Akio came over the bridge sprinting. His arms pumped as he crested the overpass, over the road below, and quickly passing to the other side. He began to slow, coming to a setting of iron tables outside a storefront. At the tables and gazing into the glass-front display, a white family picnicked. Six children, a father, and mother, all eating a meal after church.
The youngest children watched Akio. He huffed heavily as he entered the store.
He pulled back his hoodie, looking over the store’s contents inside. Fresh cheeses, chocolates, bread, and fruits, all there to be taken freely. No attendant or price at all.
No food from home, however.
They keep us segregated, only to demand I live in the capitol?
Akio smirked, spotting a sandwich which looked good.
It was all just insanity, worry, he knew. The fear left over from a bygone time. He would keep his history, they would write theirs. He only wished he could travel to see his parents more often, in Japan. He bit into his sandwich, sitting down at a table by the window.
In every corner, cameras watched. He reached into his pocket, holding up a phone.
“Tell me the news, Aku,” he said, mouth full. He threw his phone onto the table.
“Earlier today, Quinn Lee Porter requested a council audience. In it, he revealed that he’d been contacted by the entity Doran. A being conjured by Kendall Blackthorn…”
“What happened?” Akio grabbed his phone back, looking over the pictures Aku presented. Pictures of Porter, Kendall, and Doran.
“Doran’s intent was allegedly to give warning. A city-wide evacuation was considered.”
“With no compelling reason to evacuate, the council ruled Kendall authority to track and detain the entity Doran and any with him. Then another of Kendall’s former summons, the ghost Odessa, attacked the court. She was neutralized by mister Blackthorn.” The girl’s face came up on Akio’s phone. Street video was available of the fight. He didn’t touch it.
“As a student with experience, you are a candidate for the detainment team, if you would like to apply. The effort has been put on priority after Doran and the demon Ashmedai were found armed and dangerous, targeting the council building. Two Magus were killed. Citizens in city one are being advised to stay inside.”
Akio threw his sandwich away, heading for the door. “Put in my application, Aku.”
He was available. He’d known those four, Doran, Anna, Odessa, and Ash. If he could help Kendall and maybe even them, he would. There had to be a reason for this.
“Application sent, Hasami.”
The silver man touched down.
The council building’s surrounding lot was like a wasteland. A huge parking lot completely empty, only three dark figures by the stadium’s doors.
Sebastian had landed some ways off, so he walked. As he did he looked up. A front was approaching from the east, he saw, past the space elevator. A wall of clouds.
At the doors, those three people were waiting for him. A young man in a black suit with red tie. Kendall, who he’d been briefed on coming in. And lastly, someone in Eidolon-armor and helmet. Kendall was talking to the suited man but stopped to extend his hand to Sebastian.
He dropped his hand as Sebastian ignored it, towering over him. He knew what Kendall was. Even if it was well masked, he could smell the sickness.
Sebastian wasn’t wasting time with handshakes anyway.
“I am the Sentinel. I’ll be overseeing this operation. Understand that. First, are the dead recovering?”
“Healers aren’t here yet, but they will,” the red tie told him. “Now that you’re here, that’s my cue to leave.” He patted Kendall on the back. “Keep your head.”
Kendall gestured to the armored one. “This is Kyle.”
“Is that all you’re bringing?” Sebastian asked.
“No. He was fast to apply, but there’s one more confirmed. He’s not here yet.”
“I can see that, Blackthorn.”
Kendall looked away from Sebastian and to his phone. “Kyle is a seer, battlemage. Hisami is an old acquaintance. We don’t need anyone more. They’d slow us down. Ashmedai and Doran should be working quickly at this point, so we can’t afford that.”
“Do you know why I’m here, Blackthorn?”
“I- what?” Kendall looked up, unable to see Sebastian’s face. He’d heard his voice turn dark.
“I wouldn’t be necessary if not for the surveillance failures. The one’s you’ve caused.”
The silver man leaned in. “Don’t,” he warned.
Let him know his place, he thought. Scare in some respect of the law.
Sebastian continued with Kendall silent. He pointed to the council building, then past it towards city two. “They left out of the rear, moving away to the second city.”
Kyle spoke up. “I’m getting certain. They’re nearby.”
“They’re shrouding themselves,” Kendall stated.
Kyle shook his head. “A shroud of perception. Strong tactic. But doesn’t sufficiently mask essence. They’ll be a difficult find. Not undoable.”
“A shroud of perception weakens under direct assault. Aku is too divided in attention to find them, but from the sky, I can spot them if they’re under the sun,” Sebastian said.
The Eidolon nodded.
Kendall raised an eyebrow. “We’re done here, then?”
Sebastian lit up his thrusters in Kendall’s face, kicking up dust and ascending.
He was left with Kyle, who, once the dust had cleared, was facing him silently. Black visor staring.
He shoved a thumb at the building behind them and started off for it.
Kendall followed. “What is it? Are you mute?”
“I’m going to get a feel.” He pushed through the doors.
Kendall went with him into the main hall. They looked past rows of seats to where androids were strewn over seats. Bullet holes littered the lower isles.
Kyle ran his hand over the scorched walls. Suddenly, he jumped up onto the seats.
Kendall looked up at him. “What the fuck are you doing?”
Not answering, he walked on the tops of the seats, moving down the rows. Kendall walked the steps beside him. Kyle jumping onto the concrete at the very bottom of the room faced up to the glass barrier above. It protected the zenith council seats at the center of the court.
There was a tiny ledge between the shield and the stage which he stepped on to reach up. He reached to touch the spot where a concentration of shots had been fired, a charred dent. He craned his head back around to Kendall. “See this?”
“The… the guy, that guy,” he pointed back at the parking lot. “Him.”
“Christopher. Christopher is his name.”
“Yes. Christopher. He stood here?”
Kyle hopped off with a thud. “That’s inhuman accuracy. The demon? With that accuracy, he could have killed a lot of androids. But he wasted his time testing the glass.”
“Please tell me you’re not a psychologist.”
He paused for a moment. He decided against responding. “What could be his motivation for doing that? A desire to kill Christopher?”
“You are,” Kendall decided. “Great.”
“I have to build a profile. Get a sense. Half science, half magic, really.”
They went back up to the top of the court, then around to the exit door. They came through and to the base of the ramp beyond. Two androids stood watch over a dead Magus there.
Kyle squatted beside them, waved a hand over the body. “Bobby Nolan, twenty years old. Smaller caliber.” He pointed back up the ramp at the lightning scorches on the wall. “He was aiming at the demon. The other one shot him.”
“Doran,” Kendall corrected him.
“Doran,” he repeated. “He didn’t hesitate…” Kyle checked the visor in his suit. It built a crime-scene for him, but it was lacking. “There’s not good surveillance here.”
Kendall again went after the Eidolon as he led him through the kitchen, over the wreckage, and into the loading bay. Another body was there, a woman.
Kyle reviewed the footage. “He checked her body. Face is determined, not cold… Where is it?”
Kendall noticed the dent in the truck ahead. “This really gives you enough to work from?”
“I just have to understand him. You can see a person in their eyes.”
“But is that enough?” Kendall asked again.
He was pacing but suddenly stopped. “No. There’s a lot I need to know.”
Kendall heard an intensity in his voice that he didn’t like. “Like what?”
“What are they doing? What was Christopher doing? What are you hiding?”
“I’m not hiding anything,” Kendall categorically denied.
He saw his own face in that black visor. His stilted expression.
“Of course. But what about Christopher?”
“He’s not hiding anything either.”
“What was he doing here, Kendall?”
He grimaced. “I don’t know what he does. Why didn’t you ask him?”
“They’ve all got a reason, Kendall. They were expecting each other.”
You’re a pretentious bastard, Kyle. He could turn this around on him, now.
“And you? Why are you here? You practically jumped on the application.”
That set him in the opposite direction, out the loading bay doors, and onto the road. Kendall caught up to grab him by the shoulder.
“Personal involvement,” was all he said. He repeated it, “personal involvement.”
“I don’t have enough,” he interrupted. “You can track them.”
Kendall gave him an evil look. “I might can catch their scent. It’s a hell-smell.”
The Eidolon was frozen for a moment, thinking. Kendall was visibly annoyed.
Finally, he swept his arm out towards the alley they’d gone. “Good.”
“Kendall!” Hasami called, running out from the building, sword rattling at his hip.
“Hasami,” Kendall acknowledged him.
“It is pleasant to see you again.”
“Mm.” Kendall started off, motioning for them to keep up. “We’re going.”
They could catch them. Kendall had the smell.
As worried as he was for himself, of being a victim to the morals of the council, this wasn’t about him. That worry was satisfied for now. Christopher had filled him in. He knew the consequences of Doran being allowed to succeed. Trillions of lives would be lost if he did. Kendall could avert that. If he could stop that, he was obligated to try, even at the cost of his life. He accepted that.
After everything, though, he wouldn’t stay here. He was sick of Utopia, of all their law and order. He would go someplace far away when he was done. He would escape.
Put that thought aside. I’m in control. Now, to kill a monster.