Kevin Allen – Writer ♦ Melissa Bird – Editing ♦ Tia Myricks – Part time contributor ♦ Krystal Clear Logics – Digital Promotion
The Sixth 17
Behind the Scenes
It would be overreacting if he had Tatiana call the school Alix goes to, to check on her. Jason pauses pensively on a step of a well-lit staircase he’s climbing. Anything he tells Tatiana to say, if he had her call, may send the school into a panic over nothing. Alix is safe. Jason had the security people he has posted near the school, updated on what was going on, earlier, though, he doubts Tyus would go after a five year old girl, assuming he knows anything about Alix. Where credit is due, that’s something Tyus wouldn’t do, much as Jason dislikes that he’s still breathing.
There is the warm fuzzy of finally being able to throw down in a good scrap. That’s been a while. Everyone Jason has fought since Tyus vanished several years ago turned out to be punching bags. Bad ones. He may actually get to break a sweat if Tyus got stronger.
His presence in the short video also sheds light on some of the questions Jason and his people have been asking themselves about the group of resistance fighters calling themselves, Defenders, and Cory and that power of his. Tyus rushing in to save Cory out in the middle of nowhere speaks volumes. Jason believes he saw Simone Abernathy in the short video, too. The last report on Simone had her two hundred miles from the mansion Miriam was holed up in. She doesn’t have the ability to move faster than normal people. Very few did. Tyus had to have rescued her, which meant people were napping.
Had to have been desperation that drew Tyus out of hiding. Rescuing Cory from Miriam, the point of desperation, just from the way that kid looked in the video, all beaten, it had to have been for offense she took over something he said. Tyus’ appearance says he cares about Simone and Cory, and the Defenders, which means that the spies on the inside are being fed information.
No one had reported seeing Tyus, with all the years spent among the group, gathering information on their power and structure. There are four people who are never far from Tyus. There’s been no mention of them. Jason counts them as old acquaintances too powerful to be running around without a leash. They can become a problem. They could up-end everything he’s trying to accomplish, so his people should have found out they were among the Defenders.
The type of powers among the Defenders is off the charts without them. Lately, Cory has been on another level all together. Tyus has to be the explanation for the sudden boom of power blossoming in the kid and the troubling longevity of the Defenders. Jason quickly shuffles past his thoughts of Tatiana’s ring. There’s no way anyone would be dumb enough to take that sort of risk. Jason again pauses on the stairwell, his eyes trailing downward in the general direction of the office his assistant should be in right now working. He’s almost to the roof and needs to get out of here and not waste time on stupid thoughts.
Going to the mansion where Miriam may have taken her last breath is more important than going back down the stairs to ask Tatiana questions she’ll deny. Not to mention having to expend the energy it will take to dig past the ring’s natural deflective properties and any empathic ability Tatiana may have, hidden behind that ring. Jason has never gotten a dangerous vibe from her. And, she wouldn’t be stupid enough to infiltrate him directly. He didn’t have to question if she would follow the orders he’d given her before running out of the office. She came to him several years ago looking for work. That’s all there is.
He needs to get to the mansion to find out if Miriam is really dead. It sounds impossible to even think. That would highlight his mortality. She seems to have been alive, almost forever. Jason will believe Miriam is dead when he sees for himself. Maybe when he gets to the mansion he can try using black magic to perform a séance. But, chances are Miriam faked dying to get out of a fight she knows she couldn’t win against Tyus. The woman is a skillful tactician and a notorious flake. Jason wouldn’t put it past her to fake her death and hide till Tyus left.
Finding out if she’s alive won’t happen if he stays in this place. The closer he is to where she was last, the better the chance of a necromantic séance working. Jason may even try to pull her back to life the way she’s done countless people she uses to get things done, or do things to, if she’s actually dead. Bodies taking on life and recomposing flesh to bones and breath and sinews and blood.
There is a young woman named, Winn that Miriam brought back to life when she was trying to teach Jason the dark arts. A real piece of garbage, that one. She’d screamed till her body recomposed, flesh, blood, and bone. If it were up to him that night, Winn would have died just as slowly as she’d been tethered back to life.
The plague had taken her some time in the sixteenth century, the first time she died, Miriam said. She told stories of the many times since then that Winn had been summoned from the dead to get work done, only to sent back to the grave because she’s hard to control. She’s one of Miriam’s favorites to bring back and torment with living. He’s learned not to ask why Miriam uses that word. Miriam is a twisted woman. Winn is no different, except, she has a habit of killing. Blood lust, Miriam referred to it as. She’d been pleased that Miriam had called her back when she saw Jason. She was even more pleased when she saw Jason’s fear.
It was with Winn, Jason, got to see why Miriam wanted him to learn black magic. Miriam often laments that the best killers died before the modern ages. What Jason witnessed when Winn was given orders to interrogate a man who refused to answer questions Miriam wanted answered, proved her right. Shit got ugly. It was only a teaching point for Jason. Miriam is a sick woman with cringe-worthy ways. She wielded power mercilessly, much too merciless for his taste.
Jason hastens toward the roof, toward a gray metal slab above the next turn, a guard trailing tentatively behind one flight below. Jason pushes through the door where he’s greeted by the late-morning sun, without stopping to pull the door shut. He listens to the sound of the lock tumbling in place when the guard shuts it. The guard checks the door once by pulling at it, then his footsteps begin to retreat.
A stiff wind swirls on the roof at the same moment a sliver of energy envelopes Jason. His body shoots skyward and goes rigid to glide through heady winds in the sky.
A small gathering, some twenty minutes later, grows as he glides closer to the ground. Closer to the house Cory and Miriam had their showdown. He glides, slowing until he comes to an airy touchdown near the group. A sizzle of energy releases his body to the ground and a tall man hands him a slim folder he rifles through without a word to anyone.
After the folder, Jason observes the damage to the property. Cory and Miriam had done all of this. Grass and dirt dashed and slashed, rocks cracked and crushed. It didn’t seem like there was much appreciation from the kid for Miriam rescuing him from that convoy. The way the yard was wrecked didn’t look like a play-fight happened here.
“I assume you have full feed.” Jason says when he hands back the folder.
The man turns and demands it from one of his subordinates. Instead of getting it, Winn passes by him followed by Anita. Winn shoves the small square the man is handing Jason aside and steps toward him. Anita remains a step or two behind her looking nervous.
Winn looks Jason straight in the eyes. “I want that n—“
“Don’t finish that!” Jason doesn’t blink after the warning neither does Winn. He sneers, unable to hide his disgust at seeing her. Why had she not turned into a pumpkin or something more hideous after Miriam died? A stone gargoyle he could take a sledge to, would be nice.
Winn grins at him. Pushes right onto him so she could size him up. “When you was scared a me, the missus told me to let you alone, boy. You let her die out here. Didn’t even lift a finger to help.”
“I had a choice?” Jason demands.
“You damned well did. You’re her strongest muscle, far ’s I can tell.” Winn knifes. “But that black bastard killed her and you didn’t do nothing. Says more than enough. You tryin to protect your own there, Bucky?”
“Keep pushing me.” Jason warns.
“You can send me back, now.” She says after staring him down. “I ain’t working with you, you piece o—.” She lets go an ear-piercing scream immediately. Her hands fly to her ears. Her feet levitate off the ground. Jason keeps his eyes on Winn when she sputters to the ground roiling in pain. No one says a word. When her breathes steady she lunges at him and again hollers, wallowing in the dirt at his feet as the others back away from them. Her screams of pain languish for a while before she relaxes, panting coarsely into the dirt.
“What happened here?” Jason demands harshly, his eyes on Anita.
Anita takes one quick step backward and freezes in place when she sees his eyes on her. “Th-the young man, Cory. We saw them fighting. We don’t know why.”
“The two of you didn’t try to help her?” He demands.
Anita clears her throat, her eyes are wide with fright. “The walls inside the house are all damaged from the fighting out here. I don’t know anything about fighting. I don’t like fighting.” She looks around wide-eyed, ready to run.
Jason looks down at Winn, sniveling in pain on the ground. Her eyes show a hesitant defiance he wants to beat out of her, if for nothing more than to put her in her place. “Why didn’t you come to help her?”
“Too much power.” Winn says hoarsely, after thinking it through.
“So, you understand power?” Jason condescends. Watches Winn’s eyes lower to the ground and her chin lowering to rest in the dirt. “I’m going to watch the video and then you’re going to fill in the blanks.” He says to Winn. Looks at Anita, who looks like she’s about to pass out. “Which one are you?”
“Leave her alone!” Winn starts getting to her feet and then folds, roiling in pain. Her face contorts while she wallows in the dirt.
Anita panics watching Winn roiling in pain for trying to protect her from Jason. “My name is, Anita. Stop. Please.” She pleads. Rushes to help Winn on the ground when Jason moves out of her way.
Jason reaches out a hand for the video and the man in charge rushes a small silver square that he holds up and illuminates, at him. The others come in close, standing around them, their eyes on Winn on the ground being comforted by Anita. Jason watches the video two times and hands it to the man who handed it to him, a bit frustrated.
The video confirms that Miriam was the one who rescued Cory, unless he found his way here and attacked her. “Do we at least know why she was fighting Cory Raymond?”
“We’re still processing all the information.” The man in charge says.
Jason looks at Winn who’d been helped to wobbly feet by Anita and one of the men. She immediately breathes a sigh of exasperation when she meets his eyes. Anita instead says. “The misses only told us that he would be in our care for a time.”
Jason stares Winn up and down reproachfully. “And you didn’t hear anything before they started fighting, no arguments, no conversation?”
“We ain’t stupid enough to listen in on her conversations without her permission.” Winn says.
Jason resists the urge to make her grovel again. He doesn’t like her tone or the contemptuous stare of hers. “Did she say why she brought him here?” He asks calmly, not looking at Winn.
“She only said we’d be serving him.” Winn insists.
“Did you talk to him?” Jason asks.
“I wasn’t allowed to touch ‘im.” Winn says with a smug grin. She looks at Anita.
“No, sir.” Anita says. “We stayed in the waiting chamber until miss sent us to him.”
“Room he stayed in?” Jason asks.
Winn looks at him. She looks at the house behind them. Points to an open window.
Jason walks toward it and they follow close behind. Halfway there, a slight wind kicks up. Jason’s feet levitate off the ground and he glides up and toward the open window, then through it.
The bed is the first thing he sees inside the room. Cory slept in comfort one night before they got into an argument that ended with Miriam dead. He sees the papers from the folder, some of which litter the bed and the floor – the spider-web crack in the wall near the room door, from someone slamming into it empowered.
The papers are reports. Carefully detailed reports on Gencor that do not contain the more pertinent details about the full organization. What had she been planning? Jason takes his time to identify all the pieces of paper on the ground and then energizes the air with kinetic energy, lifting the pieces of papers and the folders and bringing them together in front of him.
He’s standing in the middle of the room reading when the man in charge and some others come into the room. The others keep their distance while the man in charge approaches Jason. He keeps scanning the pieces of papers in the folder, paying attention to every detail.
“We’ll need to start rotating bodies immediately.” Jason says calmly. He extends a hand with a piece of paper the man in charge reads and pulls a cell phone from his pocket. It is the fastest way. “If they can keep an eye on things, let them do that.” Jason directs. “Common sense, of course.”
The man in charge nods absently, eyes on the paper. He relays what he’s reading to the person who picks up while Jason continues reading from the folder. He throws the folder on the bed and looks around the room, his eyes catching the crack near the door.
“Have your people collect what’s in this room and do a sweep.” Jason orders. “Anything they find I want to see, first hand.” He starts toward the door while the man in charge speaks to his contact on the phone. “Winn!”
Winn is at the open door staring at him from outside the room.
“Did you see the young girl?” Jason asks, his eyes observing the impact on the wall.
She gives him a slight, curious nod. Miriam could do some damage when she wanted to. Jason had beaten Miriam even though she threw everything she had at him. It may be a bad idea to get on his bad side after how things started between them. He seems to be in a real bad mood. “Scrawny li’l blue eyed gyal?”
“I want you to find her and stay close to her.” He orders.
Winn watches him. Smiles. “Will I get to play?”
“You’re going to find her and stay close to her.” Jason repeats. “You keep out of sight and have her shield your mind so nobody detects you.” He points to Anita without taking his eyes off the wall.
Anita looks at him, stunned that he would even know about her empathic abilities because she’s never met the guy. But shielding Winn, if she’s going to find that girl who the really strong man had flown away with, would mean being there. Empathy is her only ability. She can’t do all those things she saw them do. “Shield her, sir?”
“That’s what I just said.” Jason warns. Anita flinches. “Pretty sure Mr. Prietta won’t mind if you borrow what you need for the assignment, from his arsenal.” He turns his attention to the man in charge. “You mind calling to let them know Winn is coming their way?” The man in charge shakes his head.
Winn gives the man in charge a knowing glance. A sneer. A warning of sorts that one day they’d be the only two people in the same room. She could smell the fear on him. See it in his eyes that he knows about her. Fears her. “Thanks, Mr. Prietta.” Winn offers a hand for him to shake. He offers his hand out of respect, hesitantly. She offers him a toothy grin with a vice grip before Jason puts a hand on her shoulder to ease up.
Jason goes back to studying the crack on the wall to the right of the door. “Get going!” He orders. His mind is working the room as he starts ambling without waiting for Winn to respond.
She watches him for a moment, admiring the minds she knows are in that head of his, thanks to Miriam who had warned her about him. She still didn’t have to like him for who he was on the outside, but, she knew power. Respected power. She takes Anita by the hand and heads for the door while Jason tries to recreate the battle with the training he’d received from some of the best forensic minds in the world.
The fight started near the bed, he believes. Jason walks toward the bed, observing the evidence left there by the combatants. Keeping himself in a direct line between the bed and the crack by the door. He observes keenly. Jason stops near the bed and idles around it, keeping his eyes on the bed, until he is directly opposite the crack in the wall by the door.
There, he observes the sheets, the ripples caused by the blasts of energy. This was Cory. Miriam is the one who caused the crack in the wall. A substantial push. The ripples in the bed. Cory was angry at her for something. Not just angry. Pissed. “I want a complete history of all interaction between Cory and Miriam,” Jason takes a saddened breath. “And Tatiana. Dig deep.”
The man in charge nods slowly. “What are we looking for, sir?”
Jason points to the deep etches in the sheets and on the wall by the door of the battle that had occurred here. “That kid was pissed about something.” Jason says. “I’ve been trying to find him for his mother and myself without asking the important questions.”
The man in charge gives him a questioning look.
“Never heard anything about his father other than he’s dead. I’d like to know how. I’d like to know when Miriam found out about Cory and what she did about it. We track the most powerful people that manifest abilities and somehow that kid glides under the radar until his power is firing, does not sit well with me. And, Tatiana.” He finishes, a bit subdued.
The man in charge thinks. “Do you want me to give orders to question her?”
“I don’t want her to know anything I don’t tell her.” Jason warns. “Pass word along. No one treats her different. No one questions her. I’ll personally deal with anyone who touches her. Let your people know she’s mine.”
“You pay me to speak freely, sir!” Man in charge reminds him. Jason looks at him. “You sure you’re not too close? She is a pretty little thing.”
Jason considers. Turns to one of the people behind his man in charge. “What’s your name?”
“L-Lynn Hoyt, s-sir!” She stiffens.
“I need you to remember how things work.” Jason says. The man in charge swallows a lump in his throat before he screams in pain. His body contorting several different ways before falling dead. Jason looks to his new woman in charge. “Did you miss anything in the orders I gave?”
She shakes her head, eyes bulging at the sight of her mangled predecessor at his feet.
“You question me when I seem like I’m wrong.” Jason walks to her. “Not when I give a solid order. I need to know you can handle leadership, Ms. Hoyt.”
Her head nods several times.
“Lose the fear!” Jason says. “Now!” He commands when she starts taking deep, staggering breaths. “Make the call. Let them know I put you in charge. Then do what I ordered. I want a preliminary within the hour. I want to know what you found that I haven’t seen yet, to go along with reviewing what I’ve seen.”
She gets on the horn. “This – this is Lynn Hoyt.” She speaks quickly, while doing her best to appear composed. “By orders of Command One, I am now the head of Shadow Team Two.” The radio doesn’t crackle in response. She looks at Jason who is walking the room slowly. Her orders are clear and she knows what to do, sort of. What about the body on the ground? She does not want to get this wrong. She points to someone by the door. “Widden,” Her eyes find Jason wandering the room when she gives the order. “Get a cleanup team to remove captain Prietta’s body.” She stiffens momentarily but Jason doesn’t turn to say anything and she’s still alive. She points to three people. “Bevins, Edsella, you’re with me. Standish…” She takes a calming breath and looks at the body on the ground again, fighting back tears now. “Get a team of four and pick up all this stuff and order the rest of the team to stay close to Command One and keep this place secure.” She sees Jason walk through the door of the closet to the left. So far, so good, she hopes.
She takes one last glance at the mangled remains of a long time friend. They’ve known each other for years. Hunted together for the organization. Defended one another from the worst encounters. But she was fine in the shadows while he gave orders. The day shouldn’t have come when he was gone and she was left there. They were supposed to live or die as one unit. Such is war. She turns from the body and leaves the room with her Shadow team members following the orders they were given. A deep, deep breath of sympathy and dread.
Tia Myricks – Works on Amazon
Melissa Bird Brav conflict resolution
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