Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 22

In the meantime Justin Church was feeling like a kid in a candy store while Artis Frederic was giving him the grand tour of Atlantech's facility. There were tons of fascinating gadgets and gizmos that Justin couldn't take his eyes off as well as lots of large machines.

"I can't believe I've never been here before," he exclaimed excitedly as he stopped to observe one of the smaller machines. "What took me so long?"

Artis stopped and turned to smile at him while adjusting his glasses. "Well it's an honor having you here, Corporal Church. And I do mean that. Because as soon as Ms. Williams delivered the word that we'd be working together I couldn't believe my ears. She's told me so much about your abilities, and of course your passion for it as well. You're a lot like me."

Justin chuckled nervously and cleared his throat when he suddenly spotted two lab technicians, a male and female heading in their direction. They both had a slight gray tint to the color of their skin and the male had short dark green hair while the female had long deep purple hair that was pulled back out of her face. They stopped and bowed their heads before Artis and then noticed Justin.

"Who is your new apprentice?" The male inquired as he eyed Justin with curiosity.

"Oh, um,"Artis cleared his throat. "Well it seems a proper introduction is in order here," he nodded at Justin. "I'd like you to meet two of my most valued workers. This is Onuris, he said pointing to the male, and Dendera he nodded at the female.

"Are they Tjatey?" Justin had to ask even though he knew the answer was obvious.

"Yes they certainly are," Artis answered. "In fact they were Tjatey warriors,"

"Yes it's true," nodded Dendera. "We served under the command of the great Ammon."

Justin's eyes lit up. "The Ammon? From the war on Earth?"

"Yes," she replied. "But it is a war we regret very deeply. We were misled."

"Misled indeed," added Onuris. "But after coming here and building Atlantis City most of us have given up the life of war. We only wish to live in peace with the humans. Though I know forgiveness is out of the question."

The corners of Justin's mouth suddenly turned down.

"Well a lot of us have forgiven your people," Artis chimed in as he slid his hands into the pockets of his lab coat. "And I'm sure someday the others will too. But for now we'll have to focus all our attention on our little project, which I have proudly named Galactic Knight."

"Why knight?" Justin wondered.

"Because the goal here is to strengthen our defenses," Artis replied. "And to do that we'll have to first concentrate on the armor itself."

"I see," Justin stroked his chin.

"That and Galactic Knight just sounds really cool, don't you think?"

Justin shrugged. "Eh? I suppose. So when do I get to see the rest of the wreckage?"

"Soon," Artis nodded. "But first I want to show you something else." He began to walk away then stopped and signaled with his hand for Justin to follow. "Just wait till you feast your eyes on this. You're going to absolutely love it!"

Meanwhile at The Card Shack, Maxwell Graham was busy barking orders at a couple of workmen he hired to remove the old carpeting and install the new navy blue one he personally picked out himself. It was long overdue as far as he was concerned, especially since that stain from a few nights ago had become nothing but an eyesore and needed to go. But while the two men were hard at work ripping up and rolling up pieces of the carpeting the bar remained open and Enrique was busy as ever while ducking his head as one of the large carpet rolls unexpectedly swung in his direction as the men were turning it around.

"You better watch where you're going with that!" Maxwell harped at the men as they nearly knocked over some of the glasses. "You break anything in my establishment, and you'll pay for it, you understand me?"

Enrique uttered a sigh of relief after quickly moving one of the glasses out of the way. Well that was a close one, he thought wiping his brow with the sleeve of his shirt when out of the corner of his eye he spotted Victoria as she walked in looking absolutely radiant dressed in a lovely long red satin gown with matching gloves along with a striking silver diadem that was adorned with beads and rubies. She smiled and raised a hand to wave at him but then stopped and looked down to see the barren floor beneath her feet.

"What in heavens is going on around here?" She demanded to know. Then noticed the two workers heading her way carrying a large roll of carpeting. "Are you remodeling the place already, Maxwell?"

"Just the flooring for now," Maxwell responded while looking rather surprised to see her so early. "Whatever are you doing here at this hour? And what's with that tawdry getup hmm?" He squinted his eyes.

"Hmph!" She stuck her nose in the air. "For your information, Mr. Graham, I'm here because I'm expecting somebody."

Maxwell narrowed his eyes at her. "So What? You've got a date then, is that it? And you've arranged to meet the fool here?"

"It's not a date," she corrected him. "In fact I don't even know who he is, but as you can see I came prepared just the same."

Enrique frowned and turned his back in order to hide the jealously he was feeling now.

"Then how in bloody hell can you meet someone if you don't even know who they are?" Maxwell crossed his arms. "And dare I ask if it's that damned stalker who left those letters for you. Are you really going to take his bait, Miss Thompson?"

"Why yes I am," she answered proudly with her hands on her hips. "And for your information he's my secret admirer, not a stalker! And you'd better stay out of it."

Maxwell scowled at her now as she made her way over to the bar and sat down.

"Enrique, sweetie," she cooed. "Would you please get me a drink? I need something to calm my nerves while I wait."

"Sure, Miss Thompson," he forced a smile as he turned back around. "Anything specific you have in mind?"

"Hmm..." She thought for a moment. "How about Star-crossed? I haven't had that drink in ages. "It's the drink for lovers you know?"

"Sure thing," He nodded as he pulled down a glass from the rack. "So uh, I didn't know you had a secret admirer. What do you know about him?"

"Well, I know that he's a soldier," she replied. "And that he also comes here sometimes, which is why I figured I'd have a good chance of running into him since it appears to be a favorite hangout for them."

"Oh," Enrique responded nonchalantly while mixing up her drink and wondering to himself just who this secret admirer of hers could be. It couldn't be that one kid could it? The blond one who was here last night? He did say he came for the game but maybe that was just a cover up and he was really here for her?

"You seem bothered by something, sweetie," Victoria suddenly pointed out. "Is everything alright?"

"Yes," he lied as he finished making her drink and slid it over to her. "I'm just a little tired that's all."

"I see," she blinked. "Well, perhaps I could talk Maxwell into giving you a little time off? Especially since we seem to be in the midst of remodeling things here."

"Oh that won't be necessary," Enrique shook his head. "But a little extra pay wouldn't hurt either."

She reached out and touched his hand. "I'll see what I can do," she smiled.

"So, uh, what exactly am I looking at?" Justin asked stroking his chin while staring inquisitively at a series of intriguing looking machines that lined the walls of the room and looked to be a spitting image of the simulation training pods back at the airbase including everything from the phony cockpit and chair to the radar screen and instrument panels. "So is this my first look at the big upgrade or what?"

"Well, not exactly," Artis answered as he headed over to one of them and sat down while starting it up. "It is related though, I'll tell you that much."

Justin watched as the flat screen on the machine's console clicked on followed by a scrolling message that was hard to make out. Justin scratched his head. "Care to elaborate here?"

"This is a game," Artis turned his head to him and explained. "And not just any game, but one which emulates the AMF's simulation training program and instead will it into a recreational experience. Come on over and have a look for yourself," Artis gestured with his hand.

"We plan on opening an arcade soon, the first ever in Atlantis City at that, and there is where you'll soon find these babies along with many other types of games Atlantech has planned. So what do you think about that, pretty neat huh?"

Justin gave a shrug. "Neat? Sure, but what's the purpose for one of these? And why in cosmos would you make the AMF's private training program available to the public? Isn't that just asking for trouble?"

"Well, it's not the exact program, Corporal Church," Artis explained. "But rather a slight variation of it created for the sole purpose of evoking interest from the public. A sure fire way of gaining new recruits so-to-speak."

Justin crossed his arms and raised a brow. "So I see now. This is the future of the AMF huh?"

"Yes indeed," Artis nodded in response as he rose up from the seat and straightened his back. "Would you care to try it out?"

"Thanks but no thanks," Justin replied. "But I do want to see the rest of that wreckage. That's what I came here for you know?"

"Right," Artis nodded his understanding as he turned to leave. "Well if you'll just follow me this way, I can take you right to it."

Justin followed him out of the room and down a long hallway which led to the elevator and they stepped inside. Artis pushed the ground floor button and the doors closed. They were both quiet as the car began taking them down and as Justin looked over at Artis it appeared as though he were either upset about something or in deep thought. Gee, I hope he's not offended because I didn't want to play his stupid game, Justin sighed. Commander Williams wants me to start taking things more seriously and all this guy wants to do is turn our technology into some kind of plaything? Talk about irresponsible.

"Does she ever talk about me?" Artis suddenly turned and asked him.

Justin met him with a blank stare. "Uh, you mean Commander Williams?"

"Of course," Artis replied as he blushed. "I know it's probably sudden, but I was thinking of asking her out to dinner tonight. Being that it's Valentine's Day, so do you think she would go for it?"

Justin blinked as his mouth hung open unsure of what to say. Is he seriously asking me for my advice right now? Doesn't he already know she's not interested? My god this guy is desperate. Then he stopped when he realized what a hypocrite he was being. Alright, alright, so the guy does sound like me after all. I get it, but I hope this isn't my future too.

"I guess not huh?" Artist shrugged as the elevator suddenly came to a stop at the ground floor and the doors opened. He walked out and continued leading the way as Justin followed while recounting some details of his own he remembered about the crash.

"When it happened we were all in shock," he explained. "Because back then we were foolish to believe we'd accomplished the impossible. That we actually perfected the AF-22 design and that nothing could possibly go wrong, but it did, even after previous test runs and still to this day we haven't been able to pinpoint the exact reason. It's a shame I tell you. Because the lot of us here at Atlantech feel greatly responsible for what happened. Myself personally." Artis sighed deeply as he stopped in front of a large metal door then placed his index finger on a scanner reader to open it.

Justin couldn't help but feel like a complete ass right now for being so judgmental of the guy, especially after learning he's been blaming himself for what happened all these years. It's just too bad, Justin thought as he walked inside the room now and noticed the tables were scattered with the charred pieces from the wreckage. If something like that happened to me, I don't know what I'd do. Probably blame myself too. He sighed. God I hope it doesn't.

As Justin approached the table he noticed all the pieces were labeled as well since most of what he could see was just a bunch of melted scraps and parts. Smart idea, he noted as he crossed his arms. Now why in the galaxy didn't I think of this?

"At one point we even suspected it was suicide," Artis suddenly spoke up as he walked over to one of the disfigured parts and picked it up while looking it over. "But then I ask why would a young soldier want to take his own life? He looked at Justin. "Can you think of a reason?"

Justin frowned and lowered his head. "No I can't." Then he remembered that badly burned portrait he had pulled from the remains of the cockpit. "He had family. And I'm sure it was someone he didn't want to leave behind."

Artis eyed Justin questioningly while tilting his head to the side. "How do you know this? Did you know him?"

"No, I didn't know him," Justin answered. "But I found something you must have missed back when you all retrieved the wreckage. There was a picture in the cockpit of him and some young boy, or at least that's what it looked like to me."

"Do you still have that photo?" Artis suddenly asked.

Justin shook his head. "No, I'm afraid it crumbled into dust before I had a chance to preserve it. But now that I've told you this, do you honestly believe he would've offed himself?"

Artis seemed almost speechless now as he softly shook his head. "No I don't."

In the meantime things were practically dead at The Card Shack as those two workers continued removing the last of the old carpet from the lobby while Maxwell stood in the background puffing on a cigar watching them with impatience. "Come on, move it along already," he mumbled under his breath. "If you haven't bloody noticed I've got a business to run here."

For the time being Victoria appeared to be the only one sitting at the bar and had just started on her second drink when out of the corner of her eye she spotted a soldier walk inside. He looked tall and broad shouldered in his dark burgundy uniform with a clean shaven masculine face and short sandy colored hair. She didn't take her eyes off him as he headed over to the bar and took a seat right next to her while avoiding eye contact completely.

Could he be the one? She wondered to herself as she studied him closely. Why else would he sit right next to me and pretend I'm not even here? She frowned. Well if he thinks I'm going to play along with this game of his, he's got another thing coming.

"Nice day isn't it?" She suddenly commented with a smile while playing with her hair as he turned his head to meet her gaze.

Just look at those green eyes, she thought adoringly. I could just get lost in them. He has to be the one. I'm sure of it!

"Are you kidding me? He remarked with a smile and a soft laugh. "It's never daytime here, but I suppose that's one way to break the ice, isn't it miss?"

She touched her face and sighed deeply. He's also got a nice sense of humor, just like his in his letters.

Enrique rolled his eyes as he stood behind the counter with his back facing them while washing out some glasses in the sink. He seemed lost in despair until the soldier suddenly called for his attention.

"Excuse me, kid," the soldier announced. "But could I trouble you for something to drink?"

"Certainly," Enrique responded without even turning around. "What can I get for you?"

"Just a shot of bourbon for now," the soldier replied and cleared his throat as he picked up a newspaper off the counter and began skimming an article on the front page.

"Bourbon huh?" Victoria smiled at him playfully as she leaned forward. "Smart man. So tell me, do you come here often?"

"Sometimes," he answered. "We just finished our training session for the day so I figured a good stiff drink would do me some good."

"I see," her eyes sparkled. "So tell me, what's your name?"

"Here you go!" Enrique suddenly interrupted them as he set the shot glass down in front of the soldier. "And say, didn't I see you in here just yesterday too?"

Victoria scowled.

"Why yes you did, kid," the soldier replied as he picked up the glass and downed it quickly. "I'm Sergeant Dickerson, remember?"

"Oh that's right," Enrique nodded. "Now I do remember you. So how are you today?"

"Hmph," Victoria began to pout as she slouched while resting her chin on her gloved palm.

"Good, thank you," Chris answered while observing the activity of the worker men. "I can see you guys are busy today. So, new flooring huh?"

"Yeah," Enrique replied placing a hand behind his head. "Not my idea though."

Victoria suddenly glared at him. "Enrique, sweetie," she now spoke in an irate tone of voice. "Would you please get the man another drink?"

Hath no fury like a woman scorned, Enrique thought as he swallowed hard and immediately did as she asked.

"So I take it, you're buying?" Chris turned and looked at her.

"Of course, sweetie," she smiled. "You've had such a rough day over there at the base, it's the least I could do."

Chris smiled. "You're very kind, Miss Thompson isn't it"

She blushed and giggled. "Why, yes it is. Are you fan?" Her eyes grew wide with excitement just waiting to hear the answer she'd been looking for.

"I've seen some of your films, Miss," Chris answered honestly. "And I do think you're a fine actress but since I'm being honest here, I can't really say you're my favorite."

"Oh," she replied with a vacant stare while feeling completely shattered inside. It's not him, she thought. Or would he lie in order to save face?

"Not to mention I'm also a married man," Chris suddenly showed her the ring on his finger. "And happily at that."

Nope certainly not him, she frowned and quickly turned her head away.

"But thank you very kindly for the drink," He said apologetically. "You're very kind."

"You're welcome," she sighed with bitterness as she glanced over at Maxwell who'd apparently been eavesdropping the entire time since there was a notable smirk on his face while he puffed on his cigar. You jerk, she thought glaring back at him. You just wanna rub it in, don't you? She gritted her teeth.

Then as Maxwell looked the other way he couldn't believe what he saw now.

"Mr. Graham!" Detective Vince Hayward announced as he stood in the lobby surrounded by the rest of his squad. "I've finally got that warrant," he waved the document in the air so Maxwell could see it good and clear. "And now we're going to tear this place apart!"

Maxwell gulped. Oh Shite.

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Last edit: 7 years 6 months ago by LadyGrimes.
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 23

"Why do you look so surprised to see me again, Mr. Graham?" Detective Vince Hayward smirked as his squad moved in and immediately began to ransack the place. "You knew this day was coming. Though it probably came a lot sooner than you expected huh?"

"But of course." Maxwell clenched his teeth as he turned and glared at Victoria who looked just as surprised as he did.

"Well I think that's my cue to get going," Sergeant Dickerson suddenly announced to Enrique and Victoria as he stood up. "Thanks for the drink, Miss Thompson," he said apologetically as he dropped some coins onto the counter. "I don't know who you're looking for, but I hope you find him," he winked before making his way out of there.

"Huh?" Victoria blinked wondering just what he meant. How does he know I'm looking for someone? She sighed then pushed the coins over to Enrique. "Here, you take this," she insisted as she looked over at Maxwell. "I've got to put a stop to this now before it only gets worse."

"You two, hold it right there!" Vince suddenly stopped the two workers in their tracks and ordered them to drop the roll of carpeting. "Up against the wall, please," he demanded.

"Are we under arrest or something?" One of the men asked.

"Not unless you men had anything to do with the murder of Melvin Phillips, Vince responded smugly as he pulled out a cigar from his front pocket and lit it. "But I'm afraid you're just gonna have to sit tight for the time being." Then he turned to Maxwell. "Now while they wait here how about you be a gentleman and kindly show us to your office, Mr. Graham?" He smirked.

"But of course," Maxwell muttered puffing on the last of his cigar until Victoria unexpectedly stepped in front of him wearing a scowl on her face.

"Just what is the meaning of this, Detective?" She demanded to know.

"And what a pleasure to see you again, Miss Thompson," Vince responded with arrogance. "Now either Mr. Graham here cooperates with us or we're taking him downtown, and you as well if you cause us any trouble, you hear?"

Victoria furrowed her brow. "I can assure you that Mr. Graham had absolutely nothing to do with that man's murder."

"Oh is that so?" Vince remarked. "That's certainly not what you reiterated during your interrogation now is it?"

Maxwell glared at her.

"Well as it turns out I was lying, Detective," Victoria explained. "I was simply fed up with Maxwell harassing me all the time and decided I would get him off my back by setting him up as a possible suspect."

Vince puffed on his cigar as he stared back at her vacantly now. "So you mean to tell me that Mr. Graham here is not a homosexual and neither were he and Mr. Phillips lovers?"

Enrique cupped a hand over his mouth and snickered in the background while Maxwell struggled to keep a straight face.

"That is correct," Victoria answered Vince looking directly into his dark eyes. "It was all a fabrication, a poor attempt at revenge if you will." She suddenly turned to Maxwell and touched his face adoringly ignoring the boiling rage brewing inside of him as she cupped his face in her hands and planted a soft kiss on his lips while Enrique watched with disgust.

"You see?" She looked over her shoulder at Vince. "Mr. Graham is no homo, because he and I were once lovers." She felt sick to her stomach just saying those words as did Maxwell when she met his awkward signaling with her eyes for him to play along.

"Well alright then," Vince responded with a hard stare. "But that still doesn't explain why the killer called him on the night of the murder, nor does it mean we're going to stop our investigation here." He waved the warrant in front of her face. "But I assure you if we don't find anything then we'll leave."

Victoria closed her eyes for a moment as she turned away from both of them. "Morane knows who killed him," she paused then turned back around. "Only he wouldn't tell me the name, but he did mention that the man attempted to frame both of them that night. And now that Maxwell and I are back together and his life is on the line, I refuse to keep quiet about it any longer."

"I see," Vince narrowed his eyes at her. "And how do I know this isn't another one of your lies, Miss Thompson?"

"Didn't you just hear what I said?" she amplified. "Maxwell's life is on the line now!" She turned back to Maxwell ignoring the bitter expression on his face as she threw her arms around him and sobbed. "Please don't take him away from me." Maxwell uttered an exasperated sigh and gave her a light pat on the back as Vince stared at them in stupor. "It's okay my dear," Maxwell muttered with repulse. "We'll figure something out."

In the meantime Stan Winston was busy lurking around the Ritz Casino keeping a close eye on his first target from Morane's list, the casino owner Abel Hemsworth. Stan wore a dark suit with a long overcoat since he knew he couldn't be seen anywhere in this part of the city in his uniform, especially if he stood any chance of getting away with murder. He knew the definition of the word and the actions which followed, yet he didn't fully comprehend just what it would mean to take the life of another being. Instead he saw Abel as nothing more than a quarry he was to get rid of and watched and observed him as he made his way around the room stopping to give compliments to his patrons all while flashing an obnoxious smile dressed in his forest green overpriced suit. But Stan knew he would have to wait until he could get the man alone and as of now it seemed there were far too many witnesses around.

"Would you care for a drink, Sir?" One of the many servers stopped and asked Stan offering him her tray.

"No thank you," Stan replied without taking his eyes off Abel as the man suddenly excused himself and headed for the men's restroom. Now is the time, Stan thought as he started moving in while keeping an eye out for witnesses. However he was aware that not all witnesses were made of flesh and blood as he spotted a lone security camera sitting on the wall near the entrance to the lavatory. Then without daring to look at it head on he suddenly reached up with his right hand and yanked it out of the wall while crushing it in his grip before throwing it to the floor then quickly glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one had been around to see him do it. So far the coast was clear so he headed inside.

Once Stan entered the restroom he could see Abel was busy washing his hands at one of the basins and Stan immediately began scanning the other stalls to make sure there wasn't anyone else inside the room with them. Abel on the other hand seemed curious about Stan and even turned and greeted him with a pleasant smile as he patted his hands dry with a paper towel.

"Haven't seen you around before," Abel commented. "This your first time here or what?"

Stan just stared back at him waiting for the perfect moment to go for his throat but then someone else suddenly walked in.

"Oh hello there," an older man in a derby nodded at them as he stopped in front of one of the urinals to relieve himself.

Stan's eyes remained locked on Abel's as he stepped forward and offered his hand. "It's an honor to finally meet you," Stan spoke in the friendliest tone he could muster in attempt to put his victim at ease.

"Uh it's nice to meet you too, I guess," Abel replied nervously as he shook Stan's hand feeling the weight of his crushing grip. "Who are you?"

"Good day to you fellas," the older man suddenly interrupted them as he smiled then walked back out leaving Stan alone with his quarry once again.

"Now how do you like that?" Abel remarked with disgust. "The man comes in here and pisses then leaves without even washing his damn hands. I tell you that son of a bitch is lucky I'm not Morane, cause Morane would surely blow his god damn brains out for that alone. But anyway back to you, who are you exactly? You're not some undercover cop are you?"

"No," Stan replied eyeing his throat again.

"Then who are you?" He asked feeling uneasy as he looked into Stan's empty eyes.

"No one," Stan answered as he suddenly lunged forward and wrapped his hands around Abel's scrawny neck then forced him into the stall at the very end and positioned him upright on the toilet before he turned and closed the door behind him and locked it.

"You're here to kill me aren't you?" Abel muttered breathlessly as he reached inside his pants pocket for his knife. "You're one of Morane's goons I should've seen it before."

Stan said nothing more as he yanked the pocket knife right out of Abel's hand and dropped it to the floor then he slammed the man's head up against the wall while pressing his other hand against Abel's face covering his mouth and nose as he began to suffocate him listening as someone else suddenly walked inside.

Abel attempted to yell but his voice was completely muffled beneath Stan's massive hand as he grunted and struggled trying desperately to pull Stan's hand off him but it wasn't use he was just too strong.

"You okay in there?" The other man inside the room asked with concern. "I know the food here is terrible. I myself had a nasty bout with constipation just the other day from eating here. Now I only come for the free drinks."

Tears began to fill Abel's eyes now as he was struggling to breathe which only made Stan push harder.

"Well when you get that out of your system, you should try the joint up the street. Better food and better people," the man rambled on completely unaware of what was taking place on the other side of the stall. "The owner isn't a criminal either unlike this guy. Abel is his name I think. Well anyway take your time in there, friend. Wouldn't want you to burst a blood vessel," he chuckled before walking back out.

Abel's eyes soon became heavy as his body started to give up the fight releasing his hold around Stan's wrist as his arm suddenly dropped down into his lap. Stan cocked his head to the side observing him with a morbid curiosity when the man's body went completely limp. His eyes remained open staring up Stan but the life in them was gone now.

They were cold and lifeless much like his own. It's done, Stan thought to himself as he removed his hand from Abel's face and watched as his head dropped down. That was almost too easy. Stan turned to leave until he remembered the knife lying on the floor. For the moment he seemed unsure of what to do with it until an idea suddenly hit him and he lifted Abel's head up and in a quick swift motion Stan slit his throat then placed the bloodied blade into Abel's right hand to make it look like a suicide. Now it's done, Stan turned to leave once again hoping to make a clean break out of there before anyone else walked in when he stopped and peered over his shoulder at the corpse. "By the way, Morane sends his regards."

Meanwhile, Justin was in the midst of examining a piece from the plane's engine along with some assistance from the Tjatey technician Dendera. She had been silent for the most part while Justin studied the part closely then jotted down his notes, but he could tell she had a lot on her mind yet she appeared almost afraid of speaking.

"You know we can talk," Justin suddenly mentioned looking over at her. "You don't have to be afraid of me. I'm not against the Tjatey."

"You know him though?" Dendera replied. "The grandson of Ammon?"

Justin scratched his head mussing up his hair. "Are you talking about Will?"

Dendera nodded. "Yes, William. How is he? I don't see him around much. But the last time I saw him he was very tall."

Justin chuckled. "Yeah he's about six foot one now. Taller than me."

"He looks so much like Ammon," Dendera sighed. "Is he training to become a great warrior too?"

"Not exactly," Justin answered trying to keep his focus on the work in front of him. "He doesn't like violence of any kind."

Dendera seemed bothered by his answer. "Does he not know how to fight?"

"Oh he does," Justin nodded. "He just chooses not to. But he's been in many fights before."

"Did he win?" Dendera asked sounding worried.

Justin frowned a little. "Not all of them. And can I ask why you're so eager to know if he's a fighter or not? Not trying to pass judgment here, but it seems a little odd for someone like you who gave up the life of war for this, whatever you can call it." Justin looked around the room. "So why does it matter if Will is a warrior or not?"

Dendera lowered her gaze. "Because if there is war, he has to be the one to save us. He is after all the blood of Ammon. Therefore it is his destiny."

Justin huffed. "Yeah, well that's not what he wants."

"Why?" She asked. "It would be a great honor, don't you understand?"

Justin's expression closed up. "As if it isn't bad enough he has to suffer for what your people did to Earth, now you want him to become your new leader or whatever? And all because you believe it is his fate? Well guess what? He's chosen a different path just the same as you guys have, so if I were you I would let it go and let the guy live his life the way he wants to okay?" Justin sighed and lowered his head. "Look, I'm not trying to sound like an asshole here either; I'm just defending him because I feel like I have to. And because I know he's done the same for me. Can you understand?"

She nodded. "I didn't mean to anger you, Corporal. As I'm very much enjoying your company right now." She smiled.

He didn't reciprocate and instead returned his focus to the piece he held in his hands. Good thing Will isn't here, he thought. Cause I don't think he would appreciate this crap in the least.

But right at the moment William Sterling had just stepped out of his simulation pod and removed his helmet reveling over the amount of kills he'd gotten this time. He smiled to himself as he raised an arm to wipe away the sweat from his brow before making his way for the locker room. He even began to daydream a little about Victoria until his dream was suddenly interrupted when Chris approached him.

"Sergeant," William stopped and gave a quick salute.

"Corporal," Chris nodded in return. "How was practice?"

"The same as always," William chuckled softly. "Just racking up those kills."

"I see," Chris replied. "Well have you sent your beloved anymore love letters?"

"Uh yes of course," William answered noting the curious look in Chris's eyes now. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh nothing," Chris responded as he leaned himself up against the wall. "Except I think she may be looking for you now."

William's eyes widened. "How do you know?"

Chris laughed. "I was just at the Card Shack a while ago and she was there looking all dressed up, and boy was she all over me the minute she saw me."

William frowned. "Seems she's all over everyone lately, except me."

Chris lifted a brow. "Is that right?"

"Yeah," William huffed irritably. "First Justin and now you. Who's next on the list? Stan too?"

Chris laughed again. "Well I think she's come onto us because she's looking for you, Corporal. And I don't know what you said in your letters, but whatever it was, was enough to make her crazy. In fact if I didn't know any better I'd say she was in love."

"Really?" William's eyes lit up.

"Yes Sir," Chris replied. "She definitely wants to find you, so if I were you I'd head over there sometime and get to know her. Let her see the real you, although you would have to wait."

"Wait?" William repeated curiously.

"Right now the police have that place on complete lock down," Chris explained. "They're all over the joint like flies on manure."

"Why?" William wondered now. "What happened over there?"

"Hard to say," Chris shrugged. "But knowing that damn Maxwell, I'd be willing to bet he's involved in something big and illegal. But say, why don't you walk with me for a bit? That way we can talk a little more and I can fill you in with a little more detail?"

"Sure," William nodded with a smile. "Just let me get out of this sweaty flight suit first."

"Not a problem, Corporal Sterling," Chris replied placing his arms behind his back. "Just take your time."

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 24

"It's done," Stan announced as he suddenly walked into Morane's office. "Abel Hemsworth is among the deceased now."

"Good," Morane responded with indifference as he stared down at his wedding band as though he were reminiscing about better times.

"I staged the death to look like a suicide," Stan explained awaiting his appraisal. "I also took the liberty of disposing of any security contrivances within the vicinity as well as any potential witnesses. There was one however, but he was easy."

Morane remained silent as Stan looked on curiously.

"May I ask why you're not responding to me," Stan inquired only to be met with Morane's cold stare.

"Because I'm having a moment!" He snapped back while clenching his fist tight. "Now please, leave!" He ordered. "Leave us alone now, damn you!" He looked down at his ring again.

Stan just stared back at him wondering why he was acting so strange. "I apologize, but I'm afraid I don't understand what all this is about."

"Of course you wouldn't understand! Morane shouted angrily. "You're not a man just a fucking machine!"

There was an eerie moment of silence between them before Stan spoke again. "It's Marjory isn't it? You miss her."

Morane suddenly turned his head and looked at Stan in disbelief. "How could you possibly know how I feel? You can't feel anything."

"You're right I don't feel," Stan answered stolidly. "I simply detect emotions and then I imitate the appropriate response, which in this case for you would be sympathy."

Morane sighed. "I really loved that woman. I did. And I was nothing but faithful to her. I even gave her anything she could possibly ask for. Money, jewelry, love, but it wasn't enough, Stan."

He looked him dead in the eyes. "It wasn't e-fucking-nough! She still cheated on me and why!? What the fuck did that man have that I didn't?" He slammed his fist down gritting his teeth. "So what did I do? I fucking killed her that's what. And that stupid fuck she cheated on me with too. I shot both of them, Stan. Shot them dead then dumped their bodies at a construction site like a pile of trash and watched contentedly as the workers poured a thick slab of cement over their graves. This was thirty years ago." He glared at Stan. "Thirty fucking years ago. Only a month before I was elected as chairman of the council to take over this god forsaken city."

"I see," Stan responded. "Was it the first time you ever killed someone?"

Morane laughed bitterly. "Of course it wasn't. But it was the first time I ever had to kill somebody I loved. And that's something you never forget, Stan."

Then Stan's eyes shifted to the wedding band on Morane's finger. "Why did you keep the ring?"

Morane's expression suddenly closed up. "Because after all these years and after all she fucking put me through, I still love her."

A single tear rolled down his cheek as he lowered his gaze to the floor. "That's fucking crazy isn't it? Almost as crazy as forgiving an alien race for destroying your own fucking planet. But that's the truth, Stan."

"But you haven't forgiven them," Stan reminded him.

Morane uttered a mirthless laugh. "No I haven't and unlike these moronic military fucks, I don't ever plan on it either. They should all be destroyed, Stan. Every last one of them."

"Then why don't you destroy them yourself?" Stan suggested.

"Because that would only ignite a bigger war, Stan," Morane explained. "And if you haven't fucking noticed already, they have Atlantech and a shit ton of powerful weapons to be used against us so it wouldn't be a smart move at all, no fucking way."

"Are you afraid then?" Stan had to ask now while realizing he suddenly struck a nerve when Morane turned and glowered at him.

"No," Morane snarled defensively. "And how dare you even fucking ask such a question. I thought I programmed you better than that."

Stan said nothing in response yet he could sense that Morane was indeed afraid and simply too cowardice to admit it.

"We might have a big problem on our hands though, Stan." Morane suddenly changed the subject. "Grant's bitch, the redhead, she was here several hours ago talking down to me, threatening me, and I don't appreciate it in the least. But I did the honorable thing and I let Grant handle the mess instead of just shooting that whore dead, as I could've easily done. But I fear I haven't seen or heard the last of her, you see?"

Stan gave a nod in response. "I see."

"So in that case, Stan. I'm ordering you to kill her should she turn up on my property again, understood?"

"Yes," Stan replied. "But what if she doesn't come alone?"

"Hmm," Morane pondered to himself now as Stan looked on wondering what he might be thinking.

"Well in that case, kill her if she comes alone," Morane advised. "But I'm sure by now that Grant realizes I'm not fucking around anymore, nor will there be a next time, because if I see that bitch here again I'll kill her myself and the same goes for anyone else who dares to challenge me!" He slammed his fist in rage. "My city, my rules!"

All the while Maxwell was looking absolutely horror-stricken now as he watched as Vince and his partner Detective Marks were tearing apart his office.

"Stop!" Maxwell begged them. "You're making a mess of everything! Please stop!"

Vince paused and shook his head at him. "This is torture for you isn't it Mr. Graham? I'd almost forgotten how obsessive you were over tidiness," he smirked as he pulled out the top desk drawer and emptied its contents onto the surface only to be startled by a loud thud when he looked down and spotted a single revolver among the mess. "What's this?" Vince looked back at Maxwell then picked up the gun to see if it was loaded. "Yep, there's a round in every chamber."

Maxwell furrowed his brow and gnashed his teeth. "I have a permit for that you know!?"

Vince laughed then turned to his partner and handed him the gun. "Go ahead and file this under evidence," he ordered.

Detective Marks nodded in response as he accepted the gun then headed out.

"That's my property!" Maxwell fumed. "You stole it from me, now I want it back!"

Vince smirked as he folded his arms across his chest. "It's ours now, Mr. Graham."

Maxwell glared at him.

"You should've hidden it better then," Vince taunted him. "Have you learned nothing from all your years of working for Morane?" He grinned as he began to pull out the next drawer. "Now then, where were we?"

"Sorry to bother you, Sir," one of the officers suddenly barged in unannounced. "But I'm afraid we're needed over at the Ritz Casino. We've got two bodies, Sir. One homicide and the other a suicide apparently."

"I see," Vince nodded then looked at Maxwell. "Well it must be your lucky day, Mr. Graham. But not lucky enough, cause we do plan on coming back."

Maxwell bared his teeth. "I want my bloody gun back," he seethed. "You stole it from me and not because it has anything to do with that bloke's death but because you just want to torment me, don't you? Perhaps you even plan on framing me in the process? Well go right ahead and bloody do it, you pig!"

"You have the right to remain silent," Vince suddenly warned him as he flashed him a pair of handcuffs. "And if I so much as hear another word out of your arrogant little yap, I will slap these on you so fast, so don't toy with me, Mr. Graham. I'm not one to be fucked with either. Same goes for your pretty little girlfriend downstairs; who I might add doesn't have me the least bit fooled."

Maxwell narrowed his eyes and sneered.

"She's not even your girlfriend is she?" Vince continued. "Of course she isn't. Why I've seen far better acting in a stag film. And I think you seem to forget that I've been doing this for thirty years now, so I've seen it all Mr. Graham. Hell I even remember the first time I arrested you. How old were you then?" He laughed as Maxwell glared back.

"Now I remember, yes," Vince recollected. "You were sixteen and the charge was burglary wasn't it? Yep it was, but then the second time was for assault and battery. You were eighteen then so you were charged as an adult. But while I'd love to stand here and go through your entire criminal history, Mr. Graham, I have more important things to attend to." He started to head out when he stopped and looked down at him. "But if there's one thing I know you're not getting that damn gun back. Permit or no permit. And why? Because I just don't like you and the thought of you carrying around a loaded pistol just doesn't sit so well with me you see?"

Maxwell huffed and crossed his arms.

"That's it, go ahead and pout," Vince mocked him with a smile. "After all that's what you've been known for isn't it? The classic Maxwell pout. How I've missed seeing that at the station," he chuckled as he walked out. "Oh and you have a nice day, Mr. Graham. Be seeing you real soon, again."

As soon as Vince and his squad had left Maxwell stormed back downstairs where he found Victoria seated at the bar spilling her sorrows to Enrique.

“I was so sure it was him,” she uttered somberly. “I feel like such a fool now. I don’t know if I can do this again.”

“It happens,” Enrique shrugged. “But I’m sure you’ll get another chance. Don’t give up hope yet.”

Her eyes brightened and she smiled. “Oh thank you, sweetie. Whatever would I do without you? You’re always there to lift me up when I am down.”

“Well I’d do anything to see you happy, Miss Thompson,” he smiled back without even noticing as Maxwell suddenly came up right behind her looking angry as usual.

“Well I hate to ruin your little chit chat session here,” Maxwell announced derisively glaring at Enrique “But I’m afraid we’ve got a problem, and……….” He paused and turned his head while noticing the two workers he hired to do the flooring were now gone.

“Where the hell are my workers?” He demanded to know.

“They quit,” Victoria answered him bitterly without looking back.

Maxwell clenched his jaw. “Then who will I get to finish this floor?” He exclaimed thrashing his arms about in outrage.

“I don’t know,” she rolled her eyes.

“But that’s not the worst of it,” Maxwell raged on. “That bloody pig stole my gun, right after he and that imbecile partner of his trashed my office!” He clenched his fists. “They made a complete mess of everything! Do they have any idea how long it took me to organize all those files? No of course they don’t! And now they’re going to try and frame me with my own gun!”

“Whoa, hold on a minute,” she stopped him. “What do you mean by frame you with your own gun? According to the coroner’s report, Mr. Phillips was bludgeoned to death. So how exactly could your gun be used against you?”

Maxwell shot her an agitated look. “Because he’s a crooked cop and he doesn’t like me? But that’s beside the point, Miss Thompson! Fact is he’s definitely out to get me now and it’s all your god damned fault!” He aimed his finger at her as she popped a cigarette into her holder and lit it. “So you have no choice now! You have to go to Morane!”

“Relax, I will,” she rolled her eyes again as she puffed on her cigarette.

“I mean it,” he snapped. “No more games or fooling around, Miss Thompson. You got us into this mess and now you’re going to get us out!”

Enrique stared at her now wondering what he meant by those words.

“Fine,” she huffed. “As soon as I finish my cigarette I’ll head home and change, and then I’ll go see him, alight?”

“But why in bloody hell do you need to change?” Maxwell scoffed. “Why I’m more than certain he’d appreciate your efforts to look like a cheap tart.”

She puffed on her cigarette angrily now wanting nothing more than to reach over and slap that shit eating grin off his face. “I have a lot more self respect than that,” she glowered at him. “And I see you’re still at it with the insults, but don’t worry I’m still going to help you.”

He sneered. “Oh you most certainly are, because you owe me, Miss Thompson. I’m the one who made you what you are today, or have you forgotten that part?”

She turned her head away from him.

“Yes that’s right isn’t it? He smirked as he leaned in closer to her. “Because without me you’d still be a bloody nobody, right? Why, you’d probably still be dancing around half naked in your little tasseled skirts and beads for all those filthy old bastards wouldn’t you?”

Victoria lowered her head in shame while Enrique just stood there in silence wishing there was something he could do.

“Or you know, you could always go back to that life, Miss Thompson.” Maxwell whispered callously in her ear. “So yes I do believe you owe me your life!” He suddenly slapped the counter top with his hand causing her to jump in her seat. “And let that be a lesson to you!”

“Fine I’ll take care of it,” she snapped back. “Just promise me you won’t ever bring up my past again, alright?”

“Very well then,” Maxwell sneered. “But you’d better do whatever it takes to get us out of this, Miss Thompson. And I do mean anything.”

She sighed. “Yes I know. I’ll do whatever it takes, you have my word on that.”

“Good to know,” he grinned. “Oh, but there’s one more thing.”

Victoria huffed as she turned around. “What now?”

“Don’t you ever kiss me again! He shouted at her then walked away.

“Oh don’t worry I won’t,” she mumbled under her breath as she turned back around to finish her cigarette. “I’d rather be dead.”

Meanwhile Lynne was seated at her station in the center of the main tower appearing to be lost in thought as the voices of the female officers reverberated around her as they relayed their transmissions to the test pilot about to take off on the runway. She stared blankly at the screen in front of her feeling completely ashamed of herself and wishing she could just go back in time to stop herself from getting in that cab. It’s too late, she thought. The damage is done and his trust in me is gone. How could I have been so stupid?

“You alright, Dearie?” She suddenly heard the pleasant sound of Grace’s voice as she turned her head to see her staring back at her with concern. “You haven’t said much of anything since you returned. Should we be worried?”

Lynne shook her head in response as she forced a half smile. “No, there’s no need to worry I’m fine.”

“Well, if you say so,” Grace responded with skepticism as she returned her attention to the screen in front of her.

Lynne closed her eyes now as she leaned back in her seat listening as the noise all around her began to amplify to the point it simply became too much and she could no longer stand it. Then without even saying a word she quickly rose up out of her seat and rushed out of the room as fast as her feet would carry her leaving the four officers inside completely flabbergasted.

“Something is definitely going on with her,” Grace mentioned to Lucy before removing her headset and getting up herself. “And I’m going to find out what it is.”

“Wait a minute, you’re leaving us too?” Lucy griped as her jaw went slack.

“Only for a few,” Grace answered her. “And besides it looks like you and Mipsy got a good enough handle on things.” Then she eyed Alley with disgust since she appeared to be engrossed with a game of black jack rather than doing her job like the rest. “Anyway Lucy, dear. I’m leaving you in charge for now until I return.”

“Aye, aye then,” Lucy responded sardonically with a salute. “But do try your best to hurry it up. I fear this place is gonna go up in flames without you here.”

Grace chuckled musingly. “I’ll be back in a flash, dearie.”

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Last edit: 7 years 5 months ago by LadyGrimes.
7 years 5 months ago #23616

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 25

Lynne now stood alone in the elevator waiting as the car headed down to the first floor, then once it stopped and the door opened she bolted out of there as quickly as she could making her way out of the building when she suddenly bumped into William and Chris right as she was turning the corner.

"I'm so sorry," she apologized to both of them in a hurry as she started to leave again.

"Commander you alright?" William asked showing concern.

"Just heading out for some fresh air, Corporal," she replied. "I'll be seeing you two later," she gave a quick wave then took off again this time without stopping until she finally reached the outside of the building. The air felt cold but at the same time it felt good. She quickly brushed a hand across her brow wiping away the sweat and then began making her way for the gate. If she was ever going to regain her sanity she needed to be someplace where she couldn't be bothered by anyone or anything. But that someplace was not her office, instead it was a secret location that only she knew of and had gone to ever since she was a young girl.

It was located just outside the fences of the base and right behind the back of an old building where a park once stood but since then had been uprooted leaving nothing behind but a small wooden bench. It had been her special place where she would come to be alone and think about the past and the future, and now here she found herself again as she sat down on that old bench recollecting the last time she had come here when she was thirteen years old.

Has it really been that long? She thought to herself as she leaned back and gazed up at the stars and galaxies. Yes it has. She exhaled slowly. But nothing has really changed either. Everything is still in the same place it was then, including me. She closed her eyes now as her memory flashed back to the last time she had come here. It was just after that crash and she remembered how saddened her father was then. He seemed hopeless, like he wanted to give up completely but then she came here and prayed for him, prayed for him to get better and he eventually did.

And while she saw her father's smiling face again the memory soon became dark and she suddenly heard Morane's cold voice again.

Just like that father of yours. She saw a flash of his grin. And now where is he? Dead right? His maniacal laughter echoed in her head. He's dead!

The laughter continued as she squeezed her hands into fists and began imagining herself choking him to death while staring deep into his cold dark blue eyes. Just let go, she heard herself saying to him condescendingly as she choked the life out of him. Just die so we can be free. Just die........................... As the darkness began to fade she opened her eyes and stared down at her trembling hands. "Just look at me now," she sighed somberly. "I'm exactly right where he wants me to be. I've got to stop this, I've got to fight it." She looked up to the stars again. "Please give me the strength I need. Whether you're my father or that one god some of us still foolishly believe in, please help me. I can't do this on my own."

She slumped back against the bench and closed her eyes again trying to enjoy silence until she heard a roaring sound and quickly looked up to see a fighter jet soaring gracefully overhead like some kind of metallic avian. It was a welcoming sight and she watched in awe knowing that soon enough they would have an entire new and improved fleet of these and all because of the young corporal and his dedication. But now she couldn't help but wonder how things were going for him over at Atlantech. "I do hope everything's alright over there," she sighed as she hugged herself. "I know he desperately wants to solve that death but it can't be the only thing on his mind. We need to move forward. I just hope he knows this."

"Well I can't seem to find her anywhere," Grace announced upon her return as she made her way back to her station. "She's not even in her office, and that's usually the first place to look."

"Oh that's too bad," Mipsy replied looking back at her from her seat.

"I'm sure she's fine," Lucy rolled her eyes. "Besides, we've finally gotten this bird in the air so I'd say we're doing just fine without her."

"And what do you know?" Grace remarked sarcastically with a gasp. "The place didn't even go up in flames during my absence, imagine that?"

Lucy rolled her eyes again. "Oh har, har, laugh it up." Then they both suddenly heard Mipsy giggling and turned their heads in her direction.

"You're very good at flying," Mipsy said flirtatiously over the radio. "So what's your favorite color? And are you single by any chance?"

Lucy and Grace exchanged looks.

"Mine is blue just like my eyes," Mipsy giggled as she playfully twirled a lock of her wavy hair around her finger. "So how tall are you? And do you work out?"

Grace rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers to get Mipsy's attention.

"Hold on just a second," Mipsy told the man as she peered over her shoulder. "What?"

"What do you think you're doing?" Grace scolded her. "That man is trying to focus on staying in the air and staying alive, yet here you are giggling away while distracting him. Have you any shame?"

Mipsy frowned at her. "It's just harmless flirting, and besides Stan rejected me so now I have to find myself a new man, and it's not any business of yours either." She stuck her nose in the air.

"Well it is my business when I'm the one who's left in charge," Grace reminded her sternly. "And now I'm asking you to stop with the flirting and leave the man be. Your responsibility is to make sure he's safe up there at all times, you hear?"

Mipsy stuck her tongue out.

"I'll take that as a yes then," Grace remarked as she sat back down at her station and put on her headset while switching to the test pilot's channel on her monitor. "Attention Beta-one, this is Officer Hanes speaking," she announced through her headset. "I'm just letting you know that I'll be taking over from here, over."

"Hmph!" Mipsy pouted as she removed her headset and crossed her arms.

Elsewhere downtown Brian had just walked out of the tobacco shop after purchasing a pack of cigarettes and as he stood outside about to light one he suddenly heard a clicking sound and turned his head just to see a blade in his face.

"Don't even think about lighting that." A strange man in a long brown coat and hat warned. " Go on now, put it back," he instructed waving his knife as Brian listened and stuck the cigarette back inside the carton.

"Now that's a good lad," The man smirked as he kept his blade in front of Brian's face. "Now here is what you're doing to do," the man explained as he backed Brian right up against the wall of the building. "You're going to give me all you got and you're going to do it fast," he grinned.

"But I don't have anything," Brian replied his eyes wide with fear.

"Oh yeah?" The man taunted now pressing the tip of the blade up against Brian's neck. "Give me those cigarettes and empty your pockets, boy!"

Without even hesitating Brian started pulling everything out of his pockets which included a little bit of change, his lighter, and a photo of him and his brother.

"I'll take that!" The man growled snatching the coins out of Brian's hand along with the lighter and the pack of cigarettes while knocking the photo to the ground where he stepped on it and then looked down.

"You've already taken everything," Brian said bitterly as he raised his hands. "Now let me have the photo back, please. It's all I want. It's the only one I have of him."

The man stared back at him and then he suddenly noticed the dog tags around Brian's neck and then looked down at the photo again. "Sorry for your loss, kid," he replied sheepishly taking his foot off of it. "You have a good day now," he winked before taking off and descending into the darkness of a nearby alley.

Brian frowned as he knelt down and picked up the photo while wiping the dirt off with his other hand feeling relieved that the thief had been kind enough to let him have it back. "Well that was a close call," he noted standing back up while surveying the area. "But now I'm out of cigarettes again." He sighed as he stuffed the photo back into his right pocket and started making his way back home to get more money when he started passing by The Card Shack. He stopped and stared at the building for a moment before shaking his head and continuing on his way. Why bother? I'm just going to be met with the same hostility as I was before. He huffed. I doubt that guy even wants to see my face in there again. The little rat. Brian furrowed his brow as he walked off and made his way across the street.

He then came to a lone bench at the other end in front of a vacant building which sat right across the street from the AMF's base. But before Brian took a seat he looked back and noticed a large banner hanging in the window of the building. "Arcade grand opening coming soon," he read aloud to himself with disinterest and then he sat down on the bench while staring mindlessly at the base across the way until he heard a loud noise and looked up to see one of the military's crafts in flight zipping overhead like a shooting star. Brian watched it for a few minutes before his eyes shifted back to the base while he reached into his right pocket and pulled the photo out again remembering back when it was taken and how different life was then.

You were so thrilled when you first enlisted, Brian thought gazing down at his brother's smiling face. And now I remember it was my idea to celebrate. His face softened as he managed a half smile through his watery eyes. So we went to our favorite restaurant where we stuffed our faces till we got so sick we couldn't eat anymore. Then it was your idea to take a photo together so we found some stranger and asked them to take it for us. But then I suggested we take two, so we'd both have one for when we were apart. But now we are cause you're gone. Tears began streaming down his face now as he stared at the photo. I can't believe you're really gone.

"Well I think I might have an idea on just how this fire started," Justin suddenly mentioned to Dendera as he held a piece of the engine up to his face while staring intently at the suspicious looking burn marks on its surface. "This is most definitely the fire's point of origin," he explained. "But what baffles me are these burn marks," he pointed out. "You see that? Usually when you see this kind of pattern it's often caused by an explosion of some sort. Meaning, yeah, something blew up all right, but now our goal here is to figure out what it was and why it happened."

"You impress me with your knowledge, Corporal," Dendera smiled. "And you know so much even for being so young."

"Please, just call me Justin," he replied. "And no, I don't think I know enough."

"Well when you're as old as I am, you've seen more than you've wanted," she said gravely.

Justin raised his chin. "And just how old are you?"

"Over a thousand years old, Justin," she answered. "Most Tjatey like myself are immortal, as are our ancestors. But we did not become immortal by will; we were not given a choice."

"How did you become immortal then?" He asked.

Dendera sighed. "Long story I'm afraid, and it's not something I like to talk about if we're being honest here."

"Fair enough," Justin nodded.

"But in our old culture long hair was a sign of strength and loyalty," Dendera explained. "Both males and females wore it long and proud. And if one of us was to betray our leader or lose in battle, they would chop it off as punishment. Yet I see things are different here. Your women and men both wear their hair short. Is it dishonorable?"

Justin shook his head. "Nope, it just happens to be our culture, that's all. But I see yours is still long, so I guess I can assume you never betrayed your leader or lost a battle?"

Dendera chuckled bemusedly. "I lost a few battles and even betrayed my leader. It's just that I never got caught."

"So I see," Justin replied with intrigue. "And what did you do to betray your leader?"

"Another long story I am afraid," she replied wearily. "Maybe one day I will tell you if there is time, but for now we have to remain focused on solving this..............mystery? Is that what you call it? I still struggle with your human words at times."

Justin stared down at the piece in his hands again. "Mystery is right," he said squinting his eyes. "But the more I observe these burn patterns the more I'm beginning to suspect something must have been planted inside the engine causing it to explode. Which could mean someone either wanted the pilot dead or they wanted to sabotage Atlantech's progress."

"But why?" She asked.

"Because our enemies are out to get us?" Justin answered with a shrug. "Anyways could you go and fetch Artis for me? I need him to look at this for himself and see what he thinks."

"As you wish, Justin," Dendera replied before walking off.

Justin held the piece up to his face again squinting his eyes for a better look. Yes something was definitely planted here and it looks like there might even be some residue leftover from the explosion, Justin noted as he reached over for a glass slide and set it down on the table in front of him while he held the part directly over it now carefully scraping some of the charred dust onto the slide. Now I just need to examine this under a microscope and figure out which explosive compound it is. Then I'll know just what we're dealing with here.

Meanwhile Victoria had arrived at city hall to meet with Morane and was now making her way down the long carpeted hall which led to his office wearing a homely looking dark blue day dress with a matching cloche hat. Once she reached the door she didn't even bother knocking and instead barged right inside where she found him standing next to his desk in a dark red suit pouring himself a glass of champagne while a melancholy jazz ballad blared through the small gramophone sitting on his desk.

"Morane we need to talk," she announced herself catching him off guard. "And this is something that cannot wait any longer."

"Of course it can wait, dear," he responded with a crooked grin as he pulled out a second glass and filled it for her. "Everything can wait, but for now come drink with me."

Victoria didn't hesitate in the least as she walked right over and accepted the glass from his hand. If I'm going to get through this I'd better do as he says, she thought.

It's beautiful isn't it?" He suddenly commented looking back at her now.

"Hmm, what is?" She asked.

"The music," he replied. "It was my wife's favorite symphony. It was playing live at the ball on the night we met."

"Yes it is a very lovely song," Victoria replied staring down at her glass.

He took a sip as he looked her up and down. "Why is it you always cover up now when you come to see me?" He asked.

"Pardon me?" She responded with confusion.

"You always cover up yourself when you come to see me," he repeated himself as he moved closer to her. "Yet anywhere else you'll proudly bare it all, won't you?"

She looked away from him now as his smile was beginning to make her feel uneasy.

"You haven't even touched your drink either," he pointed out. "And I know you love to drink, Miss Thompson. So what's so different now?"

She bit down on her lower lip in a nervous fashion as she tried to think her way out of this conversation. "Mr. Morane, I was the one who killed Melvin Phillips," she suddenly spoke up. "I smashed a bottle of spirits over his head and it killed him."

"I see," Morane responded sounding rather impressed than angry. "And what was your reason for killing him in the first place?"

She paused as she looked down at her distorted reflection in the champagne glass.

"Did he touch you, Miss Thompson?" He suddenly asked noting the fearful look in her eyes now. "Did he? Is that it?"

Without saying a word she nodded back at him refusing to make eye contact.

"Well then I guess he had it coming to him, didn't he?" Morane remarked. "Lots of bad men in this city I'm afraid, just like your father was."

"My father?" She raised her chin.

"Yes your father, Miss Thompson," he replied with a hard stare. "You don't know the whole story about him do you?"

She shook her head. "No, I'm afraid I don't. I only know he was successful businessman, but that's about it."

Morane smirked. "Yes he was. And so successful that he sold his only daughter to me in order to bargain for his life."

She shook her head in disbelief. "No, that can't be. He'd never do such a thing."

"He did," Morane replied coldly. "He sold you to me in order to save his own ass. Why else do you think I made you a dancer when you were just seventeen, hmmm? Because you were my property then. And you may not know this but I was the one who kept those men off of you too. I didn't want that kind of a reputation you see?"

She felt completely shocked and horrified now.

"Still though," Morane continued. "Selling you only bought your father enough time to attempt to run away, but my men still caught and killed him anyway. I couldn't allow him to live after that, not after what he'd done to his own only daughter."

Victoria cupped a hand over her mouth as her eyes shimmered with tears.

He looked back at her with sympathy. "I know it's not easy to hear is it? But it's the truth. Hell, my old man used to beat me every day with his belt, claiming that's how dictators are made. Of course my mother didn't do a damn thing to stop him, so I just took it, and eventually I even became numb to it. But as I got older I noticed he was becoming weaker. So weak that one day he couldn't even beat me anymore, and what did I do then? I laughed in his fucking face, and then I killed him, making him my first."

"Is that something to be proud of?" Victoria looked at him full of disgust.

"Of course it's not," he replied. "It's just survival, Miss Thompson. We kill who we need to kill to protect ourselves. Therefore me murdering my own father was just as justified as you murdering Mr. Phillips."

"But the police are now on the hunt for the killer and they suspect Maxwell and I," she explained. "I don't know how to get out of it. And that's why I came to you."

Morane chuckled. "Well the police are going to have a lot more death on their hands now."

"What do you mean?" She asked.

"Stan the android is running the show now," Morane answered her. "They're going to be far too busy trying to solve all these murders that will keep popping up, they won't even have time to take a shit let alone come after you and Maxwell. Which brings me to this next question, why in hell are you defending Mr. Graham?"

"Because I owe him," she replied bitterly. "And they've stolen his gun and probably plan to frame him with it somehow."

"I see," he noted. "Well truth be told, Mr. Graham is living on borrowed time. And you won't believe how many men have come before me asking my permission to kill him. He's a very hated man and there's a long list of those who would love to off him, but sadly I still need the mule around, so he lives until I say otherwise."

"But what about the police?" She asked. "What can be done about them?"

"Well I'll see about giving them a real suspect," he answered. "But it's gonna come at a price I'm afraid, since this won't be easy to do."

"What price?" She demanded to know. "I'll pay you anything you want, just name it."

He looked almost insulted by her words now. "Now, now, Miss Thompson. I don't want your money. C'mon you're a smart woman, I'm sure you already know what I require of you instead."

She lowered her head. "Yes, I know. And to think I'm right back where I started in the first place.

"I'll treat you to dinner first of course," he mentioned with a faint smile. "As I know you haven't been lavished by me in a while, have you? Or by anyone for that matter, right?"

All she could think about right now was her secret admirer wondering if she'd ever find him while even wishing she was with him right now.

"You're right I haven't," she answered somberly.

"Well then, it'll be just like the old times, won't it?" Morane clapped his hands together.

"Yes," she sighed. Just like the old days, the very same ones I've tried to erase.

Warning: Spoiler! [ Click to expand ]

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 26

"Sorry to say, but this doesn't look like any suicide I've ever seen before," Vince Hayward mentioned to his partner as he stared down at the corpse of Abel Hemsworth. "You see the eyes?" He pointed out as he knelt down next to the body. "Ruptured blood vessels, a characteristic commonly found in victims of suffocation. That just doesn't happen when a man slits his own throat." Then he suddenly spotted a particular looking dark outline of something across the face. "You seeing this?" He looked at Detective Marks.

"Yes," Marks replied. "It almost looks like the outline of a hand, doesn't it?"

"That it does," Vince nodded. "But based on this particular impression I'd say the killer would've had to apply a lot of pressure with his hand. In fact it almost seems impossible that this was a hand at all. Maybe a fake, I don't know, but anyway let's get a forensic analyst in here. See if we can't maybe lift a print off his face."

"I'll get right on it," Marks replied.

"Wait a minute though," Vince stopped him. "The other body they found, what did they say the cause of death was again?"

"Uh a broken neck, Sir," Marks replied.

"Broken neck huh? Vince repeated with intrigue. "Sounds like we're dealing with a real maniac here. Albeit one who isn't very good at staging a suicide, yet still meticulous enough to get rid of a security camera. Well, I can already tell it won't be easy to catch this son of a bitch. But that sure as hell won't stop me from trying."

But right at that very moment Stan Winston was making his way back to the AMF base dressed in his uniform. He even thought to take a little detour down an alleyway minding his own business until he heard a stranger's voice coming from up ahead behind one of the large dumpsters.

"Where do you think you're going?" The man asked in a gruff voice as he stepped out from behind the large receptacle wearing a long brown coat and hat puffing on a cigarette butt then dropping it to the ground to put it out.

Stan stood completely still now as the man pulled out a knife and began approaching him.

"You sure are a big fella, the man commented sizing Stan up. "But they always say, the bigger they are the harder they fall."

Stan glared back at the man in silence.

"Yep, a big, big fella indeed," the man taunted him now. "Now I know you military folk ain't the least bit poor, so cough up the dough and I'll let you go."

Stan still said nothing as he locked his eyes on him.

"Now surely you ain't deaf, soldier," the man taunted. "I know you can hear me loud and clear, so empty your pockets or I'll slit your throat right here right now, see? Those are your choices so choose wisely."

Stan blinked. "Very well then, he responded stolidly as he looked downward while pretending to reach into his pants pocket when his head suddenly shot up and he yanked the knife right out of the man's hand then grabbed him by the throat pulling him close so he could look into his eyes as he suddenly rammed the knife down the man's esophagus watching with that same morbid curiosity from earlier as the man began choking to death.

"You were saying?" Stan replied coldly his green eyes glowing bright as he suddenly dropped him to the ground and walked off as the man laid writhing and dying in a pool of his own blood.

Soon after, Justin had just finished looking at the sample under the microscope while jotting down his notes when Artis suddenly walked in the room and announced himself. “Dendera said you wanted to see me, Corporal?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Justin replied looking up from his notes. “But uh, you might want to sit down for this one.”

“Alright then,” Artis responded pulling out a chair and taking a seat beside him while eyeing the microscope. “I see you’ve got the microscope there,” he pointed out. “So I take it you must have found something then?”

Justin nodded in response. “Hence why I suggested you sit down for this one, cause you’re not going to believe what I’ve found.”

“Well now you’ve got me curious,” Artis replied leaning forward. “So go on then and tell me, I’m all ears.”

Justin sighed and then handed over his notes. “I found traces of nitroglycerine in the engine,” he explained while Artis began reading through them. “It was a small sample of course since most of the evidence had been burned away, but being that I myself am a chemist of sorts, well I know my chemicals and it’s definitely nitro.”

“I can see that,” Artis agreed without even taking his eyes off the page. “But what I’m having trouble understanding is how it got here in the first place?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Justin remarked in disbelief. “It was planted there by someone looking to either kill that pilot or sabotage your work, and I’m willing to bet it’s the latter. And look, I know well enough this isn’t Atlantech’s doing,” he continued noting the sullen expression on Artis’s face now. “So the only other possible answer is that it was someone in the AMF, or someone who had access to the jet before its final take off that day. But I’m willing to bet it was definitely someone from the base, and probably someone who didn’t belong either.”

“You mean like one of Morane’s men?” Artis mentioned as he set the notes down onto his lap and then removed his glasses.

“Most likely,” Justin replied. “I mean who else hates the AMF or Atlantech as much as he does?”

“Right,” Artis sighed as he looked down. “But to tell you the truth, I don’t know how I feel about this. I mean it’s great that you’ve made this discovery and I feel relieved that it wasn’t caused by a flaw in our design, but I just don’t understand why this happened at all.” He turned and looked Justin in the eye. “What have we done to deserve such hate?”

“It’s not hate,” Justin corrected him. “It’s just madness, and it can’t be reasoned with. No sense in trying either.”

“Yeah, I’m afraid you’re right,” Artis sighed as he put his glasses back on. “But now we have to determine just how this nitroglycerine was planted. But if I were to make a wild guess I would go ahead and say it was a bomb.”

“And you would be right,” Justin answered. “It definitely was some kind of bomb and our perpetrator tried to be clever and waited until it was airborne to set it off. Why then and not when it was still on the runway? Well I’d guess it’s because he was hoping for it to do more damage that way, possibly even taking out some of the base. But much to his surprise it didn’t.”

“Good thing too,” Artis added. “Otherwise we would’ve lost many more lives that day.”

“Indeed,” Justin agreed. “But now we have to ask ourselves if it was just the one plane that was targeted?”

Artis began wondering himself now. “Good question,” he replied. “But if I recall, only one of the AF-22 models was scheduled for testing that day. And following the incident the others were grounded and then quarantined for inspection and they all checked out clear as far as I can remember, but were still not permitted for flight.”

“Well then we have our answer,” Justin said. “Only the one was targeted in order to make it look like some kind of freak accident, thus sending you guys back to the drawing board. And from what I personally know about nitroglycerine is that it doesn’t leave any smoke behind after it detonates, not to mention that pungent cordite smell could easily be mistaken for something else.”

A look of horror suddenly crossed Artis’s face as he stared back at Justin. “I do remember smelling a lot of things that day,” he recounted. “But the one I will never forget is the smell of burning flesh. Even after the flames were extinguished you could still smell it, and by then it had only gotten worse.”

Justin’s eyes went round in shock as he listened.

“And that’s when I knew there was no possible way that man had survived the crash. As a matter of fact now that I think about it, no one could survive that. But now at least I know what death smells like. And it’s true what they say, you never forget it.”

“I only know what it looks like,” Justin replied gravely. “I saw a man get shot a few nights ago, and that image still hasn’t left me. And like I told Commander Williams, I’m afraid of the idea of us having to go to war, only cause I know there’s going to be death all around. And it’s something I’m not ready for.”

“Well if you want some real advice just ask Dendera or Onuris, or any of those former Tjatey warriors,” Artis suggested to him. “They’ve seen more death and destruction than anyone in this city has or probably ever will.”

Justin sighed as he suddenly stood up. “Maybe someday I will but today is not that day.”
Artis eyed him sheepishly. “I hope I didn’t offend you, young Corporal.”

“You didn’t,” Justin responded as he straightened up. “But if you don’t mind, I think it’s time I left for the day.”

“By all means,” Artis raised his chin and smiled. “You’ve accomplished a lot more than expected on your first day here. I’m sure Commander Williams and Captain Grant will be thrilled with your report once I send it over."

Justin shot him a half smile. “Well, they’ll be just as shocked as we are, but only when we find out who was responsible for planting that bomb will our deceased friend finally rest in peace.”

“I hope so,” Artis sighed. “Maybe closure for that sibling as well?”

Justin frowned now. “Yeah,” he replied dourly. “But we don’t even know who he is or how to find him.”

“Do you want to find him?” Artis asked.

Justin shrugged in response. “Don’t know. What if he doesn’t want to be found? I mean, would you? I don’t think I would.”

Artis smiled softly. “Maybe someday but not today?”

Justin responded with a half smile. “Exactly.”

In the meantime William was seated in the recreational room with a pen and piece of paper procrastinating over whether to write another letter or not, especially since he was well aware that Victoria was on the hunt for him now. No I shouldn’t, he hesitated staring down at the blank sheet. She’s probably even expecting another letter from me. He frowned as he crumpled the paper into a ball with his hands. Maybe later. He sighed as he suddenly tossed it over his shoulder only to be startled by a familiar voice.

“Nice throw.” He heard Stan remark from behind as he quickly looked back and noticed that Stand had caught it right in his hand.

“Nice catch,” William smiled in awe as he rose from his seat. “Where have you been all this time? You missed drill practice this morning you know?”

“I know,” Stan responded indifferently. “I had other matters to attend to. So how did it go for you this time?”

William gave a shrug. “It was alright, but at least I had a higher kill count this time. I’m definitely getting better at it. Was even hoping to get permission to fly the real thing soon. It’s been a while since I’ve been up there. I’m actually starting to miss it.”

“But you have nothing to kill up there, my friend,” Stan remarked slyly as he turned and tossed the wadded up ball of paper into a nearby trashcan as William looked on in awe.

“That’s quite a throwing arm you’ve got there, Stan,” he commented. “I’m surprised you’re not playing in the major leagues. You’d be a star player for sure.”

“Possibly,” Stan replied humbly. “But I’m afraid this is where I need to be.”

“And it’s good you’re here too,” William smiled. “But back to what you were saying before about there being nothing to kill up there? Well I was going to say at least you have the view. And that bird’s eye view of Atlantis City is worth it alone. Hey, maybe both of us can fly? You can be my wingman.”

Stan grinned. “I’d like to but I’m afraid I don’t meet the requirements, as I’ve yet to achieve the total hours of simulated flight time before I can set foot into the real thing.”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” William remarked. “You know I could always put in a good wor-” Then he suddenly paused as he spotted a small drop of blood on the breast of Stan’s uniform.“You’re bleeding, Stan,” William pointed out as Stan glanced down and noticed the spot.

“Oh that,” Stan remarked with a snort. “Don’t worry it’s just from a nosebleed I had earlier. I guess I didn’t realize it dripped onto my uniform as well.”

“A nosebleed?” William’s eyes grew wide with worry. “That could be serious, Stan. You should probably see a nurse for that, just to make sure everything’s fine.”

Stan shook his head in response. “No need to concern yourself, it’s nothing serious I assure you, otherwise I would’ve gone as soon as it happened, but I’m fine now.”

“I see,” William replied as he crossed his arms. “Well in that case you should probably do something about that spot. I’m sure there’s something in the laundry room that could remove it for you. Either that or you simply just put in a request for a new uniform. Could take about a week or more though, just so you know.”

Stan looked down at the spot again. “I think I’ll take my chances with some stain remover. By the way, where is that third wheel of ours?”

“Oh you mean Justin?” William replied. “That, I’m not sure. I haven’t even seen him since yesterday evening, but I’m sure he’s bound to show up here soon. You know how he is? That guy can hear us talking about him even when he’s half way across the other side of town.”

“Who me?” Justin suddenly announced standing in the doorway with a wide grin spread across his face.

William shook his head at him as he turned around. “You know we really should just tie a bell around your neck, Church. That way we’ll hear you coming from now on.”

“Eh?” Justin shrugged as he made his way over. “Same could be same for the two of yous too. So what’s the topic of discussion? I know it can’t just be me,” he narrowed his eyes and smirked.

William shot him a look right back. “Well if you must know, we were talking about this morning’s drill test that both of you seemed to have missed.”

“Well my excuse is I slept in late,” Justin answered with carelessness then he looked at Stan. “What’s yours, big guy?”

Stan’s face suddenly went blank as Justin’s words seemed to have a familiar ring to them, only he couldn’t quite figure it out at the moment. “I had some personal business to handle,” he replied.

“You do that a lot,” Justin remarked. “Where the heck do you even go? And why aren’t we ever invited huh?”

“That’s none of your business,” Stan answered coldly.

“Ouch, watch the tone,” Justin quipped as he stood akimbo. “I’m gonna go ahead and assume you probably woke up on the wrong side of the bed?”

“Alright you two, that’ll be enough of your quarreling,” William interrupted them rolling his eyes.

“We’re not quarreling though,” Justin corrected him as he raised a fist to Stan’s chin in a playful manner. “But if he wants to go I can take him right here!”

Stan suddenly went poker-faced as Justin began striking him in the chest with a series of fake punches. “C’mon now, aren’t ya gonna hit me back? Huh, huh, huh?”

“Trust me, you wouldn’t like it if I did,” Stan replied with a light shove causing Justin to stumble backwards right into William.

“Sorry about that,” Justin chuckled stupidly as he looked over his shoulder at William who didn’t look the least bit amused. “Uh huh,” William rolled his eyes as he suddenly raised a hand and smacked Justin on the back of his head.

“Hey now that hurt! Justin cried out as he turned and glared rubbing his head.

“Oh yeah?” William leaned in his face now. “Well that’s for that little comment this morning.” He flicked him on the forehead.

“Ouch! Again?” Justin quipped cupping a hand over his head while William laughed.

“You probably thought I forgot about that huh?” William taunted him. “Well nope I didn’t. As a matter of fact I was just waiting for the right moment where I’d catch you off guard.”

“Am I missing something?” Stan suddenly chimed in raising a brow.

“Nothing,” Justin groaned under his hand when William suddenly pried it off his face revealing a little redness on his forehead.

“You left a mark there didn’t you?” Justin frowned at him.

William chuckled. “I won’t lie to you it is a little red, but all you have to do is brush your bangs over it then it’s gone like magic.” He smirked.

Justin rolled his eyes. “So about tonight, are we still on? Or are you going to hide away again until she really does sit on my lap.”

William gritted his teeth and flicked him on the nose.

“Hey ow quit it already!” Justin flinched grabbing his nose “I get the message! I’ll shut up about it. But seriously, is the plan still on or not?”

“Yes its’ still on,” William answered him. “But there’s no way in hell I’m showing up there in my uniform.”

“Well why not?” Justin wondered.

“Because Sergeant Dickerson has informed me that she’s definitely looking for her secret admirer now,” William explained “Hell, she even thought he was me earlier when he stopped by for a drink. And when I told him about what happened when she ran into you, he assumed the same thing that she’s looking for me because of those letters. So now I definitely gotta lay low.”

Justin shot him a look. “Well it’s your fault you know? You’re the one who felt the need to mention you’re a soldier.”

“I know,” William smacked himself on the forehead. “Stupid me. But I still plan on being there tonight. I figure if she recognizes my face from the other day with that stupid pen then so be it.”

“Heh,” Justin tittered. “You were also wearing your uniform too,” he reminded him.

“Oh crap that’s right!” William suddenly exclaimed in stupor. “But what are the chances of her actually remembering me though?”

Justin shrugged. “Tough call, but anyways I gotta head out now. Gotta make a little stop at the flower shop before it closes,” he winked. “But uh, I’ll meet you at The Card Shack in an hour, sound good, Will?”

“Sure,” William nodded. “An hour it is.”

“And what about me?” Stan suddenly interjected wondering why they were leaving him out. “Am I not included in this outing of yours?”

Justin looked at William while shaking his head.

“Afraid not this time, Stan.” William responded sounding rather guilty. “I hope you can understand?” He clamped a hand on Stan’s shoulder while looking at him apologetically.

“Oh don’t worry its fine, I understand,” Stan nodded. “You’re going there for her. So I’ll just leave you to it.” Then without saying another word Stan headed for the door and walked out as William watched feeling very ashamed now.

“He couldn’t come with anyways, Will,” Justin suddenly spoke up. “There are things I’ve got to tell you. And these are things neither he nor anyone else should hear.”

William uttered a sigh. “I get it, so no worries.”

“Good,” Justin nodded. “No offense to Stan either, he’s a good friend to the both of us, we just can’t have him tagging along right now.”
“Again, I get it,” William repeated himself. “He can’t come with. I just wish you hadn’t dragged me into this whole top secret mess,” he sighed.

Top secret? Stan wondered as he stood outside the door listening. Now I’m curious.

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 27

Not long after Lynne had returned to her office she noticed there was a flashing light coming from her monitor now so she headed over and turned on the screen to find out what it was when she realized it was a new message from Artis. Well now this is curious; she thought tapping the screen to open it up and began reading.

Good afternoon, Vice Admiral. It began. I hope that it's been a good day for you as I've got some rather shocking news to share. The young corporal was most impressive today with his work and has even made an outrageous discovery regarding test flight 218. He informed me that he managed to take a sample from the remnants of the engine and found it to be coated with the left over residue of nitroglycerine. Furthermore, he's concluded that it was in fact a bomb that may have been planted inside the engine of the craft which was detonated thereby causing the fatal accident which destroyed our hard work and also ended that young pilot's life.

The young corporal also believes that our culprit could have very well been someone stationed at the base at the time and somehow gained access to the craft in time to plant the explosive just before its take off. I know how this must sound, but I trust Corporal Church and I strongly believe that he may be right. And for further proof, I have included a copy of Corporal Church's personal notes for yours and Captain Grant's eyes only. Keep this as evidence as I feel it would be in our best interest to arrange some kind of conference, in which we will include Sir Julius Morane, because if there's one thing I know he and my father Merl were sworn enemies, so this just might have his grubby prints all over it, and if we're going to get anywhere with him, it's best to force him to come there just so we can make him sweat.

But anyway, go ahead and arrange a quick meeting between yourself, Corporal Church, and Captain Grant, just until you figure out which would be the best approach. Also if need be, feel free to contact me for further assistance. I am but a phone call away you know?


Artis M. Frederic

Lynne could hardly believe her eyes now as she leaned back into her chair. "So it was murder after all?" She closed her eyes and made a fist. "I don't believe this, how could this be?" Then she suddenly reached for her phone and dialed Grant's number while hoping he wouldn't ignore her call especially at a time like this.

"Hello?" He answered, his voice sounding warm and soothing to her ears.

"Captain," Lynne spoke timidly. "We've got a serious problem here."

"I know," he replied gravely. "I just read the message myself. I don't believe it either, but if Artis suspects that Morane might have been behind it, then I don't blame him one single bit."

Lynne sighed as she clutched the phone tight. "What do we do now, Captain?"

"We do like Artis suggested," Grant answered. "We'll arrange for a conference meeting between our forces and the council, and we make Morane sweat."

"Yes," she agreed wanting nothing more than to apologize to him again. "I don't like the thought of him setting foot on our grounds, but I realize it must be done. So when exactly are we going to plan this?"

"I'll schedule it for next week," Grant replied. "After all we're going to need some time to gather all the evidence we need to build a strong case."

"Yes," she nodded. "In the meantime I'll meet with Corporal Church and see what else he can do to assist us. But I do feel it would be best if he is kept out of this meeting, for his own safety anyway. The last thing we need is for that madman to see the face of the one who discovered his dirty little secret."

"I agree," Grant replied. "Well I'll leave you to it then. Good bye," he suddenly hung up leaving Lynne on the other end of the dead line wondering if he'd ever forgive her.

He's still mad at me I can tell, she sighed as she finally hung up. I realize now this is going to take some time. She leaned back in her chair while staring at the portrait of her and her father again sitting on the corner of her desk. If you only knew, father. She sighed wearily now folding her arms across her chest. If you only knew.

Meanwhile Justin seemed to be in good spirits while he stood at the checkout of the flower shop after picking out a nice little colorful assortment of flowers for Grace.

"Oh these are very lovely," the young florist commented as she finished their transaction.

"Hydrangeas," Justin replied. "They're her favorite."

"Oh she sounds like a really special lady," the florist smiled. "For your mother right?"

His smile quickly vanished. "No, for my lady," he huffed rolling his eyes.

"My apologies," the florist chuckled nervously. "Well then you're all set," she smiled.

"Thanks," Justin replied as he snatched up the flowers and headed out. "For my mother," he mumbled under his breath. "Can no one take me seriously? Do I look that young for my age or what? Sheesh!" He continued muttering to himself bitterly as he made his way down the sidewalk passing by various little shops along the way. "I do hope she likes these," he sighed. "I know she told me to stop buying her gifts and what not, but flowers can't hurt right?" He gave a shrug as he suddenly came up to the main gate and was just about to let himself in when he suddenly heard laughter coming from across the street then turned his head and just about had a heart attack when he realized it was Grace laughing with a strange tall man dressed in business attire.

Then without even thinking Justin suddenly charged over there and demanded to know who this guy was and what she was doing with him.

"Who is this clown?" Justin quipped clenching his jaw.

"I beg your pardon?" The man narrowed his eyes and stared down at him as Grace cupped a hand over her face in embarrassment.

"You!" Justin pointed at him then scowled at Grace. "Who is this guy?"

Grace returned the scowl as she placed her hands on her hips. "This is my good friend Roderick, Corporal Church," she replied coldly. "And what gives you the right to come over here lashing out at us? We were just talking, and then here you come storming over here like a child throwing a tantrum, you need to grow up!"

Justin frowned and then raised his other hand revealing the flowers. "I got you these, Grace. They're your favorites. I remembered."

She wrinkled her nose at him. "That's very sweet of you; Corporal, but I don't want them."

"What!?" Justin exclaimed in disbelief. "But why not!?"

"Because I believe I told you not to buy me anymore gifts," she turned her nose up at him while crossing her arms. "But apparently you didn't get the message that time."

Justin frowned again and then glared at Roderick. "Just what kind of a name is Roderick anyway?" He scoffed. "And what do you even do for a living?"

"That's no business of yours," Grace intervened as she stepped in front of him. "Now get lost."

"Fine then!" Justin fired back as he suddenly dropped the bouquet of flowers to the ground and stomped off feeling bitter and angry. "I can't believe she did that to me," he muttered under his breath as he was making his way to The Card Shack now. "I guess now I can just find Will and two of us can drown our sorrows in booze tonight. Happy Valentine's Day to me indeed," he huffed as he continued stomping on by not realizing that right at that moment someone was keeping a close eye on him.

"He'd better be here already," Justin grumbled as he headed up the steps of the building and threw the doors open and barged right in completely unaware of the silhouetted figure in the background watching from across the street. Now as Justin entered the lobby he was stunned to find an unfinished floor beneath his feet. Is it just me or is Maxwell getting cheaper? He shook his head and then headed right for the bar while searching around for any sight of William yet. "Nope he's not here," Justin frowned.

"Oh it's you again," The bartender suddenly remarked with a scowl.

"Yes it's me," Justin quipped. "What's the matter with you, huh? What happened to Mr. Friendly from last night?"

Enrique huffed. "Well that was before you upset her."

"Come again?" Justin replied sounding stupefied.

"Nice try," Enrique hurled back. "But I'm not falling for your mind games either, kid."

"Boy you're really on something today aren't you?" Justin rolled his eyes. But I'm serious though, who is her and what have I done?"

Enrique sighed and shook his head. "She came here and waited for you, but you were nowhere to be seen."

Justin blinked. "Her as in Victoria, right?"

"Who else?" Enrique rolled his eyes. "Que tonto estúpido."

"Alright I get it," Justin raised his hands. "You think I'm her secret admirer?" He lowered his voice.

"Well aren't you?" Enrique furrowed his brow.

Justin shook his head. "No, it's not me. But I do know who it is."

"Okay then, who is it?" Enrique narrowed his eyes at him.

"I can't tell you that," Justin scowled back. "So don't even bother trying to get out of me, cause it won't work."

"Not even for a free drink?" Enrique offered setting an empty glass down in front of Justin to tempt him.

"He's my best friend," Justin sighed. "So I'm not about to betray him, not even for a free drink either. But on the other hand, I'll gladly pay for one as I wait for my other friend to get here."

"Fine then," Enrique replied. "What'll it be?"

"Whatever you call the drink for broken hearts." Justin sighed as he rested his elbows on the counter top. "My dream girl keeps rejecting me. Wouldn't even accept the flowers I got her either."

Enrique frowned as he listened beginning to feel sorry for him now. "Well at least she rejects you. Try being around someone who doesn't even know how you feel. But nevertheless I've got just the right drink in mind for you, friend."

Justin chuckled bitterly. "Sounds like we're both suffering in the romance department then."

"I would say so," Enrique replied mixing up Justin's drink. "I noticed you're in your uniform this time and not your disguise."

Justin laughed. "Worst disguise ever isn't it?"

"I've seen worse," Enrique shrugged. "Heck I've even seen a man walk inside here once without any pants on."

"Maxwell must've loved that," Justin remarked with a chuckle.

"Oh yes he did," Enrique nodded with a smirk. "Chased him right out of here with a rolled up newspaper too."

Justin laughed again then glanced down at the half finished floor. "What happened with this?" He pointed out.

"It was a big fiasco in here today," Enrique replied setting the drink down in front of him. "The police showed up in the midst of having the new floor installed and the guys quit."

"Wait a minute, the police were here?" Justin raised a brow as he lifted the glass to his face to take a sip.

"They were looking for something," Enrique lied. "But they didn't find it here."

"Good thing then," Justin responded taking another sip of his drink just to scrunch his face in distaste. "This is a little strong," he grimaced. "What's it called?"

"Ace of Spades," Enrique answered him as he wiped down the counter. "It's a little mix of everything, vodka, rum, tequila, scotch, and bourbon. It's sure to take your mind off any heartbreak. My own special concoction."

Justin pulled another face as he took a sip. "You mean to tell me you made this drink yourself?"

Enrique nodded. "It can be stressful working here so I had to find some other way to pass the time, so I just started playing around with different mixes."

"You sound like me a little," Justin replied in awe. "Except I play around with dangerous chemicals instead of booze. I like to find new ways to utilize them as weapons."

"Sounds fascinating," Enrique commented. "Dare I ask what kind of weapons?"

Justin took another sip and smirked. "The deadly kind of course."

"To be used against alien invaders, right?" Enrique remarked smugly.

"You're a fast learner," Justin nodded as he raised the glass to his face again when he suddenly spotted William walk in out of the corner of his eye then turned his head.

William was dressed in a light blue long sleeved shirt with dark brown pants yet he appeared to be out of breath as he panted while leaning against the wall for support.

"Just a moment please," Justin said to Enrique as he set the glass down then hurried over to William to find out where he'd been all this time.

"You're late," Justin scolded him. "But I see you're apparently out of breath because you were probably rushing to get here while hoping I wouldn't catch you sneaking in, right?"

William panted again while clutching at his chest with one hand. "No I was chasing after someone," he heaved.

"What? Who?" Justin responded slack jawed.

"I don't know who it was." William answered wiping the sweat from his brow. "But they didn't say a single word and I didn't even get a good look at their face."

Justin chuckled. "Maybe it was Victoria? You know, she's on the hunt for you, right?" He winked as William rolled his eyes.

"It wasn't her, this is serious," William quipped. "I think they were trying to kill me."

Justin's eyes went round. "That's not good. So who could it be then? Anyone we know?"

William sighed. "I wouldn't know that's just it. But I'm beginning to think I shouldn't be here now."

Justin blinked. "But you just got here? So why not stay? I mean are you seriously going to let some nobody out to get you ruin your fun?"

"Church," William raised his voice and glared at him. "This is serious, okay? I need to report this to the commander at least. And maybe you shouldn't be here either? If they're after me, who's not to say they're not after you too, or anyone from the AMF for that matter."

"Right," Justin sighed. "Well in that case, can we move this party to your place tonight?"

"Fine," William nodded. "I'm sure my sister isn't at home anyway."

"Great!" Justin exclaimed clapping his hands together. "I'll get the booze! Cause you're my drinking buddy tonight pal, whether you want to be or not."

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

a long overdue update

Chapter 28

"So who do you think our mystery assailant is, Will?" Justin asked as he popped the cap off a bottle of whiskey then poured some in a glass for himself and William while they sat across from one another in William's living quarters.

"Tough to say," William answered as he accepted the glass from Justin's hand then took a sip only to scrunch his face up in disgust. "Ugh!" He winced. "How exactly can you or anyone else handle this stuff? It tastes like piss!"

Justin chuckled. "You're not supposed to like the taste, and how would you even know what piss tastes like huh?" He smirked then took a sip from his own glass.

William narrowed his eyes then took another swig. "Twas an exaggeration, you nimrod."

"Fair enough," Justin nodded when a thought suddenly crossed his mind. "Say, you don't think it was Stan do you? The assailant I mean."

"No," William replied with an awkward stare. "And can I ask why in the universe you would even think that? He's our friend, Church."

"Uh yeah I know that," Justin quipped. "But seriously, how well do we really know the guy? I mean think about it? He's very strange and something about him just seems off."

William shook his head in disbelief then took another swig.

"You don't agree with me then?" Justin responded as he picked up the bottle and poured more into his glass while offering William another refill as well.

"No I don't," William answered as he held out his glass and Justin poured more in. "And to be honest here, I think it's wrong of us to be talking behind his back like this. We wouldn't like if he did it to us, I know I wouldn't."

"Well then let's change the subject," Justin suggested as he set the bottle back down. "We can talk about what a fool I made of myself in front of Grace earlier," he sighed bitterly.

"What happened?" William asked curiously.

"Well, I found her with another man," Justin frowned bowing his head. "And I had just gotten her flowers too but she didn't even want them, all because of that loser she was with, Roderick." He scoffed. "By the way what kind of a name is that anyway? It's as if his parents couldn't make up their minds if they wanted to name him Rod or Frederick so they came up with the brilliant idea of combining the two! Hey look at me my name is Roderick! I wear a fancy suit and talk like I've got a stick up my ass. I mean what does Grace even see in that stiff?"

William was speechless now as he took another swig from his glass.

"I mean, just thinking about her with that guy makes me sick," Justin ranted while making a fist. "For all I know she could be plunking him right now," he shuddered. "I don't even want to think about that."

"Me either," William replied with a blank stare. "Thanks for the mental image."

"Sorry," Justin chuckled stupidly. "But you know it's true. Both our women have been bedded by other guys."

William groaned and shook his head in disbelief. "Tell me again why I agreed to letting you come over?"

"Well for one, my place is a mess so we couldn't have our party over there," Justin explained. "And second I'm not trying to offend you. I'm just here to vent and get drunk, because I need to. So are you even the least bit buzzed yet or do you need another refill?"

"Oh yes I'm feeling buzzed alright," William nodded. "And sure go right ahead," he held out his glass again.

"Well if you want to talk about crazy, your ancestors fit the bill to a tee," Justin mentioned as he refilled William's glass. "I mean one of them I met with, she was talking about how you're the blood of Ammon therefore you've got to be the one to liberate them or whatever," he huffed.

"Come again?" William raised a brow.

"Your Tjatey ancestors want you to be their new leader, Will," Justin explained. "They believe it's your destiny, so I told them to piss off, you've made your own choices and don't want to be some damn leader of a bunch of renegades. Oh and yeah before I forget. I'm the one who found out how that pilot died. It was a bomb, Will. He was murdered."

William couldn't believe his ears now despite the fact Justin was rambling on like a drunken idiot. "You're not making this up?"

"Of course I'm not even though I'm sloshed to hell right now," Justin argued. "That's why things are all hush, hush," he held a finger to his lips. "In fact I'm surprised that the commander hasn't called me in yet for a private meeting about the whole thing. Maybe she doesn't care? Yeah that's it. The heartless wench," he started to chug down the rest of his whiskey when William leaned forward and stopped him.

"Maybe you shouldn't drink anymore tonight?" He advised.

"I know," Justin groaned in disgust. "I'm just an angry drunk like my father. That's one of the reasons why I stay away from him, Will. He's always drunk when I see him and all he does is criticize me. I'm so sick of it I could just scream sometimes, you know?"

"I'm sorry," William began to frown. "And as your best friend I want you to know that you're nothing like your father. In fact you're better than him and I'm glad you were able to come here and get away from him. You're much better off now."

"Thanks Will." Justin managed a half smile. "That means a lot coming from you, just so you know. But there's something I've always wondered though. Like what kind of drunk are you?"

"The over-emotional kind," William answered glumly. "The kind that would probably make myself look like an even bigger fool in front of Victoria if she were standing in front of me right now."

Justin chuckled in amusement. "Would you tell her you loved her?"

"Yeah," William sighed. "I probably would. Then I'd find a nice tall building, climb to the very top and jump right off."

"Wearing a parachute, right?" Justin teased. "And say, where's your sister?" He wondered as he suddenly stood up to stretch his legs.

"Out I think," William answered back. "Why do you ask?"

"Just curious?" Justin shrugged as he headed for the bathroom. "I gotta pour my own whiskey if you know what I mean," he joked standing in the doorway.

"Then go, do your business," William shot him a look of disgust and shooed him away with his hand. "And please close the door."

"Oh right, sorry," Justin laughed stupidly as he slowly pulled it shut.

"This party is officially over now," William muttered to himself as he rose to his feet and collected their glasses then headed into the kitchen. He set them down in the sink underneath the running water and began rinsing them out when he suddenly caught a quick glimpse of a dark figure standing right outside his window.

"Church!" He called out in panic as he dropped the glasses and stumbled backwards. "They're back again!"

Justin quickly poked his head out of the bathroom door. "Who?"

"The assailant from earlier, they've followed us here!" William replied angrily. "I just saw them standing outside the kitchen window," He pointed out while noticing they had already vanished.

"You've got to be kidding," Justin remarked. "How'd they even get inside the fences? You need an ID number or at least a registered finger print to gain access."

"I know," William replied worriedly while searching around for some kind of weapon when he spotted the half empty whiskey bottle still sitting on the table and hurried over and picked it up then headed for the front door.

"Wait!" Justin called after him as he came rushing out of the bathroom right as William was about to walk out. "Be careful, Will," he cautioned. "We don't even know if they're armed or not, and for all you know it could be a trap. I mean, what if you're doing exactly what they want you to?"

William huffed. "So what's the other option, Church? I just stay in here like a god damned coward while they stand out there waiting for me all night? Well I don't think so! If it's a fight they want then it's a fight they'll get. I won't back down, so are you with me or not?"

"Of course I'm with you," Justin flung back. "I just think we should have some kind of plan in place so we aren't mindlessly walking into anything you know?"

"Yes I know," William sighed in frustration as he grabbed for the doorknob. "But it's now or never, Church, and if you haven't already noticed it's two against one so they don't stand a fighting chance against both of us." Then without further delay he threw open the door and stepped outside with Justin following right behind him.

"Alright no more games!" William growled as he held the whiskey bottle tight. "You wanted me? Well here I am! Come and get me!"

"Us!" Justin announced as he stood at William's side raising a fist. "Come and get us you lowlife degenerate!"

"Yes that's right," William agreed. "It's two against one and we're not going to run anymore so you better come out right now and face us like a man!"

But at that moment the mysterious figure hiding in back of the building appeared hesitant and clueless as what to do next.

"I think we've already scared them off, Will," Justin mentioned as he searched around for any sign of the person. "And maybe this time for good. Seems they can only handle one of us," he smirked.

William nodded in response even though he didn't feel the least bit convinced that it was over. "I just have the feeling they're still out there," he narrowed his eyes. "And this, whatever it is, is far from over. They'll be back. I'm sure they're just going to wait until one of us is alone."

"So then we stick together." Justin suggested. "You watch my back and I'll watch yours."

William shook his head. "That wouldn't work, Church. You know that, especially with your top secret project and all." Then before either of them could say another word the mysterious figure suddenly bolted out from behind the building and took off running as fast as they could taking the two young men by complete surprise.

"It's them!" William gasped in a wide eyed stupor before he took off running after them himself leaving Justin behind. "Stop!" William commanded while hoping that one of the guards on duty near the front would catch them before they could make it outside the fences again. "I said stop!"

But it was no use they weren't listening to him and now he realized that despite his stance against violence and harming others he needed to take action and it had to be now. So then he didn't even hesitate, not for a second when he quickly hurled the whiskey bottle into the air with as much force as he could muster then stopped and watched as the bottle flew directly at his intended target striking them right in the upper part of their back completely stunning and knocking them on their knees. William could hardly believe his luck.

"Get up," William snarled approaching them now while they just sat there hunched over groaning in pain with their face hidden beneath a mane of long dark hair. "I'm not done with you yet," he threatened as he knelt down and retrieved his bottle. "I'll be honest here. I don't want to hurt you because I don't like violence, but if you don't tell me who you are and why you've been following me right now, then you leave me with no other choice. You understand?"

But there was no answer and although William wasn't looking forward to harming this strange person, he knew he'd have to if they didn't cooperate and soon.

"Well I guess we have to do things the hard way then," he scowled as he raised the bottle above his head prepared to land his first blow when all of sudden they looked over their shoulder at him and he could finally see their face. "I don't believe it," he gasped as he lowered the bottle in utter shock. "You're a woman?"

Then all of a sudden Justin arrived on the scene clutching at his side with one hand completely out of breath. "Looks like you've got em, Will," he commended in between pants as he stepped closer only to find himself looking back at a familiar face. "Dendera? Is that you?"

"Yes, young Corporal," she answered in defeat her face fraught with shame.

"Wait a minute, you know her?" William shot Justin a look of suspicion as he dropped the bottle.

"Yeah I do," Justin answered. "She works for Artis," he explained. "But I haven't a clue as to what she's doing here or why she was following you." He turned and glared at her as he made a fist. "So we want answers now, Dendera."

She lowered her head again. "I meant neither of you any harm, I was only trying to warn him," she looked up at William staring into his piercing eyes.

"And you couldn't just knock on the damn door?" Justin remarked angrily crossing his arms. "That could've saved you a lot of trouble."

"I know," she sighed lowering her gaze to the ground. "But I was afraid."

"Afraid of what?" William demanded to know now. "And what the hell is it you need to warn me about?"

"You're in great danger," she answered regretfully as she rose to her feet then looked at Justin. "I wasn't supposed to tell him but I had to," she began to tear up. "The elders, they have taken Onuris prisoner so I had to lie and pretend I was on their side or else they would kill him."

"Wait a minute now," Justin interrupted her. "Who are the elders? And is Artis at least safe?"

"They're the eldest of the Tjatey warriors," she explained. "I myself are considered one of the elders as is Onuris, but because we have sided with you we have been discarded and branded as traitors. Artis is also considered a traitor but he is safe I assure you. They do not have him."

"But why me?" William asked. "What have I done?"

Dendera frowned. "It is because you have refused your rightful place as our leader; therefore you have angered the elders and caused a great divide among us."

William fell silent in that moment his face consumed with fear and shock as though he were struggling to keep himself together. "It looks like you were right after all, Church," he closed his eyes and sighed. "They really were hoping I would take Ammon's place."

"But it's my fault, Will," Justin frowned. "I answered for you because I didn't think leading the Tjatey was something you wanted. So really, I caused this whole mess and I'm sorry."

"No," William shook his head. "You didn't cause anything because you're right," he spoke with harshness as he glared at Dendera. "I don't want to be their leader, or any kind of leader, and I'd rather tell them myself if that's still possible. Is it still possible?"

"I'm afraid not," she answered frightfully. "They're already planning a big uprising against the AMF as we speak and they plan to kill all of your soldiers and any Tjatey who still choose your side. But the Tjatey traitors will be the first to die."

"This is nuts," Justin exclaimed in outrage. "Absolutely nuts! All this just because Will would rather live a different life? Well that tears it; we've got to warn the others about this so called uprising and we've got to do it now!"

"No you can't!" She pleaded as she lunged forward and grabbed him by the arm. "They can't know or else Onuris will die."

Justin jerked his arm away and looked at her now as though she were insane. "But you betrayed them just now by telling me and Will, so what difference does it make if the others know?"

"Trust me it does," she answered.

"But our people will die!" He shouted furiously. "Don't you understand that? And we will too if we don't do anything, and I'm sure you don't want that. I'm sure you don't want any of this, Dendera. But in order to stop it we have to report it don't you see? So you have to tell us the names of the elders! I'm being serious here!"

She frowned as tears began streaming down her face. "I'm sorry but I can't.

"Do you know when are they planning this attack?" William suddenly asked. "Can you at least tell us that?"

"I don't know exactly when," she answered. "But all I know is that it's soon, real soon."

William sighed deeply then exchanged looks with Justin. "We're going to have to plan for this now either way. So do you have any bight ideas on how we deal with this mess?"

Justin nodded. "Yeah I do. But something as big as this is gonna be hard to keep to ourselves."

"Yeah," William uttered resentfully while wishing there was something he could do to stop this attack when all of sudden he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned his head to find Dendera looking up at him with her face full of sorrow.

"I know you do not wish to take his place," she acknowledged. "But I wanted to tell you how much you remind me of him. You even have his strength as I saw when you brought me down."

"You're lucky I missed," William scoffed coldly as he pulled himself away. "Because I was really aiming for your head."

"So I see," she replied in shock as her arms dropped at her sides. "I suppose I should be grateful then."

"Grateful that I would never harm a woman?" William sneered at her while Justin remained quiet. "No, you should feel grateful that neither I nor Justin here are going to say a word about this whole thing to anyone, despite the fact that we should only because it's the right thing to do and because we don't want to lose anyone."

"But why?" She asked. "I sense your hatred for me already, so why help me at all?"

"Because I don't want your companion to die," he answered bitterly. "That's what he is to you, right? You love him and that's why you're willing to sacrifice our lives to save him."

She nodded as she wiped away the tears from her eyes. "It makes me feel terrible inside."

"I'm sure," William agreed. "But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. And we're also not going to go down without a fight." He looked to Justin who nodded in agreement. "But I do want to make one thing perfectly clear with you," he narrowed his eyes as he stared her down. "I want you and the rest of your people to stay the hell away from me, you got that?"

"Yes," she answered timidly.

"I mean it!" William snarled raising a fist. "You better stay far away from me! Because the next time I encounter any of you, I won't hesitate to end you where you stand!" And with that he turned around and began storming off back home leaving Justin and Dendera behind.

Wow, Justin thought to himself now as he just stood there wide eyed and shocked.

"I did not mean for any of this to happen," Dendera looked at him and frowned. "I did not mean to make him hate me. I just wanted to save him and you." Her bottom lip trembled as she bit down on it. "But do you feel the same, young Corporal? Am I to stay away from you too?"

"I-I don't know," Justin sighed. "I really wish you'd just let us report this so we can stop them, Dendera. Can't you see you've doomed us all here? Sure I might have a plan, but what if it doesn't work, then what?" He shook his head at her. "I mean what you're asking for here is genocide," he frowned at her. "And I hope you know that."

While elsewhere at that moment Onuris had just awoken to find himself in a dark and strange place. His vision was blurry and he felt completely disoriented as he struggled to regain consciousness when it suddenly dawned on him that he couldn't even move now as he looked up and down to see his hands and feet were bound with rope. "What is going on? Where am I?" He began to panic as he started tugging and pulling on the ropes in attempt to free himself.

"Seger!" (Quiet!) An angry voice soon erupted as a tall figure dressed in a black cloak emerged from out of the darkness and stood before him now. "Dejed sesh a-kehm!" (Speak their language no more!)

Onuris immediately recognized that voice. "Naeem?"

"Wesef." (It is I) He answered coldly. "Nety fen, Onuris" (You are weak, Onuris) "Sen iew fen." (They have made you weak.)

"Tjen Dendera?" (Where is Dendera?) Onuris demanded to know.

"Shem." (Gone.) Naeem answered him.

Onuris began to fear the worst now. "Senef kheben?" (Is she dead?)

"Nef." (No.) Naeem answered. "Nedji aai sep." (But I'll save her for last.)

"Mes re-a'-khet?" (You're going to war then?) Onuris asked.

"Keded sen." (We'll slaughter them.) Naeem sneered at him. "Seseh en seba, rek mesneh nekhet." (Destroy them completely and take back our old lives.) "Shemes sedjet." (We are the fire.) "Neser sma a'nen." (And together we will burn them down.)

"Nef." (No) Onuris hung his head in guilt as his eyes filled with tears. "Hepet ak mehwet, rehew iam mer." (They are friends and also family.) "Sar henew, petekh seshem." (We need them, they saved us.)

Naeem shook his head in disapproval while several other Tjatey followers began to circle around him and Onuris. "Sen khem mer." (They are not friends.) "Sen afa, sen bin." (They are greedy, and they are evil.) "Hena sed sen." (We will punish them.)

Just then Naeem unsheathed an ancient looking dagger with a jagged blade and raised it above his head as Onuris gazed up in horror. "Tepey hed ek!" (First we punish you!) Naeem shouted as he drove the dagger down in a quick motion stabbing Onuris directly in the heart while the others looked down on him with contempt. "En netjer!" (For our god!) Naeem chanted as he stepped back and watched as Onuris bled out while the others began to bow down before their new leader. "Ef Nedji min!" (He'll save us now!)

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 29


It was finally the day of the official meeting between the AMF corps and Morane and the council, but Lynne wasn't at all feeling the least bit prepared for it. She sat quietly at the long rectangular table in the center of the conference room feeling rather apprehensive and jittery as she kept fumbling with the folder full of evidence in front of her, wondering if they had everything they needed in order to charge Morane with the crime. I know he's behind it, she thought to herself. And now we've got him.

Abraham sat to her left with his arms crossed, his head down, and the bill of his hat pulled down over his eyes as if he were attempting to take a short nap before the meeting started. But ever since he arrived he hadn't said a single word. And as of now he and Lynne were the only two people there.

"We're starting soon," she mentioned to him as she sighed and pressed her hands against her face while her eyes shifted to the rest of the empty seats around them and then to the clock on the wall. "I hope they haven't forgotten already."

"They'll be here, don't worry," he replied as he raised his hat back up and scratched his nose.

"Would you care for any coffee or tea, Miss?" A female server suddenly asked her.

"No thank you," Lynne replied shaking her head.

"And how about you, Sir?" The server looked at Abraham.

"Yes please," He nodded as he removed his hat and placed it into his lap. "I'll take coffee. No cream and no sugar either."

Lynne uttered a sigh of boredom as she picked up the folder and began sorting through its contents again in an obsessive manner when all of a sudden Artis walked inside with Sergeant Dickerson right behind him.

"We're cutting it close, wouldn't you say so?" Artis turned to Chris and laughed before heading over to the table and taking his seat right as the rest of the AMF officials were walking in now.

"Well it seems the others are finally arriving now," Lynne mentioned to Abraham as she closed the folder and set it back down. "Now we just have to wait for Morane and the council."

Abraham carefully took a sip of his coffee and set the cup back down. "Don't expect him to be on time either," he remarked. "The man is always late even for his own meetings."

She simpered in amusement and crossed her arms. "Does he even know what the meeting is about?"

"No he doesn't," Abraham answered taking another sip of his coffee. "All I mentioned was that it was important and urgent that he attend."

Lynne smirked. "You do realize he might try to leave once he learns the truth right?"

"Yes," Abraham nodded. "Definitely counting on that."

But it wasn't much longer when a long black limousine suddenly pulled up outside the fences of the base and out stepped an elderly looking chauffeur who then walked all the way around the car to the end and opened the door for Morane while offering him his hand to help him out.

"I don't need your assistance," Morane snapped at him jerking his arm away. "I'm only sixty fucking years old! I'm still young and capable enough to get out of a god damn vehicle! So get away from me you rigid old fuck!"

"My apologies, Sir," the frail timid chauffer bowed and stepped away as a couple of AMF guards opened the gate and began escorting Morane inside leading him to the main building while other military personnel and even some Tjatey civilians stood by and watched as they stared at him.

"What the fuck are you looking at?" Morane spat at them and then noticed a small Tjatey child wrapped around the leg of her dark haired mother. "And look at that, you're still breeding them I see," he remarked with a cynical laugh as the guards rolled their eyes. "Gotta build your army somehow eh?" Morane taunted. "Because the people of Atlantis City sure as fuck don't want to join you. So what do you do? You knock up the fucking aliens that's what."

"We've arrived," one of the guards announced coldly as he held the door open and Morane walked inside but not before stopping to pester the guard a little longer. "How many of those aliens have you fucked anyway?" He grinned staring up at the man as he pulled a cigar out of the front pocket of his dark blue suit. "Cause I know there's a lot of crossbreeding going on here, ain't that right?" He patted him on the cheek.

"Sir, the meeting is starting now," the other guard informed Morane. "Please follow me."

Morane scoffed as he lit his cigar. "Have some patience. You know as well as I that this meeting ain't gonna be nothing but a bunch of bullshit. Still I'm happy to attend." He smirked. "Sure beats sitting in my office all the time you know?"

"Just as I expected," Abraham mentioned to Lynne as he checked the time. "I tell you it never fails."

"Mmmhmm," Lynne muttered staring down at the table's surface when out of the corner of her eye she caught Artis gawking at her like a lovesick fool but as soon as she turned her head in his direction he quickly looked away. You're not fooling me for one second, she thought. How I wish you'd just give up already.

Then all of a sudden the doors flew open and in walked Morane with the AMF guards right behind him.

"Well I've arrived!" Morane announced jovially as he puffed on his cigar. "So where do I park my ass? He grinned at Abraham. "Or can I sit wherever I like?"

Abraham exchanged looks with Lynne and the others. "Sit wherever you like," he gestured. "We'd like you to be as comfortable as possible, Mr. Morane."

"Julius," Morane corrected him as he took a seat in the empty chair at the other end of the table. "We're still good friends, remember? Or are you still sore at me over that little incident from last week? Anyway, can someone point me to the fucking lavatory? I really need to take a piss before we begin, if you don't mind, Grant."

Abraham uttered a sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose trying hard not to lose his patience with the man. "No, go right ahead," he insisted. "And take all the time you need."

Lynne turned her head and looked at him as though he were crazy.

"Thanks, Grant," Morane replied in kind as he got up from his seat and followed one of the guards out of the room.

"What are you doing?" Lynne leaned over and whispered angrily. "He's just going to take advantage of you and continue to stall the meeting."

"Relax," Abraham replied quietly. "We're still waiting for the other members of the council to arrive."

Lynne huffed. "We are? Well where are they? They should've already been here by now. I think he came alone."

In the meantime things had been unusually quiet at the Card Shack for the past week as neither Maxwell nor Enrique had heard from Victoria since the day she left to seek out Morane's assistance to help them deal with the police. The floor was still left unfinished as Maxwell had been less than unsuccessful in finding anyone else who would do it for the cheap pay he was offering, and not only that but it also appeared that Victoria's absence had greatly affected the number of customers he'd had since then and he wasn't the least bit happy about it.

"Damn, damn, damn!" He exclaimed madly while pounding his fist on the desk in his office. "Where is that woman and why in bloody hell hasn't she returned my calls! My business has been suffering and it's all her fault! She was supposed to be here that was our agreement and how dare she ignore me!" He continued raging on before snatching up the phone once more and dialing her number.

"Pick up damn you!" He snarled then listened for four more rings before slamming it back down again. "Where in bloody hell are you?" He gnashed his teeth while gripping the arm of his chair then quickly got back up and headed downstairs to check in with Enrique, but the young bartender looked to be bored out of his mind standing behind an empty counter while staring up at the ceiling praying for some customers to show up soon so he'd have some work to do. Maxwell had already made him wipe down the walls and tables and even scrub the barren half of the floor on his hands and knees just for the hell of it. And all the while Maxwell had kept him busy doing all these absurd chores, he couldn't help but worry about Victoria the whole time and even prayed that she were safe and sound wherever she was.

"I just hope you're okay," Enrique sighed worriedly leaning over the counter when Maxwell suddenly approached him.

"Have you heard anything at all from Miss Thompson?" Maxwell asked.

Enrique quickly straightened up and shook his head. "No, Sir. I haven't seen her either."

"Codswallup!" Maxwell shook his fist at him. "I don't believe you!"

"Honest to god," Enrique swore to him. "I don't know where she is!"

"Well wherever she is she's still getting mail," Maxwell remarked irritably as he tossed a sealed letter from her secret admirer onto the counter in front of him.

"What's this?" Enrique asked hesitantly picking it up.

Maxwell scoffed. "Well what the bloody hell do you think it looks like, hmm? It's another letter from that stalker of hers you miserable little wanker!"

Enrique picked it up and looked it over while wondering what the letter even said. "But why are you giving it to me?"

"Because you're going to deliver it to her," Maxwell answered curtly. "That will be your job for the day, along with finding out just where she's been and why she hasn't been keeping up her part of the bargain. Now do you think you can handle this simple task, Enrique? Or must I do it myself whilst you scrub the floor again?"

"No, I'll do it," Enrique answered quickly dreading the very thought of getting back down on his hands and knees again. "But I don't think I can promise her return."

Maxwell leaned in his face. "Don't even give me that shite, you will get her back here or else you can find a new job!"

Enrique swallowed hard. "Yes Sir."

"Good then," Maxwell smirked as he handed him a card with Victoria's address scribbled on it. "She lives on the thirty-fourth floor of her building. But I must warn you that sometimes the elevators break down, which means if that happens then you'll have to take the stairs, and believe me when I tell you that climbing those stairs is a lot worse than scrubbing this floor. But I think you'll handle it just fine. Now go on, get!" He pointed towards the door. "I need her back before tonight!"

Meanwhile precious time appeared to be wasted when Morane finally returned to the conference room, but as soon as he walked through the doors he was met with a lot of angry faces, including Abraham and Lynne but it didn't faze him in the least.

"Damn, Grant, you sure keep things tidy around this place," Morane complimented as he took his seat back and shooed the guards away. "The lavatory was absolutely spotless. Was however," he smirked at everyone.

"What about the other members of the council?" Abraham had to ask now seeing as it was already fifteen minutes into the meeting and they hadn't even started yet. "I was hoping they'd join us too as it is rather important you see."

Morane chuckled obnoxiously triggering more looks from his audience. "No, Grant. I'm afraid it's just me; after all I am the council am I not? And say, where's the booze at? You know we can't begin a meeting without the good shit."

"I'm sorry but we aren't serving alcohol at this meeting," Abraham sighed in aggravation as he struggled to remain calm now. "Your choices are coffee or tea, that's all."

Morane pulled a face then whipped out another cigar from his pocket and lit it. "Well this meeting has already lost my interest," he remarked bitterly. "Though I'm sure if I stepped into your office, Grant I'd find some booze hidden away somewheres, right?" He winked at him.

"All right, that's enough," Abraham snapped. "This meeting is now in session," he then turned to Lynne and gave a nod.

"Mr. Morane," Lynne addressed him in an icy tone of voice. "I am sure you are completely unaware as to why we've called you here on this day, but don't worry you'll know soon enough." She suddenly pulled a copy of their report out of her folder and slid it down to him then watched with a twisted smile across her face as he picked it up and began looking it over noting the quick change in his expression when he suddenly slammed it down in outrage and met her with a scowl.

"What is this bullshit?" He glared at Abraham. "So that's why I've been summoned isn't it, Grant? So you could all sit there and point your fucking fingers at me? Well I'm deeply appalled. I am. No wait, I am fucking pissed to hell is what I am!" He slammed a fist on the table.

Lynne narrowed her eyes at him. "Please watch your temper and your mouth, Mr. Morane. We do not appreciate your profanity here as you are in the presence of some highly respectable people. So we ask that you remain civil and quiet until it is your turn to speak, understood?"

Morane scoffed at her. "More like I'm in the presence of a bunch of alien apologists, a bunch of fucking traitors too," he grinned at her.

"That'll be enough, Morane" Abraham said sternly then looked at Artis. "Go ahead, Mr. Frederic. I believe it's your turn."

"Thank you very much, Captain." Artis nodded in kind as he picked up his copy of the report and began to speak while Morane quietly puffed on his cigar drumming his fingers on the table.

"As you all may know, test flight 218 back in the year 3994 ended in complete disaster," Artis stated. "And we lost a very brave soul that day, and one who volunteered himself, his very life for a great cause."

"Oh for fuck's sake," Morane snapped rolling his eyes. "Is this a fucking funeral or a meeting? I didn't kill this sad sack of shit, I can tell you that much. So why in fuck am I even here?" He glared at Abraham.

"You will remain silent until it is your turn to speak, Mr. Morane," Lynne suddenly warned him then looked at Artis. "You may continue, Mr. Frederic," she nodded.

"Thank you, Miss Williams," he smiled in return then proceeded to speak. "As I was saying before, we lost someone that day and we all wanted to know why. We salvaged the wreckage and took apart what we could in order to look closer and see if perhaps Atlantech had been at fault, and for those six years that was what we believed. Until now."

"Horseshit!" Morane scoffed. "I didn't fucking do it despite how badly you'd all like to believe I did, and I'm sure you do."

"Morane!" Abraham raised his voice. "Please allow the man to speak without anymore interruptions and drop the damn profanity!"

Morane gritted his teeth while Abraham sighed and massaged the temples of his forehead. "You may proceed, Artis."

"Thanks again, Captain Grant" Artis nodded then he turned to Morane. "First and foremost I do apologize, Mr. Morane as I know you probably don't appreciate being accused of something as controversial as this, but in order to get anywhere we're going to have to set aside our differences and get right to the bottom of things. Now we all know how you feel about the AMF and the existence of the Tjatey, as you've been nothing but vocal of such opinions for the past thirty-some odd years I'm sure you can see why we'd immediately link you to such an occurrence as this."

"And you think me or one of my men had something to do with it?" Morane remarked. "That's basically what this shit is telling me," he slammed his fist down again. "Boy when something goes wrong here you fucks are sure quick to point your fingers at me. That's what your father did too, Frederic," he smirked. "So like father like son. Ain't that right?"

Artis suddenly froze but the look on his face said it all. Morane had gotten to him and now Lynne couldn't help but feel his turmoil since she knew exactly what that was like being it happened to her too not that long ago. But even now being in the same room with Morane was enough to induce a sickness like she'd never felt before. Yet despite his unruly behavior and outright arrogance there was still a hint of honesty in his voice and it was something she couldn't quite grasp nor deny. Could he really be telling the truth? She wondered as she stared back at him.

"Morane," Abraham spoke up once again. "You are to remain silent when someone else is talking. Do you hear me?"

Morane chuckled in amusement. "Nice to see you've gotten your balls back, Grant. Cause there for a while I was fairly certain the redhead had them in a bag somewhere. Glad to see I was wrong."

"That will be enough!" Abraham slammed his fist down. "Ever since you arrived you've been nothing but rude and disrespectful to everyone inside this room. Even before you knew the topic at hand I might add. So right now I am asking you to stop this behavior or else I will have my guards throw you in the brig. That is my final warning, Morane. Don't test me." He scowled at him then shifted his eyes over to Artis. "Once again I do apologize, Mr. Frederic. Proceed."

Artis nodded in response. "As I was saying before," he continued as he turned back to Morane. "We're not trying to point fingers here. If anything we're just trying to figure out who is responsible for this, and if you had anything at all to do with it, then why? What would your reasoning be?"

Morane scoffed then stared at Abraham. "Is it my fucking turn yet or not?"

Abraham groaned deeply as he covered his face with his hand. "Yes, Morane." It is your turn to speak now."

"Alright then," Morane nodded with a grin as he looked at Artis. "So, Mr. Frederic. I've sat here and I've listened to your bullshit accusation, and it is bullshit too. Because I absolutely had nothing to do with this kid's death. Am I liar? Yes I fucking am and a damn good liar too, but when it comes to telling the truth I'm also good at that. So hear me out when I say that I did not put anyone up to this mess. Because if I had wanted this kid dead, I would've gone about it another way. I don't like bombs, too messy and too painless of a death. I like my victims to suffer you see?" He smirked at Abraham. "And not only that but I could care less about your damn jets. I mean what in fuck do I even have to gain by sabotaging your future?"

Lynne shot him a scowl as she suddenly interrupted. "A lot."

"Oh my dear," he replied condescendingly with a smug grin. "It's not your turn to speak yet, is it? Is that not the rule here, Grant?"

Abraham sighed deeply. "Yes that's right."

"Good then," Morane noted with a crooked smile. "And since this whole meeting is about accusations, then allow me to share one of my own now. Your fucking ancestors are responsible for the deaths of my relatives as well as millions of lives on Earth. And all because your forces weren't strong enough to defeat those aliens. So what did you do? You got lucky and you caught the son of a bitch leader, but you didn't kill him, oh no. Instead you listened to him and begged him to join your fucking side because without him you couldn't win the war could you?"

"Morane," Abraham suddenly spoke up. "I'm afraid this meeting is coming to a close now."

"The fuck it is!" Morane snapped. "You brought me here to point your fingers at me and with no hard proof either, but when I return the favor you shut me down!?"

"I mean it," Abraham growled. "Do not make me warn you again."

Morane huffed. "Or you'll throw me in your prison? That right?"

Just then Lynne reached over and placed a hand on Abraham's shoulder. "Just let him go he isn't worth it," she whispered calmly.

"But you believe me don't you?" Morane piped up again. "That I didn't kill that piece of shit?"

"The meeting is over," Abraham announced abruptly as he rose up from his seat. "I thank you all for your attendance, and I deeply apologize if any of you were offended in anyway." Then his eyes shifted to Morane. "And Morane here is sorry as well."

"Fuck the lot of you," Morane snarled then stood up. "I ain't apologizing for shit!"

Chris shot Lynne a look as he stood up while and shaking his head in disappointment and Lynne frowned. This whole thing has been a complete disaster, she thought while looking over at Abraham. But at least we know now that Morane is innocent............for once. Or is he simply just playing us like fools?

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 30


"So why exactly aren't I allowed at this meeting again?" Justin demanded to know as he stood inside Lynne's office staring back at her while feeling rather insulted.

"Don't pretend you don't know the reason, Corporal," she replied sternly as she crossed her arms. "This is a serious matter and you are a valuable asset, therefore it's a risk we aren't willing to take."

Justin huffed. "For my protection then, right?

"It was a unanimous decision between Captain Grant and myself," she answered. "But you are correct; it is for your own protection and that of our future."

Justin growled under his breath as he plopped himself down into one of the chairs across from her desk while remembering the many times he'd been in this very same spot back when she used to chew him out over his insubordinate behavior. And for a brief moment he even kind of missed it.

"I'm not afraid of Morane," he scoffed. "I'm not afraid of him and I'm quite capable of handling myself you know?"

Lynne sighed and shook her head in disagreement. "No you're not, Corporal. And that is what I'm trying to help you see. I mean after all, it took six years for you to discover what really happened to that pilot, and if Morane was in fact the one behind it, then you know well enough what he's capable of. So don't underestimate him. I did and it almost cost me my life."

Justin could hardly believe what she just said now. "Wait a minute?" He eyed her questioningly. "What do you mean by that? What happened?"

"Plain and simple. I thought I could handle myself too," Lynne responded with a hard stare. "But in the end all I did was make things worse for myself and others around me." She lowered her head and sighed regretfully. "But the decision still stands, Corporal. You will not be permitted to attend the meeting."

"Whatever," Justin quipped as he threw up his arms in protest. "No point in arguing any further I guess."

She couldn't help but smirk at him now. "Well, arguing was never one of your strong points anyway."

Justin rolled his eyes then collected himself again when he suddenly remembered the real issue at stake. "Well I accept my defeat in this case," he sighed. "But I do have a favor to ask, if you don't mind?"

"A favor?" Lynne replied quizzically. "Well I suppose. That all depends on the nature of your request, but anyway go ahead and shoot."

"I want my laboratory privileges restored," he asked with a hint of urgency in his voice which she immediately picked up on. "Please, I really need them back," he begged.

"But why?" She wondered while staring back at him with suspicion. "Are the labs over there at Atlantech not enough to satiate your hunger for destruction?"

I can already tell it won't be easy to convince her, Justin thought now while realizing he needed to come up with something good and fast. "Atlantech is just too far," he suddenly blurted out. "I just feel like the lab here is a lot closer to home, that's all."

"I see," she narrowed her eyes at him. "Well I'm afraid I'm going to need a better reason than that, especially since you nearly blew up the entire building during your last experiment. Or have you forgotten already?"

Justin rolled his eyes. Okay that didn't work, he thought bitterly. Time for a more credible approach. And here goes nothing. "Alright you got me," he remarked. "The truth is I want to inspect the rest of the models for any traces of nitro. And to do that I need to be stationed here you see?"

She lifted a brow as she shot him a look of surprise. "Alright then. I guess you've convinced me. Although I'm a bit confused as your report clearly stated that you didn't believe any of the other prototypes were compromised. Is that not what it said? Or have I simply misinterpreted something, Corporal?"

"It wasn't confirmed," Justin countered. "I could only make an educated guess, but that's because I haven't had a chance to inspect the others."

"So I see," she narrowed her eyes. "Very well then. As of now your lab privileges have been restored."

"Oh thank you so much," Justin sighed with relief.

"Not so fast, Corporal," she stopped him then leaned forward in her chair. "There is a catch."

I knew it was too good to be true, he thought. "What is it?"

"You will only be allowed to work in the lab under the supervision of someone else," she answered. "This is of course to ensure there won't be any more disasters like the last time."

Justin groaned. How typical.

"Therefore I'm appointing Sergeant Dickerson as your personal supervisor," she mentioned. "That's not going to be a problem, is it, Corporal?"

"Not at all," Justin lied through his teeth as he stood up from the chair. He's not bad, but there's just one little problem. He doesn't know about doomsday! Oh shit this is becoming harder and harder to keep quiet.

"Well that will be all for now," she waved her hand dismissively. "You are free to leave."

"Thanks, Commander," Justin gave a quick salute then walked out while noticing out of the corner of his eye she was still eyeing him with suspicion.

Look at that I'm screwed already, he thought while making his way for the elevator. I just hope she doesn't corner me for answers. Oh god what if she does, then what? Onuris dies, that's what. He reminded himself. I think we're making a terrible decision to keep this from the others, but Will made the call, so I guess the blood is on his hands then, right? Not mine? Justin closed his eyes and sighed as he slouched up against the wall while the car headed to the ground floor. No, the blood is on my hands too if I'm not strong or fast enough to stop it. We need a miracle that's what.

Then as soon as the elevator doors flew open and he stepped out he found Dendera standing in the lobby, looking as though she'd been waiting for him. And as of now she was the last person he wanted to see or talk to, but neither did she leave him any choice when she walked right up to him in front of some of the other soldiers and AMF personnel who stood in the background watching them with interest.

"Young Corporal," Dendera greeted him while noting the despondent look in his eyes. "I've been looking for you."

"Why me?" Justin shrugged carelessly. "I have absolutely nothing to offer you."

Then all of a sudden they were interrupted by the sound of obnoxious giggling coming from behind as Justin turned around to see Lucy and Mipsy laughing at them and pointing their fingers.

"Well looks like you found a girlfriend after all, Church," Lucy teased. "Although I think this one is a little too tall for you. Don't you think?"

Justin glared at her and made a fist. "She's not my girlfriend," he snapped. "So screw off, both of you!"

"Well after what happened between you and Grace it's no surprise you'd go after the next female who looks your way," Mipsy grinned. "So maybe this one is more your type?"

"Huh?" Dendera looked absolutely confused. "I'm afraid I don't understand what's going on here," she looked at Justin. "Why are they laughing at us?"

"Cause they're jerks," Justin scowled as he grabbed her by the wrist then headed outside the building so they could talk with a little more privacy.

"Sorry about all that," Justin apologized to her once they came to a secluded area around the corner of the building. "Now what is it you needed to see me about?"

Dendera frowned. "The elders won't allow me to see Onuris. They told me I am not allowed to see him until the slaughtering of your people is complete. They wouldn't even tell me about his well being." Her eyes started to water as she looked at him full of despair. "I don't understand it. What have I done?"

"Nothing," Justin answered bluntly. "They're just a bunch of psychos much like the madman that runs this city. I guess it's just something we can't escape whether we're inside or outside the fences," he sighed then gently patted her shoulder while offering her a look of sympathy. "Hey, cheer up, okay? Onuris is alive. That's all that matters and you will see him again. I promise. But first we're gonna have to deal with this mess. And you're gonna have to be strong for me and yourself in order to get through it."

She nodded in kind and smiled. "You're right. Thank you for your words. And if I must say, you are quite strong yourself for someone so small. I could even see you as a leader someday."

"Uh thanks, but no thanks," he replied. "That's one thing Will and I have in common. Neither of us wants to be a leader, or any kind of hero for that matter. But that doesn't mean we won't risk our lives to help others, if we can that is."

"And I would risk my life for your people as well," she said. "I just wish there was some other way I could stop it. But I don't know what I could do."

Then right at that moment Justin suddenly remembered something Artis said not that long ago that he had simply brushed off from before. "Well if you want some real advice just ask Dendera or Onuris, or any of those former Tjatey warriors. They've seen more death and destruction than anyone in this city has or probably ever will."

"Artis might be right after all," he spoke up just then. "So maybe just maybe there is a way you still can help, Dendera. But we're gonna have to see Will first to see what he thinks."

Then at that instant Dendera began to panic. "No, I can't! She exclaimed frightfully as she backed away from him. "You heard what he said to me. He doesn't want to see me again or he'll kill me!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down now," Justin raised his hands. "We need you, Dendera. And trust me when I say that I know him better than anyone. He won't hurt you. That was just a threat. He likes to act all big and tough but he's really harmless. Come with me and you'll see for yourself. I'll convince him to listen to us. That's something I've always been good at by the way," he chuckled. "But trust me when I say that he won't harm you. I can promise you that. Okay?"

Dendera exhaled deep and nodded. "Alright, I trust you then."

"Good," he replied as he glanced over his shoulder. "Now we'd better go before someone around here starts eavesdropping on us."

"Right," she agreed.

Then as the two of them took off together they were completely unaware that they were being watched at that moment as Lynne stood in her office observing them with curiosity from her window. What in hell are you up to this time, Corporal Church? She narrowed her eyes. You're up to something that much is clear to me now. But what is it? What could it possibly be?

While in the meantime William was seated on his couch slumped over with his head down feeling like the weight of the universe was now on his shoulders and he didn't know what to do. And as he slowly lifted his head up he found himself staring back at the now empty whiskey bottle as it sat on the coffee table in front of him and right beside it was a sealed letter he planned on delivering to Victoria once he found the time, but ever since that horrible night he'd barely even slept, let alone left home while also skipping out on his regular drill tests by reporting in sick every day. Only it wasn't something he was lying about as he truly did feel sick, but it was for another reason and one he couldn't tell a soul other than Justin about either.

But if one thing was certain then it was that he felt completely terrified for the first time in his life and even started to wonder if perhaps this had been their fate all along and that he should just lie down and accept it. Why fight it? He sighed in disgust as he leaned back against the couch covering his face with his hand. This is all my fault. This is what I agreed to. So I might as well have killed everyone myself. But then before he could dwell on the matter any further he soon heard a knock at his door followed by a very familiar voice.

"Will, it's me," he heard Justin announce. "We need to talk now if you don't mind?"

William groaned as he slowly got up and headed to the door, but once he opened it and spotted Dendera standing behind Justin he quickly slammed it shut.

"Will, I know how this looks," Justin said apologetically. "But trust me on this, we need her help."

"The hell we do," William snarled as he threw open the door again and grabbed Justin by the collar of his uniform. "What could she possibly do to help us, huh? Answer me!" He started shaking him like a rag doll.

"Calm down, asshole!" Justin snapped as he shoved him back. "And just hear me out on this one, alright?"

William huffed and crossed his arms. "Fine then, I'm listening. But you better make it quick."

"You have to let us inside first," Justin replied. "No one else can hear us, Will. You know that."

"Right," William shot Dendera a scowl and then stepped aside so she and Justin could walk in.

"You've got five minutes," William growled as he closed the door behind them. "Starting now."

Justin rolled his eyes. "Fine, whatever. But anyway, Will. Dendera might not know when the attack is happening, nor can she tell us who they are, but the one thing she does know is how they plan on doing it." He turned in her direction. You were once one of them," he explained. "So you know their methods, their tactics. So if you can shed some light on what their plan of attack is we might stand a better chance. Now first of all, what is their choice of weapon?"

"Well for any massacre on foot it was always our blades," Dendera answered. "We had our swords and our daggers. And we killed our enemies by chopping off their heads or stabbing them in the heart."

William began to feel his stomach turn as he listened and quickly turned away.

"So blades then?" Justin repeated. "That's how they'll attack us, isn't it?"

Dendera nodded. "After the war we laid down our swords and surrendered. But some of us kept our daggers as a memento of the old life. Most of the elders did anyway."

Justin suddenly turned to William. "That's it then they're going to use their daggers or any kind of sharp weapon they can get their hands on. At least now we have some idea of what to expect. Even though we're still fighting blind since we don't know any of their faces. I mean shit, they could be anyone!"

William glared at Dendera. "Maybe we'd stand a better chance if your friend here would kindly give up their names."

"But she can't," Justin reminded him. "However I do have some good news to report. I was able to get my lab privileges restored. So now plan A is back in action."

"And what's plan A?" William asked with a vacant stare.

"I'm gonna make some homemade smoke bombs," Justin answered. "My thinking is this. If they can't see us how can they kill us?"

"No." William disagreed. "We need something more than that, Church."

"Will you let me finish?" Justin snapped. "As I was saying, I'm making smoke bombs, but I also plan on including a special little ingredient that's going to knock them out too. One whiff of this shit and they'll all be sleeping like babies."

"We're keeping them alive?" William suddenly exclaimed in outrage while eying him with disgust. "They're going to slaughter the people we know and care for on this base and your big plan of action is to keep them alive? What is wrong with you? He seethed as he clenched his fist. We need to kill them, Church. That's what we need to do!"

"Alright, calm down!" Justin barked. "They need to be brought to justice, alright? We need to know why they decided to turn against us, and I think there's a lot more behind it other than you rejecting your place as their leader. So if we kill them, then we're left without answers, you see?"

William huffed. "Answers don't matter to me. But the lives of those I care about? Those do matter and should come first!"

Justin uttered a sigh as he collapsed onto the couch. "Look, I know you're fired up over this whole thing, and believe me I am too. But I can't create anything that's going to kill them, cause there's a chance it could end up killing one of our own. And sorry but that's a risk I'm not willing to take. So if you want to continue to scream and yell, sure, go right ahead. But I think this is the best solution as its obvious I'm the only one thinking with a clear head right now. So please, don't ask me to do something we're both gonna regret."

"He is right I'm afraid," Dendera looked at William. "There is going to be enough bloodshed, so why add more?"

William groaned as he plopped down into his living chair and slapped a hand over his face.

"I wish you'd just trust me, Will," Justin said tiredly as he leaned forward while noticing the empty bottle first and then the letter. "So I see you wrote her again eh?" Justin asked as he picked up the sealed envelope and looked it over. "What did you say about yourself this time?"

"That I might not make it," William answered bitterly. "That this might be the last letter she ever gets from me. That's what."

"Oh?" Justin frowned. "I'm sorry."

"Sure you are," William remarked coldly as he looked away.

"No, I am," Justin furrowed his brow. "And if you want I can even drop this off for you. That way you don't have to leave home. I know you've been here the last few days, cause you're afraid aren't you? Well don't worry, cause I am too. I'm tired of always looking over my shoulder when I walk out my door. It's a horrible feeling isn't it?"

William sighed as he lowered his hand. "No, I'll drop it off myself. I'll do it tonight when I'm sure she's going to be there." Then he paused before he could finally muster a soft "thank you."

Justin attempted to smile but all he could feel was guilt now.

"And you're right I am afraid," William then admitted as he looked over at Justin. "I just don't know how we're going to survive this. I don't think we will."

Justin began zoning out just then when another idea suddenly hit him. "The smoke bombs will definitely help," he mentioned scratching his chin. "But I think what we need is some muscle in the mix."

William's head perked up. "Muscle? You're not thinking what I think you're thinking, are you?"

"Heh, that depends," Justin simpered then looked over at Dendera apologetically. "Sorry to burst your bubble but we're going to have to include another in this little secret of ours. And believe me, he's just the kind of powerhouse we need."

"I understand," Dendera replied. "But is it someone you can trust?"

William and Justin exchanged looks. "Don't know," Justin answered with a shrug. "But again, that's a risk we're going to have to take because we need him.

William nodded in agreement. "Yes. And I should be the one to talk to him. He trusts me and I trust him."

"Well, then I guess it's settled," Justin replied with a crooked grin. "Operation Stan Winston is a go."


Located in a high rise just opposite of Gambler's Strip Victoria stood out on her balcony looking lonesome and dreary in a silk purple robe as she gazed out at the bustling city around her with an empty wine glass in hand while she leaned over the railing. The air was freezing and it stung her face and skin, only she didn't appear too bothered by it at all as she already felt numb inside from anguish which had driven her to isolate herself from everyone and everything. She was tired of it all, her life, the past, and above all else she was tired of the guilt she'd been forced to live with. And now as she looked down below the only thing she could see in her drunken state of mind was a way out, a way to finally escape her troubles for good.

It's a long way down, she thought as she held the wine glass out over the ledge. So let's see just how long it is. Then she suddenly released the glass and observed as it quickly dropped down until it disappeared out of view. She listened close but at first there was only silence which was shortly followed by the faint sound of the glass crashing as it made contact with the ground below, shattering into a thousand pieces which scattered across the pavement like specks of glitter.

It went fast,
she thought staring down. I wonder if I would too. But would it be painless? Her face became grim as she pondered the idea of climbing over the railing now and letting go. It seemed simple enough to do and there wasn't anyone around to stop her either, yet she couldn't help but feel a deep sadness over the thought of ending her own life this way. What would the people say? Her bottom lip began to tremble as her eyes filled with tears. Is this the only way? But before she could think about it any longer she heard someone knocking on her front door and paused for the moment wondering just who it could be.

"That better not be Maxwell again," she groaned as she headed back inside. "I already had to disconnect my phone earlier because he wouldn't stop calling. "I swear to god if its him then he is going to be the one going over the balcony instead of me!"

But as soon as she opened the door she was pleasantly surprised when she was greeted by Enrique's sheepish smile.

"Sorry to bother you, Miss Thompson," he apologized nervously as he handed her the letter. "Mr. Graham sent me to deliver this. And uh also to bring you back," he lowered his voice and cleared his throat.

"Oh sweetie," she exclaimed happily as she threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. "It's so good to see you. How I've missed you!" She grabbed his face and kissed him on the cheek causing him to blush.

"I've missed you too, Miss Thompson," he smiled while looking rather stunned to see a pale freckled complexion instead of all that makeup he'd become accustomed to.

"Please come in," she insisted with a smile while she held the door open. "I haven't seen or spoken with anybody all week. It's been so lonely here at home."

"How come?" Enrique asked while also noticing she looked a little thinner too.

She closed the door behind them and looked at him solemnly. "Well since you're here I might as well tell you the truth," she sighed as she set the letter down on the end table.

"That you were the one who killed that man and not Maxwell?" Enrique acknowledged with a knowing glance taking her by complete surprise.

"How do you know that?" Her eyes widened in shock. "Did Maxwell tell you?"

Enrique shook his head. "No, Miss Thompson. I simply figured it out myself."

She lowered her head. "Oh, well then I'm sure you can see why I didn't want to tell you."

"Of course," he replied. "But like you said before, he was a bad man who had it coming. So why haven't you been at the Card Shack? I've been very worried about you. And you're looking very thin, what happened to you?"

She frowned. "Let's just say I've had to do some things I didn't want to do."

"Like what?" Enrique asked worriedly. "Or can you not tell me?"

Her expression hardened as she turned away from him. "Morane agreed to help us," she answered wrapping her arms tight across her chest. "But it came at a price of course."

"And what was the price?" Enrique asked as he stepped closer.

"I had to sleep with him," she buried her face into her hands shamefully.

Enrique frowned. "Oh Miss Thompson, I'm so sorry."

"Maxwell cannot know," she snapped back around and lowered her hands. "Please don't tell him. He'd never let me live it down."

"Oh don't worry I won't," Enrique promised crossing his heart. "You have my word."

"Thanks sweetie," she wiped her eyes and groaned. "You must hate seeing me like this. Without any makeup I mean, and my hair looking such a mess. Not what you expected it is?"

"Actually Miss Thompson you look much better without all that makeup," he smiled. "I feel like I can finally see the real you."

She laughed. "I think you've been the only one to see the real me as of late. But I'm glad it's you and not Maxwell. He did try, but the moment I heard his voice I refused to answer."

"He sent me to bring you back though," Enrique explained. "He's been making me do all these ridiculous chores like scrubbing the bare floor on my hands and knees just so he can laugh at me."

"Why that good for nothing creep," she hissed. "How dare he treat you this way!?"

"He's taking advantage of you not being there," Enrique explained. "That's why you have to come back. That and he also threatened to fire me if you don't."

She shook her head and groaned. "If there's one thing I know about Mr. Graham, it's that he's one of the most manipulative jerks in all of Atlantis City. He talks the talk but when it comes to walking the walk, he doesn't got it in him."

Enrique shot her a curious look. "So he's just bluffing then?"

She nodded as she pulled a cigarette out of her purse and lit it. "He won't fire you, sweetie because frankly he still needs you."

Enrique could hardly believe it. "I feel so stupid right now for believing him," he shook his head. "But how could you be sure? Wouldn't he just find a replacement?"

She smirked as she puffed on her cigarette. "You mentioned before he made you scrub the bare floor. That means the floor wasn't finished then, right?"

"Right," he answered. "He couldn't find anyone else to do the job."

She chuckled deviously. "So then you have your answer."

"Yeah you're right," he laughed stupidly when all of a sudden he noticed a framed black and white photo of a strikingly beautiful woman with pale skin and short dark hair hanging on the wall beside him. "Who is that?" He asked pointing at the picture.

"That was my mother," Victoria answered flicking the ash buildup from her cigarette into a nearby ashtray. "Doris Thompson."

"Wow," he gasped. "She sure was beautiful."

Victoria smiled proudly. "She truly was. Quite the gem of her time. Even regarded as the most beautiful woman in the universe."

"Really?" Enrique replied in awe. "Was she an actress too?"

"That she was," Victoria answered. "They called her Snow White. She had the bluest eyes one had ever seen, lustrous black hair, and skin white as snow of course," she laughed. "My mother didn't have a single mean bone in her body. She always wanted to help the less unfortunate and dreamed of making the city a better place. Why, she was even a big supporter of the military and their ideas of peace."

"You have her eyes," Enrique suddenly pointed out. "That was the first thing I noticed."

"And my father's nose and blond hair," Victoria sighed. "Or at least that's what Morane tells me. But you see, he like a lot of men were completely obsessed with my mother. They'd send her all these marriage proposals, jewelry, the finest wine, but it was my father she ended up falling for in the end."

"Really?" Enrique sounded enthused. "How did they meet?"

Victoria finished the last of her cigarette then put it out. "Are you sure you even have time for such a story?" She remarked.

"Why, is it that long?" Enrique wondered.

"Not long at all," she replied. "But you're welcome to take a seat," she gestured towards the sofa. "I'm sure your legs must be tired from all that walking, no?"

"Alright, thanks," Enrique replied in kind as he headed over and sat down while noticing several empty bottles and glasses littering the coffee table. "You've been drinking a lot I see." He frowned. "You really should be careful, Miss Thompson. I know what alcoholism can do to a person."

She sighed as she stared down at her own mess. "I might have gone a little overboard this time, but I just couldn't help myself."

"What happened to your mother?" Enrique suddenly asked. "You speak about her in past tense, your father too. What happened to them both?"

Victoria frowned as she sat down beside him. "It was a crash diet that killed her. Imbalance of electrolytes as they call it. Apparently after having me she put on a little weight and the studio didn't like that, so they told her to lose it anyway she could, and well it killed her."

"That's awful," Enrique replied sadly. "Such a horrible death for a lovely lady. You must have been so devastated."

"I was just a little girl when it happened," she answered. "So my memories of her aren't very strong. She never did any talking pictures either, so I don't even remember what her voice was like. But crash diets are the norm in the business I'm afraid. Why I'm even trying to lose some weight myself so I can attempt to get a leading role."

"Don't," Enrique pleaded as he suddenly placed a hand over hers. "You're perfect just the way you are. Forget them and their ridiculous standards. You're too good for them anyway."

She looked down at their hands in that moment then slowly pulled hers away. "I appreciate your sympathy, sweetie. But that's just how things are. I'll be careful though, that I can promise you."

Rejected again, Enrique thought sorely dropping his shoulders. She must see me as a boy and not a man I guess.

"You got quiet all of a sudden," she mentioned. "Are you really that worried about me?"

"Nah I'm not," he answered feigning a smile. "But don't you want to read your letter? I'm sure your admirer has some nice things to say about you."

"Probably more of the same old drivel," she remarked coldly. "He's no prince charming, that's for sure. Why, I don't even believe in any of that fairytale nonsense."

Enrique scoffed. "Me either. So how did your mother and father meet?"

"They met in a restaurant," she explained. "And the funny thing about it was that both of them happened to be on a date with other people. Only my father recognized my mother's face as that one actress, the real sweetheart he'd come to admire. And apparently once he spotted her there, she was the only thing he talked about the entire time with his date, and apparently the poor girl he was with didn't like that too much," she laughed "And then about the time he'd gotten up to ask for my mother's autograph, that's when that girl finally walked out on him. I tell you it's a wonder her head didn't explode first."

Enrique chuckled. "Fancy that eh? So what happened next?"

"Well he'd gotten himself so drunk at the time he could hardly stand," she continued. "So once he headed over and handed her a napkin, since that was the only thing he could find, that's when he tripped and fell right into her lap and wouldn't stop yammering on, but she didn't have the heart to shut him up, nor could she resist those green eyes or that charming personality of his. Not to sound cliché, but it was basically love at first sight."

Enrique's eyes lit up with excitement. "Your father sounds like he was a decent man."

"He wasn't though, she sighed as she lowered her head. "And truth be told, he was a bad man that ended up getting that he deserved in the end."

"Did he work for Morane?" Enrique asked.

She nodded. "He was killed on his order too."

"So was my father," he added. "He was closing up his café for the night and headed home when he crossed paths with the drug cartel in the middle of a cocaine trade. So they shot him dead right there in the street and my mother didn't find out till next morning when she heard the news. I was younger then but I knew that it meant he was never coming back. He was a good man and did right by me and my family. Now that I'm older I have taken the reigns."

She smiled at him as she reached over and stroked the side of his face. "Your father would be proud of you, sweetie."

He shook his head in disagreement. "I don't know about that, Miss Thompson. I don't even make that much working for Mr. Graham. I've been struggling even more since you've been gone. That's why you have to come back."

"I understand, sweetie," she frowned. "But don't worry because I am coming back soon. I just need a few more days."

"I hope you don't mean a few more days of drinking," he replied bitterly.

"No, not that," she promised. "I just need to figure out where I stand as far as my future goes, that's all. I need to find some kind of gig to put me back in the spotlight."

"I understand," he sighed then stood back up. "Well then, if it's okay with you I should head back to work now. I'm sure there have been more patrons in my time of absence, and I'm sure I'll hear about it from Maxwell too."

"What, did you think I was going to keep you here with me?" She teased playfully as she stood up as well. "Because if I could then I would," she winked while leaving him practically speechless now as he blushed while making his way towards the door.

"Do be careful on your way back, sweetie, she warned as she headed over to see him out. "And don't let Maxwell get you down. I know he's difficult but you're a tough kid," she smiled as she planted one more kiss on his face.

"Thank you, Miss Thompson," he forced a smile trying to hide the total embarrassment he felt now. "See you soon," he said before finally walking out.

"Please be careful out there," she whispered quietly as she closed the door behind her and turned around just in time to see the letter staring back at her, prompting her to snatch it up and tear it open as fast as she could only to stare at it in complete shock as she began reading.

Dear Victoria,

I am writing to you now because this just might be the last letter you ever get from me. And it's not because my feelings have changed, but because something very bad is about to happen at the base and a lot of us probably won't survive it, including myself. So I guess this letter is pretty much my farewell to you if I should fall like the rest. I don't know how to stop it but I'm going to try, then again trying doesn't guarantee anything, but it's worth a shot.

I also want to say that if I do manage to survive this, then I promise I'll stop hiding from you like the coward I've been. In fact you won't even have to search for me anymore, because I'll come to you, how's that sound? Then I can show you the real me and you can either accept me or reject me, it doesn't matter to me anymore. All I know is that I don't want to die and I can't promise I won't, but if it should happen, just know that your face will be the last image I see.

I love you Victoria, that's all I know. And I didn't mention it before but I am drunk as I'm writing this now, so I can't help all these emotions I'm feeling. It's almost like I'm going crazy. But yes I do love you and I will tell you to your face if I make it. I swear it!

Love now and forever

-Your secret admirer

Then she suddenly noticed something about the page as she looked it over and spotted some peculiar looking water stains near the bottom when it suddenly dawned on her just what it was. "They're from his tears," she gasped. "He was actually crying as he wrote this. I don't even know how long ago this was written, there's no date or anything here. I just hope to god that he's alright," she sighed with worry as she held the letter against her chest and lowered her head. "Please, please, please be alright."

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 31


Justin didn't waste any time once he entered the lab, quickly slipped into his white coat, and then rushed over to the table to set up his equipment. There wasn't any sign of Chris yet but Justin didn't have time to worry about that now as he fired up the Bunsen burner then began carefully emptying the contents of one of the flasks containing a purple colored solution into a beaker. He then stopped and peered over his shoulder surprised to see that Chris still had not shown up yet.

I guess Ol Sergeant Dickerson must have forgotten he was supposed to babysit me today; he snickered to himself as he placed a pair of protective goggles over his eyes. He then slipped on some rubber gloves, picked up the beaker giving it a quick little swish before setting it down over the fire, and observed as it began to bubble. Please don't boil over this time, he begged when all of a sudden he heard the lab door behind him slide open and Chris finally walked inside.

"Sorry I'm late," Chris apologized as he made his way over. "I see you've gotten an early start already, is everything okay so far? Oh and sorry to disappoint you if you were under the impression that I wasn't coming," he chuckled and gave Justin a light pat on the shoulder. "The elevator was jam packed so I had to wait a while."

"Yeah, no worries," Justin replied in a disgruntled manner as he kept his eyes the bubbling liquid. "I'm just prepping this chemical, that's all."

"Oh I see," Chris responded curiously while looking over his shoulder. "Interesting color by the way. So what does it do?"

Great, Justin rolled his eyes. Just what I need right now, questions. "It's uh; it's my own special recipe actually. A highly concentrated reactant that is capable of detecting even the tiniest molecules of another substance present in another element."

"I see," Chris stroked his chin. "Well uh that's interesting, so was this the same method you used in detecting the nitro from those remains?"

"Um, yeah of course," Justin answered fast. "That's exactly what I did. But uh, I don't want to bore you with my chemistry talk, so I brought you some reading material," he gestured with his hand toward a stack of magazines and books sitting at the end of the table.

"Really?" Chris raised a brow at him and then headed right over to check it out. "Well all I see is a lot of science related material here," he remarked as he began sorting through them. "So not much of a difference is it?" Then he suddenly spotted a particular looking magazine sticking out of the pile that immediately caught his attention. "Oh and what do we have here?" Chris announced smugly as he pulled it out and looked it over.

"Atlantis Pin-Up Girl Follies?" He smirked as he turned and waved the risqué magazine at Justin. "You mind telling me what a magazine full of half naked women has to do with science, Corporal?"

"Biology comes to mind," Justin gave a lopsided grin and shrugged. "But I honestly have no idea how that even got in there. But you might as well enjoy it while you can, Sergeant," he winked.

"Uh-huh," Chris narrowed his eyes at him. "A likely story I'll say, but if I didn't know any better I'd say you were trying to distract me, Corporal. Not to mention my wife would outright kill me if she caught me looking at this, so there is that."

"Well I won't tell if you won't," Justin replied knavishly. "I'm almost finished in here anyway."

"Good to know," Chris noted as he started flipping through the magazine out of mere curiosity. "I don't believe it but I actually recognize some of these faces," he mentioned. "A lot of these women are big stars in the film industry now, so these pictures must have been taken before they were famous."

"Right, and I'm sure it's the faces you're looking at too, Justin teased as he turned off the burner just then, removed the beaker, and held it up to his face for a better look. Looks good, he thought to himself. But I'm not done yet.

"Oh screw off!" Chris spat and shook his head. "Just what do you take me for, some kind of letch? Believe me kid, I've been around longer and seen a lot more than you."

"Oh yeah?" Well that's what you think," Justin snorted. "Turn to page twenty and then we'll see."

"Huh?" Chris blinked and then flipped back a few pages only to have a heart attack when he came across a black and white frontal shot of a buxom woman with short curly hair standing up against a wall dressed in nothing but a sheer tunic with her hands barely covering her large bosom. "Oh dear lord have mercy on me," he gasped as his jaw went slack. "Is that who I think it is?"

Justin nodded as he set the beaker down and lifted up his goggles. "It sure is. The one and only Grace Hanes. Why I even contacted the photographer of that image for verification and it's definitely her."

Chris's face turned red from embarrassment as he quickly closed the magazine and set it back down on the table. "Well I think I've seen more than enough for now," he sighed deeply. "I'm afraid of looking any further. Afraid I'll see Lucy, Mipsy, or anyone else I know from here," he shuddered. "But now I have to ask, does anyone else on the base know about this picture?"

"Nope," Justin answered as he pulled the goggles back down over his eyes and carefully began funneling the liquid into a row of vials and capping them. "Probably because she's afraid of being harassed? That's my best guess."

Chris suddenly shot him a wry look. "Well I think you've got her covered on this one, Corporal. So what's next?"

Meanwhile Lynne was making her way over to William's quarters to check on him since he had been absent for a few days now and to also find out if he knows anything about what Justin's been up to. However, along the way she couldn't help but notice the strange looks some of the Tjatey bystanders were giving her now as she passed by them. They met her with icy stares while they turned and whispered aloud to one another as though it were intentional. She stopped and looked over her shoulder at them listening as they began quietly chanting the words "Senef iew a'nen" (Blood is coming) repeatedly with their dead eyes locked on hers.

What could that possibly mean? She wondered at first and then turned her back to them and continued walking. And why are they speaking in their old tongue? Something isn't right here. Something feels wrong.

She could feel her skin begin to crawl and suddenly wondered if she should be watching her back now or even be carrying a weapon just to be safe, but those thoughts soon vanished once she came up to William's door and began knocking. I just hope he's home, she sighed then nervously glanced over her shoulder again only to find the Tjatey were gone now.

"Yes Commander?" William answered the door wearing a white shirt and a pair of dark grey pants as he patted his wet hair dry with a small towel.

"Corporal Sterling," She gave a nod in response. "I know you're still not feeling well, but might I have a word with you? If you don't mind?"

"I guess I don't mind," he replied wearily as he stepped aside and she hurried in while he couldn't help but notice the fearful look on her face as she headed over to his couch and seated herself. "Is everything alright?" He asked with concern.

"I hate to do this to you," she frowned at him. "I know you've been sick and I just feel awful about this."

William threw the towel across one shoulder and took a seat across from her in his chair. "What?" He asked as he leaned forward.

"Corporal Church is up to something," she sighed and shook her head. "I just know it and I can't shake it."

William shot her a scowl. "So that's why you've come to see me then? To find out if I know anything? I mean Jesus Christ, Commander. You act like I know everything that goes on with him, like I'm always keeping tabs on him or something. Well I don't know shit this time, so I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry," she looked at him apologetically. "And that's not the only reason I came by. I also came to see if you were feeling any better, because I do care about you too, you know?"

"Well thanks, I'm fine," he remarked bitterly as he sat up and crossed his arms.

"Judging by the tone of your voice it doesn't sound like it to me," she disagreed. "I've never seen you this high strung or defensive before. You don't seem like yourself."

He huffed as he got up and headed into his kitchen to make a pot of instant coffee. "I've just been sick, that's all so of course I don't sound like myself. Who does?"

She was quiet for the moment but then she noticed the empty whiskey bottle sitting on his table and it all began to make sense to her now. "You've been drinking?" She pointed out. "You never drink or at least I've never known you to. So yes something is very different about you, Sterling. And I wish you'd just tell me what it is so I can help."

"It's just one bottle," William remarked as he set a pot of water onto the stove and turned on the burner. "Don't tell me you're going to start lecturing me now just like you've done with the captain."

She furrowed her brow. "I'm not. And I don't even know why you're behaving this way. I don't appreciate it at all."

"Well I'm sorry," he apologized. "But for now I'd just really like some time alone. And besides don't you have some kind of big meeting to plan for anyway?"

She narrowed her eyes at him as she suddenly rose back up. "Well if that's your cue for me to leave I'd rather you just say it. I don't have time for your emotional blackmail."

He became quiet then and turned his back to her while he waited for the water to boil.

"Nothing to say then?" She remarked as she crossed her arms.

"What do you want me to say?" He shot back. "That I want you to leave? Well then fine. I want you to leave. Please go."

She huffed and shook her head at him. "You can stand there and act as hostile as you want, Corporal. But I know you better than anyone around here and I know that something is definitely off with you, and there is something you're not telling me."

He closed his eyes and lowered his head, wishing in that moment he just could tell her the truth and be done with it only he knew he was still burdened by that promise he made to Dendera.

"You've always been quiet and reserved ever since you were a boy," she mentioned just then as she glanced over at a portrait of him and his sister hanging on the wall. "Even a little weird at times but I for one never judged you for being who you are, because I was just as much of an outcast. I even remember all those times you told me about how you were going to change things and become somebody outside these fences. Do you remember that?"

"Yes," he answered quietly with his back to her.

"You wanted so badly to leave this base, Sterling," she reminded him. "But you knew you couldn't, because you knew the people of Atlantis City would never accept you, and so you accepted it and you stayed."

"Yeah I still remember," he spoke softly. "I wanted to be an actor then. Even thought I stood a chance at making that happen. I was stupid," he sighed.

"Well life was also different for us then" she added. "We were once best friends."

"No. We were more than that," his eyes shot open and he looked back at her as a sudden sadness crept up on his face. "Until you decided to put your training first and we drifted apart. In other words, you became your father."

"Well I was an only child and someone needed to fill his boots," she answered.

"And you thought it had to be you?" He scoffed in disbelief.

"Well being that I am his flesh and blood that means I have a responsibility to fulfill, not to mention a family tradition to uphold," she replied crossly. "But need I remind you we were only kids back then. What did we possibly know about anything?"

"We knew enough," he furrowed his brow. "And still even now you brush it off like it never happened. Why is that?"

"Because I had to," she scowled. "Because that's what it takes to move forward. We have to forget certain things, erase them and pretend they never happened. And besides, if I remember correctly we were the ones who kept it a secret from everybody else. So what difference does it make now?"

William sighed and shook his head. Boy I hate to admit it, but Maybe Justin was right about her being cold hearted and I just haven't seen it until now? Way to make a believer out of someone.

"But for what it's worth, Sterling, I am sorry," her face softened. "And to be honest here I'm actually surprised that you're still upset with me after all these years later. I thought you would've moved on by now."

"Five years," he replied. "It's only been five years."

She frowned. "I haven't kept track of the time, so forgive me."

"So what else is new?" He sighed in disappointment when he suddenly noticed the water on the stove was beginning to boil over now. "Oh damn it!" He exclaimed in frustration as he quickly turned off the burner and attempted to remove the pot only to burn his hand in the process. "Ouch!" He yelped as he jerked his hand back and began shaking it.

"Everything alright?" She asked worriedly as she hurried over.

"I'm fine," he winced as he turned on the faucet and let the water run cold. "Just burned myself that's all." He held his hand underneath the running water and immediately began to feel its soothing effect.

"You should probably ice it so it doesn't blister," she suggested as she started searching around for a first aid kit. "Where is your first-aid kit by the way?" She asked. "There might be an instant ice pack inside that you could use."

"It's uh, in the bathroom," he replied as he looked down at his hand and noticed the redness. "But it's okay I don't need any help. I've got it."

"You sure?" She asked concernedly and he nodded. "Well alright then. In that case then I should probably be heading back now, that way you can rest up. But do know that once you make your recovery you're going to have a lot of testing to make up for, because soon we'll be assigning everyone to their appropriate squadrons since Atlantech is moving forward once more, and in order to do that I need everyone to be on the same page."

"I know," he acknowledged as his hand began to turn numb from the cold water.

"But before I leave I do have another question," she mentioned. "Have you noticed anything strange about the Tjatey civilians lately?"

"What do you mean by strange?" He replied in puzzlement.

"Well on my way here some of them were looking at me odd," she answered while appearing a little nervous. "They looked at me with hate. It's something I haven't seen before."

"Hate?" William repeated curiously, as he began to worry if the attack on their base was about to happen sooner than he thought as his eyes now shifted over to a knife sitting on the counter top beside him.

"Well I'm sure it's nothing at all," she gave a shrug as she grabbed for the doorknob. "I do thank you for your time, and once again I'm sorry."

"Wait!" He suddenly called out as he turned off the faucet, picked up the knife, then rushed over to stop her from leaving. "Look, if you're worried about the Tjatey then maybe it would be better if I walked you back to the building myself. That way you won't be alone if they are up to something. Just let me throw my uniform on real quick and I'll go with you. Please?" He begged when her eyes suddenly shifted to the knife in his hand.

"Are you afraid they will harm me?" She asked. "That's why you've got a knife right?"

"I'm just being cautious," he answered with seriousness. "Why give them a chance?"

She looked at him in a questioning manner. "I hate to say it but I just can't shake this feeling that you know something I don't and I don't like it."

"Well I don't know anything," he replied nonchalantly. "But if you're worried about being attacked then I don't see why I shouldn't feel concerned. I mean, I still care a great deal for you, so why don't you just let me walk you back just so I can prove to you there's nothing to worry about. And if there is, well then I have this knife you see?"

"Well aren't you cute?" She remarked sarcastically. "Well if you're that determined to look after me, then who am I to turn you down?"

"So you're okay with that idea then?" He asked for clarification.

"Yes," she replied with a half smile. "So go ahead and change. I'll wait for you."

"Thanks," he smiled back and turned to leave when she suddenly spoke up again.

"But leave the knife behind please. You don't need it. The only enemies we have are the people outside these fences, other than that we're like a happy little family here," she smiled at him. "And that's how it's always been and that's how it will remain."

In that moment, he wanted to smile back but he couldn't. If you only knew, he was thinking now as he looked down at the knife in his trembling hand. "Alright," he then answered quietly before heading back into the kitchen and setting it down. I just hope I don't regret this.

In the meantime back at the lab, Justin had finally finished filling the last of the vials when he suddenly stopped and took a moment to glance over at Chris just to find him sitting on a chair while reading one of his chemistry books looking bored out of his mind.

Well at least he's distracted now, Justin sighed with relief as he covertly pulled a small flask out of his pants pocket, twisted the cap off, then picked up an eyedropper and dipped it inside filling it up with a mysterious clear solution and then began adding a single drop to each vial. I really hope this works, he sighed then continued finishing with the last of the drops when a sudden thought crossed his mind.

I should probably put this stuff to the test just to see how reliable it's going to be in this blind battle of ours. Heh, blind, he chuckled quietly. At least I've got my own guinea pig now. He turned and peered over at Chris again who still had his face buried in that book while looking like he was about to nod off soon, which Justin found highly amusing. Well look at that? Looks like I don't even need to knock him with one of these. The book is doing all the work for me.

Soon after, Chris looked up just in time to catch Justin staring at him and reciprocated with a look of utter annoyance. "So are you almost finished now, Corporal?" He griped. "You mentioned earlier you were close, but that was almost fifteen minutes ago now and we're still here."

"I'm getting there I promise," Justin answered as he screwed the cap back on the flask while secretly working through a plan of attack in his head. "I'm uh, actually just cleaning up now," he began removing his gloves and goggles. "Shouldn't take much longer."

"Well I haven't checked the time but since my stomach is growling I'm going to assume it's close to lunch now," Chris replied irritably. "So please hurry it up."

"On it," Justin answered as he began picking up the vials and stuffing them into the pants pocket of his uniform under the lab coat.

"And forgive my insolence but why are there chemistry jokes in this book?" Chris groaned as he held the book up. "I thought jokes were supposed to be clever and funny? These just don't make any sense, at least not to me or maybe I have no sense of humor these days."

"Oh?" Justin responded curiously looking back at him with his hand in his pocket as he began clasping his fingers around one of the vials readying himself to use it. "Well I know a few chemistry jokes myself if you'd like to hear them."

Chris shot him a blank look and then shrugged. "Aw hell whatever, go ahead. I don't suppose it's any worse than what I've just read."

"Well okay then, what do you do when an element falls?" Justin asked.

"I don't know, Corporal, what is the answer?" Chris rolled his eyes.

"Well you Curium," Justin began to chuckle. "Get it? You Curium?"

Chris laughed mirthlessly and shook his head. "No I'm sorry but I don't."

"Well then have another," Justin suggested as he slowly pulled the vial out of his pocket. "What do you do with a dead element?"

"I don't know, what?" Chris yawned.

"You Barium," Justin laughed stupidly as he began backing away from the table while squeezing the vial tight in his hand. "Get it?"

"Okay that one I get," Chris groaned. "Now can I get out of here please?"

"Sure," Justin answered nervously as he continued backing himself towards the door while Chris was getting up from the chair to put the book away only to notice how peculiar Justin was behaving now.

"You know you're acting a little strange," Chris mentioned as he turned around. "And what have you got there in your hand?"

Justin suddenly raised the vial in his hand as he shot Chris an apologetic look. "Sorry to do this to you, Sergeant."

"Wait, what?" Chris replied quizzically.

Then before Chris could say another word Justin quickly smashed the vial on the floor then darted out the door closing and locking Chris inside as the room began to fill with purple smoke.

"Church!" Chris cried out in panic as he covered his mouth and nose while trying to find his way through the thick smoke. "Corporal!" He growled as he soon found his way to the door and began pounding his fists on its hard metal surface. "You let me out of here at once! That's an order do you hear me?"

"Sorry, Sergeant," Justin apologized quietly as he stood on the other side of the door listening and waiting for the smoke to knock Chris out already. "I don't get it," Justin scratched his head in puzzlement. "This stuff is supposed to have an instant effect. Did I miscalculate something? Maybe I didn't add enough ether to the batch. All I know is we can't afford to have this kind of delay when the time comes. People's lives are at stake here. I don't want to feel like I've failed them," he hung his head and sighed. "Maybe it's too late and I already have?"

Then suddenly the yelling and pounding stopped prompting Justin to press his ear against the door to listen but he didn't hear anything more. Did it finally work? He wondered as he decided to wait a little longer for the smoke to clear before heading back in to investigate. "I don't believe it," Justin exclaimed in awe as he walked back inside now and found Chris's unconscious body lying on the floor. "It actually worked."

Meanwhile at the Atlantis City Police Department, Vince Hayward was sitting at his desk while going over Maxwell Graham's criminal record and staring at one of his many mug shots when his partner suddenly headed over with a couple of folders in hand. "Sorry to disturb you but we've got another body," he handed Vince the first file. "A John Doe that was discovered in the alley behind Lou's Pub last night. There of course weren't any witnesses but the medical examiner says he choked to death on his own knife. Now what do you make of that?"

"Hmmm, he might be a John Doe," Vince commented as he examined the photos of the body. "But I must say that I've seen this vagrant before. He was a real pain in the ass as far as I knew. Probably pissed off the wrong person in the end and got what was coming to him."

"So you don't think there's a connection to the murders at the Ritz?" Marks supposed.

"Nah," Vince shook his head. "I'm not seeing any sort of connection here. Anyone is capable of ramming a knife down someone's throat. And besides, Abel was most likely on someone's hit list, whereas this fool simply crossed paths with the wrong person. Not to mention when you consider the distance between the two crimes."

"I see," Marks noted. "Well in that case I also have news regarding our mysterious killer," he handed Vince another folder. "A witness from the Ritz finally came forward and thanks to her cooperation we now have a police sketch of the guy too."

Vince's beady eyes immediately began skimming the report. "So a server huh?"

"That's correct," Marks answered. "She said she even offered the guy a drink and he declined. She said he was about six foot five or more with broad shoulders and piercing green eyes. She said that was the first thing she noticed about him, other than the fact he was very standoffish and barely said a word to anyone."

"Well That sounds like our guy," Vince remarked with a sigh as he pulled out the police sketch next and stared down at the likeness of the man's face. "Scary looking fella ain't he?" Vince held the drawing up so Marks could get a good look at him.

"Scary indeed," Marks nodded in agreement. "So how do you suppose we catch this guy?"

Vince's eyes remain fixated on the drawing until he finally responded with, "We're going to post this face all over the city, that's what we're going to do. And with enough time, more witnesses who have seen this man are bound to come forward. It's going to be a waiting game, Marks. But waiting is what makes a good fisherman."

However, at that same moment Stan was lurking around in the lobby of the AMF academy building wondering what happened to William and Justin since he hadn't seen either of them for the past few days. Nevertheless, even though he knew the real reason why he was there, he couldn't deny that he'd become attached to these two soldiers and was now missing their presence very much. He didn't quite understand it, but as he looked around the room seeing nothing but unfamiliar faces, it bothered him.

Where are they? He wondered now when this odd feeling of loneliness suddenly triggered a memory in him that took him right back to one of the times when he was still new, and Justin and William had invited him out so they could get to know him better. It was one of their first outings together and they had taken him to a small café near the base for coffee and pastries. And while it was an awkward experience, he still remembered that day very fondly. Even now, the memory felt so vivid that it was almost as if he were there at this very moment.

"You look like you could eat everything off this menu and not get fat," Justin teased Stan while he looked over the menu. "You probably do eat a lot though, don't you?"

"Sometimes," Stan replied with an awkward stare. "But why the concern with my consumption of provisions?"

"Uh what?" Justin blinked in stupor and then exchanged looks with William.

"Okay I have never heard anyone talk like that before," Justin remarked. "I mean who says stuff like that? Don't you agree, Will?"

"It is odd," William agreed as he sipped his coffee. "But at the same time I have to say I welcome it. It's different and unique and I like that."

"Huh?" Justin looked at him funny as Stan smiled. "Ah what the hell, I do too." Justin grinned and raised his cup of tea as though he were making a toast. "Here's to a new millennium, we are now in the year four thousand my comrades. And here's to us for we are now the three amigos, does that sound right, Will?"

William chuckled and nodded. "Sure, why not? I guess the three amigos it is."

"The three amigos," Stan said quietly to himself as the memory faded away bringing back to the present moment once he heard the sound of the elevator as it arrived just now. He turned his head and watched as the doors flew open and a small crowd walked out chattering among themselves. He listened to their voices and searched their faces but it was just the same, no sign of Justin or William. "This must be what disappointment feels like," Stan said to himself as the corners of his mouth turned down into a frown.

But not long after, Stan heard a familiar voice coming from the very back of the elevator and looked up to see Justin's agitated face as he walked out pinching his nose in disgust.

"Okay somebody in here needs to make a date with a bar of soap and pronto!" Justin quipped while giving the stink eye to the small group of soldiers walking ahead of him. "And I think I know exactly who it is," he eyed one of the younger men who had a dopey smile plastered across their face. "Yeah it's gotta be you," Justin rolled his eyes as he walked right by Stan without even noticing him. "I swear that's gotta be what death smells like, or pretty close to it," he grumbled when Stan suddenly came up behind him.

"Good to see you too," Stan announced with sarcasm taking Justin by complete surprise.

"Oh hey, Stan," Justin chuckled stupidly as he stopped and turned around. "I didn't see you there, honestly. So how've you been?"

"Well at least I found you," Stan gave a half smile. "But where is William? Is he around too?"

"Nah, don't think so." Justin answered. "He's been sick lately."

"Sick?" Stan repeated worriedly. "I hope it's nothing serious."

"It's not I assure you," Justin answered. "But uh he was supposed to talk to you. So I'm shocked he hasn't done it yet."

"Supposed to?" Stan replied quizzically. "What's wrong?"

"I uh, I can't say anything here," Justin answered quietly. "But I can—

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" A loud voice suddenly cut him off just then as he turned his head and scowled when he saw Private Eric Mathis standing there with his two cronies Jayce and Mick at his sides like a couple of guard dogs.

"Oh just the jerk I wanted to see," Justin remarked. "Now the mystery of the poor hygienist is solved. I should've known you were the one stinkin up the elevator, Mathis," he grinned and crossed his arms.

"You think you're funny don't you, Church?" Mathis sneered. "Oh yes you're quite the wisenheimer huh? Well wise guy I guess you've forgotten that I owe you a beating," he raised his fist and smirked. "So who's laughing now, asshole?"

Justin shot Stan a look and shrugged. "I don't think this guy knows what he's in for, do you?"

Stan gave a nod and then stepped out in front of Justin while turning to face Mathis himself. "I must apologize, but I'm afraid I can't allow you to lay a single hand on Corporal Church here. In fact I think you should leave right now before I'm tempted to do something about it."

"What the?" Mathis blinked in disbelief and then exchanged looks with his cronies. "Do you believe this guy? He's acting as baby face's own personal shield! What a wuss!"

Justin furrowed his brow now as he stepped out from behind Stan. "Yeah, sorry but I'm not a wuss and if it's a fight you want then it's a fight you'll get. You think I'm going to back down?" He tightened his fist as he walked right up to him. "Then go on and take your best hit, Eric Mathis. Come on, sunshine! Hit me, I'm right here!"

"No!" Stan snapped as he grabbed Justin by the arm and yanked him back. "He is an instigator and a prick. You don't have to prove a thing to him."

"Piss off, goliath!" Mathis spat at Stan. "You think I'm afraid of you too, huh? You think you taught me a lesson the other day in the rec room? Well guess what, shit for brains, I'll take you down too, how's that sound?"

Silence filled the room just then as the other men and women standing nearby overheard them and began to gather around in anticipation.

"Don't do it, Stan," Justin warned. "And as much as I wanna see this asshole in agony, he's not worth it," he turned and glared at Mathis. "If you possess even a single ounce of intelligence in that melon you call a head, you will walk away right now, or else you can be carried off on a stretcher. Your choice."

Mathis sneered just then as he walked up to him and got in his face. "You know what I think?"

"No and I don't care either," Justin quipped as he shoved him back.

"Oh you dare to touch me?!" Mathis growled as he suddenly lunged forward with his fist and struck Justin directly in the jaw knocking him off balance and causing him to stagger backwards into the wall behind him.

Justin fell hard against it while clutching at his pocket with the vials in a desperate attempt to protect them from any damage.

Stan's eyes burned with rage now as he stared at Mathis.

"Yeah that's right, asshole!" Mathis taunted Justin while the small audience looked on and cheered. "Now get up! Cause I ain't done with you yet!"

Justin furrowed his brow as he looked up at him while touching the side of his aching jaw only to look down and see blood on his hand. "Fuck you," he muttered angrily.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Mathis snarled as he started cracking his knuckles. "Actually, scratch that, I don't give a shit. It's time to finish this anyway, so get up!"

"I believe he said fuck you," Stan answered bluntly just then as he reached out and grabbed Mathis by the throat and raised him up for all to see. "Do you know the meaning of the word regret?" Stan asked him in a condescending tone as he tightened his grip and looked into his terror filled eyes. "No you don't, but I believe you will."

"So you've really never told anyone about us?" Lynne asked William just now as they were walking up the steps of the building. "Not even Justin or Stan?"

"Nope," William answered. "I've kept it a big secret just as you have."

"Really now?" She raised a brow at him and smirked. "Well I find that very hard to believe."

"Why?" He shrugged. "You asked me not to tell anyone and so I didn't. Maybe you haven't noticed, but when someone tells me a secret I keep it. No matter the cost. Then he suddenly realized what he had just said and frowned. No matter the cost.

She smiled softly and gave a nod. "You're right you do. And that's only because you're an honorable man."

"I'm not that honorable," he sighed and stopped once they reached the top.

"Nonsense," she huffed and crossed her arms. "You are so, and you mind telling me why in the holy galaxy you're still single? I would've thought by now that some lucky girl would've scooped you up. So what's your excuse? And please don't say it's me or I'm going to hit you," she narrowed her eyes at him and smiled.

"Well there is someone, kind of," he mentioned as he thought about Victoria while at the same time worrying that he may never see her again. "But it's nothing official, not yet anyway."

"Good for you, Sterling," Lynne commended. "But why pray tell isn't it official yet?"

William uttered a sigh as he shoved his bangs out of his face. "It's complicated," he answered sheepishly. "We need to get to know one another better first you see."

"Wait a minute," she mentioned just then when he suddenly heard a faint sound. "Do you hear that?"

William stopped and listened too. "It sounds a lot like people yelling doesn't it?"

"It sounds a lot like a fight," Lynne corrected him as she looked straight ahead at the building. "And it's coming from inside!" She took off running leaving William behind as she headed for the doors while alerting the guards nearby.

It couldn't be happening now could it?
William began to panic inside as he took off running after her while fearing the worst.

"Come on hurry!" Lynne ordered the guards as she threw open the doors and rushed inside just in time to catch Stan Winston in the midst of body slamming a bloody beaten looking Eric Mathis while the other soldiers cheered him on.

"Private Winston!" Lynne shouted angrily at the top of her lungs over all the cheering. "I order you to stop this at once!"

Silence filled the room as Stan looked in her direction and the guards hurried in behind her along with William, and while Stan heard her loud and clear he wasn't about to surrender just yet, not when he was so close to finishing off his victim for good.

"P-p-please stop," Mathis whimpered as he gazed up at Stan's stone cold face while Justin looked on in shock. "Okay you win! I regret it, I regret it!" Mathis cried out as he covered his bloodied face with his hands and began to sob. "You win! You win! I've learned my lesson!"

They all beg for their life in their last moments, Stan thought. Their will to survive is strong. It is both admirable and undignified.

"Private Winston!" Lynne barked again. "I command you to put him down at once, or the guards are going to do it for you! This act of insubordination has already guaranteed you time in the brig, so don't make things worse!"

"You're better than this, Stan," William spoke up just then as he emerged from the crowd. "I know you and this isn't who you are, so please just do as she says. At least do it for me."

"William?" Stan's expression softened as he looked up and recognized the face as that of his best friend's.

"Yes it's me," William answered. "Now let the man go, please."

Stan clenched his jaw in that moment as he struggled between wanting to finish the bloody job and wanting to listen to the one person he respected greatly.

Now as he looked up at William and saw that disappointed look on his face he suddenly began to feel what could only be described as shame. "I'm sorry," he said as he released Mathis and dropped him to the floor then looked up at William apologetically while the guards quickly moved in to restrain him.

William closed his eyes and turned his back as he guards began to take Stan away and the medics rushed to Mathis's aid and began lifting his battered body onto a stretcher then carrying him off while a speechless Justin watched from the background.

Ah, the humans have already lost one of their strongest fighters, Naeem noted now as he stood nearby dressed in his blue engineer jumpsuit watching gleefully while the guards removed Stan. They're divided even among themselves and it can only weaken their forces making them more vulnerable to attack. But little do they know that they are simply making things easier for us. Blood is coming and it will be spilled in his name.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
The following user(s) said Thank You: Alpha Bravo
7 years 2 months ago #24284

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