PrologueAn explosion sounded off to the right of Will. He smirked and shook his head simply, and continued to dash towards his goal, winding his way around large, endless skyscrapers of hedges. The rain was pounding now, and the thunder was deafening. The tree beside him caught fire after a lightning shock, and he could practically feel the electricity emanating off of the thing, yet he still didn’t stop. His jeans were drenched into a deep midnight blue color, and his black medium shirt hugged his skin. Will’s black hair matted down to almost reaching over his eyes. The fingerless black gloves were tight on his skin, and outstretched as he ran, putting his body to the limit of nearly 32 miles an hour. Wind whirled around, making it visible by picking up the droplets of water.
The ground shook, and Eagle stopped, rooted in his spot. He knew what was coming, and the adrenaline powered in all of Will’s veins and arteries, making it the only thing keeping him away from paralyzing fear. The dirt was already flowing up to his left. Endorphins high as the sky in his body, his feet immediately sprinted away from where he was stuck. Howls immediately sounded all over. The beasts of the Rift were fighting with each other now over the only food available. William prayed – though long ago he had lost hope - that his friends would survive this horde. A nasty, beyond human wail sounded off from nearly 10 feet away. His feet nearly slipped, and his heart stopped, that trip would’ve been fatal. In one fluid motion he regained the foot work and analyzed his surroundings. The insane breathing down his neck. The rain drops. The slick grass below him. He wouldn’t outrun the pursuit, so he lunged down, rolling on his right shoulder and sliding a bit. The pursuer lunged and misjudged, cracking its neck with a sickening crunch and falling limp. Will landed on his feet again and bounced up, dashing away and making an immediate right, since he knew better: These things did not die easily. In a few seconds it would simply move its neck back into place, and smell for the nearest enemy.
Movement was caught in his peripheral vision. Will’s eyes snapped a quick glance at the least. More could paralyze him if it was a Basilisk. But the laughter was familiar. Another smirk was found on his lips as Hawk caught up, a bit singed from the explosion he set off. “I told you those gas cans would come in handy mate!” the boy yelled over the thunder in his British accent. Will chuckled despite the situation.
“The others nearby?” he managed over the lightning. Hawk nodded, his brown shaggy hair matted down over his pale skin. Green eyes set back in front of the two boys, headed down the mile stretch. Fireworks sounded off overhead, and red sprinkled in the sky in brilliant colors. A lower howl sounded off, more animal like. Growling was all around. Competing with the snickers and wailing. The hedges were moving all over. Jason threw a Makorav 9mm pistol towards his friend, and Will immediately cocked the gun back, holding it in his right hand, not breaking stride.
As if on cue a figure leaped towards them. Will fell backwards on his thighs, sliding on the slick grass and his forehead scraping the underbelly. It landed on all floors, growling and glaring with red eyes. Lightning showed what the beast was: a hound. All black, with a few patches of fur. The rest was all bone, it blood dripping out of its yellow stained teeth. Drool dripped onto the floor, and with a bark, ears standing straight up, it lunged again. Will did a 180 degree turn, and shot the beast twice into its head, one in the front paw and one in the back. It tripped, and started to limp again. 2 more shots from Hawk, who missed 1 and shot another into its left front shoulder. The two immediately kept running. Leave it to the other beasts to finish the job. The whining immediately was replaced with claws ripping into bone and cracking. Will looked to his right at Jason. “I bet money on a left at the next turn!” he shouted. Jason smiled.
“I’ll take that bet. C’mon” They pivoted and made the left, and – maybe 5 to 7 miles away, very dim, they saw it. A purple shift in the air, making a clockwise turn in itself. The exit. Laughter began from both of them. Figures were waiting there, and fire burst from something. A gun, from a human. Eagle picked up the speed, smiling back at the boy next to him with amber eyes. They were hardly out of the woods, but the adrenaline only spiked further. They would make it.
Something behind them. A claw stuck itself into Jason’s biscep. He screamed in agony, closing his eyes tight and baring his teeth. Hawk lifted off the ground a good 4 feet, and Eagle slipped into a halt, firing immediately into the figure. It resembled a bear, with 3 red eyes and huge, maybe 3 foot yellow claws out of its hands and feet. A yellow crescent on its stomach. Hawk was bleeding tremendously now, pounding on the claws, which caused him more pain. Four rounds and Will was out. He pulled a magazine out of his pocket, reloaded, and kept firing, not letting go. The bear stumbled a little and set his eyes on Will, growling and baring his teeth. It dropped Hawk by tossing him a few feet away, and Will barrel rolled to the left to avoid a claw swipe.
Something slinked its teeth into his boot, then his ankle. Will collapsed, yelling in pain, and looked down on his left foot. A hound. It ripped back, but had a death-grip. Will pounded on its skull, and then started to shoot it. The thing wouldn’t die, not while it was being fed with blood. He took out a knife, and stabbed it as deep as he could into the skull. A claw embedded itself into his tricep. He was lifted off the ground, and then felt the dog lose its holding and drop to the ground. One bullet dodged. But now he was losing blood extremely fast. The bear screamed into his face, and took its right hand, stabbing Will’s stomach. 3 sharp claws into his stomach, and then out through his back a good inch. Will’s vision blurred. Everything started to go black…..then a flash to his left. The bear’s eyes widened then went back into its head, sliding its claws out of his stomach and falling back while will fell back onto the ground, limp. A neat hole was in the beasts head, the size of a .50 caliber. A hand was on his shoulder. Will looked up. This was the end wasn’t it? But no, Hawk was staring back at him, a hard face. The boy started to drag him backwards, leaving a huge, thick blood trail. All kinds of things started after them. But for the next 2 miles they had left, Hawk unloaded the Barret Sniper rifle in them, dropping as many as he could.
They made it to the rift. The room was swaying. Everything was going away. Voices yelled all over. He felt multiple hands picking him up, into the rift. The light, purple light. Or was it white now? The darkness was swallowing everything.
Penguin. He remembered that voice yelling with someone else. “Well who else wants to volunteer hmm?” a gun shot. “We can’t let them through the Rift! It closes after 5 people anyway! There are six of us!”
“We’ll make it work!” a voice yelled. Who was that? Vulture, he decided.
“Sure we will!” Penguin yelled. “But not now! GO! Eagle won’t make it!”
“JUST GO!” Hawk demanded. And the room was gone. Into the purple, not the darkness....
2 years later…
11/15/2011 6:11:27 PM
Rome, Italy. Outside Gino’s bakery.
Cesare raised his hand in acknowledgement, a smile on his face. “I understand Gino! My fault, I’ll come first thing in the morning to repair it!” Gino, a chubby man wearing an apron and a chef’s hat, smiled and laughed, waving the kid off. Cesare shrugged and began to run, as always, through the cobblestone streets.
After a few yards he found a sturdy building, and started his climb, grabbing makeshift handholds, and placing his foot where needed to keep balance. A few voices and gasps from below, but he was used to that by now. His jean shorts reached maybe 3 inches below his knees, and medium adult black shirt that hugged his body, with torn running shoes in navy blue and black, all swayed with the higher altitude. Maybe 25 feet off the ground he reached the roof, smiling and pulling him up to the gutter, and then he was rolling onto it. His hands dusted off his pants then he surveyed everything around him. Not a bad building for a view at all. He smiled even broader, if that was possible. His black hair and blue eyes moved together as he turned his head, taking in the view of Rome. Perfect temperature, perfect breeze, perfect day. The moon began to shine as the sun was setting and the bakeries were closing down for the night, an early start being anticipated.
Cesare felt something on his shoulder, which made him jump and turn around quickly. A hooded figure threw something onto his mouth, disabling him from speech. The fear kicked in, and Cesare threw several punches, catching the man squarely twice into the jaw. It stumbled him back, and Cesare began to run, hard, breathing heavily. He was too high for anyone to ever get him quickly enough, so he jumped the distance between the next roof, rolling onto it, and shifting his momentum back to his feet. As if he was doing a speed run like he always did. That’s what he convinced himself. It was just a game, like always. He just couldn’t lose. People behind him were catching up, maybe 3 of them, all wearing pure black ninja garments, but hoods instead of masks. They were as agile as him. “What do you want!?” he yelled. “If this is your turf or something sorry, I’ll leave! Stop chasing me!” But they kept the chase up. He had maybe a yard ahead of them, and intended to stay that way.
A huge gap was ahead of him, between this building and the church. Cesare stopped, crouched down got a running start and let out his breath, yelling and jumping feet first. The wind was through everything, lifting up his hair and stopping his heart. 1 second, 2 seconds. Time seemed to slow down. “Please Lord, please Lord, and please Lord, PLEASE” he silently prayed to his Father. His feet hit the smooth surface of the round dome. He slipped forward, then back, and with a lunge he hopped up, mid air again, and grabbed the edge of the cross on top of the church, alive. He stood there, hanging, and let the jest of things sink in. He laughed a chuckle at first, then a hardy laugh. He did it.
Now to get up. Cesare used his upper arm strength, pulling himself up, and onto the top of the cross. “Oh thank you God and Jesus and Mary and Joseph and everyone else!” he said out loud, making the cross on his body and kissing his fingers, then looking up at the sky. He kept his balance, and inspected around. He could make it to the bell tower from here, so he jumped forward, falling a few feet and grabbing the brick handholds. Cesare proceeded to climb up, his heart still racing. And once he reached the top and closed his eyes pulling himself over halfway before he felt something on his neck do the rest of the job. His heart stopped. He dared to open his eyes. The pursuers were all there. He choked him, and Cesare struggled, grabbing the fist around neck and leaning back. The man smashed him back into the edge of the bell tower, and punched him one with his left hand into his face. “Cesare Gallo Di’ Roma?” he questioned. Cesare spat up blood.
“Well now you make sure you have the right person!” he scoffed. Another punch landed square on his face, and the man lifted him up, tossing him to the rest of his subordinates. The gagged him, and stuck a black cloth over his face. Cesare fluttered his eyes, struggling and, then eventually fell limp, letting the darkness swallow him.
11/15/2011 6:11:27 PM
Moscow, Russia. Outside Ground Forces of the Russian Federation recruiting office.
“Well Viktor seems as if everything is in check. You will do well for the Motherland, comrade!” the recruiter gave a Russian salute to the 17 year old, which returned the gesture, and shook his hand firmly, assembling his papers. With the brown folder in hand he exited the office, and met up with a girl about his age. The family resemblance was profound, as they were twins.
“Well?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m in!” Viktor grinned, opening his arms. His sister rolled her eyes, but smiled and hugged him.
“Proud of you little brother.” She joked, as she was older by 2 minutes. Viktor rolled his eyes, patting the girl’s head as he was a clear foot taller.
“Little? Really Anna, give it up. I’m 6’5” and you are, what, 5ft?” he laughed as she shoved him.
“5’5”!” Anastasia reminded. “Really, not everyone can be as freakishly tall as you are.”
Viktor laughed again. “Come then, where Mother and Father still at the grocery?” The sister nodded and together they walked through the feet thick snow and ice-carrying wind, felt hats and scarves on with thick wool coats and mitts. Winter in Russia was unforgiving. General Winter, they used to call it, since throughout the years the winter always halted invading armies. This was halting the busy streets, making vehicles nearly stop every 5 seconds to clear the snow.
Far away, a man in pure white and a hood was following these two children. Binoculars in hand, he whispered in a language strange to this land: English. “Get them.” The man beside him nodded, and lifted up his fingers in a thumb up symbol, left it there for a second, then dropped back down. If everything went according to plan….
And there it was. A huge shot rang through the air, and everyone immediately started to run. Then the other 2 men ran out of the alley by the twins, and shot the net. Viktor fell to his right from the force, his feet tangled up. Then his hands were tied up, a cloth put over his head. He struggled, cursing violently. “I told you we should’ve put the gag on this one.” A voice muttered, dragging the boy away.
Anastasia was put on her knees, hands tied behind her back. An immediate fear and adrenaline rush made her do a back flip roll forward, kicking the man in the chin behind her. She ripped out the rope and tried to gather her feet on the slick ice underneath the now, but someone slipped something into her mouth from behind. She kicked backwards, elbowed, did everything? No use. A man in all white and a hood – so camouflaged it as hard to make him out even 4 feet in front of you – tapped her check, smiled and put a black bag over her head. Hands and feet were then tied with metal wire instead of rope, and she felt herself being thrown into the back of a vehicle, on top of something else. She landed with an “oof” than was not her own, and then the light was shut off.
“Anna?” a voice below her asked cautiously. Anastasia let out a sigh of relief. She couldn’t talk, but instead mumbled in acknowledgement to her brother.
They seemed to travel for hours. Finally, the SUV made a right and slowed to a stop. The trunk opened and both of the kids were picked up and thrown onto the hard concrete. The bag was removed, and the gag taken off of Anastasia, immediately making her coughs uncontrollably with a dry mouth. Viktor however, had the bag still on, and he was taken to it on top of the trunk, two men holding him down. They pulled out a bowl and poured a liquid onto his bag. ‘Water-boarding’ Anastasia immediately thought. They were water boarding him. “What is your name?” the middle man demanded in a calm Russian voice. Viktor was struggling all over, but couldn’t break out of the iron grip. When the water was over he erupted into a coughing fit, and they removed the bag up to his nose, letting him vomit the water out of his lungs.
“Viktor.” He groaned. “Viktor Tchaikovsky.” He coughed again. “What do you want?” the bag was pulled over his mouth again, and the water came back. Viktor struggled, but to no use.
“What do you know about the Play?” The same man spoke again. A few seconds later Viktor coughed and vomited again.
“I’ve never heard of them! What do you want with us?” he begged. The middle man nodded to the other two and the bagged Viktor once again, dragging him inside of the building, which Anastasia now realized was a Mansion. A shadow loomed over her and picked her up, and though she struggled, she was thrown inside alongside her brother, and the world turned black.
11/15/2011 9:10:03 PM
Paris, France. Eiffel Tower immediate area.
Elise had long dreamed of this day, to go alone into the greatest monument her country had built, the amazing tourist attraction people even from the States came to see. The Eiffel Tower.
She walked with her hands in her fur coat pockets, her collar up. The winter chill was settling in, and a light snow, gentle yet cold, was falling quietly. The wind passed by her, picking up the white snowflakes and making itself visible. She sighed, her breath also visible, and closed her eyes, waiting.
Hard footsteps broke her concentration – the sound heels or boots make on concrete. Someone knocked her forward, almost making her fall to the ground with the force. Her breath was knocked out, but two cold hands steadied her, one on her torso and one on her back. “Désolé!” a male voice whispered, out of breath, in broken French. She glared, looking up, and about to yell at the rude person, when she caught herself, feeling intimidated. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, warning her and bringing out her primitive instincts of Fight or Flight. “Désolé! Je ne voulais pas…umm... “He whispered, trying to remember more words to say, yet distracted by something.
The man – or boy, he couldn’t be older than her, which was 17 – was scarred, mostly on his face, and his hands. His black hair was close cropped and edged around the sides; through it grew up to about an inch or two. A huge scar, clearly defined on his tan skin, stretched from his right eye down to his lip, in a jagged lightning-like line. His eyes were a strange Amber-hazel, and his eyebrows thick and bushy.
For such a chilly day he wore short sleeves and regular long jeans, with black boots matching his black and red shirt. She gathered herself and stood up straight, backing away slowly. The boy looked back and forth, then his eyes caught movement to Elise’s left, his eyes widening in horror. The boy dashed in one fluid motion, and knocked over crates a street seller was unloading to block his path, running away.
5 figures in all white suits sprinted after him, carrying some type of weapon. The word ‘gun’ immediately popped into her head. As a matter of Karma, she wondered what to do. Go after him or just stay where she was, act as if nothing had happened. The world slowed down for that choice, but Elise only blinked and started after him slowly at first, then she started into a light jog after them all.
11/15/2011 6:11:27 PM
Paris, France. Eiffel Tower suburban area.
How could they have found him? He had taken every precaution, moving from place to place and splitting up from the original groups.
They were like Nazis, with the torture, you would say anything, admit to anything, to get rid of the pain. Hawk had warned everyone of this during the first week.
Now Eagle was running. He knew he was the last one to find. The last one to get captured. He had no choice but to run now. This was his job, as a Runner. That’s what the Producer’s were calling them now. They caught 4 out of the 5 Runners, it was all over the news, were it couldn’t be clearly seen.
First in April they had found Ming snooping around Beijing, even though they had all agreed to never return to a place as obvious as where they were born. From there it spiraled downwards. Within a few months they caught Vulture, then Owl and recently, a little longer than it had taken to locate the others, they ambushed Hawk in Germany and captured him. There had been a cover story about a huge Riot breaking out in Berlin after a Rave party, but William spotted his old friend darting around near the back of the video they showed.
Will thought about all this as he ducked under different pipes, scaling different walls. The girl had slowed him down. If it wasn’t for her, he would have a chance. But not now. The Tagger’s could easily close the distance, and they didn’t have to, not that they brought out their weapons. A .357 magnum revolver could travel at, what, a football field per second? He couldn’t out run that, only hope their aim was as bad as their cause.
He made his way to a Dead end, but thought quickly, and started to climb on the brick houses. Each loose brick he used as a stepping stone of a handhold, jumping up as he cold to reach different loose bricks. Will pulled himself up, rolled onto the roof and landed on his feet in one motion, as came second nature now, and continued to dash. All of Paris could see him now. He didn’t care, his life was already over. 2 years had been a good time to be free. He knew he couldn’t outrun them, that this was the end, but he would at least go down with a fight.
Will skidded to a stop at the end of the long rooftop. No way he could make this jump. He closed his eyes, heart pounding, and turned around, scanning his enemies who were only 20 feet away now. He could take down 3 at least. That would be enough. He started to walk towards them, and at 5 feet away they all stopped in a V formation, pulling out their handguns. He looked to his right, and in his peripheral vision, saw them do the same, curious. That was his only chance. In an instant he ran towards them, crouching down, leaning back, and extending his leg. He spiraled around on the gravel on top of the flat roof, and tripped one of the foes. A handgun sounded off just as he stood up, and felt the breeze fly by his left arm. Luck had saved him.
Will grabbed the man nearest to his left with one arm, pulling him towards him. He twisted his elbow, pounding his chest, and heard a gun go off. A bullet flied into his meat-shield, and Will threw him off. He put his foot on the downed man’s chest to his right with one stomp, knocking the air out of him. Another bullet went off, this time slicing straight through his right biscep. He gasped in pain. Then fell forward, pushing himself off and tackling the man in front of him. He rolled the man over so he was on the bottom, as another bullet let loose. The man’s head was suddenly gone just as Will completed his roll. The boy heard a sickening thump in front of him, but he refused to look. He jumped back and picked up a fallen revolver by his foot, finishing off the downed man, then cocking back the hammer and pointing it one handed to his right.
The last two men looked at each other, guns at the ready in both hands. Will could take out one of them before the other would shoot him. But which one?
It didn’t matter. He closed his eyes, not wanting to his own death, and shot the left man in the torso. Just as he wiped his other hand around to the right, he heard something break the wind to his right, sailing pass his ear. A rock thanked the right man on the forehead, knocking him back. Will blinked, and shot the last round in the revolver into that man as he fell back, ending him.
He let go of the pistol, letting it fall to the ground with a clang. He turned around and saw a sight he had not expected. The girl, staring back at him with brown eyes, her brown hair blowing gently and falling over her right shoulder down to about her rib cage. Her dark brown fur coats, and black long pants with black heels, were a sight to see in his hell of a world. She reminded him of…someone else…He almost smiled as something tackled him from behind, elbowing him in the back of the head.
He realized what it was just as the world had gone black. He had shot the left man in the torso. Not a kill shot.
11/15/2011 6:14:32 PM
Paris, France. Eiffel Tower suburbia rooftop.
Elise could only blink as the boy went down. She started to back up, looking for another rock. There was nothing. The man on top of him rolled over onto his back, grabbing his gut and groaning. She turned around to run, only to meet a huge, 6 foot+ figure looming over her. She lost her breath, and stumbled down, crawling backwards. The huge man smiled, his face almost invisible by his all white camouflage and hood. He spoke in a deep voice “You shouldn’t have gotten involved.”
Elise closed her eyes, praying in French, while she felt something hard and bulky slam into her forehead, knocking her out instantly.