Mystery Girl (1)

The Showdown Part 2

17. The Showdown Part 2

For a moment, Joe thought Sydney was going to let Mad Jack impale her with the sword. She lifted her chin as he charged toward her. Joe had never seen the fire in her eyes burn brighter. Just before the sword skewer her like a shish kabob, Sydney dropped to the floor. It was too late for Mad Jack to stop his momentum. He tripped over Sydney and tumbled onto the floor. His cane sword spun away from him.

Sydney pushed herself off the ground and took off for Joe, her feet pounding on the ground. She yanked him to his feet and without giving him time to ask any questions, pulled him away. They wound their way through the lair, artifacts flying by, and finally slid to a stop behind the throne.

Sydney forced Joe onto the ground and collapsed next to him. The effort of her escape evident through the sweat and increased bleeding from her wound. Joe was sure he didn't look any better. The temporary adrenaline rush from the fight was wearing off and his arm was flaring up with fresh pain.

Their heads fell back and they gulped down lungfuls of air. They knew it wouldn't be long before Mad Jack found their hiding place, and they took advantage of every second of reprieve they had.

"We can't fight him, and we can't escape this place either. We need a new plan." The words were hard to force out. Joe's arm was throbbing and he still hadn't managed to catch his breath.

"I know." Sydney sounded as out of breath as he did. There was a melancholy expression on her face and Joe was wondering what she was thinking about.

"About your nightmare," Joe started, wanting to give her some comfort. "You have to know Mad Jack was controlling everything. I don't know what you saw, but just because you saw it in your dream, does not mean it is actually going to happen. It was all a lie, an illusion." Joe could hear his heart pounding in his ears, but his heart rate did seem to be slowing down a little bit.

Sydney stared at him, a flash of confusion appearing before changing into understanding. "Joe, I couldn't care less about that awful nightmare your uncle subjected me to. I know it was just a dream, but..." Sydney bit her lip. Her eyes flicked to Joe and she gently placed her hand on top of his. "Be safe. Just in case."

Joe stared blankly at their touching hands, confused by her sudden serious tone. "Yeah, sure. Of course. Same goes for you."

Sydney didn't respond to that. She pulled her hand away from Joe and let out a shaky breath. "It's sure been one hell of a week, hasn't it?"

"Um, yeah, I guess." Joe watched Sydney closely, wondering where she was going with this. Her somber mood hadn't changed. Joe chanced a look over the throne to check on Mad Jack, who was nowhere in sight. Joe swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. That couldn't be good. He faced Sydney again. "So, what's our new plan? What do we do?" Joe made sure to keep his voice low, in case Mad Jack was lurking nearby.

"We aren't going to do anything." Sydney refused to make eye contact with Joe. He opened his mouth to respond, but Sydney went on before he could. "The time bomb is tracking me, not you. You can use The Book and get out of here safe and sound."

"And then I can go get help," Joe said eagerly, catching onto her idea. "I'll find Nicole and Kayla and bring them back here. You'll stay hidden so Mad Jack can't hurt you or take you away."

Sydney slowly shook her head side to side. "No, Joe. You're going to warp out of here to safety, and you're not going to come back. Do you really think you could find this place again? Even if you had Nicole and Kayla with you, I'm almost positive Mad Jack has this place off the grid."

"Then what's the plan?" Joe eyed Sydney uncertainly. Where was she going with this? It didn't give Joe a good feeling.

"You need to leave, Joe. Now." Sydney met Joe with hard eyes. "Your uncle wants me. I'm not going to let you get hurt or killed because of me. Take your book and get out of here before it's too late. I have to stay behind."

"Stay behind?" Joe's jaw dropped. He rapidly shut it and clenched his fists. This was insane. What was Sydney talking about? She couldn't stay here. That would be suicide. "Why? So he can force you to work for him? Sydney, you cannot do that! Who knows what could happen to you? I don't care if you want to protect me, I'm not leaving here without you."

"Joe, you have to listen to me. I-"

"No!" Joe cut her off. He didn't want to hear her excuses. There was no reason for her to throw her life away all because of Joe. She didn't deserve that. He wouldn't let her do that. "You listen to me. This is our fight, meaning I'm a part of it too. I'm not leaving you here to become his slave or worse."

"I am no one's slave!" Sydney spat out. "No one is in charge of my life, but me. I make my own decisions. I control my life. No one else. This past week has taken that away from me, and I'm sick and tired of it. I am not going to work for him. I'm going to finish this once and for all."

Joe was taken aback by her harsh words. He hadn't expected that sudden outburst from her. Only now did he realize how hard this week must have been on her. He stretched out a hand to comfort her. She immediately pushed it away. "I'm not asking for your pity. I'm asking you to do as I say and get out of here."

Joe lifted his head and matched her defiant look with one of his own. "I'm not leaving you behind. We came here together. We leave here together."

"Joe, please. I don't want you to get hurt. He will kill you if he gets the chance. I'm not going to give him that chance."

"I know you're still here warp runts!" Mad Jack's abrupt voice was harsh to their ears. "Come out now and I might go easy on you. I'll make your deaths quick."

Joe and Sydney winced. It wouldn't be long before Mad Jack stumbled upon their hiding spot.

"We're out of time. Go already!" Sydney grabbed The Book from Joe and tried to warp him away.

Joe snatched it back from her before she could do anything. "No!"

"Yes!"

"No!"

"Come out, come out wherever you are." Mad Jack's voice sounded closer than it was before. Their time was running out.

Sydney squared her shoulders and glared at Joe. He held The Book out of her reach in case she tried to make another grab for it to send him away. "This is ridiculous. We're wasting our time arguing instead of coming up with an alternative plan to stop him."

"I already have another plan." Sydney kept one hand on her injury, but used the other to point at Joe. "And it involves you getting out of here. You should have left five minutes ago!"

"How many times do I have to say it? I'm not going anywhere. So maybe you should think of a new strategy. Even if I did leave, what would you do? You're way too hurt to fight him. You need medical attention."

"Explosione tempore," the words slipped out of Sydney's mouth with ease. The amount of confidence within made Joe lean back in shock.

Time stopped for Joe in that moment. Everything became silent. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. He didn't know how to respond to that. Explosione tempore could take care of Mad Jack once and for all, but it came with a high price. "Sydney... that's suicide. You can't kill yourself. There has to be another way."

"If there was another way, I'd do it, but the truth is that there isn't. You know it too. I don't want you to be around when it happens either. So, for the last time, get out of here." Sydney's entire body was tense, and Joe could see that eternal flame burning in her eyes. The contacts couldn't cover that up. She was set on doing this, but Joe was set on saving her.

"I will burn this whole place to the ground if you don't come out this instant!" Mad Jack's voice shot up an octave. He was losing what little composure he had. Joe knew without a doubt that if they didn't appear soon, he would indeed burn this place down. They had less than a minute to come up with a new plan and put it into action.

They heard a string of curses and knew that Mad Jack was standing on the other side of the throne they were hiding behind.

"Maybe we can..." Joe trailed off. He ran through a thousand possibilities to get them out of this situation, but none of them ended well. He refused to accept that their only option was Sydney's suicide.

"Don't make this harder than it has to be," Sydney's voice was soft and distant.

"You are not doing that." Joe was just as determined as she was. He felt the hardened look in his eyes, and prayed that he could get through to Sydney. Her stubbornness was losing its endearing charm.

"Joe, please." Sydney squeezed her eyes shut and bit her lip.

"No! I've made my opinion very clear and you are not- oomph!" Without warning, Sydney grabbed Joe's shoulders, pulled herself into a tight embrace with him, and kissed him hard of the lips. His heart stopped and he found himself melting into the kiss. His eyes fluttered shut and his arms found their way around her waist.

In an instant, the kiss was over. Sydney's sky blue eyes locked onto his green ones. "Te amo in toto corde meo!" She ungraciously shoved Joe away. With one final glance back, Sydney ran out from behind the throne, revealing herself to Mad Jack.

Joe laid on the floor in a daze. He knew he should have gotten up and stopped Sydney, but he was too stunned. His mind couldn't process anything. He distantly heard Mad Jack and Sydney's final exchange, but none of it really registered with him.

"There you are!" Mad Jack exclaimed. "It's about time. What is with you time gods and making everyone wait all the time?" There was a brief pause. "Where is the other warp runt?"

"You don't need to worry about him," Sydney's voice had lost any trace of the softness it had before. Now it was back to her usual strength and confidence.

"Oh, really? No matter, I will take care of him after I'm done with you. Unless of course, you've come out here to tell me you changed your mind about being my assistant?"

"Never." Sydney's answer was immediate.

There was low chuckle. "As you wish. It's your funeral. I feel a little bad for him. He won't get to watch his girlfriend die."

"If I go, I'm taking you with me." There was a slight waver in Sydney's words suddenly, as if the gravity of the situation had just hit her.

"What on earth is that supposed to mean?"

"Veniat ad me, nam nos unum sumus. Hoc erit finis."

"What are you saying? Stop it at once! Why is your entire body glowing? Cut it out!"

"Opportunum advenisse tempus pro explosionem tempus."

Everything caught up with Joe in an instant: the kiss, Sydney's final words, and the last look she had given him. That was the last time Joe would ever see those brilliant blue eyes. He was on his feet in a flash, dashing around the throne, and yelling at the top of his lungs. "No!"

His arm shot out in a futile attempt to stop Sydney, but it was too late. The last thing Joe saw was a blazing burst of green light.

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