Seraphim, Part Three: The Beginning is the End

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Reese’s clawed hand struck Steven’s neck. The power of the slash knocked him from his feet and he crashed to the ground in a rolling skid.
“Yeah! How’d you like that, fucker? Did ya see that, sweetheart? Your boyfriend’ll be breathing from a tube now.” He leered over his shoulder at Wendy, who shrank against the bar and held her hand to her mouth.
Steven came to a stop and reached up to his neck. Tiny drops of blood dotted his fingers and the wound stung, but was nowhere near as fatal as it should have been. He grinned to himself and pushed to his feet. “You missed.”
Reese whirled around and stared slack-jawed at Steven. “That ain’t possible. I got you good.”
The astonished look brought a tiny laugh from Steven. “Apparently not.
Reese roared and sprang at Steven. They collided with a sharp slap of flesh on flesh. Reese buried his shoulder into Steven’s chest, lifted the smaller man and rushed him into the far wall. The cheap, panelled wall cracked with the impact and Steven’s head bounced back. The blow left him reeling as Reese sliced his chest and face repeatedly like a panicked beast. Each swipe had Steven sucking in a pained breath and he fought to block or counterattack, but Reese was a man possessed, like trying to hold a whirling buzz saw.
“No smart-ass words now, bastard? Huh? I can’t hear ya,” Reese growled. Steven lifted his knee into Reese’s balls. The large man folded forward, cradling his manhood and let out a groan. Steven landed a solid punch to his jaw and the big man staggered back. He pushed off the wall and tackled Reese. The two of them rolled around the floor, fighting for position, scoring minor punches or scratches and snarling at each other.
“Stop it. You’ll kill each other. Stop!” Wendy grabbed Steven by the shoulders and yanked him up.
“Let go!” Steven yelled.
The momentary respite allowed Reese to land a hard punch. Steven rocked back and both Wendy and him toppled into the bar. Wendy screamed. A wash of hot liquid sprayed over Steven’s face and blinded him.
“Wendy? Are you okay?” He ran a hand over his face, smearing the sticky fluid, but still he couldn’t see. “Answer me. Are you alright?”
“Don’t worry, Romeo. She’ll follow you,” Reese said from behind him. A savage kick clacked Steven’s jaw closed and he hit the ground dazed. Reese dropped onto him and bashed him in the head with a thick piece of wood. The blow sent fiery waves of pain from his skull to his spine. The world started to spin away. A burning, intense pulse of energy shot from his heart, through his shoulders and burst from his hands. A bright, golden light broke through his near-blindness.
Reese let out an agonized yell and flew off of Steven. Distantly, Steven heard the crash of splintered wood and the thump of something heavy hitting the ground.
“Wendy?” he croaked. Exhaustion pulled him down and he fought to crawl to his hands and knees. “Wendy? Talk to me.” Through the miasma of pain and thick dust, he saw a small, crumpled body against the bar. His arms and legs shook violently and he collapsed to the floor, raising a cloud of gritty dirt and ash. His eyes slipped closed even as his fingers reached for the love of his life.

*****

One Year Later

Dawn Ericson, host of Late Talk Chicago, smoothed imaginary wrinkles on her blue blouse. She paced restlessly; fighting nerves and stomach-roiling nausea. As she passed her dressing room’s small vanity, she glanced at the stack of question cards she had memorized. Tonight’s guest, renowned bio-geneticist, Doctor Rolland Pierce, creeped her out. It wasn’t his skeletal frame or badly tailored suits with a wide assortment of bow-ties. No. It had everything to do with the eerie way he talked and the way he stared straight through her. After meeting him she felt the immediate need for a scalding shower and a large glass of wine.
“Two more minutes, Dawnie,” Brad-her current assistant-said through the door.
She paused and took a deep, calming breath. “Thanks, Brad.” She flipped through the question cards one more time, not really seeing them, but taking comfort in their familiar, smooth feel. The first question, What are they? stood out in the pile.
“One whole year and we still aren’t any closer to figuring out who or what the Seraphim are,” she muttered. Supposedly, Doctor Pierce had all the answers, but if he did, were they worth knowing? She shuddered and replaced the cards on the vanity. She stared at herself for a long moment in the mirror, tried to control her breathing and practiced her patent, open smile. “This is going to suck.”

*****

Doctor Rolland Pierce adjusted his bow-tie and checked his phone for the tenth time. Still no word. He pocketed the slim mobile and rubbed his hands together. The security alert went off in the Alpha Complex twenty minutes ago and none of the security team had gotten back to him yet. The stress was starting to kill him. Attacks from Seraphim weren’t unheard of, but something about the timing had his stomach churning.
The Alpha Complex held all of his most promising research and the location was supposedly a secret, but the damn freaks kept finding it. There would be hell to pay if any of those incompetent guards screwed something up. The shit would really hit the fan if it was a false alarm and no one told him.
“Still nothing?” Beckham asked from his position against the dressing room’s beige wall. The ex-soldier-turned mercenary-made Pierce nervous. He understood the need for a bodyguard, but he wished the company would have picked someone a little less intimidating. The man stood close to seven feet and was built like a wall. Add to that his perpetual scowl and the scar slashed diagonally across his lips, and the man screamed menace.
“No, nothing. Your men are prepared for everything, right?” Pierce tried to hide the biting sarcasm in his voice, but the fear and panic made that a pipe dream.
Beckham raised one bushy eyebrow, but said nothing. Pierce stared at him for an uncomfortable moment before looking away.
One point to Beckham.
A knock at the door made Pierce jump and Beckham smirked. “Nervous, Doctor?”
“Shut up,” Pierce responded. “Yes?” he said to the door.
“Two more minutes, Doctor,” came the muffled response.
“Fine. Thank you.” All of this going on and I’m trapped here doing an inane talk show. He fumbled out his phone and stared at it, willing it to give him an update.

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