The Downing Building
New Hebron, California
Sapphira descended the elevator shaft, his heart pounding in his chest as he sped further toward the ground. Amy’s anxiety was as palatable to him as his own, but she grew more tense by the moment. He gritted his teeth and willed himself to move faster.
When he had begun his drop, he’d counted the floors, but the more he accelerated the harder it became. It was dark within the shaft, and he only caught brief glimpses of illumination. He reached out his senses, perceiving the concrete structure of the building all around him.
As his mind expanded out, he sensed the rebar embedded within the walls and the metal beams that supported the weight of the building, but that was only a small piece of what his mind touched. Outside the building the agent’s of AEGIS and their exemplar allies battled the Gallu. Among them he sensed Harrier, the Borrum, Tennyo and Equalizer, worse still he sensed Garos amongst them and gritted his teeth his heart hammering harder within his chest.
He shut them all out, focusing only on the elevator shaft, Amy and Chemosh. The once-god’s anger was as pungent as ever, but this time Sapphira was not so susceptible to his malice. It did, however, only heightened his apprehension.
When he reached the ground floor, he zoomed out of the shaft and screamed out at the top of his lungs. “Chemosh!”
He balled his fists at his side and hovered opposite the alien entity. Chemosh smiled, a twisted mockery of Hailey’s own shy smirk. Without turning away he threw a hand out, freeing Amy and Awẹ́ pinned against the wall and scowled at his granddaughter’s naked form.
Chemosh threw both hands out and Sapphira gasped his eyes grow wide. The world around him vanished, supplanted by a dark void.
Sapphira balled both fists at his side and spun around on the balls of his feet. He saw nothing save the void. “Chemosh!” He called out, echoing his previous cry. His voice carried across the darkness, but there was no response.
Though he held little hope he might find something, he continued to spin around. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach and the more he looked about, the worse it became.
He’d been trapped like a rat in a cage.
Sapphira clenched his eyes shut and forced himself to breathe short even breaths. Though he sensed nothing, either within or without the void, he knew his isolation was Chemosh’s work. He gritted his teeth and reached out with his senses, his consciousness stretching across the darkness. His mind found nothing, no animals, structures or minds.
When he opened his eyes, he let out a long sigh, and peered into the darkness. He gritted his teeth and looked down at himself. No longer attired in his exemplar garb, he instead wore a simple white dress. When he peered down at his feet and wiggled his toes, he wore a matching set of sandals.
“Sapphira,” a voice spoke from out of the nothingness and he looked up. Ashtar stood opposite him a smile touching the corner of her lips. “You must fight him. You must break free.”
“How? There’s nothing in this void. Nothing. No enemies for me to defeat or barriers to break down,” he said eying her form with his arms folded across his chest.
“It is not what you see before you which you need to defeat, rather look within and you shall find your enemy.”
He looked past her and craned his neck all around. This void was nothing more than a distraction, a puzzle to keep him occupied while the true battle was taking place. He clenched his eyes shut and reached deep inside himself.
“Remember,” Ashtar’s voice rang through his mind. “Even in the waking world Chemosh has been deceiving your senses. Even now the gateway hides in plain site. Find it before it is too late.”
Sapphira nodded and focuses all his will inward. Sure enough, he sensed something there that did not belong, a barrier not of thought, but of pure emotion. Rage, hatred and self-loathing had come spilling into him and he found himself shaking.
What the hell was he doing? Why should he fight so hard against Chemosh? She was willing to give him everything he ever wanted. He c —
“No!” he screamed out, forcing back the burning flames of animosity and contempt. That wasn’t who he was anymore.
He gritted his teeth, forced his eyes back open and looked upon his granddaughters form, or rather a facsimile of it. Though Hailey may have born a striking resemblance to her mother, and both were pretty, Sapphira would never expect a face like hers to grace the cover of a magazine or walk the runway.
The Hailey that hovered above the ground opposite him had the look of centerfold from one of those risque men’s magazines. Her face was rounder, her cheekbones tighter, her lips just a little softer, but those were far from the only differences. She had the perfect hourglass figure, large breasts wide hips and legs that few women had a match. The site of it made Sapphira sick.
Chemosh moved forward, and Hailey’s body flickered and stuttered. Sapphira made eye contact and for the briefest of seconds he looked upon Hailey’s true form. She stood there staring back at him with blood-shot eyes, and mouth hanging open as if she were letting out a silent scream. Her skin was pallid and the dark circles under her eyes were the worst he had ever seen. What he was seeing was a mental representation of his granddaughter just as the over-sexed version embodied the once-god. He knew it was an illusion, but it did nothing to calm his nerves.
He touched her mind, experiencing such terror it was all he could do to bring in breathe. There was another flash and Chemosh stood in her place. His connection to Hailey dropped, evaporating away the moment that the once-god’s image supplanted his granddaughter’s.
Sapphira balled both fists at his side and gritted his teeth the pitiful image of his granddaughter burned into his mind. He screamed and threw both hands out sending Chemosh soaring across the void. He soared after him, threw both hands out prepared to deal another blow, but before he could strike his opponent lurched back into the air and sent Sapphira rocketing away.
“Here we are on the battlefield of mind and you think you can defeat me with telekinesis?” Chemosh asked staring over him a manic giggle escaping her lips.
As he scrambled back to his feet, Chemosh unleashed another attack and what followed left him huddled on the ground both hands clasped over his head. He screamed at the top of his lungs, but it did not help.
Colors flashed before his eyes, some of which were so brilliant and so vivid that he had no words with which to describe them. It was a veritable rainbow he would have found beautiful, but which only overwhelmed his senses. A wave of sounds washed over him in the form of screams and sirens, klaxons and screeches. A wave of emotions, anger, rage, grief, sadness, and dozens more accompanied all of this. Voices, all screamed out inside his mind at once, a tangled roar of sounds that were indistinguishable one from another.
When he thought he could take no more, it ceased. He blinked and looked up. The void faded away all around them supplanted by the real world. Sapphira glanced following Chemosh’s gaze to an opening in the wall that had not been there before. Indigo Knight, resplendent in his armor stood there bathed in light.
“Well, well, dear brother. It had been a long time,” Hailey’s voice range through the chamber followed by a cackle of pure malicious glee.