Chapter 15: Planning
Tadashi pushed open the door to President Anderson’s office.
She beheld him eagerly, looking concerned. “Mr. Kido. I’m glad you’re here. I’m sure you’re aware that your new field partner has been absent for the past two and a half weeks.” She put everything down and gave him her full attention.
“Yes ma’am. That’s why I’m here.” Tadashi responded, dropping his backpack and sitting in the chair that she offered him.
“At first I thought she might have had to go somewhere with her father on short notice, but now I’m worried that something worse might have happened. And with her former partner in the hospital, I’m afraid...”
Tadashi leaned forward grimly. “Makoto has been kidnapped by a woman named Christina and a man named Zeke. I don’t know if this and Chester’s accident are connected.”
Savannah sank back against her chair in distress. “I’ll look into the names and relay them to—”
“Ronin and I are no longer working together. Please pass your findings directly to me.”
Savannah pursed her lips and nodded. “Why haven’t you found her yet?”
Tadashi’s expression darkened. “I have found her. Christina has threatened to kill everyone around Makoto if she gets sprung. I have to figure out a way to kill her before I can get Makoto.”
Savannah leaned forward curiously. “What kind of a threat is she?”
“The kill-someone-with-one-touch kind.” He said flatly.
Savannah raised an eyebrow. “I was going to suggest bagging her for a friend’s rehab program, but even Trinity won’t want her behind their name.”
“I’m not sure you understand, President Anderson. There’s no saving this one. You don’t know her.” Tadashi responded, standing.
Savannah glanced at her computer. “Anyone can be saved if they so choose, Tadashi. Doesn’t matter what they’ve done.”
He shouldered his backpack. “You don’t know her.” He paused by the door. “I came to ask that you take this information into account when you’re grading Makoto’s absences.”
She nodded. “Of course I will. But there’s some people you need to talk to.”
“I already said no.”
“But if you just tried—if you gave it a shot, I could go home.”
Makoto threw her apple at Zeke. “I’m guessing that if I get you back to that dimension, Christina is going to punish me by killing them. So no.”
Zeke looked down at his lap forlornly. “Yeah. I’m sorry. Forget it.”
She nodded and looked away. “You bored?”
He glanced at her. “Not that you’re not thrilling company or anything, but...yeah.”
She nodded and stood. “Be right back.” A plume of red blossomed before her like a deep, blood-red rose.
She stepped through, and suddenly she was in her bedroom. It was nearly her undoing. She stepped toward her bed, longing to lay on it and wake up free.
But she couldn’t.
She turned away, eyes finding Takeo’s flag, folded as it had been on the day of the funeral. It was framed and mounted on her wall, his letter stuck between the glass and the frame.
Makoto reached out and took the envelope, carefully tucking it into her pocket.
Wary of making noise and attracting attention, Makoto looked around hastily. Her backpack, which someone had grabbed from the parking lot sat on her desk chair.
She grabbed it and slung it over her shoulders. Then she grabbed the only three books she had that were written in English.
She thought about writing a note and found herself frozen with indecision.
No, she decided. Best to not encourage any heroics.
She reopened the portal and reappeared in the tower.
Zeke was waiting for her nervously, pacing the stone floor. He whipped around as the portal snapped shut, her eyes falling on her loot. “Did you steal that?”
She threw her backpack on the bed. “No. They’re mine.”
He didn’t move a foot closer—respectful of their ‘do not come into Makoto’s half of the room or she will beat you with a chair’ rule—so she went to him, displaying all three books.
“Take your pick. You know how to read, right?” You could never know with dragons.
He ran his hands over the book covers eagerly, and then glanced at her in confusion. “Who’s Doyle?”
She shoved the book into his hands. “Never mind. You’re reading that one.” As she walked away, she shook her head in disbelief. “Dimension X can’t be that great if you don’t even have Sherlock Holmes.”
“Savannah says you’re looking for help.” The woman who spoke was about 5′11, blonde, and unbelievably scrawny.
Tadashi managed to keep an open mind, despite how incapable she seemed of handling a fight. “Yes ma’am. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m looking for a very specific type of help, and I don’t know anything about you, so...”
The woman, Crystal Welsh, grinned and took a sip of coffee. “I understand. People usually come to me when they need to sneak somewhere undetected.”
Interested, Tadashi implored her to explain.
In the next second, Crystal was gone. She had just flickered out of existence before his eyes. A smile spread across his face. “Invisibility? That’s incredible.”
She reappeared with a smile. “That’s me. My ability’s not that rare, though, so you must be looking for something else.”
Tadashi grimaced. “Unfortunately, my mission needs a more definitive outcome.”
“You mean you need someone killed.” She guessed.
“I’m afraid so.” He admitted. “You wouldn’t know someone who works better at a distance, would you?”
Crystal hesitated. “Not to insult you or anything, but I could give you a list of about 300 people who could pick up a rifle and end it from 500 yards.”
Tadashi shook his head. “I’ve thought of that. It has to be something incredibly strong and supernatural. I once fired a tank round at her. Bounced right off.”
Crystal’s eyebrows reached her hairline. “That’s pretty wild. Do you know of anyone who’s actually landed a hit?”
He shrugged. “Sure. There was a lady a long time ago who could manipulate age. Christina went from twenty-two to thirty-seven in twelve seconds. There was a guy who controlled ice—he stabbed her in the kidney and put her in a hospital for almost a month. Some girl who could generate any poison or toxin on earth gave her a shot of brown recluse and almost killed her.”
Crystal tapped her fingernails against her mug thoughtfully. “I knew of a poison master a long time ago. She was killed in the war, though, and she wasn’t on our side. But it sounds like it’s not too hard for a Variant to get to her. I think I can point you in someone’s direction.”
“Christina comes up here every two days to make sure we’re still here.”
“Yeah, and someone brings food up twice a day.” Makoto added, twirling her pen. “Our best shot is tomorrow, middle of the day between meals.”
“Or we can grab the first guy who brings food and take his weapon.” Zeke suggested.
“Who needs weapons when we’ve got you?” She responded, shrugging.
Zeke gave her a long look. “You know ‘we’ve been watching you for a long time’ includes monitoring your grades. You know...just to know what we’re up against. How do I say this gently? Your PE grades are atrocious.”
She glared at him. “So? You’re a dragon. It’s called overcompensation. The good kind.”
Zeke laughed and shook his head, pushing her notebook aside. “No, no, no. There is no way we’re storming the castle when all you can do is swing a chair. And I wasn’t going to say anything, but you’re threats are far from intimidating. Even that punch you threw at me barely hurt.”
She didn’t know if she could get any angrier about her own situation than she was right then. “Then why have you been listening to me?”
“One, because I don’t like getting hit with fruit. And two, because I have no interest in bothering you or hurting you. Call it respect.” He hesitated at her unimpressed glare. “Or don’t. Whatever.”
She leaned back against her chair, reaching for the water bottle that she had received with breakfast. “Okay, then what do you suggest?”
“Unlike you, I am quite a bit more competent in a fight than you are, even when I’m not wearing my wings.” He backed away from the table, and then gestured for her to get to her feet.
She crossed her arms resolutely and remained seated. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to punch you in the face.”
“Yeah, staying here, thanks.”
He reached for her, took her shoulders, and pulled her to her feet. “I’m going to teach you how to not get killed.”
Makoto sank further down the chair. “You’re like three thousand times stronger than me.”
Zeke shook his head. “Human body, human strength. Get up.”
She got to her feet begrudgingly, shuffling over to stand in front of him.
He sighed impatiently. “Feet apart, shoulders back, hands up.” He waited while she copied his stance, and then swung a fist at her jaw.
His punch found its mark and she sprawled backwards. “Hey!” She snapped, pulling herself back to her feet.
He gaped at her. “You’re supposed to block it, Makoto. If someone punches you, block it.”
“I blocked it with my face.” She grumbled.
He shook his head. “Forearm. Block it with your forearm. Again.”
She got up, shook herself off, and put herself back in position. He swung at her shoulder and she flung her arm up, but she was too slow and she fell, back popping.
“Can’t you train me in slow motion?”
“Why? They’re not going to be attacking you in slow motion.” He responded, yanking her to her feet.
“If I could invent a power,” She muttered blearily. “I would be able to slow people down so they could attack me in slow motion.”
“It’s not stupid. It would be awesome entertainment. You ever see someone’s face moving in slow motion? It would be hilarious.
“Makoto, stop talking.”
“Who died and made you my boss?”
“Seriously, Makoto, I’m trying to save your life.”
Two days later, Tadashi was on the doorstep of Elijah Meyers, knocking persistently on his door. It finally swung open, revealing a tall man who looked annoyed at Tadashi’s obnoxious pestering.
“Mr. Meyers?” Tadashi guessed.
“That’s right. You’re Tadashi?” At his nod, Elijah moved out of the way. “Yeah, Crystal told me to expect you. Come on in.”
Tadashi entered his home, not bothering to waste time on formalities. “I need to know what your supernatural abilities are.”
Elijah put his cell phone down on the counter and laughed shortly. “I’d give you a presentation, but I’d definitely kill you.”
“Good.” Tadashi quickly explained as much as he could in a short amount of time.
Elijah settled down on a stool, processing the information slowly. “So you have to kill Christina.”
“That’s right.” Tadashi responded. “She’s despicable. I’ve had dealings with her before, but she’s been hiding until recently, when she resurfaced as Makoto’s captor.”
“If things are exactly the way you’ve put them, then I’m more than happy to help you. But before I kill this lady, I need to know that she’s not some misunderstood grieving woman.” He raised his eyebrows expectantly.
Tadashi weighed his options carefully. He wasn’t particularly fond of divulging his worst memories to this guy, but it was either that or keep looking for someone who would agree to work with him.
“Pretty much everyone but Makoto is from Jupiter, including me. Ronin isn’t either. Right after I was born, my village was attacked and my parents were killed. Christina was leading the assault. She grabbed my brother and I and brought us here. My brother pushed me into a river so I could get away, and Christina left me for dead.” He started solemnly.
Elijah’s lips straightened into a thin line as he listened.
“In my distress, I transformed for the first time, but as I was so young and inexperienced, I had no idea how to turn back. I was sick and injured when Makoto and her mom found me and took me in. I lived with them for years, until my brother found me. She had tortured him. She’d turned him into a killer. But he came back for me and taught me how to control my transformations.” His fists clenched and his eyes closed.
“After we learned that Christina had killed our grandfather who had come looking for us, we found a way back to Jupiter. We were looking for help—for someone to stop her. But she found us, and with the help of two dragons, including Zeke, she massacred three villages to punish us.”
Elijah rubbed his hands together, eyebrows lowering as he tried to understand what the two had done to anger the woman so much.
“After that we stopped running and turned to face them, to stop her from killing everyone. My brother, you might know him as Crossfire, attacked her first and got her down. He wasn’t thinking. While she was killing him, I got close enough to take off most of her right arm and almost bleed her out.” Tadashi met his eyes at last. “I haven’t seen her since I broke into Burned Brick Castle a while ago.”
Elijah released a short breath and raised his hand, and pointed at a book that was standing on its end on the other end of the counter.
Tadashi glanced at it quizzically.
A second later, a bolt of lightning-like energy shot from his finger and blew the center out of the book, leaving burned edges and the remaining paper became burning embers.
Tadashi’s eyes slid back to Elijah’s eagerly. “That’ll work.”
Elijah nodded carefully. “I’m with you, but you might need some backup.”
“I have backup. I have you.” Tadashi responded, standing up definitively.
Elijah got up as well, following the other man to the door. “No, I mean—I’m here to kill Christina, you’re here to rescue Makoto, we can both take out some of the guards and staff, but we’re probably sorely outnumbered.”
Tadashi’s eyes flickered up from the floor and nodded slowly. He was anxious. They’d waited far too long. They’d let her rot in there for more time than she deserved. He had meant it when he’d said she was mentally damaged.
If he had been acting of his own free will, he would have said it more gently and caringly if he’d said it at all.
But she was hurt going in there—staying there for three weeks had been no help to her, he was sure.
“I’ll check in on Makoto.” He responded quietly. “And then I’ll find backup.”
Elijah agreed to his plan and they parted ways.
It had been two days since they planned to storm the castle from the inside, but Zeke wouldn’t let them go through with it until he was confident that she wouldn’t get killed going down the first set of stairs.
She had improved only slightly, by force.
Going to PE every single day hadn’t benefitted her much because by the time she got five minutes in and vomited, the teacher wasn’t allowed to let her continue.
But Zeke didn’t care that she had to open a portal to Red Rock River and give up her meager, crummy breakfast every day, at least twice a day.
He just made her keep working, made sure she had steady sugar and protein levels and kept on top of her insulin intake.
With his careful monitoring of her health added to his firm persistence of their training, she felt healthier than she’d ever been. A lot more sore and tired, but healthier.
When the door was flung open the afternoon of the second day, Makoto and Zeke were on their respective sides of the room, reading their books intently. Christina stepped into the room, her nose up and her eyes piercing.
They both sat up quickly, shoving their books down and hoping she wouldn’t notice them.
But she did.
Her eyes swept over the books, Makoto’s clothes, and her backpack. “I see you’ve been making supply runs.” She commented airily.
Makoto swallowed, heart pounding. “I’m sorry—please—”
“Very well,” Christina interrupted lightly. “You may pop back and forth for your necessities once or twice while you still have the free will to do so. But take advantage of this privilege, and I assure you I will make good on my promise.”
Makoto nodded shakily. “Yes ma’am. I understand.”
Christina’s eyes turned coldly on Zeke. “I notice you did not report her trips to me.”
He paled. “She came back—I didn’t want to bother you...”
Her hand snapped up, silencing his words. “You have not failed me many times, Zeke. I forgive you this once. But I expect you to be mindful of your duties to me in the future.”
He relaxed, sagging against the wall. “Yes ma’am.”
She backed towards the doorway, and then stopped to smile darkly at Makoto. “She’ll be here sooner than we expected. Hang tight.”
And then she was gone, leaving both of her captives trembling in her wake.
Makoto looked to Zeke, falling back down on her bed. “Who’s coming for me?” She whispered. “What’s—who—Zeke, I can’t—”
He collected himself quickly and snatched up her insulin pen, crossing the room in a hurry to administer it for her.
She breathed deeply, calmly letting it pull her broken body back together. At least, that’s what it felt like.
“I don’t know.” He said softly. “I don’t know who’s coming. But going by word of her reputation...she’s not good news, Makoto. I’m sorry.” After a few minutes, he pulled her to her feet. “Let’s go a round, okay?”
She nodded, putting her fists up.
Sharp rapping on the door made them both jump, and then the door swung open once again.
Makoto didn’t have to be afraid before Vortex-caveman permeated her senses. She turned with a slight smile to see Hybrid step into the room, his face pointed in Zeke’s direction.
She went to him, greeting him as she had before. As his arms wrapped round her back, he observed the room with a keen eye. “Who brought all this stuff?”
“Makoto went to get it.” Zeke responded guardedly.
“Your sarcasm is both in poor taste and unappreciated, so why don’t you can it?” Hybrid snapped.
Makoto pulled away from him slightly. “No, he’s telling the truth.” Her gaze found the floor, her body language becoming evidence of her anxiety.
Hybrid could hear her heart pounding, could smell the sugar in her blood spike just barely. “What are you talking about?” He prodded gently. “You’ve been out?”
“Yeah,” She nodded grimly, not meeting his eyes. “Once. I’m sure you already know, but I can create portals like Heilner could.”
Hybrid watched her carefully in silence for a long time. “And you kept coming back here to save your family.”
“And Chester and Tadashi,” She added quickly, her breath catching. “So you did know?”
He nodded. He’d known for longer than she could remember. He just didn’t realize she’d learned of it and had started honing her skill set. “This makes my plan only easier.”
She gave him a peculiar stare. “What plan?”
He glanced at Zeke suspiciously, who gave him a chagrined look. “I won’t be interfering.” He promised. “If you have a plan to bust her out, I’ll use the opportunity to free myself.”
Hybrid considered the words for some time. At least he concluded that if the dragon stabbed them in the back, then at least he could, finally, kill him.
He turned back to Makoto. “I’ve enlisted help capable of defeating Christina and I’m going to enlist more after I’m done here. I’ll be back to tell you when we set our plan in motion, but essentially we storm the castle, you portal your way out of here, and we’ll take care of Christina.”
Makoto nodded eagerly. “Are you sure? Christina, she’s—”
“I’ve fought her before. I know what she’s capable of and I’ve considered it in the choices I’ve made. Make sure you don’t cause trouble before I can get you out.” Hybrid implored, his eyes searching her for signs of torture or abuse.
“I won’t.” She promised. “But hurry, Hybrid.”
He took one of her hands, fingering the calluses that were scattered across her knuckles. “Have they hurt you?” He asked, a low, feline growl making its way up his throat.
She tugged her hand back. “No.” Makoto was almost glaring at him as she finished. “Zeke’s been training me.”
Hybrid’s growl only grew louder. “Don’t trust him, Makoto.” He bowed to her, and then stepped back. “I’ll be back.”
“Hybrid.” Zeke’s voice made Hybrid pause. “I’m sorry.” He sounded ragged and broken, but Hybrid only left the room and swung the door shut behind him.
In Makoto’s eagerness to finally be free, she could only count the days until his return.