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Sorry about the delay. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, London will have to leave the project. Rest assured, the project will continue on and I will take over the characters she wrote.
Alex woke up the following morning in a puddle of his own drool. Instinctively he recoiled, and his head reminded him that the effects of that godforsaken light grenade hadn’t gone away.
“Ungh, Jesus, why?”
Heavy banging came from just outside his door, followed immediately by the creak of it being shoved open.
“Get up, sleepyhead!” Dawn yelled at him. “You’re missing breakfast.”
He pushed himself up slowly. “Dawn, does the camp still even have food?”
“Well, I dunno, but dad made it my job to get you up every day for breakfast, so that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Alex half-smiled. “Alright, alright, whatever you say.”
Dawn led them out of the janitor’s closet and over to the metro platform, where dozens of civilians huddle together. Only a few were lucky enough to have jackets. Dallas and several other officers were distributing cans.
“We only have two more day’s worth of food left, so each person only gets one can. If you want more, you can fight to the death on the tracks.”
A few people laughed nervously. Alex molded the shadows on the upper half of his face into a mask and got in line.
Fritz, who’d strutted up to join Alex, gave him a look with narrowed eyes. “You going to a masquerade or something?”
“Something like that.” He stepped forward. “You certainly don’t seem to care about your identity.”
“Should I?” Fritz asked, shrugging. “Worst case scenario, my parents find out what I’m doing and gripe to their temple friends about it. Or maybe that’s best case, who really knows?”
“No, worst case is some two-bit thug or mercenary assassin breaks into your apartment and kills you in your sleep.”
“How could they break into my apartment and kill me if I’ve already broken into your room for the night?” Fritz asked, flashing Alex a cheeky smile.
“Ga-a-ay,” Dawn could be heard saying not far from them.
“He does this shit all the time!” Alex complained, throwing up his hands. “He does it just to annoy me. You don’t see him hitting on Shade, do you?”
“Hey, I’m a flirt, but I know when to back off,” Fritz said. “She’s preoccupied anyhow.”
“You’ll figure it out, Alex.”
Alex glanced around the crowd. “I don’t see her anywhere. Hopefully she’s meditating somewhere or something.”
“Who even knows with her?” Fritz asked, rolling his eyes. “Chick’s an enigma.”
“Inside of a mystery. I mean, she doesn’t seem like she’s all bad, she’s just so mad all the time. I’m mad about all this Cerberus nonsense too, but I ain’t ready to kill everyone in Blackburn.” He shot a glance at Fritz. “Except maybe you.”
“Aw, I love you too, buddy, gimme a kiss.”
Alex pinched his lips shut.
“Hrrm,” came Fritz’s dull protest.
As they bickered, Jeff came running up to them.
“Guys, guys, guys!” he said, just about bouncing on his heels. “I found more of that bug thing’s tracks!”
“Glad you were doing something productive, because I ate your breakfast.” Dallas quickly put his hands up. “Kidding, kidding.”
“Don’t even joke about that, man!” Jeff urged, putting a hand over his heart. “But really, I found them down near Martin’s base on Calvin Ave. You need to look into it.” He extended out his hand, a pair of handcuffs dangling between his fingers. “And take my inhibitor cuffs if you find him.”
“Martin’s base?” Alex questioned. “How do you know that?”
“Lots of Hispanic thugs with big guns hanging out around there,” Jeff explained.
“Wonderful.” Alex slapped Fritz on the shoulder. “Go find the creepy one, looks like we have a bug to squish again.”
Martin’s base was indeed on Calvin Avenue, in a hulking seaside warehouse by the docks. It was one of the newer ones, the white paint on the corrugated metal siding still fresh. Nonetheless, extensive efforts had been made to fortify it. Sheets of metal had been bolted over the windows, and a helix of barbed wire that wasn’t there before ran along the top of the chain link fence. Guards in heavily padded armor patrolled the perimeter of the fence and waited along every wall of the warehouse, hugging rifles to their chests. A cluster of them, noticeably bigger than the others, stood at attention at the door. Shade swallowed down a twinge of apprehension – if there was an opening, she couldn’t see it.
She turned back and glanced down the adjacent rooftop they were staking out atop of. Onyx and Prism were waiting for her plan patiently.
“You two should stay outside and cover me. It doesn’t appear that the mantis creature went back inside, so we also need eyes out in case it returns.”
“Uh.” Onyx half-raised his hand. “Are you sure about this? Being alone with Martin?”
“Trust me, I know exactly how dangerous he is.”
“Okay, your call.”
She put out her hand. “I could use a teleport, big guy.”
Onyx did as he was told, dropping her near a stack of crates on the building’s back side.
“Good luck,” he said before fading away.
The rear wasn’t as heavily guarded. Two guards walked a horizontal path to the ends of the fence and back, and two more were having a smoke break near a backdoor.
“<You hear about Grigori? Bastard’s gone.>”
“<Ha! I got sick of his Mother Russia this, Mother Russia that. It’s obviously not as rough as Blackburn.>”
“<Now if we can just feed the Mouse to Mantis, we’ll have the city to ourselves. Say, did that rock just move by itself?>”
“<Jorge, rocks don’t just move by themselves.>”
“<But it did! I swear on my mother’s grave.>”
“<I hope it’s not made of stone or it might have moved itself.>”
“<You’re a prick, Miguel.>”
Shade had already slid through the door while the two bickered. Inside, she found herself in some sort of armory, the walls lined with racks of guns that were nearly empty. Judging by the height of the ceiling, she guessed that the warehouse was no longer a warehouse, but a three-story stronghold. Save for the one she’d just come through, there was one other door, and it was slightly ajar. Somewhere, she could hear rhythmic footsteps, and what sounded like claws scraping on the cement floor. She crept behind the door and stooped to peer through.
Down the dim hallway, someone in that same black body armor rounded the corner, dragging something along by a chain. Suddenly, he stopped. The unseen end of the chain was lagging behind him, resisting him. He scowled. “<Come on, you piece’a shit…>”
He gave the chain a jerk, and something that made bile rise in Shade’s throat came into view.
She didn’t see it for long – a second and a half, at best – but it was enough to make her skin crawl. The thing was by the loosest definition of the word a dog. At least, it had the vague shape of a dog, a quadruped with pointed ears and a snout. But it was nearly hairless, and its skin was the color of bare human flesh. In that split second, the man didn’t see her. The creature did. It looked her dead in the eye. There was nothing doglike about those eyes.
She let out an involuntary gasp and quickly hid behind the door. The guard stopped. “Miguel?” She didn’t respond, but she could hear him creeping closer, loading a gun, cursing under his breath at the thing on his chain.
She slid out of the way of the door as it swung open all the way, leaving her trapped in a slice of darkness. The guard stopped, but she could hear his chain jangling. Claws scraped on the floor. They were drawing near. Shade braced herself for the worst.
The thing loomed over her, and if nothing else, she was sure right then and there that it was human. It’s face had the bone structure of a dog’s, but its nose was that of human, nostrils set into a shallow impression of a normal nose. Its mouth hung open, rimmed by thin, drawn lips and full of human teeth. Its eyes, too, were unmistakably human. In lieu of paws, its too-short fingers were fused, and its nails were yellow and jagged.
Shade pulled her tranq gun, but the beast didn’t move. It gave her one long look, then went back to its master. The man just scoffed. “<You’re kidding.>” He shut the door, exposing her, but he didn’t have time to take note of her before he fell limp with a tranquilizer dart in his neck.
Immediately, Shade dragged a gun rack in front of the door and loaded it down with all the guns she could find. The dog person watched her, but didn’t move. For the first time, she noticed its metal collar. The skin around it was chafed and bloody, like it hadn’t been removed in a very long time. A remote control had fallen from the guard’s hand, too, a little plastic square with a single black button. Shade picked it up and inspected it. The only writing on it was in tiny white letters just above the button – administer shock.
When she looked up, the dog creature wasn’t where it had been. It was cowering in the corner, watching her with wary eyes and trembling so hard it could barely stand up. Administer shock.
“Hey,” she whispered unevenly. “It’s okay, I’m not gonna -” she trailed off. Did the thing know English like the mantis did? It was hard to say – it wasn’t a dog, after all, but it wasn’t human, either.
She could feel it watching her as she pulled a multi-tool from her belt and started to unscrew the flatheads from the back of the remote. The backing came away, and she shook the batteries out onto the floor. The dog person looked puzzled, but not quite convinced. The point hadn’t hit home.
She dropped the remote on the ground and stomped on it. It crunched under the heel of her boot. The dog person flinched, anticipating a shock, but it never came. She stomped on the remote again and again until it was nothing but plastic shards and bits of circuit board. The dog stopped shaking.
“See?” she said, knowing it probably didn’t understand her. It came forward to sniff the remote. Jessica shuddered to think what would happen to the poor creature when she left, but there were bigger things at stake. But as she made to leave, she turned and looked at the thing one last time. Its head was lowered, sagging, as though in grief or maybe relief. The sides of its face were wet with human tears. When it caught her looking at it, it slipped through the door ahead of her. The sound of the chain dragging on a concrete floor was too loud, and she thought of letting it go as a distraction for the guards, but it was going the way she wanted to go, down the west hall. She hurried after it, picking up the dragging chain. It felt wrong in her hands. To keep another human on a leash was wrong. But the creature only picked up its pace, knowingly leading her somewhere.
Through the wall of that long, narrow hallway, she could hear machinery – buzzsaws whirring, an industrial air conditioner humming, gruff-voiced men talking. That must have been where the garage door led, she thought, and the garage would take up two floors in height. That meant the second floor would have to be considerably smaller than the first. She wasn’t sure if that was good or bad – there might be less space to cover, but she could easily get trapped if there were too many guards up there.
Suddenly, the creature sped up and took a sharp left. She followed it into a dark stairwell – just in the nick of time. Two guards passed the stairwell, smoking cigarettes, each leading their own “dog.” The men didn’t see them. The dogs did. One stalled, if only for half a moment, and the other gave a strange yip, somewhere in between a growl and a human moan, as if to tell its friend off for lingering so long. They disappeared from view, but Jessica could still hear them – the guards, but the dogs, too, talking in a language of whines and not-at-all doglike barks.
The second floor was as she expected – the hallway straight ahead led to a wall with a window in it, where she could see gray shapes lit up orange by the glow of flying sparks and welding torches. She wanted to check it out and see how many men Martin had down there, and what kinds of machines they were packing. But the dog seemed anxious to turn the corner, and rightfully so – she slipped behind the wall just in time to see a man with a dog stop to look out that window.
She gripped the chain tight in her hands, but it wouldn’t stop rattling. The dog led her to a door and looked at her expectantly. Jessica braced herself as she turned the doorknob, but there weren’t any “experiments” inside. It was just a closet of some sort. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could make out collars like the one the dog was wearing, unlocked and hung on racks along the walls. There was a shelf with some random garbage on it – chunks of dried meat seemingly designed for the dogs, someone’s locked phone, and a box of batteries with a sign that read NEW batteries (do NOT put dead batteries in here) in Spanish. The dog led her to a corner of the room where a single key hung from a hook. Immediately, she understood, stooping to unlock the collar around the dog’s neck.
The hinges on the collar snapped open, and it hit the floor before she could stop it. The sound of metal striking stone reverberated through the floor and up into her legs, momentarily stopping her heart. The dog’s pupils dilated in terror – how much did this sorry creature know? The flesh under the collar smelled sour, maybe rotten, and it was making her sick. Choking down her pulse, Shade strained her ears.
Someone was coming. Her hand wandered to her smoke bombs, but it wouldn’t do her any good – the guard would just call in reinforcements, and she’d be cornered. Anything that would draw attention to her would kill her in the long run. She wrapped her hand around her tranq gun.
The footsteps tapered off right outside the door. Then, there was silence, followed by a bang. The door flew open, light pouring into the supply closet. Without a second thought, Shade fired.
No dice. The dart lodged in a thick black visor that shielded the guard’s face. She could only wonder what his face must have looked like. The hound beside him, smaller than hers, was trembling, like it knew what was coming. The man pressed the button on his remote.
Immediately, the creature arched its back and emitted a sound not unlike a strangled scream. Its legs convulsed, white tongue lolled, eyes rolled back in its head. After three seconds that felt like three hours, the man let go of the button, and the thing’s demeanor changed completely. Its human lips curled up in a snarl – not at the guard, but at her. Its eyes were full of a dangerous, feral hatred. She had only moments to wonder what Martin had done to this miserable thing, to the tens, possibly hundreds of barely-humanoid abominations in this facility to make them react in such a way to pain. She jumped out of the way as it leapt, stumbling as the creature grazed her hip and knocked her off balance. It recovered in no time flat, this time backing her into a corner.
She shot a tranq dart into it, and then another. When it lunged at her, it wasn’t nearly as fast as the last time, but at this rate, the thing might have another shot before the tranquilizer took effect – would two tranq darts even be enough? She didn’t want to kill the poor thing. After narrowly dodging yet another lunge, she braced herself against the wall and kicked back with all her might. It barely moved an inch. She shot another dart into it, but it was already too close. The rush of adrenaline in her veins was turning to sick fear. She grabbed a collar from the wall and swung it around on its chain, building its momentum until the thing was close enough for her to smell its breath. Then, she swung it around and struck it across the face.
It reeled, staggered, then fell in a heap against a pile of chains. Its back rose and fell, but it didn’t move.
When the smell of blood filled the air, she quickly checked her body for wounds she hadn’t noticed – it wouldn’t be the first time she’d blocked out the pain of an injury that week. But aside from a few future bruises and scratches in her armor, she was fine. It then that Shade realized that she hadn’t heard from the guard, or her own hound, in a bit.
The dog was sitting across the room, laying on something black and bulky. Its pink skin was red with fresh blood – there was blood everywhere, creeping across the floor in a growing pool that originated from that black mass. She went to look at what her hound had done.
The guard had been completely eviscerated. The dog had torn through the thick body armor in places, tearing him apart, right down to the bone. His arm had been torn out of its socket and strewn across the room. His visor had been shattered, but a scrap of body armor mercifully covered his face, and Shade decided she didn’t want to see what was underneath.
She looked at the dog, and the dog looked at her, but that time, the dog wasn’t quite human enough for her to read it. She clenched her fist. “Come on,” she said, beckoning for it to follow as she laid a hand on the doorknob. When it was at her heels, she threw the door open and ran.
The late guard seemed to have been the only one on the small, evidently unimportant floor – or if there were others, they were few, and she never ran into them. The hound was faster than her. It led her to yet another stairwell, and she almost bounded up it. But as she reeled back to leap, she noticed that the dog was creeping up the stairs with such care that she had to wonder what was at the top – evidently, something that the hound was very afraid of. She crept a few paces behind it, until it stopped nearly at the top.
She didn’t hear a thing up there. But if she was putting money on it, she would have bet that the dog knew better than her. So she crawled past it and stole a look into the third floor.
The hound had been right again. Four guards stood watch over one door in a small chamber whose only purpose seemed to be to precede that door. They weren’t chatty like the other guards – they faced forward, two flanking the door, two up against the adjacent walls. They didn’t have hounds, though. They were armed with massive guns, held ready across their chests.
They only served to emphasize how important that door must have been, though, because they weren’t much of a threat to her. Taking them out was easy enough. One knock-out gas pellet, and they were gone. That wasn’t the issue. When one of their walkie-talkies hissed, and someone on the other side asked for what was apparently a routine check-in – that was an issue. The voice cut in again, asking if they copied. Reinforcements would arrive at any moment. Her time was short. She snatched a keycard from one of the guards’ sleeve pockets and swiped it. For good measure, she took all of the others’ key cards with her, hoping that they were the only ones with cards; that might buy her some time.
She took hold of the doorknob. The dog appeared beside her, and its eyes were full of – no, not fear. Sadness. The thought of passing through that door was suddenly making her sick. She opened it anyway.
Before she could even register what was in there, the dog bolted down the hall, anxious to pass through as quickly as possible. They were in a long, long hallway, not gray like the rest of the building, but clinical white. Doors lined the hall, at least twenty on either side, each with a reinforced window beside it.
This was a distraction, she decided, proceeding down the hall with her eyes downcast. But there were strange sounds all around her, and she could feel her curiosity stirring inside of her. She promised herself that she wouldn’t stop, no matter what she saw, and then looked.
And she didn’t stop, but what she saw nearly made her sick. In every room was some sort of abomination of human flesh, like the dog, but of many more unnatural shapes. She saw something nearly human with gigantic hands and a single eye for its entire face, something thin made of more membrane than flesh or bone, something lying on a table without arms or legs or eyes or ears or anything but a single mouth, one horrific thing after another. But the worst of them was at the end of the hall – a door. Just an office door, with gold letters on the frosted glass.
Dr. Martin Salazar
After all she’d seen, Shade was dying to get her hands on that freak. She could barely contain herself. But at the same time, she could barely bring herself to open that door.
The place was open and spacious, lavish quarters for someone important. An expensive-looking rug ran the whole length of the place, and the walls were lined with bookshelves. At the far end of the room, a gilded desk sat in front of a huge tapestry. Dr. Salazar himself stood admiring it with hands clasped behind his back, paying Shade no attention at all, and she wondered if he even knew she was there. She started to creep towards the desk.
“About time,” he said in that strange, distorted voice of his.
Shade stopped. “You knew I was coming,” she said, a statement of fact.
“Simple. Things being the way that they are, the new Mavericks wouldn’t be anywhere but Vicio, and my base of operations is by far the most conspicuous on the island. From the outside, it’s low hanging fruit. Like most traps.”
“Some trap,” she scoffed. “Your guards are pathetic.”
“Indeed, I’ve been waiting to hear news of guards up to their gills in tranquilizer, but not two minutes ago, a guard called to tell me that someone had been absolutely maimed in the hound supply closet. Positively brutal. I didn’t think that such bloodshed was in the spirit of the Mavericks. Letting out some pent up rage?”
Shade was taken aback. “That wasn’t me.”
Martin looked over his shoulder, and his bespectacled eyes widened at the hound beside her. “Ah, it was you.”
He came around his desk to approach the hound. He looked down on the creature with some strange, synthetic affection. She didn’t dare attack him – not yet. “Where’s your training collar, little one?” he asked in a syrupy voice. “What about your handler? Surely he wasn’t the one we found unconscious in the first floor armory. What kind of dog would you be to let such a thing happen to your handler?”
Somewhere in the hound’s eyes, it understood.
Martin reeled back with his cane. “It would make you -” He brought it down on the hound’s head. “A waste -” And again. “Of genetic -” Again. “Material.” Again. “A book – not worth – its paper…” He stopped, panting, brandishing his cane like a sword. “… is what…”
The poor creature was dead before she could make a move. The corners of her mouth twitched in rage.
Martin looked at her, then the hound. It was laying down now, blood pouring down the side of its face, but its eyes were wide open and terrified. “Kindling.” One more time, he beat the dog’s head with the cane. Its eyes closed. “Fuel for a fire. Bigger and better things than it. We’ll still use her genetic material, of course, but I think we ought to make her successors more obedient, tone down the intellect. This sort of insubordination has happened more times than I’d care to admit.”
He strolled back up to his desk, as though nothing had happened, and paused again at his tapestry with his hands clasped behind his back.
“What is all this about, Martin?”
He scoffed. “Don’t ask stupid questions. You know this is about power – power that is rightfully mine. There are no revelations to be had. I don’t regret the pain, suffering, and death I’ve caused in past. Blackburn’s pain is but a drop in the bucket, and it hasn’t changed me. You don’t realize how worthless human life is until you take it away – even just one human life. It’s really quite astounding. I think everyone should try it.” He paused, lost in thought. “There are no secrets here. My reasons are the same as they’ve always been.”
“Just confirming what I already knew. You’re sick.”
Martin made a small snort, then fell silent. “So. Are we ready to end this?”
But he hadn’t even finished speaking by the time Shade had drawn her tranq gun. She fired, aiming for the back of his neck. Inches away from his neck, it stopped – just stopped, hovering in the air, perfectly still. His bony, broken fingers were splayed, as if holding it there. “Poor form, Shade.”
At minute twirl of his fingers, the dart turned around. She had less than a moment to dodge it as it came flying back at her. Martin’s back was still turned. She started running at him, brandishing her fists. Then, something slid out from under her feet, and she was flat on her face. The rug had been pulled out from underneath her like a tablecloth, and was now piled at the far end of the room. Martin had turned around now, and was smiling a crooked smile at her.
Then, something flashed in the corner of her eye, and she had just enough sense in her to get out of the way. Two bookshelves from opposite walls smashed together, right where she’d been sitting. Before she even realized what had happened, her instincts told her to jump back, and she did, narrowly avoiding being smashed by yet another set of bookshelves. All four shelves rattled and returned to their positions on the walls, now unimpeded by the carpet.
Then, all of the bookshelves started to rattle, all at once. She shot her grappling gun into the ceiling and went airborne just in time – all of the bookshelves smashed together, making a sound like a thunderclap. She dropped straight towards Martin. He looked up, and for a moment, he looked surprised. Then, he held up a hand, and Shade was frozen in space, inches away from the ugliest, most contorted face she’d ever seen. His eyes were cataract blue. A smile crept up the corners of his displaced lips, and he flicked his fingers, sending her flying across the room.
She landed on the pile of rug, forcing herself to her feet. There were already bookshelves flying at her like gigantic rounds of ammunition. She broke into a run, dodging one, two, three, four of them in rapid succession. They exploded into broken wood and scattered books behind her. She was gaining ground again, but Martin had himself protected – three bookshelves orbited him like planets, ready at his disposal. He didn’t seem too keen on wasting any more bookshelves, for he’d stopped firing them at her, but at least three more were looming in the air, ready to strike. When she was within range, she chucked a smoke pellet at him, hoping to obscure his vision and get a shot in on him. It landed right at his feet, and he was immediately enveloped in a haze of gray smoke.
She could see the tops of his orbiting bookshelves where they stuck out of the cloud – if she could come in and attack him from above, he might not have seen it coming. Again she took to the air with her grappling gun and began to descend into the ring of shelves, bearing down hard upon the man inside of it.
But she never hit him – he wasn’t there, and she couldn’t say how. Realizing she’d been trapped, she ducked and rolled out of the circle and into the open air. She looked over her shoulder in time to catch the three unseen bookshelves smash together, throwing books and wooden shrapnel everywhere.
Martin was riding a bookshelf through the air, upright, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. However, as she dodged bookshelves that swooped down like hawks to the kill, she noticed something – Martin was leaning heavily on his cane. Panting. Pale. Was he getting tired?
In a maneuver she knew full well he could evade, she tried again to shoot her grapple into the ceiling and swing into him. He caught her again, but didn’t allow her to get so close this time. It wasn’t enough to hide the fact that he was sweating profusely, though, and his teeth were gritted in concentration. He threw her, but his throw was so feeble that she landed on her feet.
So she continued to dodge his attacks. She kept her maneuvers predictable, so Martin had something to do, something to waste his energy on. He tried to interrupt the regular patterns of her movements, but it was too late to do any real damage – the bookshelves moved sluggishly through the air now, still forceful, still capable of doing damage, but they’d lost their element of surprise, and she dodged them easily.
The bookshelf Martin rode was getting lower, the way a balloon sags as it runs out of helium. She was just biding her time, waiting until – without warning, she broke her maneuver to bounce off the wall and into the air, a leg outstretched to kick him off of his pedestal. Their eyes met, and he was no longer smug. His eyes were feral. With a final heave of effort, he sent a bookshelf sailing through the air, and she didn’t have time to dodge it. It knocked her right down, and she felt the breath leave her lungs as she hit the ground, splintered wood raining down her cloak.
But the effort had been too much for him, and she knew it. She looked up just in time to catch Martin stagger and fall ten, maybe fifteen feet. He crumpled on the floor, his bookshelves hanging perfectly still in the air. Without his telekinesis, he seemed so vulnerable, a heap of broken bones. Shade got to her feet and went to see if he was dead.
No. He hardly seemed perturbed by freshly broken bones – he’d probably broken so many of his own bones, it didn’t even matter to him. He was human, but just barely.
He tried to squirm away, but he was either too weak or too broken to manage it. He forced a laugh. “Well, then?” he choked out. “What are you going to do? Kill me?”
“Maybe I should.” A hundred ways to end him flashed through her mind. None gave him what he deserved.
“Really? Is that right?” he said, cackling. “Then by all means, dear, do it.”
Shade glared down at him. She was suspicious, but not enough to stop her from knocking that damn smile off. She reeled back and kicked him hard across the face. His head snapped to the floor and stayed there.
The bookshelves that hung in the air shook, filling the room with a strange rattle. Shade heard something overhead, looked up – one was hanging directly over Martin. Had that been there before?
One by one, they fell out of the air, eight in total. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven – eight. The bookshelf fell on top of him, flat side down, still full of heavy tomes. One rattling breath sounded from underneath the shelf, then ceased.
A pulse of energy hit her, first as a feeling, then as a force that knocked her flat on her ass. Below her, she could hear every window in the building shatter, every one of Martin’s men cry out in surprise and terror. The last of his energy was gone. Martin was dead.
Before she could let herself fully understand what she’d done, Shade called Quinn. “The asshole’s dead. When this is all over, they need to raze this place to the ground.”
“Good riddance,” Quinn said. Shade’s stare lingered on the fallen bookshelf, the tip of Martin’s leather shoe sticking out from underneath it, and his cane lying unused beside him. She turned and made a run for the nearest window.
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