Connor closed the patio doors to keep out the night air and then walked across the wooden floor to flick on the light switch, low pottery lamps beginning to glow around the room. His visitor nodded in gratitude, features normalizing as the shift from his chimera form lessened. “Better?”
“Hmm, and what brings you to my residence so late this evening, Horus?” Connor gestured for him to sit down. “Perhaps you have heard the same whispers I have?”
“I do not think so.” Horus shook his head, sweeping his long, open jacket back to expose his bare chest, the richly embroidered folds of golden silk and patterned linen raised before he sat on the non-descript couch. “The whispers that I have heard tell of something else, someone else. Our erstwhile sister-in-arms, Bastet, she has gone missing, yes?”
“I know where she is.”
“Hmm.” The chimera snorted gently, clever eyes matching Connor’s own. “And do you know why she was where she was?”
“I think you know that answer too.” Connor replied, casting his eyes over Horus’ strong, noble face, charcoal dark eyes contrasting against his short, silver-gold hair. The chimera’s open jacket revealed his slender, if toned, chest and stomach, sun-kissed from many days spent under the ball of fire in the sky. Horus cleared his throat meaningfully and Connor shrugged apologetically. “Spend long enough among the youth and one finds oneself given over to too much pleasure of the flesh!”
“Another reason why I am content to spend my days in the desert.”
“In any case, Bastet was on a mission for me, we believed that finally we had found the traitor.” Connor rose abruptly and walked over to the glass patio door, seeing their smudged reflections against it. “It seems however, that he was prepared for us.”
“An unfortunate loss.” Horus stood up, staying behind him near the coffee table. “I assume that you are not thinking of going after the traitor? If he has captured Bastet, the most nimble of us all, then he will be able to threaten even you. Who knows what he might have learned in the long years since last you fought him?”
“I was hoping that you came to join me, old friend.” Connor glanced over his shoulder, his eyes hard. “But I see that you do not want to. This…man, this Pathologist, as he calls himself now, he is a threat not just to us and our ancient secrets, but to the entire world. Do not forget why we cast him out of the sacred temple.”
“As if I could forget that night.” Horus replied, his face hard. “Or what came before; we have all lost so much to that man and his monster.”
“Which is why I must find him, kill him once and for all.” Connor spoke quickly, a cold touch to his words. “The Pathologist is in a town called Beacon Hills, not more than five hour’s drive from here. Our advance outpost at Gold Mountain still stands, not used in some time, but it stands. We can muster the Guardians, take-”
“We are scattered across the world, Connor.” Horus approached him, reaching out to grip his shoulder and look meaningfully at him. “They will not return, not for vengeance, it has been too long.”
“You under-estimate the power of the oaths we took all those years ago. The Guardians will reunite, Beacon Hills has tasted the supremacy of the Overmind’s authority; I have felt it, even from here.” Connor moved away, walking over to the kitchen. “Long have I suspected that the traitor and his Doctors of Dread are responsible for the sacking of the sacred tomb at the Temple of Derr and the theft of the first Overmind. They have attempted to harness its awesome power and failed; but if the organ survives, we may yet find one who is worthy of becoming our master.”
“Hmm.” The Guardian shrugged half-heartedly. “That is…unlikely.”
“Do you doubt me? Do you think I would lie about this?” Connor whirled around, his eyes blazing with purple fire. “Horus?!”
“No, no, never.” Horus bowed his head low, his own eyes flaring in a mirror of the other chimera. “Not about this, but…there have been rumors, whispers, that your time among the humans has tainted you, changed your perspective.”
“Really?” Connor murmured, his muted rage fading.
“Well, your name.” He wetted his lips, continuing at a nod. “I don’t understand why you choose to use ‘Connor’ and not your original name, or even one of your many titles.”
“I like it. I like the way it sounds.” Connor smiled at him. “And it is my decision to call myself what I will, yes? Just like how it is my decision to pursue Bastet and the Pathologist, to gain our revenge, and stop his evil at last.”
“Of course, Primus.” Horus bowed low, stepping back as Connor moved around his supplicated figure. “I will let the others know, if the traitor is indeed here, I will convince them to come. It may take time, a week perhaps; Anubis is in Europe, Sobek somewhere in Asia, Taweret lingers in the rainforests of Brazil.”
“Good, I have played the part of teenager long enough.” The Guardian Primus looked at his reflection in a nearby mirror as Horus straightened up, watching him. Connor’s eyes flared purple again, a faint violet aura appearing around his body. His features began to age, raising him from youth to mid-twenties, the hint of a line across his brow, laughter crinkles around his eyes, the smoothing out of his skin, and added hint of sun-soaked complexion to make him look tan and healthy. Connor smiled at himself. “Much better!”
“You could have gone older, to middle-age,” Horus observed. “Give yourself more authority.”
“Humans tend to under-estimate and dismiss youth. It works for my purposes.”
“How pleasant it must be to manipulate one’s age; from elder to youth in the blink of an eye!” Horus sighed in mock jealousy. “Alas, I have few gifts in comparison!”
“You can fly, I’d say that is enough.” Connor laughed at him. “And you are already immortal and young! Who among us would ask to become withered and useless?”
“Your voice has deepened, good.” Horus reached into the bag that he had carried with him and produced a compact leather wallet. “I have what you asked for, as reluctant as I am to give it to you. And when this Sheriff Stilinski makes his call, I will receive it, verify your story.”
“Thank you.” Connor opened the patio doors as Horus replaced the badge into the sack and left it on the table. “Find the others, my Guardian; tell them the time has come to fulfil their oaths and finish what was started so long ago.”
“As you command, Primus.” Horus bowed again and then took off his jacket, tying it securely around his waist. “The Guardians remember their oaths, they remember who leads them.”
“I know.” Connor acknowledged him, their eyes blazing deep purple. “Glory to the Overmind!”
“Glory!” Horus replied sharply, before turning on his heel and walking out onto the patio. His appearance changed completely; handsome face replaced with an eagle’s head, golden plumage reaching down his neck until it melded with his skin, eyes glinting like bright amethysts, the deadly curve of his beak ending in a wicked point. Wings unfurled from his naked back and Horus took flight with a gentle rustle, soaring upwards into the night air.
The Guardian Primus returned indoors and looked around at his apartment, the results of a carefully crafted life. He had intended to wait out this century among the humans, to see if their modern marvels could match any of the great monuments that had been raised during his reign over the City of the Overmind, Ka’narack. Connor sighed, feeling those plans slipping away as his mind turned to the mission ahead. Already he had fabricated a story of switching schools, moving away abruptly so none of his friends would mistake his departure for a sudden disappearance. “It is time to leave Oak Ridge and this life behind, though not the name, I like it too much.”
He smiled and looked across at the corkboard that hung above the kitchen sink; images of Connor’s friends; vacations at the cabin, days at the theme park, barbeques and parties, prom dances and debate club victories. His gymnast medals hung in a hefty bundle of golden and silver discs, memories of victories that were not measured in blood and suffering.
“Bastet needs my aid, that is all that is important.” Connor muttered, turning away and picking up the sack that Horus had brought him. “Among all my allies, all the battles that we have fought together, never has she forsaken me. I will not let the traitor fuel his foul experiments with our sacred blood.” He stopped in front of a cabinet and opened the door, revealing the shrine within; golden idol standing on disc of purple-tinted copper. The Primus raised his arms above his head, hands facing upwards as he knelt down on one knee.
“Oh glorious Overmind, look down on Your faithful servant! Bless my actions with Your divine power, grant me the fury of Your spirit, let my enemies burn in Your avenging wrath!” Connor growled the prayer, feeling his muscles tighten and his eyes begin to hurt as his vision shifted; twisting, silver hieroglyphs appearing in front of him. “Let me fulfil my oaths to You, great Overmind, so that one day You may be reunited again, and all the world will bow before You and the might of the chimera!”
A howling wind roared around him and Connor stood up slowly, eyes closed as he drank in the power offered by the mystical gale. A moment later and all was quiet, as though nothing had happened. He reached into the cabinet and removed the idol, placing it into the sack along with the documents and badge. Connor felt a sense of peace settle in his chest, replacing the sorrow that had been building over his departure from Oak Ridge. His suitcases stood by the door, awaiting him and Connor gave the place one final look around before he left.
His Vitara was already parked out front, the muted blue and black panelling fading into the night as Connor turned off the lights and packed his luggage into the SUV. The Guardian Primus turned back to his house and then glanced up and down the rural road, not seeing any of his neighbors’ lights on. “And now, as though I was never here…”
Connor raised one of his hands, keeping the other pointed at the ground. His eyes spiralled into purple suns and he activated his terrakinetic abilities, causing the ground to shake and quake around him. The tremor ripped outwards, buckling folds of earth and rock which engulfed his house, tearing the dwelling apart in a grinding crush of unnatural power. The chimera concentrated, pulling the tides of soil and stone back and forth so that the house was buried in seconds, nothing left on the surface but freshly tilled earth. He smiled slightly at the ground before climbing into his SUV and driving away, heading north to Beacon Hills. I have time enough to stop at Gold Mountain, retrieve one of the emergency caches. Although that route will lengthen my journey by several hours. Hmm, I can always approach through Hill Valley, avoid the wilderness around the forest. Overmind guide my path.
“So…” Corey cast about desperately for a topic to fill the awful, awkward void that was his and Theo’s double date with Liam and Stiles. “Um, Cyclones game coming up this Friday, right?”
“Yeah!” Liam latched onto the topic eagerly and gestured with his fork, a piece of steak still attached to it. “We’re gonna beat ‘em for sure, we just gotta-”
“Damn it, Liam!” Stiles hissed at him. “Swallow your food first!”
“Uh…” Corey averted his eyes as Liam went bright red and then glared at Stiles. He nudged Theo quickly. “Why don’t you tell everyone about the big news, Theo?”
“Big news?” Stiles looked over at them, clearly ignoring Liam’s childish pout. “What happened?”
“Uh, it’s nothing major exactly.” Theo shrugged. “Just that Parrish finally got back the paperwork from the police chief in my old town. My parents have been formally declared dead and their assets, such as they are, are mine now.”
“Oh.” Stiles paused, his mouth half-open. “That’s…good?”
“It means Theo is an adult, at least legally.”
“Emancipated youth, I think.” The chimera offered them a small smile. “It doesn’t mean much, just that I don’t have to worry about social services rolling up and trying to put me in foster care. And I get to stay here.”
“Parrish said that we can drive down with him next weekend to collect the stuff left in your parents’, well, your house,” Corey added. “That’ll be fun. Um, the drive anyway. I guess going back to where the Doctors trapped you isn’t.”
“Why?” Liam cut in, having finished eating his steak. “You got taken right here in Beacon Hills, Corey, and you’re fine!”
“Sure, but my parents and best friend didn’t also get kidnapped and then brutally murdered!” Corey fired back, his voice rising towards the end of the sentence. Liam cowed down as curious diners looked over at them. “Grr, not that it matters, I suppose, everyone is always getting killed in this town.”
“Speaking of brutal murder,” Stiles inserted conversationally as Theo looked aghast at him. “Any word on the other Doctors?”
“Nothing.” Theo shook his head as Corey gave Liam a vicious side-eye. “They could have gone underground, and we may never hear from them again. Or, which would be more unsettling, they’re lying low and waiting to enact another evil plan.”
“Concerning.” Stiles murmured, stepping into the aisle when Liam motioned for him to move, the werewolf walking over to the restrooms. “Liam has talked to Mason a few times, well, email conversations. He claims he doesn’t remember much, but what Mason did say, was that his, uh, conversion was the Surgeon’s idea, that the other two had different plans, different motivations.”
“Sounds about right.” Theo nodded, glancing at Corey. “The Pathologist was always super-secretive, I don’t know much about him, where he came from, what his original experiments were about. The Geneticist just wanted to create what she called ‘perfect creatures.’ So, I’m not sure what they could be getting up to.”
“You said when we were searching the Delta Site that there were more places like that around Beacon Hills.” Corey took a sip of his soda, pressing his lips together when Liam came back. “Could they be in one of those secret lairs?”
“Maybe, I’ll have a think about it and see if I can remember anything they might have mentioned before. Then we can start searching them with the chimera and werewolf packs.” Theo said, raising his hand for the bill. “But, um, I think we should consider going, guys, the movie starts soon.”
“Yeah, in like forty minutes, it’s just down the street, Theo, relax.” Stiles replied, leaning back into the booth, his arm slipping around Liam.
“Mmh, I like a safety net of at least ten minutes.” Theo shook his head. “And by the time we get settled here, go to the restroom, get out, drive down, get our tickets, snacks, it’ll take twenty minutes and-”
“Ok! Ok, we’ll go now.”
“I got this,” Corey turned to his boyfriend. “Get me back with snacks at the movie, ok?”
“Alright.” Theo nodded and stood up. “I’ll meet you outside.”
“Is he always like this?” Liam asked once Theo had gone through the door at the other end of the restaurant. “Such a time freak?”
“Uh, not really, only noticed it in the past week.” Corey explained as he looked at the receipt on their table and took out some bills to pay. “I guess he’s just so used to giant monsters appearing to wreck his date plans! Or, you know, jealous boyfriends randomly slicing open his throat on forest bridges at ten-thirty at night…”
“Gah!” Liam glared at him. “It was one time! He heals from mortal blows!”
“Once! And then it’s reset!” Corey glared back. “He gets sick! His organs shut down! He-”
“Alright, guys,” Stiles waded into the quarrel and held out his hands placatingly. “We’ve had this argument three times already! Liam is sorry and Theo is over it, Corey. You can’t keep holding it against him.”
“He killed Theo!”
“And I got better.” The other chimera smiled disarmingly at the group and then at the waitress who had approached their table. “Err, we’re LARPers; Live Action Role Play, we dress up and pretend we’re werewolves in the forest.”
“Oh, wow, yeah.” Her lips moved into the approximation of a smile. “My cousin does that, he has glue-on elf ears. Yep.”
“Cool.” Stiles got up abruptly. “Well, better get the car. Liam?”
“Oh, I’m coming!” The werewolf had gone beet red and he hastily followed Stiles outside.
“Hmm, good save, Theo.” Corey muttered to his boyfriend, walking beside him into the parking lot.
“It’s ok, thanks for standing up for me, Corey.” Theo smiled at him and leaned in to kiss his cheek.
“Why did we even agree to go on this stupid date in the first place?” Corey climbed into Theo’s truck and shut the door with a click. “Who suggested it?”
“Stiles did.” Theo turned on the ignition and followed Stiles carefully out of the parking lot towards the AMC theater down the block. “Besides, he said that Liam’s been really down since Mason left, so I figured that we should try and cheer him up.”
“Fine…” Corey moaned. “Just remember we have the pack meeting later this evening.”
“I know, Tracy has a motion to put forward.” Theo shrugged, turning into the movie theater’s parking lot. “I think it’s a good idea.”
“I know Kaiden and Jenny are good to her, but do you think they’ll be ok with all of us moving in?”
“We’re not all moving in.” Theo shrugged. “I don’t want to impose on Jordan for much longer. And I have no idea when or if I’ll get my inheritance. Plus, do I really want to buy in Beacon Hills? Anyway, I think it’s time I moved out of Jordan’s house.”
“I can’t believe you’re still sleeping on his couch.” Corey smirked. “And not in his bed!”
The Pathologist hissed in irritation at his ruined facemask, a long jagged tear had cut completely through the leather and metal, narrowly missing his already scarred and aged features. He placed the mask down on the stone plinth that ran around the edge of his lab, discarding his burnt gloves alongside them, further victims of his latest acquisition. The Doctor ignored the useless garments as he turned back towards the center of the room, darkness banished by large copper bowls filled with pools of burning oil. The chamber was dominated by a carved stone altar set into the floor at the center, steps leading down into a work space. He had no love of the Surgeon’s clean, metal sterility, preferring to keep to the old ways and rely on the fear inspired by the previous experiments’ shed blood to quell any revolt. Although this particular experiment did not appear to be afraid.
The Pathologist laughed quietly to himself, eyes skipping across the woman’s naked, darkly tanned flesh, a hue that almost sparkled in the light cast out from the burning oil. He moved slowly down the stone steps until they were of even height, his smile deepening when the woman’s head twisted towards him, cat-eyes flashing with a purple fire. “At last, I have one of you to study! Soon I will unlock the secrets that have been hidden from me for centuries!”
“My blood is not for you, traitor!” She glared at him harder, a smirk touching her lips as delicate fangs slid down from her gums. “The others will come for me; the Guardians protect their own!”
“Well, this is a fine state of affairs.” Connor said to himself, rising from his crouched position next to his slashed tires. “Front and back? But strategic, so I wouldn’t be stranded in Hill Valley, no, just all the way out here with nothing but trees for miles.” He glanced at his face in the reflection of the window, youthful features, cut by a stern brow and high cheekbones, the curve of his chin taking away any harshness that might have ruined his appearance. Connor ran a hand through his short, black hair, picking up on the flecks of dried gel that had seemed like a good idea that morning.
He looked away, casting his eyes up and down the deserted stretch of road, the sun setting in a blaze of red and orange behind him, streaks of dark blue and purple stretching out before him. “Still, at least the view is nice, makes for a better one than I’m used to. Oh, hold on. Hey!” Connor walked into the middle of the road, lifting his arms and waving them above his head as a car came closer towards him. Beacon Hills direction. Better be careful though, this thing has trap written all over it.
The car stopped, its livery revealing it to be a police cruiser, the officer within getting out as Connor moved back towards his own vehicle. “Hi there, you ok?”
“Car trouble.” Connor pointed at his tires. “Slashed open.”
“Oh, oh dear.” The man glanced at him and then crouched down, biceps bulging as his shirt sleeves rode up. “Ah, I see, they’re pretty torn up. Did you hit some gravel or something?”
“No, nothing like that.” Connor folded his arms across his chest, holding the officer’s gaze. Hmm, handsome face, strong jaw, well built, and…hmm, something else. “I mean, I think they were cut open on purpose, though with the rips you’d think a bear did it!” He laughed and the man smiled at him. “Not sure why a bear would want to attack my car though, right?”
“Yeah, that’s pretty unlikely.” The officer straightened up, a head taller than Connor. “I’m Deputy Jordan Parrish, Beacon County Sheriff’s Department. I can give you a ride into town, find you a mechanic, tow your car back in, fix it up. And then you can file a police report, see if we can’t figure out what happened.”
“You’d do all that, huh?”
“Uh, no, I meant-”
“I know what you meant, Deputy.” Connor held out his hand and Parrish shook it. “Good to meet you, Parrish, Connor Kern at your service, well, more like the government’s service.” He chuckled and reached into his jacket pocket, producing a badge. “I’m with the Federal Marshals, on my way to Beacon Hills actually.”
“Really?” Parrish leaned in to look at his badge and then his eyes darted upwards into Connor’s dark eyes again. “Uh, you look young.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.” Connor snapped the badge shut and slipped it back into his pocket. “We’re trying to find a dangerous fugitive who has already eluded us in three states. There’ll be more of us coming in the next week or so, I’m just the vanguard, here to get set up.”
“Don’t worry, I got a stack of paperwork for your Sheriff and a boss back in Arlington waiting to hear from me. If you can give me a ride to the station, I can get the ball rolling on that. Then we can catch this bad guy and be out of your jurisdiction in no time.”
“Um, yeah, sure.” Parrish nodded and backed away, gripping his radio. “I’ll, uh, I’ll just tell him you’re on the way.”
“Great.” The Guardian Primus turned from Parrish and walked over to his car, popping the trunk with his keys. He stooped low, collecting his suitcases as a sudden, sharp ache exploded along his right side, an echo of pain that was not his own. “Hmm.” Connor’s eyes flared a deep royal purple for a moment, his senses enhanced as his voice fell to a whisper. “The traitor must have started his experiments already. Don’t worry, Bastet, I’m coming. The Guardians always protect their own.”
“And here we are, Beacon County Sheriff’s Station!” Parrish proclaimed proudly, his enthusiasm fading slightly when he glanced at Connor. “Though, I’m sure it pales in comparison to your own HQ, huh?”
You could say that. The Guardian Primus shrugged a smile flickering across his face, images of a city flitting through his mind; tall white walls covered in painted figures, statues towering on every street corner, the vast complex of palaces and temples that rose out of the desert’s sands like jewels cast upon the beach. “Not at all, Deputy, it looks very fitting for this town. Heavy-handed policing is not one of my watchwords, I think there is something quite appealing about small-town law enforcement.”
“Uh huh.” The Deputy parked and sighed. “We’re not quite as sleepy and rural as you might think. Um, maybe you heard about…”
“The troubles with the local wildlife?” Connor smiled openly this time. “Yes, I did. Though that is not why I am here; I’m no hunter.”
“No, I don’t think you are.” Parrish was looking at him again, a slow, lingering gaze that the Deputy only pulled away when color tinged his cheeks. “Uh, sorry, let’s go in. I’ll introduce you to my Sheriff and I’ll take care of your car.”
“Thank you.” Connor got out, drawing in a deep breath of clean air as he tried to get the smell of the man’s instant arousal out of his nostrils, a feat complicated by the equal response that had occurred in his own trousers. No denying he’s handsome! And a unique scent too; like the last embers of the temple’s sacred flame…mmh.
“Sorry, just getting my bearings.” Connor turned back with a ready smile, softening his otherwise serious features. “It was a long drive from the field office.”
“I bet.” Parrish gestured for him to enter first. “Um, if you just wait here and I’ll talk to my boss.”
“Sure.” The Primus muttered, a shiver going down his spine as he entered the station. Supernatural energies have touched this place. Ahh, if only Taweret were here, she could use her magicks to see into the past. He looked around, catching some curious looks from the other deputies until the office door opened and Parrish came back out.
“Sheriff Stilinski will see you now.”
“Thank you, Deputy.” Connor walked past him and into the office, a man of an age between forty and fifty rising to greet him. “Marshal Connor Kern, delighted to meet you, Sheriff.”
“So my Deputy said.” The Sheriff indicated for him to sit down once they had shaken hands. “He also mentioned that you are on a manhunt?”
“That’s right.” He placed his badge on the desk and reached into a satchel brought from his car. Connor pulled out a folder and put it down next to his credentials. “The man we’re looking for has evaded us in Texas, Montana, and Utah; and those are only the states where he’s actually shown up on our radar. I have every reason to believe that he’s been making his way steadily north since last November.”
“And now he’s here.” The Sheriff sighed, taking a drink of coffee. “Oh, err, do you want a drink?”
“Ok, ok, so what’s this guy’s name? What did he do?”
“We’re not sure.” Connor shrugged, pushing the file towards him until the Sheriff picked it up. “As you can see from the artist’s sketch, the man’s face is heavily scarred and damaged by some sort of fire or chemical burn. You’d think that would make him easier to find, but he’s been wearing a mask or hood or some combination. His crimes are listed underneath.”
“Yeah…my god, all of these are victims?” The Sheriff glanced up at him a hint of suspicion flaring in his eyes that was quickly neutered when Connor just looked back innocently. “Err, sounds like a real monster.”
“At least fifty murdered, perhaps twice as many attacked and used in some sort of cruel and sadistic medical experiments.” Connor dug around in his bag and produced a stack of files several inches thick. “Victim interviews, coroner reports, profiles from our colleagues in the FBI’s BAU, years of investigative work. My bosses call him ‘The Devil Doctor’, a bit flowery, but the man is a butcher with some unnerving tastes.”
“If this…man is in Beacon County then you’ll have whatever you need to catch him.” The Sheriff pushed the files back to Connor. “I’ll have some of the deputies clear out a room for you to get set up in. Are there more Marshals coming? Other agencies? FBI, anything like that?”
“We’re trying to keep this in-house for now.” Connor stood up along with him. “But there are more coming to assist me; four others, within a week.” I hope.
“Ok, ok, good.” The Sheriff left his office and pointed at a room across from the main workspace. “Higgins, Miller! Go clear out Interview Room One and set up a table and evidence board in there. The rest of you, listen up! This is Federal Marshal Connor Kern with the Pacific South-West Regional Fugitive Task Force. He’s here ahead of a group of Marshals that will arrive next week to hunt down and apprehend an extremely dangerous felon wanted in multiple states. Please provide him assistance as required and extend the courtesy of the Beacon County Sheriff’s Department!”
“Thank you,” Connor glanced at the officers. “I’ll be happy to give you all a briefing on the man we’re searching for tomorrow morning. In the meantime, Sheriff, these are the contact details for my supervisor back in HQ.”
“For verification?” The Sheriff blinked. “Err, sure, I’ll do that.”
“Good.” Connor bowed his head slightly. “Thank you for your co-operation.”
Jordan stared at the coffee machine, lost in thought as he waited for it to finish the cycle. He had already sent out a Deputy with the tow-truck to bring Connor’s car back to the impound lot on Sheriff Stilinski’s orders, and now was waiting for the mechanic to return his call. Jordan glanced at the clock above his head, frowning when he saw how late it was. “Theo hasn’t texted me yet, they must still be in the pack meeting. Guess I’ll see him at home later.”
“The room is ready for you now, Marshal.”
He looked over his shoulder when Miller came out and Connor walked in. There was a certain…regal manner to his movements that Jordan only noticed when he was far enough away from the man. A confidence and determination in him that didn’t match his youthful features. And what a face! God damn is he handsome! The Deputy let the thoughts run wild as he watched Connor lift one of his suitcases onto the table through the open door, the Marshal’s biceps displayed prominently once he took off his jacket.
Oh yeah, that’s nice, straighten up a bit… Woah, lean build, but still strong, I bet your abs are awesome! I’d like to check you out in the locker room after shift! Jordan abruptly averted his eyes and flushed when Connor glanced over at him. That was close! Ok, no more pervy thoughts, the Sheriff told me who he’s after. Sounds dangerous, sounds like maybe this Devil Doctor came to Beacon Hills because he was called here. This could be way more than one hot, young Marshal can handle! And I wouldn’t mind handling his-
“Coffee pot is about to explode, man!” Higgins glared at him and reached over to pull the pot away. “Jeeze!”
“Sorry.” Jordan apologized and dragged his thoughts away from Connor as the other cop poured out two cups. “I’ll bring the Marshal some coffee, got an update on his vehicle anyway.”
“Great, I got a mountain of paperwork and I don’t need nightmares from whatever victims that monster of his left.” Higgins shuddered. “Urgh! Got enough from that bear attack on the high school.”
“Right.” Jordan added cream and sugar, leaving the other cup as it was. “I heard that was bad.”
“Yeah, feel really sorry for that kid’s parents; the lacrosse player from Devenford Prep? His leg was torn clean off!”
“Yikes.” Jordan backed away before the other deputy could re-tell his story for the tenth time. “Gotta get this to him while it’s hot!”
Connor finished pinning all the evidence to the board, his eyes lingering on the artist’s sketch of the Pathologist’s ruined face. Burned by fire or chemicals? I suppose it would have been too unbelievable to say that it was the bile from his own twisted creation, a world-eating monster that devoured his flesh and bone! He felt his mind drag him back to that night, all the long years before, back to when the world Connor knew was only sand and desert, river and flood plains.
Eight thousand years ago, Ka’narack, City of the Overmind
The Guardian Primus walked along the wide open corridor that led from the temple’s burial chamber out to the audience hall. Large, decorated pillars held up the massive stone blocks of the ceiling above him, giving way in the center to long banners of purple and red which blocked out the stars as they hung limply in the night air. He paused in front of the royal dais, eyes following the animal pelts decorating the carved stones that rose gently towards the seat of the Overmind. The Primus sighed, shaking his head sadly. “I fear this throne will sit empty for too long, for who now remains to guide our people to greater glory?”
He turned away, continuing to walk down the long throne room, catching glimpses of the faraway dunes through gaps in the pillars on the palace’s eastern edge. The sand was grey and lifeless, a monument to the horrifying monster just defeated. “It will take years beyond counting for the land to heal from the failed chimera’s ravages. And years beyond that before we will find one blessed enough by the gods that they can be worthy of our most scared gift.” His mutterings carried the Guardian Primus out into the night air, down the steps of the royal palace and through the high gates of the courtyard that divided the Overmind’s living quarters from the temple complex where the other chimeras lived and worked.
It was quiet and calm that night, only the silvery shine of a half moon and the pinpricks of stars illuminated the lavishly paved stones of the courtyard. The Primus turned away from the gate that would take him to the lower city and instead, he began to walk along the causeway towards the towering white walls of the great temple. Figures and scenes of battles and victory were painted in massive scale of the sides of the sloping walls, flags and pennants hung from poles atop every structure in the city, though only the royal purple banners that flew from the top of the temple entrance had caught a stray wind, pulling the fabric taut.
He climbed the long, wide stone steps that led into the antechamber of the temple, a massive statue of his own likeness dominating the center of the room, a half dozen smaller statues gathered around him, their chimera features recreated in loving detail; Horus’ golden plumage, Anubis’ velvet black snout, Sobek’s half-ajar crocodile mouth. The Primus paused and looked at the statues, a smile touching his lips as he recalled their earlier victory against the monster. He drew in a deep breath, filling his lungs with the scent of burning coals and freshly scattered lotus petals, motes of rare and exotic flowers floating in from the Royal Gardens that extended beyond the city’s walls until the dust of the desert swallowed them up.
The chimera smiled fully as memories of better times flooded back to him; the Overmind in all His divine glory walking with the Guardian Primus through the manicured flower beds and brilliant greenery of the gardens. They would discuss the events of the day, the new chimeras raised in His name, the endless inspiration delivered from the pantheon to the crafters and moulders of flesh and bone and blood. The Primus scowled as his memories suddenly turned bitter, like ash on his tongue. It had all changed one day, as unexpected as losing the Overmind in the final battle, a chimera was created of such potent evil that it had taken its creator’s face in its first moments.
“The One Who Gathers…” The Primus whispered, leaving the group of statues behind and walking towards the ritual chambers. He passed hooded priests, ignoring their sudden bows and looking instead at the preparation tables, the rows and rows of chimera parts and animal pieces. More chimeras would be made soon, to replace those who had been lost to the monster. “It is trapped now, no longer a threat. Well, providing the prison holds and the Nemetons are not shattered.” He rolled the unfamiliar word around in his mouth, a shiver crawling across his skin as the dark bargain they had struck came back to haunt him. Those tree-priests were a little too eager I think…
“Greetings, Primus.” A young man bowed at him, straightening up with a smile. “It is late to be wandering the temple. Can you not sleep?”
“Sleep eludes me, Ra, I do not think it will come tonight, or any other.” The Primus added with a grimace, stopping next to the Guardian outside another ritual chamber. “I cannot unsee our master’s fall, my…failure to protect Him.”
“You did all that you could, Primus.” Ra touched his shoulder, slipping his hand under the loose linen vest and caressed the chimera’s skin lovingly. “You may not sleep, but I can promise you distraction!”
“Haha.” He considered Ra’s offer with a smirk, weighing up the handsome youth and his hard, strong body before nodding. “Victories must be celebrated, hmm?”
“A mighty festival is planned for the day after tomorrow.” The younger chimera grinned, his eyes gleaming under the moon’s brightness. “But you are the greatest warrior to have ever lived! You deserve a just reward for your valor.”
“Indeed?” The Primus laughed, slipping his arm around Ra’s back. He shared his lover’s smile and gestured for them to leave the temple. However a sound caught his attention and the Primus stopped, his head tilted to one side as he listened intently. “Wait.”
“What is it?”
“I heard something.” He frowned, moving back towards the ritual chamber. There was a sudden shout and a crash of something heavy hitting the floor tiles. “This way!” They ran further into the complex, following the alarmed shouting that all too soon turned into screams of horror and wet gurgling. The Primus reached out and pulled Ra backwards as a wave of burning oil arced through the air before them, a large copper dish rolling along the ground seconds later. “No! Stop, go and find the rest of the Guardians.”
“I can fight!” Ra protested, gripping the other chimera’s arm. “I-”
“I know.” The Primus looked at him, holding Ra’s gaze for a moment until his lover’s eyes softened and he nodded. “I know, but I need everyone, my wounds from the battle are not yet healed. Tell them to hurry.”
“As you command, Primus.” Ra bowed quickly and then turned and sprinted down the long corridors of stone that separated the temples and the palace.
The Guardian Primus touched the still tender flesh under his vest, the deep ridges of hard muscle were scored with jagged edges from the monster’s liquid attacks, a fury of hungering water unleashed. He grimaced and walked forward, crossing the burning oil to enter the Chamber of Essences; the chimeras guarding it were face down on the floor, blood pooling under them. The Primus snarled softly, serrated claws emerging as thick fangs pushed his lips forward and his frame rippled with barely concealed fury as he strode into the room itself. “You!”
“Huh? Gah!” A hooded vandal whirled around from where he was directing a group of human-like creatures to steal the sacred canopic jars that lined the walls of the Chamber of Essence. Several of the minions yelped when they spotted the Primus, dropping boxes of creature parts, sacred jars smashing onto the floor as they scrambled to get out of his way. The hood kept the figure’s face in shadows, but his voice was unmistakably male, raspy and dry. He circled around to stand between the minions and the Primus, extending a long, cloth-wrapped hand. “I did not think you had returned so quickly, ancient one.”
“And I did not think that you would be so bold as to show your face in my city again.” The Guardian Primus snarled, the ground under his feet beginning to tremble, stone flagstone cracking as he pulled on his powers to control rock and earth. “But it will be the last time, traitor!”
“Traitor? You call me that out of revulsion, but I accomplished something that not even the great Overmind himself could achieve!”
“You paid for it with more than your face, I see, lost your mind too, huh?” The Primus smirked and then charged forward unexpectedly, his claws swiping through thin air when the traitor rolled out of the way, springing up and running for the doorway. One of his minions leapt at the chimera, managing to slash open his wounds. “Argh!” The Primus batted the creature aside, breaking its neck with ease as he checked his wound. His fingers slipped in blood and the Primus grunted, turning to pursue the traitor.
“Stop!” The traitor cried out, a golden blade held to Ra’s throat, his minions having somehow caught the young Guardian. “Stop, ancient one, I have the chimera you value most!”
“Release him.” He growled, the other Guardians arriving moments later in a flurry of beating wings and an array of furious grunts, snorts, and snarls. “You are out-numbered.”
“I made all of them, your precious Guardians, ancient one, I was this temple’s high priest once.” The traitor slavered at them, his ruined mouth unable to form the words properly. “I know how to kill them, how to steal their-his-life and send it crashing through the gates of the underworld until he has gone beyond your ability to heal.”
“Hold.” The Guardian Primus raised his hands, claws vanishing as he alone walked forward. “Release him and you may leave, banished from the Kingdom of Egypt forever.”
“If you harm him, there will be nowhere you can run to, no fortress that will keep you, no trickery of life and death that will hide you from my wrath.”
“You are tired, ancient one,” The priest goaded him, pressing the knife closer to Ra’s neck, blood appearing on the shining edge. The young chimera looked at the Primus with begging eyes, fear rolling off him in desolate waves. “You are too tired to pursue me! Yahh!” With a savage roar, the traitor sliced open Ra’s neck, an arc of blood fountaining out as a glimmer of blue flame wicked across the wound, snuffing out his life.
“No!” The Primus cried out, rushing forward to catch Ra’s falling body, the high priest dancing backwards, his form melding into the night air without so much as another whisper. “No…”
“Coffee? Marshal Kern?”
Connor blinked, dragged from his memories of that night when Deputy Parrish touched his shoulder. “Hmm?”
“Um, I brought you a drink.” The man smiled at him. “We have donuts too, I think, might be a bit stale at this point though.”
“Yes, sure.” Connor cleared his throat and blinked his eyes again, suppressing the swell of emotion that threatened to undo him as Ra’s dying smile filled his mind’s eye. “Thank you.”
“Coffee is like tar and the donuts are pucks.” Parrish smirked, shrugging his shoulders. “Not sure what there is to thank me for.”
“Mmh.” Connor grunted, turning back to look at the filled board in front of them. He didn’t move when Parrish leaned against the table next to him, triceps bunching as the Deputy braced himself on the surface. The Guardian Primus breathed deep, savoring the man’s unique scent again. “Alright Deputy Parrish, time to return to the hunt. I have a Devil Doctor to find!”