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Three Guards part two

Chapter One
A voice

Sunlight beat down on Rivers face, finally drawing her back from a long sleep. Blinking gritty eyes she surveyed the room to find herself alone, Charlie already gone to school and Jack off on some other business. Still laying in the raggedy Sleeping Bag She twiddled a finger at the dial of the beat up radio on Charlie’s bench. The dial spun in rapid jerky movements until coming to a stop at a free form jazz station. A saxophone and piano mix laced with static emanated from the speaker and River allowed her thoughts to drift with it as she often did when she had some free time on her hands. The idea of radio waves still fascinated her to no end, though they seemed a simple fact of life to Charlie and Jack. To think that thousands of songs and voices drifted through the air, only waiting for the right piece of metal to welcome them awed her.

Several thumps echoed in from the hallway, followed by the muffled sounds of cursing and scraping paper. Moments later Jack shuffled into the room, arms piled high with maps, one of which was now wrapped around his head like a turban. He quickly dropped his load into a moth eaten hammock he had been meaning to replace for the last decade or so. The support ropes gave an ominous creek before snapping in half and dumping the maps across the floor. He looked almost to the point of tears, one hand tugging idly at his makeshift turban.

“Nice hat,” River giggled from her place on the floor, a small smile creeping onto her features


“It’s not a hat,” Jack growled as he continued to survey the scattered articles, the map finally unwinding from his head

River flicked her fingers in a strange little rhythm and the maps hopped into the air around them, startling Jack in the process.

“Great manicotti! Warn me the next time you do that!” Jack gasped, hand over his now pounding heart

River ducked her head in apology, but the old man was already pacing around the room, sharpie marker and magnifying glass in hands. Setting the maps in a slow revolving orbit around the room she left him to his clever plans and fell back into her jazz induced trance. For the next hour she simply drifted with the music creaking from the ancient speaker, Jack’s mutterings creating a pleasant background noise, and waiting for Charlie to return. Her patience was soon rewarded with the sound of footsteps, the slight drag of a limp signifying that it was Charlie.

“That’s a neat trick” he said with a raised brow as he entered, the edge of almanac just grazing his head as it passed

“You’re late” Jack quipped bluntly as he stalked past, a clutter of notes clutched to his chest

“Sorry, got held up by a few ‘friends’” Charlie sighed as he walked over to his bench

River had a look of concern about her face “You were in a fight” she said quietly

Charlie looked everywhere but her face, not even trying to deny her claim “I’m not really sure it qualifies as a fight, it was more like an animated argument”

“Who?” She asked, voice nearly a whisper so that Jack did not overhear

“Just some goons, guys with too much time on their hands,” he answered

“Is there a reason they picked a fight with you?” River asked

“What makes you think they were the ones to start it?” Charlie retorted with a weak grin?

“Because I know you,” River said bluntly

Charlie just shook his head and dumped the contents of the small duffle bag he was carrying out onto the table. He quickly dug out an assortment of small speakers and some wires that looked ravaged from an old computer. He picked up the old radio River was listening too, still ignoring the girl’s unblinking stare, and switched it off. He popped the center speaker out and began stripping the various wires he had scavenged. A minute or so later he plugged the last wire in, switched the batteries out and turned the contraption on. Smooth Jazz hummed from the radio, which now looked like a metal rendition of a hydra, wires and speakers snaking every which way. A heavy duty rod wrapped in wire had replaced the shattered remains of the telescoping antennae.

“How do you do it?” River asked in awe

“How do you move things without touching them, or create arrows out of thin air?” Charlie shot back in answer

He moved the radio to the center of the room then dropped down next to his friend. They listened in silence, Charlie tinkering with his prosthetic every now and then.

“I apparently talked to the wrong girl,” he suddenly said

“Hmm?”

“The reason I got into a fight. Some girl asked me to be her lab partner for physics and I said yes. Next thing I know Sam Richer and his posse had me pinned against the school wall. They took a few swings then let me drop,”

“You didn’t fight back?” River asked quietly

“Na, I was afraid I might hurt one of them” Charlie said with a grin

“You could have done much worse to them, Charlie, you know that don’t you?” Deadpanned the girl

“Hence the muskrat act,” Answered the boy somberly

“It’s an animal that plays dead when threatened,” he added at her confused stare

River nodded sagely “Ah, clever animal,”

“But ugly as all get out,” Charlie remarked as he pulled himself back up

“All the more fitting that you copied it then, no one would ever guess the difference,”

Charlie snorted and spoke with mock indignity “Great, the angel has a sense of humor!”

River grinned at him “I suppose I do,”

“What are you two gabbing about?” Jack asked as he neared, his dust covered coat jacket signifying that he had been in the attic

“Muskrats” Charlie answered

“Viscous brutes, I never could stand them,” The old man murmured

“So what’s the plan?” River asked him

“Quite simple actually, I’m going to Moscow to track down an item of interest to us, and you two are staying here”

He held up his hand to forestall any arguments “You can’t miss school Charlie, and you don’t want to see Russia River, trust me,”

“Why?” The girl pouted

“Bad past, cold winds, not a place for the faint of heart” Charlie said ominously, knowing that Jack was right in barring her from the place

“Then what are we supposed to do?” River asked

“Stay low and just enjoy the peace, I can assure you it won’t last long” He answered grabbing a dusty suitcase and a long carrying bag

He paused a moment to toss Charlie a leather wrapped bundle “I’m taking your Long Shot, so here’s a bit to compensate”

Jack was already down the hall by the time the boy had unwrapped the package. A yelp, soon followed by a loud thump emanated from the room causing a rare smile to play on Jack’s lips. Touching the brim of his favorite bowler hat made a swift stride to the hanger before anything could go bad. He soon came to a rusting set of double doors set into the damp stone walls that made up much of his home. The doors shifted at a firm shove and he entered into a sheltered hanger housing two older prop planes. His favorite craft, Modern Oddesy, an outdated B-17 bomber modified for cargo was currently being retro fitted with a new control system, dominated the small hanger. Next to it was a petit looking P-51 mustang, the wings thinned and reinforced with a polymer compound Jack and Charlie had thought up. The engine compartment was a bit beefier as well, a large bubble cover concealing an engine that should not exist, not even in theory, but it did.

Jack climbed into the odd aircraft, named Lost Grace by River, and flicked the warm up switch. Instead of the normal coughs and sputters that usually accompanied prop planes, Lost Grace simply gave a gentle hum as the propeller began to spin in a mind boggling blur. The little plane leapt out off the hanger onto a sheltered runway, Jack calmly buckling himself in. With a firm pull of the control stick the craft leapt into the air, the prop blades beginning to give off a blue light as the engine fully engaged. With a heavy growl of machinery Jack was soon sweeping through the sky at a speed any hot shot would envy.

Back in the Library Charlie stood over the ‘gifts’ Jack had left for him, mixed feelings tearing him apart on the inside. Upon the floor lay two books, one leather bound with a cross on the cover and the other bound in wood and iron. And lying on top of them was a gun.

“And what am I supposed to do with this?” He asked River

“Use it I suppose,” She answered slowly, knowing that Charlie had a firm dislike for handguns

Reaching down Charlie gingerly picked up the weapon by the heavy barrel. After a moment of indecision he grasped the grip firmly. He almost dropped it again. A soft vibration shot through his arm startling him, followed by a jolt of energy that made him cry out in pain. River tried to pry the weapon from his hand but was blasted across the room for her efforts.

A faint voice echoed out to Charlie through his pain “Blood for blood, eye for an eye, Hate for Love and Love for hate. This is the price you pay warrior, know it well,”

Charlie sunk to the floor, his eyes dull and his hand wrapped in a death lock around the grip of the pistol. Darkness hung over his thoughts, dominating him until his every fiber screamed in pain. Mercilessly it hacked at him till he was upon the edge of insanity, and as the last second of his life ticked by Charlie found himself wishing that he had done more with his life, done it differently.

“To live as if you will never die and to die as if you had never lived, this is the truth of humanity. Now is your time to live Charlie, this is your second chance,”




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