Joshua felt the rage only seconds before his office door splintered inward. Before he could react Agony was on him, slamming him into the window behind him. “Why me?!” he screamed slamming Joshua again. “Why did you pick me? Why?” Agony didn’t give him an opportunity to answer, slamming him one more time, but with less force. Joshua could only watch as the rage turned to sorrow, anger giving way to tears. Agony slumped, sliding to Joshua’s side, going to his knees. With his head rested on the glass he gave a weak punch to the ground and whispered nearly inaudible again, “Why me?”
The near silence stretched, the only sound the soft sobbing of the large man. Joshua could see him trying to rebuild himself, trying to regain his composure, slowly clawing back from the brink. Finally he spoke again, this time flatly, “They came in the night. They killed all the men first. All except me. Although I wasn’t really a man yet, barely 13. But they knew what I was, so they spared me. Instead they made me watch. Torture and rape aren’t strong enough words for what they did. Then they were gone, and I was alone, surrounded by the death they left behind.” Agony let out a shiver and a sigh and stood, “I couldn’t stop them then, and I couldn’t stop them tonight, but I will make them pay.” He turned his head to Joshua, face filled with thoughts of revenge, “I will make them pay.” Agony turned and left, reforming the door behind him, leaving Joshua to question whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. Or whether it even mattered in the aftermath of the horror the Vendot had left behind.
The lightning flashed theatrically as Rand looked out the warehouse window, the strobe making his reflection dance in the glass. Perfect, it was all going perfect. Distribution was in full effect. By tomorrow Stardust would be in almost every home in Vegas. Soon the city would be his. The lightning flashed again, and when the darkness returned his reflection wasn’t alone. Behind him, sitting on some boxes was a woman idly twirling a small knife in her hand. Rand spun and froze in fear as recognition took him.
The voice that came wasn’t from the woman, but instead floated on the shadows like a living thing, “You’re pretty proud of yourself aren’t you Rand?” A man formed from the darkness and stepped forward, hands clasped behind his back. He moved like a teacher ready to scold a wayward pupil.
Rand’s face went stark white, “Ashton, I--” A slight movement from the woman cut off his words.
“Excuses already Rand?” the man asked as he walked towards a shelf holding containers of the product. Ashton picked up one of the jars of purple crystals and examined it. “Stardust,” he said with a small chuckle, shaking his head. He returned the jar and turned back toward Rand, hands clasped again behind his back, “An interesting idea, but he believes you lack vision.”
“But I--” The knife was suddenly in his throat, words and his scream cut off by the blade shredding his vocal cords. Just as suddenly Ashton was in front of him, eyes burning with black fire.
“If you wish to question his beliefs I suggest you wait and do it in person.” Ashton wretched the knife from Rand’s throat and handed it back to the dark mistress behind him.
When Rand’s neck and vocal cords reformed he managed to ask raggedly, “He’s--he’s coming here?”
Ashton leaned in so their faces were inches apart. The lightning flashed theatrically, “Yes, yes he is.”
She approached the castle on her steed. In the tower window her raven haired vixen waited to be saved. She battled through the guards, ascended the spiral stairs, burst through the iron door and was in her arms. Tash’s cell phone ringing shattered the dream. Groggily she rolled and fumbled for the phone, “Hello?”
“Agent Tash? It’s Bradford in holding. She keeps asking for you. Jacob okayed a visit, but it has to be now.” Tash was up and out the door in seconds. She hadn’t been allowed to see Lilly since she brought her in, but every night since, it seemed, she dreamt about her.
Tash always felt that the holding center in Sage headquarters resembled something closer to a hospital then a detention center, but the security left no doubts about its purpose. She wasn’t sure why they were taking such measures with the girl, but Tash trusted Sasha and Jacob’s judgment.
Agent Bradford led Tash to the small grey room. Inside was not much more than a small bed and a dresser. Lilly sat on the bed, bent over, head in her hands. When Tash entered she looked up. Relief washed over her as she rushed forward, throwing herself into Tash’s arms. “Oh thank god you’re here. You have to help me!”
Tash did her best to stay composed with a moment so similar to her dreams. She led the frantic girl back to the bed and sat with her, still holding her. “Calm down, what’s wrong?”
Lilly calmed enough to get out, “I’ve got to get out of here. They’ll find me here. I got to get out of here.”
Tash wasn’t sure what she would have said because the door opened and Jacob and Sasha entered the room. She quickly stood to attention.
Sasha looked Tash up and down briefly before turning to Jacob, “Get them up to speed and loaded up. We need to get moving.” She turned abruptly and left.
It happened so fast Tash didn’t know what to make of it. Unable to contain her confusion she asked, “What’s going on sir?”
“That’s what we’re going to find out. There’s been some heavy activity in Las Vegas and word is something major’s about to go down. We’re going to check it out. Since our mystery guest here was found in the area, we thought she should come along. Since you brought her in, I thought you should come too. You in?”
Tash stood a little straighter, “Of course sir.”
“Good. Get your shit together and meet in hanger 2 in 10 minutes.” Jacob leaned to peer at Lilly behind Tash, “We’re going on a little trip. Sasha thinks you know more than you’ve told us, and she’s rarely wrong. For your sake I hope she is.”
When Jacob left Tash turned to Lilly. Her raven haired vixen looked ashen. Tash moved so she was standing just in front of her. She wanted to reach out and touch that hair, but she held back. “Hey, it’s a start. At least you’re getting out of here.” Lilly just let out a small sob. Tash did reach out then, but only to lift her face so she could look in her eyes, “It’s going to be okay. I’ll protect you. I promise.”
Lilly smiled at that and stood, body pressed intimately close to Tash’s. “Okay,” she whispered, “I trust you.” She moved around Tash to head through the door, “My knight in shining armor.”