Darkness. Absolute, complete, consuming darkness.
Therese tried to scream, tried to talk, tried to walk away, to close her eyes and shut it all out. But she couldn't. Her mouth wouldn't move when she commanded it, and her eyes were perpetually open.
No, that's not right. She couldn't even feel her mouth. Or her eyes! She was...
Dead. Alone. Forgotten.
And then, a voice. Rough, Austrian accent. Old. Asking her to... What? Come back? Come back where? She was dead, wasn't she? Wasn't she supposed to be presented to some all knowing deity, witness either the pearly gates of Utopia or the flaming passage to Hell?
And then she remembered Victoria. Seeing her broken form laying upon the ground, the man with the iron hand standing above her with a bloodthirsty look on his face. Rage filled what was left of her being, and she screamed her answer.
"How would you like me to call you, girl?"
Therese's eyes opened slowly, her consciousness returning from the cold, dark confines of death. The man standing over her, who identified himself as Klaus, had a curious look about him. He wasn't ugly, not in the traditional sense, anyway. He was, however... Odd. Something about him was just not right.
"My name..." Therese began. "Therese." she croaked out. She was alive. She was alive! Maybe all that she had seen was a dream, and she had just fallen asleep or passed out somewhere.
She looked around and found the broken body she had hoped she would not see. She looked down at her hands, seeing the dried blood coat them.
Her vision blurred.
Marcus looked down at the man who had once been, and he now knew as, Gulliver. Marcus was unsure what he felt. He was disgusted by the bloodshed all around him. Gulliver's doing, but was it his too? Had his rage, his lack of control, created the monster? No, Gulliver had shot Marcus, and if Marcus had never acted who's to say he wouldn't have shot Mira or Adrian. Then again, Marcus had woken up on that floor with no idea what was going on. It was all well and good to try and rationalize it now, but at the time Marcus had acted on his instinct... his killer instinct?
It had been so much easier to see things in black and white when Gulliver had had no name.
He looked at the new man and contemplated his offer. Anger boiled inside him.
"Day one: Frank shot me and Mira just to test us, and then all we could do was watch as he damn near tore a mean apart just for trying to defend himself from us.
Day two: Alice flipped a car over and nearly killed two innocent people. Again, just to see if we were up to the job.
Day three: I killed two people. Or at least I think I did, I don't even remember the first; because I'm getting so screwed up by you people I can't even tell what's right and wrong anymore. Meanwhile, one of our group gets killed, another kidnapped, because Frank sends them into the middle of a fucking Mafia operation for no reason.
Day four: You let this rabid dog of his leash in a building full of innocent people, then send us in here without telling us he was after our blood. Then you come and try to lecture me about hell!"
Marcus was shaking with suppressed rage at this point. The hypocrisy of these people defied belief. They'd saved him from the crushing darkness, and now tried to offer it back to him like it was a gift. In the end, it was easy to not blame himself after all, or Gulliver. It was these people who were at fault. It was their hand guiding all of them towards nothing but bloodshed and destruction, with still no clue as to what for.
"I don't know who you are, or who you think you are, but I've seen enough these past four days to see past your pious bullshit! You've taken my freedom from me, my friends, and any sense of right and wrong I ever had. This life is the only thing I have left and I am not going to give it up, no matter what you people make me do to keep it. I don't need salvation; and even if I did, I wouldn't accept it from you!"
Marcus awaited what he assumed would be a harsh response. The last time he had lost it with one of these people, they'd shot him. But right now Marcus didn't care. Telling these people what he really thought of them was probably the only thing that was going to keep him sane.
Mira keeled over. She had heard Marcus ask if she could "turn back". She tried and focused but it was impossible at this point. Mira could barely move let alone focus to try and devolve back into her normal self. She was still bleeding, her reflection was shown in her puddle of blood.
Mira paid no attention to the man before but once he offered a "cleansing" of sort, her interest piqued. She wondered what he would offer, what he could possibly reveal that wasn't already so unseen in this world. She tried to stand but she ended up falling back on her arms and knees.
Jose curled his upper lip as he heard the suffering man lash at him. He refused to accept him cleansing and submit to his holiness, but he cannot harm him as he is under the protection of Frank.
Jose looked down at the two, both of them barely clinging to their consciousness. He heard a blood curling scream coming from where Klaus was at. "You are not mere pawns in a game of thrones and faiths. You are being raised for a role you must partake in, like we were all forced to. Many will fail, but few will succeed. Forge your new self. Become a new angel of death and shed your earthly bounds. Leave your master and come under my protection". Jose reached out his hand towards both Marcus and Mira.
The noise coming out of Theresa's mouth was unbearable to hear. Klaus thought of a way to silence her but he could only offer a bump on her head with his cane. "Theresa, my lady of virtue, stand up and live your new life. Your future companions await you in the hallway. I have little time for games, so ask them for answers". Klaus brought his hand close to Theresa so he could held her get up from the slippery floor covered in blood.
Frank looked at the side of the street and noticed they already drove past the point they were supposed to stop at. "The Cuba Crisis is a story for another day. Needless to say, I got what I wanted but the US government had to clean up after me".
Therese's scream was louder than she thought possible, echoing through the complex. Klaus had tapped her on the head and was offering words that weren't entirely hostile, but neither were they comforting. Eventually, Therese resigned herself to sobbing quietly, her light mascara running down her face in pale rivers.
Therese noticed Klaus extend his hand to her, and she looked up at him.
"Thank you..." She grabbed on to his hand, allowing him to help her off of the bloodstained floor. She wondered whether she was thanking him for helping her off the floor, or bringing her back to life.
Back to life. She didn't think she'd ever get used to that.
She began to walk towards the hallway. Klaus had something about future companions in the hallway. Others like her? Who had been killed and risen? Was Klaus like that? How did he raise her? Who was that man with the iron? Who was the floating man? How the hell was he floating?
Therese realized that if she kept asking herself questions, she'd go insane. She looked at Klaus, raising a questioning eyebrow, lips parted to ask a question on reflex. Therese shut her mouth, and continued to walk into the hallway, trying in vain to not look at the body of Victoria.
"Whatever." Marcus replied derisively. He went to help Mira to her feet. He might not be able to heal her right now, but he wasn't just going to leave her on her own.
"We've still got a job to do." Marcus said to the new man "and now your little distraction is done with I think we'll be on our way."
It was at this point that Marcus notices Klaus, accompanied by the woman Marcus had seen get killed by Gulliver as he had walked in, the woman who's screams had brought him here. It seemed that she was to be a new recruit. It was a sad thing, right now she probably felt grateful to them...
"Morning Klaus, nice to see a friendly face." Marcus said with only a hint of sarcasm, as he struggled with Mira's transformed bulk. While Marcus was convinced to keep his guard up around all of them, Klaus was so far the only one he had met who seemed genuinely nice, albeit in a rather creepy sense, but Marcus would take what he could get.
Ben pondered silently as Adrian and Frank discussed what Frank had done with Cuba. So the entire Cuban Missile Crisis was because of his actions, either he was more reckless or more ruthless than Ben had given him credit for. Either way, each piece of information that Ben learned about their employer told him more and more that he was not one to be fucked around with.
Ben kept his eyes on Frank, studying their employer, when he noticed the man's eyes flick outside.
"I take it we just passed the location of cadaver Frank?" Ben questioned softly, head turning back towards the general area where Frank's eyes had focused as they drove further on.
Klaus saw the two acquaintances that had worked with Frank before try to stand up on their own with Jose looming over them. He smiled at them and tried his best at a British accent, "Top of the morning to you!", he said happily with a poor accent that sounded just right in his mind. "Are we leaving now?", he asked Jose, talking again in his regular voice. "Ci", Jose said, looking back at Klaus and the other woman next to him. "Another angel?", he asked Klaus, referring to the terrified woman. "Only time will tell", Klaus answered Jose.
Klaus walked over the hallway and past the woman, still leaning on his cane. "Go and rest, I am sure Jolie Rouge will give you some sweets", he told the two, trying to comfort them. "Are we off?", he said, turning around to face Jose, "Yes", he answered. The two walked to a nearby office and opened the window there, then letting themselves out through it.
"Yes", Frank responded, "We better stop and walk back".
Therese's eyes widened when Klaus stepped away from here, leading the floating man away and leaving the building from a window. Now she was alone with the other two.
Two people who looked beat all the way to hell, and the one person she might have had a small inkling of trust for in this scenario had just left.
She felt an urge inside of her. A bit of nervousness and anxiety building up in her chest. It was telling her to do something...
Before she could think about it, Therese turned to the two laying on the floor. "There's a fire escape on the east side of this building. It's hidden fairly well from the street. If we can get there fast enough, we can make it out before..." Before what? The cops get here? Would that be so bad?
She looked at the bleeding people on the floor. She remembered she was just brought back from the dead.
Yes, that would be very bad...
It was gradual but Mira's bulging muscles could be seen returning to their regular size. It turns out that she can change back from her abominable form. Still the bleeding continued but not as much as before. She had looked up after being helped by Marcus, then she heard the new girl suggest the idea.
"Escape? Are you crazy?" Mira said panting with each breath. The idea was crazy and completely out there. Had they told her about the life force that's keeping her breathing? Either way she was completely out of her mind.
"Escape? Are you crazy?"
Therese looked over at the woman lying on the floor, panting and bleeding.
"The police are on their way," Therese said, trying to get her point across. "I don't think it would be a good idea for either of you to be put in an overnight prison cell or a public hospital. If you're anything like me, you aren't even supposed to be alive right now." Therese ended by throwing her arms out to the side, to emphasize the state of the building they were in. Blood was everywhere, and a large amount of corpses dotted the hallways.
"Look, more than anything, I just want to find some answers. Klaus left before telling me much of anything, except that the two of you were to be my 'future companions.' I want to know why everyone here had to die, why I had to die, and why..." Therese looked at Victoria's corpse, tears lining her eyes. She shook her head and forced the tears back. Now was neither the time nor the place.
"We have to leave, get to somewhere safe" She extended her hands out to the two of them. "Let me help you up."
"We better stop and walk back."
Adrian looked at Frank and cocked his eyebrow.
"So...when were you planning on mentioning that?"
He pulled the car over to the side of the road and threw it into park. His foot was already halfway out the door when he removed the keys from the ignition. In the next moment, he was already walking briskly along the ditch running parallel to the road. He quickly glanced over his shoulder to see if the others were behind before he continued forward to their ever-distant goal.
"You don't need to worry about the police." Marcus said to her, while trying his best to attend to Mira. "Cleanup will sort that out, if they haven't already."
Now Mira had returned her shape to normal it was easier for Marcus to heal the cuts in her skin. However, the effort still felt like a punch in the gut and he almost passed out again. The room swam a little as he stood up and looked at the new recruit.
"Listen," he said "I'll give you the short version. You're one of us now. You're legally dead, and the people who brought you back are the only thing that's tying you to life. You try to run from them, they'll end you just as quickly, but not before they've taken care of all your friends and family first. You see, this little deal that you've unknowingly made with them has some pretty steep interest rates in the small print. If you were expecting angels be prepared to be very disappointed. The rules are simple. You do as they say, exactly as they say, or you don't get to live. That's your life from now on."
Marcus took a moment before he carried on, his temper had frayed from the days events, and he was aware that he was being a little harsh.
"Look, I'm sorry. I know this wasn't how you'd planned your life out. Me neither, but you need to come with us. We still have a job to do and you can help. We need to get into Edward Larkin's old office, get a list of his old clients. Can you show us the way, please?"
Therese took a moment to let what the man had said sink in. Do exactly as they say, huh? There's a legal term for that somewhere...
"We need to get into Edward Larkin's old office, get a list of his old clients. Can you show us the way, please?"
Edward Larkin? He was involved in this?
Therese thought for a moment, trying to remember where his office was. A light bulb clicked in her head. "Oh, yeah. I guess I don't have much of a choice, huh?" She said with a sad smile. "His office is just over there, room 211." Therese said, pointing down the hallway.
She noticed him swoon slightly, as if he had just exerted a great deal of energy lifting something.
"Are the two of you going to be okay? It's not far, but you've lost a lot of blood."
Ben got out of the car and followed Adrian. The geologist was setting a strong pace beside the road. Ben paused, then walked away from the road, it sloped a little bit downward on the side.
Content that he was out of sight of the vast majority of any possible oncoming traffic, Ben continued down towards where the body was located.
"Hey Adrian, why don't you slow down a sec to let us catch up." Ben called out to the man, who was still a good 10 or 15 meters ahead of him, "who knows what we're going to find up there, and it's probably best that we stick somewhat together."
"It's fine, we've had worse." Mira said. With Marcus' healing she was able to stand up correctly now albeit with a few wounds still open and a pounding headache. She looked to Marcus with a sly smile facilitated by an inside joke that they now share. It had only been three days and they've already gotten an inside joke to work with although right then and there it wasn't much to laugh at. They were both shot in this exact same building by Frank and with Marcus' help they were both able to be brought back to life.
It was amazing what laughing at that can do. Mira sure looked at it in new light. She had to find some humor somewhere or else she'd be as dead as the corpses surrounding her.
"Let's go." Mira said, helping Marcus move with his body mostly leaned on her for support.
Adrian's stride shortened slightly as Ben's voice fell upon his ears. He had known that his pace had been generous but he hadn't realize the other two had been so far behind. It wasn't uncommon for him to forget about those around him when the fresh air tickled his nostrils. Even though they were only hiking by the side of the road, the sights and sounds of nature were enough to energize and invigorate him far more than anything in the city ever would. When out mapping in the field he would always outpace his compatriots by significant amounts. He always had a spring in his step on the trail even when his students were lagging behind out of sheer exhaustion.
Although in retrospect, this same energy and passion for the outdoors was what led to his very untimely demise.
But even with all that had happened, nothing had hurt this love. Maybe everything in his life had turned to hell. Maybe there was never any going back. Maybe nothing would ever be the same. None of it mattered right now in this moment.
The others had caught up along side him. Adrian looked at Ben and smiled more sincerely than he had in the last several days.
"You're right...no need to be careless. Still, it would be best to keep a pretty good pace. I think we've already wasted far more than enough time on this."
Frank opened the car door and exited the vehicle. He saw both of his employees walk ahead of him. He grinned for a moment, contemplating a few nasty thoughts in his mind, and quickly appeared fifty meters ahead of Adrian with a strong breeze behind him. "Over here", Frank said to the other two and pointed at a pile of leaves, "Adrian, I need you to pick him it like a doll and follow Alice's instructions". Beneath the pile of leaves a pit filled with the corpse of a young man in his 20s who had met his untimely demise only a day before.
Therese nodded her head towards the woman and followed the two, a few feet away. She was still apprehensive about all of this, and was nervous to top it all off.
She looked back at the corpses piled next to each other, to Victoria and her killer.
Therese quickened her pace and reached back up with the two.
"My name is Therese," she said, gripping her hands tightly behind her back. "We never introduced ourselves."
Ben looked at Frank, then looked back at the car- where the man should have been. He looked back at Adrian then shook his head wryly. Well that was a surprise, Frank had multiple powers. Ben tucked the information away.
"So did you know he could do that?" Ben asked Adrian, "Or at least that he had multiple powers? Every thing that we learn more about Frank only paints the man as more dangerous."
When they reached where Frank was standing, Ben looked down at the pile of leaves and shifted them out of the way. Underneath was located a pit with a body, it looked like rigor mortis was setting into the body.
"Alright Adrian, time for you to do your magic."
"I'm Marcus, and this is Mira." Marcus replied, trying his best to sound more friendly in his punch-drunk state. Mira's little joke making light of the bloodbath all around them had gone some way towards alleviating the tension, bizarre as it was. However, underneath a part of Marcus still seethed with rage. The encounter with the Pontiff (as Marcus thought he might call him until such a time as he had learned the man's real name) had shaken his composure more then might seem normal. The reasons Marcus had voiced for his anger were valid, but there was a deeper feeling underlying it all.
Marcus had often treated the subject of religion with, if not outright hostility, then at least a certain amount of disdain. The outlook on the world formed during his youth had taught him that people were who they were, nothing more and nothing less. As such, Marcus saw religion as a way of people letting something else take credit for their successes, and of denying responsibility for their failures. As far as Marcus was concerned, the responsibility for his actions, good or bad, were on him and him alone, and he judged the people around him by the same standards; because if our actions do not make us who we are, then what?
Even if there was some kind of higher plan that dictated the course of their lives, Marcus felt he would be inclined to fight against it whenever possible, rather than accept it or even worship the idea of it. It was much better for Marcus' well-being to believe that the suffering in his life was the result of either his own doing, which he had the power to change, or random chance, which could have happened to anyone, rather than it being imposed upon him.
Marcus figured that that was probably the crux of his feeling right now, the way the Pontiff had portrayed himself as their 'savior'. That was what had particularly irked Marcus. There had been many times in his life when he could have done with a savior, but none had answered his call. He had learned the hard way that he needed to save himself, because no-one was ever going to show him the way. Where had his 'savior' been when he was dropped off at that shit-hole of an orphanage? Where had the Pontiff been when he was forced to start a new life, in a place he had nothing in common with at the age of 10? Where had he been when Naomi...
Marcus' thoughts (or was it just Mira) had carried him all the way to room 211. The name strip 'Mr. E. Larkin' was still in place. Their first day seemed so long ago already.
"C'mon" he said to the other two, now more able to support his own weight, "let's get this over with."
"I'm Marcus, and this is Mira. Come on, let's get this over with." said the man.
"Good to know your names," Therese said, walking over to the door. She rustled the doorknob and, surprisingly, it was unlocked.
"Huh. Now isn't that convenient." Therese remarked dryly, opening the door and stepping into the office. It was fairly clean, with the few baubles and pictures that had belonged to Mr. Larkin still laying on the table. Therese walked to the desk and noticed a picture of himself and a large dog.
"So, how do you two know Mr. Larkin, anyway?"
"Every thing that we learn more about Frank only paints the man as more dangerous."
Adrian nodded silently but offered no verbal response. His mind silently drifted back to a couple nights before in the house of the lawyer. At the time he hadn't stopped to consider how Frank's presence and actions had even been possible. In the heat of the moment all ability for reasoning and rational had been lost. But now that he thought about it, the way that Frank bailed them out and...and slaughtered those innocents shouldn't have been possible. The murders happened too quickly. This offered some explanation, whatever this was.
The geologist wasn't sure what to make of Frank's power though. This new information further complicated his situation. These abilities that Frank had exhibited made him a powerful ally...but an even more powerful foe. Adrian knew that even with what the smoking man had already shown that it would be near impossible to stand against him if the situation ever arose. And this wasn't even considering any other abilities that Frank might still have hiding up his sleeves.
But there was no time to dwell on this for now. They now stood before today's objective.
"Adrian, I need you to pick him it like a doll and follow Alice's instructions."
"Alright, but I've never done this with someone who was dead before."
The mere mention of Alice's name was enough to kick start the process. This time there was no need to dwell upon the memories of an altered past in order to ignite the spark within his mind. Just a thought of her combined with the natural exhilaration that the fresh air had given him was more than enough to once again conjure the visions of his instruments.
He looked between Ben and Frank, noting just how strongly the strings of their life coursed through their bodies in comparison to the man laying in the ditch. At first Adrian had been concerned that all of the life energy would have completely faded away from the corpse after death's cold embrace had overtaken them. As it turned out, the energy lingered around the body for at least some time.
Would that have something to do with how they revived us?
Even a faint life force was enough for Adrian to work his art. Both of his hands raised before him, ready to conduct his symphony. His eyes focused intensely on the body as he subtly manipulated the energies, channeling them into the corpse's legs and arms. Adrian's face began to strain as he struggled to move the body the way he liked; he had never had to try and move anything with such a weak stream to work with. Still, it took very little time before the body stood slouching before the trio.
"Alright, what now?"
The corpse stood on it two feet. Frank looked at Adrian and gave him a reassuring glance, "Keep him steady", he said. He pulled out an old, brown leather glove and put it on his right hand. He grabbed the corpse by the head with his glove and closed his eyes, his mouth began mumbling.
From the darkness a voice called out to him, offering him life.
"So, how do you two know Mr. Larkin, anyway?"
"We didn't." Marcus replied, "Not directly anyway. That was Ben and Adrian's job. We're just here to get a list of his clients, find out if anyone knows more than they should."
He turned to Mira. "See that filing cabinet over there. Go though it and see if you can find any hard files."
Next, Marcus booted up Mr Larkin's computer. Even if there weren't any hard copies of the data they needed, it was bound to be on the computer system somewhere.
"Therese, you got a USB hard drive, or anything we can use to make these files portable?"
"Therese, you got a USB hard drive, or anything we can use to make these files portable?"
Therese fumbled around in her pockets for a moment, looking for her keyring. She kept a small, 2 gigabyte USB drive on her keyring in case she ever needed to copy files quickly for whatever reason. Who knew she'd end up using it in a situation like this?
She found the keyring, pulled the USB drive off and handed it to Marcus.
"It's only 2 gigs, but as long as you don't need to download video files or anything, you should be good. Think we'd need a larger one?
Randall felt a new sensation in the overwhelming darkness that had surrounded him for the past few hours. It was a voice, one calling to him from afar, he was disoriented and due to the time it had taken, the voice seemed faint. Images of Marissa circled in his head, she told him to go to the voice. As he neared it he was able to understand what the noise encasing him was saying.
The voice wanted him back, his time had not come yet! Randall knew this chance would never come back again. The voice was rough, a little threatening even, but Randall could not find himself caring. He tried to run to the voice, the darkness was leaving him. He started to see a light. He screamed at the voice, Who are you? What do you want? The voice called back to him, What is your name? Randall paused, he knew that whatever was on the other side was indeed no deity, probably a man. He answered, Frost, Randall Frost.
He felt his eyes open, a sensation he thought would have been long gone by now. He was eager to meet the man who defied death, defied nature, defied everything he knew. The man standing before him in strange outdated attire. He looked down, the wounds he had earlier, the holes in his body were now gone. The blood was still there but he could get over that for now. So many questions circled his head but only one could be let out. Marissa, yes, Marissa, his girlfriend, what happened to her? Where is she? Is she okay? What if...no, no that could not have happened, what is important is the here and now. He then asked, What do you want from me?
Frank pulled the glove off and returned it to the jacket's inner pocket. He grabbed the man's chin and made him look up to Frank. He turned his face to the left and to the right and heard him introduce himself. "I need you to lead me to your murderer. I don't have time for pleasantries."
Frost was already disoriented and this man was not making it any better, there were two other men surrounding him aside from the one grabbing his face. His entire body was covered in mud, and it made his mop of hair heavy. One could not even tell that his clothes were originally colored green and blue, everything had turned brown. The world itself was turning brown.
"I need you to lead me to your murderer. I don't have time for pleasantries."
Memories began flashing, he remembered the cabin, the screaming, oh the screaming! The man telling him not to come any closer then...
"Yeah, I can take you there" He said in a sober voice, he did not know what they wanted to do there, but a voice in his head was telling him that this would be the quickest way to discover the fate of Marissa. "I know where it is, or at least how I got there if you guys can take me to one of my old trails". "It isn't far off from here, I paint or, I guess I should say used to paint there a lot". "Follow me then."
Frank nodded and turned to Adrian, "Let him go", he said. Adrian let go of the walking corpse and it began walking towards its destination with the three following him.
The computer was a dead end. Mr. Larkin's account was password protected, and Marcus had no way around it. Of the many skills he had accumulated over the years, computer hacking had not been one of them. He supposed that they could potentially take the whole thing with them, and see if Frank could have any luck getting into it, but there had to be an easier way.
"Any luck?" He asked Mira, who was rifling through the draws in the filing cabinet.
Mira went through the folders left behind since the last time they had gone through the place. They were there for Larkin the last time and not his files so Mira searched quietly throughout the office while Marcus was at the computer.
Mira turned her head back. "I don't see anything so far..." she said as she flipped through all the folders that the man had. "Mr.Larkin has alot of folders." It was true, there was walls of papers she had to rifle through to find any leads but she was sure that it was there. It had to be after all the trouble that they've been through.
Sirens play outside of the law firm as shouts can be heard from the lobby. People screaming for others to move, others shouting the room is clear. The police force is closing in on the three murderers and time is running out.
"Fuck!" exclaimed Marcus when he heard the sirens close in on the building. Screw Frank's orders, they were out of time.
"We need a way out, now!" he demanded of Therese, while withdrawing the gun once again.
"We need a way out, now!"
"I tried to get you guys to leave earlier, remember?" Therese chided, mouth forming into a frown. "The fire escape is probably still open right now. We've got to hurry, though."