It was about a quarter after six when the "Cincinnati Corporation Limit" sign passed by on northbound I-75. Issac turned to Allen in the passenger's seat and hit him in the chest. "Hey! Wake up! We're here."
Allen coughed and sputtered a bit before he fully came to. He looked about at said, "Hey, we're in Cincinnati!"
Issac tried to sound sarcastic, "We are? Wow! That's great! Now where the hell do we go from here?"
"Well, I'd suggest pulling over and letting me drive. That is, unless you want to spend the next half hour listening to me mix up left and right."
Issac pulled the bug off an exit and pulled into the parking lot of a Red Lobster. He and Allen got out of the car to stretch their legs and switch seats.
As Allen looked around the parking lot, he noticed a green Sable with a UC faculty parking sticker. "My Lord," he said to himself. "Hey, Issac!" he then shouted. "Looks like we don't have to drive all over town. She's here!"
"Who's here?" Issac asked. Allen still hadn't really explained the purpose of the side trip.
"Lori Ranik, an old friend of mine. Wake Threll up and I'll introduce her to you all."
Issac shook Threll a little bit. "Hey, wake up!"
"Whas-wha-wha...I DIDN'T FALL ASLEEP! PLEASE!"
"Yes you did fall asleep," said Issac. "But I don't really give a rat's ass. Now get up and make yourself presentable. We're going to meet one of Allen's lady friends."
"Allen had lady friends?" Threll asked, pulling on the trench coat they had picked up. "Who would have guessed..."
The three of them walked into the restruant. Issac bumped his way through the long line and Allen followed the trail. When he reached the hostess, he said, "Hi. We're with the Ranik party."
The hostess looked through the list of names on her reservation list, biting her lip. She looked back up and said, "I'm sorry, but there's no reservation for a Ranik. If you want, there's a forty five minute wait..."
"Well, there is a Ms.Ranik in there," Allen said. "Can we at least go and say 'hi' to her?" He was trying to look as cute and innocent as he could.
"Sure," the hostess said.
Allen, Issac, and Threll walked through the non-smoking section. The smell of fish and butter and the low lighting reminded Allen that they hadn't eaten since eleven.
They had just passed some huge guy in a booth when someone said, "Allen!"
They turned around to see a short, brown haired woman jump up from her seat. She ran up to Allen and threw her arms around him saying, "Allen! What a surprise!"
"Hi, Lori," Allen said, backing away. "I'd like to introduce you to my two friends and ex-students, Issac Warner and .. uh .. Threll." He looked over to them. "Guys, this is Lori Ranik. Now that I've seen her again you'll probably be hearing about her for the next few weeks."
Lori, Issac, and Threll exchanged some "pleased to meet you"'s. Threll was careful to keep his left hand within the recesses of his coat.
Allen looked over the large man who had been sitting across from Lori. He looked somewhat familiar.
"Who's your friend, Lori?" If this was a new boyfriend, Allen would have to be sure to treat him unkindly.
"Don't you recognize him?" Lori asked. "It's one of your workmates from Phoenix, Javier Hugo."
Javier Hugo? Allen knew the name. Hugo was in charge of security at Dynamax. His name was well known and synonomus with efficiency. If he was here with Lori, that could only mean one thing...
Allen's mind began to cloud and he felt groggy for a bit. There was a burning sensation in his left pectoriel, but he barely noticed it. In fact, he quickly forgot about the whole thing.
Javier Hugo? Allen knew the name. Javier was one of the researchers at Dynamax, specializing in genetic disorders. A nice guy. He and Allen hadn't met much, but were on very good terms.
They pulled up three chairs and had a little talk over dinner.
Lenny DeMuerto watched as the Dynamax security team cleared out the area around the parking garage. He watched them knowing that when the night was over, they'd probably all be dead. They were human, after all.
Lenny was more than human, though. He was an Omega with powerful combat capabilities and born to do the kind of job that needed to be done tonight. He could generate a near impervious TK field, fire powerful beams of raw TK energy through his eyes, and had highly enhanced physical attributes.
The poor saps around him had nothing but flesh and guns. That was useless against what they were going up against tonight. Project Threlkain alone was dangerous enough to make Lenny worry, but added to that was the presence of that lion-man thing, and whatever weird powers that Covenant guy had. Also, the prospect that Javier Hugo had turned coat was chilling indeed. Lenny wasn't sure if even he was up to this.
But he had a plan to work it all out. It was known Covenant preferred running to fighting, so various agents in police cruisers would manipulate Covenant to drive over the parking garage. In there, Hugo would have to be hit first. Hugo had a powerful enough mind to crush every man in a half mile radius, but he had no TK field to protect him from bullets. Next, the surviving security officers would kill themselves taking on the boy and the lion thing, distracting them enough for Lenny to blow them to oblivion. Simple.
It would be even easier if Hugo didn't turn coat. He could probably handle everything himself, but Tazakles had warned that Hugo's turning was likely.
That meant this was likely to be a bitch.
Javier and Lori listened as Issac, Threll, and Allen retold the story of their last few days. Lori was fraught with concern, constantly interjecting with "Are you allright now"'s and "That must have been terribles!"'s. Javier just watched with a stern face. He couldn't let anyone see the screaming that was going on inside of his soul.
As a youth, Javier had been raised in Bergenfield, New Jersey. His father was a cop there and was a decorated member of the force. Javier was taught the meaning of the law and the truths of morality.
When Javier began to show his Omega powers, his father was understanding and didn't turn him into the authorities as was common practice. Instead he was taught to respect all those who had to live their lives without special powers. Javier was taught that he was gifted, but now better than someone who worked just as hard to get results.
It was just after high school that he met Jarvin Tazakles. They instantly linked telepathicly and were friends for a short while. An argument then broke them apart over the use of their powers. Tazakles believed that the Omega was better than the rest of humanity and Javier couldn't stand it.
Years later, after Javier had graduated from police school, he once again met Tazakles. Tazakles by then had come to money and was forming Dynamax to give a helping hand to mankind. He told Javier that he was wrong before and had seen the error of his ways. He wanted Javier to work at Dynamax in security.
Javier agreed and they worked closely together for a while. Eventually, as Dynamax grew, Javier found himself operating in a much less important role. Tazakles said that Javier was too valuable a field agent to stick behind a desk. Javier didn't mind, but it eventually got to the point where he was told by Tazakles to catch somebody and he just did it, no questions asked. The only people he really knew at Dynamax were his personal security team and a scientist named Beth Carlington. They had grown close for a while, but she went off and married some Dr.Anderson person and disappeared from Javier's life. He was hurt that she had left him so abruptly like that.
Now, from what he was being told by Allen, he realized that Tazakles had lied to him and used him. He was completely blind to what really went on in Dynamax and had actually helped those atrocities take place. It infuriated him.
"Hey, are you awake Javier?"
Javier started. He had been deep in thought and had missed that last bit of the story.
"I'm sorry if tales of adventure and violence don't excite you," Allen said, "but that's what we've been living."
"I understand exactly what you've been living, Allen," Javier seethed. "And I fully intend to get revenge for what has been done."
"Pikeman to DeMuerto," the man in the Dynamax security outfit said into the communicator. "We're all set up around the Red Lobster."
"Excellent," came the fuzzy reply. "Begin when ready. And remember, let them get away."
"Understood. Pikeman out." He tucked the communicator into his pocket and looked up. "Begin phase one NOW!" he shouted.
Threll had just stolen one of Lori's hush puppies when he noticed the armed men walking into the front entrance. "Oh, oh, guys. We've got company."
Issac looked up. "Oh, Jesus. What do we do now?"
Javier had already made his decision. He stood up and said, "Just follow me, everyone. I'll handle everything."
"Great," said Allen. "I could use a break."
Allen, Lori, Threll, and Issac got up and followed Javier to the front of the restruant. When they reached the security agents, the leader shouted, "Dynamax agent Pikeman! You're all under arrest!"
Javier strided up to him. "Agent Pikeman, I'm Inspector Hugo of Dynamax security. These people are under my custody."
Allen, Issac, Threll, and Lori all responded with a unison, "HUH?"
"I'm sorry, Inspector Hugo," Pikeman said, "but my orders include your arrest."
"I was afraid of that," Javier replied. A second later, all of the men in the white Dynamax uniforms dropped to the ground, their eyes rolling up into their heads.
"Come on!" Javier cried, running out the front door.
"Can we trust him?" Issac asked.
"I don't think we have any choice!" Allen said as he began to follow Javier.
They all raced out to the parking lot, Allen, Threll, and Issac running to their bug and Javier and Lori running to her Sable.
Allen called out, "Javier! Get in our car! Lori! Get out of here! You have nothing to do with all this."
Javier began to run over to the bug. "Allen!" Lori cried back in protest.
As Javier reached the bug, he and Allen both shouted back in unison, "GO!"
Javier managed to scrunch himself into the front seat. Issac had already crammed himself and Threll into the back seat. Allen jumped into the driver's seat.
The bug took off with it's wheels squealing. Issac began to choke on the smell of burnt rubber.
As they raced down the street, they saw some police cruisers with their lights flashing coming in from the left and right at the next intersection. Allen continued on straight.
At each intersection they came to, there were police cruisers at all but one turn. Allen yelled out above the din of the sirens, "Where are they all coming from!? They seem like they're leading us somewhere!"
"Leading us...?" Javier asked to himself. Suddenly he remembered the procedure they were witnessing. "Allen! Turn towards one of the cruisers!"
"What? Are you crazy!?" Allen shouted back. "I'm going to try and lose them through the parking garage!"
"NO!" Javier shouted back. A parking garage was exactly the kind of place they'd want to handle this. It was too late, though.
Allen pulled the bug into the garage. There were ramps leading up to the left and down to the right. An exit out was at the opposite end of the garage. Everything was dark.
In a flash, the entire garage was flooded with light. The little bug was surrounded by men in Dynamax security uniforms armed with machine guns. A voice called out over a megaphone, "Get out of the car and put your hands up!"
Javier whispered, "Get out of the left side."
Everyone complied and got out of the left side of the car, their hands up. Suddenly, all the men on the left side of the car slumped over and Javier cried out, "DUCK!"
Allen, Issac, and Javier ducked down behind the car. Threll took a moment and leveled his left cannon/arm at the group of men standing at the exit. He managed to fire a huge green bolt of energy just as a choir of gunfire filled the garage. There was an explosion at the exit that sent men and parts of men flying everywhere. Threll fell to the ground as bullets ripped through his flesh exterior and ricocheted off of his metal interior. He let out a scream as he hit the ground.
Allen cried out, "Threll!" and ran over to his motionless body. Javier, needing to cover Allen, made a final push and the rest of the men in the garage fell to the ground. Javier had spent his last.
As he and Issac ran over to join Allen at Threll's body, a lone figure walked out of the darkness. He was dressed in an orange Dynamax jumpsuit and more resembled a tank to a man with his immense size. He called out, "Hugo! You got any more left after that?"
Javier looked gravely at the man approaching. "Oh, no. DeMuerto. Allen, Issac, you get Threll out of here. I'll handle this one."
Allen and Issac each took hold of Issac and began to drag his body towards the exit. Javier stood up and slowly walked towards the new opponent.
"DeMuerto," Javier said, "You've got some gall superceeding my authority. You should be thankful that I don't turn your little brain to mush right now."
"You're bluffing, Hugo," DeMuerto replied. "And I intend to prove it!"
DeMuerto threw a punch at Hugo, not reenforcing it any with his TK. His fist smashed right into Hugo's nose and sent him sprawling back. A good old fist fight. DeMuerto was going to enjoy this.
Javier got back up from one knee, holding his hand up to his nose. He took his hand down and looked at the blood on it. Roaring with anger, he leapt forward, tackling DeMuerto and taking him to the ground.
DeMuerto used his TK and threw Javier off of him. Javier flew through the air and smashed into a concrete support. He then hit the ground with a thud.
DeMuerto approached Javier as he slowly got to his feet. Javier waited calmly as he approached. He still had a few tricks left.
DeMuerto threw a giant roundhouse, but Javier knew it was coming. He didn't have the strength to attack with his mind offensively, but he could still read minds. He used this advantage to predict where each of DeMuerto's punches were going and dodged them easily. He then proceeded to pound on his huge opponent, getting in good shots through the openings he saw.
This was getting old quick for DeMuerto and he grabbed Javier by his collar. He then used his TK enhanced strength to hurl him across the garage, once again slamming into a concrete support. DeMuerto began to advance on him.
"That's enough of the fun and games, Hugo," he said. "Time to end this." His eyes began to glow red.
In a flash of green, Lori's Sable burst into the garage and smashed into DeMuerto. DeMuerto flew twenty feet or so and instantly popped back up to his feet. He had managed to get his TK field up in time.
"Stupid bitch!" he screamed at Lori and his eyes turned a firey red. Javier saw this and used his last ounce of physical strength to run up to DeMuerto and leap out in front of his TK beams. Javier slammed up against Lori's windshield, the entire front of his body smouldering.
By now, Issac and Allen had dragged Threll clear of the garage. He was badly hurt, but his cybernetic reinforcements kept him from being mortally wounded. They both raced back in to the garage, Allen towards Lori's car and Issac towards DeMuerto.
While Lori and Allen grabbed Javier's limp body, Issac came up from behind DeMuerto and slapped a full nelson on him. DeMuerto just laughed and flipped Issac over his head like it was nothing.
"Well, well, well," DeMuerto said to Issac. "If it isn't the famous Stingray! You going to put me in your deadly X-Lock, Mr.World Champion?"
"I've taken down bigger brutes than you, you fucking ox," Issac said. "Why don't you just come and see how much the X-Lock hurts!"
Issac stood a good 6'8", but DeMuerto still had a good five inches on him. The giant charged the ex-wrestler, fully intending to crush his skull with his TK strength, but Issac dropped to the ground, his legs outstreched. He slipped his feet in between DeMuerto's calves and he came crashing to the ground. Before DeMuerto could even act, Issac jumped up and placed his foot on the back of the big man's right shoulder. He then grabbed his right hand and pulled the arm back straight with all of his strength. He was greeted with a gratifying snap of ligiments and snap of bone.
An inhuman roar came up from below Issac and he tossed off like rag doll. As he got to his feet, he fully realized what he was up against. The giant was surrounded by a light blue glow now, evidently some sort of force field, and his eyes were glowing a bright red. What that meant...
Issac jumped to the right and a blast of red energy exploded behind him. He tumbled and flipped back to his feet, preparing to dodge the next blast. He was not match for this, broken arm or no. There was only one thing to do.
Issac began to say to himself, quickly, "Nergal, Nergal IA!. Nergal IA! IA!" He could feel the power begin to flow through him.
DeMuerto stood motionless as he watched the bizarre transformation take place before him. Muscles bulged out from Issac's body and he began to grow in height, shredding through his clothing. Golden fur began to sprout of from his skin and his hands turned into clawed sets of paws. Out of nowhere, a flail appeared in his right paw. How he grasped on to it DeMuerto didn't know. When it was done, the thing stood a god ten feet tall and let out a deafening roar.
Allen and Lori had just dragged Javier to safety when they heard this. Allen said to himself, "Oh, boy. Here we go..."
Issac prepared to approach the combat calmly this time, with as little damage to the area as possible. Then, he felt another presence within him. A powerful presence.
Get out, mortal. I claim this body for my own.
Issac felt himself pushed out of control of his body. Before passing into unconsciousness, he managed to cry out, "Allen! I've lost it!..."
Nergal took over with a mighty roar and swung his flail at DeMuerto with a great heave. The ball of the flail smashed into DeMuerto and sent him flying through a concrete support. He then pounced upon DeMuerto's stunned body and began tearing at his TK field with his razor sharp claws.
Allen realized what had happened. Nergal had somehow taken control of the body. But how? This shouldn't be happening. He didn't have much time to figure out a solution, either, as Nergal had ripped though the big man's TK field and was now turning him into an unspeakable mess of blood and gore. It wouldn't be long before Nergal went out to the general populace and did the same.
Allen then felt a foreign presence in his mind. Allen Covenant.
"What? Who is this?" he called out.
Lori looked at Allen with concern. "Allen, who are you talking to?"
Allen Covenant. I am Anubis, known as Tiamatt. You know of me?
"Yes, I know of, Evil One. You were also Typhon and put in your proper place by Zeus."
"Allen, what's going on?" Lori asked.
Yes, and I now wish to be free. You know how to do this, do you not?
"Yes, I do. But makes you think I will?"
I can stop Nergal. Free me, and in return I will stop Nergal.
It didn't seem to Allen like he had much of a choice. "OK, I'll do it! Just stop Nergal!"
You must free me first.
Allen raced over to the concrete wall of the garage and pulled out his penknife. He quickly slashed the palm of his hand and traced a magic circle on the wall. Cracks were beginning to form in it as Nergal swung his flail about wildly and destroyed the structure.
"ALLEN!" Lori cried, seeing him cut himself. She realized he was doing his magic, but she didn't have to like it.
As Allen traced inscribed the greek ritual into the circle, he let the ancient power flow through him. His mind burned, and as the ritual ended, his mind exploded in fire. The circle shone a blinding gold for a moment and the ancient presence of Anubis was released from his prison. The winds began to pick up.
By now, the entire garage was beginning to crumble. Nergal held his hands up to his head and screamed. Quickly, his body shrank back down to the form of Issac Warner, naked and small. He had enough sense about him to run out of the garage, though, and just made it out as it came crumbling down in a great crash of stone.
Allen, Lori, and Issac checked Threll and Javier out to make sure they were OK and pulled them into a police cruiser. Allen hotwired it and they drove off to Lori's home.
That next day, Allen, Issac, and Threll loaded up into their new station wagon. Allen had used a little computer magic to free up Issac's enormous bank account and withdrew it all in cash. They had used it to buy new clothing, a new car, and a replacement for Lori's Sable.
Threll slowly climbed into the back seat while Issac got in the front. Threll still resembled a human when he had clothing on, but underneath his flesh exterior had been mostly blown away. Allen had disconnected his pain circuts, but he still felt like shit. He was hoping that this place Allen was taking them had something to fix him up with.
Issac got in the front seat. While not in physical pain, he knew that he could never call on Nergal again. He was condemmed to a life of the ordinary in the world of the extraordinary.
Allen stood in front of Lori's house to have some final words with her. This had turned out nothing like he had hoped.
"...and then we would have gone out for a movie or something. That's how it was supposed to go, honestly."
Lori smiled. "Allen, that's never how it can go with you. Wherever you go you trail your trouble along with you. You're a wonderful person and I love you very much, but unless you can get those troubles taken care of, we can't ever be together."
This was exactly what Allen didn't want to hear. He was his own worst problem. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry..."
Lori hugged Allen and said to him, "Don't be. Just get your act together someday. I certainly don't seem to be going anywhere."
They said good-bye and Allen got in the car. Lori watched as the only man she could ever love but could never have left her life once again.
"She's not coming?" asked Threll. Allen suggested being cheery in order to take his mind off the damage done to his body.
"No, she has her own normal life to live," Allen said.
"Too bad. She doesn't know what she's missing with us!" Threll said with a bit of sarcasm.
"And where did Javier go?" Issac asked. "He was pretty badly mussed up and then just disappeared."
"Javier has his own personal mission to take care of," Allen replied.
There was a brief pause of silence. Threll then asked, "What IS in Chicago, anyway?"
Jarvis Tazakles watched the security readout monitor as another outpost flashed red and disappeared. Someone was cutting through his security like it was butter and there were only a number of people it could be.
Owen didn't have any reason to show up. That counted him out.
Danny Anderson didn't know where he lived. He also hadn't enough mastery over his power to use it this efficiently.
The Tempest boy didn't know where he was, either. Anyways, he would probably just come in through the walls. It would be a pleasure to corrupt that one in person, though.
There was only one other person he knew of.
The final outpost faded out and Jarvis' office door burst apart. Javier Hugo strode into the room. His face was a bloody mess, his left arm was in a sling, and his clothing was torn and charred. He was a complete mess.
"Javier!" Jarvis said, turning his charisma on to full. "What brings you here?"
"You lied to me," Javier stated bluntly. "You've simply used me for your own vile purposes ever since the beginning. You BASTARD!"
Jarvis could feel the clamp of Javier's mind bear down on him. In seconds he'd be dead unless he did something.
Jarvis reached back out to stop Javier at the source, but he was blocked. How could Javier have the power to attack AND defend that thuroughly?
He must have felt the tug on his mind, because Javier smiled wickedly and opened up his soiled shirt. Engraved onto his chest was a strange sigil that was blocking Jarvis' attack. Covenant's work.
As Jarvis felt himself slowly slip away from consciousness, he made one last desperate attempt. He quickly opened up his left desk drawer and pulled out his revolver. Before Javier could act, there was an explosion and the air was filled with the smell of gunpowder.
Javier's eyes bulged as the crimson rose appeared on his forehead. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell forward onto Jarvis' obsidian desk. He then slid back to the ground.
Jarvis took several moments to catch his breath. He then buzzed on the intercom and said, "Miss Clark? Could you get someone in here to clean up a mess in here?" There wasn't any response.
"Ah, well," Jarvis said. He called his holographic chess board back up and removed a white bishop. "A shame, that," he commented. "Not vital to the strategy, but still a waste of a good piece."