Pierre knew everything that had been going on in the lab since Franzee’s second visit. He hadn’t told her because he knew she didn’t completely trust him yet. Still, he thought it was fitting he had managed to use Grace’s own security forces’ technology against them, without them ever realizing it.
On her first visit, he had stolen one of the microphone bugs in her bag. The ones used by the security forces to keep tabs on her. Little did they understand that his ‘gypsy wagon’ was an amazing listening post and weapons arsenal. The moment she came in, his defenses had alerted him she was bugged. His wagon had counter-measures that automatically neutralized any outgoing transmissions.
Even Franzee hadn’t realized that Pierre hypnotized her within minutes of her entering the wagon on her first trip to see him. He had used the few minutes, while she was under, to take a hand-held detector to check her clothing and purse for the bugs. He found two, one sewed into her purse and one on the lapel of her jacket. After questioning her in her hypnotic state, he had determined that she knew nothing about them herself.
Still, two could play it that way. He removed the one in her purse and replaced it with a similar one of his own. His bug would not work inside the lab as it was shielded from outside transmissions just like his wagon, but he didn’t need it to. He only needed a little time to make the adjustments to the one he had taken from her without anyone suspecting anything.
By her second visit, he had managed to tune his own receiver to the same frequency of the security team’s bug and boost its signal. This would cause the security teams receiver, the one they used to spy on the girls, to now become a transmitter and send him enhanced signals from the lab. He was finally able to hear what was going on in the lab.
To help in his spying, Pierre had given Franzee a post-hypnotic suggestion to make sure she always had her purse near her in the lab. He had been listening to the lab conversations for weeks now. He even managed to hack into Grace’s personal computer by piggy-backing the boosted signal. That’s how he found the formula for the aging virus. By working with the top disease specialist online from the American Center for Disease Control, he was able to get Franzee the cure he had promised.
With each visit, he had become more and more drawn to the sad women. He was convinced she could find happiness if he could only help her find a way to be free of the lab. He never dreamed she’d turn to him once he offered her freedom. What woman in their right mind would want him?
Pierre had always lived a very secretive, lonely existence because he was one of the premier spies in all the world. Even before that, back in school, he had always been a very intelligent loner. He preferred to be by himself unless he was looking for information. He had taught himself to be a chameleon, adapting and fitting in where he needed to.
He had helped many people from many different walks of life, but he never allowed himself to get close to any of them. At least not until now. The gypsy troop he was currently with was a good example. Many years ago, he had helped to smuggle them out of Russia, through Turkey and across Macedonia and into western Europe. They had adopted him, and they felt they owed him everything. They would even die for him if need be. Gypsies had many strong characteristics and being fiercely loyal was one of them.
Pierre knew hundreds of people by name, including world leaders, but there had only been one person he’d ever called friend and his name was Zeus. The master warlock had saved Pierre’s life when he was confronted by a small pack of shifters one night. Pierre was a master spy and was very good with a variety of weapons and hand-to-hand fighting. He could usually handle himself with a group of thugs, but a group of shifters was out of his league. He didn’t have the weapons, or the skill set, to confront one shifter, let alone several.
It was this experience which gave Pierre the insight into the existence of both warlocks and shifters. Zeus wouldn’t divulge anything at first, but Pierre was always able to find out something if he wanted too. It had taken months until he was finally introduced to Zeus by the Prime Minister of Canada. With the PM’s blessing, Zeus had explained to Pierre exactly who and what the warlocks were. He also had to confirm that what had attacked Pierre was indeed werewolves, or shifters, as the government liked to call them.
Even Pierre found it difficult to accept there were so many of the creatures in society and yet, he had never heard of them. Not real ones anyway. It was then he understood that most of the fables and stories of werewolves were disinformation campaigns by the governments of the world to keep the populace from learning the truth.
Ever since then, he was more interested than ever in the alien phenomena. With all the government denials, and yet so many movies and TV shows on the subject, he was beginning to think it might be disinformation as well. If only he had time to seek out the truth. Time…it was always the one element Pierre couldn’t beat, cheat or deny. With each day he wondered more and more what his life might have been like if he hadn’t chosen to live like he did?
There was a buzz and he looked at his computer. A coded message had just come in, someone was using the same old code he had sent to Dr. Connors. It must be a response. Pierre opened the message and ran it through his decryption program and waited. It took almost a minute.
Ah, good news they were on their way. ‘They’? It seemed like the good doctor was coming with Zeus. Pierre thought that was strange, but he would be happy to meet the one man Zeus trusted. The fact that the ever-autonomous Zeus trusted anyone except Oz was amazing enough. He wondered what the old warlock’s reaction was when he found out Pierre wasn’t dead? A cold sweat broke out on the old spy’s forehead.
He hadn’t considered that the master warlock might be mad about it, in fact, he might just be mad enough to knock Pierre out! Hopefully Zeus would understand he had to let everyone, especially the four men following him believe he had died in the explosion on the train. It was the only way to get them to leave him to his investigation.
Either way, they would arrive in a few hours and Pierre needed to be ready. They would need to head for the lab as soon as they arrived. Grace had been there recently, but she would be leaving soon, if she hadn’t already. They needed to destroy the lab and if possible, kill Grace before she could begin her world conquest once again.
The old spy had learned about the destruction of the previous Grace Stevens by Zeus in his shifted form. He also knew the White Alpha would just keep coming back if they didn’t find her lab and destroy it. He had been on the search for it ever since.
Now, Zeus would be here soon along with Dr. Connors and together they could try to infiltrate the underground bunker where the lab was located beneath the old farmhouse. He still didn’t know how much control Zeus had, but he was anxious to find out. Pierre knew Franzee was off tonight and only her two sisters would be manning the lab. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about anything happening to Franzee, but he still worried about how she would react if anything happened to either of her sisters and it was Pierre’s fault.
He cared for Franzee more than he wanted to admit, but certainly it wasn’t anything like love…Pierre wasn’t capable of loving someone, not like that. At least he tried to convince himself of that, but he wasn’t really believing it. He wasn’t sure exactly what love felt like, but what he was feeling was way stronger than anything he had ever experienced before. Perhaps, it was some form of love.
Enough of those thoughts! He had many things to do to be ready when the master warlock arrived. He needed to let the rest of the gypsy troop know they were getting visitors as well as informing them they would need to be ready to pull out in the morning. They had been here far too long, and they would be happy to finally be able to drive south toward the sea where they traditionally stayed at this time of year.
The troop had traditional looking wagons on the outside with all the modern comforts on the inside. They pulled their caravans with trucks, having abandoned the use of mules and horses, decades ago. The gypsy troop was a strange mesh of old traditions and beliefs with modern technology. One thing that had never changed was their loyalty to those they considered a friend.
Hours later, the plane landed on the tarmac in Graz, Austria. By truck, the team would be at the gypsy caravan in a little over an hour. Thanks to a few calls placed by Oz, they had not been required to go through a customs inspection and their weapons were in place. They did have to change clothes to help blend in with the locals in the gypsy caravan. Luckily, their warlock overcoats blended in nicely with the European style jeans and long-sleeved sweaters they had procured.
The land rover was also well equipped. It looked like a standard vehicle, but Zeus had borrowed it from a local diplomat and the SUV was bulletproof and even had a trap door on both the floor of the back seat and the roof. Both could be used to get out of the vehicle or to shoot from if the situation required it. They let Jaida drive since she spoke both Austrian and some Hungarian. Zeus rode up front and navigated for her while the doctor and Anthony sat quietly in the back seat.
Soon enough, they were over the border and entering the village where the gypsy caravan was waiting for them. Once they arrived, the entire contingent of gypsies poured from their wagons to greet them. Putting on a great show, like they were reuniting with long lost family members, the four newcomers were almost overwhelmed by the greeting.
As soon as they had completed the show, the gypsies disappeared back into their wagons, leaving the four new members of the ‘Angel Corps’ with only one old, bent-over, fortune teller. He invited the four of them into his wagon and away from the prying eyes of Grace’s security forces. As soon as they entered, Dr. Connors asked the fortune teller where Pierre was.
With a laugh and a removal of the hair, eyebrows and mustache, Pierre appeared. Zeus could once again recognize his old friend, but he had already seen through the disguise. Humans could change their appearance, but not their smell. Zeus knew the moment they arrived which one was Pierre.
The group waited as the ancient man before them removed the brace that kept him bent over. Up stood a much younger looking Pierre.
“Voila,” he said.
“Pierre, you old dog! It’s good to see you,” Zeus said as he stepped up and hugged the old spy.
“I was afraid you might be a little upset at the ruse of my death,” Pierre said hesitantly.
“Well, at first I was a bit miffed, but I understand the nature of your work. Besides, the fact that you are still alive was enough to get me over those negative feelings. Here, I want to introduce you to Dr. Connors, Anthony and last, but certainly not least, my fiancé Jaida,” Zeus said.
“Your fiancé? Now who’s the old dog? Congratulations to the both of you, but why would you bring your fiancé on a mission like this?” Pierre asked.
“You see these are the twin master warlocks of America, the preeminent warlocks of the United States. At least they were before I convinced them to work with me on a new project we’re calling the Angel Corps,” Zeus explained.
“The Angel Corps?” Pierre asked.
“It’s a group of ex-warlocks and warlock associate operatives, such as myself, who are no longer under the control of the warlock councils. We are freelance agents for the government in dealing with shifter and other non-government sanctioned entities,” Dr. Connors explained.
“Ahhh, so you are no longer under the control of the council, well good for you!” Pierre explained.
“Enough of this, where is the lab and how many shifters are there to go through?” Anthony asked.
“The young ones, always so impatient. Tsk, tsk,” Pierre said softly to Zeus.
“Actually, we are really anxious to get to the lab,” Zeus said. “Is the new Grace already up and running?”
“Unfortunately, she is and has been for a while. She’s been working days on end, but I have no idea on what. I did hear her say that she was getting ready to leave and that she’d be gone for a little over a week. That was yesterday, so I don’t know if she’s gone or not. I haven’t heard her voice since then,” Pierre explained.
“So, you found a way to eavesdrop on the lab?” Dr. Connors asked.
Pierre explained as quickly as he could about Franzee and how he had turned the security forces bug against them. He didn’t come right out and say it, but it was obvious to both Jaida and Zeus that Pierre cared greatly for the woman called Franzee. They only hoped she felt the same way.
“Doctor, what can one do by manipulating the DNA and RNA of a living creature?” Pierre asked Dr. Connors.
“Well, just about anything. You could cure a genetic disease or change the person completely, if you knew enough about the genome of the species you were working with. Why do you ask?” Dr. Connors.
“A week ago, I heard Grace saying that she had managed to complete her improvements using both DNA and RNA sequencing and splicing,” Pierre answered.
“Splicing definitely means she’s creating something new,” Dr. Connors replied.
Zeus was worried. What was the little witch up to this time?
“How old is this Miss Grace?” Zeus asked.
“From what I could hear she sounds like a fully-grown adult, I’d say early twenties,” Pierre answered.
“It will be dark soon and then we will head for the lab,” Zeus said.
“Is it wise that you will be out after moonrise?” Pierre asked.
“I have complete control of my shifted self,” Zeus said.
Dr. Connors and Pierre exchanged a glance of doubt, but neither one said anything. They were both excited and frightened to experience the shifted Zeus. Dr. Connors had already seen it once and had no great desire to repeat it.
Pierre prepared a small meal of stew and coffee and the group settle down to talk about their plans for entering the lab. They talked for several hours while waiting for evening to fall. By the time it was dark outside, Zeus was beginning to sweat. He had been fighting the pull of the moon on his shifter side for many minutes and knew he would have to give into it soon.
Once the plans were complete, he stepped into the inner room, the sleeping area for Pierre and slowly removed his shoes, socks, sweater and overcoat. It took only a few seconds for the transformation to be complete. He pulled on his vest but was fumbling with the Velcro enclosure when Jaida walked into the room. Without a word and without hesitation, she stepped up to the giant shifter in front of her and calmly helped Zeus fasten the vest securely on his oversized wolf body. He then reached for the katana inside his overcoat and tried slinging the scabbard over his right shoulder and across his chest. Jaida had to loosen the belt to its maximum to get it to fit around the massive chest of the creature.
Together the two of them walked out into the main chamber of Pierre’s wagon. Dr. Connors and Pierre were both amazed at the enormous size of the shifter in front of them. There was the single small strand of black extending down the back of the otherwise, pure white shifter, that let them know it was indeed Zeus. Without that telltale marker, he would have looked like a smaller version of the White Alpha, something they were counting on to help them gain entrance to the lab.
Jaida stepped up behind him as he bent down and dropped his head backward for her. Within in a minute she had tucked his black strand deep under the thick white hairs surrounding it. Secured in place by a white bobby pin, the black was now invisible.
“Time to see if this will work,” Zeus said as he stood once more.