Tondzaosha Police Station
Amelia’s eyes cracked open. She attempted to sit up, but only managed to pull herself up about an inch before she struck an invisible wall and settled back into place. She turned her head, peering about, sucking air in through her teeth.
She recoiled as she caught the gaze of a creature slouched over a shelf. It gurgled, long tentacles writhing and gyrating in the air as a trio of blood-red eyes fixed on her. A strangled moan sounded from the reverse wall and she shuddered and looked away. She peered straight into the eye of what most resembled a lime Jello mold, the second monster gazed at her with its one great unblinking eye, quivering there on its shelf.
She gazed back at the first creature, and then a third one roosted upon a shelf along the eastern wall which resembled an enormous round bird with big black eyebrows. It cooed, emitting a dozen loud warbles before taking a nosedive off its shelf and landing in a stack of crates.
Neither of the other two monsters moved, and she bit her bottom lip, eying a row of implements stacked around the blob creature. There was a box of glass bottles, each filled with a different-colored liquid, most look innocuous, but one of them hissed. Next to the box were arrayed a dog’s skull, a playground ball which glowed purple and a mannequin head which had the most ghastly grin on its face, and whose eyes kept blinking.
There were dozens more, some on the stranger side, but most tended toward the more gruesome, like the statue which was exuding something that looked like blood from its mouth.
She did not understand where she was or how she’d come to be there, but she had a good idea who’d brought her.
Amy thought back to her very brief encounter with Ashtar, and the warning which the alien consciousness had passed on to her. She’d needed time for her enhanced healing factor to work through the tranquilizers and time was up. With Ashtar’s help the agent created a partitioned construct within her own mind to trick Odalrik into attacking it instead of her actual consciousness and, failing some convoluted means of deception on her enemy’s part, the ploy had worked.
She set her jaw and moved to sit up, but again hit an invisible obstruction. When she lifted her arm, it would only move up a few inches. The agent pushed out with all the strength she could muster, and nothing happened. If there was some way she might break through, it would not be with physical force.
She let her eyelids slip shut, released a long breath and extended her senses. She felt nothing save for the hammer of her heart, and the blood coursing through her veins. It was almost as if someone had encapsulated her within a dome of transparent GUNQ.
Her eyes snapped back open as the sound of gunfire rang out. The walls and doorway stifled it, but it was still discernable. Shrieks of rage, followed by brief bouts of silence and more gunfire.
“LEOFFA!” A voice screamed from somewhere outside the room, again muffled, but still audible and clear. “Show yourself!”
Amelia froze, her heart pounding in her ears, as her mind raced. She had no idea who was fighting on the other side of that wall, but she didn’t think it boded well for her at all. The agent gritted her teeth, and furrowed her brows.
A wave of power rippled out from her palms and she grunted as it rebounded on her and into her chest. She panted and clamped her jaw shut against the pain. In retrospect that hadn’t been the brightest idea, but she had to try something.
She took several deep breaths, attempting to steady herself and reached deep within herself ensuring that she’d done no damage to the child before releasing her breath and opened her eyes again.
What chance did she have at making an escape, if she couldn’t breach the invisible field around herself?
She sighed, as she reached out with her mind, probing the surrounding space attempting to find a hole in the barrier, but found none. The agent slumped back and growled under her breath. It didn’t look as if she’d be going anywhere soon.
“Ashtar,” she said clenching her eyes shut and emitted a soft moan. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas, do you?”
No answer came and she sank her teeth into her lower teeth, letting out several choice curses. “Of course.”
A high-pitched wail sounded through the air and Amy’s eye’s snapped open. She sat bolt-upright, only realizing that the barrier holding her in place was gone, a few seconds later. Amy peered around the room, eyes locking on the door, before she leapt from her resting place and bolted through it.
She stopped, holding her breath in her throat. Kruhl lay off to one side in a pool of her own blood, three more bodies lay scattered about the room, either dead or unconscious. A figure stood, a familiar gem-topped staff clutched in one hand and Waldere stained with blood, raised over another figure curled up in a fetal position.
She narrowed her eyes, centering them on the figure which she presumed to be Odalrik.
She squared her jaw and balled both fists at her side. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
The figure spun around, and she felt her eyse grow wide. No, not Odalrik, it was Teressa. All at once, the second part of Ashtar’s warning rattled about in her mind. You are being influenced, not all is as it appears. The shadow of the goddess’s words rang through her mind and at last the last puzzle piece fell into place.
So little about their predicament had made sense until now. The phone line cutting out, the computer burning up and the dark cloaked apparition were all her doing. At last, her true enemy stood before her.
Teressa must have seen something on her face or else decided to end the ruse. She charged toward her would be sister. Amy, however, was ready for it. She threw her hand out and sent her attacker slamming into the opposite wall.
“Who are you?” Amy moved toward her, both hands clenched, eyes burning with anger. Whatever doubts she had evaporated when her opponent attacked.
Teressa did not answer, instead scowled and eye hder captor like a predator ready to pounce on its prey. Amy was not intimidated, least of all because the other woman was pinned to the wall, but she’d faced down gods and giants. Though her opponent had shown she could be dangerous, she was no Chemosh.
“Who are you?” the agent repeated her question between clenched teeth.
“You know I would have thought an AEGIS agent wouldn’t have been so easy to fool. I barely even had to try, all the effort I put into imprisoning poor Brian, and I could have just—”
Amelia jerked her hand back, motioning at the wall behind her, her face now a mask of rage as Teressa went soaring across the room and slammed into the reverse wall face first.
“You played me.” She launched herself at the other woman, hand gripping the hair on the back of her scalp. Teressa, whose face was red from obvious pain, attempted to kick out at her, but Amy slid aside and sent another wave of force to pin her legs against the wall along with the rest of her body.
A light whimper rang through the air, and Amelia glanced back, eyes searching for the source. It was Kruhl. Good lord, the once-king was still alive, but from the looks of things she wouldn’t be for long. She snaked her tongue over her lips and returned her attention to her captive.
“I will only say this once.” Amy growled. “Tell me who you are and what you’ve done with my brother.”
In answer the faux-Van den Broeke emitted a loud, guffawing, almost manic laugh. “And why should I do that? Go ahead waste your time with me, while poor little Kruhl bleeds to death. It’s the least of what he deserves.”
Amy froze, another puzzle piece falling into place as realization dawned on her. For the other woman, this was personal and knowing what she did of Kruhl’s past that could mean only one thing.
“Leoffa,” the agent uttered the name, knowing at once her suspicions were true. Kruhl had presumed her former lover dead. While getting impaled through the gut was often fatal, especially in less advanced societies, like Kruhl’s, it was not unheard of for someone to recover.
The agent glanced over her shoulder for a second time, heart hammering in her chest. Kruhl didn’t have much time and she couldn’t afford to waste what little she had left on the imposter. She licked her lips, already settled on a course of action.
Leoffa was not going to cooperate. The agent clenched her eyes closed, placed both hands on either of the woman’s cheeks and reached out to touch her mind.
Amelia jerked away, sharp stabs of pain shooting through her skull as she took air in, in short jagged breaths. She’d sensed Brian, his presence was as discernible as if he were standing opposite her, looking his sister in the eyes. She caught sight of pulsating green lights and a figure resting in a bed. When she reached for his mind, everything went black and she staggered back gasping for air.
“Brian.” She spoke the name and peered up at Leoffa, already preparing herself for attack, but the other looked about as bad as the agent felt. She was hunched over, both hands braced on the wall, her face pallid and the sword and staff had fallen to her feet. Only her eyes revealed the anger which burned within.
Amy ground her teeth, raised her hands and hurled a blast of telekinetic force toward her opponent, but the other woman sank to the ground and grasped hold of the sword. When the blast hit, nothing happened, and Leoffa glared back at her, scooped up the fallen staff and rose to her feet.
“I have no desire to end your life, agent,” the sorceress said planting the staff on the floor, the tip erupting with brilliant violet light. “Nevertheless, I am prepared to defend myself.”
“Yeah,” Amy replied, narrowing her gaze and holding both hands ready. “That’s why you attacked me.”
“Forgive me, I was caught up in the excitement of battle. I believed you a threat, but you are a reasonable enough person. I think perhaps we could come to an arrangement. Even if my life doesn’t matter to you, you might feel differently about Kruhl. Even now her life slips away, allow me to walk and you may yet save her.”
Amy glanced to her side, where Kruhl was resting. She saw the diminutive woman’s chest rise and fall, but she was as pail as a ghost and the pool of blood around her was getting wider. Time was running short. Sapphira had once healed Amelia with her abilities, the agent might be able to do the same for Kruhl, but only if the little woman were still alive.
The agent pressed her lips into a thin line, suspicious by the abrupt turn around but willing to listen. The woman had lied to her from the very beginning and that didn’t generate a lot of trust.
“I know you have no reason to trust me, but if you let me leave with the sword, I will not lift a finger to harm you for twenty-four hours. You have my word.”
A slow nod of her head followed a long release of air. She didn’t like it much, but if the sorceress was on the level, she’d take the risk. “Very well, we’re agreed.” She said, forcing a quiver out of her voice.
Leoffa nodded, gave Amelia a warning glance then turned away taking several ginger steps before peering back at Amy. “Leave this place, and I will allow you safe passage, but should you stay, I will destroy you. You have a day to decide.”
She turned away, moving through the wreckage of the police station before stepping out into the open air and disappearing into the shadows. Amy only hesitated a moment before spinning around, rushing toward Kruhl and lunged to her knees at the other woman’s side. Blood seeped into the fabric of her slacks, but she paid it any mind.
Hands whipped out, hovering over Kruhl’s wounded abdomen, and the agent closed her eyes, stretching her senses. Kruhl’s presence was faint, save for her wound which burned scarlet bright in the agent’s mind. It throbbed, reverberating through Amy’s awareness as if the pain were her own. She pulled her hands away to clutch at her stomach, but stopped herself, instead willing her senses deeper. The flesh was jagged and raw about the edges, like torn fabric. Her insides weren’t any better, the attack had left them shredded to a pulp, and blood and stomach acid were gushing out.
Amy bit her lip as her fingers tingled. She concentrated on the injured flesh, willing it to mend, and, to her surprise, it began to knit together. Her stomach exploded in burning and throbbing with each pulse of healing energy. Her insides burned with searing hot pain which radiated from her body and into Kruhl’s wounds. She doubled over, keeping herself from collapsing atop the injured woman.
Sapphira had once described the healing process to her, how by mending the flesh of another you took their injuries upon yourself, or at least the pain from them. She hadn’t imagined that it would be so intense, but it was the most agonizing experience of her life.
As the last of Kruhl’s tissue knitted together, the edges of her consciousness were tugged toward the darkness. She blinked and shook her head, attempting to shake it away, but she soon found herself laying upon the cold floor. The last thing the agent heard before drifting into unconsciousness was the steady cadence of metal clanking on ceramic tiles.