Shipping up to Boston
A Bite Too Large
Puffs of vapor filled Thrice’s room as he paced back and forth, cigarette in his mouth, while he read a file, Abel’s, held in his hand. Heavy bags filled under his eyes as his lack of sleep set in. Thrice had not slept in a few days, and it was showing badly. Galena did her best to have him relax: scented candles, soft music, and even a massage; none had worked, Thrice’s mind was wound too tight. “You won’t catch him if you are dead tired Kirk,” Temperance chimed in while Thrice continued to pace.
I will catch him, Thrice thought, not even looking at Temperance. Temperance sighed as Innocence sat on the bed and Wrath leaned against the door. Wrath smirked, “Determination is a strong characteristic of ours.”
“And it is one of our weakest,” Temperance countered. Thrice read the file over and over again, he could not connect the points together. Abel kept slipping through Thrice’s fingers, and that irritated Thrice.
A knock came at Thrice’s door, all four of the room’s occupants shifted their gaze to the door. “Thrice?” the voice belonged to Galena, “You still awake?”
Wrath steps away from the door as Thrice goes to open it. “Yeah, I am.” He opens the door and smiles to Galena. She smiles back at him, but the smile fades as she sees the bags under his eyes. “Come on, Thrice, give it a rest for a bit. Let’s go out and do something fun for a change. There’s always the shooting range…”
Thrice slightly grips the file, “I—wish I could Galena, but he is still out there…doing whatever it is he does.”
“I know. But there are lots of evil people out there. You can’t let this one consume you like this. You need a break!”
Thrice slightly shakes his head, “I can’t, he could strike again, I’m always one step behind.” Thrice’s body appears fatigued but his eyes are burning.
“Please, Thrice. I’ve seen this before with some of the FBI agents I’ve worked with. Even if he does strike again and you’re there waiting for him, are you in any shape to fight him? You’re beyond exhausted.”
“I’ll find a way to stop him—I have to,” He mumbles under his breath.
“That is fine, but give yourself some time to recharge first. Let me take over for awhile.”
Thrice holds the file closer to himself, “I don’t Galena, I don’t want you mixed up in this anymore than you have to.”
“I’m just as capable as you are. And right now, you’re compromised anyway. My job is to keep you and the rest of our Cabal safe. If you continue like this, you certainly won’t be safe…either because of plain exhaustion or doing something stupid.”
Thrice sighs heavily, “I guess there is no arguing with you is there? I’ll consider resting, I suppose it could re-energize me a bit. As for you taking over, I’d rather you not,” he bites his lip and thinks How can I put this? He puts the file down onto his bed and turns back to Galena, “It’s not that I don’t trust you with this work it’s just—I don’t want to see you hurt. Abel is a dangerous man and we have seen his work and knows what he does—especially to women.” Thrice’s eyes are watching the floor.
Galena puts her hand on his shoulder. “I appreciate your concern, but I’ve been in these types of situations before. I’m fully aware of the risks involved. I never plan to get that close to him—that’s what the rifle is for.” She smiles. “But to your earlier question, no, there is no arguing with me.” Smirking, she says, “If you don’t rest soon, you’ll wind up getting yourself kidnapped for a few days, and then you’ll have no choice in the matter.”
Thrice runs his fingers through his messed up hair, “I still don’t know Galena, I feel I can handle this—I just need time.”
Galena sighs, “I wish you’d take tomorrow off, one day won’t hurt.” She pauses for a moment, “But if you won’t rest, and you decide to do something, at least take me with you. I don’t want you going after him like this,you’re not thinking clearly.”
“A day might be okay, I just hope he doesn’t—” Thrice’s phone rings on his nightstand. “What the hell? Who is calling me this late?” He walks over his phone looks at the caller ID, “Why is SHE calling me?”
Galena looks over at the phone, “Who is it?”
Thrice holds up the phone, “Athena.”
Galena shrugs. “Surprised she didn’t call me. Better answer it, though. Never know when she’ll need us to return one of the many favors we owe her…”
Thrice puts the phone up to his ear, “Hello?”
“Thrice,” Athena’s voice speaks through the phone, “it’s Athena.”
“Hey what’s up?”
“Something big has come up and I need your assistance in the matter.”
Thrice looked over to Galena, “You sure you don’t want to talk to—”
“Thrice,” Athena interrupted, “we have Abel’s location!”
Thrice stood still for a moment before he continued the conversation, “Oh? Really?!”
“Yes, him and some local gang he has recruited are inside an abandoned warehouse downtown and I want you to help strike against them. You and I need to meet up.”
“Right now, I’ll be at the Arrow’s dojo. I’ve already assembled a small team to help us with this mission.”
“ How many are going to be there?”
“Just the team with you will total ten.”
“How long do we have?”
“My informants suggest no more than a week. And Thrice. I know you don’t want Galena involved in this so I won’t bring her along. She should stay there with the Embers anyway to keep them safe in case we get in over our heads.”
Thrice nodded sharply, “Okay understood. Let me pack and I’ll be over,” he hangs up the phone.
Galena, with raised eyebrows, looks to Thrice, “What’s going on?”
“Athena,” Thrice put his phone in his pocket and started packing, "she managed to track him down, she needs my help coming up with a plan of attack, she’s managed to assemble a small team that will help us. I’m going over there now. "
Galena steps towards Thrice, “I can help, too. It certainly can’t hurt to have more firepower.”
Thrice looked back at Galena, “No Galena, me and Athena need you here to protect the Cabal in case something goes wrong.”
She looks away from Thrice and sighs. After a moment, she says, “Fine. Just…be careful.”
Thrice’s hands go to Galena’s shoulders, “I’ll be fine.”
Galena is obviously not happy about the situation. Her eyes finally meet his again. “Let me know when you’re on the way back.”
He weakly smiles, “I will.”
After finishing packing, Thrice slowly heads to the door. He turns towards Galena, “You play nice with the others.”
Galena does her best at a smile. “Gee, thanks.”
As the front door closed behind him, Thrice’s shoulders slumped. Thrice rubbed his eyes, grabbed his bike, and started pedaling his way to the Arrow’s dojo a ways in to the city. Several long moments later, Thrice knocked on the dojo’s front door. Athena opened the door and greeted Thrice with a nod, “Glad you could make it.”
Thrice smirked, “Me too, so when do we start?”
Athena beckoned Thrice inside, closed the door, and led him into the main room where nine people sat in the center, “Right now. Welcome to Operation Exodus.”
Thrice slowly walks into the room with Athena leading him to the other people sitting in the center of the dojo. “Thrice,” Athena says while spreading her arms to the other people, “these will be your teammates for this operation.” Thrice casually waves to the people as he places his stuff down on the floor and sits next to a woman with ear length platinum blonde hair, sapphire eyes protected by a pair of black rimmed glasses, a green winter jacket that looked two sizes to big, red plaid pajama bottoms, and a rifle she is carefully cleaning. Athena motions to the blonde, “This is Hera, think of her as our sniper and shrink.”
Thrice raises an eyebrow to Hera, “A strange set of occupations.”
Hera, not looking up from her rifle, “Counseling, like sniping, takes time, patience, and a very, very long distance.”
Thrice nods to Hera and she nods back.
Athena nods to a man a few years younger than Thrice on the other side of Hera, “This is Fritter.”
The youth had slicked down bright orange hair and muddy eyes that seemed to burn as his eyes met Thrice’s. Fritter stretched his tight leather jacket over his muscular, young body as his legs bent inside his khaki pants. Thrice’s eyebrow raised again as he examined the questionable awakened, “Nice to…meet you?”
“Da fuck that supposed to mean dill-weed?!” Fritter exclaimed as he jumped up to his feet, his fists clenched.
Before Thrice could say a word, Athena stepped up next to Fritter and jabbed him in the ear. As Fritter swore up and down Athena gripped his jacket and looked him in the eyes, “Fritter, sit the frick down. Now!”
Fritter painfully sat back down while rubbing his ear, eying Athena the whole time. “Now,” Athena continued, “where was I?”
Athena pointed to a woman a year or so younger than Thrice, her hair shimmered like a wet oaken plank, and her eyes appeared like a green traffic light through a sickly fog. A blanket covered most of her lower half but above the blanket revealed a muscular body covered by a long sleeve t-shirt. “This is Terra,” Athena spoke up as Terra, who met Thrice’s eyes, nodded to him. Thrice nodded back. Athena moved down the group towards an older man with a shaved head, a broom of a mustache, graying eyes, a brown button up shirt, and black slacks. Between the man’s hands he spun what looked liked a police baton while looking Thrice up and down. “This is Vector,” Athena nodded to the man.
Vector stopped spinning the baton, “Pleasure to meet ya son.”
Thrice nodded to Vector, “Like wise, sir.”
Athena stepped up next to a woman of incredible beauty, her short fiery red hair put Thrice’s to shame. Her evergreen eyes lingered on him a bit too long if Thrice had to say so. A smirk stretched across her elegant face as her left hand went to her purple silk night gown. “This is Jezebel,” Athena said as she rolled her eyes as Athena saw what Jezebel was doing. Thrice felt his face get hot so his eyes immediately went to the next person in the circle. Thrice’s eyes met a deep blue of a man sitting across from him. The man’s sandy blonde hair dangled into the man’s face as he examined Thrice. The man’s tight under armor shirt bulged with his muscles underneath it as the man breathed in and out calmly. “This is Gholder,” Athena waved to the man while keeping her eyes on Jezebel.
Both Gholder and Thrice nod to each other.
Thrice’s eyes moved down the line to the next member of the team, a young pale skin woman. Her bob of black her contrasts almost beautifully with her pale skin while her muddy eyes bring her back down to Earth. Her eyes wonder around the room with she tugs at her gray hoody with one hand while the other holds a small, sharp knife between her fingers. “This is Cleo,” Athena says softly while kneeling down next to Cleo. Cleo softly exhales as she meets Thrice’s eyes and does her best to smile, Thrice could tell she does not want to be here but yet something keeps her in this place. Athena carefully places her hands on Cleo’s shoulders and whispers into her ear, Cleo seems to relax a small bit. After a brief moment, Athena gets up and walks over to a man with a tidal wave of crazy brown hair and boiling ivory for eyes. The man’s smile twists at Thrice’s stomach as Thrice smiles back. The man does his best to cover up the bruises on his knuckles with his brown leather jacket but they were hard to miss. “This upstanding man is Dythone,” Athena states with a hint of sarcasm. Dythone’s eyes draw Thrice in for just a moment for his eyes look like those of Wrath, of violence incarnate. Athena sighs then smiles big, “And finally,” she motions to the last member of Operation Exodus. A soft hand embraces Thrice’s, “I’m Beatrice. A pleasure to met you Thrice.” Thrice, taken a back for a moment then smiles at the older woman as her faded blonde hair sways in front of her pale blue eyes. “Please Ms. Beatrice, the pleasure is all mine,” Thrice smiles and slightly bows his head. “Oh my,” Beatrice’s other hand goes to her chest, “Athena you never said he was a gentleman as well.” Thrice struggles to bring his head back up as sleep deprivation starts kick in. Thrice releases Beatrice’s hand and looks to the others, Thrice finally feels like he could get some real progress with this team.
Athena’s hand slaps Thrice on the back, “Well Thrice, now that you are introduced to everyone…time for you to hit the hay.”
Thrice cocks his head, “Wait, what? But I just got here.”
Athena nods, “I know that but Galena informed me about what you have put yourself through these last few days so as your new boss I’m saying you get some sleep. Now.”
Thrice’s jaw falls open, “I can’t fuckin’ believe this.”
Athena crosses her arms, “Well you better believe it mister, now get some shut eye.”
Thrice, with a sour look on his face, gathers his things, and proceeds to find an empty room in the dojo.
Thrice enters his new room, closes the door, and throws his things on the floor. Thrice shakes his head as he mumbles to himself, “Paaaleazzz, I’m not the least bit tired at all.” Thrice slowly sits on the bed in the room but soon his body seems to realize what it is he is sitting on and proceeds to help Thrice get some sleep by passing out until he is nice and rested to help Operation Exodus deal with the threat, Abel.
Thrice’s alarm wakes him up as the sun teases above the horizon. Thrice drags himself to the shower and leans his head against one of the walls as the warm water pours onto him. “I suppose Galena was right,” Thrice says through calming breaths, “I have been pushing myself a bit to far lately.” After his much needed shower and a change of fresh workout clothes, Thrice walks to the dojo’s gym. Thrice walks through the quiet dojo, he figured everyone was still asleep. He approached the gym’s glass door, slid it open, flicked on the lights, and approached one of the many weightlifting bars. Thrice starts out with one hundred and fifty pounds of weight and starts his reps. Thrice lifted the bars over and over again, adding more weight here and there, through the better part of an hour. After Thrice had his fill of weightlifting, Thrice wiped his sweat off and walked over to the treadmill. He walked onto the treadmill and started it up with a slow walking speed. After a moment of a casual stroll Thrice quickly picked up his pace to a jog. Thrice could not decide whether the dojo was eerily quiet because everyone was still asleep or because Wrath, Temperance, and Innocence were not present thanks to Thrice’s lack of a soul-stone. Thrice could, in theory, bring the other three into the dojo with enough concentration but Thrice had other things to worry about than to summon the peanut-gallery. As Thrice contemplated what to do and organizing his thoughts he almost did not notice Hera walking into the gym and start jogging onto the treadmill next to him. Thrice met Hera’s eyes and nodded to her. Hera, in a workout tank top and sweat pants, nodded back to Thrice, “Morning Thrice, you are up awfully early for somebody I’ve heard as had a rough couple days of sleep.”
Thrice smirks as he focuses on the wall in front of his treadmill, “You certainly do your research Hera. Don’t worry, I feel completely rested. Guess all I needed was a night of rest.”
“I’m sure you are fine, but the others are talking.”
“And I should be worried because?”
“Because you are now part of Operation Exodus Thrice, and we all need to work as a team.”
“I’m sure we will do just—.”
“You don’t get it do you?” Hera stops her treadmill, hops off of it, and looks at Thrice.
“Get what?”Thrice twisted his face in confusion.
“Exodus needs to work together, we all need each other. Because one mistake, one miscommunication, could lead to every single one of us dead!” Hera’s eyes stay unwavering as her emotions flared for a moment.
Thrice, shocked, hopped off the treadmill, “You think I don’t know this is a big deal? I have been tracking this fucker for far to long and I am not about to mess this up because of some communication error on anyone’s part, especially my own.” Thrice’s eyes harden as his goals come out clear as day.
Hera met Thrice’s eyes while pushing her glasses up, “Then you need to start being a part of this team, I know you haven’t been here twenty-four hours but we have less than a week before the operation. We are going to need everyone at there best for this to be pulled off.”
Thrice sighs as he rubs his nose, “If it means that much to you, and I suppose the team, I’ll do my best to keep tensions smooth.”
A small smile stretched out across Hera’s face, “That’s good to hear Thrice.”
Thrice smiled as he scratched his stubbly face, “Quite the psychologist you are Hera, you remind me a lot of my cabal’s door-warden. Keeping the peace and all that.”
Hera adjusts her glasses, “I’ll assume that was a compliment. Thanks.”
Thrice stretched, “You are welcome, now if you’ll excuse me I suppose I have some breakfast to make for my teammates.”
A quick shower and change of clothes later Thrice was in the dojo’s kitchen rummaging through the refrigerator to see what he could make. “Hmmm. Eggs? Check. Milk? Check. That could work. Oh even those would be better.” Thrice’s cooking reflexes kicked in as he gathered his ingredients, pulled out a skillet, and started cooking some breakfast. After a few minutes of cooking up some savory breakfast, Thrice noticed some of the dojo’s rooms being opened and some of his teammates came out to see what that smell was. Beatrice was the first teammate to appear in the kitchen, her gray pajama outfit loosely fitting her frame as she glided into the kitchen to embrace the smell coming from it. She eyes the eleven plates of omelets and hash-browns and smiles, “A gentleman and a cook, my dear boy you are a marvel.” Thrice felt his face get slightly hot, but it was most likely from the stove-top, “Oh it was nothing Beatrice, cooking is just second nature to me now, that and I figured this would help me get to know the team a bit more.” Beatrice nodded as she sat down at the large table with a plate in front of her and they both waited for the rest of the team. Vector marched into the kitchen wearing black sweat pants and a loose tank top exposing his broad and lean shoulders. His mustache twitched as he smelled the food and looked up to Thrice, “You make this kid?”
Thrice nodded, “Yes sir.”
“What’s in ‘em?”
“Cheese, steak, potatoes, and some peppers for a small pick-me-up.”
Vector grinned wide as he took a plate and sat down next to Beatrice, “Now this is a breakfast, keep this up and I just might respect ya.” Beatrice let out a small chuckle, “You will have to share with us your secrets to this mysterious craft Thrice, my cabal could greatly benefit from it since our resident ’cook’ does his best with either burnt pancakes or trail mix.” All three of them laughed.
“Who is that Beatrice?” Vector asked as he spun a fork on the table absentmindedly.
“Tomblin,” Beatrice replied immediately.
“He is still alive? I thought he bit it big during that Seers attack?”
“He made it out by the skin of his teeth, like always. Acanthus seem to have a funny way of doing that.”
Vector chuckled, “Magical being capable of bending Fate to his will yet can’t make a decent meal, and people say the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor.”
The three of them did not notice Cleo until she sat herself at the far end of the table. “Oh Cleo,” Beatrice smiled at the young girl, “did you sleep well?”
Cleo nodded quickly as she examined the food in front of her and then looked up to Thrice, who was stained with splotches of ingredients from the cooking session, and spoke quietly, “Did you make this?”
Thrice nodded, “Yes, figured everyone would need a good meal to get ready for the day’s activities.”
A small smile appeared on Cleo’s face, “Thank you Thrice.”
“Think nothing of it, it will hopefully be a regular thing here if I have any say in it.”
Thrice looked over to Beatrice who nudged Vector and suggested he speak to Cleo. Vector sighed and looked to Cleo, “Cleo…how are you holding up dear? You need anything?”
Cleo looked to Vector, “I am fine Mr. Vector, thank you.”
Vector smiled, “Good.”
Shortly after the conversation ended everyone quietly ate as the rest of Exodus joined them at the table. Small talk scattered throughout the meal, the simple thanks to Thrice was most common. Jezebel was the last member to join the group, most likely because she was fully ‘dressed’ in a tank-top and yoga pants as well as wearing an assortment of make-up and hair product. She gracefully sat down at the table across from Thrice, eyed the food and then slowly met Thrice’s eyes. “I assume this is thanks to you Thrice?”
Thrice nodded with a fork-full of omelet in his mouth, his eyes immediately avert themselves.
Jezebel smiles, “I swear this man is after all of our hearts.”
The table erupted in laughter.
“I suppose I forgot to mention Thrice was a cook,” Athena muffled through a mouth-full of food.
Thrice playfully lifted his hands, “My secret is out.”
“Well,” Hera said beside Thrice while gazing at her food, “at least it is a good one.”
“It actually…is pretty fuckin’ good,” Fritter mumbled between shoveling down the food.
After everyone finished their breakfast Thrice began gathering everyone’s plates and cleaning them as everyone remained at the table. “So tell us Thrice,” Jezebel spoke smoothly, “what else is there to know about you?”
Thrice chuckled as he scrubbed some plates, “Depends on what you want to know really.”
Jezebel thinks for a moment, “How about wha-”
“Why are you after Abel?” Fritter interrupts as he stares at Thrice.
“Now Frit,” Beatrice says while glancing at Thrice, “Thrice may not be ready to tell us that story just yet.”
Thrice raises a hand, “No, it is fine Beatrice,” Thrice’s eyes go to Fritter, “I’ll tell you if you really want to know.”
Fritter nods as the rest of the group nonchalantly do their best to hear in on the conversation while pretending to not listen.
“Abel hurt a friend of my cabal and tricked another,” Thrice slowly spoke as he revisited the past memories.
“He…hurt them?” Fritter cocked his head, “how did he-”
Thrice spun around and glared at Fritter while he clenched his fists, “He raped her!”
The kitchen fell deadly quiet except for the dripping of the sink.
“Yeah,” Thrice continued, “he did that, and to track him down I had to go into that poor girl’s memories and re-live that moment!”
Fritter’s eyes looked to the table, the other member’s eyes did the same.
“That’s why I am here,” Thrice’s voice started to crack as emotion crept into his voice, “to make that he never does that to anyone, be they a cabal member or a stranger.”
“Thrice,” Hera reached slowly for Thrice, “I had no idea.”
Thrice sniffled once, wiped a bit of wetness from his eyes, turned to Hera, and smiled, “It’s okay, it’s not your burden to know. Just know I have a damned good reason to go after this bastard.”
“Don’t worry Thrice,” Athena spoke up, “most of this team have very good reasons for going after him while a select few are some seasoned warriors along for the ride.”
Thrice looked to Athena, “As long as everybody knows what has to happen to him…what must be done.”
Everyone in the room slowly nodded in agreement.
Thrice went back to cleaning the dishes while everyone sat at the table.
“Some of my classmates, females, have gone missing. I have a very good reason it is Abel behind it,” Fritter says as he stares at the table.
Terra nods in agreement, “It’s true, students have been disappearing from the university,” Terra takes a slow breath, “I saw one of my classmates being attacked in an alleyway but I was to scared to do anything about it…now she is missing.”
Thrice looks over to Terra and Fritter, “I knew the university was bad but not off that bad…”
“This drug,” Vector chimes in, “is nothing but trouble. I’ve seen it turn smart kids into brainless drones, sometimes worse.”
“That I can vouch for,” Gholder stated, “a friend of mine – he was a kind and great guy – he got his hands on this drug and became a totally different person.” Gholder looked down at his legs, “It even came so far as to him pushing me down the stairs in our place and ended up breaking both my legs.”
Jezebel clutched her chest, “Abel’s gang is viciously dangerous, they nearly beat me to death over one of my earrings.”
Beatrice cleared her throat, “The drug and the gang is dangerous so that is why Exodus was formed.”
Hera nodded to Beatrice, “It is the only action we could really take since both of them are so wide spread, but now we at least have the gang narrowed into one spot.”
Cleo and Dythone keep quiet as the others talk, Thrice takes notice.
Beatrice nudges Thrice and nods to Cleo, “She is still adjusting to everything that has happened to her. Just give her time.”
“And Dythone,” Athena spoke in a hushed tone as she stepped up next to Thrice, “is a…special case with the Consilium, I am in charge of keeping him in line.”
Thrice nodded to both women as he scanned the rest of the members of Exodus, everyone seemed a bit down and out.
“Well,” Thrice raised his voice after a big sigh, “how about we all go and blow off some steam?”
Most of the members looked up to Thrice and smiled.
Vector, Hera, Terra, Beatrice, and Thrice stalk through a doorway in a quiet hallway. All five of them wore light swat gear. Vector had a shotgun slung over his shoulder while he held a vicious looking combat knife, Hera consistently checked her pistol over and over again while she held her breath, Terra and Beatrice walked side-by-side as they scanned the building, and Thrice clicked his pistol’s safety off as he brought up the rear of the group. The group entered room after room until a faint noise, a whimper, was heard. Vector motioned his free hand forward. The group surrounded a door on the far side of the room, the place where the noise was coming. As Thrice pressed himself against the wall near the door he could now hear the noise more clearly, it was a woman crying. Hera whispered something to Vector, he nodded, and Hera walked down the hallway and entered a room a few doors down from the group’s door. Thrice met Vector’s eyes and Vector unslung his shotgun and pumped it. A moment later, Vector pointed the shotgun at the door’s hinges and motioned to the team. Vector’s shotgun splintered the door’s hinges. Thrice entered the room first followed by Terra and Beatrice, everyone with pistols at the ready. Athena met Thrice’s eyes with tears and fear in hers. A masked man held Athena closely and held a pistol to her head. “Thrice. HELP. ME!” Athena screamed as she did her best to struggle against the man’s strength, but it was no use. Thrice, unnerved for a second, lost himself in the moment. “Let. Her. Go,” Vector spoke loud and clear as he cocked his shotgun and Terra and Beatrice aimed their pistols at the man and his four masked accomplices, all aiming weapons as well. The masked man spat, “Like Hell I am!”
“We are giving you a chance to walk away before you do something stupid!” Vector roared as he gripped his shotgun tighter.
“You just don’t get it do you old man,” the masked man’s eyes seemed to boil, “we aren’t leaving without h—.” A sudden creak from the ceiling drew everyone’s attention.
“The fuck was that?” the masked man asked. A young looking masked woman walked up to the masked man, whispered into his ear while she scanned Thrice’s group, and finally returned to her position with the other masked people. The masked man turned around, facing his group, “Are you serious? We let one slip through?” The masked man waved his gun arm wildly as his anger grew with each string of expletives flew from his mouth. The man turned back around to discover Thrice pointing the gun at his head.
Thrice pulled the trigger. The masked man’s head snapped back and his body went limp. Athena screamed and scrambled away as the other masked people took aim and fired their weapons at Thrice’s group. Vector’s shotgun caught a masked person, a large man, in the chest and neck region. A shot from one of the masked people’s guns caught Terra in the thigh, she winced in pain but stood straight and fired at the enemy. Thrice caught a shot in his right shoulder and pain lanced through his arm for a moment but then adrenaline took over as he fought through the pain. After a brief firefight the masked people lay unmoving while Thrice limped towards Athena. Athena stood up, wiped the tears from her eyes, and shakily embraced Thrice. “Th-th-thank you!”
Thrice patted her back softly, “All in a day’s work, mam.”
Athena snorted, “Mam? I’m not that much older than you Thrice.” Athena’s face straightened and she no longer looked scared but more in control. She looked to the survivors, “Good work all of you.”
“Well,” Thrice scratches his stubbly chin as he points to Hera emerging from the ceiling, “if it wasn’t for Hera who knows what would have happened.”
“Still,” Athena spoke as her hands went behind her back, “you all worked as a team and succeeded.”
Athena turned to the masked people, “And they failed.”
Thrice walked over to the masked man and kicked him in the ribs, “Get up Fritter.”
Fritter winced and slowly got up while removing the mask, “Geez man, take it easy will ya?”
“Fritter,” Athena sharply spoke, “you’re team failed, you failed to realize that one of the opposing team’s members was missing and that cost you everyone’s lives.”
Fritter clenched his fists and glared at Thrice and then looked back to Athena, “I understand.”
“Good,” Athena spoke as she walked out of the room, “maybe this wasn’t a complete waste of time after all, you all MIGHT learn something once and a while.”
Slowly the masked people, Gholder, Jezebel, Cleo, and Dythone, pulled off their masks and stood up. Jezebel rubbed her side, “Ya know guys just because they are rubber bullets does not mean that they do not hurt, gonna leave a nasty bruise.”
Vector smiled as he shouldered his shotgun, “Well princess, next time dodge the gunfire.”
“Yeah,” Jezebel said as she stretched, “I’ll be sure to do that next time.”
Thrice watched as Fritter quickly got up, shoved passed Thrice and everyone, and left the training room.
“Well,” Hera said with a sigh, “that will turn into something.”
Thrice turns to Hera, “You think so?”
Hera nods knowingly, “He’s got quite a temper on him, maybe let him cool down for a bit.”
Thrice shrugged as he glanced to the rest of the team. Cleo and Dythone were heading to their rooms, Gholder and Terra were chatting in the kitchen, Jezebel was checking herself for bruises while her eyes occasionally looked towards Thrice who quickly looked to the other members, and Vector and Beatrice were sharing stories on the couch. Athena put a hand on Thrice’s shoulder, “You impressed me Thrice, but don’t think it will get any easier from here out.”
Thrice smirked, “I didn’t sign up for easy Athena.”
“That’s what I like to hear.” Athena turns to Hera, “Hera, keep an eye on Fritter. I don’t want him going off the rails.”
Hera gives a quick nod, “Roger that.”
“Good,” Athena stretches and walks off, “now I’m going to take a quick nap, being a hostage is tiring work.”
Hera looks to Thrice, “Seems like the team has some time off. What shall we do?”
Thrice smirks as he turns towards his room, “Well, I am gonna change and workout then cook up some lunch as well as stay out of trouble.”
Hera smirks, “Good luck with the trouble thing, Fritter is pretty determined. I’ll do my best to run interference, last thing we need is one of you two ending up seriously injured.”
Thrice opens his door and gives Hera a half salute, “I’ll do my best.”
The gym’s punching bag swayed back and forth against Thrice’s fists. Sweat dripped down Thrice’s face as his fists hit the punching bag over and over again. He checked the clock above the door, he had been at this for a good two hours and he was just now starting to breathe a little heavy. Thrice impressed himself how far he has come in this last year. A voice from the main room caught Thrice’s attention, “Fritter stop, you need to calm down!” Thrice turned to see the voice was Hera and she was chasing after Fritter who was walking towards Thrice while his eyes locked themselves on Thrice. Thrice sighed, “Fuck, what does he want?” Fritter swung open the gym’s door and spoke through clenched teeth, “Let’s go.”
“Let’s go?” Thrice arched one eyebrow, “go where?”
“In the dojo, you and me. Right. Now!” Fritter’s eyes twitched as he somewhat shouted.
“And why would I do that Frit?” Thrice continued hitting the punching bag as Fritter ranted.
“Because I want to throw down, see who is top dog.”
“Top dog? I don’t see why you wanna do something like that man, just sit down and think for a bit, okay?”
“I have been thinking and I want to kick your smug ass. You think you’re hot shit cause your pals with Athena. I’m gonna prove you ain’t nothin but a wannabe.”
Thrice takes a slow breath and looks at Fritter as he holds the punching bag to make it stop swaying, “Frit, I don’t want to fight you. I don’t think I’m ‘hot shit’ or anything like that I’m just a guy trying to make the world right.”
Fritter scoffs, “Sure you do bud.”
Hera runs into the room and places herself between Fritter and Thrice, “Fritter stop this NOW!”
Fritter glares at Hera and then to Thrice, “We were just talking since he is to much of a wuss to fight me.”
“Name calling now,” Thrice smirks, “really?”
Fritter spreads his arms wide, “I can do this all day.”
Thrice grips the bridge of his nose and sighs, “Fine, we can spar if it will ease the tension Frit.”
Hera looks at Thrice with her mouth open, “Are you serious?!”
Thrice puts a hand on Hera’s shoulder, “Hera, this will be a sparring match. I’m not going in out of anger or frustration. Maybe this will help.”
Hera clenches her jaw, “Do not make me regret this Thrice, I’m trusting you on this.”
Thrice nods, “Noted. Now,” Thrice looks to Fritter and then points to the sparring mat in the middle of the other room through the glass door, “shall we?”
Fritter smiles, “I thought you’d never ask.”
Thrice and Fritter walk out of the gym with Hera behind them. Vector and Beatrice stand around the sparring mat with arms crossed. Vector clears his throat as he looks to Thrice, “So this is really happening Thrice?”
Thrice shrugs, “He was persistent Vector. I figure better to get this tension out of the way now than when we have to watch out for each other.”
Vector nods, “I suppose that makes sense.”
Fritter and Thrice step onto the mat and exhale as the three spectators grow still. Fritter clenches his fists. Thrice controls his breathing while his Arrow training slowly takes over. Fritter rushes towards Thrice while he holds his fist up. Thrice knocks the fist aside while side stepping Fritter all-together. Fritter slides on his feet, turns around, and swings wildly at Thrice. Thrice catches one of Fritter’s fists, plants his foot onto Fritter’s, and punches Fritter in his center. Fritter falls back on his back a few feet back, scrambles to his feet, and throws a series of punches at Thrice. Thrice dodges a few punches, but one punch connects to his side and then a few more to his chest. Thrice stumbles back to keep some distance between him and Fritter but Fritter jumped at the opportunity and tackled Thrice to the ground. Fritter lays on top of Thrice while he pounds away at Thrice’s face. Blood pours down Thrice’s head as Fritter’s fists connect over and over again. Thrice clenches his teeth as anger starts to build up in him. Thrice catches one of Fritter’s fists, violently yanks Fritter down, headbutts him, and finally pushes him off before Fritter and anyone can realize what is going on. Thrice stands up, spits blood onto the floor, and looks to Fritter, “Do you yield?” Fritter responds with a middle finger, Thrice does not take kindly to that. Thrice jumps on top of Fritter and proceeds to hit Fritter over and over again in the face. Blood splatter’s across Thrice’s face, shirt, and the dojo’s floor. “Do you yield?!” Thrice shouts over and over. After several grueling seconds of face pounding, Fritter taps Thrice on the shoulder and Thrice stops immediately. Thrice jumps up from on top of Fritter and looks down at the damage he had down: a bloody left eye swollen shut, several broken teeth, and an enormous gash across the right side of the face.
Thrice looks around, “Someone help me get him to the infirmary.” Everyone steps forward to help Thrice carry Fritter who is now unconscious. After a few moments everyone set Fritter down on a hospital bed and everybody just stood there as all their eyes slowly went to Thrice who was calmly cleaning off the blood on his face. Suddenly the door to the room slammed open, “Thrice, I want an explanation.” Thrice turned to see a red faced Athena as her eyes did their best to set Thrice on fire. Thrice put his hands up, “Now Athena, he pushed me to this.”
“He pushed you to almost killing him?!”
“I know I know, but when he wanted to stop I stopped. Ask anybody here and they will say if he wished to yield and he did not.”
Athena looked to Vector, Beatrice, and Hera, “Is this true?”
All three nodded to Athena as Vector spoke up, “Yes Athena, Thrice did try to get the boy to surrender but Fritter was to prideful to give up.”
Athena sighed as she placed her hands on her head, “What. The. Fuck. Thrice. Why even do this?”
Thrice shrugged, “I did my best to ignore him but he would not take no for an answer. I’ll admit I did lose a bit of control when the sparring got a little intense, for that I am sorry.”
Athena shakes her head, “You’re lucky he can recover from this. I don’t want anymore of this male rivalry bullshit in this place. You hear me?”
Thrice nods, “I’ll do my best mam, but in all fairness Fritter needs that talk as well.”
“And he will get it when he wakes up, but since you are conscious my anger is directed at you and right now I want you out of this room so I can discuss with the others.”
“Of course Athena,” Thrice lowers his eyes as he steps out of the room and into the hallway.
Thrice leans his head against the wall as he sighs, “You just had to beat him up that bad didn’t ya.”
“Well I heard you had to to prove yourself to him,” a feminine voice said from beside Thrice.
Thrice turned to see it was Jezebel standing beside him, “Jez I’m not really in the mood to talk right now.”
“Well good because I’m not really in the mood to talk either,” Jezebel spoke softly as she stepped closer to a confused Thrice.
“I don’t under-” Thrice jumped a bit as Jezebel placed her hand against Thrice’s chest.
“I didn’t realize how strong you are Thrice,” Jezebel speaks as her eyes look Thrice up and down, “that show you put on was very exhilarating.”
Thrice turns his eyes away from her, “Jez you still don’t get it do you? Even after the past few times this has happened I’ve told you time and time again I am not interested.”
Jezebel’s hand traces around Thrice’s chest, “That does not mean I am not interested though.”
“Well I hate to break your heart but I am already taken Jez.”
“So?” I sly smirk crosses Jezebel’s face, “She does not have to find out.”
Thrice pushed Jezebel off of him, “That is not an option!”
Hands to her chest, Jezebel stands shocked at Thrice’s words, “I don’t understand, you don’t want this?”
“That is correct,” Thrice crossed his arms, “I already a someone to make me happy.”
Jezebel messes with her hair nervously, “Well she must be someone very special for you to stand up for her like that.”
“Yes. Now if you want to make somebody’s day better I’m sure Fritter could use a pick-me-up after earlier events.”
Jezebel smiled at Thrice, “I suppose I could pop in for a bit to check up on him.”
Thrice nods and turns to leave.
Thrice turns to Jezebel who was standing at the infirmary’s door, “Yes?”
“This never happened, okay?” Jezebel smirked, “Plus I’ll say it was me who turned you down.”
Thrice chuckled and waved to Jezebel, “Understood.”
Thrice sat at the kitchen table as he swirled his soup over and over again. After a moment Gholder walked into the kitchen, filled a glass full of milk, and sat across from Thrice. Thrice nodded to Gholder and took a spoonful of soup to his mouth. “Thrice, I have a question that you might be able to answer.”
Thrice looked up from his soup, surprised, “Me? I can’t decide if you are that desperate or I am that sagely. Regardless, ask away Gholder.”
“It’s just with everybody in the infirmary with Fritter I can’t really talk to anybody.” Gholder rubs his neck, “Why haven’t we gone after Abel yet? I mean, Athena has seen how capable we are so why hasn’t the operation started?”
“Ah,” Thrice puts his spoon down into his half empty bowl, “that question.”
“Well it’s quiet simple really,” Thrice clasped his hands in front of him, “Athena, and the team, need time to set things up.”
“To set what up though?”
“The team needs more time to adjust to each other and better coordinate. Right now we are getting better but we still have a few…bumps along the way.”
“Well,” Thrice breathes heavily, “setting up to block off several city blocks takes quiet some time. We need those blocks that way we can avoid anymore public attention than this thing will cause. The less sleeper witnesses the better.”
“Ah,” Gholder looks at Thrice, “and how do you know all this?”
“Honestly,” Thrice leans back in his chair, “Athena, Vector, Beatrice and myself have been talking on all these things lately. Granted the other day’s incident with me and Fritter might have set some things back.”
“I was told he had it coming,” Gholder said as he clenched his fists, “that little disrespectful bastard.”
Thrice raised one hand, “That may be true, but I should have handled the situation more carefully. I let my emotions get the better of me.”
“Well still,” Gholder took a sip of milk, “it was bound to happen sooner or later man, don’t beat yourself up over all this.”
Thrice shrugs, “I suppose it could be worse.”
“There ya go, now we just have to wait and see what this week will bring us.”
Thrice raises his spoon and salutes, “I can’t wait.”
The next several days went by without any complications. Exodus trained to recognize each others’ magical signatures, as well as more combat training. Thrice had the occasional ‘therapy session’ with Hera to help him vocalize his thoughts. Fritter and Jezebel became very close and they were not afraid of a bit of P.D.A. Cleo and Dythone continued their silent treatment, Cleo occasionally chimed in to conversations and it seemed to lightened everybody’s mood. Gholder, Vector, and Thrice worked out together while telling ridiculous stories of past adventures. Thrice also began showing some of Exodus a few things around the kitchen, it was one of the most fun evenings of Thrice’s life. The tension between Thrice and Fritter slowly eased itself down to friendly rivalry. Everything seemed to be normal, at least as normal things could be, until Athena got the call that the operation was ready to begin. Operation Exodus was a-go.
“…and that’s when the Apostate yelled to me, ‘No please, spare the chicken!’” Vector did his best to impersonate a scared wailing girl’s voice as he flung his arms all around. Everybody at the table laughed, even Dythone and Cleo. The laughter was cut off as Athena burst into the room. “Athena,” Beatrice spoke as she patted an empty seat next to her, “come and join us, you could use some relaxation my dear.”
Athena looked to everyone and then her face became stern, “Everyone gear up.”
“Gear up?” Gholder said, “But we just finished an exercise the other day.”
“Not for an exercise,” Athena raised her voice slightly, “Operation Exodus is ready to begin!”
Everybody froze for a moment before they bolted from the table to their rooms to grab their gear.
“Transport?” Vector asked Athena as he slammed open his door.
“We have a S.W.A.T. Van, heavily armored, outside waiting for us. We got the clearance, as well as the city blocks clear of all civilians,” Athena responded as she flung open her door and started pulling her S.W.A.T. Gear over her clothes while she assembled her her rifle and pistols.
Vector nodded as he geared up.
Thrice opened his door, pulled his gear out from under his bed, strapped on the Kevlar vest as well as protective leg Kevlar. After armoring himself up, Thrice assembled his SMG and pistol, checked both their ammo counts, and finally holstered the pistol to his thigh and the SMG to his back. Thrice stepped back out of his room about five minutes later. Thrice noticed everyone else was emerging from their rooms as well fully armed to the teeth. Hera had her rifle slung on her back and a pistol holstered to the small of her back. Vector had his shotgun on his back and a combat knife sheathed to his waist. Gholder had a night-stick attached to his thigh while he had an SMG slung to his side. Fritter waited at the door with Jezebel for the others. Fritter had a pistol on his hip and a knife on his back while Jezebel had a auto-pistol on her hip and a jagged blade strapped to her boot. Terra emerged from her room only with a pistol strapped to her hip. Cleo slid open her door as she checked her shotgun. Dythone emerged strode out of his room brandishing a sawed-off shotgun and a magnum pistol holstered on his hip. Beatrice, the last to come out of her room, gracefully walked out of her room with a long knife on her thigh and a auto-pistol strapped to her back. “All right people,” Athena spoke as she checked over her own gear, “let’s go kill us a devil.”
The team huddled inside the S.W.A.T. Van, most of the ride was filled with silence except for bits and pieces of some of the team double or triple checking their gear. Thrice felt a hand on his shoulder, it was Hera’s. “Hey,” Hera nodded to Thrice’s shaking hands, “you alright?”
Thrice chuckled as he looked down to his hands, “I guess I’m so use to these fights being complete surprises so I don’t have time to react like this…but now I’m going into one.”
“We will be fine Thrice.”
Thrice weakly smiles, “Yeah.”
Hera glances up to the Athena in the passenger seat and the driver who was also clad in S.W.A.T. Gear. “So Athena,” Hera says as she walks towards the front of the van, “what is our plan?”
Athena looks back to Hera and smirks, “And here I thought someone was going to forget about all their training.”
Athena produces a blueprint of a warehouse, the one Abel was occupying, and tosses it to Hera, “Open it up for everyone to see and I’ll go over it.”
Hera spreads open the blueprint and everyone shifts their gaze to the map.
“The warehouse is large,” Athena talks over the roar of the engine, “so I’ve decided that the team will be split up into three groups. To the left side of the building is a small entrance, Vector I want you and Dythone on that door.”
Vector glanced to Dythone who kept his eyes on the map.
“There is also a small opening on the roof,” Athena continued, “Hera, I want you Terra and Cleo on that position.”
The three women looked to each other, smiled, and nodded.
“And finally,” Athena’s voice took a grim tone, “Beatrice, I want you and the rest of the team on the main entrance. I’m putting more of you up there because I don’t know how many they have.”
“Understood Athena,” Beatrice nodded to Athena.
“Good,” Athena spoke up, “I hope everyone remembers there positions because we have arrived at the blockade.”
On que, the van turned on the street were four similar vans lined the street. As Exodus’s van approached the other vans cleared a path. After Exodus’ van passed the blockade Athena turned to face the team, “Okay from this point on Exodus we are in hostile territory so magic is on. We can only assume Abel has surrounded himself with Sleepwalkers and plans to use his numbers against us, but we have better gear AND power on our side.” Thrice felt a slight chill on his neck as everyone cast their magic on themselves and gear. Thrice sighed as he shielded himself with his Mind Arcanum. Soon after the casting had stopped the van rolled to a halt. “Mam,” the driver looked over to Athena, “this is as far as I can take you least we jeopardize the van.”
“Understood Clove,” Athena nodded then looked back to the team, “you all heard the man, out now!”
Vector opened the back door of the van and Exodus poured out from the van. Vector gripped Dythone by the shoulder, “Come on kid.”
Hera, Terra, and Cleo grouped together and quickly walked towards the warehouse.
“Alright people,” Beatrice softly spoke as her team gathered around her, “let’s go have some fun.”
Thrice took up the rear of the group so he could keep an eye on everything. He noticed Fritter and Jezebel ‘playing’ with each other, Gholder unslinging his SMG and checking it one final time, and Beatrice walking elegantly in front as she unholstered her auto-pistol. Thrice also noticed the other groups. They had all stopped dead in their tracks. The rest of Beatrice’s team took notice and quickly rushed forward. As everyone reached for the rest of the team they too stopped in their tracks and Thrice was the last to figure out why, all of his magic disintegrated off of him. “What the fuck just happened?” Fritter asked loudly.
“We just hit an anti-magic field of sorts,” Hera softly spoke.
“But which magic does the field ban?” Fritter turned towards Hera.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Vector spat as he looked to Fritter, “It bans all magic.”
Fritter shook his head, “B-b-but how? That’s a lot of power.”
“Then obviously we are dealing with a powerful mage, or a large group of mages.”
“Why would Abel and his group do that though?” Cleo asked, “They just crippled themselves as much as us.”
“Because,” Thrice finally spoke up, “he wants to be on equal terms if he beats us, some twisted version of honor he has.”
“Well fuck,” Fritter kicked a loose stone, “he still might have numbers over us.”
“It matters not,” Vector gritted his teeth, “the operation continues.”
The rest of the team nodded and responded as one, “Right.”
All three groups slowly approached the warehouse. “So,” Fritter spoke softly as the building grew larger, “how are we suppose to communicate without the mental links we trained with?”
“Simple really,” Beatrice turned to Fritter, “we use the radios on our gear.”
Hera nodded, “They may be ‘out-dated’ but they will get the job done in a pinch.”
“Good,” Vector looked to everyone, “then everyone turn them on and we will continue.”
All the radios hissed to life and soon a subtle static washed over the group as the radios breathed easily.
Vector, Beatrice, and Hera nodded to each other and walked to their positions with their teams. Beatrice drew her team close to the front door, “All right, now we wait here until the others are in position.” Thrice nodded to Beatrice and fiddled with his SMG while the rest of the group checked their weapons. After a few moments of silence Vector’s voice came over the radio, “This is Vector, we are in position.”
“Echo Vector,” Beatrice responded, “we are ready as well.”
Hera’s voice came over the radio a few seconds later, “Hera here, we are ready now.”
Beatrice looked to her group and nodded as she gripped the handle to the front of the warehouse, “Be ready for anything.” Everyone tensed as she slid open the door and began to step inside. The rest of the group followed Beatrice into the darkened warehouse, unaware of what waited for them.
The warehouse was silent except for the stomping of combat boots as Beatrice’s team entered the building. Everyone took up positions near the entrance around some wooden boxes as they searched the area. Beatrice spoke in a hushed tone, “I don’t see or hear anyone. Do any of you?” The rest of the group shook their heads. Beatrice turned on a flashlight attachment on her auto-pistol and slowly crept forward into the warehouse. Thrice took up the rear of the team and was about to move forward when all the lights to the warehouse turned on and revealed the occupants of the building, Abel and his gang.
Thrice could not see anyone beyond the box for the lighting nearly blinded him but he could hear laughter and finally a voice came over the crowd, “Well, well, well, what do we have here? A couple would-be heroes come to take us out boys.” The crowd roared with laughter. “You think this is some game Abel?” Beatrice exclaimed over the crowd, “You think we will be the first?”
“Oh my dear,” Abel’s voice echoed through the warehouse and Thrice could hear the smile stretch across his face, “you were not the first and I hope you are not the last, me and my friends here were getting a little bored here waiting on your team to show up. Now the wait is over and the fun can begin.”
“Wait,” Beatrice sounded confused, “how did you kno –.” Beatrice’s voice was cut off as a gunshot sounded through the warehouse. Thrice heard Jezebel scream and turned toward the commotion. He could make out Beatrice’s body on the ground with a bullet hole in her forehead. “Now,” Abel’s voice smoothly wafted to Thrice’s ears, “how I know is suppose to be a secret, one, I’m afraid, you all will never know.”Thrice heard a snap of fingers and suddenly members of Abel’s gang descend from the rafters and immediately surrounded Gholder, Fritter, and Jezebel while Thrice took back his position behind the boxes. Thrice grabbed his radio while he saw Gholder grip his night-stick, Fritter gripped his pistol in his right hand while he unsheathed his knife with his left, and Jezebel held her auto-pistol with both hands. “Guys,” Thrice whispered into his radio, “this is Thrice. We are surrounded. Where is our back-up?”
The radio crackles to life, “Thrice!” Hera’s voice booms over the radios, “We are surrounded as well. Just hold on a little bit mo –.” Gunshots cut off the radio.
“Well,” Abel chuckled, “seems all your little groups are in trouble now.”
“You bastard!” Fritter yells as he stabs at one of the gang members and puts a bullet between another one’s eyes. As soon as Fritter pulled the trigger the other members surrounding the group unleashed a rain of gunfire into Fritter’s body. Jezebel screamed as Fritter’s body convulsed with bullets so she didn’t notice one gang member with a shotgun approaching behind her. Gholder gripped his night-stick as he broke a few bones of some surrounding gang members while some others jumped on top of Gholder with blades drawn.
Thrice propped his SMG on top of the box he was using as cover and took aim at the nearby gang members. As Thrice pulled the trigger he saw two things: One,The gang members on top of Gholder stabbed him over and over again until Gholder finally fell to his wounds; and two, the gang member standing behind Jezebel planted his shotgun on the back of her head and pulled the trigger. Blood sprayed on to Thrice as his SMG put bullets into several of the gang members. Thrice ducked back down behind the box as the box and the boxes around it erupted in to gunfire. “Oh, oh, oh,” Abel spoke surprisingly, “seems we missed one little bug.”
Thrice popped in a fresh ammo clip into his SMG, “You’ll find out I’m full of surprises asshole.”
Abel laughs, “Oh he’s got spunk. Rebecca, entertain our guest while the rest of our brothers take care of these intruders.” The warehouse grew quiet until Thrice could distinctly hear footfalls approaching his position fast, Thrice readied himself. He poked his head up from the box and was greeted with a boot to his face. Thrice staggers back as he shakes his head. Thrice looks at this Rebecca, she wore black cargo pants, black combat boots, and a red tank top. Rebecca had a shaved head and piercing blue eyes. In her hand she held a long blade, it was Beatrice’s. “Oh this should be fun,” Rebecca smiled as she walked forward. Thrice brings up his SMG but Rebecca knocks the gun out of Thrice’s hands and the gun clatters away from both of them. A kick to the leg gets Thrice on his knees with a grunt of pain. Rebecca laughs as she leans forward, “Don’t tell me you are all that’s left, I guess this won’t be fun after all.” Thrice gritted his teeth and head-butted Rebecca in the stomach. Rebecca grunted but soon delivered a kick to the side of Thrice’s head. Thrice’s vision blurred slightly as he fell to the ground. Thrice felt a pressure on his chest and he discovered it was Rebecca sitting on top of him with her blade raised. Thrice gripped her hands to stop the blade. “Still got some fight in ya huh?” Rebecca smiled wickedly as she pressed her weight on the blade. Thrice struggled under the weight as he did his best to direct the blade somewhere else. Thrice blinked through all the sweat and soon he felt intense pain in his side. Thrice cried out and saw the blade sticking out of his side. Thrice’s cries were cut off when Rebecca slammed her fists over and over again against Thrice’s face. Thrice did his best to wiggle his body free but Rebecca had to good of a position on him. Rebecca laughed as she broke some skin and blood spurted out of Thrice’s lip and face. Thrice started to swell with anger and he knew he needed that adrenaline and who came with it. Thrice sucked in his lip and then spit what little blood was there into Rebecca’s eyes. Rebecca flew back in surprise which gave Thrice enough room to get away from her. As Rebecca was wiping her eyes clear Thrice painfully pulled the blade from his side, the pain caused his vision to blacken. With her eyes free, Rebecca looked around to see Thrice right in front of her. With blade in hand, Thrice sliced through Rebecca’s face from cheek to cheek. Rebecca shrieked in pain as bits of her loose skin flapped in the air. Thrice, gripping his side tight, shoved the blade through Rebecca’s throat to silence her screams. Breathing heavily now, Thrice turned to the rest of the gang and to the dark figure he assumed was Abel. Abel clapped slowly, “Very well sir, you managed to defeat one of my best. But now I have you wounded.” Thrice took a step forward but was met with a bullet to his shoulder. Thrice groaned in pain as his body shuddered at the new pain. “You see I can have you killed right now, but where would the fun be in that,” Abel spoke softly. Another bullet went through Thrice’s calf. Vision blackening, Thrice fell to the ground. “Not like this,” Thrice hazily thought as he felt his wounds pooling blood all around him, “I still haven’t told her.” Abel’s voice drifted into Thrice’s ears, “Send some of the ground team down there to pick this intruder up. Also, I want word on…” Thrice’s body finally gave out, “Galena…I’m sorry.”
A sigh entered Thrice’s mind, “Oh for fuck’s sake, I guess I have to get us out of here do I now?”
A second voice entered Thrice’s mind, more calm, “You do seem to be the most capable right now.”
The first voice sighed again, “Okay, okay. But he owes me BIG.”
Thrice’s body on the warehouse floor twitched and took a long breath. “Oh shit,” Thrice’s body gripped its side as it did its best to stand up, “so this is painful.” Thrice’s body looked around to discover that most of the gang members had departed except for a lone figure, Abel. “So I was correct in assuming you would make a comeback,” Abel stood on top of the metal walk way high above the warehouse floor.
The body smiled, “You’re part way right asshole, the owner of this body is current out like a light so I’m doing him a favor and getting it out of here.”
“Well,” Abel walked along the walk way, “I’m afraid me and my men cannot allow that to happen.”
“Well,” The body took on a mocking tone, “to fucking bad cause I’m walking out that door.”
“Please,” Abel pointed towards the door, “you are more than welcome to try…whoever you are.”
The body turned towards the door and smirked, “You can just call me The Wrathful Ruler.”
Abel chuckled as Wrath shuffled his way to the door, he picked up Thrice’s SMG along the way. “Gah Thrice,” Wrath spoke through gritted teeth, “you couldn’t walk this off, this is nothing.” Blood seeped through Wrath’s clothing as he finally approached the door. As Wrath went to open the door the door flung open and revealed a man with a pistol pointed at Wrath. The man, surprised by Wrath, fired his gun into Wrath’s body armor. Wrath’s breath quickly left him but not before Wrath let out a small burst of SMG fire into the man’s chest. Wrath took a deep breath, “Ha, that the best you got?” Soon two more men entered the door way, one with a shotgun and the other with a knife. Wrath burst fired into the knife wielder’s chest since he was closer. The shotgun wielder fired straight into Wrath’s chest. Wrath was knocked back into a wall and his vision blackened slightly. The man pumped his shotgun and pointed it at Wrath, “I suggest if you want to keep that head of yours you throw your weapons somewhere.” Wrath chuckled a little which caused the man to lean forward, “What’s so funny?”
Wrath looked up to the man, “The fact that you are just pissing me off.”
The man cocked his head and opened his mouth but Wrath kicked the man’s shotgun away and punched him in the face. The man stumbled back to the door while Wrath stood up and walked towards him. Before the man could pull the trigger Wrath retrieved the knife wielder’s blade and shoved it through the shotgun man’s chest. Wrath pulled the blade free and gripped the shotgun before it fell from the dead man’s grip. With a slow limp, Wrath walked out of the warehouse. Wrath immediately saw the armored van they drove in on, he only saw a couple of people around the van defending it. “Thrice!” a female voice called out to Wrath. Wrath looked towards the voice and it was Hera. Wrath slowly walked towards the van. Wrath could see Vector, Hera, Cleo, and Athena at the van all with guns out firing at the gang members around the warehouse behind Wrath. Wrath quickened his pace but he soon found out that bullets were faster than him as he took several to his armored back and couple to his lower leg. Wrath blacked out to the sound of Thrice’s teammates screaming in disbelief.
“Do you have him?” Hera grunted.
“Yeah, he’s a pretty light guy,” Vector spoke through strain.
“V-Vector, you can heal him right?” Cleo stammered as tears filled her eyes.
“Cleo,” Athena’s voice came from the front of the van, “Vector can heal him. But we need him to concentrate.”
“Right,” Vector sucked in a breath, “give me some room.”
All was quiet for a moment but soon light, and pain, poured into Thrice’s vision. Thrice screamed as his eyes shot open. Thrice saw Vector kneeling beside him with a tired smile on him, Cleo huddled up next to the door, Athena smiling at Thrice from the driver’s seat of the van, and Hera taking shots from her rifle at the approaching gang members. “So,” Thrice hoarsely spoke with a smile, “how is everybody’s day going?”
After a few more seconds Thrice was able to breathe easier as some of his wounds on his legs healed while his shoulder and side barely gave away to anything. “You able to help us get out of here Thrice?” Athena asked from the front seat as she started the engine.
“Able and willing mam,” Thrice leaned on his hands to sit up.
“Good,” Athena shifted in the seat, “we are gonna need every able body.”
“There’s too many of them,” Cleo exclaimed, “how can we make it out?!”
“Cleo,” Hera spoke not looking anywhere but down her rifle sight, “we will make it out of this.”
Thrice unholstered his pistol and shakily took aim at the approaching gang members. Vector leaned against the inside of the van with his shotgun raised and ready. Athena slammed her foot on the gas pedal and the truck sped to life down the road. The group in the van all smiled except for Athena who just swore, “Oh shit.” Athena slammed on the brakes.
“What’s wrong,” Vector called out.
“They’re trying to block us in.”
Everyone gazed through the front of the van to discover three SUVs lined up in the street with six men on each SUV armed with SMGs and pistols aimed at the group’s van. “We can’t go through that,” Hera expressed, “they would cut us down even in this van.”
“Then what do we do,” Vector asked.
“Someone,” Athena grimly said, “has to sacrifice themselves to let us go by…”
The van grew quiet as everyone just stared forward at the blockade.
“I’ll do it,” Cleo softly spoke.
“What?” Vector whipped his head to Cleo, “You are doing no such thing missy!”
“AND WHY NOT?!” Cleo yelled with tears in her eyes, “I’VE SEEN MY FRIENDS AND TEAMMATES BUTCHERED LIKE ANIMALS, THE LEAST I CAN DO IS MAKE SURE THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN TO ALL OF YOU.”
Vector, taken aback, holds back his sorrow, “Cleo. But you’re so young. You still have so much more life to go through.”
Cleo sniffles, “I don’t care, I want to do this and that is that.”
“Vector,” Athena says softly, “Cleo has made up her mind, let her live in peace.”
Vector hangs his head and then nods. Cleo approaches the door to the van, grips the handle, and looks back to everyone. “Thank you all for everything: Athena for taking me in, Hera for understanding, Vector for training me, and Thrice for making me feel that I could be normal again.”
Thrice holds back his tears as Cleo opens the back door to the van and jumps out. As soon as she jumps out Cleo is surrounded by shadows. As she reaches further and further into her magic Cleo’s Nimbus bleeds into reality. A tall, cloaked figure hovers above Cleo and slowly turns so the rest of the van can see it, the figure was Death. Death looked at all the occupants but stopped when it looked at Thrice. Thrice felt a chill go up his spine as Death looked at him but soon Death followed Cleo out to the blockade to help the others get away.
As the van hurtled through the blockade Thrice heard gunfire, screams, and finally nothing as the van pulled further and further away. “So,” Vector scratched his head, “what’s the plan now?”
“I don’t know,” Athena responded behind the wheel, “Abel knew our moves, but how?”
“I think I might know how,” Vector responded, “Dythone was a double agent.”
“What?” The van’s occupants all asked.
Vector pulled up his bloody shirt and revealed a wicked looking bleeding cut, “Little bastard jumped me as soon as we were alone, he got away too.”
“That means that Abel know where our base is,” Athena coldly stated, “he knows everything now.”
“We played our hand,” Hera stated as she cleaned a few cuts and scrapes on her legs, “and we messed up and now we are paying for that.”
“There has to be something we can do to trump him,” Athena slammed her fists into the steering wheel.
Thrice’s mind raced as he thought of any solution, it would require someone or something incredibly powerful. Thrice, desperate for anything, immediately remembered the Astral Realms and its inhabitants. “I’ve got it!” Thrice jumped up and immediately winced in pain at the stab wound in his side.
“And what’s that?” Vector looked to Thrice.
Thrice walked up to Athena, “Athena, I need to get to the Ember’s Sanctum.”
Athena nodded, “Okay Thrice, I hope you know what you are doing.”
The van pulled to a stop outside of the Embers of Tommorow’s Sanctum. Thrice shuffled out of the van and looked back to the others, “I might send some of my cabal mates out here to help in case this doesn’t work.”
Everyone nodded as Thrice limped towards the front door. Thrice unlocked the front door and slipped inside the house. Thrice looked around and saw Overman and Ramses standing in the kitchen chatting. “Thrice,” Overman looked over to Thrice, “we were just talking about – Atlantis man! What happened to you?”
Thrice waved his hand, “It matters not right now, I need you two outside with some people. Something has gone wrong and I need to fix it.”
“Thrice,” Ramses approached Thrice, “I don’t know if you should even be walking right now.”
Thrice grabbed Ramses by his shirt collar, “Do you want to help me?!”
Ramses and Overman nodded quickly.
“Then,” Thrice looked to both of them, “Go.Outside.Now!”
Without further words, Overman and Ramses went outside and jumped inside the van with the remaining members of Exodus. Thrice sighed and leaned against the door, “Now, let’s see if this really is going to work.”