CHAPTER 32: BETRAYAL
She stood there for a few seconds, and then fell to the floor like an avalanche.
He was by her side in a second.
“Please, no dramatics.” Mabus snorted “She’s not dead.”
It was then that Virgil noticed the dart sticking out of her head.
“What did you shoot her with?” he hissed at Mabus.
“You know, I remember you being taller?”
“What was in the dart?!”
“Did it hurt?”
“Becoming a Time Ghost?”
“I am not a time ghost!”
“I know! Isn’t it bizarre? It’s just, I considered becoming one for a time, you see.”
“Good. Go do that.”
“Oh no, my dear boy. I’ve come up with something much better.”
“What did you do to her?!”
She was looking at him, her voice was weak.
“Jeda? Jeda, you’re alright!”
“Yeah. About that. Why is there a dart sticking out of my head?”
“He shot you.”
“Yeah. He did.”
“Well.” she said “I’m just going to have to kick his…oof…”
She tried to get to her feet, but her arms gave out from under her. With some difficulty she managed to grab a hold of the dart and pull it out.
There was very little blood, but a single bead of red swelled in the centre of her forehead like a bindi.
“You sir…” she said , and her voice was slurred “You. Are in big trouble.”
She shook the dart at him for emphasis.
“What did you shoot her with?” Virgil demanded again.
“Well, it’s a lot of things really.” said Mabus “It’s a tranquillizer, obviously…”
“Yeah.” Jeda piped in happily “I knew that.”
“There are also a few other things in there but the really, really, interesting thing about it is that it affects the area of the brain that lets us shift through time.”
“Get out!” said Jeda.
“Really! You can‘t leave, you‘re stuck here! You can‘t even walk!” he hooted.
“Wow. You’re clever Daddy!” she giggled.
“Jeda. Listen to me, get us out of here now, he’s bluffing!” said Virgil.
“Emmmmmmm…..nope. He’s not.” she told him after a few seconds “I can’t shift.”
“Can’t walk either!” Mabus reminded her.
“And I can’t walk.” she told Virgil “And I definitely can’t drive.”
“Absolutely not!” Mabus exclaimed.
“Someone might get really, really, really hurt.” she noted.
Oh, well this is just fantastic, thought Virgil. She’s high as a Nepalese kite and he obviously pawned his last bit of sanity to buy a rubber llama tree a long time ago. The situation was starting to spiral out of control
“Jeda. I’m so glad you came to see me.” said Mabus.
“I’m glad too!” she said.
“I missed you.” he said.
“I missed you too!” she said “Why did you go away Daddy?”
“I don’t know.” he sighed “I have been very busy. But I was going to find you first, when I was ready.”
“Awww. Okay. I forgive you…” she said.
“Ready?” Virgil asked “Ready for what?”
“Are you afraid of dying, Jeda?” he asked her.
“Not really.” she said.
“Good.” he said.
He padded over to a table in the corner of the room, taking the candle with him.
Virgil and Jeda fell into darkness.
The table was covered in bottles, vials and beakers as well as a dilapidated microscope and several pieces of equipment Virgil not only did not recognise, but could not even place their time of origin.
“Do you remember Joel, Jeda?”
“Nope. Who was he?”
“He was the leader of the Lepers. In Stalingrad, you remember?”
“Oh sure. Guy you killed.”
“The guy I killed. Yes.”
“Threw a rock at him.”
“That’s the one. Well, you see, right before he died, he asked me a question, and it was a very good one. Do you know what he asked me?”
“Chicken or Egg?”
“No. An even harder question. He said that he had been given a choice. Live or die. He had chosen to live. The question he asked me was, would I have done the same in his position? Jeda, after many decades, I have finally learnt the answer.”
He turned to face her.
“I have been to the far reaches of the future. I have subjected myself to the most painful, godless, and devious procedures of science. I have sought out the witch doctors and shamans of long dead tribes. I have been cut up and I have been sewn back together piece by piece. Very little inside my skin was given to me by my mother, but the gift of some red-handed surgeon. And yet I still age. And slowly, it came to me. There is only one way to nail death’s mouth shut. I realised that I would have to become one of those that I once massacred for no greater crime than following the dictates of their nature.”
“Okay.” said Jeda “Lost me a bajillion words back.”
“I found the gene Jeda. The one that made the Lepers the way they are. And I have spliced it into my own genetic code.”
There were two figures behind him.
Oh God, thought Virgil.
And suddenly, every thing fell it into place. He had drugged her so that he could…
“Jeda! RUN! RUN!!!!!”
He tried to grab Jeda’s hand and shift her out of there but Mabus waved his hand and suddenly he was outside in the garden, standing at the window looking in…
It was too late. Mabus was there, his lips mere inches above her forehead.
“I’m one of them.” he breathed “I’m going to live, Jeda.”
Virgil pounding on the glass, trying to shift in, Mabus holding him out. He could see too figures standing over them in the blackness.
“Virgil. What’s happening…” she asked.
“He’s gone away.” Mabus said “But I’m here.”
“No…he’s not gone.”
“Yes he is.”
“But, no…we’re getting married…”
He kissed her.
The room was silent.
“And then what happened?” Daniel asked.
Virgil looked at him.
“Oh.” he said.
Virgil looked away.
“Oh.” said Daniel again.
“Loved her.” Virgil whispered “Loved her, loved her, loved her. I don’t have the words for it. Wish I had a head for poetry. She deserves better than that. I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe anyone could hurt her. That they’d have that in them. How could you hurt her? How could you not love her? She was there, lying there, and she was cold and he’d killed her but his heart didn’t break in him. Never understood that.
I asked the angel, “Did you get her, did you get her?”
She just looked at me. “You know I did.” she said “Why would you even have to ask? A Shade was rarely sent on so hopeless a task.”
I laughed at that. Couldn’t help it. She’s safe anyway. She’s happy.”
The door opened and Mariana entered. Without a word she took her seat again. Her poise and expression were perfect, but Marie alone, sitting beside her, could see that her eyes were red.
After a brief silence, Virgil continued.
“I want to tell you, that I…that I drew my sword and screamed in rage and burst through the window. That I tried to kill him…”
He closed his eyes.
“I ran. Because I’m a coward. Because I always have been. And because when you see an evil that you never knew was possible, that was above and beyond anything you could even imagine, you run. He drained his own daughter until she was a withered, grey…thing. Just teeth and bones and…”
“Stop.” said Mariana.
Virgil hung his head.
“And when you see that. You run. You just run.”
“Where to?” Eamonn asked.
“To her.” Virgil said, looking at Mariana “To warn her.”
“I was not the one who needed warning.” Mariana said “He struck the others. The rest of the Nine. Baako. Aodh. Sister Joanna. Martin Kendle. Sofia. He killed them all. Since then, the Nine Unknown Men have been unknown even to each other. It’s safer that way.”
“He massacred them.” Virgil added “Everyone except the two of us. I was there when he killed Baako and Aodh. They never had a chance, they were never even in his league. He told me he was going to kill them all, all the Adepts, because they were the only ones who might be able to kill him and he couldn’t risk that. He’d done too much, suffered too much to let anyone kill him now. He was going to live forever, that was all there was to it. I don’t why he spared us.”
“He didn’t spare us.” Mariana hissed.
“From what I hear he drained a few more Temporals of life and God knows how many normal people before presumably getting the gene therapy reversed and finding some other miracle cure. He’s centuries old now, and he’s been getting more powerful with every year he ages. Probably nothing he can’t do now. And you know he’s out there, but you don’t know where or when. When’s he going to strike? When’s he going to make good on that promise to kill each and every one of you? Tomorrow? Next Week? Next year?”
He took in the room.
“Or right now?”
A small, black rectangle with a timer counting down from three seconds materialised in the centre of the table.
Everyone stared at it.
“Oh c’mon!” Virgil squealed “I was jok…”
The top three floors of the Hotel Baur Au Lac were ripped open by a great white ball of fire and heat. Every living thing inside was killed instantly.