An Empty Crypt
Zeus heard Dr. Connors yell from the office and he immediately headed for it. The door was only slightly ajar, so he opened it fully and stepped inside. Once in the doorway, he stopped. Dr. Connors was standing as still as a statute in the corner of the room. Oz had enough experience with traps to know the doctor’s immobility was a sure sign he had triggered one. Now he had to find out what it was and where it was. The only thing moving on the doctor was his eyes and they were darting from Zeus to the ceiling just above his head.
Zeus slowly looked up, using only his eyes and not allowing his head to move. There was a large nozzle in the ceiling and it was pointed straight down. There were also four more just like it spaced evenly across the ceiling. No doubt they would spew forth acid, fire or something just as deadly, as soon as one of the men moved. Luckily Zeus had not allowed the door to shut, for he was sure it would have locked behind him and the nozzles would already be killing the two of them.
It was a very neat and dangerous trap. Once triggered, any movement would set if off. However, if whoever had triggered the trap chose to remain motionless, the next person to allow the door to close would set it off as well.
Without moving his lips, Zeus spoke quietly to the doctor.
“Motion activated?” Zeus asked, careful to not move any part of his face or neck.
“Yes,” Dr. Connors replied, equally careful not to move anything.
Zeus was thinking fast. Grace would not have the system fully active unless the intruders were completely contained within the room. He was hoping that by not allowing the door to shut, he had given them a chance.
“What caused it to become active?” Zeus asked.
“I downloaded sone files fron the ’ain computer. When I stood to leave I saw the ceiling open and those nozzles lowered into the roon,” Dr. Connors answered, having a hard time annunciating without moving his lips. It was still more than good enough for Zeus to understand.
The good doctor had managed to hack into Grace’s computer, but he had activated the defenses when he started downloading her files. He was holding a portable drive in his left hand, so he must have managed to get at least some of the files. Now, how to get them out of here in one piece?
Zeus had learned as a warlock that sometimes you just had to gamble. He was used to gambling with his own life and had done so on many occasions, but gambling with the doctor’s life was another matter entirely. The two men stood staring at each other for several minutes as each tried to think of a way out for the two of them.
Dr. Connors finally spoke.
“I’ll throw you the drive and you run for it,” he insisted.
“Not going to happen old friend. On the count of three, run for ne. I don’t think the system is fully active yet,” Zeus countered.
As he spoke, he kept glancing at the open door. Dr. Connors understood what the master warlock was thinking, but he also knew it was nothing more than a guess. He would try it Zeus’s way. But the moment something started shooting out of those nozzles, he would throw the drive in Zeus’s direction and accept his death.
“One… two… three!” Zeus commanded.
On three the doctor leaned forward and sprinted for the doorway. Zeus stepped back and blocked the door from closing. It was a good thing he did too, as the moment the doctor began to move, the door tried to shut. It was operated by hydraulics and an average man could never have kept it open, but Zeus was not an average man.
As he pushed against the door with all his might, it was still slowly sliding shut, taking him with it. Zeus pulled one of his short swords from his coat and thrust it into the ground right in front of the door. The Japanese layered steel penetrated cleanly through the marble tile and buried almost an inch into the concrete underneath. As soon as he did that, Zeus placed both arms against the doorjamb and allowed his back and shoulders to rest against the door. The mechanism trying to close the door began to whine under the strain.
The doctor was getting closer, but he was not an athletic type and it was taking him several seconds to cover the thirty feet. The door snapped the blade on the short sword and slowly started to collapse Zeus’s arms. The doctor saw what was happening and dove for the doorway underneath Zeus’s outstretched arms. There was barely enough room for both men to fit, but Zeus knew if he released the door, it would slap shut, cutting the doctor in half.
Timing it perfectly, as the doctor’s feet flew past his knees, Zeus pirouetted, spinning out of the doorway and into the outer vault room. As soon as he did, he grabbed the doctor off the ground and ran for the main doorway. As he ran, he could hear heavy metal gears moving and he saw a giant blast door dropping down between the inner walls and the main doorway. They were effectively cut off from the outside world.
He stopped, and as he pulled Dr. Connors to his feet, he saw nozzles appearing in the ceiling above their heads. Without saying a word, Zeus reached to his right and grabbed the handle on the vault in front of him. He pulled with all his might as the doctor watched, mystified about what the master warlock was doing. After a brief second where the vault refused to open, it suddenly slid outward and Zeus threw the doctor inside and then jumped in on top of him. He reached up and grabbed the metal supports above them and slid the vault back into place, just as the room lit up like a bon fire.
Neither of the two men spoke. Both could feel the heat coming through the marble drawer they were in. Had they been in the outer chamber, they would have died a horrible death. Each one was breathing shallowly for fear they might run out of oxygen in the tight drawer, especially with the fire outside consuming all the air in the outer room.
“How’d you know this thing was empty?” Dr. Connors asked in the darkness.
“I didn’t, but it stood to reason that Grace wouldn’t want anyone coming and going out of her headquarters. Too many chances for someone to see or hear things they shouldn’t. Besides, all the plaques had names of her relatives on them and I was sure she didn’t have any relatives in Canada to bury,” Zeus answered.
“You seemed to know that there would be another trap in the outer room,” Dr. Connors stated.
“When you’ve done this sort of thing for decades, you get a feel for the person you’re up against. If I’ve ever dealt with a person willing to overkill any and every situation, it was Grace Stevens,” answered Zeus.
“Thank you for saving my life, a second time,” Dr. Connors said.
“No need to thank me, I only hope what you downloaded was worth it,” said Zeus.
“It was heavily encrypted, but I’m sure I can decode it once I get it back to my lab. Based on what I’ve seen so far, Grace might have been a genius in genetics, but she was not a genius in computers. She’s using expensive encryption, but not something she designed herself. It’ll be my pleasure to put all of that education you paid for to good use!” Dr. Connors exclaimed.
Finally, after several minutes, the intense heat died down and they decided to try to get out of the vault. Zeus slowly slid the vault door open. The room was dark, but as they were getting out of the vault drawer, the blast door slowly rolled up into the ceiling again. The nozzles were gone and all trace they’d ever been there was erased. Except for the scorched marble, the room seemed as it was before.
The two men walked outside, thankful to be breathing the afternoon air. As they turned and looked back, they were both thinking the same thing. There was still much more to the mausoleum than met the eye. The outside of the building was much larger than the inside, so there was still a hidden chamber, or possibly two, within its walls.
They looked at each other, and with a nod, they turned away from the building. Finding the rest of Grace’s secrets would have to wait for another day. For now, they were content with just being alive.
“Notify me as soon as you get any info from those files,” Zeus said.
Dr. Connors nodded. He was starting to shake, he was just now coming down from the adrenaline rush and he was realizing he shouldn’t be alive. The strength of Zeus was amazing! He picked the doctor up like he was a child and ran with him under his arm. The way he pulled that vault door open…it would have taken at least two grown men with pry bars to make that happen again.
Even when the council had doubts about Zeus, Dr. Connors had maintained his belief that Zeus was a force for good. Now that he had seen him in action in human form, he was sure of it. Not once did the master warlock consider leaving the doctor behind or letting him die. After watching him move, the doctor was sure Zeus could have easily saved himself from Grace’s traps, but he never hesitated to make sure he saved the doctor as well.
Everything he knew about the master warlock had the doctor convinced that without Zeus, monsters like Grace, and the shifters that killed his family, would have taken over the planet long before this. He was going to make sure whatever government body took over the role of the warlock council understood that.
Meanwhile, Zeus headed for the hospital to check on Anthony. He could call, but he wanted to see the physicians in person and make sure the American warlock was receiving the proper care. He knew Oz had laid the foundation, but he knew that things had a way of getting out of control quickly. He would feel better if he checked on him personally, especially if he had to explain it to Jaida.
As he checked in at the reception area, he discovered which floor and room Anthony was being treated in. He was a little concerned to find out the American warlock was being kept in an isolation wing of the Intensive Care Unit. He anxiously rode the elevator upward. He was worried Anthony’s condition might have deteriorated since he last heard from Oz.
As he got off the elevator, he turned down the corridor that led to the isolation wing. As he approached the security desk, he was stopped by the guard.
“There are no patients here at this time and we do not allow tours,” the guard said.
“If there are no patients here, then why are you here?” Zeus asked.
The guard stood up suddenly and was reaching for his pistol when he suddenly found his throat being slowly crushed by the master warlock. Not only that, but the slim man in front of him was holding him several inches off the floor. What kind of man was this!
The guard could no longer breath and was beginning to think this was going to be his last day on Earth when a familiar voice spoke from around the corner.
“Bertrand, if you try to get physical with the most powerful warlock on the planet, I can assure you that you will be needing the services of this hospital more than Anthony does. Now apologize to Mr. Zeus,” Jaida said, almost laughing.
The security guard would have gasped if he had the air to do so. He nearly fainted when he heard the name ‘Zeus’. The master warlock slowly lowered the guard to the ground and released his grip on his neck. Bertrand slowly sat down and quickly placed his hands on the counter in front of him. He had indeed heard the name and the legend that was Zeus. He had seen what Anthony could do and he had been assured by Jaida that this man in front of him had handled Anthony easily with just a single arm!
Zeus was both a little shocked and slightly angry that Jaida was out of bed. As she came around the corner, he gave her a stern look.
“Why are you out of bed? You should be resting! Do I need to get you a bed here as well?” Zeus asked.
He wanted to be upset with her, but she ignored him and walked up to him and fell into his arms where she kissed him deeply. All the anger was instantly gone.
“I know you don’t like to hear this, but…I am a master warlock and since when has a minor concussion kept any of us in bed for long? I needed to see exactly where my brother was and to find out from the doctors about his prognosis,” Jaida said as she held Zeus close.
“Where did he come from?” Zeus asked, nodding toward the security guard.
“He was flown in from Chicago this morning. He’s part of a detail of four. In America, any time a warlock is out of action, they are kept under armed guard until they recover. They can be a little pushy, but they’re well trained and they truly do care about us. We train them ourselves and they tend to become a little overprotective,” Jaida answered.
“My apologies, Mr. Zeus,” Bertrand said as the master warlock looked toward him.
“Nothing to apologize for, I’m glad to see Anthony has such a dedicated guard detail,” Zeus replied as he and Jaida headed down the hall.
“So, the American Council is aware of everything that transpired over the past two days?” Zeus asked as they walked.
As they approached the room at the end of the hall, Zeus noticed there were two more armed guards standing in front of the door. These two were more heavily armed with assault rifles, pistols, smoke grenades and body armor.
Jaida waited until they entered the doors being guarded by the two security personnel before she answered. They were now in a sort of foyer with several ICU suites on each side of the hall. Anthony was the only patient in this wing though.
“The council knows what I want them to know. They believe we were here to conduct an undercover operation to help you with a mole inside your own warlock council. We are always given a bit of leeway when it comes to government spies and moles. They also received the video feed from inside the compound last night, so they understand what you were up against,” Jaida explained.
Zeus was concerned, that meant the Americans now knew he was a shifter.
“What about the member of your own council that ordered you two to take me out? What about your mole?” Zeus asked.
“Bertrand took care of that loose end before he boarded the plane this morning. He also found out that Grace had paid the council member four million dollars to issue the mission. The ex-council member was kind enough to transfer the money into one of my personal accounts before he fell into Lake Michigan during his early morning run. Poor man, never did learn how to swim,” Jaida explained.
“And what will you do with the money?” Zeus asked.
“We gave a portion to our security team, a bonus for taking care of these types of situations, the rest will be kept back for unexpected expenses,” Jaida answered.
Zeus was impressed. He too had just such a fund. Actually, he had several of them. He had never stolen from the government, but when paid hit men had come for him, he always made sure to collect their bounties. His accounts had just gotten much bigger since he sold the two black helicopters back to the government.
Both he and the twins understood how fickle government support could be. A new administration could come along and decide to pull the funding, unfortunately though the number of shifters was always climbing and so was the costs to keep them in check.
Over the decades he had seen times when he had a seemingly endless supply of money and resources to deal with the shifter issue in western Canada, and at other times he had been told the heating and air conditioning for the compound was extraneous and needed to be budgeted from his own pay.
Once, there was even a bureaucrat that didn’t want to pay for his medical bills after taking on a pack of twenty shifters headed for the Provincial Governor’s mansion! Yes, he and Jaida both knew better than to rely on their perspective governments for all the support they needed. As they had both recently found out, even the warlock council members weren’t immune to greed. In the black world of secret government agencies, massive amounts of money could be generated.
Both the American and the Canadian councils paid more to their council members, who never went out on missions, than they did to their actual warlocks. It seemed beyond wrong to Zeus for young warlocks to be putting their lives in jeopardy while ex-warlocks-turned-politicians, sat in secure locations and questioned every move the warlocks made. All the while they were being paid three times what the warlocks were.
That was one of the reason he became a part of the council after he became a shifter. He wanted to reverse such actions. It was just one reason why some of the council members were so against him. He had seen the American politicians vote unanimously to send young soldiers into harm’s way during Vietnam and the Gulf Conflicts and wondered the same thing. Of course, after no weapons of mass destruction were found, those same senators blamed everyone but themselves for the loss of lives, destruction and adding to the national debt.
As the two warlocks entered Anthony’s room, they saw he was not alone. In the corner of the room, standing quietly, was Oz. Zeus walked to him and hugged the ancient little man.
“You smell like you’ve been smoking?” said Oz.
With a twinkle in his eye, Zeus responded, “In a manner of speaking, I was. Or, at least, I almost was.”
Oz simply nodded.
“Why is Jaida here, instead of being back at the compound resting?” Zeus asked quietly.
“I would find it easier to stop you than to stop the young lady,” Oz answered.
“I heard that,” Jaida said, “and thank you Oz, I’m not quite a ‘young’ lady anymore, but it is appreciated.”
Zeus ignored both and nodded toward Anthony.
“How is he?” the master warlock asked.
“The doctors have placed a small drain in the base of his skull, there was some minor bleeding inside the skull cavity, but they assure me he will recover completely in a few weeks. In the meantime, they are keeping him in a chemically induced comma, until the bleeding stops and to aid in his recovery,” Oz explained.
“The security team will stay in place until he is discharged,” Jaida added, “and now that I know he is well looked after, I could use a ride home to get some rest of my own.”
Both Oz and Zeus were staring at her.
“What?” Jaida asked.
“Home?” the two men asked in unison.
“You said home, not the compound,” Zeus added with a smile.
“You, mister warlock, are very handsome when you smile like that, you should do it more often,” Jaida said.
She turned and bent down to kiss Anthony on the forehead before walking out the door with Zeus.
As soon as they were in the sedan, Jaida curled up beside Zeus and was asleep before they left the parking garage. For the first time, in a very long time, Zeus allowed himself to be happy. He knew it was only a temporary lull before the storm, but he was going to enjoy it while he could! He drove very slowly back to the compound.