Sarthacus Bolt glared through the tiny pair of binoculars handed to him from Israel when the metal box had been opened. As they were driving the last kilometre to Israel's house, Elysium Asylum, Israel had told them all the contents of the box. Sarthacus was hoping for a machine gun, or a rocket launcher. But no. Sarthacus Bolt was given a small pair of binoculars so he could 'survey the opposition', as Israel put it. Sarthacus had grumbled and said that Skylara or Aquila could have flown over and done it, but Israel said that they had another part in the plan he was concocting.
And so, through the small glass eyes of the device, Sarthacus looked on towards Elysium Asylum, where the medium-sized walls were now guarded by Cleavers. Through the windows, he could see lights being flicked on as Sanctuary agents searched and then arrested the residents and friends of Israel. They were being herded to a semi truck parked in the roundabout driveway.
Sarthacus' gaze settled on the flowers in the roundabout; they were the deepest black. He frowned. The flowers were never black. Not unless...no, he could see no-one dead. But then...why were they...?
A hand-held radio strapped to his shoulder squawked to life, making him flinch in the ditch he was lying in, four hundred metres from the manor's walls. He had forgotten how the dark night could silence sounds.
The radio squawked again and this time he picked it up, held down the button, and spoke gruffly into the receiver. "You know, you don't have to keep checking up on me. It's not like I'm going to go anywhere."
On the other end, Aquila chuckled quietly before answering. "Stop whining. You're our 'eye in the sky'. Or rather, 'eye on the ground in a smelly foxhole'." Another laugh.
"Whatever." Sarthacus peered through the binoculars again, just making out the dark shapes of Israel and his group at the wall, crouching in the shadows.
There was a crackle on the speaker as someone else radioed in. "Cut the chatter, guys." It was Darkane. "So, what's the plan?" she continued.
"Alright," said Israel, and there was a crackly sigh through the speakers on everyone's radios. "This is what we're going to do..."
Skylara Wolfbane watched with eagle eyes as the guard of Cleavers and mages switched over, the latter talking in quiet voices and the former not saying anything. Aquila crouched beside her, listening with fox ears to the conversations being held. They weren't saying anything of any real importance. Something about a girl swathed in black and followed by shadows on the outskirts of the manor. Aquila didn't think that the person would be much of a problem. If she was going to be, then they would deal with her when she became a problem.
Fresh Cleavers and agents stepped up to the same spots that the other ones had. At an unknown signal, Aquila and Skylara both transformed into mice and ran through a small gap in the wall. They moved un-seen between guards and under parked cars. They reached the house and followed it around to the back. Now that they were in the shadow of the house, they were almost completely in invisible, so they morphed into their main forms: a fox and a silver wolf.
When they got to the back, they stood as humans once more, their eyes level with the power box. Skylara checked her watch. "Three minutes," she said.
Israel Elysium moved with all the grace of a bear with a broken leg, while all around him moved silently.
"Shut up!" Darkane whispered to him, as he tripped over another log. "Dammit! You'd think that you'd be the most stealthiest out of all of us, seeing as how this IS your estate!"
Israel swore as he fell into another thorn bush. "I knew I should of gotten rid of this side-forest..." was all he muttered.
The mini-forest stopped abruptly, making way for a grass lawn stretching for three hundred metres to the manor. They could make it unseen. If they sprinted non-stop, in a straight line, they could make it.
The only problem was that between them and the mansion were about fifty well-spaced lights and twenty alert guards.
"Alright," Israel said, then doubled over in a coughing fit. Darkane rolled her eyes as he struggled to regain his breath. When it was clear that he wasn't going to be able to talk anytime soon, she grabbed the radio out of his hand and put it to her mouth. "Commence phase three." The moment she took the radio away from her face, she added "I felt ridiculous even saying that..."
Israel straightened once more, snatching the radio back and slipping into his pocket. "Good. And now, we wait."
"Wait-they DO know which wire to cut, right? Blue for the outside lights, green for inside? I'd rather not be wandering in a house full of guards in complete darkness..."
"Of course they know! I told them, didn't I?"
At the back of the manor, both bearing flashlights and confused expressions, stood Skylara and Aquila, contemplating which wire to cut.
"He said the green wire," Aquila began. "I'm sure he did."
"No," Skylara said, prying the wire cutters from Aquila's grasp. "He DEFINITELY said to cut the blue wire."
"Nope, you're wrong."
A moment passed as they both tried to remember what their friend had told them.
"Blue." Skylara said.
"Green." Aquila said at the exact same time.
They both sighed. "Should we flip for it?" Skylara said, pulling out a spare coin.
Nicolette Croga crept through the trees and scrub towards the spot where Israel and Darkane were crouching, a shining knife in her hand. When she was all but a few feet away, she raised the knife above her head, grasping it with two sweaty hands.
"I know you're there, Nicolette," Israel's voice sounded. He hadn't even turned around.
With a pretend pout on her lips, Nicolette sat down between him and Darkane. "You're such a cheater," she replied, sheathing the knife. "Using that darn power of yours."
"And you're against the status quo. Who would want to kill ME, anyway?"
"Um..." Darkane said, pointed to several figures headed their way. "THEY might."
Israel cursed and reached for his radio. But then he stopped and cursed quieter. He couldn't radio to the others, the advancing figures would hear. Instead be crawled back further into the undergrowth with Darkane and Nicolette. When they were further enough away, he whispered to the others: "They're Cleavers. In fifteen seconds time, move..." he closed his eyes for a second. "...to the left. Thirteen metres Then wait for my signal."
They nodded and he opened his eyes.
Skylara had won the coin flip. She reached into the box full of wires, selected the blue one, and clipped it in half.
Sarthacus' gaze was instantly drawn to the manor, where all the interior lights had just switched off. He frowned, then pulled the radio to his mouth again. "I think there is the absolutely smallest chance that you two might of just snipped 'the wrong wire'!"
Behind the manor, Skylara gritted her teeth in concentration as she tried to re-tape the blue wire together again without electrocuting herself.
"Toldja so," Aquila muttered, making Skylara flinch and hit a live uncovered red wire. "Ah!" she shouted, and Aquila smirked. Skylara shook her right hand to get the feeling back in it, while with her left she finished taping the blue wires back together, eyeing the red wire maliciously.
Darkane and Nicolette crouched low in the spot that was thirteen metres to the left of where they had been, watching the five Cleavers search the undergrowth by the light of the nearest lamppost. Israel was nowhere to be seen.
They had noticed that the lights inside the house had switched off, and had assumed the worst had befallen their shapeshifting friends.
There was movement in the corner of Nicolette's eye. "Aw Hell no," she said, staring at something in the treetops.
"What?" hissed Darkane, and Nicolette just pointed.
Israel sat in the lowest branch of one of the trees, directly above the Cleavers, grinning maniacally and brandishing his shotgun.
"He's going to kill himself!" Darkane whispered, creeping forward.
"No!" Nicolette said, keeping her voice as quiet as possible. "Just let it all all play out. If he gets cut to ribbons, it'll be his own damn fault."
The lights inside the house switched on, but Nicolette and Darkane didn't notice. Israel did.
And so with the loudest battle-cry he could muster, he dropped from the trees and fell rapidly to the nearest cleaver.
"Got it!" Skylara said, pulling a handle to reboot the power. The lights inside the manor switched back on.
"Quick!" Aquila said, sensing that something bad was happening and they needed to help. "Cut the green wire!"
Israel dropped from the trees and fell rapidly towards the nearest Cleaver, just as every single light outside the manor turned off simultaneously.
There were curses heard and shouts of terror from the Cleavers and from Israel himself as the fight took place in complete darkness. Nicolette and Darkane slowly rose from their positions on the ground, stumbling towards where they thought the fight was taking place.
They heard a cry of pain and a snapping sound from Israel, and then his shotgun went off, shooting straight into the air. The energy blast that accompanied every shot erupted from the barrel of the gun and went straight up as well, illuminating the battle-scene before them in an eerie blue light.
Sarthacus swung the pair of binoculars over to the edge of the small forest inside the estate, tracking an arc of blue light through the sky. He made up his mind straight away, because he knew where that blue light came from.
He was at his feet in an instant, moving fast to cover the hundred metres back to Israel's van.
Once he reached there he threw open the back doors, instantly going for the black box in the back of the van.
Deep down, he knew something was wrong. He felt like something-or someone-was missing, but he couldn't quite remember what or who.
Minutes later he lay in the same foxhole he had before, holding an item of great use that he had found inside the big box.
Without further ado, he set up the large, Barrett 50. Calibre sniper rifle on the ground before him, loading a clip of ammo into it and checking that the thermal sight that was sitting as a replacement for the normal scope was working perfectly. When his check was complete, he placed the butt of his gun on his shoulder, leaned forward, and looked through the thermal scope towards the trees on the left of the mansion.
Three Cleavers. Two on the left of Israel, one on the right. Another lay on the ground, not moving. One was missing, probably run off to warn others.
Nicolette took all of this in in an instant. Three blades slid into her palm via a secret pocket in her sleeve.
She lined the targets up as darkness fell once more around them, and pulled her arm back. She swung it forward, letting loose the small knives so that they whipped through the air towards the Cleavers.
The first Cleaver was still wondering where the bright blue light had shot from when a knife appeared in his chest. As he slumped to the ground, the second Cleaver was in mid-dive to get out of the firing line of Nicolette. He was dead before he hit the carpet of pine needles below.
The third Cleaver, through heavy mental and physical training from years before, dropped to the ground the moment the blue wave of energy had started to fade, for he knew that when it had illuminated him and his comrades, the girl with the blades had spotted them all. He had seen how her eyes had calculated distances and compensated for the wind with a frantic glance. But he knew that she would be relying on where she saw him last. And so he ducked.
Milliseconds later, something small whistled over the Cleaver's head and embedded itself in the tree behind him. His mind subconsciously accepted the fact that if he had been standing, he'd have been killed.
But just as that thought was even starting to form, it was pushed to the edge of the Cleaver's mind. Strategies and training exercises that had been drilled into him from enrollment screamed at him to move. He crawled to the left of his position, his eyes struggling to find his assailants. But the darkness had been brought back.
He was an old Cleaver. He had been through many battles with many more adversaries. His grey suit was faded now, covered with small rips and smudges. He remembered for a moment to back when he was young and given the offer to join up. He regretted that day sometimes. They had stripped him of everything; his name, home, family, his magic. Given him injections filled with forms of steroids and boosters, to make him 'survive longer'.
He had had a wife. She had been beautiful. When he joined up, he kept in contact with her, even when it would go against the rules. So the sanctuary had her killed. He kept sending letters and leaving phone messages for a whole week before he found out. The Sanctuary didn't even bother telling him. When he got time, he talked to his commanding officer; an old soldier like himself named Alpha.
"My wife was killed by the Sanctuary." It hadn't been an accusation, it had simply been a statement.
Alpha looked up from the blade he had been sharpening. "She was."
The cleaver stood there, motionless. Not in rage or sadness. Not speechlessness. All emotion; anger, despair, joy, were all gone. They had been purged through the rigorous training he was put to when he signed up.
Alpha set aside the scythe and leaned forward, clasping his hands together. They had been ungloved. It was the first time that the cleaver had noticed a comrade with such aging hands.
"Listen..." Alpha began. For the next half an hour, Alpha had admitted that he was the one who killed her, via orders from the top. He said that the Cleaver was suspected to be holding back, in the hope of going home one day in one piece.
The cleaver had stood there, helmet hiding his blank features, while his chief apologized over and over again, letting his emotions run freely. Alpha retold a story of losing his own wife and family under similar circumstances, and the Cleaver barely listened or reacted.
He stopped holding back. If he was ordered into a suicide run, he would go there, no questions asked. It didn't matter how large the foe. He would fight it.
The other chiefs and masters were impressed by the Cleaver's improvement. Alpha grew angrier at himself as the years passed. Eventually, the Cleaver heard news that Alpha was given an honorable discharge. But the Cleaver knew better. He had heard the rumors.
You either died on the battlefield, or were killed in secret when you tried to leave. Another Cleaver had told him that once. The next day, that Cleaver was found dead in his own bunk. It had been the sanctuary; he knew it.
The Cleaver shook his head, clearing all of his thoughts. Even as he did, he truly started to accept just how old he was. If he was fifteen years younger, the intruders would be dead already.
He had been offered an honorable discharge a week ago. He had declined, knowing what it meant. They had insisted, and he had told them he would leave after one last mission. This mission.
He hadn't meant it, though. He had been on his way to escaping from the estate through the forest at that moment when him and his fellow soldiers ran into the three mages. He felt nothing at his comrades deaths; he hadn't planned to save them, and it was just an easier path without them.
His crawling form moved backwards, trying to get away from his attackers. He could not see- without the outside lights on, the darkness was so complete that the tree's shadowy forms were easily mistaken for people, even with the Cleaver's heightened eye sight.
His foot caught on a root and he stumbled, but recovered instantly, balancing himself against the stump of a tree.
A voiced sounded. The Cleaver stiffened. It was from a few metres to his left. The Cleaver slowly drew a small knife from his boot, still listening intently.
"Hey Israel," the voice said. "You ok?"
There was a grudging reply, surprisingly close to the Cleaver's right. Just on the other edge of the stump, he reckoned. "Hell no! I think he broke my wrist!"
Another voice found it's way through the darkness to the Cleaver's helmet from behind him.
"Damn, I can't see anything..." it said.
"Don't worry, Darkane," the first voice sounded. "I got this." A bright flame appeared, and the Cleaver could see it coming from the girl who had thrown the blades. The Cleaver was surrounded. They didn't know he was there yet, but already the girl with the blades was stepping forward to inspect 'Israel''s injury. He raised his knife. He would only get one shot with this.
Five metres away. One stab to the chest on her left side, and then he would keep on running. By the time that they would realize she was mortally wounded, he would already be gone.
He took a stance, gripped his knife, and lunged.
Sarthacus was training his sights on Israel, Skylara and Nicolette, glad that they weren't apart of the small ring of bodies on the ground.
The thermal scope picked up all objects that emitted heat (people, for example) and showed them in a bright white light. So the light from the bodies of the Cleavers killed by Nicolette was rapidly fading, and they were just becoming another part of the scenery.
He watched as one of the figures- Nicolette, he guessed -summoned a flame that shone as another bright white light in Sarthacus' vision. Nicolette walked forward to someone else who was clutching their arm, and both of their mouths moved as they walked closer to the tree stump in between them.
Sarthacus saw a small sliver of white poking around the edge of the stump and he frowned. What was it?
Hastily, he fixed the magnification on the scope, zooming in so as to see better. He readjusted his lying down position and leaned forward, pressing his eye against the rubber ring that was placed over the edge of the scope on the sniper rifle.
The tip of a boot. He could see it properly now, protruding out from behind the tree stump and glowing brightly from the warm foot underneath. His immediate reaction was to try and warn his friends somehow of the unseen danger, but he knew that he had mere seconds before the threat revealed itself. And he could see that his friends were unaware and unprepared.
He couldn't shoot through the tree stump at this range. And shooting the boot would be pointless, and probably just a waste of time. He was just contemplating whether or not to try shooting a shot over the hidden figure's head, startling it and alerting the others, when it lunged from it's cover, a knife in it's hand.
Sathacus' mind went blank. He didn't think. He just nudged the gun to the left and shot.
Something jumped out of the darkness at Nicolette, and her eyes widened as she was unable to stop it. The reflective surface of a Cleaver's helmet loomed towards her, glinting in the light of the flame she held. Her mind barely had time to register the knife being swung at her throat when a gun fired in the distance and the Cleaver's body was tossed to her left by an unseen force. The knife embedded itself into the ground by her feet.
She couldn't move. She was still frozen by fear and shock. Israel and Darkane ran over, and once they realized that she was unscathed, their gaze turned to her attacker.
He had failed.
That was all that the Cleaver could think of. He had failed his mission. His wife. Himself.
The bullet had penetrated through his standard issue jumpsuit with ease-it wasn't like it was the White Cleaver's uniform, after all. His blood gushed out of the wound, and distantly, he remembered that he should put pressure on it to stop the bleeding. He tried moving his right arm but he couldn't; he could see out of the corner of his eye that it was bent at the wrong angle, and he wondered why.
His left arm was twisted awkwardly underneath him, although he could still move the fingers around if he tried.
He saw shapes, shadows, through the glass of his visor. He struggled to move as they got closer to him, but everything from his chest downwards refused to move. At first he wondered why that might be. Then he remembered being shot.
A tear slid down the side of his cheek, moving with gravity and sliding past his ear. He hadn't cried in fifteen years. Not even when the news had come through that his wife had died. Now, the combined force of all of those unspent tears unleashed itself, and his whole body became wracked with sobbing and pain.
He was lost. Drifting in a void that no-one should have to endure. Yet endure it he did. His vision faded, and then shone brightly as he saw his beautiful wife, standing over him with loving eyes. His voice croaked out her name, knowing no-one else would hear. "Holly..."
Israel crouched down beside the fallen Cleaver, and stared down at him. There was nothing he could do. He was going to die, if he hadn't already.
The Cleaver moved. It took a moment for Israel to realize that he was crying. Or laughing. It was hard to tell with the helmet on. Speaking about the helmet...
Israel reached forward, cradling his wrist, and undid the hidden latches behind the Cleaver's head. He removed the headpiece.
The Cleaver was crying, all right. Tears ran freely down his face; he either did not care anymore or was unaware that he was.
They were stunned by the mere fact of the Cleaver having a break down in front of them. They had known all their life of the stone-cold killers to be merciless and emotionless, knowing no pain or boundaries.
This one looked more like some pitiful pup, found in a dark alleyway with no way of going home.
He was saying something, and Israel struggled to hear, feeling in no way threatened by the broken soldier. He frowned.
The dark started to close in. He almost welcomed it. Almost.
He saw the face of the man crouching above him. His enemy by law of the Sanctuary.
A flash of anger broke out across the Cleaver's face. The Sanctuary, the one that had killed his own wife behind his back, and not even bothered to tell him. The Sanctuary who ordered meaningless strikes on innocents all over Ireland. The Sanctuary that he had worked for for the last 15 years.
He knew what he had to do. His left hand, still twisted underneath him, groped around on the ground, grabbing at pine needles and dirt. He tried harder to reach his back pockets, forcing himself to not give up.
The pain in his chest grew. He did not have long now, he knew. He closed his eyes and cursed aloud as he missed them again.
Finally, his hand found the back pocket that held the object he needed. He ripped it off of his belt, and with the last vestiges of his strength, he shifted his body enough to pull his arm forwards so that he was not resting on it.
Israel stared at the Cleaver as it writhed around on the ground, struggling with something behind its back. He felt no need to try and stop it-if it was a blade; the Cleaver obviously did not have enough energy to swing it around to slice at Israel.
To Israel's surprise, the Cleaver twisted it's arm into it's natural position. There were objects in his hand, and Israel curiously leaned forward to see what they were.
Without warning, the Cleaver's hand snapped up and grabbed Israel around the collar, and Israel tried pulling away, but the Cleaver's grip held firm.
Israel stopped struggling, and the Cleaver's grip loosened. He was looking directly into Israel's eyes. What he saw there was a mystery.
Israel's hands went up to the Cleaver's, and as he fell back to the ground, smiling with eyes unseeing, Israel pried open the gloved hand and saw what lay there.
A photo. Two people, smiling in their own small world without pain and suffering. A beautiful woman, and a handsome man, both young, sitting on a velvet couch in loungeroom now long forgotten. Scrawled on the back in messy, blocky letters was "Holly + Me".
Israel moved the photo off to the side and looked at the other objects.
Dog tags. Two on a delicate silver chain, illuminated by Nicolette's flame. They were smooth as anything, and only bore two things. One was a number, the characters faded. The other, was one word, the name of the Cleaver. Not his given name, for that was long forgotten. Not his taken name, for that had been wiped away. And not even his true name, for that was lost with the destruction of The Book.
It was Assigned Name. Only he and the other soldiers of the Sanctuary had one, for only they needed it. It sealed all of their names at once, granting them no power of their own. Inscribed on the piece of shining metal was the name 'Echo'.
I am gone. No longer drifting, but heading onwards, past the void and to a land beyond. Light, everywhere. And a voice. Oh, that voice that I know so well. The voice of the woman that I had loved and married. Holly.
A smile plays upon my lips as I move further towards the light, all the while moving further away from reality.
Woah. I am so tired right now.
And to think, that's only one part. I still got another, like, five to go? Six? Ah Hell...
Well, hope you enjoyed it. I normally do a small bit on each character in my fan-fic, and I guess that the last two haven't really been following that schedule. Yes, there was a bit of Sarthacus in there, and I hope he likes that, but I felt that my character showed up a lot...and that's got to be annoying, so don't worry, I will focus on depicting the sheer awesomeness of your characters, I swear.
Oh yeah, and the Clock? It's wrong. It somehow only shows the times whereever you happen to be at the time (so it appears to me that it is showing Adelaide time to all, but in fact it's showing Adelaide time to me, and your times to you. Which is pretty pointless, seeing as how every comp already has a miniclock).
P.S Yes, i do know that not a lot of the Box thingo was revealed, but stay tuned. It shall be full of awesomeness, I swear. You just have to pretend that it's some really crappy idea, so that when you read what's in there, you'll be like "Oh, well, that wasn't that stupid."
If there are any typos in my story, keep in mind that all (save the last, say, ten paragraphs) was written on my iPod touch. I think Jaffa will understand that it is extremely tricky.