Princess of the Shadows ➺ [FC Series Bk.2]

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Chapter 9: Dale's Revolution of the Shadow Lair

Just as Ace and I also walk into the lab and Viola is let out of her cage by Serge and Jose, an alarm sounds. Despite the new emergency, I run up to Casey and wrap him in my arms, squeezing him tight while making sure not to let my hair or nails slice his skin.

"Alyssa,” Casey growls low in shock and I almost think it’s one of my beast’s talking. I lean back and grin.

“You’re safe now,” I nod and turn to V, who also runs into my arms next. I embrace her tightly and she cries while the alarm wails loudly.

“Time to go, ladies,” Dale takes out his gun, holding it up in case we’re infiltrated any second.

Jose grabs his gun too and Serge plays with sparkles between his fingers while Ace takes out two guns.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” Casey manoeuvres past me to scoop up V into his arms and as he holds her to his chest, he strives ahead after Dale. There is already confidence in every step he takes. Casey is wearing a ridiculous off white lab gown while V is in tattered jeans and a tank top.

“You’re with me, doll,” Serge growls the order as he urges me to hang back with him to follow the other’s out of here. It was always his place, at the back to be used as a last resort. Electrifying the fuck out of your enemies was a good way to clear a path to escape, but I had a feeling my beasts were eager to put a few bullets through a few skulls first.

I could feel a change in their vibe - quiet intensity. They hated doctors and scientists for the way they were forcefully brought up by them, and this skyscraper was full of them.

Which meant there was going to be blood covering the emergency stair case if we were intercepted.

I follow next to Serge as Dale, Casey, V, Ace and Jose start to hop down the first flight of stairs just ahead of us.

Then, just as we’re about to descend further - we have to stop.

“This way,” Casey snarls, passion consuming him as he kicks open the fire escape doors and heads down a hallway unexpectedly.

“Casey,” Dale snarls back at his adopted son to get him to hurry the fuck up.

Instead, Casey ignores him completely.

We all halt and peer through the door as Casey stands in the hall with V in his arms.

Standing in the hallway ahead of them are four frightened but armed guards.

“Hey, fuckers,” Casey calls out, joyfully, “Pull up your guns...” we all watch as the guards move as soon as Casey speaks, “Now put them to your skulls...” again, instant obedience, “Pull the trigger... if you humiliated me while I was restrained for 12 months. Drop the gun if you gave me chocolate when Krys and Ben weren’t looking...” While three guns blast and blow brains all over the walls... one trembling scared man remains standing, “Thank you for the chocolate... now, please tell Krys and Ben to wait outside for me.”

“T-they’ve already evacuated to the street, k-kid,” the guard answers, “Casey...”

Casey has already turned with a blushing V still in his arms.

“I’m ready,” Casey nods at Dale who rolls his eyes.

“Don’t fuck up again this time, kid,” Dale pushes him forward to urge him down quicker, “First we get the fuck out of here, then you can act your age.”

“I’m a ten year old beast and Viola loves it,” Casey laughs all the way down the stairs while I glance at Serge and he cocks an eyebrow.

Ace and Jose chuckle under their breaths while Dale just glares back at all of us.

“Move it,” Dale snarls while the alarm continues to sound.

“What does the alarm mean?” I call out, wondering if it was just for an evacuation or if there was back up coming for the Avalon doctors and scientists.

“Doesn’t matter, kitten,” Jose growls, “We’re getting out of here, move quicker.”

As we reach the bottom of the stairs after a minute of an intense round of skipping stairs two at a time all the way down, we meet a crumpled, bloodied body.

It was the man at the control panel for the lab and his skull is crushed in.

I’m shocked as Casey simply walks over the man without a second glance and so do the rest of STRIKE. I’m left lingering a moment to see the gory details - I had never been witness to something so horrific before.

Yet, of course, my beasts do not flinch.

I have to sprint to catch up. The moment we all reach the side door and swing it open, the moonlight has lit up a clear path back the way we came.

It was empty.

The employees must have evacuated to the other side of the skyscraper.

“Where are they?” Casey roars while V struggles to get out of his arms so she can stand on her own. He let’s her go and looks at her in confusion as she shakes her head, “What?”

“No,” she says, firmly, still shaking her head.

“She’s being sensible, kid,” Dale smirks, “Come on - you’ll get your revenge another day.”

We all head off while Casey pauses, looking consumed by a need to distance himself from our group to follow his own instincts.

"Casey,” Dale and I snap at him, at the same time.

We share a knowing look, because we know his Ultimate genes are taking over.

He won’t listen to anyone else.

So, we had to make him believe it was in his best interests to come with us now.

“Go after them and kill two,” I murmur as I turn to Casey, “Come with us and you can destroy everyone who hurt you... come on, Casey... you might be big, but you’re barely old enough to have the wisdom that Dale and I do...”

Perhaps I shouldn’t have added that last part, because Casey looks utterly offended.

“Excuse me?” he growls, while pointing to his chest like a whiny scolded child, ”I have wisdom - I have plenty of fucking wisdom. Since when do whores have wisdom anyway?”

“Casey,” I gasp and genuinely gaze at him in shock, “Don’t say that.”

“Let’s go,” Dale cuts us off again, “We’re in enemy territory whether we stay or go, kid, so let’s go to our safe cover before we do anything else drastic.”

“Safe cover?” Casey mocks, while taking a reluctant step forward, “No where could possibly be safe in Avalon.”

As Casey slows us down by walking reluctantly, V cracks it after glancing back at Casey several times. She hisses in frustration and barges past us back towards Casey. We all halt to watch the furious exchange. She frantically communicates with sign language, while Casey’s eyes move to take in all that she has to say.

By the time she’s done, he’s blushing and looking really embarrassed.

“Okay...” Casey murmurs, “...I’ll go... okay, I won’t call her a whore again... I’m just angry - I know I don’t have an excuse to be angry. Stop speaking to me, V, why don’t you answer me instead... did you like our first date?”

V rolls her eyes and turns from him, storming ahead.

“We don’t have time for this!” Ace yells in frustration, “Seriously, kid, impress her later. Let’s move it.”

“I’m moving,” Casey starts stalking forward and I hang back to run with him once we all start to move quickly through the abandoned alley ways and roads, “What are you thinking, Alyssa?” Casey asks dryly, “That I’m ugly? I bet I am ugly now, as ugly as those fuckers.”

“Actually, I was just thinking how you’re so genuine. The moment you’re free - you think of Viola. Don’t ever change, Casey,” I tell him my honest thoughts while he looks at me with wide eyes as we jog side by side.

“V is my girl,” Casey says, like it’s obvious.

“Have you kissed her?” I ask, a little worried... because she was 13.

"Ew! What the fuck?” Casey shakes his head in absolute disgust and jogs faster, leaving me in the dust while yelling back, “You’re so gross, Alyssa, clearly you can’t keep your mind off what you wish you were doing with STRIKE! Ha!”

As Casey laughs robustly while running ahead, I see Serge, Ace and Jose look over their shoulders as we round the last block. They all smirk at me.

“It’s not funny,” I snap and my beasts just ignore me.

Now, up ahead, a hovering van waits for us on the side of the road.

Dale is the first to arrive and he is still holding his gun... which I find odd.

Dale opens the doors once we all reach the van. I’m the last to climb inside, where I see Jessica fussing over Casey and V.

“ poor mutants,” Jessica rambles - trying to be kind, but sounding mocking without even trying, “Oh, I will protect you, feed you... clothe you,” Jessica’s eyes roam between Casey and V... but they mostly rest on Casey.

She has no idea that mid-20 looking something year old, is actually just a ten year old.

Which makes this very awkward, except, thank god, it doesn’t stay awkward for long.

“Drive,” Dale drawls low to Holt, cutting off Jessica’s rambling while actually glaring at her... and he is still holding his gun.

I start to have some evil thoughts I really should not be having, nor liking.

“Drive,” Jessica speaks to Holt, repeating Dale’s order needlessly.

“Around the corner, two blocks down... then stop,” Dale speaks almost instantly over her again... and this time a weird tense silence fills the van.

Casey looks at me and seems to ask me with his eyes, what the fuck is going on, and who is this red headed little red riding hood... I have the audacity to shrug back and pretend to be naive.

I eventually turn to Gabriel, the guard I told to strip so I could take her clothes. She is sitting straight, wrapped in Jose’s black blazer while her eyes are wide and her lips are sealed shut.

I’m sorry, I mouth to her.

“For what?” she asks, confused.

“For what’s about to happen...” I whisper, as quietly as possible.

“Pull over where Dale said, Holt, I need to work out what went wrong,” Jessica again, repeats Dale’s order as if she needs to be the one to say it, for the law to come into affect.

I see Dale smirk at her attempt at control while the other beasts look eager for the very quick change of power.

I wish I had some popcorn right now.

“O-okay, Jess,” Holt replies quietly while the van speeds up and then slowly comes to a stop.

The moment the van is pulled up, Dale shimmies over the leather seats and puts his arms around the back of the front seats to speak right next to Jessica and Holt.

Yep - he is still holding out his gun.

Which meant...

“Babe... what are you doing?” Jessica whispers very quietly while flicking her intense green eyes between Dale and Holt.

“You’re driving,” Dale answers Jessica... and I watch, my heart once blooming with morbid fascination... as it now it shrinks up in absolute distress.

Dale raises the gun and shoots Holt in the head, with absolutely no hesitation.

While Jessica shrieks, Dale leans over Holt’s slumped body and opens the door, clicking off Holt’s seatbelt... and shoving him out onto the road.

The moment that’s done, Dale slowly turns to Jessica calmly... but he doesn’t point the gun at her. He simply swipes it through the air to indicate she shuffle over and take the driver’s seat.

“D-Dale?” Jessica can barely speak without stuttering, but instead of feeling happy I can barely breathe.

I had killed Holt.

I had killed him for taunting them.

He was dead because of me.

The ultimate blame, was on Dale... but... Holt was dead... Dale shot him - when Holt did nothing wrong... but I had lied... and now... now-

“Babe,” Dale leans away from Jessica and then he sits back into the corner of the seat lining the back of the front of the van’s two front seats, “You need to drive or we all get hauled in,” he doesn’t need to say anymore.

She starts the engine and starts to drive, tears running down her cheeks as she turns to gaze at Dale... then the rest of us.

Jessica honestly looks terrified.

And now I actual feel fucking horrible for her.

Gabriel beside me is closing her eyes, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, in an attempt to keep calm.

“I don’t understand,” Jessica murmurs.

“Who is this chick?” Casey murmurs, looking at Dale while he smirks.

“Our chauffeur,” Dale again, is short in his reply.

“Dale,” I snap, “Explain to her what’s happening - she deserves to know.”

"You shut the fuck up, doll,” Dale snarls at me, his purple eyes blazing with all the built up frustration he had been controlling for an entire year, “Don’t even tempt me...”

“To what, kill Holt? Because he’s dead,” I snarl back and Serge casually raises a hand and covers my mouth.

“Shut up, doll,” Serge gives me a warning look and eventually drops his hand, while Jessica keeps looking in the rearview mirror.

“Please...” Jessica asks again, “Tell me what’s going on.”

Dale smiles and sits up straighter, leaning on the back of the leather while casually reaching over with his gun in hand, to stroke it through her hair, like a hand... except the gun’s barrel strokes the back of her head... and I see her jerk in both fear and rejection of the touch.

“Oh, baby, I’m taking over,” Dale drawls into the silence of the car, “Your Shadow Lair... is now mine.”

“I... I had my suspicions,” Jessica whispers, “I had heard rumours in the past... of violent men in Frankincense City... that controlled the underground... with the threat of violence. Be honest with me, please, Dale... are you the reason that rumour exists?”

“On the contrary, I protected the city,” Dale explains, keeping it short, “Babe... keep driving... and don’t worry, Jessica,” Dale chuckles, “I’ll let you live - but from now on, I only ask one thing - I’m in charge.”

“Is that all you want?” Jessica asks, “Because I can not give you my body after you’ve... y-you’ve...”

“I never wanted your body,” Dale is cruel and harsh but he speaks the truth, “I only have one kitten. You... you’re just a toy in my game - a pawn. I’ll let you live, I’ll let you strive to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. But before your needs, mine take priority. The moment you disobey me, you can join Holt, over in the dust, or in heaven... or wherever you believe you’ll end up after you’re dead.”

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Jessica answers, “It’s unreal... like a dream.”

“Trust me, baby... this is reality,” Dale presses the gun to the back of her head, “ the first rule... never hit on Casey again. Understood?”

“Understood,” Jessica nods and Dale abruptly pulls away.

“Perfect,” Dale drawls as he looks over all his beasts, Casey, V, Gabriel and myself.

Gabriel and I are the only one’s not smiling.

Dale can see I’m pissed off.

I wanted him to take over... but I didn’t want an innocent to be harmed nor killed in the process.

“Sometimes, Dale... you’re a real monster,” I say this quietly while Serge rolls his eyes and Jose and Ace just look on at me in disbelief.

“Last time I checked... kitten...” Dale drawls casually, “I’m the Lord of the Underworld - and no one touches my kitten. Don’t worry, Alyssa... I’ll remind you of your place when we get back to my Shadow Lair.”

“Dad,” Casey snaps, “That’s gross.”

Dale glances at Casey, a full grown man, speaking about something most full grown men would never consider gross.

All of STRIKE pause to take in the hilarious moment.

Then, Dale bursts out laughing robustly with all his beasts.

When I look up and catch Jessica watching me in the rearview mirror with suss eyes and a question in her gaze... I just shrug back at her.

I didn’t have an explanation for my beasts.

All I had... was my nails and my hair... and my sharp tongue.

They were always wanting to teach me lessons.

Yet, I was always having to teach them about respect and simple manners.

“Lighten up, doll,” Serge growls at me when I continue to scowl at their laughing.

“Yeah, kitten,” Ace winks at me, “Don’t worry, if you don’t want to smile now... we’ll give you a reason to soon enough.”

“Not soon enough,” Jose can’t help but be a smart ass.

"Am I going to die?" everyone turns to Gabriel, who’s worked up the courage to ask such an intense question out of the blue.

Viola stands from her seat and rushes to Gabriel’s side, grabbing her hand and sitting next to her on the floor of the van.

Viola glares at Dale and Casey - while I also glare at Dale.

“ hated your job... do you want a new one?” Dale asks, raising a brow.

“Yes,” Gabriel just answers as best as she can to keep her life.

“You’re going to go to Atlantis... and you’re going to guard a closed museum called the EBME; the Everlasting Breadth of Mankind’s Endeavours. If you do this, you’ve got an ally in us, deal?” Dale sounds very generous, but clearly he had an ulterior motive.

I knew what was in that museum; a machine called a Transpendiser that could take you back to Frankincense City in a blink of an eye... in other words... on the other side of the planet.

“S-sure,” Gabriel nods.

“Good girl,” Dale winks at Gabriel and then glances at me, “...poor kitten...” Dale then leans back after mocking me with fake empathy. He focuses on Jessica’s driving, while my other beasts all look at my reaction again.

"What do you want?" I snap.

None of them answer, but they all smile and look away... my beasts are all fantasising... and I know exactly what they’re fantasising about.

I had no plans to please them after Holt’s ridiculous murder.

They’d need all the luck they could get... I was off limits until they made it up to me.

At least that’s what I try to make myself believe.

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