Three years has passed since Roxanne left. She’s obeyed and fulfilled Remo’s every wish.
His latest command, however, will send her back to Earth. Aware her presence Earth-side is furthering Remo’s plans, Roxanne delves into an impossible chase against time, the preternatural community, and herself.
But she might already be too late, and Roxanne experiences firsthand that when desperate people are pressed against a rock, they’re willing to commit just about anything.
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There’s a vast place between black and white, good and evil. It’s a distinct line, easily recognizable. But in the vast of the gray, where the edges are often blurred, there are no lines. Good can be found in evil, the same time evil can be found in good. There are greater evils, there are greater goods. Sometimes, being what I am, evil and good are hard to be told apart. I am the familiar of a greater evil, maybe even the greatest of all. For him I hunt. I choose who lives and who dies. Or become something monstrous that a million deaths is nothing but kindness in comparison.
The Hunters cheer me on, the Sidhe have my back. They say it is for the greater good, for the survival of all mankind. But they underestimate Remo, how close he is to achieving his goals. How I have helped him do so. The end is almost within his reach.
In this pre-apocalyptic time, I am the devil. A mere minion of the end. Owned by Remo, I collect the bodies of greedy people, to be possessed with beings from the Quasar Stellar.
So Remo’s army grows. He trusts me more than any other agent, but he doesn’t trust me enough to reveal the location of the main portal, the permanent gap in time and dimension that brought him to this world. I know the Sidhe will grow impatient. I know the Hunters will become restless, anxious to hear “good news”. No one has given me an ultimatum but I know it’ll come.
Maybe soon they will decide I have taken too long and too many lives have been lost, and they’ll try to get rid of me. Maybe they will be doing me a favor. Maybe I’ll fight back and they will realize the monster I have become.
Regardless, or until that ultimatum, I search the caves relentlessly, whenever Remo is not present. I have found private quarters in these caverns, old documents forgotten. They are not about Remo’s secret lair or the notes he made of the portal. But there are valuable documents there. Documents I dare not tell anyone about. They aren’t evil or good, but they can be used for either purpose. I don’t trust myself with them. I don’t trust the path I will choose when the time comes.
“Please,” the air mage begged. “I wish him no harm. I just want to enjoy this new life.”
The please tugged at my heart. As if sensing it, he begged again, “Please. Let me go. No one needs to know. Say I ran away, say I met an accident…”
I yanked hard on the rod and the mage lost his footing, fell to his knees. I gave him a full minute to blubber, aware he wouldn’t have the luxury for much longer.
With the agility I didn’t think possible for someone bound, the mage jumped, tried to throw me off. The rod kept us apart, the iron metal reinforced with steel and glyphs to keep even the stronger creatures from breaking it. I yanked on the rod again, sent a pulse of static through the cable. The mage fell, tears leaking from his eyes. I hadn’t known transitioned spheres could fake emotion this well.
Swimming gray eyes looked at me pleadingly. “Please, just let me go. I promise to disappear.”
“He’ll find you,” I said, not cruelly. “He’ll make it worse if you inconvenience him.”
“Let me go, I’ll deal with the consequences should he find me.”
God, he looked so earnest.
“One chance, please, I’m begging you.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. The mage searched my face, his tears ceasing at the resolve he found in mine.
He huffed. “No, you aren’t. You enjoy your position of power. I was wrong. I thought you were here by force too. I thought you’d understand.”
His words cut, and I yanked on the rod harder than I’d intended. He sprawled face first, hands cuffed in front of him. I waited for him to stand, to wipe at his face with his bound hands. We tracked through the passageway, the length of the rod all that separated us. The Judas rod was a three-foot-long hard iron cable with enchanted cuffs at the end. Like the handcuff Remo’s giant agent had used on me back in the MGM, the enchantment neutralized the wearer’s preternatural abilities while the rod kept the three-foot distance between bearer and wearer.
We entered the war cavern from a side cave. My stomach dropped at the number of agents, lieutenants and minions present. Remo was taking this more seriously than I expected.
Granted, the mage was the first agent to defect that I knew, but he wasn’t planning a coup. He just wanted out, to live the life he hadn’t known existed out there.
Quasar beings were abstract creatures, beings made of energy who existed on a planet without substance or form. They had a conscience and nothing else–no sense of emotion, no sense of being, no sense of material things. They needed no food, no sleep, no water or air to survive. They existed, and that was that. And here Remo was, bringing them over, capturing them in small spheres where they stayed until he implanted them in a body, a vessel. There they observed life, they understood there was more to existing than merely drifting. For a time they enjoyed the pleasures of taste and sight and touch, the amazement and beauty of things. And then Remo commanded them, and they realized they were pawns to a bigger scheme. They all conformed and obeyed their “God” without question, thankful for the chance they’d been given, this miracle of life.
I brought the mage straight to Remo, to the center of the cavern, right by the stadium-sized hole that used to be a lake. The hole was now a dimensional pocket, a place between time and place Remo used as his junk drawer, where he confined the minions who lost their sanity to energy hunger.
I bowed my head. “Master.”
Remo studied the agent, his black eyes pitiless, lacking any mercy.
The mage stood straight, kept his chin high. The blubbering man of a few minutes ago was gone. He was going down with his dignity intact.
“You no longer wish to serve me, to see our mutual goals to fruition?”
“Your goal isn’t mine. I just want to live this life without strife, without causing pain to others.” He bowed his head a fraction. “I don’t wish to be in your way, master, I just don’t want to be the cause for death and suffering.”
“My goal is to have my people, in the long term, be free and happy. To reach there, death and suffering are inevitable.”
“I understand. I just don’t think I have it in me to be part of it.”
For a few long seconds, Remo said nothing. Then he turned to those assembled, raised his voice. “I sacrifice a piece of myself to bring you here. I make enemies with the most powerful creatures to give you a body. All I ask of you is to help build a future for ourselves. It’s alright to sacrifice myself, it’s alright to be hunted like an animal because of you. My people, I can’t build our future alone. For that, we must all stand together, hand in hand and make it happen.” He turned back to Michael. “Weak-minded people are always the first to fall, and leave a gap open for the enemy to strike your neighbor. I cannot tolerate a foolish dream to cause a weak link in my army.”
A murmur broke through those gathered. Remo placed his hands behind his back. “Michael will be taught a lesson, one I hope you all take to heart.”
He turned to me, and I clapped once, closed my right hand on the palm of my left and pulled. A translucent light grew between my fist and open palm, forming a thin, glowing blade. Before Remo could voice his order, I swung, cutting off Michael’s head.
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