Flame and Shadow

By Joshua Carr All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 49

“Come on!! What’s with this?!”

Sera had exhaustively searched the entire first floor where the ball was held, before coming to the following conclusion:

“Isn’t there any actual food in this stupid place?!”

Milo slid up to her, and whispered harshly in her ear.

“Shut up! You’re gonna get us kicked out! Plus, there’s food all over the place here!” He gestured to a nearby waiter, carrying a silver tray.

“You call that food?” She whispered back. “All I found were weird cucumber things on toothpicks, raw fish eggs and crackers, and some kinda pink mush thing served in glasses!”

Milo pursed his lips.

“I guess I see your point. You still need to calm down, or we’ll get kicked out.”

“Well, at least I got us in!” She stated proudly.

Her brother smiled.

“Alright. I’ll admit. That was really good. I’m no good with words, so that sort of thing isn’t really my strong suit. You’re an awesome liar.”

Sera pretended to be offended, stepping back with her hands on her hips, but her gleaming smile revealed her good nature.

“Excuse me! Just doing what it takes to save the world here! Thank you, by the way.”

After passing through the brief lobby, we had entered the expansive first floor foyer of the skyscraper, which had been converted into a ballroom. Everything had been converted to white baroque construction, and it was impossible to tell that this party was taking place in the first floor of a modern technology company. There was a string quartet performing arrangements of classical pieces of music, as well as popular film scores. I also recognized a song by Two Steps from Hell.

I felt phenomenally awkward there. It was impossible for me to blend in due to my non-traditional attire, small size, and markings on my face. It was the best I could do to just hide behind the table with the punch bowl. I still hadn’t seen anything that would be of interest to the prophecy, so I just waited for Milo and Sera to give the signal for us to break away from the party.

Just then, the musicians paused, before going into “Across the Stars” by John Williams from Star Wars Episode II. Sera grabbed Milo by the hand.

“Come on! I love this song! It’s time for a brother-sister dance!”

She jerked him semi-violently toward the middle of the floor, and they began to dance. Well, Sera was, Milo seemed to just be sweating a lot. She had her hands resting on his shoulder, and his hands were on her hips, and they were slowly moving around in a circle. The girl looked perfectly relaxed, but her brother appeared highly uncomfortable. All I could do was watch helplessly from my hiding place, my dark eyes peering over the top of one of the tables. Why did I want to be the one dancing with Milo? I began to feel sick to my stomach. I could face an attacking army of Teklos’ agents without a problem, but this whole ballroom situation absolutely mortified me.

I heard Sera speaking to Milo.

“You know, this is just great. I’ve dreamed about having a little brother my entire life, and it’s finally come true. You’re a bit of a jerk sometimes, but that’s fine with me. You’re my brother, and that’s all that matters.”

Milo was still silent, barely moving in response to the music.

Sera continued.

“I always wanted to have a brother to have adventures with, and to dance, and here we are!”

Then, Milo muttered:

“I didn’t want this. I was saving my first dance for someone else. She’s the only one I want to do something like this with.”

“Pffft! I’m your sister! This doesn’t count! You can still have your romantic dances with someone else. I just wanted to spend some time bonding with you, is all.”

My heart beat faster as I ducked behind the table again. Could he have been talking about me? No, that’s probably impossible. I mean, what are the odds? I’m just a little weirdo. But maybe, I mean, he was really nice to me. Of course, he seemed nice to everyone compared to how he got along with Sera. He was probably just a generally nice guy. But what if-

“Hey, Hal! Are you ready?”

Yiii!

My worrisome thoughts were interrupted by Sera bursting from the cloth draped over the table behind which I had been hiding. She had climbed under the table in her dress to surprise me.

“R-ready for what?”

“We’re gonna see if there’s anything interesting in other places of the building. It’s time for the mission to begin!”

“Oh…OK.” I responded, and quickly followed her out from under the table.

Milo was waiting for us, arms crossed. He didn’t say a word, but was obviously displeased with our method of locomotion.

“Nobody noticed us…” Sera defended.

The three of us nonchalantly strolled over to the far side of the ballroom. There was an elevator nearby, which we prepared to use. I had no idea which floor we should search first, and I doubted that Milo or Sera would know either. However, we had to start somewhere. Just then, a waiter pushed a cloth-covered cart toward the elevator. Thinking quickly, Sera discreetly formed a fireball, and hurled it across the room. It contacted a potted plant on the far side of the hall, which loudly burst into flame. The waiter pushing the cart flipped around to see what had happened. While his back was turned, the twins and I had climbed onto the bottom layer of the cart, under cover of the white cloth. After the fire had been extinguished, the man continued pushing his cargo, and entered the elevator.

We could only make out shadows through our cover, as the elevator doors closed, and we were transported what seemed to be upward. It was impossible to determine just how far we went or on what floor we stopped, but we eventually did stop, and the waiter wheeled us out of the elevator into a hallway. For a few seconds, the only sound was the squeaking of the cart’s wheels. I heard the murmuring of voices for a moment, before it faded away.

Eventually, the cart stopped, and we heard the waiter walk into a room and shut the door. I peeked out of the cloth, to find that the man had entered the restroom. Ah. He must have been delivering the contents of the cart to the people in the room we had passed. They must have been having some kind of meeting, possibly with Eisenberg himself. Well, it would probably not be a good idea to bump in to those guys.

The three of us climbed out of our cramped position in the cart, and stealthily headed in the opposite direction of the meeting room. Milo lead us along for a few feet, until we came to a room with a gold nameplate which read:

Will Eisenberg

Founder and CEO

For some reason, the door was cracked open an inch. Milo pressed his ear against the door and listened intently. Then, he very slowly pushed it open. The large office was vacant, so my hypothesis about Eisenberg being in that meeting room which we had passed could be correct.

The three of us slipped inside, and carefully closed the door to the same position it had been in when we found it. The office was quite expansive, and, for belonging to a genius inventor of advanced technology, was surprisingly old fashioned. The desk and accompanying computer were certainly next-gen, but the rest of the room was confusingly decorated with ancient artifacts. There were relics from a number of civilizations, including Egyptian, Greek, Mesopotamian, and some South American ones that I couldn’t recognize. Then, it caught my eye. There, in a frame up on the east wall was a page from the Book of Prophecy!

Milo and Sera hadn’t spotted it yet, so I silently drew their attention to it, and removed the page with the picture of the Skypyramid on it from my pocket. Sure enough, this page was from the same book. The faded edges, and black decorative border matched perfectly.

“Guys!” I whispered. “This is it! The Book was right!”

Milo nodded.

“We should ask Mr. Eisenberg if we can have this.” Sera quietly added. “He seems to be really interested in all this ancient prophecy stuff. He’d probably let us have it if we showed him what we have so far.”

“OK.” Milo agreed. “It would make me feel better if we didn’t have to steal something from one of the richest, most powerful, most influential people in the world.”

The way Milo had phrased that made my mind start to reconsider how things were going. There was a shocking lack of security within the inventor’s office, or on this entire floor, for that matter. I considered these things as we walked back toward the meeting room. When we approached it, I heard voices coming from inside.

“So, you think you can make more of these?”

“Hm…I’ve never seen anything like it. It appears… almost extra-terrestrial in origin.”

“Ha ha! Not exactly. More like: extra-dimensional.”

“Same thing.”

“Well, can you copy its properties? It would make our lives a lot easier in the future.”

Sera whispered to Milo and me:

“I know that voice! That’s Dorian Peterson, from Teklos!”

What? Why was Teklos meeting with Will Eisenberg? It sounded like they were trying to get him to make something for them.

A phone rang within the meeting room, and I heard Eisenberg answer. He said a couple of quick words, and hung up. Then, he addressed Dorian again.

“I just got word that we’ve found the children you’ve been looking for. I assume you’re still trying to capture them?”

“What? Where?”

“Right here in my building. Tell you what. You give me the glove for a while so I can reverse engineer it, I’ll hand over the little vagrants to you, and then we’ll discuss a price.”

I didn’t like the way this was sounding. The three of us backed away from the meeting room, then darted down the hallway back toward the CEO’s office. Attempting to talk to him at this point would be a mistake. He obviously knew we were there, and was already planning on selling us to Teklos. It no longer seemed necessary to ask the man for permission to borrow the page of the Book of Prophecy. We had to get it. This whole endeavor would be a waste of time if we didn’t.

Bursting into the office, Milo sprinted across the room, smashed the glass in front of the piece of paper, and snatched it up. We then ran out of the room back down the hallway. We passed by an elevator, but we certainly didn’t have time to wait for the car to come up, and go back down. Stairs would be ideal. Unfortunately, we soon found our path blocked by charging guards. The three of us quickly backtracked, only to find the other direction impeded by more armed soldiers. Pinned between the two enemies, we found ourselves right in front of the elevator doors.

Just before the guards opened fire, I formed a force bubble to protect Milo, Sera, and myself. The bullets bounced harmlessly off, making a huge cacophony of chattering pings. Milo pressed the button to summon the elevator car. We could wait. I mean, I could hold off those bullets basically forever. They didn’t press the limits of my shield at all. Even grenade explosions were dispersed enough that I didn’t worry about them.

Then, the guards ceased fire. For a moment, I thought that they had given up. Then I saw him. It was Dorian Peterson. He strode toward me leisurely, holding his gloved hand in front of him. I knew exactly what that was capable of. The man was talking to us. The sound of his voice couldn’t penetrate the force field, but I could catch enough of what he was saying by reading his lips. Basically, the elevator had been disabled, he was going to neutralize my shield, and they were going to kill us.

“Uh, guys!” I shouted. “We’ve gotta do something!”

“Right.” Milo immediately kicked the elevator door open. “Drop your shield.”

I obeyed, but then thought better.

“Milo, the elevator’s not thereeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

He grabbed me, and leapt into the shaft, along with Sera. It was then that I realized just how high we were; likely near the top of the structure. The elevator shaft seemed to stretch down for miles. Unlike the movies, there were no cables of any sort. The cars must travel along some kind of electromagnetic rail. The shaft was probably a good twenty feet across, and we weren’t even close to being able to reach the other side. Instead, we faced a plummet downward of at least 60 stories, possibly more.

Thinking quickly, I reached my hand straight upward and formed a horizontal flat disk force field around it. The construct spanned the entire shaft, and stopped our fall as it caught on ledges along the elevator openings. Milo grabbed onto my arm with one hand, and Sera’s with his other. The jolt from our abrupt halt nearly dislocated both of my arms. I winced against the pain, and focused as hard as I could on maintaining the shield and holding on to Milo.

“Are you alright, Hal?!” He cried.

I nodded through tears of pain. My body felt like it was being torn apart, and I was unable speak. I could only hold on. The Survivortex 3000 had a grappling hook, but it was in the bag with the extra clothes which was slung over my shoulder. There was no way we could get at it. Milo turned his head around frantically, until he spotted something.

“Sera! There’s an elevator opening right there, at your 10 o’clock, down a couple feet. Can you get it open?”

“Yeah, if I can get close enough!” She called back.

“OK! Hal! Do you think you can swing us over?”

I doubted it. There’s no way I had enough muscle strength to swing both of them like that, especially when it was taking all of my strength just to keep us from falling to our deaths. Suddenly, a burst of gunfire resounded through the shaft. The guards had started firing through the broken door several floors downward at us. I screamed in pain as the bullets collided with my shield. It was far from a perfect sphere, and it’s thin, weak shape was more susceptible to bullets. I focused all of my power at keeping the force field strong, and stopping the hail of projectiles.

“Hold on Hal!” Milo shouted.

He then started swinging Sera. The extra force threatened to rip my arm off as she rocked back and forth. Just when I thought I couldn’t survive another undulation, he threw her as hard as he could toward the doors to the floor directly beneath us. She flew through the air, and shouted a battle cry as she delivered a full-strength flaming Falcon Kick to the sliding doors. They fell to her power, and she tumbled onto the landing.

“Are you OK?!” The boy yelled up at me.

I nodded my head very slowly. Every part of my body hurt, inside and out. But if Milo was still holding on to me, then I wasn’t giving up.

“Alright. I’m gonna get us over there! I’m gonna pump back and forth like a swing, and when I give you the signal, drop your shield and hold on to me!”

I couldn’t respond. The pounding from above and the pulling from beneath was overwhelming my body, and all I could do was close my eyes and concentrate on holding the shield around my hand.

Milo began rocking back and forth like a child on a playground swing. Except that swing was my arm. With every apex, it felt like the tendons in my arm were tearing apart. Just one more. OK…just one more…OK…one more! I grimaced in pain. Come on! Tears rolled down my face. I couldn’t hold on much longer.

“OK! HAL! NOW!!” Milo screamed.

I released my force field, and held tight to the young man’s arm. The bullets whizzed by my head as we hurled across the shaft toward the opening. I nearly blacked out in mid-air. Were we going to make it? Milo’s feet touched down right at the very edge of the opening. He attempted to keep his balance, but we found ourselves falling backward. Milo waved his arms, but the yawning shaft seemed to pull us down into the abyss. At the last second, Sera reached out and caught Milo by the lapel of his suit, and yanked us inside.

All three of us tumbled to the floor. I didn’t want to get back up, but the knowledge that we were being pursued made it kinda difficult to relax. We had only laid there for a few seconds, when Milo asked:

“Hal, can you walk?”

I nodded.

“Yeah, just not very fast.”

“Well, we need to get out of here pretty darn fast. Gimmie that bag.”

I handed him the bag from over my shoulder. I had a bit of a bad feeling about what he was planning. Milo quickly rustled around in the bag for a moment, before pulling out the Survivortex 3000. He attached it to his wrist, and made his way over to the opening of the elevator shaft. The gunshots had ceased. The men must have started to make their way down the stairs. He pointed the device at the opposite wall, and fired the grappling hook at the far ledge.

“Are you girls ready?” He called.

Sera clenched her fists, and smiled boldly. I attempted to sit up, but it didn’t work. Milo grabbed me around the waist, and leapt into the elevator shaft. I was too terrified to scream, and just gripped tightly to his arm. He braced us against the wall with his legs, and let us down in a controlled manner. We went fast, but not free-fall. Sera jumped in after us, and slid down the cord.

When we reached the bottom, Sera and Milo forced open the doors to the first floor and we dashed out into the ballroom. Unfortunately, we weren’t the first ones down to the bottom. There were soldiers off to our left who had just come down the stairs. As soon as they spotted us, they unleased a flurry of automatic gunfire. I immediately formed a defensive bubble to protect us. The bullets bounced off ineffectively.

“I’ve got this!” Sera proclaimed, and began forming a fireball.

“Yikes! Get down!” I shouted, and dropped my shield.

Milo tackled Sera to the ground as the bullets passed over us.

“You can’t make flames in the force field! You’ll burn up all the oxygen!” I reprimanded.

“Sor-ry! I didn’t think of that!”

“C’mon! Let’s go!” Milo commanded, and grabbed my hand, pulling me along.

We kept our heads ducked down, and avoided getting shot so far. Sera charged another fireball, and whipped it into the group of gunmen. The resulting explosion sent them scattering, and made a good cover to help us escape.

Milo and I had almost made it out the door. Still helping me along, he was vaulting over a table when it abruptly split in two and collapsed to the floor, sending us tumbling. Milo rolled up to his feet to face the attacker. She emerged from the cloud of the smoke resulting from the fireball. It was a dark-skinned teenage girl, with bandages around her hands, and black face paint under her eyes. Milo seemed to recognize her.

“Rachael?” He asked incredulously.

“Milo.” She replied, and whipped some kind of wind blade as us.

I put up a force field, and the deadly wind force crashed into it. I had never used my shield against Nephilim powers before, but it held up really well. The girl thought for a second, before pounding several more at us. Seeing she was unable to achieve penetration, she stopped. Then, she whipped one across the ballroom at Sera. Milo’s sister barely cartwheeled out of the way, just in time to duck underneath another. Sera launched a flame at Rachael, but the next wind blade sliced right through it, dispersing the burning energy.

“Hal. Drop the shield.” Milo commanded.

I complied, and he addressed the enemy.

“Rachael! Leave her alone!” He shouted.

“If you keep hiding behind that shield, I’ll kill her.”

“Fine.”

With that, Milo sprinted in on the attack. Rachael assumed a ready position. The boy grabbed the half of the table that Rachael had sliced, and leapt into the air with it. The girl fired another wind blade upward, bisecting the table again. Milo was out of the way of the strike, and slammed down with a powerful kick. Rachael backpedaled and deflected the move. Milo struck again with a lighting fast attack, but his rival defended the series of blows and attempted to counter. The boy did a backflip to gain some distance, and the two stared each other down.

“Teklos has been treating you well, haven’t they?” He commented.

“They accept people from all walks of life.” She responded haughtily.

“They kill innocent people.”

“And you don’t?”

Milo came in to attack again, keeping his strikes close and fast to prevent her from having the instant or two it took to charge a wind blade. I wanted to help him, but I knew that he wanted to handle this on his own. Sera looked like she wanted to join in as well, but instead took the opportunity to take out the remaining soldiers on the floor. I knew that there were reinforcements coming, and we had to get out of there as soon as possible.

The battle between Milo and Rachael was fast-paced and intense. Every one of their moves was met with an equally fast block or dodge, demonstrating their mastery of combat. Eventually, Milo knocked his rival away with a side kick. The girl used the opportunity to form an arcing wind blade which sliced through the air toward him. He rolled out of the way. In the midst of the roll, he picked up one of the hor’dourves trays and hurled it like a Frisbee. The metal disc collided with Rachael’s head, and bounced up into the air. She fell flat on her back, out of the fight.

Sera saw what had happened, and ran toward the exit.

“Nice throw, Cap!” She complimented as she passed by.

Milo nodded, and the two of us followed his sister out of the building into the dark evening. We had gotten the page, and made it out alive. That’s more than I was expecting for a while there.

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