose? I don’t—”

“Sorry, just a joke.”

“Ok, okay. I guess I’m still a bit lost after my fall.”

“Do you remember anything? Why you might have suddenly collapsed? What caused the sudden pain?”

He racked his brains. It hurt and the nauseous feeling in his stomach rose once more, but it slowly started to come back to him.

“I-I think I do, but I need to tell everyone.”

* * *

Garrett, Cyrus, Marilyn and Alli joined Peach as they gathered around Ian’s bed. They all needed to hear what he had to say. Maybe he could convince at least one of them he wasn’t crazy.

“I… I had a vision. I know it sounds crazy, but I can remember it as vividly as every other second of the last day. It was as real as this speech I’m making right now.”

Ian paused, ready to hear whatever argument they might have against his words. He expected at least one of them to immediately tell him he was crazy. None of them said anything.

Did they really believe him? Or did they just find it easy to suspend their disbelief after the last day? Ian couldn’t be sure, but he would take it either way.

“I saw the building. The one I ran away from, before I stumbled on to Garrett’s house. I saw it vividly, more vividly than I ever saw it when I escaped that night. I saw the armored men as they drove past the front of it and around the back. It was an unmarked van, the kind of thing you see the cops in at the movies.

“It looked just like an office complex, totally unassuming, albeit rather large for an office park. They pulled up to a loading garage in the back and just drove right in. They had a girl with them. As they got out, I saw they had a girl with them, unconscious. I think it was Rosa.

“But that’s not all I saw. As they pulled towards the building, I saw the street signs outside. I think I know where they are, where they are holding Rosa.”

“Wait,” Alli said. “They’re still where you left them? Why wouldn’t they pack up in case you called the police?”

Ian shook his head. “I can’t say for sure. But maybe they police are in on it. I mean, wouldn’t you think someone would have reported the attacks on our houses? Strange armored men roaming the streets?”

“Look,” Stomp said. “I know we’ve all seen and done some crazy things. And we’ve all walked some strange paths. But do we really think we’re ready to walk in to some villain factory? We’re not fighters. We’re just a bunch of kids barely out of our teens.

“We can’t go to the cops,” Cyrus said. “Ian’s right. It’s clear that while they might not be involved directly with this, someone is pulling their strings. Whoever this group is that kidnapped Ian and now Rosa, they are our problem.”

“So what then?” Stomp said. “What would you have us do?”

“Ready or not, we fight.”

“Are you crazy?”

Stomp’s words hung over the room. To Ian, they felt like a vice around his neck. He ran from that place for a reason. Even with the thought of a woman in trouble there, he could only feel sheer terror at the idea of ever returning.

“What choice do we have?” Cyrus’s words broke the long silence. “They know where we live. They know who we are. We know nothing. Honestly, how long will it take them to track us here, really? It would be only a matter of time until they connect Alli to Marilyn. We’ve got two choices. We walk in there and give ourselves up or we fight. And I don’t give up.”

“It’s suicide!” Stomp’s words echoed off the walls.

“Maybe it is,” Ian said. His voice was soft, but stern. “But our only chance now is to stop them. We’re going to that place and we’re going to save Rosa.”

 * * *

Peach gave Ian a kiss on the cheek, even as the others piled into the Spirit-Mobile. He wasn’t sure if she meant it as a friendly gesture, a wish of good luck before he walked into danger, or as something more, but he knew he liked it. It helped him fight the fear that threatened to send his body into nervous chaos.

“Are you going to be all right for this?” Stomp’s question pulled Ian back to reality. “Vision of the future or whatever, you took a pretty nasty spill less than a day ago.”

Ian realized for the first time that he lost most of a day after his sudden bout with clairvoyance. It was nearly evening now, just as it was when he fell the day before. He thought when he first awoke he had lost an hour, maybe two, not more than half a day.

“I’ll be fine,” Ian said. “I just need to avoid any more premonitions.”

Alli and Marilyn again took the front seats, leaving the boys in the back. Ian climbed in after Cyrus. Stomp was the last to climb into the vehicle. This time everyone sat quietly, unsure of what to say.

Save one.

“Come on already,” Marilyn said. She seemed happy, almost joyous. “I can’t wait to meet this Rosa.”

The others could only stare at her. Alli just shook her head as they pulled out on to the street.

They drove the five minutes between Spirit Cop Headquarters and the enemy’s location in silence. It seemed strange to Ian as they weaved through the roads that the people that wiped his memories could be so near. Only a few dozen blocks separated last night’s resting place from his former captors.

As they slowly drove past it, the building looked exactly like his vision. It was just another generic office complex marked only as Greer Plaza.

Alli pulled the Spirit-Mobile in front of the building. Everyone turned to him.

“Yeah, this is it.”

Ian took a moment to look over each of his allies. Stomp fidgeted and slowly drummed his fingers against his pants. Cyrus sat with his eyes closed, as if in prayer or meditation.

Up front, Marilyn barely could contain herself. She seemed too excited to know any fear. She bounced up and down in her seat.

Next to her, Alli hadn’t taken her hands off the wheel, even a full minute after she parked the car on the street across from Greer Plaza.

“I don’t like this,” she said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it before I lose all will to make this happen. I—I’m scared.”

They walked in to the front door as a unit. Alli, her Sticky Gun, holstered still, looked even more nervous than Ian. She dealt with ghosts on a daily basis without batting an eyelash, but perhaps the chance of physical danger was just a little too much for her.

Her clear sense of worry comforted Ian in a way. Seeing her, he knew his fear wasn’t as unnatural as it felt. It wasn’t some strange over-reaction to his memory loss or some side effect. It was just his survival instincts in overdrive.

Stomp took the lead, throwing open the front door. He walked with a purpose, the ground almost shaking under his super-strong legs.

They walked straight through the small lobby towards the large reception desk. A young woman looked up at them. She wore designer business attire, but couldn’t have been any older than they were. She was obviously a bit surprised by the sudden disturbance.

“Where is she?” Cyrus said.

“I’m sorry sir,” the receptionist responded. “I’m not sure to whom you’re referring.”

“Rosa Acevedo. Where is she?”

“There’s no one by that name here, sir. Is there a specific office you’re looking to visit?”

The room shook as Cyrus slammed his open hands down on the desk.

The receptionist stared at Cyrus. Her friendly, aloof grin was gone, replaced by an angry glare.

“You should give up now before you get hurt.”

Cyrus grabbed her blouse and pulled her in close. “Who are you? How do you know me?”

His voice echoed around the room.

Ian looked to the others. He wasn’t sure if Cyrus would hurt the woman or not.

The woman laughed.

“You’re just tools. You are just a source of power, just a list of random names for us to draw power from. You mean nothing.”

The twin doors behind her opened. Over a dozen of men, all attired in familiar suits of armor, poured out into the lobby.

Ian vanished from the room. He couldn’t help it. It remained his natural reaction to sudden danger, his natural reaction to the fear that gripped him.

Marilyn was the first to react. So light hearted in all their interactions, she moved with a savage fury. Her body suddenly changed as she turned. Her movie icon image vanished. In its place was a stretched out image of a woman. She formed a wall between her new friends and the soldiers. When the armed men opened fire, Marilyn’s expanded form caught the projectiles and stretched to absorb their impact. Her form worked like a spring. The bullets flew back at the men that fired them.

The rounds struck three of the armed men. Their velocity couldn’t have been as great as when fired and they didn’t seem to pierce any armor. But the impact was enough to drop them hard to their backs.

Cyrus stepped forward, past the wall. The front of his body seemed to shake, waiver in and out of existence. Ian realized this was a sound distortion just moments before Cyrus hurled the projectile of solid sound. It took out two more of the guards.

With half their ranks already depleted, the soldiers were on the run. Ian realized with some level of shock that they were actually winning.

Ian knew he couldn’t let his new friends face this battle on their own, winning or not. He couldn’t just stand on the sidelines. He needed to help.

He remembered the fight in Cyrus’s apartment. He knew he could use his invisibility to his advantage. He snuck up towards the nearest guard, sneaking behind the man as he worked his way around Marilyn’s shield. Just as the soldier raised his rifle to fire at Alli, Ian leaped on his back. The sudden impact ended Ian’s illusion, but it also forced the armored man’s shot towards the ground. It struck harmlessly against the floor and only served to draw Alli’s attention.

She turned towards them. Ian dove out of the way just before she blasted the guard.

Ian fell to the floor, struck suddenly from behind. He tumbled to the ground, even as he heard the rounds soar past his head.

“Dude, we aren’t made for this.”

Stomp was on top of him. Despite his dislike for danger, Stomp had saved Ian. Garrett had saved his life. But he also wasn’t moving. He was staying there, over Ian, seemingly afraid to move.

“We need to be here. We need to find Rosa. Now you need to fight!”

Garrett glared down at him.

“Stomp, help us!”

With a roar, Garrett bounded up and away. He smashed into the final two guards. The blow crushed their armor and sent them sprawling to the ground, almost certainly injured.

“Is that it?” Marilyn said. Her body slowly shifted back into the familiar curves of her human form. “Did we win?”

“I don’t know,” Ian said. “But we clearly found the right place. They obviously came from here, but we still can’t be sure they have Rosa here. Not until we find her.”

“I don’t—” Garrett stopped short and shook his head. “Let’s go.”

Stomp took the lead, running through the same twin doors their attackers entered through just minutes ago.

Ian didn’t expect what they found as they passed through the doors. It was an office, just rows of desks and chairs. All sat empty, despite it being midday. They seemed completely incongruous with the injured and unconscious men in the lobby.

“This isn’t right,” Ian said. “This isn’t what was here. This isn’t what I saw.”

“Look around,” Cyrus said. “It’s the middle of the day. But this office is empty. The guards we just fought had to be manning these desks, acting as everyday office stiffs in case anything went wrong. All this is just a cover for something else. It’s another damn lie.”

He looked around the room for several long seconds. His eyes finally settled on the far wall from their entryway. It was long and blank, filled with a series of white boards, motivational posters and the like. He threw his hands out and an explosive wave of sonic energy launched forth.

The wall exploded.

A massive hole filled the back of the room. The hall was dark, but Ian immediately recognized it. It echoed his earliest memories. He could barely grasp that the dark tunnels could be hidden behind an ordinary everyday office wall.

He knew this corridor with intimate detail. It haunted his thoughts, phantom images of it echoed through his mind as he walked through the damaged hole into it.

He fought the urge to vanish again. He could not disappear now. He owed it to his friends—and himself—to finish this. It’s time to move past the fear, he told himself. It was time to face up to his origins.

He wasn’t going to leave without Rosa.

Ian walked down the familiar hall. The door across from the broken wall opened into the tiny office from which he first retrieved the flash drive. The computer was still there, but it was off and unplugged from the wall.

His head turned to his left as he exited the room. He looked down the hall and the door on the far end. He withstood the urge to shudder at the sight of it.

He pointed to it. “In there.”

“Are you sure?” Cyrus said.

“That’s where it all started. Maybe it’s where they put Rosa too.”

They walked down the narrow hall, one at a time. Ian took the lead, followed by Cyrus, Marilyn and Alli. Stomp took up the rear. Ian saw him look around, clearly on edge.

Laughter stopped their progress in their tracks. It came from an intercom, but Ian saw no sign of speakers, cameras or other sources for the sound.

“Welcome,” the voice said. It was male and felt vaguely familiar to Ian, as if he knew it from somewhere before his memory loss. “It’s so good of all of you to come here to us. It saves us the trouble of finding you.”

“Who are you?” Marilyn’s words echoed through the hall. “What do you want from us?”

“Your wish is my command.”

The door in front of them opened. A single man stood there, dressed in purple armor and holding a rifle.

Garrett dove forward and drove his foot hard in to the floor. Ian braced himself as Stomp moved. He knew to expect the shake. It failed to even make a noise.

“What the hell?”

Stomp’s words seemed to echo down the hall as the armored man chuckled. He took aim with the rifle. The blast struck Stomp in the chest. The impact took Garrett off his face. He smashed down hard on to his back. He didn’t move again, unconscious or worse.

Marilyn moved forward and spread her arms. Nothing happened. She looked at her limbs, confused. The armored man answered her with another blast from his weapon.

Ian imagined a change of scenery, an illusion of an amusement park, hoping that it might baffle their foe. But the illusion refused to take hold. It seemed obvious to Ian what was happening, even though he couldn’t imagine how it was happening. It seemed clear that their powers were not working.

“He’s blocking us,” Ian said. “Somehow he can stop our powers.”

The armored man laughed.

“Unfortunately it also blocks my own abilities as well. However a good suit of armor and a blaster is more than enough for me to beat a bunch of punk kids. What did you think you all would do? Come in here, smash the place up and make some kind of heroic rescue? You’re just a bunch of little idiots!”

The words stung, but Ian knew he was right. He had been naïve, hoped for the best. He had let his friends straight into a trap.

“We need to run,” Ian told the others. “We can’t win here. He’ll kill us.”

“Fuck that,” Alli said. “We ain’t giving up now.”

She pushed past Marilyn, raised her Sticky-Gun and immediately fired. The armored man raised his own weapon, but it was already too late.

The Sticky-Gun’s large round projectile smashed into his chest and exploded. It expanded across his chest like an airbag. Within seconds it covered all his chest plate, both arms and the top halves of his legs.

The blaster was still free, but he could not bring it around to target anyone. They just needed to stay out of his firing range and he was immobilized.

Ian couldn’t believe his eyes. A second ago, he thought they were gone. Now he stared at their would-be captor, trapped and unable to escape. They beat them.

Cyrus charged towards their attacker.

Cyrus smashed his forearm into the armored man’s head. He yanked the helmet free and immediately stepped back at the sight that greeted him.

The man under the armor barely had a face. Blank lidless eyes, two slits for a nose and a mouth without lips sat upon blank gray skin. He looked like some horrific burn victim, his skin dead and his features gone.

Cyrus quickly regained his composure. Ian guessed this wasn’t the first degen he ever laid eyes on. “Who are you? What do you want with me?”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Interlude II

1862, The Municipality of Federation

 The stranger walked through the edge of the fray. Smoke was everywhere as the blue and the gray fired their rifles wildly at one another.

He found the entire conflict foolish. The South fought for a way of life dying around the whole world, one that even in victory, it seemed doubtful they could maintain for more than a decade or two longer. The North fought for some false sense of nationalistic pride, the kind of thinking that only ever seemed to lead to death. It was all very extreme and unnecessary.

But it did bring out his prey.

His target probably didn’t even understand his powers. He probably just thought himself stronger and faster, a lucky man skilled in combat, even as tales of his martial prowess rang through the North’s forces. It didn’t matter to the stranger what the man thought of himself though, nor did the battle really worry him as he sauntered across the battlefield.

He kept low and used the smoke and dirt in the air to hide from detection. It proved all too easy to move amidst the chaos and make his way towards the powerhouse on the field.

The soldier ran through a confederate with his bayonet as though he ran a hot knife through butter, even as the stranger stalked up behind him.

The stranger wrapped his hands around the man’s neck from behind. Instantly the stranger felt the surge of power rush through his frame. He could only laugh as anarchy reigned around him.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 11. Rosa

She awoke on a cold hard slab. Rosa tried to move, but she was stuck fast by the bindings that held her arms and legs in place. With time she might be able to vibrate her way free—if she had that time.

She looked around the room. It wasn’t more than five meters by five meters. A single door was barely visible towards her feet. Otherwise the room seemed empty.

Even the lighting above was ambient. Clearly the room seemed designed to keep her in place with no hope for escape. But clearly her captors didn’t know her that well. She wasn’t going to be beaten that easily.

She closed her eyes and concentrated. Her body started to shake as she vibrated each arm at speeds faster than the human eye could detect. The vibrations quickly worked to stretch the leather of her bindings. She felt them cut in to her skin as she continued the repetitive motion, but she ignored the pain. In a matter of a few seconds, the leather started to loosen.

She yanked her arms free of the bindings. Blood flowed from her wrists, but the wounds weren’t deep enough to worry her.

She worked the straps off her legs. Her entire body ached and she wondered how long she had been out.

She put her naked feet down on the floor…

…and less than a second later, she was at the door. She tried the handle and was surprised to find it unlocked. Did they trust the slab enough to keep her from leaving?

She opened the door and ran into the hall. Only she didn’t do it at super speed. As she passed in to the hallway, she almost fell over her feet.

Her speed was gone. Somehow they were negating her powers.

She looked around the blank hall. A single door sat to her left and another to her right. Another three doors formed a triangle at the far end of the hall, maybe twenty meters away. None of them were marked, but her vision of them also seemed blurred. Everything seemed out of focus from a distance.

She realized it must be related to her powers’ sudden disappearance. Perhaps she was naturally a bit nearsighted, but her body’s natural design to work at speeds faster than a human could move also came with other adaptations. The powers gave her better vision, hearing and beyond, all as a way to allow her to function while operating at full speed or underwater.

Dios mio.

“Don’t feel bad, Waterspeed.” The voice echoed over a speaker system. She looked around but saw no sign of their source, again embedded somewhere in the walls of the hallway, invisible to sight. Wherever they were, she recognized Doppelganger’s voice.

“You never stood a chance against me after all. I’m Doppelganger, not some chump off the street.”

“I don’t know how you found me, but you’re not taking me back to Mexico! This is my home now!”

Doppelganger’s laugh echoed off the walls. “I have no interested in taking you back to Mexico. Not for now, at least.”

“What are you saying?” Rosa said. She didn’t like Doppelganger’s amusement one bit. He was a cold-blooded killer. His sense of humor was not what she wished to be on the wrong side of.

“I am saying that I have no intent in returning you to your owner. I am working strictly freelance here in River City. Whether you believe it or not, our meeting is coincidental at best. But I will say when I saw your name on the list, I knew who I wanted to catch.”

“List? What list?”

“Now that would be telling? You will meet your new friends soon enough.”

“Show yourself. Fight me, damn it!”

Doppelganger’s laughter just echoed off the walls as Rosa heard the hiss of gas flowing in to the hall.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 10. Alli

Alli couldn’t get over how infuriating this Greek asshole was. She wanted to just pop him with the Sticky Gun. Leave his ass hanging at the door to drown in his own pretension.

A hand gently fell on her shoulder. She turned and screamed, “What the hell do you—?”

Marilyn drew back, scared at the anger directed towards her.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Marilyn. I didn’t mean to—”

Marilyn shook her head. She spoke softly. “I understand. I just wanted to calm you down. We have to work together if we’re going to stop whoever’s behind this. Can you calm down?”

Alli nodded.

She took a deep breath as they waited for the elevator. She still wanted to lay out Cyrus, but she made a promise to Marilyn and she would keep it. Didn’t mean she had to like it though.

The elevator dinged and opened. Alli was the first on. She leaned against the back wall as the rest of this strange crew boarded. Marilyn came next, followed by Cyrus and Stomp. The kid that started this whole mess slinked in last. Ian looked nervous, but Alli wasn’t sure if it was from the chance of an impending fight or being around so many other people. He seemed like the type that wasn’t really good at playing with others.

Cyrus pressed the button and the elevator door closed.

Alli kept the Sticky Gun at a forty-five degree angle, ready to rise and fire should the need arise. She was the last off the elevator. Cyrus and Stomp already had the sides of the elevator under guard, but she knew it could never be safe enough in situations like this. Too many chance encounters with poltergeists taught her that.

She checked the numbers on the nearest apartment doors and used them to determine they needed to take a left down the hall.

She made it only a couple steps before a door opened just ahead. She raised the Sticky Gun and took aim.

An older woman, maybe in her seventies, stepped out of her apartment. She looked at Alli and the massive barrel aimed at her face. Strangely she didn’t seem afraid so much as relieved.

“Oh, can I help you, young lady?”

Alli quickly lowered the weapon. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’m just a little jumpy.”

“Is this about the nice girl in 4C and that man that took her?”

Alli looked to the others.

“Yes, yes it is.”

“They just looked like terrible, terrible men. Dressed from head to toe in some strange clothes too. It looked like that stuff they were on the television. CSI, NCIS, all those things you know.”

Alli glanced back at Ian, before she turned back to the woman.

“Ma’am, did they wear masks or helmets? Like riot gear?”

“Well, I’m not sure exactly what you mean, young lady.”

“Where their faces covered?” Cyrus said behind her. Alli felt her annoyance with the man boil to the surface again, but she chewed her lip rather than say anything.

“Oh, yes. They were very strange. They sort of looked like police, but they didn’t act like them at all. And the one, he seemed to glow. They hit that girl so hard. I mean, I’ve heard the talk of police brutality, but it was like he was one of them there super-people on the television.”

“He was metahuman,” Alli said.

“Yeah, yes, that’s what they call them.”

“Any idea where they went?”

The older woman shook her head. “I didn’t stick around to watch. I was afraid they might see me. So I went and called the police. I didn’t think they believed me on the phone, at least until I saw you. They just said what they always do.”

Alli realized that she thought they were police officers, but decided it was best to play along. “What’s that?”

“‘Ms. Nickelson, I’m sure it’s nothing. You can’t call us all the time.’ Blah blah blah. It’s always the same thing from them.”

Great, I’m dealing with a crank, Alli thought.

“All the time?” she said.

“Oh, yes. Some ruffian is always running around downstairs or selling drugs on the curb across the street. But the police almost never respond. I don’t think are very good at their jobs. You should tell them that when you get back to the station.”

“Yes, we will tell them,” Alli said, keeping up the façade. “I’ll make sure they get the message.”

“Can you show us to Rosa’s apartment?” Alli asked. “We just want to take a look for any clues.”

Ms. Nickelson pointed to the door across the hall from her and two doors down. Alli walked to the door. Cyrus and the others followed her towards it.

They stopped in front of the door. It was immediately apparent they door had been broken. While it was shut, the lock hung sideways and the door swung easily open.

Alli raised her Sticky Gun to the ready. She slowly pushed the door open.

The apartment was empty. Only a few suitcases sat inside the door. An air mattress was inflated in the middle of the room.

“Looks like she was new in town,” Stomp said.

“Or just poor,” Alli said.

“This part of won, it’s probably the former,” Cyrus interjected. Alli again chewed her lip.

Marilyn rested a hand on her shoulder. As they met eyes, she gave Alli a brief smile. Alli felt herself relax at her girlfriend’s simple touch.

A brief search of the room’s contents found nothing more. The suitcases were filled with clothes and a few knick-knacks. A few hundred dollars were hidden below a silverware tray in the kitchenette. Otherwise the apartment was empty.

“Great,” Cyrus said. “We lost the last name on our list and have no clue as to where to go.”

“What do we do then?” Marilyn said.

“We could head back to one of the other apartments,” Stomp said. “Maybe we can get information from one of the guys we left concussed back there.”

“Or we could find twenty more of them waiting for us,” Cyrus said. “It would be too dangerous.”

“Well, I don’t see you sharing a better idea,” Stomp said. “All you ever seem to do is tear down our ideas. So give us a plan, Mister Bigshot.”

Cyrus opened his mouth and seemed ready to speak. Alli wondered what line of bullshit he would give this time, but Cyrus just shook his head and said nothing.

They all looked at one another.

“AAAAAH!”

Ian suddenly collapsed to his knees beside Stomp. He clutched his skull with his hands as his eyes teared up. His scream cut through the room for several long seconds as they rushed to his side.

His scream strangled to silence as he fell face first to the floor.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 9. Cyrus

“So that’s my story,” Garrett said. “It isn’t exactly the happiest tale I can tell, but it’s my life. I do what I can for my city and try to enjoy every day of life I have lived after that.”

“Wow,” Marilyn said. “That’s something. Do you think these Vivisectors might be behind the attacks?”

Cyrus watched Garrett shake his head. “Everything online about them says they fake disasters to take their subjects. I doubt they would ever use men to capture them. I don’t even think they look at humans as worth the effort to communicate. Besides, there are no reports of them ever going after an escaped subject a second time. They already learned what they wanted when they cut me to pieces.”

Cyrus scoffed at this. He had heard enough.

“What?”

“You’re just willing to leave those monsters out there? They gave you powers, abilities far beyond any human and you use them like a glorified carnie. The people that tortured you, that killed your father and neighbors, are still out there, still taking people, and you do nothing.”

“I’m not a fighter,” Garrett said. “I’m just a man, even with these powers.”

“Excuses,’ Cyrus said.

“I don’t see you out helping people with those sound blasts of yours.”

“I… I have my reasons.”

“Reasons,” Garrett said. “You gonna share some of those, dude?”

“I—” Cyrus stopped talking. He couldn’t afford to give anything else away. He already shouldn’t even be out with these people. He should be on his way out of town, on his way to another city. Even now, they could be looking for him. But something made him want to stay here.

Something told him this is where he needed to be. He wasn’t sure if it was some outside force or just his own conscious. He only hoped this intuition wouldn’t get him killed.

“Lay off the guy,” Alli said. “Besides, we’re here.”

Cyrus looked out the window of the car. The apartment complex outside was a bit newer in design than his own home at Reagan Avenue. It was the kind of place where no one expected much trouble, even though the income level of its residents wasn’t much past his home. It was just a run of the mill, lower middle class kind of place.

Just the kind of place he looked for in his never-ending quest to avoid his parents. He wondered what that meant for the history of this Rosa Acevedo.

Was she like him? Did she have reasons she didn’t want to be found? And did the reasons make this situation all that much more of a concern?

If he was successfully hiding from his parents, how had this organization, whoever they were, found him?

The others were already out of the car. Marilyn leaned down in front of his window. Her ample chest hung out of her low cut top in front of him. He couldn’t help but notice them.

“You coming?”

Cyrus shook off his funk. He needed to focus if he was going to find answers.

“Yeah, sorry.” He quickly climbed out of the back of the idiotically named Spirit-Mobile.

Alli was already at the front doors. They were locked from the outside. To the right, unlabeled doorbells, marked only by their numbers, were the only means of entry without a key.

“Well, damn, how are we supposed to get in?”

Cyrus looked at the others, hoping one had an answer to Ian’s question.

“I could break it down,” Garrett said. “But I would rather avoid breaking any more laws.”

Cyrus shook his head. “I got this.”

He walked up to the door and closely examined the lock. It was a flimsy set-up without even a deadbolt. They would save that for the individual apartment doors.

He touched the handle, closed his eyes and touched the handle. He let the vibrations slowly emanate from his hand. He felt them reverberate off the lock. Slowly it formed a pattern in his head. He concentrated and the vibrations slowly formed into a solid shape. Within a matter of seconds, he turned the key of pure force with his mind. The lock clicked open.

The door swung open and he quickly grabbed it to hold it there. He gave Marilyn a smile. “Ladies first.”

Alli took point as they entered. She held some kind of over-sized gun that Cyrus couldn’t hope to recognize. She kept it down and forward, just like the cops on every television show Cyrus could remember.

“What is that thing?” He entered right after her, next to Marilyn, a position he quite liked.

“It’s my Sticky Gun,” Alli said. “It’s incredibly convenient for my line of work. The compound I use is designed to work against incorporeal and corporeal entities. Spirit or human, the glue can stop and contain pretty much anyone or anything. It will work way better than the Spirit Shock, that’s for sure.”

“You really buy in to this ghost hunting game of yours, don’t you?”

“It isn’t a game,” she said. Anger was apparent with every word. “I’m very serious about my business.”

“I’ve seen you on television. You treat it like a game, whether you say so or not. You’re playing with forces far beyond your ken. There’s danger in that, great danger.”

Alli turned and glared daggers at him. “Don’t question how I do my job ever. I don’t come around and get in your business, so don’t get in to mine. You don’t know anything about what I do, so stop playing like you do.”

Cyrus said nothing else. He had said too much already. He risked exposing himself completely should he continue the conversation.

He looked away from her and studied the mailboxes just inside the door. He found one marked Acevedo.

“This is the place.”

“That’s it?” Alli said. “You’re just going to go quiet and change the subject?”

Cyrus glanced her way. “You made your position clear, as have I. Further confrontation helps neither of us.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 8. Stomp

The Spirit-Mobile was just big enough to fit all five of them as they took the drive across the city. The vehicle was really just a simple Scion decked out with a Spirit Cop logo and phone number, but Alli already corrected him once over the name of the car.

Up front, Alli drove and Marilyn rode next to her. They had recruited the two with little time for introduction or explanation. He wondered about the blonde’s story. Why would anyone want to look that much like Marilyn Monroe, even taking the name? If her tube top wasn’t so revealing, Garret might have thought she was a transvestite, as the only other people he knew that spent that much time dressed as Monroe were all dudes. He could see enough of her breasts even from the back seat to tell she was all real.

Garrett wondered what sent him on this fool’s errand in the first place. He wasn’t a hero at all. When he first dubbed himself Stomp and started to help out around the community, this was the kind of thing he expressly set out to avoid. His body still ached from the fight at Cyrus’s apartment, yet here he was riding towards another fight. He had strength, but he wasn’t trained to fight. He could barely throw a punch. He was as likely to hurt those around him as he was any enemy. Even Ian was better under pressure than he was.

Their path through the city slowed as a wall of cops forced traffic in the center of town down to one lane. It seemed the main branch of Magnus Bank had suffered an attempted robbery, but some other metahuman swooped in to stop the crime. Whatever the case, they were stuck as traffic was backed up for miles on the freeway that took them across the river. The other bridges were all miles out of the way and the path to them was nearly as congested.

No one spoke in the car. No one seemed to know what to say. This was something that Garrett knew he could work around at least. If he knew how to do anything, it was talk.

“So, Alli, this whole Spirit Cop thing keep you busy? It sounds… unique.”

Alli sighed.

“I’m not trying to be insulting,” Garrett quickly said. “I’m a professional entertainer with jumping powers. I’ve done enough not to doubt the existence of ghosts. But what made you decide it was a career path for you?”

“My mother,” Alli said.

“Was she a medium or something?”

Alli shook her head. “She was a ghost.”

“Your mom was a ghost? How did that work?”

“Alli,” Marilyn said. “You don’t—”

“No, it’s okay. You know it never bothers me to talk about mom, even when some people are a bit tone deaf about their subject matter.” She looked up at the rear view mirror and met Garrett’s eyes. He ignored the slight.

“My mother died in childbirth. My father was a deadbeat. When she passed, he abandoned me, left me to be raised in the foster care system. And I got the worst of it, home after home filled with deadbeats far worse than him.

“But mom didn’t want to let go. She stayed with me as I grew up. She kept me safe as I went from foster home to foster home. Without her—”

“One of her foster fathers was a child molester,” Marilyn finished for her. “Her mother kept Alli safe from him.”

“Safe?” Garrett said. “What do you mean?”

“She killed him. Scared him to death.”

“Heavy,” Cyrus said. It was the first thing Garrett heard from him since they left his apartment. His continual scowl seemed to have faded since they boarded the Spirit-Mobile as well. “That kind of thing leaves scars, but we all have darkness in our past.”

“Except for me,” Ian said. “At least that I know of.”

That actually brought a bit of a smile to Cyrus’s face. Garrett had thought he might have been incapable of smiling up until that point.

“You got something you want to share?” Garrett said to Cyrus.

The smile instantly left Cyrus’s face.

“I have nothing at all to say to any of you. Some of us like to keep our past in the past. It’s best that way.”

“Chill, dude. Not trying to offend you or nothing. I’m just trying to get to know everyone a little better. We’re stuck in this thing together. Might as well get to know each other, y’know?”

“I know enough,” Cyrus said. He turned his head towards the window, clearly done with the conversation.

“Okay,” Marilyn said from the front passenger seat. They were finally moving again, but slowly. “You’re giving everyone the third degree, Stomp. Since you’re the only one with a super-name, why don’t you tell us your secret origin?”

“There’s not much to it really,” Garrett said. “It’s—uh—kind of boring.”

“I’m sure it will at least pass the time,” Marilyn said. She smiled and Garrett knew he couldn’t resist her. Not with that grin. She was way too beautiful to ever say no to.

“Well…”

* * *
I was fifteen. Nowadays I keep busy at the local community centers and clubs, but back then I was a total bum. But my parents weren’t. They were both crazy active.

Dad was a professional skateboarder. He made his way ‘round the tournament circuit and made a pretty penny in the process. Mom used to be a ballet dancer. She grew up poor in Harlem, but worked her way into some of the top performances of the eighties. She never got to star in a major production, but you would find her in featured roles everywhere.

She met Dad and it was a whirlwind. They came from different places, but they instantly fell in love. Dad was from River City, but they didn’t move back here until after Mom got pregnant with me. She retired and they moved here. She became a teacher, passing her knowledge on both to the high income folks able to pay big bucks for her talents and to the inner city kids like she was when she started dancing.

They were both all about their athletics, incredibly skilled individuals in their choice of activities. I grew up tripping over my own feet. Klutz didn’t even begin to describe it. I gave up on most physical endeavors by the time I was ten.

Basically I was a fat kid.

So I tried to disappear from reality. I became a hardcore gamer for years. And I was every bad stereotype of a gamer: an overweight overeater sitting in the basement of my parent’s house in front of the big screen.

Like I said—it all lasted until I was fifteen. I was downstairs like any other day, buried deep in a game of Call of Duty.

Dad came downstairs looking for me. He and I—well we were at odds most of the time. He made a living not doing what society expected of him, but he still thought I was slacking. He wanted me to do more than just keep playing games. I thought he was terribly unreasonable.

We were yelling, the same old fight we had again and again and again. Only this would be the last time.

You probably heard about the River City sinkhole. Half a block of the city collapsed into the ground in a matter of seconds. Over a dozen houses, thirty-four people inside, were lost. My house was in the center of it.

They blamed it on faulty sewer work from decades before, a disaster rooted in old pipes and too much water. It was all a bunch of bullshit, a convenient way to cover up the horrible truth.

I tried to tell it after the fact, but no one would believe it. But it was no accident. Those houses were collapsed on purpose. They wanted subjects to text their experiments upon and those monsters chose us.

They never gave us a name when they tortured us, experimented on us. Why should they? We were little more than lab specimens to them. But me, Dad and those thirty-two other people were far from their only victims. They’ve taken hundreds over the last few decades. The websites call them the Vivisectors. It was as good a name as any. They cut us all part one at a time. If we were lucky, we died under their first test. Most weren’t that lucky.

Dad was one of the first subjects. We were all in a holding pin, but I was one of the few people that were already conscious. I watched them drag him off, unable to fight them. He screamed and struggled to escape, but they held him fast. They were far stronger than a human. Their lab was in plain view of our cage so I was forced to watch. I watched and cried as they ripped out his nervous system spine first.

He died in seconds, right in front of me. I could only sit in that cage as they cut my father’s body apart for their sick experiments.

I sat there for three days before they turned their attention to me. By that time all the adults had been taken, some more than once. Most were dead. The rest could barely move and spent most of their time wailing in agony. Only a few children were left, and I was the oldest. We knew that we were not exempt however. They had already taken one kid, no older than ten. I—

Anyway, they came for me. I guess in hindsight you could call me lucky, because I’m standing here today. But there was no luck in what they did to me. Only horror.

They didn’t bother with anesthetic. They only stripped me down and started to cut. It was terrible, something I can’t even put in to words. How do you describe the pain of having your flesh ripped from your muscle?

Even now, it’s hard to even think about it.

In all, they took at least seventy percent of my muscle mass, one slice at a time. They replaced it was they worked with a synthetic mesh far beyond normal standards of medicines. Most of my musculature is now artificial, but without the issues of rejection that come with so much in modern medicine. It gives me all my strength and leaping ability.

I don’t remember much after the transformation. I remember the pain and I remember the rage. I don’t think they realized what they did when they created me. I remember fighting them, but it’s only a series of brief images. A kick here, a punch there. But mostly I remember running, leaping through the dark on my new legs. I just wanted freedom. I just wanted to be away. I don’t know how long I was in the tunnels alone in the dark, just hoping I could find my way back to the surface.

A week had passed by the time I made it back to the surface. My mom thought it was a miracle, but even she didn’t believe my story, not truly. No one did. They all thought it was some kind of insane mental construct, a cover story my brain made to explain the activation of my metagene and my survival when no one else did.

I knew. I knew those monsters were still out there. But more importantly, I realized that my father just wanted me to make the world a better place. I’m no fighter and I never will be one. But I could use my powers to make this city better. I could help people that were struggling. I could raise money and invest it in my community. So that’s what I did.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 7. Rosa

Her father wanted to name her Aquatica. Her mother wanted to name her Velocidad. Thankfully wiser heads prevailed. Her uncle Jose convinced them that Rosa might be more apt.

It never stopped either of them from dressing her on garish tights during her childhood years. They called her Waterspeed and brought her along on missions.

Those memories still haunted Rosa Acevedo after all these years and all these miles. She came back to America to put that life behind her.

Only it seemed like that was harder than she would think.

She tied up the last of the bank robbers in reams of twine. It took her about two seconds as she moved faster than the human eye.

All she had wanted to do was set up a bank account, a simple financial transaction. When the men with guns entered, her choice was simple: stop them or let them walk away with her life savings.

She wasn’t going back to Guadalajara after just a few days. She wasn’t sure she ever wanted to go back.

She made short work of all six of them. Clearly they didn’t expect metahuman intervention. It seemed no one ever did.

The last man secured, Rosa Sped back to the teller window.

“That’s all wrapped up. Can I set up an account now?” The words came out fast, but not quite so fast as to be misunderstood. The teller, a young woman barely older than Rosa, stared at her.

“Wh-What?”

Rosa knew her English was almost perfect. She spent an entire week mastering the language. The teller should have no problem understanding her words.

“I said, can I set up my account now?”

The teller shook her head. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I know you helped here, but we can’t do any business until the police have cleared us to do so.”

“But I just need to set up a simple account. Can’t you make an exception just this once?”

“I’m afraid not. Our computers lock down when the alarms are sounded.”

Rosa looked back at the group of men tied together in the middle of the room. She shook her head. All she wanted was to do a simple bit of day to day business. Instead she once again walked into a mess made worse by her own powers.

“Fine, I guess I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

Rosa disappeared, speeding out into the streets of River City. She was halfway across town in front of her apartment building in a matter of seconds.

Rosa almost shook with anger and frustration. Why does my life always have to go this way? Am I some kind of trouble magnet? Everywhere I go it’s always the same.

She opened her front door and stepped in to the halls of her apartment building. With a sigh she started up the four flights of stairs to her apartment. She moved at normal speed as she didn’t want to risk exposing her powers here to her neighbors. It was excruciatingly slow going, but she knew she would have to get used to it.

This was normal life.

It took a good five minutes of normal speed walking to get up to her floor. As she exited the stairs and walked towards her apartment, she heard voices ahead, just around the corner. This would place them right in front of her apartment door, which seemed more than a little odd.

“Break it down!”

Now it sounded more than a little odd. Now it sounded dangerous.

She heard her front door cave in, the sound of splintering wood echoing through the hallways. She knew she had stood around long enough.

She sped around the corner at full speed.

She moved at speeds faster than the human eye and in the matter of a millisecond saw them. Three of them stood there, dressed in all too familiar body armor. How had they found her so quickly?

She struck the first one with a flurry of punches. He went down hard in a crumpled heap.

The next man raised his weapon, a blaster designed for metahuman stopping power. He wasn’t nearly fast enough to hit her. A high speed body blow sent him flying down the hallway.

She turned toward their leader.

He was dressed differently; his armor was purple and gray instead of the navy blue of the others. It also seemed better designed, perfectly fitted to his body.

The armor shimmered as if a field of energy surrounded it. Rosa knew that power signature and exactly who it was she faced now. She knew she was in trouble.

Doppelganger smashed his fists in to her at high speed. His punches landed as fast, maybe faster, than her own. They certainly landed far more expertly. Doppelganger was a highly trained killer and his hand to hand combat skills far surpassed her own.

She tried to parry his blows but it was already too late. A swift strike to the skull sent her crashing to the ground.

The world faded to black.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 1 Chapter 6. Alli

“So if you’ve got a ghost, poltergeist or boogeyman, I’m your woman. You need the Spirit Cop. Just call one eight seven seven spirit zero. That’s one eight seven seven spirit zero. People don’t have the right to harass you and neither do spirits. That’s one eight seven seven spirit zero. Call now.”

Allison Finch looked across the sound booth. The technician swiped his hand across his neck.

“How did that sound?”

“It came through perfectly, Ms. Finch. We can add the music and have it ready for radio syndication all over town tonight.”

“Awesome. Just message me the final cut, I’ll approve it and we’ll be good to go.”

“Sounds good, ma’am.”

Alli still couldn’t quite get used to people calling her Ms. Finch or ma’am, but she couldn’t complain. It made her feel like maybe, just maybe, she had finally made it.

Now if my bank account would just agree…

She pulled out her iPhone and dialed the office number. Her receptionist picked up on the first ring.

“Peach, any calls?”

“No, Ms. Finch.”

All sighed. “All right. I have lunch with Marilyn planned for today. I’ll stop in to the office around two. Call if we get anything.”

“Will do, hun.”

“Thanks, Peach. You’re a peach.”

Alli heard her receptionist groan even as she hung up.

 

* * *

 

The Drive-In Diner was the kind of hole-in-the-wall restaurant you saw in old movies. It was designed for that exact reason: to emulate a simple fifties diner atmosphere.

Of course there were some differences, no smoking and a decided lack of whiskey in the coffee. But it was Marilyn’s favorite restaurant. She chose it every time she got to pick the lunch spot.

As Alli walked into the diner, it wasn’t hard at all to spot her attractive friend. The blond bob, the luscious figure and the radiant smile were familiar to any classic movie fan.

Alli sat down across from the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe.

For an image so iconic, Alli was always amazed that Marilyn didn’t receive more attention. Of course, she was also a ghost-busting entrepreneur so most folks probably wouldn’t think she was the best judge of character.

“You know we could at least change your hairdo or something,” Alli said. “Something to be a little less conspicuous.”

“Why would I ever want to be less conspicuous?” Marilyn’s coy smile never faded.

“You are the spitting image of an American icon. A dead one, at that.”

“I know. Isn’t it great?”

Alli could only shake her head.

“I’m not sure if you’re just showing a natural naïveté or being coy. Do you understand how frustrating that can be?”

“Maybe a little,” Marilyn said. “But you love me anyway. Besides I don’t think it’s any more frustrating than having a girlfriend that spends all her time answering crazy people’s calls.”

Alli knew she should be mad right now. Marilyn knew how important her job was to her, but that didn’t stop her from constantly downplaying her career choice. But none of that mattered. Not right now.

“Did you just use the G word?”

Marilyn smirked just as her likeness did in so many films. “I guess I did, Alli. Is that alright?”

“That…that’s great. I like the way you say it. Hell, I love it. I-I love you.”

“I love you too, girlfriend.”

Marilyn rose up from her booth and leaned across the table. She planted a gentle kiss on Alli’s lips. Alli closed her eyes and leaned in to her, not ready to break the connection.

She sat stunned even as Marilyn pulled away.

“Come on,” Marilyn said. “Forget lunch. Let’s go back to my place.”

“Your place? We never go to your place.”

Marilyn laughed. “There’s a first time for everything, girlfriend.”

Alli was glad Marilyn made the suggestion. Her apartment was only a few blocks from the Drive-In Diner. It was also far nicer than the top floor of the renovated warehouse Alli called home—and her workplace.

They were kissing before Marilyn even got the door open Alli let her hands roam freely over Marilyn’s luscious curves as Marilyn fumbled with the key in the lock.

Marilyn forced the door open and they almost fell in.

It didn’t matter. Alli dragged Marilyn to the floor right in front of the door.

* * *

Alli awoke in a haze. She was in Marilyn’s bed, a small fold out in the center of her tiny apartment. She didn’t really remember climbing in to it or falling asleep, but her mind really wasn’t on that part of her surroundings.

She leaned over and looked at the clock. Four p.m. She stumbled out of the bed. She was way late. She wondered why Peach hadn’t called her yet.

Still naked, she scanned the room to find her clothes. Her underwear hung from the lamp beside the hide-a-bed. Her slacks were a wrinkled mess, entwined with Marilyn’s dress on the floor.

“Alli,” Marilyn said, stirring behind her. “You aren’t leaving, are you?”

“I got to go. I have a business to run. But we can meet again tonight if you want. My place or yours.”

“I would like that. Seven or so, back here. I’ll be waiting for you. I’m sure I got something properly slinky to seduce you in.”

Alli leaned over and kissed her girlfriend. “I would like that very much, but then I like seeing you in anything. Or nothing.”

Marilyn giggled.

A repeated thump rang from the door. Alli and Marilyn both turned towards it.

The building was a closed apartment. No one was supposed to be able to make it to her door except her neighbors. And Marilyn barely knew her neighbors. Alli knew they were thinking the same thing: who the hell is that?

“Were you expecting someone?” Alli whispered.

Marilyn shook her head.

Alli’s eyes shot to her handbag—and the Sticky Gun within—as the knocking came again, this time more vigorous.

Marilyn rose up out of the bed. She was still naked, but it didn’t matter anymore. Her body shifted and suddenly lost its luscious curves. Her face slowly melted into a mass of loose white flesh as her body elongated.

She stretched across the room just as the front door caved in. Alli caught only a glance of the armed and armored men before the wall of flesh smashed into them.

There was only three of them and Marilyn’s natural strength won out with ease. She pounded them with both fists into the floor.

Within seconds, all three men were unconscious and unmoving.

Marilyn slowly morphed back into her usual form. She stood naked and beautiful over the three beaten men.

“What is this?” Alli said. “Who are they?”

“I’m not sure, Marilyn said. “Do you think—?”

She trailed off, the unasked question still floating in the air between them. It hung heavy in the room.

Are they Marilyn’s creators?

The question still hung over the room like Damocles’ blade. Alli couldn’t even think to break it with words. She didn’t know what to say.

Could they really know?

She shook her head. She needed time to think. Time to figure this out.

“Get dressed. We need to get out of here. Call the police. More of them could be on the way.”

“I’m not afraid,” Marilyn said. “I want answers.”

“You and I both, babe. But we don’t know how many of them are coming. There could be more than we can handle.

“I can handle all of them,” Marilyn said. Alli could hear the anger in her voice. It wasn’t something she was used to hearing from Marilyn. “Are you trying to hide something from me?”

Alli wondered if she did have something to hide. She certainly hadn’t told Marilyn everything about when she found her.

It had only been four months since she got the call. A rogue spirit was on the loose in an old apartment high rise. She answered it without a second thought, just happy for the work. The building was in the middle of a heavy remodel, but the poltergeist wanted nothing but to cause havoc on the construction crew.

First it was a shaky crane, then a worker that claimed he was pushed down a flight of stairs. By the eighth day and the eighth accident—a broken leg at the hands of a flying wrench—even the most skeptical crew member was convinced a ghost was involved.

So they called her.

Alli answered the call like she would any other: in full uniform and equipped to work. Her Ghost-Finder immediately picked up the rogue spirit. She tracked it up and down the floors of the building as it seemed to try and lose her, a strange activity for a ghost. It gave her plenty of exercise as she covered over thirty stories up and down on foot.

This was a paying case though and she wasn’t going to be put off of it.

Her path eventually led her into the basement. The spirit finally stopped past the boiler room. It passed through a wall, a large brick foundation side wall.

Alli knew from experience that while walls presented little trouble to a non-corporeal being, they stuck to places that mimicked their life. They wouldn’t or couldn’t just pass into solid rock or dirt. It wasn’t how remaining entities acted ever.

There was another hidden room in the basement.

Alli spent over an hour testing the wall before she found the tiny false stone that served as the key to the hidden room. One hard shove released the hidden latch and caused the door to slowly creak open.

She immediately was struck by the smell of formaldehyde. And beneath it, the lingering odor of death. Something bad had happened here, but she couldn’t be sure what, not yet anyway.

The Ghost-Finder went crazy as she took the first step in to the room. There wasn’t just one ghost here. Not even two or three. There were hundreds.

The horrors that lurked in this room were past even her imagination. This room bred death.

Alli turned on her flashlight and shined it into the darkness.

The room looked like something out of an old Universal monster movie. Diodes and chemical tubes lined every corner. Animals, both in parts and full, floated in sealed tubes filled with preserving liquids. Other body parts, these far more human in appearance, floated in still more tubes.

In the center of the room sat a large metal table. And she laid there. The spirits flooded around the still frame of a naked woman covered only by a thin sheet.

Alli could only stare as she looked down at the face of Marilyn Monroe.

The Ghost-Finder screamed. The spirits that haunted the room flickered in and out of view. Alli watched as they ran up and down the body.

The face and body flowed into different forms as the dead seemed to caress it. The skin—even the very structure—seemed to flow like some kind of viscous liquid.

Alli didn’t know what to do. Nothing she knew prepared her for something like this.

She reached out towards the body.

She ran a hand across the cheek even as it slowly formed back in to the face of the familiar actress. As Alli’s skin touched the strange flesh. Marilyn’s eyes flashed open.

The steady hum of the Ghost-Finder suddenly fell silently.

Marilyn blinked in the light of the flashlight. She stared up in to the Alli’s face.

“Hi,” she said. “Where am I?”

Alli explained as best she could their current location and how she came to the basement. She glossed over a few things—such as the several dozen spirits that seemed to disappear into the other woman’s body.

She just lay there on the slab and listened to it all. When Alli finished, the other woman sat up, using one hand to hold the flimsy sheet over her.

“Interesting,” she said. She stretched out her feet and wiggled her toes. “Everything feels so strange and new.”

Alli nodded, still not sure what exactly she was going on about, nor what was going on here at all.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you? Why are you here?”

“I’m Marilyn, of course, silly. I thought that would be obvious. But I’m not sure how I got here or exactly where here is. It doesn’t seem like my kind of spot, but I’ve visited some strange places. I feel like I’ve been sleeping for days.”

Alli said nothing. She just stared at her, this Marilyn—beautiful and odd all at once.

“Oh, something went wrong. How long was I asleep in this thing, whatever it is? Weeks? Months?”

“Years,” Alli said. “I don’t think anyone has been back here in decades.”

“Alli, are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Alli said, shaking off the memory of that night. “I don’t think these guys had anything to do with your creation. If they did, don’t you think they would have come at us smarter than this?”

“I—I don’t know. Having no sense of my own history—it’s just hard. I don’t even know why I look like this normally. Is it my choice? Someone else’s? I just want to know.”

Alli took her in her arms. “I know, baby. I know.”

“What are we going to do about the door?” Marilyn said, her face still nestled against Alli’s shoulder. “We can’t leave it like that.”

Alli couldn’t help but think, shouldn’t we be more concerned about the three armed men, but she knew Marilyn’s mind didn’t work that way. “I’ll call someone. I know a few people. I can call in a few favors.”

“Oh, I know you’re already stretched so thin with the business and Finch’s pay and everything. I can make my own way.”

“I told you before that I have a lot of connections. I’ll get it fixed, all right?”

Marilyn nodded.

“Let’s get the men out of the room and the door propped back up for now. You should probably get dressed before any of the neighbors see you.”

“Afraid to show me off?” Marilyn said. She leaned back and struck a model’s pose. Alli had to fight the urge to tackle her voluptuous lover.

“Stop that or we’ll never leave.”

Alli climbed up and walked to the broken door. The two hinges and the locks were shattered, but with effort she could at least prop it back into place. It wasn’t ideal, but in a closed building, it should hold for the day it would take to get a new door.

Beside her the intercom buzzed. She stopped short, turned and met eyes with Marilyn.

Marilyn nodded.

Alli pressed the answer button.

“Who is it?” Despite her best efforts, Alli couldn’t get the air of fear from her voice. She dealt on a daily basis with supernatural beings, but none of those horrors matched the real palpable danger she felt looming over her.

“My name is Ian. W-we need to talk. You could be in danger. I—look, it would be easier if we could talk about this face to face, Ms. Mortenson.”

“Uh, I’m not Marilyn. I’m her, ah, friend.”

“It’s important we speak to her. We’ve already witnessed one attack by these soldiers.”

“Did you say soldiers? Like armed men? Alli’s eyes met Marilyn’s as Ian confirmed his words. Marilyn nodded as she finished straightening a simple sundress.

“Come up,” Alli said and buzzed open the door.

“Are you sure about this,” Alli said to Marilyn.

“They might have some answers about what’s going on here. Besides, I should be able to handle them if it comes to that.”

Alli was surprised to see this Ian Page was much younger than she expected, but also accompanied by two other men. One of the other men was mixed, a man with a large afro that looked strangely familiar. The other was a skinny guy with dark hair. He seemed annoyed to be here.

“What is this, Ian? Who are these people?”

Ian stopped short as she spoke, but the mixed guy kept coming forward. He held his hands out, clearly trying to show he wasn’t a threat.

“My name is Garrett Vos. Ian, Cyrus and I are here to warn you. There are men—”

His eyes fell to the unconscious figures on the floor.

“It seems like you already know about them,” Garrett said. “We already fought them once, back at Cyrus’s apartment, but it looks like you’ve handled them with ease.”

“Ease might not be the right word,” Alli said. “But Marilyn took care of them well enough.”

Alli introduced herself and Marilyn to the three men. Garrett and Ian seemed nervous to be here, but Cyrus continued to come off as annoyed to even be in this situation.

Ian explained the circumstances of their arrival, his awakening at an unknown location he couldn’t hope to find again and the flash drive that contained the names of Garrett, Cyrus, Marilyn and one other woman. Alli wasn’t sure if she believed what she was hearing, but Marilyn listened intently.

“How many names are on this list of yours?”

Marilyn’s words broke an uncomfortable silence in the room.

“Dozens, I think,” Ian said. “But they’re all encrypted except for the first five. And there’s more files on the drive, dozens of them. Who knows how many more people could be listed. I would need days to figure out a program to help open them.”

“I might know someone,” Alli said. “But you said there’s another name on your list. Shouldn’t we warn her first?”

“Rosa Acevedo,” Ian said. “Yes, we need to find her.”