The Blood of the Everlasting

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Chapter 24

Consciousness came slowly to me. My head hurt. My neck hurt. My hip hurt. My shoulders hurt. Frankly, I just hurt everywhere. I moaned and rolled over, or I tried to, but my arms were stuck to something, and I couldn’t roll, because I wasn’t laying down. I felt tangled, and cold. I was having trouble opening my eyes. Slowly, inexorably, my brain started to work again. I remembered being in Marshall Lewis’ house. Someone jumped on me, didn’t they? I rubbed my eyes. Or rather, I tried rubbing them, but I couldn’t reach them. Chains rattled when I moved my hands. I felt cold metal around my wrists.

Ok, I was shackled to something. What else did I know? I was leaning, hanging by my arms, my back to a wall. I tried wiggling my legs. They slowly responded, my joints creaking in protest. I felt a floor beneath me, cold and hard like concrete. I slowly stood up, relieving the pressure from my shoulders, and the fiery ache in them instantly was quenched to a dull roar. It was a small improvement.

I tried opening my eyes. It felt like my lids were glued shut, but finally I was able to blearily pry them open. I found myself in a small cinderblock room. The only light illuminating it came through a tiny barred window in a door on the wall opposite me. I looked above me, and saw my wrists adorned by thick metal shackles that were each attached to heavy chains hanging from the ceiling high above me. I rattled them, but it only made my arms scream in agony. I was too weak to do anything further.

I sighed, and closed my eyes, forcing my woozy brain to think. I was captured, that much was obvious. All the warnings about teleporting out at the first sign of trouble had been for naught. I had no idea where I was. Was I in the same house? Where was Andreas? Where were the fairies? What had happened to them? Were they captured, too? Was anyone coming to my rescue? Panic bloomed in the pit of my stomach, accompanied by a wave of helplessness and fear. I had to get out of here!

I forced myself to take deep breath, fighting off the panic. Andreas would be able to find me. He said he could always find me. It was only a matter of time, I told myself. I closed my eyes and tried focusing on the numen, but my head was just too fuzzy to teleport, let alone concentrate on working a little magic. Maybe if I had been more skilled at it I’d be better at it.

I peered at the window, trying to see if I could see anything on the other side. All I saw was a security camera on the far wall beyond the window. They were watching me. I stood up tall, as tall as my 5’1” frame allowed, and sneered at the camera. Show no fear. “Let me go, asshole!” I shouted, rattling my chains in fury. And oh, I was furious, alright. Scared and helpless, and furious, with a still fuzzy brain. Furious at both Lewis for catching me, and at myself for allowing him to catch me. I shouldn’t have been so headstrong. I should have listened to Aislinn and waited for Andreas.

No one shouted back. I was alone, ignored. I don’t know how much time passed. I don’t know how long I had been unconscious, and standing there chained, time seemed to go by inexorably slowly. I was getting frustrated with my inability to focus and teleport myself to safety. I wondered what kind of drug they shot me up with and how long it took to wear off. I started at last to feel lucid and clear.

Finally, after what could have been five minutes or five hours, fluorescent overhead lights came to life, and the door swung open with the pop of a magnetic lock. I squinted, as my eyes adjusted to the lights. Marshall Lewis strode in, accompanied by his two burly bodyguards. I dubbed them tweedledee, on the left, and tweedledum, on the right. Their faces were expressionless, but I got the impression that they were big bad mean guys. He smiled at me. I wanted to wipe that smug grin off of his face. I spat in his general direction. What I wouldn’t have given for some supernatural far-traveling spit balls. Alas, he was too far away, and my shot fell several feet short.

He chuckled. “I see you’re making yourself home here, Miss Maddox,” he said conversationally.

I squinted my eyes shut, trying to teleport again, and failing miserably.

“I’ve clipped your wings, little birdy,” he said with a smirk. “Teleportation doesn’t work through gold.” He gestured to my cuffs. I looked up in shock, and sure enough, streaks of gold laced through the otherwise steel grey metal. Why had Andreas not told me of this little tidbit? It would have been good to know!

“You bastard!” I shouted, kicking the wall behind me out of frustration. “What do you want with me? You killed my parents! Where the hell am I?”

He smiled, clasping his hands behind my backs. “We aren’t at the house anymore. Your friends won’t be able to find you here.” He was positively smug. “I’m glad you dropped in to pay me a little visit, though. You’ve proven to be smarter and more resourceful than I’d given you credit for. I already had to destroy one lab thanks to you, I don’t want to repeat that again.”

I rolled my eyes at that. Yes, that was me, smart and resourceful. So smart and resourceful I walked headlong into a trap. It occurred to me that they had obviously been expecting me, since even though I was invisible, his body guard knew exactly where I was, and had the foresight to wear what I assumed were infrared goggles, or something similar. How did they know? “What do you want from me?”

He shrugged. “Nothing much. Just to take you apart and figure out what makes you tick. I’ve already taken a fresh blood sample and a bone marrow sample. Sorry if your hip hurts, it’s a necessary side effect. I know you were saved by an Atlantean.” He began to pace back and forth in front of me as he spoke. “But I don’t know how or why you were changed. We haven’t been able to replicate it. Every time we simulate a save with our angel, the therianthrope dies, and I can’t afford to keep killing off my people.” He stopped and stared at me. “I want to know the exact circumstances and details of what happened to you so I can duplicate it. Is that too much to ask? If you’re unwilling to cooperate, I will take you apart piece by piece to find the answer,” he said menacingly.

I shivered in fear, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing I was afraid. He was in a mood to talk, so I was going to take advantage of it, stall for time, keep him occupied, hoping and praying that help was on the way. I might have been shackled in gold, but did that prevent Andreas from feeling me? Did Lewis even know about his bond with me? How much of my life did he know, anyway? “How long have you been following me?” I asked.

“You have always been on our radar, of course. We take care of our own,” he said.

I laughed harshly. “You call this taking care?” I sneered, rattling my chains.

He bristled. “Had you not been so resistant, such drastic measures would not have been necessary.”

“Resistant?” I shrieked. “You never gave me a choice! You’ve had your goons hounding me and attacking me since before I even knew what was going on!”

“Ah,” he said softly, nodding his head. “I do apologize for that. When we assigned your retrieval to David Walker we had no idea the resentment he had towards you, or the measures he was going to use to retrieve you. Things got… out of hand,” he said with a shrug. “I would have preferred this to be more civil, but civility is obviously out of the question at this point,” he finished gruffly. “I would rather have your cooperation, but I am prepared to use whatever means are necessary.” He said this without menace, but I understood the menacing undertones completely.

“What exactly am I?” I asked. I knew the answer, I thought. Or at least, part of it. Keep the man talking, I told myself.

He smiled briefly. “You are the spawn of a human and a skin-walker. Your mother was a mere human. Half-breeds inherit our abilities about half the time. You were an unordinary worthless creature from the day you were born. Your father was disappointed, as were we all.” he frowned distastefully.

I growled, and tried to kick him, but he was beyond the reach of my feet. My father had done nothing but love me, and the skin-walkers had killed him anyway.

He chuckled. “Temper temper,” he chided.

“If I was so worthless,” I spat, “Then why keep an eye on me at all? What purpose could it have possibly served?”

“Just in case things changed, of course,” he smiled broadly. “Abilities can show up late in half-breeds. Our latest agent Mr. Walker determined you were nothing but human, and was recalled.” He says ‘recalled,’ I say he dumped me. Potato, potahto. “But once that vial of blood was sent to us and we realized circumstances had changed, he was sent back.”

“The blood from the hospital,” I whispered. That had been the start of it all, not some spy in Ariel’s midst, just like we had determined.

He nodded, confirming it.

“What about my parent’s murder?” I spat. “How could that possibly have been justifiable, or for your greater good? Or the fire at the hotel in Chicago?” I seriously wished he would walk close enough to be kicked. Anger felt good. Anger made me forget my fear. I wanted to beat the tar out of his self-righteous face.

“Ah, well, the fire was a regrettable incident. Walker meant merely to flush you out, not to burn the entire building down. But the lives of a few humans are insignificant compared to what you offer us. As for the rest, we’ll need a bit of a history lesson, my dear,” he said conversationally.

I hated him calling me his dear. I was not his dear, I never would be. The only thing I would ever be to him, I vowed silently then to myself, was his undoing. And then there was the way he so casually tossed away the hotel fire, and lives lost there, it was positively monsterous, and justifying it by weighing their lives against mine? Even more so.

“Ever since the great war,” he continued, “when our numbers were decimated, we have been struggling to survive, hiding amongst humanity for our own protection.” He began pacing again as he spoke. He liked to pace. “We found ourselves in a genetic bottleneck of sorts. So many lives had been lost, so many abilities and traits wiped away, gone forever. We sacrificed more than our numbers in the cause of that war. The ability to shift into anything other than mammals was gone, and the ability to shift into small creatures.” He shook his head and frowned.

“But humans proved to be more resourceful and have greater value than we could have ever conceived.” He turned sharply and looked at me. “In the 1950s, when Watson and Crick unlocked the secrets of the double helix, and the birth of genetics as a science began, we knew we had found the key to restoring ourselves back to our greatness! By expanding our genetic base with human DNA we were able to incorporate more of a variety to work with, hence why you were born. Combining that with gene therapy and other scientific research we have made vast strides into revitalizing and rebuilding our race. And with your addition, we could truly again regain our strength.” His eyes gleamed with holy zeal. “What has happened to you, Miss Maddox, is unprecedented. Imagine if we can duplicate it and give your gift to us all! We could become unstoppable with your help. You owe a duty to your people,” he said, trying to reason with me.

I shook my head. His people were not my people, regardless of who my father was. “You really are crazy.” He sounded like the quintessential mad scientist. I tried focusing on the numen again. This time I succeeded. The room snapped and sparkled with energy. He crawled with it, as did tweedledee and tweedledum behind him. At first blush they both seemed human. If they were therianthrope, could I absorb therianthrope abilities? I wondered. I focused on that, while he rambled on like the mad man he was.

He laughed. “For eight hundred years we have successfully hidden our existence from the rest of the world, and now we have built one of the greatest bioengineering empires on the planet, and if it hadn’t been for your meddling, we could have continued undisturbed until we were ready to emerge victorious and catch the world by its unsuspecting throat. No, we aren’t crazy, we are determined,” he said softly, clenching his fists. Oh god, they really were crazy. I was horrified with the implications of what he was saying. He was trying to remake his skin-walkers into some sort of master race, like a modern-day supernatural Hitler.

Human though they appeared and felt, I realized that they gave off no energy that I could absorb. I was the sponge, and they were empty. While they crawled with the numen, in my mind’s eye it was as if they were blank slates.

“We have agents in all the major biological sciences and research fields. Your father, for example, was assigned to the real Jonathan Maddox when Maddox was hired by the University of Washington’s neuralengineering department. He was responsible for single-handedly engineering a designer neurotransmitter that would allow us to retain our higher brain functions when shifting to smaller-brained creatures.” He smiled arrogantly at me. “And it works perfectly!”

I was stunned. “So my father wasn’t Jon Maddox?” I squeaked. All my life was a lie. This must be how Luke Skywalker felt to find out his dad was Darth Vader. I felt like the rug had just been swept out from underneath me. My dad, that face I had known, the love he had given me, the laughs and cries we had shared, the years… it was all a lie. My head reeled with the revelation. I was stunned. I forced myself to focus, however, knowing I couldn’t let Lewis see he had gotten to me. I had to be strong. Andreas had said that I had an incredible strength. I reached down deep inside me and found it, shoving aside all my pain and confusion. “What happened to the real Jonathan Maddox?” I asked him, my teeth clenched.

“We…” he paused thoughtfully, looking at the ceiling, “removed him.”

“You’re insane,” I growled. Was removal code for killing him? It probably was. No wonder my grandma never knew her own son. He wasn’t her son!

He laughed sharply. “I prefer the term surviving to insanity.” Good lord, he just wouldn’t quit, would he?

“And my father was one of your spies?” I was trying to understand, honestly I was. I found it hard to believe that I was in any way shape or form related to these people.

“This isn’t the cold war, Miss Maddox.” Lewis folded his arms and looked down his nose at me. “He wasn’t spying on anyone. He was working for the greater good of our people. I wish you would, too.”

“Quit saying our people!” I shouted. They aren’t our people! They’re your people. I’m nothing like you.” Oh how I wanted to just go break things right then. To shatter stuff into smithereens, to make dust of bricks or dishes or walls or Marshall Lewis’ head would be supremely satisfying. But I didn’t, I couldn’t. I was chained to a wall, a prisoner of my enemy, my people, my father’s people.

“Agreed.” Lewis nodded curtly. “You’re something quite different, and we want to know why. What you can do – it’s never been done before! We want to know how.” His eyes glittered with a feverish zeal that sent a shiver down my spine.

“Only so you can give it to your people? That will never happen,” I raged, terrified, determined, and mad as hell.

He smiled and closed his eyes. His body shifted and shimmered and morphed shape, and within only a few seconds, I saw myself staring at a copy of myself, standing there, dwarfed in Marshall Lewis’ oversized suit. He – she – smiled menacingly, from my face. “You might want to think about it. You’re stuck, half-breed,” he said in my voice. “You are my prisoner. I can become you any time I wish.”

“Don’t you dare!” I raged. “Get out of my face!” I kicked towards him, but he artfully jumped aside. I trembled with anger. How dare he emulate me! He wouldn’t get away with it, he couldn’t. I was the one and only me, no one would be fooled, least of all Andreas, who has a link to me, not to my copy. I prayed he didn’t know that part of my secret.

He laughed. “Your friends would never know the difference. I can feel it, too, the power you have.” He looked down at his hands – at my hands, staring at them in wonder. “We might not need you to unlock your secrets.” He looked back up at me and shifted back into his usual shape. I understood the implications of what he was saying perfectly: I was expendable, now that he had me prisoner. He could become my copy and unlock the secrets all on his own. I had to get out of there! If I wasn’t his prisoner, he would lose his ability to assume my form, right? That is how Andreas explained it, isn’t it? Therianthropes could only assume the forms of those they held as prisoner or had killed.

Lewis stepped towards me. “You are going to help us whether you like it or not. And we are your people, get used to it.”

“You’re the people who killed my father!” I growled. “You killed your own!”

He was nonplussed. He straightened his suit jacket and tie, readjusting it again to fit snug in his collar. “When Jon Maddox finished his job, he was eliminated.”

“And my mother?” I howled. “Why her?” To kill one was bad enough. But why kill both? And why leave me alive when both of them were dead? It made no sense!

He shrugged. “She knew too much, it was a necessary casualty.” He turned and walked towards the door.

I was furious, and I wasn’t done yet talking to him. “Who was Warren O’Dell?” I called out, before he had a chance to leave.”

He turned and gave me the oddest look of curiosity. “You really don’t know, do you?” With that, he spun on his heels, and he and his bodyguards went out the door, closing it behind them, ignoring my shouts to wait, that I wasn’t done yet, that I wanted to talk to him. Once the door shut, the lights went off again, leaving me alone in the darkness, hanging by chains.

I roared in fury and frustration. Finally my fury left me, leaving me with despair. I sobbed, a dry sob, as no tears would come. Lewis said they had an angel. What if they captured Andreas, too? Would I confront some skin-walker wearing his face, or would I find the real Andreas? I shuddered at the thought. What if help wasn’t coming? I thought about him, long and hard. Could he feel me? I kept hoping he was close. I tried projecting emotions, hoping against hope he would be able to understand: I was alright, I was in trouble, I needed help, I needed him. I hoped the fairies were all right. I hoped they hadn’t been in the room when I was captured. I had a feeling a fairy would be a hard creature to imprison, anyway. Ah, to be a fairy right about now. Aislinn was probably safe; she had been half a mile or so away. Surely she would be able to get help. The only problem was if anyone could find me. I didn’t even know where I was. Lewis had said we were no longer in his house, but he didn’t say where we were. I wasn’t even certain how much time had passed from being knocked out to waking up. Minutes? Hours? Days?

Sadly, I was unable to absorb skin-walker abilities. That would have been a handy trait to have right about now, wouldn’t it? Perhaps since I was already half therianthrope, and as Lewis told me, a half-dud, I wouldn’t be able to pick up those abilities like I did lycanthrope abilities when I was around Grant. I started thinking, forcing myself to find a calm place, meditating. Abilities that I could pick up, I thought about those. Angelic, were, fairy, vampire, but not skin-walker. I was stuck in golden chains and I couldn’t teleport, but did that mean I was entirely helpless? I stretched out with my senses, trying to get a feel as to whether there were any other creatures around, creatures I could possibly absorb abilities from.

I concentrated hard, forcing my focus outward from myself. I sensed humans. I could tell they were human, they felt human, and they held no special abilities that would help me, I was only soaking up their humanity. There were a number of humans in the vicinity. I furrowed my brow, focusing. Many of them failed to emanate anything I could absorb. They were blank slates, humans that were magical black spots devoid of anything I could pick up. That was what skin-walkers felt like, blank spots on my senses, devoid of absorbable power, just like Marshall Lewis had been. It was interesting to note, but useless in my present predicament, outside of realizing that I would be able to tell the difference between my friends and a skin-walker copy. I sighed in frustration.

My thoughts wandered towards Lucas. Lucas would laugh if he knew the mess I was in now. He would never have been so foolish as to walk straight into a trap, and I am certain he would tease me mercilessly about it. A little gold wouldn’t stop a vampire, anyway. An angel, sure. It would have to be silver to stop a vampire, though, and silver burns. I remembered that well, thanks to that silver locket I wore the night Andreas, Grant and I met Lucas at his club.

That got me thinking. What if it had only been an hour or two since I had been drugged? What if it was still Saturday night? Did I still have any residual vampire strength left? Lucas and I had swapped an awful lot of blood the night before, it seemed, and he had told me that its effects would last “a day or two.” I was still within that window, theoretically, wasn’t I? I know I had tried yanking on the shackles earlier, but I had just barely woken up, I was still weak and woozy, I hadn’t truly given it my all. Oh, and I had rattled them when Lewis was near, but I hadn’t truly tried to break them. Did Lewis know I drank vampire blood? We had gone out of our way avoiding detection on our trip back to Seattle, after all, and Lucas was very confident about the security of his home. I was certain that my little bedroom adventure with Lucas was unknown to them. His house was awfully impenetrable.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to relax, taking in deep breaths. I calmed and centered myself as Grant had talked, this time searching for my inner vampire, for residual strength and speed. I thought of blood, rich, red, and full of life. I imagined the taste on my tongue, I felt it flowing down my throat warm and heady. Then I opened my eyes. My limbs tingled, and I felt it there, a hint of Lucas de Mora lingering within me. I sent out a silent thanks to that vampire. He might only want me for my blood, but he might have given me the key to escaping. Never again would I allow myself to feel guilty for drinking vampire blood if I got out of there, I vowed.

I reached up and grabbed the chains with my hands, wrapping my fingers around them, relieving the pressure from my wrists. This left me with less slack, but I wasn’t worried. I examined the chain as closely as I could in the dark, grateful for my sharp vision. It seemed like common enough chain, forged of thick links, but the links weren’t welded shut, and I thought I might be able to break it. I hoped so, at any rate.

I took a deep breath, and jerked downward on the two chains with all the might I could muster. They held fast, but I kept pulling, not letting up the pressure. I started to sweat with the exertion. I let out a growl. One of the chain joints separated, and then another did on the opposite chain. I howled in victory, and kept pulling, taking a step backward for more leverage. Suddenly both chains slipped free with a pop, and I fell backwards, landing on my rear. I was free! In a manner of speaking, at any rate. There was about four-feet of chain left attached to each shackle. I swiftly pried the shackles free with my fingers. The gold-laced metal might have been angel proof, but it was relatively soft and bendable to me. Lewis definitely had not considered vampire strength, I realized with a triumphant grin.

The claxon of alarm bells went off moments before my hands were free, and I knew I had to act fast. I grabbed both chain fragments, figuring they might prove useful weapons, and ran towards the door. I grabbed the handle, and uttering a roar accompanied by the screech of bending metal, I forced the door open, and it hung limply on half-broken hinges, but it swung open far enough for me to squeeze through.

Either my vision was tinged red, or red lights were flashing in the open hallway. With a grin, I gave the video camera the birdy. I tried focusing on the numen to teleport, but it still wouldn’t work. Lewis must have lined more than just my cuffs with gold, I realized grimly. I inhaled deeply, and I smelled his scent, off to my left. I took off at a run, tracking him. I turned a corner and saw men and women in white lab coats running down the hallway away from me, towards a stairwell. Two ran right past me where I stood, ignoring my presence. I chased after them. They ran down the stairs, but Lewis’ scent went up. I went up. People were scattering everywhere in alarm as the claxons went off around me.

I heard muffled gun fire from somewhere behind me. I ignored it, and kept on running. Bursting out of the stairwell, I found myself looking in on some sort of round control room, with monitors on all the walls. A wall of glass separated me from it. Lewis was inside, standing near another doorway on the far side, talking fiercely with three armed paramilitary soldiers, his ever-present bodyguards at his side. He looked up and saw me, and turned and ran out the door, his bodyguards right behind him. I bellowed in fury, and with a flying leap, crashed straight through the glass wall, colliding with one of the soldiers, dragging my chains behind me.

He tried clubbing me with his gun, while another pulled off a couple of shots. I rolled with the soldier, punching and scratching and kicking. I wrapped my chain around his neck, and threw my other chain at the guy shooting at us. I hit him right in the face, and he fell back with a cry. I yanked on the chain encircling the neck of the soldier on top of me and heard a wet crunch, and the guy went limp. With a growl, I kicked him off of me and jumped up to attack the third man.

He pulled out a large knife and lunged at me. I jumped back and swung a chain at him. He deflected it easily, and it tangled around the legs of a chair. I dropped it, and with a lunge, I dove towards his shins, tackling him, yanking his legs right out from underneath him. He fell, slashing out toward me with his knife, but I caught his wrist in my hand, and twisted. It snapped with a satisfying crunch. I grinned viciously as he cried out in pain. I punched him in the nose, and knocked him out cold.

I jumped up, and surveyed my surroundings. This was obviously the security center. I looked at the monitors. They were monitors for security cameras. People were pouring out of the building from various exits, fleeing. Men and women, mostly in lab coats, but a few dressed in black paramilitary outfits as well. This must be some sort of secret lab of Lewis’, I realized. I looked at the internal cameras, and gasped, as I saw Andreas and Aislinn caught up in a fist fight with more of those soldiers. Help had come!

With a feeling of triumph and success, I turned and ran out the door, chasing after Lewis again. His scent led me up another flight of stairs to a locked door. With a sneer, I kicked the door open, and ran in. Or rather, out, finding myself on a rooftop, staring at a helicopter silhouetted against the rising sun. Marshall Lewis was there, climbing into the helicopter along with his bodyguards and another man. The rotors were spinning, and the wind whipped through my hair.

I let out a roar of rage and ran towards the helicopter, channeling all of my fury and frustration. Lewis was going to pay! I was about twenty feet away when the other man turned towards me.

He was… no, it couldn’t be. I stopped in my tracks, my lungs heaving for breath, and just stared in shock, my mouth gaping open. I shook my head. I rubbed my eyes. I was seeing things, I had to be. My rage was completely forgotten.

I took a step forward, stumbling, and sinking to my knees. “Dad?”

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