Chapter 11 - Old Habits
Manhattan, New York
David sat at the foot of Eve’s bed, a spot usually occupied by Alice, and Eve watched as he looked curiously at her, wondering if she was reading his thoughts and what she wanted to talk to him about. Her insight into his mind, however, was one that she quickly disconnected after some of his proposals began worrying her.
---“So,” he said. “You have something you want to say?”
---“Yes,” Eve smiled, although the rest of her expression didn’t quite match up. She felt a knot growing in her stomach, worrying that she was making a bad decision, before pushing those thoughts aside. “I noticed, David, that you and Alice have become rather close over the past few days.”
---“Well, I wouldn’t say we’re close–”
---“Good,” Eve interrupted. “Keep it that way. Alice is my best friend, David. I don’t want her getting involved in anything with you. This isn’t something personal,” she added, feeling the hurt and offense coming from David; “I trust you. I don’t know you particularly well, but I do trust you. You’re holding yourself together despite everything that’s going on, and I respect that. God knows I’m not managing, and Stephen’s been keeping to himself so I can’t speak for him.”
---“I think you’re doing fine, Eve.” Sympathy. Pity. Perhaps a little worry. David’s emotions were making Eve rather uncomfortable, a new facet of her power she didn’t seem to be able to get away from. She hadn’t noticed it when she was only interacting with her parents or Alice – she knew them well enough that she could tell how they were feeling anyway. It was the introduction of strangers that had brought it to her attention, and it sufficed to say that she didn’t like it.
---“This isn’t about me. This is about her.” Eve paused, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath in before looking at David once again. “You’ve told me that we are of interest to a number of dangerous people. And from what you’ve told me, these people are not confined by morality, by basic human decency, they will do anything and everything they can to get to us. Alice is already in danger as my best friend, I don’t want her put in any more.”
---David was silent. He didn’t seem too emotionally affected, just a little disappointed. Slowly, he nodded. “Okay. If you think it’s for the best.”
---As David finished, Eve heard ringing downstairs. “Hold on, I’ll just be a minute,” she began, standing up as David leaned over and put his hand on his forehead, walking out of her room and down to the phone.
---“Hello?” she began, picking it up.
---“Hello,” the voice on the other end replied. It sounded female, but it wasn’t the bored tone of one of those ridiculous advertisers, or a voice she recognised. It sounded anxious, even scared. “Is this Sarah Winters?”
---“No, it’s her daughter, Eve.” Something about the person on the line didn’t seem right to Eve. She felt the urge to throw down the phone and get away from it as quickly as possible. “Can I take a message?”
---There was a low beep on the other end of the line, indicating that the person had hung up. But even as she set the phone down, Eve couldn’t lose that petrified feeling. She stood still, trying to take deep breaths, but nothing would assuage it. Then it hit her:
---The feeling wasn’t hers.
Eve ran up the stairs, throwing open the door to her room. David was lying on the ground, writhing, and although his eyes were closed it was like someone was holding a torch up behind his eyelids, illuminating them. She rushed over to him, crouching over him and taking his hand. “David! David, wake up. David, wake up now.”
---She could feel the emotion pouring off him, the panic, the sheer terror of the moment. Whatever he was seeing, it was not good.
- - -
Darkness. A high-pitched ringing, penetrating David’s ears, forcing him down on to his knees as he tried to fight against it. Flashes of... something. Maybe not the same thing. An aeroplane. A man in a hooded cloak. A girl who appeared to be aflame. He was screaming, but the darkness wouldn’t let it out. It was choking him, strangling him, a living mass of utter blackness. It was freezing cold, sliding down his throat, trying to fill him up entirely, to eradicate him. And still the flashes went on: a teenager at a store counter. Eve with ginger hair that reached her shoulders. Then the man in the hooded cloak again, standing over the store counter he’d seen before, but the hood was down now, David could see his face, bald and pale and skeletal, its eyes white and lifeless and its nose a gaping hole. But as he watched, it began changing, becoming more human, the nose and hair rapidly growing as the monstrous creature turned into what looked like a man in his late twenties. And suddenly the darkness was gone, his throat was empty, but the vision still surrounded him. He stood up, breathing a sigh of relief.
---Then he realised the man was looking at him.
He wasn’t doing anything, just standing there and staring. He tilted his head, slowly, as though to get a better look at him. Slowly, a wicked grin spread across his face, and David was reminded of his inhumanity as his teeth became visible, sharp and white and animalistic. Then it was darkness again, but not the same as before; this time it was truly just darkness, and an indistinguishable white shape, gradually coming closer. Or was it growing larger? Regardless, it continued becoming more visible, forming lines, a simplistic shape of two identical triangles, placed so that the one below was reflected on to the one on top, touching right at the corner, almost like an hourglass. And then it kept growing, or approaching, and David tried to shield his eyes as it began to look as though he was about to be swallowed into it–
- - -
Stephen sat over David, watching him. He had been lying peacefully for quite a while, the initial fitful struggle long behind him.
He, Eve and the unconscious David had been taken by the American Cult back to their base, and given a living area reserved for them; six bedrooms and a large room in which they were expected to spend their time while not in them. His reunion with Alex upon his arrival was not particularly pleasant, given that he had almost immediately begun assaulting him with snide remarks which Stephen expected it had taken him all of the last four days to work out.
---This theory held extra merit given he had only had three such remarks.
Stephen didn’t despise Alex. He didn’t hate him, he didn’t dislike him, he just didn’t care about him. He could continue being a prick if he wanted to – compensating for insecurity by asserting one’s masculinity wasn’t exactly something he was unused to, given it’s prevalence as a pastime among teenage boys.
---Claiming to be a deity, however, was not so common a pastime.
Liam was condescending, egotistical, brash, arrogant, and pretty much just Alex turned up to eleven with a little more gratitude in place of Alex’s brooding and self-loathing, another common pastime of teenage boys in romance fiction that just came out as needy rather than sexy in real life.
---This left David and Eve as the only likeable Marked, although the latter slightly more so. David had a major flaw in his need for control, which had led him to make himself the ‘leader’ of the group. Sure, there were some factors which made him an ideal team leader, but Eve both gave out less threats of violence and could actually use her power effectively, a power which was just as useful as being abysmal at seeing the future in a leading position, if not more so. This wasn’t even considering himself for the position, although he would make a pretty good candidate too.
Suddenly, David’s eyes snapped open and he sat up so quickly Stephen wondered for a moment if the few seconds of silence following this meant he had managed to cause himself minor brain damage. “Where are we?”---“Apparently, we’re in the American headquarters of the Cult of the Marked,” Stephen answered. “Everyone’s fine, by the way, although Liam’s a prick.”
---David laid his forehead against his hand, his index finger and thumb pressing into his temples. “Yeah, I figured as much when I– Liam is here?”
---Stephen nodded. “He pulled Alex out when Thompson tried to kill him, then handed him over to Crux.”
---“He try to convince you all that you’re gods yet?”
---“Surprisingly, no. Apparently he had a go at Alex, though, according to his abridged (if dramatised) version of his magnificent rescue, in which he telekinetically threw Thompson into a wall and gave him a concussion.”
---“And there I was thinking he was useless,” David half sighed, half chuckled.
---“Maybe we should put him on a leash, send him out anytime the heathens go over the top. Who knows, perhaps we might even tie Alex up with him if they get on so well. Make them our offensive force.”
---Suddenly David sat up straighter, his eyes widening and a panicked expression appearing on his face as he came to some realisation. “Alice!”
---“Is fine, David. She wasn’t in the house when they came in for me, and they weren’t exactly knocking doors down guns blazing. Or knocking doors down and attacking with chloroformed rags. Thanks again for that warning.”
---“You still holding that against me?”
---“No. I just want to make you feel guilty.”
---David was silent for a few seconds, glaring at Stephen. “Yeah, Liam is such a prick.”
---“I resent that comparison.”
---“Anyway,” David continued, despite Stephen having made clear the deep crater that his heart now carried as a result of his thoughtless comment, “I need to talk to everyone.”
---“Are you able to stand alright?”
---David threw his legs over the edge of the bed, pushing himself up. His hand went to his head once again as he almost fell, before quickly regaining his composure. “Apparently so.”
- - -
David sat before Eve, Alex and Stephen, while Liam slouched on a couch off to the side, watching him suspiciously with his legs folded and arms crossed, attempting to appear dark and unconcerned. “I haven’t had any visions of the Marked of Necromancy. All the rest of you, apart from Liam who confronted me too quickly, I saw in visions so that I could find you. But never Necromancy. This had crossed my mind before, but I’d never given it too much thought, preferring to wait until one came along as it had for everyone else. Then, as the phone rang in Eve’s house I remembered the vision in which I’d first seen her, realising that I was sitting there as it was becoming a reality, and along with it another vision I’d had right before we were broken out of Crux’s cells. I had it while wondering where I’d be in the future, and I know that I glimpsed myself in it, and I figured that that was why it had happened, that I had inadvertently activated my power. So I tried to use it to find the last of us.”
---There was silence, everyone clearly hanging on David’s every word, awaiting what happened next, how he’d ended up writhing on Eve’s bedroom floor. Then Liam spoke up. “And?”
---“And I can’t remember. There are flashes, but none of them are connected, glimpses of premonitions. An aeroplane flying across the sky at night, Eve and a girl who was on fire, and... and...”
---“And what?” Eve asked, sounding slightly concerned as David’s hand went to his forehead and his eyes shifted out of focus.
---“I... I can’t remember. I’m not even sure there was anything else, actually, just flashes and this awful ringing, like static interference.”
---“I wonder,” Liam began, unfolding his legs and sitting up straight, “If this might be a result of Necromancy’s person being very likely in Ireland.”
---“The Cult lost contact with their base in Dublin,” Alex added. “And if what David was hearing was static interference, maybe there’s something blocking any kind of information getting out.”
---“The ferry and the mall were both empty,” Stephen put forward. “Like everyone had just disappeared.”
---“We need to get back to Ireland,” David said, standing up.
---“No, you don’t,” a man David didn’t recognise interrupted, standing nearby a door that must have led out into the complex. “It’s too dangerous.”
---“What’s happening there, Johnson?” Alex growled, getting up to face him.
---Johnson was quiet, gathering his thoughts. “We aren’t sure.”
---“The Marked weren’t on their own in that tomb,” Eve cut in as Alex seemed to be preparing himself to shock Johnson to an early grave. “Something else was locked in there with them.”
---Johnson sighed, looking down at her. “No point keeping secrets from a telepath. Yes, we believe that there may have been someone or something else in there, causing the problems in Ireland. There are some very intelligent people involved in our secret, if prospering, faith, and they speculate based on some lines in what recorded history we have of the Marked’s existence that there was an external force involved in their downfall, a force trapped alongside them. You aren’t going to Ireland, not until we can ascertain whether or not it’s safe for you.”
---“One of us is trapped there!” David hissed. “You expect us to just leave them?”
---“Yes,” Johnson replied. “Necromancy will be able to hold their own for the time being, until we find a way to get you there.”
- - -
Johnson knocked on Crux’s door, calmly waiting outside. Today was the day he finally left.
Crux was not an ideal choice for heading the Cult. Oh, he could be charming and charismatic when he felt the urge, but Johnson suspected this was all a matter of personal gain to him. He was constantly trying to one-up everyone else, trying to make England more important. They were already making enough valuable contributions that they’d overtaken America, although he knew that the Irish were just as suspicious of him as his own people were. But, as they say, one should never look a gift lion in the mouth, even one that looks set to come back to bite you regardless.
The albino opened the door, stepping out in his usual crisp white suit. It was a way of mocking everyone else, both by boasting his affluence and showing that his appearance wasn’t something he was embarrassed by, that it was something of pride for him, making it a meaningless weapon. He knew that Crux believed he was unintelligent, as he so often reminded him, but he knew more than the other man would like to think.
---“I suppose that this is where we part ways, then,” Johnson smiled emotionlessly, shaking Crux’s cold hand. He could see him wiping it off on the wall as he walked away, his suit obviously far too precious to be receiving of such a gesture of distaste. “And good riddance.”
- - -
“Crux is gone,” Johnson began, addressing the group, gathered together (apart from Liam, sitting off to the side looking snide and superior and a little congested) like its own little family, the bonds between them having grown over the past few days of despising Liam with every atom of their beings. It was all rather sweet. “His plane took off half an hour ago, and we received confirmation that he was on board. He won’t be causing you any more trouble for now.”
---David nodded thoughtfully in response, demonstrating his maturity and leadership skills.
---“For now, I am providing you–” (while looking at David, likely based on his aforementioned demonstration of maturity and leadership skills) “–with a credit card and an emergency contact number. Something goes wrong, you can call us and we’ll be there.”
---“So basically you’re just kicking us out on our own?” Alex echoed, raising an eyebrow and earning an uncomfortable throat clearing soon to be followed by some bull as an explanation from Johnson.
---“We can’t just keep you here. You aren’t gods yet, you’re just growing into your powers, and we need to let you go out and do that on your own.” Stephen took a moment to hope in vain that Liam would be deemed ‘grown in’ by Johnson and as such be left behind. “It was a difficult decision to make, but we believe it’s the right one. Besides, our primary reason for keeping you here was to protect you from Crux, and that’s no longer a priority.”
---David nodded again, still doing his best to be mature and leading as he maturely led himself to the conclusion that he really just didn’t have a choice. “Okay.”
---Johnson smiled, relieved. “Wonderful.”
---Once he was out of the room, David looked back to the others. “You all do, of course, realise that we can’t go back to our homes now.”
---“They are kind of forbidding us to do so,” Stephen pointed out.
---“Not just us two. All of us. We go back to them, they’re in danger. Crux may be gone, but I have no doubt that he isn’t finished quite yet, and Thompson can’t be too far behind him. We can’t put the people close to us in danger, we can’t tell them anything. Phone your parents, make up awful excuses, do whatever you need to do, but do not tell them the truth, because if they know then they’re going to be in even more danger than they already are.”
---“Alice already knows,” Eve spoke up, adding something for the first time in quite a while. “I told her about my powers, and she knows about you and Stephen.”
---David was quiet for a few seconds, obviously thinking it over, although Stephen was a little suspicious of how quickly he came to a conclusion. “She can be a connection to the outside world. Telling us what’s going on. We aren’t going to hide ourselves away completely, but she’d be helpful to keep us up-to-date on anything important happening.”
---Eve bit her lower lip, seeming slightly uncomfortable with the proposal, and then sighed. “I suppose that could work.”
- - -
Johnson was not an optimistic man. He did not often expect good news, and when it came he was always at least a little suspicious of it. But the positivity of this scrap of information was just good enough for him to be able to believe it was true.
A member of staff sent in to clean Crux’s room had come across a bloodied tissue lying behind the bin, as though it had just missed its mark. Thankfully, he took the initiative to get a pair of gloves before lifting it and presenting it to Johnson, and the results it had yielded were fantastic.
---Crux was sick.
In fact, not only was Crux sick, he was dying. Among members of the Council it was common knowledge that Crux had developed regenerative abilities at a young age (a fact which had helped him very much in securing power in England). If it weren’t, they would have tried to assassinate him a few more times by now after the first couple of attempts had failed. But it appeared that he had met his match when forced to wage war against his own body. There would be no way to operate upon him, no way to remove whatever tumorous growth was plaguing him. Crux was all but finished. And if he had been weakened, then there was a chance that he might not be quite up to the same standards in terms of his healing.
Johnson was not an optimistic man. But he was an opportunistic one, and he had seen his chance.
- - -
Eve would not have taken David for the spending spree type. In fairness, he wasn’t really, he’d just paid for hotel rooms and given her the card to go get new clothes for everyone (because that wasn’t sexist at all).
---Oh yeah, and he’d bought a car.
---Honestly, Eve had been very tempted to purchase the worst clothes she could see, but her kinder side had taken hold.
---Her kinder side would pay dearly when she was done lugging those bags around.
She couldn’t help but think about how much simpler things had been before all of this. It wasn’t even a month since her powers had first revealed themselves and already her world had been turned upside-down, and it was more than appropriate to say that she didn’t like it. She had liked her life. Sure, she had complained about it, but she liked it. She had Sam, she had Alice, she had her music and her parents and that was enough for her. She felt secure, she felt safe. That wasn’t something most teenagers could say for themselves.
---And then this had happened. Everything was wrong now, she was barely holding on. Well, David wasn’t taking everything from her – not quite yet.
---She’d bought herself a phone. Nothing too fancy, just something very plain and very simple with just enough credit on it. She’d already texted Sam to say that she’d changed her number.
Eve slowed down, coming to a stop as she felt the hairs on the back of her neck standing up, cautiously turning her head to look behind her. There was a man, across the mall, and he was just standing there and looking at her, his eyes boring into her. He was lean, fairly tall, with a slender face and sharp features, his skin pale and his hair dark, although even at this distance Eve could see the threads of silver set amongst it, just as in his meticulously crafted facial hair. But despite all this she was drawn back to his eyes, those emerald eyes, shining with an unnatural brightness as they met hers for a fraction of a second and his thin lips were pulled into a smirk. Eve glanced down suddenly as her phone began ringing, but once she grabbed it and looked up he was gone again, as though melted into the crowd. With a sigh, she looked at the screen. Alice.
---“Hello?” she began, picking it up.
---“Hello,” a smug voice answered in a thick Irish accent, and Eve froze.
---“What do you want, Liam?” she replied, her voice shaking. Her heart was beating far faster than it should, pressing itself up against her rib cage, each beat reverberating through her body with a force she wouldn’t know the organ had if it hadn’t been exercising it so often recently.
---“I have your friend here,” Liam taunted from the other end of the line.
---“How did you find her?”
---“Does it matter?” Liam sighed exasperatedly. “The point here is that I have her. And if you want her to live, you’re going to have to do exactly as I say...”
- - -
The warehouse was dilapidated and dimly-lit, and Liam stood at its centre with Alice floating some distance off the ground, bound in rope. “I assume you realise why you’re here.”
---“Let her go, Liam,” Eve hissed, glaring at the sixteen-year-old. Liam simply laughed and shook his head.
---“When are you going to realise? We’re not like them. We’re something more. Something better. We are gods, Eve, and yet the rest of you insist on being like everyone else,” Liam spat. Eve could feel the anger and resentment pouring off of him, setting her on edge. “Well, I’m tired of trying to work around this. I’m an opportunist by nature, Eve, so now I’m just going to take advantage of it. I can hurt the people you care about and no one can do a thing to stop me. You hold no such power over me.”
---“Liam, just take a moment to think rationally about what you’re doing,” Eve argued. “You don’t want to kill anyone.”
---“Before Crux brought me in, I was about to overturn a train full of passengers.”
---“Fine. But do you really want to risk the anger of the other Marked?”
---“I don’t have to, Eve,” Liam grinned. “Once you accept who you are, even if you’re forced to, you’ll come to realise that you really are something more.”
---“I’m practical. I make practical decisions, for the greater good.” Liam looked away from Eve, turning his attention to something behind her and she glanced back herself, noticing that Alex was lounging in the doorway. “You can step forward any time.”
---Alex nodded, began walking towards him, stopping next to Eve. “Let Alice go.”
---Liam shook his head, frowning. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
---“Neither of us wants a fight. The others won’t be much longer getting here. David saw what was going to happen.”
---Snarling, Liam launched himself at Alex, letting Alice fall to the ground. Eve ran in, just managing to catch her friend and prevent her from doing any damage to herself before setting herself to work on undoing the rope.
- - -
Alex dived out of the way as Liam launched himself at him, propelled by telekinesis. He saw Eve running in to catch Alice – obviously he’d given up on keeping her afloat, instead focusing his attention on Alex. And that suited him just fine.
---He turned himself to face Liam, now hovering just above the ground, his eyes glowing green. Alex’s own eyes lit up as blue light crackled around his hands, his hair standing on edge as he felt the power rushing through him. It wasn’t the boring situation in the lab, or the desperate attempt to hold Thompson off. It was the same sensation from when he attacked Ryan and his little band, and it was wonderful. Inside, he cursed himself for admitting it, but there would be a time for feeling guilty later. Right now, what mattered was the feeling, that glorious feeling. Liam allowed himself to drop to the ground and began running at him, and electricity lanced out at him from the palm of Alex’s hand before he even knew what he was doing, missing Liam by a hair’s breadth. The power was reflexive, lodged in instinct. Alex could let himself go when he was using it.
---He shook his head, blinking. No. He wouldn’t give in to the power. As good as it felt, he knew that that was just another sign of its danger. Like most other things set to destroy, it was addictive. Liam took advantage of his momentary lapse in concentration to fling some piece of debris lying on the ground at him, but another bolt of electricity and it was obliterated instantly. Alex began walking toward him, flinging electricity at the ground around Liam to stop him from running away, sneering. In the background, he noted that Eve had freed Alice, and was now standing, looking at him. Liam threw himself into the air again, flying toward Alex, and he pulled back into a defensive position he wasn’t even aware he knew. Then suddenly Liam was veering off course, headed towards Alice and Eve, and Alex swore, running to intercept him. Liam crashed into him and they both fell to the ground, Liam’s hands around his throat, trying to crush his windpipe.
---“I don’t want to kill you,” Liam explained. “Do you understand that? You’re going to nod, I’m going to get up off of you and then you’re going to give up.”
---Alex brought his knee up into the other boy’s groin and he cried out, his grip loosening as Alex headbutted him and he fell back, swearing. His nose was bleeding when he stood again, stumbling toward him and growling. Alex picked himself up and ran at him, but he collided with some invisible barrier that Liam must have set up. Where the ##### were the others?
---“I knew I shouldn’t have afforded you mercy,” Liam muttered, still making his way closer to Alex. Just a few more seconds... “I should have realised you weren’t going to listen. Now, who do I have to threaten to make you complicit?”
---“Go to #####,” Alex smiled, grabbing Liam’s ankle and pumping electricity into him, the Marked of Telekinesis’ body going rigid as he felt the shock before Alex let go and allowed him to fall to the ground, unconscious. David and Stephen burst in just in time for Alex to get up, the light in his eyes fading as he made his way towards them. “Could’ve done with a little bit of help there.”
---“You handled it,” David said, walking past Alex without a second glance, focusing his attention on making sure Eve and – more importantly – Alice were okay. Alex disregarded it, making his way to the door where Stephen was still standing, looking fairly unperturbed by the whole ordeal.
---“You look a tad ruffled,” Stephen noted, looking him over.
---“You should’ve seen the other guy,” Alex sighed, looking over to David, who was helping Eve to walk Alice over. “What do you suggest we do with Liam?”
---David glanced down at where the sixteen-year-old was lying on the ground, glaring contemptfully at him. “Leave him. He’s not worth the effort that carrying him would entail.”
- - -
Somewhere in North America
Liam opened his eyes slowly to the blinding light glaring into his face, blinking a few times as he tried to bring the world around him into focus. It was a heavy contrast, everything around him almost entirely in darkness, only that one source of illumination shining down on it. However, it was quickly turned out of his face and his eyes adjusted to the darkness quickly, everything around him suddenly much more distinguishable. The room he was in was small and dirty, and he was strapped down to a metal chair. There were people in scientist’s coats standing around him, some simply looking and others frantically scribbling into notepads. And standing out from all of them was a man in a white suit with his arms folded behind his back.
---“I hope you’re comfortable, Liam,” Crux began, taking a step forward into the pool of light given by the lamp that had been over the Marked of Telekinesis. “Because you’re going to be with us for some time.”
---Liam tried to cry out as a man stepped forward and jabbed a needle into his arm, but he found himself entirely drained of energy, his tongue lolling uselessly in his mouth so that all that came out was a small whimper as he watched his blood beginning to rise up into the cylinder.