* i know this is already labeled as mature, but for politeness' sake, there is a lot of foul language in the first paragraph. just a heads up. additionally, there is a potential trigger scene for anyone with suicide-related issues.
Chapter Ninety Five
Atlas, Pilot, Eden, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,463
Her heart was pounding in her chest. How was she supposed to get them out? There were too many people that needed rescuing – she hadn’t been counting on this. She wasn’t ready, she thought, panicked.
She wasn’t ready.
She attempted to control her breathing, but her body burned with the effort of the run, and her mind was spinning out of control with the dangers and uncertainties of what was about to happen.
Where had Eden gone?
Right behind her, Pilot struggled against Elseron’s attempts to continue forward motion. Arisa was losing ground. Melody was on Atlas’ heels, and the woman didn’t seem phased by the run in the same way Eden hadn’t.
Vampires, Atlas thought, enviously.
Bent over, her hands on her knees, Atlas tried to catch her breath, and subsequently, her mental capacity. Pilot was getting closer, his speed picking up as he crossed the distance to Atlas’ side, a strange look of heroism sketched across his features. Like a flash of shadows, or a burst of light, it shrouded him in its glory and vanished, practically in the same instant.
Elseron was too far behind, Atlas realized. She reached out for Melody’s hand, her own trembling as she did so, and told herself everything would be okay. They’d find a way to fix what was unstoppable here on the edge of Encante.
She met Elseron’s eyes across the widening gap between them and prayed to the ancestors that he would hear her.
I’ll be back for you, Els.
Without allowing herself to think of the sacrifice, without allowing the smallest modicum of emotion or loyalty into her mind, she grabbed Pilot’s hand as soon as he was within reach.
Everything inside of her exploded in a multitude of sensations and colors; her entire body caught fire, tingling with power and life and the vast expanse of eternity, as she teleported them home.
Her knees buckled beneath her and collided with the lush carpet of the hotel room. Melody was at her side, Atlas could hear her voice as if they were speaking underwater.
Atlas, Atlas, are you all right?
Pilot’s voice shook through her bones. Atlas, open your eyes.
Whether it was her own choice or not, Atlas opened her eyes.
“That son of a bitch!” There was so much anger, so much venom in his voice that Atlas didn’t know what to say in response. It didn’t seem important that she speak, however, as Pilot pushed on. “That mother fucker. I’m going to kill him,” he roared, “with my bare fucking hands. I’m going to strangle the life out of that little fucking piss-ant.”
And out the door he went.
Atlas stood, stunned statue still, and flicked her eyes to Melody, who seemed about as comfortable in the static tension of the room as Atlas was.
“Well,” Atlas said, gathering herself quickly, “Now that he’s gone off to be sociopathic on his own, perhaps we can come up with a solution?”
Melody nodded, equally as quick to regain her composure, and the two women sat at the desk and stared at the empty space for a long moment.
Where to even begin?
“I don’t suppose you’re any good at tracking people,” Atlas prompted, but Melody shook her head.
“I’ve never tried.” She shrugged, adding, “I could always give it a go.”
Atlas nodded, moving on. If they came up with nothing else, they would attempt to track Gabriel on their own. There had to be something else, she thought to herself, wracking her brain.
“Maybe one of the Gatekeepers can get us there?”
It was so simple she couldn’t even find an easy way to argue it. The Gatekeepers were often so reluctant to go to Encante that they would refuse to transport anyone, even if they did not have to go along. That was, for the few that could get them to Encante; most Gatekeepers were only capable of Atlantis-Outer World teleportations. She attempted to reconstruct the list of Gatekeepers in her mind, ticking off the ones she knew incapable of cross-world teleportation.
The list grew smaller and smaller and smaller. There were only three she could think of that might be able to get them to Encante.
“There are a few, but none of them are even in the States,” Atlas said, a heavy sigh drawing her voice low in her throat. She wondered how much time they had; she wondered where Elseron was, what was happening to him.
Her heart twisted in her chest and she choked back a sudden, broken sob.
Melody’s eyes were on her, she reminded herself, and those misty blue pools did not miss much. Atlas feigned a smile but felt it quiver. “I don’t know what we’re going to do, Melody,” she admitted.
It wasn’t easy for a creature to be filled with as much ire as was inside of him. It wasn’t healthy; but, then, he supposed, it wasn’t healthy to have the ability to turn organs into decayed matter, either, and he had managed to live with that nasty inheritance for over seventy years. A few hours of fury wouldn’t kill him.
Though, he couldn’t be certain it wouldn’t kill someone.
Gabriel was an unlucky fellow.
Pilot was a master tracker; he’d spent his entire schooling in military academy after military academy, and when he’d turned sixteen his father had sent him off into the rainforest in eastern Africa for three months with a hunting knife, a jug of water, and a gruff, “You’ll be fine.”
He had seen the first glimpse of pride in his father’s eyes when he met the helicopter, three months later, with an animal skin satchel filled with mementos of his kills. His father wore a jaguar tooth from Pilot’s satchel around his neck until he died, eight years later, of congestive heart failure.
Gabriel would not be one tenth as difficult as hunting down a jaguar.
It took him twenty minutes to trace the traitor's scent back to a skanky motel in downtown. He kicked down the door without hesitating, striding into the room with the setting sun ablaze at his back. His breathing was regulated, careful, but his eyes were wild and untamed, the labyrinthine emerald shades growing blacker with each passing second.
The bathroom door was slightly ajar, and through the crack Pilot could see the glossy pool of crimson on the floor. That was why the scent was so strong, he realized, and the rage doubled inside of him.
The bastard would not get away that easily.
He shoved the door open and stepped over the crumpled man on the floor. Gabriel’s eyes were glassy – a squeamish white haze blinding him to the room he was in, and the slices on his wrist were the slices of an experienced, haunted creature.
He’d cut downward, making sure the job would be done – and done quickly, but he hadn’t expected the Dealer to find him. No, he’d been expecting Phaedos – in all of Phaedos’ demi-god, higher-than-thou glory.
That was where Pilot and Phaedos differed immensely. Pilot simply did not care what he had to do in order to succeed at his goal – Phaedos had standards of behavior, even if he modified them every now and again, he had limits.
Pilot had very few limitations.
He smiled at Gabriel and said, “Oh, you stupid man.”
His fingers clamped around Gabriel’s throat and lifted him easily from the slick, startlingly red floor, and slammed him into the wall.
Fangs sank into flesh, and soon the job was done. A wet gasp tore through Gabriel’s lips as venom coursed through him. Dropping Gabriel, Pilot wiped his hands on the towel hanging from a crooked, plastic towel rack. He said, without looking at Gabriel, “You may die when I’m finished with you. Until then, you’re mine.”
She was running but her body did not process the action; it simply moved, without command or direction, slamming her feet into the sandstone walkways. Her legs lunged her upward, her hands caught rooftops, her shoulders pulled her up and over the hurdles so she could continue running. Running was all there was, and it was nothing.
When the gaps between the houses were too wide to step over, her body threw itself over the empty space, and for an instant, she was aware of the rush of air against her skin, the flutter of her cloak in the breeze, the way flight seemed to give her new life. When she climbed too high up the mountain and found herself perched on an edge with no way off except down, her body continued forward until she plummeted.
Her feet hit a sea-stone rooftop with a heavy crack. She dusted herself off and ran some more.