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Newborn City Series: Affinity for Pain

By R. E. Johnson All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Fantasy

Blurb

Unbound by the burden of physical sensation, Hope Turner, the demon daughter of The Chakal makes for the ideal human hunting assassin. Brilliantly cruel and decidedly callus Hope finds no problem engaging her latest hit, Ciaran O’Connor. But as the very essence of nature begins to twist and turn around her, Hope becomes paralysed by an onslaught of new-found emotion and feeling. Unable to kill, confused and in danger, the unlikely pair must embark on a journey together in order to survive the much darker powers that chase them from their pasts. Only through embracing their connection will Hope and Ciaran find the means to survive.

One

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 6:33pm

The air was crisp and cool; at least Hope imagined it was. She turned the dial on the television to off. The pop of the screen echoed in the quiet trailer and the image on the screen divided into two gray halves which slowly met in the middle until the screen was an empty black. It was official, the whole world now knew of the existence of demons. At least that’s what the humans called them. For as long as anyone could remember the clans had all agreed to keep their existence a secret for fear that the humans would play into their more violent tendencies. Some will be violent, but some won’t. Some won’t care enough to do shit about it, Hope thought.

Among “demon” clans everyone pretty much knew of each other. There were some clans that weren’t on the map so to speak. Like an uncharted continent or something, “demons” didn’t even know much about those ones, the Shin D’ri, the Daemos, and the Bimfishy Bobs. Okay, the point was she didn’t fucking know. They were unheard of. There could still be demons out there that no one had ever seen, especially if they were pure blood. That was all going to change now of course. Now people knew they were sharing the world and Hope had a feeling some jerks would go off searching for them. They might not like what they find, she thought.

She also had a feeling some wouldn’t like this newest development. A lot of them weren’t comfortable being seen on an off chance let alone on the 5 o’clock news. Who knew how the others were spending their days, it was a good possibility that this would not only interfere with their quiet lives but fucking tear them to pieces and force them to drop everything and move. But Hope was alright with moving, she had desperately wanted to get out of Ontario and New York State wasn’t too far away. Hopefully her POS car could make it.

Hope had been waiting for this day ever since the rumors of the Dawning started; it was fucking hilarious that of all the days, it was on Halloween. It made some kind of sick sense though. All Saint’s Day was always more like All Demon’s Day. It was the one time of the year that those purer bred demons that looked the part could actually go out in public. Not that many of them did, usually just the young-ins that hadn’t learned to hate the human world yet.

Hope however looked human; she never had the experience of genuinely hiding. Sure she never left the clan’s land but that was because of her clan, not her appearance. She couldn’t really imagine what that would feel like to truly hide, although she was never truly herself with her family. She acted out a lie, pretending to be the doting daughter for as long as she could, but after the braednas ceremony she just couldn’t do it anymore.

Now that it was time to leave she almost hesitated packing her bags. She’d never really been around humans. There was one that helped to bring supplies to the clan, Dan. He was pretty tolerant, but he had also never seen any of the pure bred demons and he didn’t know what Chakals could do, or couldn’t do in her case. Hope wondered what he would do if he really knew them, all of them.

But that was why she was leaving. A new town was being built in upstate New York over the existing foundations of Endwell. It was going to be a haven so they could be in free-to-be-you-and-me land. Newborn City would be far enough away from New York City’s reporters and safe for clans with small yanyas. Newborn City, she thought the name seemed fitting. Away from the clan’s repressive gaze, she could get free of the fate that awaited her. Hope’s clan was trapped in its traditional values and she would have nothing to do with that shit. She had been waiting to leave, gathering up enough courage to blow outta town and never look back. When she had heard the rumors of the Dawning for the first time, she had set the day as her goal and knew that it would provide a defense when her father said it wouldn’t be safe.

The Dawning made it safe to leave, at least enough, and it forced her to get over her fears of being on her own. Quick like too. She had been trying to get up her nerve since the braednas ceremony and the time had finally come.

Hope walked down the small hallway to her bedroom. The door had a giant Do Not Enter sign and a padlock bolted to it. She fished in the pocket of her jeans and grabbed out the small key. As she opened her door, she could hear her father’s voice outside the trailer. He was talking with Jonathon, another elder of the clan, about the news report. They sounded panicky and Hope laughed at the old fool’s fear.

She grabbed the old, brown backpack she had had since she was four and set it down on her small bed. The twin was covered in cheap cotton sheets and a cotton comforter that had purple kittens all over it. It was her favorite when she was small, but now it was just a disgusting reminder of the lie that she lived as a child. The fuzzy, matted purple carpet, the posters of Devon Sawa and David Boreanaz. She had been obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena, and anything science fiction or fantasy. She was convinced that they had to have been made by demons since they were filled with them.

Her father had put a stop to that pretty quickly. He had drilled the truth into her that humans were to be feared and hated because they feared and hated demons and let it control them. They were murders who persecuted our clans, so the clans decided to hide away from them and stay in the shadows. Hope could remember the stories, like all the others told to the yanyas as they grew. The horrific tales of how humans had hunted demons long ago. Maker, after the tales of how people responded to vampires, it was no wonder other demons chose to stay under the radar. I mean coffins? Garlic? They were thought of nothing but evil creatures that burst into flames when in sunlight, their ultimate desire to consume every last drop of human blood on the planet. Please, nothing could be further from the truth, unless you counted the crazed lunatics among them but that would be like saying serial killers are a good representation of all of humanity. And don’t get her started on the devil. Sure he didn’t like people all that much but he was just another flame demon not the leader of an army of unclean, hell spawn.

Now that was over, no shadows anymore, just a bright fucking spotlight pointing down on us. She grabbed the few clothes she owned that fit her and her small notebook of thoughts. She didn’t want anything else from this place, after the almost-braednas, Hope never wanted to think of this fucking shit hole of a home again. She would of course. Something deep inside her mind said she would never forget this place and that night, but 25 years here was more than enough.

For hours she had sat outside of the braednas temple waiting. Watching the males exit out the front door and a few minutes later the females would sneak out the back. As some of them walked off to their own trailers, she could see the white robes they wore stained with blood. The females looked awkward and confused as they left, but the males, each one of them, looked satisfied. Hope could remember looking at the females waiting their turn before her, they sat there complacent and still. It had always been that way. The twenty or so girls who were deemed ready were lined up outside the temple and then when time went on after, their stomachs would change. Grow so large. Then after two months they would just go, small bellied, away from the lands never to return again. She had been grabbed off of the ground where she was waiting and shoved toward the temple.

Hope turned off the light in her room and felt the bile rise in her throat. All this time she spent waiting, for braednas, for the Dawning, for something, anything to get her the fuck out of here. She reached for the brassy gold knob and closed her door. She left the padlock open, nothing left to protect in there now. It was all coming with her.

Hope surveyed her home as she walked toward the door. The old frayed, green and brown couch, the mustard yellow fridge that sat in the corner under the sink that spat brown water, the peeling laminate that was partially covered with a purple shag carpet, down to the giant wooden fork and knife that hung over the Formica counter top. Hope saw it all. I’m never living in a fucking shit hole like this again. Hope opened the door of the puke green trailer and took a deep breath. The air inside had smelled of mac and cheese and dawn dish soap, the air outside smelled of fallen leaves, wet earth, and rain. She stepped off the thin tin steps that led up to the trailer and started for her car.

Jonathon glared at her and shook his head. He bowed deeply to her father who bowed back. They clasped arms, squeezing each other’s biceps tightly. With a final attack from his eyes, Jonathon walked away back to his own empty trailer. She had been chosen as his son’s partner for the braednas ceremony and he never forgave her for bolting.

“If you leave us, leave the safety and love of your clan, you will be alone and you will fail,” her father’s voice was deep and proud. He stood in the yard outside of their tin box with his arms crossed over his chest. His dark hair was bright in the sun and his pale skin pulled tight over his face. He was very tall and it was extremely funny to watch him go in and out of the trailer, hunching so low he looked like Igor. She wondered if she would miss that, not nearly enough to stay. The long, blue robe he wore as a symbol of his place as spiritual guide was tattered and the hem was falling open on the bottom. His brown moccasins poked out from underneath and they were dusty from the gravel drive.

“Love? What the fuck is that? You know as well as I do that love isn’t a part of how this clan works. Madru isn’t the only mother to leave and you’re not the only father that’s forcing their yanyas into braednas.” Hope walked past the statue like figure of her father and over to the royal blue Geo Metro.

She stuck the key into the trunk’s lock, swung open the door, threw in her bag, and grabbed the CD’s she had locked inside. She had to pick the appropriate tune-age for such a momentous occasion. Hope shuffled through the stack and pulled out Arch Enemy, System of a Down, Deftones, Tool, A Perfect Circle, and some random burnt mystery CD’s. They would be a surprise. Hope slammed the trunk shut and it rattled the entire car. What a piece of shit. I’m hocking you for parts ASAP.

“And just what do you plan on doing? Beating your way into the human world? Not even they would appreciate your violence. Especially since it is geared toward them…The race must go on Hope. I won’t force you to stay. I won’t. Because by leaving you avoid the risk of omaeriku and we all know to fear araj, even you.” Her father’s eyes seemed tired, his wrinkles standing out against his pale skin like cracks.

“I fear nothing. Omaeriku is a dying magical impulse. I don’t feel controlled by any emotions or the lack of any. Your fear is misplaced old man. It is nothing but hormones, pheromones, and a dose of superstition. Learn to live without your own fear and your own avoidance. I have. I’m leaving and as you said you won’t stop me. So let’s be done with this. You must find a place in the world or be left behind and I’ve had quite enough of seeing backs headed for doors…Ontario isn’t safe anymore. Not after the announcement, if you’re really concerned for the clan, leave. Go to a place where the Dawning hasn’t touched yet.”

Hope turned away from her father without hearing his response. She wasn’t sure if he even had one, but she was sure she was leaving and that the road out of this Shendara forsaken “community” was in the opposite direction of her padru. Hope tossed the CD’s on the passenger seat, strapped herself into the tiny car and adjusted the rearview mirror slightly. She could see her father standing in the gravel drive way with the wind blowing dead leaves into piles at his feet. He didn’t turn away; he just kept standing there with his arms crossed and his stare boring a hole into the back of her head. But she wouldn’t turn around. She pulled the car out of the driveway and kicked up the gravel into his legs as she left.

The drive down the unknown gravel road to the edge of her clan’s land seemed to take forever. She silently waited to see the highway appear out of nowhere and drive past the Territory Property sign that marked their lands. The sign had been stolen to protect the land from being discovered and it was falling apart. There was no need for it now. The clan didn’t have to hide anymore, but Hope knew they would. Bravery and a good sense of fuck it didn’t run in the family.

The sign became visible as she reached the end of the five mile drive to the highway. A chain held the thing in place and it was in equally shitty condition. Hope rolled down the window in the car with an awkward turn of the handle. The air was quiet except for the sounds of a few crows and some semis. No one was following her. Hope put on Arch Enemy, cranked the volume, and then skipped to Revolution Begins. She looked back in the rearview one more time and gunned it for the chain.

A satisfying snap echoed around her as the rusty barrier broke into small, metal pieces. She smiled for the first time in ages and stuck her hand out the window. As she sped off onto the highway, she held her hand up high and flashed a one finger screw you backward toward her clan. She looked at the glowing, green clock in her dash. 7:56 pm. She would remember to smile each night at around eight o’clock and know it was one more day of freedom under her belt.

A few miles out of the clan’s land, she saw a black SUV parked in the center of the main intersection. She couldn’t veer around it and there wasn’t any sign of oncoming traffic, so she pulled up in front of the car and turned off the engine. As she stepped out of the Geo, she tried to peer inside the SUV but the windows were tinted an opaque black and she couldn’t even tell if there was a person driving the car let alone riding in it.

“Alright so you got me to stop, now what?” Hope swung the hair out of her face and the piercings she had acquired in her ears were now visible. The long vertical bar that ran from the top to the bottom of her ear gleamed. The rings running down the side of the other all lay perfectly in a line. There were barely any spots on her ears she hadn’t poked a hole through; her tragus and three holes in her lobe under the vertical industrial, as well as a cartilage piercing at the top. The other had three lobe piercings as well and a conch and she wasn’t even close to finished. They did a fabulous job masking the power of her hearing and she loved the badass look they gave her.

Hope had trained herself to hear when outsiders approached or when someone might be coming to take her to the mating ceremony. Now she steadied herself to listen to the sound of car doors unlock and guns being cocked. Hope stayed still and pulled all the tension up inside her muscles so it could be released when she needed it the most. She wasn’t about to die when she was so close to freedom.

She thought back to the times she had fought members of her clan in the friendly skirmishes they had for fun. She had always wiped the floor with her opponents. How would she do now against these strange men?

“Now we talk.” The male voice was low and calm as the man stepped out of the car. The tall, dark blonde human was unlike any Hope had ever seen. He was just so damn calm she thought, serene in spite of being surrounded by muscle and holding a handgun. Two rather large men came out of the car after the man and stood to either side of him, clearly for protection. The blue-eyed man didn’t seem like the type to have friends.

“I’ve been watching you Hope. And yes I know you’re thinking that I’m some screwed up individual, but I’m not. Trust me, you’re not my type. I’ve been watching you because I could use a woman of your talents, to be cliché, and I would like to offer you a position in my employ.” He certainly got to the point.

She couldn’t trust him as far as she could throw him, which was actually pretty far, but the man had a certain appeal. He was direct and simple and he had an option for her. It was something to do outside the clan, something that would fill her time so much better than finding thugs to beat, or Maker forbid, a day job would.

“What did you have in mind, mister…?” Hope raised her eyebrows at the dark blonde man and smiled. The curved barbell in the center of her lip caught the light of the sun and Hope was even more pleased with her latest addition. It ran through just the tip of her bottom lip, a nice partner for the simple lip ring she had on the right side, and she could see blue-eyes looking at the two silver balls straddling the top and bottom of her full lower lip. “I believe I asked you for a name. So maybe you could stop staring at my lip and speak the fuck up,” she said smiling.

“Always so direct, I like that. I happen to be the CEO of the Company, you may call me Dante. Like I said I have a desire for your skills. After all it’s not every day that you meet someone who can’t feel pain. Or is it? I suppose in your “clan,” it happens all the time but for a mere human like me? Not quite so much. I,” Dante waved at one of his thugs and the stout man handed him a manila envelope, “have an important investment that I need to protect, completely. I believe that your talents, along with some careful training which I can provide, will help me to ensure the safety of my project. You see recently there has been some damage to a property of mine and I wish to find and eradicate all those responsible for the loss.”

“Yeah well, Dante was it? I see your predicament and if you have been watching me, you creepy fuck, I assume that you know that my predilection for violence, developed as it is, happens to be geared to a specific type of opponent.” Hope stared coldly in Dante’s eyes meeting his gaze without blinking.

“Yes, my name is Dante, and I am aware. They are demon killers, thugs, and scrap. These people have stopped me at every corner. I am trying to make a life for demons and men alike within Newborn City and these pathetic, myopic fools insist on playing into a fear that old men in robes created. I am not under the belief, like some, that the “demon” race is anything to fear. I know that it was humans that gave them such a name and I am trying to make a place where we can live together. Don’t you see Hope; I must use the power I have collected to destroy those that would stand in the way of the “demon” culture. Their prejudice must not be tolerated.”

“And you just showed up, randomly on the day that I chose to leave and the Dawning just happened to take place?” Hope was skeptical.

“Yes, as I said I have been watching you. I have numerous demons in my employ and I enjoy their talents, such as locating a particular demon and keeping tabs on her.”

Hope was silent a moment as she thought about what he was offering.

“I understand your apprehension, truly, but I am a busy man. I should also mention that the position includes an extensive retainer, benefits, and a beautiful house with state-of-the-art amenities and absolutely no smell of macaroni and cheese.”

How’d he know that? Hope knew mind-reading demons existed but this guy was human. She thought back to the “numerous demons” he employed and saw a dark figure still seated inside the car.

“Understand also, that I will spare no expense in your training. With my help you will be able to realize the full potential of your gift and, if I can be so bold as to say, you shall learn how to survive and eliminate any and all threats…without any other person’s help.”

The bastard has his pitch down, that’s for sure. It can’t be worse than here.

“Well Dante, it appears as though you’ve got yourself a new employee. Now when do I get to start killing these fucks?”

“Soon, my dear, so very soon.”

~

Saturday, October 31st, 2010 2:04 am

Ciaran rolled over on the small matt on the floor that was his bed and listened for the guards down the hall. The cell was slab cement all around and smelled like sweat and urine, thanks to the bathroom consisting of a toilet in the corner. The white Hanes tee he was wearing was darkened with blood on his back. The black sweatpants were stiff with dried sweat and his feet were bare.

The room was freezing and nowhere near where he was earlier. The sound from the ring couldn’t be heard and this cell was better fortified. Ciaran felt stiff and the matt didn’t provide much of a cushion against the cement floor. He was alone and in order for his plan to work he kind of needed Dimitri. First things, first. How the fuck do I get out of here? Ciaran thought.

Ciaran gasped as he stood to his feet. The pain in his bruised ribs was like a roaring fire in his bones and almost matched by the pain in his back and stomach. He’d been worked over pretty good by Marcus and Rook before that. Rook had tried to kill him; Marcus just wanted to see how much he could take.

He had impressed the prick then. Somehow he managed not to pass out and stay standing, chained by his wrists to the ceiling and his ankles to the floor. That only made the fucker bored and he had resorted to more creative techniques. The memory of the braided leather strips biting off the flesh on his stomach and back was alive and well in Ciaran’s mind. Thankfully a fight had broken out down stairs and Marcus had to excuse himself. Ciaran took advantage of his absence and the fragility of the chains that bound him. He bent his knees and jumped in place to break the shackles free from the ceiling. It hurt like a bitch and he had small rips in the flesh around his wrists. Ciaran was just barely able to reach the key on the table and left bloody fingerprints all over the dark wood as he grabbed it. He bent over to unlock his legs and nearly passed out. But he couldn’t risk sitting, he might not be able to get back up.

He paid for it though, Marcus had sent the guards to check on him and they weren’t thrilled with his idea of departure. The bigger of the two punched his battle shaped fist into his gut and Ciaran fell to the floor. They both got in a couple of free kicks to the ribs, which sent Ciaran to a new wonderland filled with hot flashes, cold sweats, and the overwhelming desire to puke out his lungs. Then they shuffled him, barely conscious, to this cell and he passed out.

All of which brought him to this locked door. Ciaran stood in front of it, in this new cell, with no fucking clue how he was supposed to escape. He peered around his cell and at the door more closely. The side of the door had two hinges, one on top and one on the bottom, they were big, thick pieces of metal and supported the weight of the steel door evenly. If he could manage to dislodge one of them the weight of the door alone would break the lock, crushing the tumblers and the door would fall sideways, leaving him a small hole to escape through.

But what do I use to push up the hinge? Ciaran didn’t have many options. But he might have one, the toilet. He walked over to the john and took off the lid. The various pieces looked entirely unhelpful, the pump was a no, plastic handle arm was a no, but the metal float arm held promise. Ciaran pried the arm out of the float and top of the fill valve; it was just the size of the pins inside the hinges. And whoever said being a handy man was useless? Now if only I had a hammer.

He looked at the toilet again and tried to think. What could he use to hit the metal float arm hard enough to dislodge the pin? The only thing that was solid enough to give him the force needed was the tank lid, but that was made out of porcelain and he’d only have one chance to make it work. After Ciaran took the lid off and set in down on the matt, he wadded up the shirt he was wearing, which sucked ass since the blood had dried to the wounds on his back and pulled as he separated the fabric from his skin, and tied it around the lid. Ciaran walked over to the door and forced the float arm into the hinge. The sharp edge pushed on his hand and scratched his palm, but it stuck.

Ciaran then grabbed the tank lid wrapped in his Hanes and walked over to the door. It was in the corner and there wasn’t a lot of swinging room. He got as close to the wall as he could without being up against it and losing the arm space. Lifting the lid off the tank had been a small treat of pain to his ribs and Ciaran stiffened at the thought how swinging the heavy thing would feel. With a deep but shaky breath he pulled on all the energy his muscles had left. Fuck, this is going suck.

Each muscle fiber in his torso pinched down on his ribs like a vice. There was a loud crack as the lid hit the float arm and the hinge pin popped out like the cork in a champagne bottle. Ciaran sagged against the cold cement wall and thought about how you aren’t actually supposed to let that happen when you open champagne. God, weird fucking thought, I’m probably going to pass out. Ugh, not enough time for that. Ciaran somehow managed to stand up and lift up his head. The door hadn’t moved much, about an inch. He was screwed.

As Ciaran considered some serious wall punching action, he heard the lower hinge start to creak. The metal made the most horrible grinding, twisting noise Ciaran had ever heard and then in one clean swoop, the hinge broke off the wall and the door fell to the ground.

“Fuck me. That was really loud. Better get Dimitri,” Ciaran whispered. Ciaran struggled to lean down and get back his Hanes tee from the tank lid but the lower his head got, the more he felt like a wobbly noodle ready to go down.

“Fine, no shirt, it’s not like I have shoes either,” he mumbled as he stood back up. Blood was dripping down his sides and he was sweating up a storm. Ciaran really couldn’t let anyone see him, so he checked to see if there were any visitors in the hallway. With the hall clear, Ciaran left his cell and headed for the miraculous beacon that was a glowing, red exit sign.

Ciaran had followed the sounds of fighting down to the ring and walked the circle hallway around it until he found the fighter’s “locker room.” The simple blue sign with white lettering made Ciaran want to slam his fist into the cheap plastic. It was such a joke; they’re locker rooms, right. He shook his head and pushed through the doors and tried to find the black key box he had been studying for weeks.

Just visible from the corner cell, was the pin pad protected box that held the key to unlock the cells. The cell was empty now of course, since he had killed his roommate Rook and there wasn’t a guard in sight thanks to the fight that was going on. Ciaran held his right arm around his ribs as he stood in front of the box and entered in the code he had memorized from sight. There were three rows of three, and he pushed the bottom middle, middle left, top left, and bottom right. Two, four, seven, three, he thought. The small locking mechanism clicked and the thin metal door swung open. Ciaran smiled and pulled out the small circle shaped key and walked over to the cells.

“You fucking did it. I can’t believe it.” Dimitri slapped the bars of his cell with a laugh and reached out through them for Ciaran. Dimitri wore the same attire as everyone else did. A cheap ass white shirt and black sweats, but his pants dusted the floor. At a whopping five foot ten inches, Dimitri was a short-ish, dirty minded Russian American from Brooklyn. His bright green eyes were filled with the joy of expectant escape and Ciaran couldn’t help but be thrilled he’d found the guy in here. He was always relieved to see the shifty fucker come out of the ring alive and it always surprised him but Dimitri could really hold his own and there were a helluva lot of muscles plastered onto that small frame.

“Fuck man. What happened to you? D’you lose a fight with a weed whacker?”

“Well, have you seen the elephant?”

“What elephant?”

“The one who jumped on my ribs,” Ciaran let out a half laugh, but as his ribs kicked up another fuck-you-stop-that, he winced.

“You fuck. Get me outta here, so we can all leave.” Dimitri slapped the top of Ciaran’s head as he pushed the round key into the main lock and it gave a satisfying click. The click echoed down the line and the doors slid open with a creaky, rusted metal scrape.

“Exit’s through that door, don’t stop for anything. No one is going after Marcus. Not even me. We just need to leave.” As Ciaran’s voice rang through the “locker room,” a wave of prisoners brushed past him and ran out of the swinging doors. One of the prisoners that never listened to anyone, Red, stopped in front of him.

“Explain to me why we aren’t killing Dentry?” Red’s orange eyes stared angrily at Ciaran and her blood red skin glowed.

“Because you’re gonna help me do something better.” Ciaran smirked at her and Red rolled her eyes at him. With her hands on her hips, her extremely muscular physique was staggering. Ciaran couldn’t help but stare at her sometimes. This godforsaken place was his first exposure to demons and she really looked the part. Red was fucking red, her skin, her nails, and her hair faded from a deep, black red to yellow, she looked like a blaze personified and she was. Fucking fire demon was exactly what he pictured when he heard the word. A towering inferno of fire and brimstone, minus the horns and tail, Red was it.

“Oh yeah, what?” Red faced off with Ciaran and didn’t budge.

“Burn the place down. Something I’ve heard you do pretty well.” Ciaran watched as Red’s face changed from horrifyingly pissed off to happy beyond reason. As she started to laugh Dimitri came running over from the prison’s doors after playing escort to the other escapees.

“What’s so funny? Oh wait, Red’s laughing that means something’s about to blow up.” Dimitri smiled over at her and she chuckled openly as she nodded at him.

“You fucking know it. Now what do I have to do?” Red focused on Ciaran and he felt like her stare was burning a hole into his face. Ciaran saw her skin start to glow a little brighter and he took a step back.

“Easy there tiger, I have no intention of being a crispy critter. I need you to follow me outside and then around back. I figured out that this place has to run off a generator. The security systems, heat, lighting, it’s too much to come from the public lines without anyone noticing. I need you to make it blow. Can you do that?” Ciaran looked at Red and then over to Dimitri who was staring at her intently.

“Explosions are a little harder. Strait up flame no problem. Do you think heat alone with make it blow?”

“Last week when I was in Marcus’s office, I managed to get a peek at his accounts when I was left to… well clean up. The generator runs on gas.” Ciaran smiled and Red fucking blazed. Her deep red skin was bright and a bubble of heat formed around her.

“Fuck yes. You certainly know how to get a girl hot.” Red laughed and gestured toward the door. Ciaran shrugged and shook his head as he ran out of the swinging doors, Dimitri and Red right behind him.

“You know, ah how to I say this? Your back looks like ground beef. You should probably have that checked out.” Dimitri’s voice trailed off behind Ciaran. He had been avoiding any thought of the damage done to his body. Pausing on such thoughts only made the cuts, gashes, and broken bones pull him closer to the la-la land of near coma.

The trip down the hall was fast and quiet, each of them knowing better than to risk being heard by a guard or someone off to take a piss down the hall. As they reached the exterior wall they followed along the brick until they found another blaring exit sign. Ciaran slammed into the push lever and the heavy steel door swung open. The light from the sun was bright and even Red squinted. It had been months, hell actually years since any of them had been outside. He himself hadn’t been outside since his first touchdown in New York. Fuck, he’d been out of Ireland for about three months when Marcus grabbed him, literally.

He’d been such a young, optimistic idiot. Fresh faced off the plane from Dublin and ready to take on the world. He knew the basic skills of the maintenance man trade and he could easily learn the new systems of voltage and watts. He had it all planned out and nowhere on the list was the job title “Demon Killer.”

Sure he’d been in some scrapes in Ireland, hell who hadn’t? It was practically a local past time in the small town where he grew up. But life there had been peaceful, boring as watching your Gram knit throw pillows, but peaceful. He went to work, came home, ate dinner, and went to bed. Later, he had added visit Ebony to the list. Ebony, Jesus Christ, I haven’t thought of her in forever. Lovely lass mother shoved at me. Life with her is looking better and better the longer I’m in this shit-hole. As Ciaran’s mind wandered, the task at hand finally reemerged from his likely concussed brain.

“Around back, it’s the only safe place to position a generator,” Ciaran nodded toward the back and started jogging around the building.

“How the fuck does he know where to put a generator?” Red looked over at Dimitri as they trotted behind Ciaran.

“Oddly enough, he was a handy man in Ireland, fixing plumbing, basic electricity, and I don’t know pullin’ cats out of old lady’s trees? Or is that firemen?”

“Yeah. Now if you both could hurry the fuck up. I want out of here, now.” Ciaran stopped just in front of a large, yellow, box-like device that hummed something fierce, “This is it. The generator is diesel powered and as long as you can burn through the metal tank we should be good, I would try it at a distance.”

“Yeah, duh. I’m not an idiot, human. Now how about you do a lady a favor and hold her clothes?” Red looked back at Dimitri and winked.

“Say what?” Dimitri went pale as Red started to strip.

“Well I can’t really set fire to my clothes now can I? Running around naked is frowned upon in the human world I believe?” Red tossed her pile of sweatpants and t-shirt at Dimitri and laughed to herself.

“Just get on with it Red.” Ciaran grabbed Dimitri by his sleeve and backed away from Red who started to glow. He figured behind a car would suffice.

Crouched behind a sedan, Ciaran and Dimitri could see Red’s body begin to light up like a steadily heating torch. In a few moments, she was too bright to look at and they ducked down behind the brown car.

“This is probably gonna be loud, buddy.” Ciaran looked over at Dimitri who was clutching onto Red’s clothes, “You alright?”

“Oh, yeah. Just, Red once told me that this wipes her out. We’ll need to carry her to safety once she’s finished.” Dimitri’s eyes were pinched in worry. It was a look Ciaran had never seen him make; always so carefree and who-gives-a-shit, this was almost frightening.

“No problem. We can grab her. I promise…We’ll all get out of here.”

As the heat from Red’s flame grew stronger, the sound of cracking metal and steaming fluid filled the air. The massive blast from the explosion was almost anticlimactic. It was loud, but the surge of air Ciaran expected wasn’t too horrible. In fact, it was Dimitri who got up and ran to Red first. He lifted her up and brought her back behind the car.

As they struggled to pull her clothes on, Red tried to speak, “It’s not finished…that was…the first blow…hasn’t reached the tank…just gases…” As soon as the words escaped her mouth, a huge blast of heat hit them and they all huddled together. As the crackle and hiss reached epic proportions, Ciaran looked over at Dimitri and smiled. They were out. They were free.

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