Light and Dark
Copyright© 2006 by Moghal
Science Fiction Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A French doctor, an American university student, and an English vigilante get caught up in mysterious goings on in Paris, and beyond.
Lying out there like a killer in the sun,
Hey, I know it's late, we can make it if we run.
Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen
Da Vinci International Airport, Rome, November 21st
Janet Lepinski gnawed gently at the inside of her lip as she eyed the figure across from her in the Upper Class lounge, waiting for the flight to Switzerland. Perhaps six feet tall, conservatively dressed as most of the businessmen on these flights were, he moved like dancer as he sat down, folding himself gracefully into place. Broad-jawed and with dark, deep-set eyes, he was broad-shouldered and solid, with a narrow waist and solid legs. Her first impression was that he might be a dancer, but on reflection she was reminded of her last boyfriend at college, who'd been a gymnast. Recalling him, and those six 'athletic' months with a smile, she continued to peer at him over the rim of her glasses.
He met her gaze, eventually, pivoting his head up from his laptop to stare at her. His eyes were shocking, deep, dark holes that sucked her in and analysed her immediately, dismissing her almost as quickly. She felt herself shiver slightly, hastily pushing the thoughts she'd been entertaining from her mind as one of the airport employees cut between them.
"Mr Connolly?" Gavin looked up from his laptop, peering over the top of his thin-framed spectacles at the stewardess who leant over him.
"Yes?" he replied, affecting a slight air of bewilderment. "Is something wrong?"
"Not at all, sir." Stepping aside, slightly, she gestured back to the suited figure behind her, enshrouded in an air of bureaucracy. "This is the customs official who'd like to go over your declaration."
"Ah, right." He nodded his thanks, gently, closing the lid on his computer and setting it aside as he rose as shook the man's hand, wondering inside when it was that air-stewardesses suddenly got so old. All through his youth — he was only in his mid-twenties, but he still thought about his 'youth' — air-stewardesses had held an air of mystique: all were beautiful, all were glamorous and dreamworthy.
Several years of flying with innumerable different airlines had jaded that view more than a little, and he wondered idly if it were the working conditions that had led to the change in personnel.
Seeing that the official had finished setting out his paperwork, Gavin removed his glasses, cleaned them on a handkerchief, and then put them back on, peering at the forms.
"You 'ave, Sir, a sword, yes?"
"Yes, that's right. I picked it up as a present for a friend — he's into all those ninja films and things, you see. I was told that I could get it sealed and put into the hold with the other luggage."
"Si, this is correct. But first there are da forms."
"My Italian, I'm afraid, is terrible."
"Dat is not a problem. I 'ave done this before." Leaning over the paperwork Gavin was able to decipher most of the requirements, but he played dumb to maintain his disguise, occasionally casting a cautious glance about the lounge, out of habit more than anything. The forms were almost complete when he caught sight of the old man, again, leaning against one of the large advertisements at the top of the escalator.
"I'm sorry," he snapped his attention back to the conversation at hand, gnawing gently at his lip as she slipped from the relaxed pretence into readiness, "what was that?"
"From where did you purchase this sword?"
"Oh, uh... an antiques dealer in Turin. I have the receipt here somewhere..." he turned and dug into his bag, checking the flat-bladed knife — carbon-fibre bladed — was nestled snugly in its x-ray camouflaged holder, and pulled out the falsified paper.
Turning back, he saw that the figure had moved, covering perhaps half the distance in the time it had taken him to retrieve the invoice.
"I think, sir, this should be enough." The bureaucrat smiled, lifting the papers again. "I will 'ave the customs official check them, and then security can release your package to the baggage 'andlers."
"Excellent." Gavin smiled, rising, placing the overweight figure between him and his target to better keep an eye on him. The old man noticed, nodding his welcome beneath the concealing bulk of the hat. For a moment Gavin wondered how he'd managed to get by security with it, then dismissed the thought as pointless.
Turning back to his bags, fully expecting the figure to be closer, he took the opportunity to scan the lounge again, looking for signs that someone else might be watching, but the pair of them seemed to be equally alone. Slipping the sheath up his sleeve, Gavin turned back, and sure enough the old man was gently laying down the woman on the seat opposite who had given him such a lascivious look earlier.
"What have you done to her?" he asked, not threateningly, but with concern, as he seated himself again, laying his hands in his lap in a display of calm that put the knife close at hand.
"Nothing particularly lasting. She'll be drowsy for a few hours, but not catatonic." The old man explained, a smile in his voice. "I wasn't sure you'd be this calm."
"I doubt you'd appreciate a scene at an international airport departure lounge any more than I would."
"True." The old man confirmed. Reaching up with old, weather-beaten hands, he removed the hat and slowly unwound the scarf to reveal a rather nondescript face. Worn, weathered, with surprisingly keen pale-blue eyes, the whole visage had a slightly washed-out look, from the bloodless lips and white hair to the surprisingly faded freckles and liver spots that hid amongst the valleys of the skin.
"What do you want?"
"I told you, I have a job for you. It's even in Paris, so you don't have to go out of your way?" There were a number of almost instant responses that came to mind, but Gavin quickly cycled through them and discarded the majority of them. There was no point denying he was headed for Paris, sat in the lounge he was, and there was less point in playing dumb and pretending to be an IT consultant — the employment listed on the false documentation he'd been using for this trip.
There was, really, only one viable alternative left for the immediate moment.
"Why does this person deserve to have my service arrayed against them?" Frowning, the old-man turned to stare out of the window for a few moments. Gavin watched a few flickers of emotion cross the dry skin, not enough to make any definite assumptions, but it was obvious this wasn't one of the questions he'd been expecting — or perhaps not so quickly.
"That," he began, not turning back, "that isn't something I think I can fully explain in terms you'd understand."
"Then we have nothing further to discuss." Gavin offered, politely.
"He deserves to die."
"Many people do." Gavin explained. "All of them eventually will. I don't do contract work. I don't work for anyone. I choose my own targets, and for my own reasons. Tell me who this person is, and I will judge for myself if they deserve."
"He has been responsible for deaths beyond your ability to count, and more. Torture, theft, sacrifice."
"You have proof of this?"
The old man shook his head as he continued. "Murder, genocide, heresy, blasphemy."
Gavin stared back. "Without proof, I will do nothing."
"Rape." The old man finished, with a soft exhalation, as though reluctant to add to the list, or perhaps reluctant to add that to the list. Gavin surprised himself with his control.
"No proof, no job." Gavin asserted, feeling a slight tightening at the back of his throat.
"You will not take an old man's word?"
"I will not take a life based on it. If you have come seeking me it would doubtless be more than one life, anyway."
"This needs to be done!" the old man hissed, causing a few stares as his voice began to rise slightly.
"Tell me who, and I will look it into it." Staring for a few moments more, as though expecting Gavin to change his mind, the old man stood and sighed.
"You will not take the job." It wasn't really a question.
"I don't do 'jobs'. If you have information for me, give it to me." Wrapping the scarf about his head, the old man sighed again, and began to walk away.
"That's it?" Gavin wondered. "You aren't going to tell me how you found me? Why you came? Who you are?"
"You have a certain fame, in your own circles, Mr Connolly. I came for my own reasons. I am called... Camael." He turned, briefly, flicking a card across the intervening distance. Gavin assessed the danger instantly and caught it with ease, fingertips pinching the flat sides of the paper to keep the edges away from his skin. Turning it, he glanced at it briefly, taking in the elaborate swirls and embellishments that made up the motif on the reverse, and flipped it to reveal a phone number somewhere in Philadelphia.
He looked up, watched him go, patiently keeping himself in the seat for ten minutes or more — until the woman opposite began to rise — before rising to replace his knife in his back, confident that the meeting was at an end.
He didn't believe for a minute that Camael would consider the matter closed, but the issue was closed for today, and all Gavin wanted was to get away from all the people — first, Paris, and then across the channel and home.
Orly Airport, Paris, November 21st
Caerys ached. Every joint, every muscle, every sinew. The jolt of the plane hitting the tarmac shot up through the boards beneath her, grating the untreated wood across her nakedness, and jolting her unsupported head off her own knees. She was flexible — it was a requirement — but the human body was not designed to be kept in positions like this for any length of time.
The cords binding her forearms together had long ago numbed her fingers, her usually pale skin mottled blue and purple by the trapped blood, she could just see in the light that filtered between the boards of the crate. Bent double at the waist, her breasts pressed painfully into her knees — for the briefest of instants she felt glad she wasn't as big as Eileen in the next crate — she hadn't been able to draw a proper breath in the eight hours since take-off, and wouldn't have been able to raise a decent shout to attract attention anyway, even if the gag hadn't been stuffed in her mouth.
She'd been roused once during the travel, dragged painfully out of the crate and used again — they hadn't even untied her — before being dumped back into place, the wood pressing down on the back of her head just as she began to breath comfortably. She was sure she was bleeding, but it was far from the first time for that. Muffled voices sounded outside, voices negotiating the fee for bypassing the usual channels at customs, and then she felt herself battered against the side of the crate as it was hauled into the air and dumped, not gently. It was too dark to see what was beneath the crate, but the faint smell of petrol told her it was a car, and the sound of a sliding door revised her estimate to a van, as the dark returned.
She was hungry and thirsty, and she'd felt a telling pressure in her bladder for well over an hour — she wasn't sure exactly how long; time seemed to stretch interminably in the crate — but she knew she'd be fed and watered when they were ready, and the punishment for soiling the crate would make her glad for the opportunity she'd have to get back into — uncleaned — later.
In the meantime, all she could do was wait, and despite the discomfort she found herself lulled into a doze by the slight swaying of the van as it wound its way from the airport to their destination.
The door slid open again, waking her, and the light seemed bright until her eyes adjusted, and she realised it was a dull, grey, overcast day. The wind was cold, whistling through the crate and bringing goosebumps to her skin, as well as other reactions that she knew would elicit a response when she got out.
The crate lid lifted, easing the pressure on her head, though her arms bound underneath her legs prevented her sitting up. Rough, calloused hands grabbed her ankles, lifting her legs with ease, and a practiced hand flicked her sex painfully before the cold metal of a knife rested against her forearms and slashed through the bindings. Blood rushed through the constricted veins, and she felt her legs cramping as she was suddenly granted a little mobility.
Lifting herself painfully over the side she almost fell to the floor, stumbling on the loose gravel of the car park that bit painfully into the soles of her feet, she forced herself to stand upright, massaging life back into her fingers and dragging the gag out of her mouth. Sympathy would be in short supply, and she needed to be ready to move when told. She felt awkward standing naked in the open, but she pushed that aside as she quickly peered around. The buildings were different to what she was used to — the sun lower in the sky confirmed that she'd travelled a long way — but peering over a nearby church she spied the distinctive metalwork of the Eiffel Tower, and felt a burst of exultation.
Paris! She forced herself not to dance, and not only for the state of her feet. He's really brought me to Paris... this is it!!!
She spun, quickly, ignoring the pain from her aching muscles and shredding feet, to tell Eileen, and the euphoria died almost instantly. The four handlers stood around the crate muttering quietly to themselves, and she tried to press through them to see.
"What the fuck are you doing?" she demanded, as one of them pushed her aside. "Get her the fuck ou..." She was cut off by a short, sharp punch that landed just below her rib-cage, driving the breath out of her just as she'd started to get it back. As she tried to force herself to her feet, silence descended and her father appeared at the side of the crate.
"Dead?" he asked, in a near whisper.
"Suffocated, I reckon." Kwan nodded. None of them showed any signs of sympathy, though they cringed a little at what might become of them if her father was displeased.
"We only need one. Bring her."
Hard, painful fingers dug into her upper arms, dragging her upright as she wept and turned to try and see the figure still folded into the crate behind her.
"BASTARDS!" she screamed, focussing her rage on her father in front of them, turning him on the spot. His hand gripped her chin painfully, tilting her head back painfully stretching her neck.
"Feed the remains," he intoned, quietly, "to Nadal. If she screams again, cut out her tongue. She no longer has need of it." The blood drained from her face, carried away by the silent tears as she hung limply and let herself be taken.
Gare de Lyon, Paris, November 21st
Sophie managed not to scurry as she followed, but she was forced to lengthen her stride a little to keep up. She didn't know if she was convincing the soldiers behind her that she was following willingingly — she doubted it — but more than anything at that moment she just wanted to be on her way. Whatever Georg was mixed up in she wanted nothing to do with it.
Georg pointed, absently, to a nearby jeep, and she meekly shuffled in to the seating area at the back, surprised when one of the two guards slid in beside her. The bulky mass of the pistol at his belt dug into her side, but she just hunched herself a little and leant away from him, settling her arm atop the thin metal of the vehicle's frame.
Her eyes watched Georg and his military friend, the Doctor considerably more animated than she could recall having seen him before, but her mind wasn't really on their conversation at all. In her memory she kept seeing the poor, twisted wretch in the tank, contorted and deformed, and she wondered what exactly was wrong with him.
Georg was, by specialty, a neurologist, and despite the distended skull she recalled there was nothing to indicate that the patient's condition was brain-related. In fact, she'd never heard of anything even remotely like it as a medical condition, and staring around at the collection of secret military personnel she was compelled to wonder if the medical staff was treating his condition, or inducing it.
Experimentation wasn't unheard of — it hadn't been admitted or proven either — but it wasn't something she would have expected to find in France. America, perhaps, maybe even Britain, but not France. And not on such a scale, either. Laboratory mice would have been beyond anything she might consider the world ready for in such things. Her mind flashed over possibilities, gene manipulation and drug-therapies foremost in her estimation, and then shook her head clear.
This was Georg, after all, who'd taught her not just the science of the brain, but the wonders of it, the miracle of thought and thinking, and the responsibilities that came with it. Georg who'd gotten drunk with her and helped her forget about Eliot when he'd left, who'd stayed sober with her and helped her come to terms with having a baby.
Every year he'd sent Christophe a card on his birthday, and a present at Christmas. This wasn't the sort of man that could twist people like that, for anything. Was it? He turned away from his conversation as she was thinking about him, staring down the line of vehicles queueing up behind her, and in that flat, malevolent stare she suddenly wasn't so sure.
Turning her gaze away, finding tears in her eyes at the possibility — and not wanting the soldier to see them — she stared at her own reflection in the wing-mirror. Short, barely five feet tall, intelligent dark eyes stared back at her, only slight red and liquid from the suppressed tears. Her cheekbones were high and wide, suiting the dusky skin she'd inherited from her Italian mother, and her hair hung dark and straight down her back, pulled back from her face in a simple but not stark pony-tail.
She was carrying a little more weight than she was entirely happy with — although it hadn't done anything to stop some of the soldiers eyeing her as she had been walking around, she suddenly realised — but with work and bringing up Christophe on her own she allowed herself a little latitude. She looked up at the soldier beside her, saw him staring down at her face... past her face, into the top of her blouse!... and tugged the lab-coat tighter about herself. Folding her arms — realising too late that that undid most of the good work folding the coat had done — she gave the soldier the sort of stare Christophe got when he'd been misbehaving, but all she got in return was a slightly leering, insolent grin that didn't get anywhere near the soldier's eyes.
"I'm sorry, Sophie, that you've been dragged into things this way." Georg suddenly appeared beside the jeep, slipping into the front seat in front of her guard. "I promise I will explain later, but there are things you don't know about this project, and I think it's better they come from me than you find them out for yourself."
"What things, Georg?" She demanded, angry with his condescending tone.
"Don't patronise me, Georg. I'm not a little girl."
"Doctor Barthez. You will be told what you need to know, when you need to know it." Georg's tone dropped like a rock, and Sophie stiffened, shock and anger straightening her back in equal measure.
"I see." She spat, flinging herself back in the seat. "Doctor Barthez, now? When did we get so formal, Doctor Roffmai?"
"When you endangered the safety and security of this project." He bit back, then took an obvious moment to calm himself. "Sophie, please. I know this is difficult, but this isn't just health directives and medical ethics at play." He twisted further, grimacing at the flex in his already distorted spine, and reaching for her hand. "This has not been orchestrated as well it might, I know, and that is my fault. My frustrations shouldn't be taken out on you, and this little diversion here only adds to everything."
She relaxed a little at the feeling of his soft, delicate fingers supporting her hand. "I promise, when we return I will tell you everything." She nodded her acceptance, forcing herself to silence despite the glut of burning questions she had, and Georg turned back to the front as the driver put the jeep into gear and joined the convoy flowing out of the tunnel. She craned her neck about to take in as much of the base as she could on their flight, spying several windowed bays as they travelled that resembled the one she'd been in: each of them looked like it contained dozens of tanks, hundreds of patients in total, and she suddenly wondered if there'd been a chemical spill, or an outbreak of some sort.
That was a more comfortable thought — she felt guilty for dismissing the patients' welfare so glibly — setting Georg in a light she was happier with, and she relaxed a little until she met the cold-eyed stare of her guard again. Turning back to the front she felt the cold blast of the midnight air as the jeep burst out of the tunnel and into the rail-yard, turning sharply to follow the rails and speed off away from the Gare de Lyons.
Paris, November 21st
Caerys sobbed gently to herself, huddled in the corner of the worn warehouse, as her father and his associates scurried about arranging something. Elise was tasked with guarding her, and the withered old crone stared with a malevolent eye whenever she moved or sniffled, disdainful of both the task and her ward of the moment.
Caerys just ignored her, thinking of Eileen. They'd been virtually inseparable since Eileen's arrival on the eve of their fourteenth birthdays — within days of each other — and whilst others girls had come and gone through her father's household, the two of them had remained constant. They'd shared frequent tears and the rare, and precious, laugh, and had gone on to share a room at university before her father's insanity had dragged them back to live at home.
She remembered the sympathy in the quiet girl's face as she cried herself to sleep after her father took her virginity, and the gratitude when she returned the favour. Through all the beatings, all the pain and the torment, she knew that there was someone soft, and warm and caring waiting for her in the wide, open loft room they shared.
She recalled the guilt and shame she'd felt — still felt — when she'd thrown their relationship in her father's face in anger one day, only to be sickened at the lust and perversions it drove him to. Since then both of them had been subjected to just about every sort of depravity imaginable... until now. Now she was alone, and all the attention was on her. She cried even more heavily then, tears for herself and her lost companion, hoping against her own belief that there was somewhere better after it was done: if anyone deserved some good in their afterlife it was Eileen.
"Elise." Her father's voice drifted in from the next room. "Bring her." Iron hard fingers with thick, cracked, jagged nails dug into her arm as she was dragged to her feet, pitched forward hard enough to send her stumbling into the next room through the open doorway.
She landed on her hands and knees, eyes cast down at her father's all-too-familiar feet, and realised he was as naked as she was. Keeping her head down — she didn't need another reminder of that — she cast her glance about as best she could, gauging what had been done.
Three large circles of silver had been lain in the floor at some point, and had been dug clear of the dust, muck and tiled floors that had been laid over them. The three looked as though they'd meet somewhere near the far wall, but she couldn't see that far past the massive, lurking black and red baroque monstrosity of an altar. Staring up at the twisted, cavorting figures picked out in lurid red, she felt her breath catch in her throat as she recalled the last time she'd seen it.
The lanterns swung in a wind no-one could feel as her father dragged her into place, passing her leash to Elise as he shucked his robe to the floor, stepping into the inlaid circle. Looking up from where she knelt on the floor, Caerys stared up at the slim, pale-skinned red-head shackled to the front of the altar.
Blood already ran in thin rivulets from her breasts and stomach, dried clots marring the shape of her legs.
"Mom..." she whispered, starting to rise until Elise's claws dug into the back of her neck, squeezing her throat until her eyes bulged.
"Your father says you are to watch, and to live. Beyond that, anything is possible..." she muttered, the usual spite evident as she bit into the tip of her ear. Tears came to her eyes, but she refused to give the old woman the reward of a whimper, and just stared up as her mother's green eyes stared down.
"I'm sorry..." the shackled figure mouthed, smiling through the obvious pain as the father of her child appeared atop the altar behind her. Standing tall, screaming something unintelligible into the sky, he drew attention like a magnet. Tall, imposing, undeniably charismatic, Caerys knew he wasn't affectionate like other fathers, but he was her father, and she loved him still. Across the space between them she felt his eyes on her, as a dozen worshippers joined in the chant, raising their voices to the roof. His eyes met hers, a vicious smile on his face, and the knife plunged down as he dropped to his knife, driving blade first into the centre of her mother's chest.
She screamed then; no words, no meaning, just a soul-wrenched scream that ripped out of her as her mother gasped feebly, both of them drowned out by the chorus. Blood spurted, gouts of it flying free of the altar to land on the wooden floor, where it was quickly mopped up by naked worshippers, who wrung it into the font at the foot of the altar. The knife emerged, plunged in again, working this time, and she watched her father's blood-stained hand hold aloft her mother's heart with a cry of exultation.
She didn't even notice Elise's hand dragging her hair back, bending her backward as her father leapt down from the altar. Still covered in blood he strode towards her, holding the heart before him to show to her before biting into it, the thick red liquid running in rivulets down his chest. She turned and gagged, heaving dryly: she realised now why she'd been denied food all day.
Elise appeared at her side, suddenly conscientious, holding a glass for her. If she hadn't been so shocked the sudden change of character would have alerted her, but she had already swallowed the first mouthful before she recognised the thick, syrupy texture and the coppery taste. She wailed again, and her father jammed the remainder of the heart into her mouth, Lilith quickly binding her own long, copper hair over it to hold it in place as her father dropped to the floor, forcing her legs apart, and slammed into her forcefully.
She screamed again when he drove through her maidenhead, and everything went dark as unconsciousness rescued her from the ordeal.
"You remember this, don't you?" Elise whispered in her ear, as she whimpered. "That's when it all started, and tonight it finishes..." She tried to shake the old crone's grip from her upper arm, but the vice-like nails dug in, scratching at her skin. "It's your turn tonight. I shall enjoy drinking your blood... imagine the power your heart will bring: a Seer, daughter and grand-daughter of Seers and your Sire, of course."
Caerys just turned in on herself, wondering how she could have been wrong. The visions were never clear, exactly, but there were always things about them that came true. That vision, watching her father die on the point of a black blade, had been so clear and so brief that there hadn't been room for misinterpretation. The background was mismatched, a jumble of towers, castles and structures she half-recognised, each and every one of the outside of the US. The blade wielder had his back to her, his face obscured by a bulky black wing, but she knew she didn't know him, or the dusky skinned woman that stood opposite him, sad-faced and stern. The memory of it flitted across her mind's eye, and she quickly, hopefully, looked around again, through the pungent smoke that was gradually filling the room from the lanterns, but nothing in the warehouse seemed to match the vision.
Nadal appeared, hulking and bulky, shreds of raw flesh still hanging from her sharpened teeth as she grasped Caerys' slim form and slung her about, over one shoulder and turned to the altar. Caerys was too far gone in fear to notice as she wet herself, the trail slipping down Nadal's hairy back. Her first wail of terror was slammed out of her as the bulky servant slammed her into the stonework, quickly fixing a brass shackle about her wrist with surprisingly delicate movements.
Her father's open-handed slap quieted her second scream, the silence occasionally broken by the doom-laden click of the brass shackles closing about her limbs, and then the chanting started.
Paris, November 21st
Sophie brushed her hair back out of her eyes as the jeep skidded slightly on the gravel to a halt, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the military vehicles all discharging their occupants into position. Paris had flown by as the convoy hurried through the early morning moonlight into districts and regions she didn't know, ending up in a run-down industrial area somewhere in the south-east of the city.
A bell tolled somewhere to the north, probably one of the old churches, and she looked about for a sign of habitation, seeing only one lit building in sight. There was sound, though, a deep, low sonorous chanting from somewhere. Muffled, but close she realised, after a moment, then flinched as the sound was overridden by a gunshot and the pinging whistle of a bullet ricocheting from stone.
Suddenly, all about her, gunshots rang out, and she tumbled out of the jeep, hands clamped over her ears, huddling behind the metalwork and tyres to try and escape the danger.
"SOPHIE!" Georg yelled, grasping one of her wrists, and she looked up to see him pointing across the gravel towards a bulkier, more heavily armoured vehicle nearby. "OVER THERE!" She let herself be tugged limply after him, easily capable of keeping up with the slightly loping, lop-sided gait caused by his twisted leg.
Someone nearby yelled orders, radios crackled here and there, and the vehicle slowly edged forward. They had no option but to follow, huddling amongst the shadows and perceived protection of the armour as around them soldiers began to fall. She almost darted out to help, but Georg tightened his grip, pulling her back. She stared at him in surprise, and was shocked to see a pistol in his other hand.
"Georg!" she gasped. He looked where she was staring, and looked abashed for a moment before staring back
"There are things you do not understand, Sophie." He told her, sadly.
"What can you tell me that justifies this?" she asked, but he didn't answer, reaching around the side of the building to loose a shot somewhere into the darkness that brought a squeal of panic out of her. Two more shots, two more squeals, and suddenly the 'tank' was accelerating away, and Georg's insistent tugging on her arm dragged her into a stumbling run towards the broken-down looking warehouse they were approaching.
Somewhere nearby a loud explosion made her ears ring, showering her in gravel and dust, but Georg didn't slow, dragging her coughing and stumbling up a loading ramp and into the warehouse where, mercifully, the noises of gunfire were muffled by the intervening walls.
"Georg, what's going on here?" she demanded, finally recovering her composure enough to retrieve her arm from his grip.
"There isn't time, Sophie." He didn't even look at her.
"Damn it, Georg!" she yelled, then cowered slightly as the Admiral towered over her, appearing from nowhere.
"You told me she could handle the situation, Doctor." He muttered, his voice cutting through the intermittent gunfire easily.
"She can," Georg did turn this time, his tone even. "It's not the best of introductions, is it?" The Admiral merely sniffed, and then was on his way, and the soldiers around them suddenly surged forward, a number of loud but calm shouts sounding out, and Georg beckoned her onward.
Inside the main expanse of the warehouse, fallen bodies were strewn here and there — not as many as she'd expected, but more than she wanted — several of them naked and tattooed but most wrapped up in long, flowing, intricately embroidered robes of some sort.
A towering, blood-red monolith of stone dominated the centre of the space, though, drawing the eye even amongst the charnel around her. Naked figures picked out in relief and highlighted in red against black inlay caught her attention, deformed, broken, twisted figures cavorting naked. For the briefest of instants her eyes were fixed on the amazingly detailed image of a lesion-ridden man with a grossly distended skull, but then she caught a glimpse of some metal. Following the line of the brassy looking chain around the structure, she moved to where she could see a young woman chained naked to the surface.
Blood trailed down her legs and torso from a number of cuts and wounds, but tears mingled with the sweat and blood on her face, and she turned her head to the ceiling and laughed at the sight of them.
"Get her down." Sophie yelled at the nearest soldier who just ignored her, and when she tried to advance and do it herself, someone grabbed her arm. Georg.
"We have to get her down, Georg." She pointed out, but he just shook his head and nodded back towards the altar.
Advancing across the silver circles, the Admiral climbed up the steps at the base of the stone, reaching up to grasp the girl's chin, pulling her eyes down to face his.
"Thank you..." she whispered, the sound carrying easily over the sudden silence in the warehouse, the sporadic gunfire outside dying away.
"No, my dear." The admiral smiled, coldly. "Thank you." He reached inside his jacket, and drew out a knife, raising it high into the air above his head.
Orly Airport, November 21st
Gavin rose easily from his seat, nodding companionably at the stewardess as she gathered up the blankets from the emptied seats around her. He gathered his own belongings, and ambled along the narrow aisle between the seats, heading for the small knot of people that still remained around the door. He always waited until near the end to disembark, not wanting to be compressed in the huddle for any longer than he had to.
The brief journey through customs and immigration was uneventful, as he'd expected, and he collected his luggage — and the bonded package containing his sword — before heading towards the main gate. A flicker of grey from the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he turned to see the old man conversing quietly with one of the Gendarmerie.
He didn't slow, didn't focus, stared instead at the shop array behind the pair, but could see them easily enough. The old man pointed straight at him and the uniformed figure spoke hurriedly into his radio as Gavin hurriedly turned towards the toilet nearby.
Inside, he snatched the backpack from the top of the trolley — the laptop and toolkit in there were the only things apart from his sword that had the slightest chance of leading anyone anywhere to him. His knife slashed open the top of the bag, and he hastily snatched out a change of clothes, hurrying into the stall to fit them.
It wasn't the secure section of the airport, thankfully, so the janitorial cupboard that opened onto the toilet opened onto the main concourse as well, and he hustled through both doors with the aid of a deft touch with his skeleton key, emerging a dozen feet down from where the gathered Gendarmes were expecting him.
He strolled easily towards the main door, knowing that running would give him away.
"THERE!" Someone yelled behind him — he recognised the old man's voice — and he launched himself through the doors at full pace, hurdling the barrier that diverted outgoing traffic to the sides, and into the slight crowd of incoming passengers. It slowed him, but it prevented a clear gunshot from behind, which was far more valuable right now.
Cutting hard left at the foot of the stairwell, he ducked into the shadows beneath the stone flight, and took stock of his surroundings, sprinting a hundred feet or so to where he could easily reach the nearby trees planted for their ornamentation. Moving in burst from cover to cover he was quickly around the main building and heading for the dirtier, less aesthetic buildings that were the working areas of the airport. The sealed tubes of the luggage conveyors passed overhead, and he pressed up against a fence that isolated the controlled areas from the open, skirting along it until he came to one of the staff car-parks.
He looked around, eyeing the options for a few moments, and settled on small motorbike. Cracking the toolkit from his bag, it was a matter of moments to hotwire the thing, blip the throttle once to listen for any imminent signs of failure from the engine, and then spin the machine away and towards the entrance.
Riding up off the road near the car-park allowed him to jump from the international terminal's road system to domestic, which emptied out at a different location, and he avoided the cluster of military officials he saw waiting — presumably for him — at the main exit.
Once out on the main roads, he slowed slightly, considering his options, then pulled the bike over to the side of the road, eyeing the traffic flow. This late at night — the early hours of the morning, he realised, checking his watch — the roads weren't full, and he could make out the figures in the cars easily enough, so it wasn't particularly trying to spot the old man an hour later when he appeared.
The small, blue Peugeot was relatively non-descript, and with the number of them in Paris it was the sort of car he'd have acquired himself if he wished to remain unnoticed, but with the sparse traffic it was simple enough to pull out behind it and follow.
The motorbike wasn't subtle, and without a helmet neither was he, so he wasn't surprised at all when the car sped up, jinking through the traffic to try and get away from him. He followed easily, faster and more nimble on two wheels than the car on four, and the chase was on as he pursued the old man through the streets.
The path wound this way and that, taking advantage of opportunities as they arose until Gavin began to worry that the bike might run out of petrol before he caught up or the old man made a mistake, but he rounded a corner in an old abandoned industrial zone, and the car was gone.
Braking hard, spinning the bike around, he backtrailed slowly, looking into the disused warehouses either side, and quickly spotted the car dumped in the middle of a potholed car park. Leaving the bike where it was, unsheathed the sword, and headed in, bright and alert, picking up the trail of wet footprints as they ran away from the car towards the nearby fence.
Springing atop the fence was relatively easy, and the next building was within easy reach, so he climbed up the pipe on the wall, easing himself onto the low roof of the single storey, and staring down through the skylight at the scene below.
A red-haired girl, bleeding and screaming was shackled to some sort of stone block, surrounded by armed men in black with a military bearing.
"Damn." He whispered to himself, looking about before looking straight down through the skylight to the two armed men on the balcony below. "Here goes nothing..." he muttered to himself, and then stepped onto the glass.