Author Note: Updated Friday 4th April 2014
This will be a heavy action sequence. Please let me know what you think, and any questions you may have about my characters, and please enjoy :)
When Zib roused from her murky, shallow dreams, she felt the full force of the sun scorch her skin. Everything began to shift slightly as she came to, the horror of her dreams leaving a permanent mark over her. She knew all too well that the fey spread like wildfire, and just because she was a good ocean away from the Iabal and Ivbal headquarters did not guarantee safety.
“Rise and shine, sleeping beauty,” Cedric said.
Zib rubbed her eyes and turned to see the dark haired pixie sat beside her at the back of the car. Looking around, she noticed that they were alone, and that the car had been parked at some sort of alleyway.
“Where are we?” Zib asked.
“Bulawayo. Tashaun and Xander have gone to get some essentials.”
“What?” she yelled, springing up to full attention. “We’re too far down south. Who decided on this detour?”
“Well, Tashaun said—”
“Of course! As if I even needed to ask.” She opened the car door and rushed out, slamming it behind her. Cedric followed suit, but left the door open.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
She turned to face him. “To find Shaun and kick his cybertechnic ass. I don’t believe I let him drive!” She flung her arms up in despair. “We’re losing valuable time. What could be so essential that he’d need us to stop here?”
“Tashaun says he knows an informant here who could give you guys some pointers about approaching the You-know-what. Sometimes this ancient lot require a sacrifice of some sort to get an audience with them.”
“No,” Zib said, shaking her head. “There’s something more to this, or I would know about this. Stay here or come with me but I’m getting down to the bottom of this.”
Zib heard Cedric closed the car door and follow after her with a big huff.
“You kids are going to be the death of me— I can feel it.”
“Welcome to my life. Death and I, we’re great dance partners.”
As Zib took another left in the busy city centre, she bumped into a young man.
“Sorry,” she said.
“Angel, you can bump me any day,” he answered. Zib snorted and rolled her eyes, easily stepping around him.
And I thought I was a freak of nature, Zib thought.
“Hey!” Cedric yelled, huffing and puffing as he finally caught up to her. “Would you slow down? Where are we even going?”
“I’m not sure yet,” she admitted. “I’m tracing Xander with our bond.”
Following her bond was less like a GPS navigation, and more like a game of Hot or Cold. She could sense his presence coming from a particular direction but she could only feel the wisp of an emotion. He was closing their bond of somehow. She knew his emotions should have been practically tangible.
What is he hiding? she wondered.
The hustle bustle of the town centre was beginning to grate on her nerves as Zib bumped into another stranger. The pavements seemed to be too narrow, and yet the roads were far wider than what she was used to. And the people moved leisurely like they had all the time in the world.
As they crossed the road, Zib saw a number of small stalls with women sat by the road, selling a number of things ranging from fresh produce to hair accessories and makeup.
When Zib approached the building another block away, she was initially sceptical of the women on the balcony arranging strands of synthetic hair, and others applying nail polish onto one another.
“This can’t be the place,” she muttered to herself.
“Well, you brought us here,” Cedric wheezed out.
Zib turned away from the staircase leading up to the building but immediately felt a distance between herself and Xander.
“Fine, but they’d better not try and do my hair.”
As Zib climbed the stairs, she felt Xander’s closed off emotions begin to flood her. Bitter fear weighed heavily on her throat and sour anger created a tangy trail at the tip of her tongue.
“Hurry up,” she told Cedric.
They entered the salon and Zib was initially hit with the overpowering sweet aroma of hair products and perfume. Loud Zulu music blared on the radio, with a few of the hair dressers wiggling their hips and bobbing their heads about. The room was packed, with several girls and young women standing around, waiting to have their hair done.
“Now why would Xander and Tashaun be at a hairdresser’s?” Cedric asked.
“I don’t know,” Zib admitted. “But I can sense Xander somewhere through that door.” She nudged her chin at a closed white door by a hair steamer.
“Ladies first,” he insisted, still catching his breath. Though the pixie wasn’t exactly fat, he did have a belly on him and his wheezing suggested he was asthmatic.
Zib walked towards the door and the lady by the steamer gave her a look and kissed her teeth.
“This door is locked,” she stated.
“Would you mind opening it?” Zib asked.
“Seriously?” Zib shuffled through her pockets and brought out forty US dollars. “Will this do?”
“Make it fifty and then we have a deal.”
When the woman opened the door, Zib gave her the money and stepped through the door with Cedric. Zib wasn’t certain of what she expected to find, but a car park was not the place. Only three cars were parked at one far corner, not a person in sight.
“Do you think this car park leads to somewhere?” Cedric asked.
“Maybe, but I’m pretty certain that Xander is here.”
Zib walked around the car park for a bit and felt a wave of panic sweep over her. Cracks appeared all around her, even in the very air she breathed, and she watched as several of them peeled away far back enough to see Xander. And his neck was within the grip of a gigantic man.
Zib approached Xander and the man but neither seemed to notice her. This should get the lug head’s attention, she thought to herself as she kicked the man’s legs from under him. He collapsed to his knees and Xander gave him a swift punch just to be certain.
“Zib,” Xander said. “You found me.”
“Of course I did, you idiot,” Zib snapped. “What were you thinking?”
“Sorry, but perhaps we should deal with the matter at hand.”
Zib looked around but she saw no one else. “What are you talking about?”
“You don’t see them?”
“Here,” he said, taking her hand in his. When Zib felt his touch, a ripple went through the whole room and she saw three other men, and Tashaun. They had his body sprawled over a poker table, with a gun to his head, with one of the men shouting at him for the money.
“Zib!” Tashaun yelled. “Glad you could make the fray.” The man stood over him hit his head with the butt of the gun.
“You owe me ten thousand dollars for cheating using this one,” he snapped, pointing at Xander.
“You were using an illusionist to win your game, you’re one to talk about cheating.”
“The money or I blow your head open.”
“I’m really rather curious about the second choice,” Tashaun answered.
Just as the man was about to pull the trigger, Tashaun wacked his head against the man’s chine. Shaun was hard headed in more ways than one but Zib didn’t pity him even for a second.
Six other men came on them all at once with their guns at the ready. Though she was armed with a short blade and her own trusty gun, most of these men were human and did not warrant the extra force.
Zib stood back to back with Xander as they attacked. She quickly tackled the first man. His stance was unbalanced and his slowness made him easy to out-manoeuvre. The other two didn’t take any chances and shot at them from afar. Dodging the bullets was a little harder but one man’s aim was right on target when Zib heard Cedric growl in pain. Unflinching, she shot the assailant’s shooting hand. He dropped his gun and Cedric kicked at the man’s legs. The gunmen lost his balance and toppled to the ground.
Pinpricks stabbed at Zib’s head and she saw an attacker raise their gun at her. She shot the man’s shoulder and thigh, causing him to collapse to his knees.
A spasm of pain rippled through Zib’s body and a gut wrenching scream exploded from her. A moment later, she saw Xander in front of her, on his knees.
A weight toppled on top of Zib and she winced once she realised it was a dead body. Zib chucked the body aside in a callous manner. A bitter disgust fell on her tongue when she saw the small gaping hole at the back of the man’s head. Only one person killed like that.
Regardless of Tashaun’s overly bloody methods, Zib had worked with him long enough not to make judgement. Zib’s own acts of violence may not have always been as fatal, but there were things she could do to a man’s mind to make them rather wish they were dead.
Though her shoulders and back ached, the crimson seeping from Xander’s leg immediately drew Zib’s attention. A man with a bloody knife lay crumpled on the floor not too far away. Although Xander could certainly hold his own in a fight, too many years depending on his invisibility meant he was still off-kilter in a fight where his opponents could see him. How could he have been so stupid to go off with Tashaun without her?
“Xander, are you okay?” she asked him. He seemed to stand there defiantly, gritting his teeth. He attempted to add pressure to his bleeding leg but Zib still saw the glaring cut across his thigh.
“I’m alive, at least,” he assured her. Then his legs buckled and he fell.
“Xander!” Zib was beside him in an instant. She removed his hand to get a proper glimpse of his injury. Zib had seen her fair share of injuries but this was a gruesome one indeed. The cut was long and deep enough that it had reached Xander’s bone.
“How bad is it?” Tashaun called out. His casual tone was akin to pouring acid over her. What could have been so important that he would risk Xander’s life?
“Why don’t you take a look and assess it yourself?” Zib shouted. She watched as Tashaun made inventory of some money and something in a small brown bag. “He’s bleeding like hell and there’s a very high chance he’ll catch an infection.”
“Unpleasant will be my fist in your face. This is dire.”
“I’ll be fine,” Xander said. He grabbed her hand and despite the blood smeared across it, the contact managed to calm her a fraction.
Tashaun finally deigned to swagger towards them and kneeled before Xander’s injured body. “Oh, this is rather unfortunate.”
“What are we going to do?” Zib asked. “There is no way we can get him to a doctor.”
“The Ivbal gave me a little gift that could be of use,” Tashaun said. His had made a series of mechanical noises and his right hand shifted until his fingers disappeared and a needle was all that remained.
Cedric hobbled towards them, holding onto his bleeding stomach. “Don’t worry, I’m okay. Thanks for asking.” Zib only ignored him, keeping her attention on Tashaun.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Zib asked.
“Saving his life.” Then he pierced the needle into Xander’s thigh. Xander groaned and tightened his grip on Zib’s hand.
“I’ll ask you only once more,” Zib said, pointing her gun at Tashaun’s head. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Tashaun only chuckled. “I suppose I do deserve that.” Zib pressed the gun further in to his temple. “I’m injecting nanites into his body. It will accelerate the healing rate of his red blood cells and cover the exposed skin with metal.”
“You mean the same nanites the Ivbal injected into your body as compensation in case you went rogue? The same nanites they threatened to kill you with?”
“If you want your boyfriend to live, do you think you can let me concentrate?” Tashaun pulled out the needle and his hand transformed back to its former state. “I have this condition you see, it stops me from thinking clearly when crazy girls are threatening me with a gun.”
Zib wanted to smack him round the head with the butt of her gun but just about reeled back her emotions. If he could indeed control the nanites, then he could just as easily ensure that Xander died. Zib withdrew her gun and watched as Xander writhed on the floor. Zib barely bit down a groan. She could feel his pain through their bond. It was a dull pain at the back of her head, which gradually increased.
“What is going on?” she asked.
“Looks to me like his body is rejecting the nanites,” Cedric said. “Not entirely uncommon.”
Tashaun let his hand hover over the wound and closed his eyes.
“Then do something!”
“Working on it, sweetie,” Tashaun said. But Xander’s body didn’t stop shaking and the wound remained.
“Nothing is happening.”
“Have a little faith, dear. Dr Tashaun is on the case.”
They waited a few moments longer and sure enough, Xander stopped shaking. But just after that, he also stopped breathing.