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Chapter 5 - Connect the Dots

It seems that blood soaked chapter of the invasion on Demonic''''s organization is ready to be forgotten. However, one refuses to forget, much less, to forgive.

Chapter 5 - Connect the Dots

Chapter 5 - Connect the Dots
Author's Notes:
-Hey there all! I present to you, chapter five! The Chapter of Absurd Volume! :D Don't really have too much to say about this one, other than that it was a lot of fun to write, so enjoy!

I have been charged with an assignment from the Superior. Following the creation of this newest addition to our ranks, I am to document her progress. It was not made clear to me exactly why I was chosen for this assignment, however, in obedience to the Superior I will fulfill my duties unquestioningly. My orders were as follows:
Acting as our newest member’s partner, observe her behavior day by day, watching for changes, trends, etc. Make particular note of her abilities and weaknesses. This daily record will not be read by the Superior—it will only be presented as proof that it is being written.
I obey.

Demonic was going to need Dolosus. It irked her beyond words and reason, but such was the truth of the matter. That she was to seek the aid of that traitor, that scheming bastard… It made her chest ache with rage to even think of it. However, his presence and participation in this new conflict was necessary for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Demonic needed to keep Kat in sight. She and her friends had proved themselves somewhat… unpredictable. As such, the best way to make sure Kat stayed put was to have Dolosus on her side. In addition, she was in need of Dolosus’ strength and ability if she was to succeed. Yet another ulterior motive lurked in the recesses of the artist’s mind, however…
He is the successor to the brush… She thought bitterly as she walked briskly along the crowded sidewalks of New York City, avoiding all human eye contact in true city fashion, only he can take it from me. He MUST take it…!
Mentally blocking out the noise and—even worse—the smell of the city, Demonic pushed on to her destination. She’d dressed to match the crowd, in a pair of skinny jeans, knee-high boots, button up blouse and vest, also taking care to dress herself to suit her mission. Missions… SHE had been reduced to performing tasks which she generally wouldn’t bother even lower ranking members of her organization with. Reconnaissance was a menial task. It was far beneath her. However, she was short staffed, and training could not be interrupted when her ranks needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Perhaps Dolosus would make this interesting for her. Who knew?
Putting on the vaguely interested disposition of the typical bookstore shopper, Demonic pushed open the door, which gave a little chime to signal a customer’s arrival. Cool and casual, she surveyed her surroundings. It was a decent sized store, but it was about three in the afternoon, when most would be at work. As such, it wasn’t busy. Perfect. Tall shelves filled the store in rows, the checkout was at the front, and a help desk sat in a back corner. Two people at checkout, one at customer service. Demonic’s objective was simple: gain access to the employee records of this bookstore. All she needed was an in…
As she pretended to scan the shelves, she managed a glance at the fellow working the customer service desk. He looked to be about forty, the remnants of a very attractive younger man. The years had added lines about his face, and at the moment, he was sporting an oddly appealing five o’clock shadow. Yes, he was a little older than Demonic’s usual pick, but he had kept reasonably in shape despite his worn appearance. And just like that, she had her man.

Day 3:
As of now, the subject has shown little self awareness or social ability. While she has mastered speech and a range of every day physical activities with remarkable efficiency, she has proved unable to grasp concepts such as sarcasm, hyperbole, metaphor, small-talk and social interaction as a whole. She has not developed much of what one would consider a personality as of yet. Nothing can be said of any combat abilities just now. Training begins tomorrow.

Behind the cover of a book shelf, Demonic unbuttoned her blouse a little at the top, then approached the man at the help desk.
“Excuse me…” she said in her sweetest voice. The man looked up, made eye contact, glanced down at her chest, and back to her eyes. Well then, he’s not gay, she thought, ugh, I hope this isn’t TOO easy…
“Can I help you?” he said in a trained “helpful employee” voice.
“Yes, I was wondering if you carried any anatomy reference books.”
“Ah, yes,” he got to his feet and made his way around the desk to her, “I’ll show you—right this way.” Demonic followed him and when they arrived at the correct section, she was free to work her magic.
“Oh, okay, thank you so much.” Charming smile. Stand close. Make eye contact. She caught him staring again. “I’ve been meaning to draw up some studies of human anatomy, so this should help.”
“Studies, huh?” he replied. It was a dull response, but he was trying to continue conversation. His entire body faced her.
“Mhmm, I’m a studio art major, actually.” Demonic said.
“Really now? You’re in college? I would have pegged you for a little older than that.” She laughed and he smiled, obviously enchanted,
“Well what about you? You’re, what… 28?” Now he laughed. The conversation continued on like this for a little while. Demonic saw no ring on his hand, but quickly noticed an unmistakable guilt in his eyes and manners now and then as they flirted. There was definitely some other involvement. Another relationship of some sort. Regardless, Demonic eventually found her opening.
“Listen… why don’t we continue our conversation somewhere a little more…” Subtly, she moved her hand to his, touching just one finger to his hand to break the physical barrier, “private..?” He hesitated. Damnit. Had she made her move too quickly? She was sure she’d gone through all the motions. He should be putty in her hands. It was that blasted other woman… Regardless, a few agonizing moments later, he took her hand and lead her to a door at the back of the store bearing the words, “Employees Only” in bold black lettering. He pulled a key from his shirt pocket and unlocked the door, beckoning Demonic in after him.
The door closed behind them with a low metallic moan and in an instant, Demonic had the man up against it. Lips met, tongues danced, hands wandered. Demonic’s partner pursued this with an eagerness akin to men who haven’t experienced pleasure in some time, however, as suddenly as she had initiated intimacy, he halted it.
“Wait… wait…” He muttered, panting slightly as he held her at arms length. His hair and clothes were disheveled, shirt untucked and half unbuttoned, and his arousal was obvious, however, when he looked at her, it was with the eyes of one who knows they’ve done wrong, “I don’t… do this…” Demonic sighed and rolled her eyes. This was why she kept a knife on her at all times. In one fluid movement, she slid it out of her pocket, flipped it open and had it up against the man’s throat.
“Look,” she said very matter-of-factly, “You’ve got a wife or something, right? That’s why you’ve got this whole noble guilt complex going.” He nodded, eyes wide with shock, “And things aren’t going well for you two right now—that’s why you’re not wearing a ring and why you were going along with this until now, am I right?” Again, he nodded, “Right, then here’s how this is going to work: You give me that key in your pocket and never speak of this, and I won’t tell the Missus about our little ‘chat.’ Oh, and as an added bonus, I won’t kill you.” She punctuated this by pressing the knife more firmly against his neck.
Cautiously, the man raised a trembling hand to his breast pocket and drew out the key he’d used to open the door to this back room. Demonic held out her hand and received it graciously.
“This is a master key, correct? It will work on all of the locks in this store?” he nodded once more, “Good. Thank you for your cooperation.” She lowered her knife and backed away from him, “You’re free to go. Oh, and if you get the cops involved, you and your wife will bear the consequences. I can find your address in the employee records, I’m sure, mister....” she glanced down at his nametag, “Robert McKahill.” She shot an overwhelmingly charming smile at him, and with that, he straightened his clothes as best he could and left the room, pale and still shaking.

Day 12:
A week of training has passed. The subject appears to harbor an innate propensity for stealth and information gathering. Social awareness and a sense of empathy have begun to develop slowly, along with almost frightening insight into the human thought process. Our new member is naturally skilled at discovering what makes an opponent ‘tick’ and utilizing this information to the fullest. I’ve been instructed to note any signs of extraordinary creative ability, however, I cannot discern any at the moment. After three more weeks of training, we will begin sending her on simple missions for the glory of the Superior.

The back room Demonic’s new friend had lead her to appeared to serve as a meeting room of sorts. A long table stretched down the center with wheeled chairs lining it like rows of soldiers and a whiteboard mounted on the wall behind it. A series of small filing cabinets stood against the wall to Demonic’s left, all helpfully labeled with marker on tape. She approached these and scanned the labels until she came to one: “employees.” This should have her information. She searched for the usual alias.
“A… B… Br...” she muttered to herself, and finally, “Brite! Here we are… Ian Brite…” Vaguely noting that her former assassin must not be trying too hard to hide from her if he was still using that old alias, Demonic pulled out his file. She flipped through the pages quickly, scanning each one for an address, a phone number with an area code, anything. As she gathered information, however, she checked it online using her cell phone and discovered all which was easily found to be either fabricated or information which existed, but certainly wasn’t his.
“Identity theft...” she murmured, raising her eyebrows with a sardonic grin, “Tsk, tsk, Dolosus. And here I thought you’d found morality.” The cell phone number he’d entered might be his, but as it wasn’t a land line, it most likely wouldn’t help her to locate the man. He could have moved a hundred times since obtaining that phone and kept the same number. She could find a way to track the number, though it would involve a lot of pulling strings. But wait-here was something…
“He only left the job three days ago…” she frowned curiously. There was some likelihood that he was still in the area, then. “Though he could also be half way across the country…” she sighed. This information did raise her odds of finding him in this city, but not by enough to really encourage her. Having recorded all of the information she found, even that which she knew to be fake or stolen, Demonic replaced the folder, then closed and locked the filing cabinet once more. She surveyed the room one final time before departing. Security cameras… She frowned. No matter. She’d arranged for a couple of her subordinates to be waiting in a café across the street if she needed them; they would disable the cameras and dispose of the tapes when she handed the master key over to them.

Day 36:
The subject has been sent on, and has completed, two missions. Each was completed with only slightly higher than average efficiency, however some new traits have begun to show. In the second mission, the subject was partnered with two members of superior experience and ability. Despite this, she gained their respect and obedience almost immediately, and thus was able to direct her team towards the completion of the mission. The subject has displayed an extremely dominant personality and immense leadership ability. It is my personal opinion that this sort of individual should be carefully monitored, however, the Superior chooses to send her about her missions as per usual. I shall, as I always have, obey.

A little under an hour later, Demonic sat at the bar of the Aeternus, an old haunt of hers. A place she used to go when she had first begun her organization and needed an hour or two away from the anxieties of running it. Classy, old-timey, sophisticated, the club featured a grand stand for a live band to play, several pool tables, an expansive bar and spacious meal seating. For now, it was still early in the day (not quite five o’clock), and thus it held a quiet, almost lonely atmosphere; however, Demonic knew that this place would be transformed come that night, brought to life by faithful regulars and curious new-comers with enough cash for what it had to offer.
She had decided on a glass of water, figuring it better to stay away from alcohol in the midst of business, and sipped it absently as she mulled over her current situation. She could return to that bookstore and inquire as to Dolosus’ whereabouts—perhaps he had mentioned the next job he sought to pursue. Though, he had never offered much personal information in conversation, thanks to her own training. He did seem to be displaying a pattern of sorts, however. It was clear that he favored jobs requiring minimal social interaction—stocking shelves, moving supplies, delivery and the like. He worked mostly for small, private stores and businesses, and his employers had always seemed pleased with, but also perplexed by, the man. These trends, at least, made it a little easier to track him.
What are you after, Dolosus? Why all of these menial jobs? What are you trying to do with your life, now that you’ve left me?
“Deirdre?” Demonic looked up at the sound of a vaguely familiar voice calling, “Why, Deirdre Allens! I haven’t seen you in, well, it has to have been years now!” An old acquaintance. Demonic recalled the stout, blonde woman as the owner of the place, and graciously (in her opinion) indulged her in conversation, weaving a tapestry of fabricated information about her life and what she had been up to the last few years. Yes, galleries, exhibits, a big art show in the works—no, no, it’s half way across the country, I couldn’t possibly ask you to come, etc. In this manor, Demonic suffered through small talk with a pleasant smile, until her old acquaintance called over her shoulder,
“Hey, Ian! Yoo-hooo, Ian, come meet an old friend!” Demonic suddenly sat up, her drink all but forgotten and hovering in her hand an inch above the bar. She heard the sound of a heavy box or crate being placed on the floor, then approaching footsteps, and soon enough, she saw the man himself. A head of messy brown hair and sharp, alert hazel eyes greeted her from behind glasses. The artist caught his mutual shock for the shortest of moments before he regained total composure.
“Ian, this is Deirdre Allens, an old friend and remarkable artist—perhaps you’ve heard of her?” His new boss said, and at first, “Ian” didn’t seem to acknowledge that she had spoken at all, but then, he nodded and held out his hand. Demonic took it, also having regained her expression of calm interest,
“Yes, of course I’ve heard of her. It’s a great honor. I’ve seen much of your work—it’s remarkably life-like.” Dolosus quipped, a sly grin playing on his lips which the third party would naturally mistake as a courteous smile.
“You’re very kind,” Demonic responded, looking him in the eye, “I’ve actually been working on a particular project for about six years. Once I’m done, it may even turn out to be my crowning achievement.” A twinge of satisfaction marked her expression as she noticed her former assassin’s lip twitch in agitation. Before he could make his response, the owner cut in,
“Goodness, and just what is this magnificent work of yours, Deirdre? It must be very impressive to warrant such an introduction!”
“Oh, I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Besides,” she replied with a casual shrug of her shoulders, “It hasn’t quite been going as planned. I need time to iron out a few mistakes here and there.”
“I’m gonna go finish unloading this morning’s shipment.” Dolosus cut in suddenly. Sneaking a sharp glare at his creator, he turned and returned to the storage room, letting the door swing shut behind him. A brief silence allowed Demonic time to revel in her small victory, sipping down the last of her water and sighing with satisfaction as she set it on the bar with a soft clink.

Demonic took her leave, paying for the water (go figure) and parting pleasantly with the owner with the assurance that she would be back that evening. This had pleased the bouncy little woman beyond expression and she positively glowed at the idea of a former regular returning to her flock. Thus, with warm wishes and an exuberant smile, she bid her farewell for the time being, and Demonic had left with a neutral smile on her face and the thrill of success in her heart.
She returned to the busy streets for a moment, and scanned the area quickly for her backup. One at a bar across the street and one at a bus stop nearby. Satisfied, Demonic turned into the alleyway next to the Aeternus which she knew would lead her to the back where Dolosus would be unloading the supply truck. Sure enough, she saw the truck just as it was closing up to depart. Dolosus stood by, observing the proceedings, his job done for the moment. Demonic watched the truck carefully pull out of the narrow driveway behind the club and into the cramped New York streets (naturally, this took about fifteen minutes). Then, it was time to make her move. She marched over to where Dolosus stood and pushed him around to face her, grabbing a fist full of his shirt.
“We’ve already suffered pleasantries so I’ll make this brief and to the point. We have Kat. She’s in danger and you’re going to help us.”
“And what if I don’t want to?” he replied, backed up against the wall of the club, but defiant to the end. Demonic rolled her eyes,
“I don’t have time for trivialities like your free will. I think that’s caused enough problems for me in the past. And need I remind you that Kat is involved?” Dolosus laughed bitterly. It pained him to even hear her name, but…
“How can you expect me to believe that, Demonic?”
“That’s Master to you, you treacherous little—”
“Not anymore and never again!” he spat back, practically snarling at her. She was slightly taken aback, and was about to retort, but held her tongue. Gritting her teeth, she whispered harshly to him,
“You will be here tonight and we’ll discuss this. I have information and I n-need you.” Those words left a horribly bitter taste in her mouth, but it had to be said. Dolosus seemed placated for the time being. He scowled, but sighed and relaxed ever so slightly. Pushing her hand away from him, he muttered,
“Fine… If you’re lying, there will be Hell to pay. You know what I’m capable of.”
“… Very well.”

Day 44:
A standard regimen of training missions has been followed regarding our newest member, as per protocol. She has gained an affinity for a wide variety of close combat weaponry, and wields them with deadly precision.
The Superior calls her perfect. He calls her his trophy, and his crowning achievement. She appears proud to hear this, and yet, she shows signs of insubordination. The subject has made it clear that she feels free to speak out at any opportunity, and has on at least one occasion, jeopardized a mission for the sake of personal interest. I have voiced my concerns regarding this, but the Superior will not speak of the matter. I was told that the subject has been disciplined, and not to think of it further. I obey for my master only.

The usual white-noise of socializing greeted the artist as she opened the door to the Aeternus that night. Now garbed in a slinky black cocktail dress, her mascara-framed eyes scanned the room for Dolosus. Cigarette smoke hung heavily in the air and a live band played jazz, swing and big-band style hits of days long passed. Through the haze, Demonic made her way to the bar to await her former assassin’s arrival, humming along as the man on stage did his best Frank Sinatra, singing “I’ve got the World on a String,” an old classic and a personal favorite of hers. She ordered herself a stiff drink and picked up the day’s newspaper someone had left a few feet down the bar from her.
Murder… political unrest… unstable economy… makes me wonder why I even bother doing my job, Demonic mused as she scanned the headlines. Though to be fair, the services her organization offered had been of use in the past, when government officials had paid her to dispose of some source of unrest. Scanning the monochrome pages, however, she found an article of some interest. Raising her eyebrows, green eyes fixed on the story of a string of murders which had begun in the Tri-State area. Wealthy victims were disposed of, after having withdrawn their entire bank accounts. Money was clearly the objective of the murderer, but police and investigators had found no further patterns or clues than this. The sudden cash withdrawals seemed to be the only connection; no evidence or DNA had been left behind, and each murder had been in an entirely different fashion. One body found bleeding on the sidewalk early in the morning, one found in a body bag filled with cement in a river… Even Demonic had to admit, this criminal had a sick mind.
Just as she had moved on to read of the difficulties and controversy involved in asking banks to openly provide information on bank accounts containing over a certain sum, even for protection purposes, she felt someone standing directly behind her. She returned the newspaper to where she’d found it and turned on her seat to see Dolosus there, as expected, wearing a dark blue dress shirt with a black tie and dress pants. She didn’t like the look he gave her. As if he were making a huge sacrifice to meet with her and that she should be honored. And she didn’t like how confident he looked, standing so tall while she sat beneath him. Still silent, she stood, her heeled shoes adding about three inches to her height. She still had to look up to make eye contact with him.
“… What?” Dolosus said a little uncomfortably. Demonic frowned and pushed past him, aiming for a vacant pool table, muttering as she went,
“Why did I make you so damned tall…”
Only slightly bewildered, Dolosus followed her to where she began setting up a game of pool for them. He watched her coolly for a moment, grabbed a cue stick suited to him, and stood by the table, waiting for her to speak. She grabbed a cue for herself and began to chalk up the tip, and it seemed as if she would never speak up, until finally,
“We have Kat.”
“You’ve mentioned.” Dolosus returned, scowling, “I know emotional blackmail is by no means beneath you, but I think I deserve more than that. An explanation, perhaps.”
“You deserve what I deign to tell you.” Demonic said bluntly as she readied her cue on the bridge of her hand, “I’m calling stripes, by the way.” Dolosus noted dully that Demonic, of course, hadn’t bothered to discuss whether ‘eight ball’ would be his game of choice, or which of them would take the first shot. Rolling his eyes, he waited for her to break so the game could commence, then said,
“For our current purposes, all personal feelings aside, I think it would be best if we could discuss this matter on equal terms,” Dolosus attempted to be diplomatic, but Demonic scoffed,
“Your move.” Was all she said in reply. Sighing, Dolosus took aim and shot the cue ball for a solid, which rebounded once and landed soundly in a corner pocket.
“After all,” he continued as he took his next shot, which was just off the mark, “I’m not under your control anymore. My scythe drove you to madness, remember? Even though you created it. And I can fight you, if I choose, even though you created me.” Demonic scowled and readied herself, then made her shot. She was just barely off target and far too forceful, however, and the cue ball hopped up over the bumper of the table and onto the floor. A scratch. Dolosus picked up the ball and positioned it for his next shot.
“Let’s not dwell on the past,” Demonic muttered, a hand on her hip as she watched Dolosus sink one and then another solid with one shot. His next was a scratch, and they were both silent for a moment as she considered her next move while Dolosus simply waited patiently. Meanwhile, the artist vaguely recognized the first few notes of an old classic that used to be performed fairly often at the Aeternus. The singer snapped his fingers to the catchy tune as he sung, and Demonic let the familiar music calm her nerves and help her refocus.
“Oh, that shark, babe… Has such teeth, dear,
And it shows them, pearly white…”

“Look...” Demonic started, somewhat more reasonably, “I was recently contacted by an interesting fellow who told me of someone after four certain individuals.” She took her shot and sunk two balls, “Did you ever see the marks on Kat’s ankles? The wings?”
Dolosus frowned slightly, perplexed, but nodded and said,
“Well, yes. They assist her powers—help her fly, or… jump really high or something. We never really talked about it.”
“Well this informant of mine, Nemestrinus is his name, he tells me that there are three other people with similar marks. Altojo may have been one, but we’re not entirely sure. The brother crow is tracking down the third as we speak, and Nemestrinus himself is the fourth,” Demonic explained. Dolosus’ next shot failed to sink any balls, but set him up for an easy shot on his next turn. His former master continued, “these marks endow the bearers with certain enhancements to their elemental powers, but also involve a downside—a unique price to pay for each, or, so I’m told.” Demonic sunk two in a side and a corner pocket. She took her next shot, but was again too forceful and sent the ball rebounding much further than intended, and all the while Dolosus chalked up his cue stick a bit, readying for his next shot.
“Now on the sidewalk, uh-huh… sunny mornin’, uuh-huh,
Lies a body just oozin' life… “

“And what part would I, hypothetically, be playing in all of this?” he asked.
“Additional strength. Maion’s invasion took its toll on the Organization, and I need as much man-power as I can gather. And, well… I can keep you by Kat’s side. She’s strong, but so is whoever is after her.” Dolosus sunk the ball that had been set up on his last turn, and the cue ball rebounded nicely, hitting another ball into place for him.
“I can’t trust your word that you have her.” He said, as he sunk the ball his last shot had set up, then proceeded to completely miss his next one.
“I know.”
“Besides which, this is very unlike you, Demonic,” he grinned wryly at her as she readied her cue stick, “What’s in this for you? So far, the story you’re giving me is that a poor victim came crying to you with a sob story about him, a man you killed, one you don’t even know, and a woman who fought against you. Forgive me if I find it hard to believe that you chose to help these people out of the kindness of your heart.”
“Nemestrinus offered money,” she said simply, taking a shot which sunk one striped ball and, much to her surprise, rebounded to sink another, “I need money.” Dolosus still looked skeptical, but that was all the explanation she would—or even could give. He set his cue against the table and approached her, looking her in the eye,
“I have defeated you once and I can do it again. If you’re lying about… she had better be with you, and safe, alright? And I am free to do and say what I please. Those are my conditions.”
“Wait, shh…” Demonic hushed him, frowning with vague interest as she let her focus return to the singer on the stage, “Do you know this song, Dolosus?”
“Now, did ya hear ‘bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe,
After drawin’ out… all his hard-earned cash...”

“I’m… not familiar with it, no.” he responded with an absolutely dumbfounded look, “We weren’t a very cultured bunch back at the Organization, if I recall. Why?”
Demonic’s eyes widened, her eyebrows raised, and she looked up at Dolosus as if expecting him to read her mind. When he failed to show signs of this, she said, “I know who we’re after… but I thought Maion had him… but… but Maion’s dead…”
“Yes, that line forms on the right, babe,
Now that Macky’s back in town…!”

“Come on.” She said urgently, grabbing Dolosus by the wrist and pulling him along after her, “You have my word that your conditions will be met. We need to get back to the organization.” Already, she was sending a text message for a subordinate to have a car ready for her at the nearest street corner. They walked briskly out into the humid summer night, Dolosus now keeping pace with her, rather than being dragged behind.
“You say you know our man?” he asked, “You were just suddenly inspired?”
“I didn’t think of him at first—Maion has had him locked up for years. But with her gone, he seems to have made his escape. It’s imperative that I discuss this with Nemestrinus immediately. Keep up.”
“Look out, old Macky’s back!”

Day 70:
For some time now, the subject and I have been paired for missions. We’ve begun a series of more advanced missions, and each has been accomplished without incident. The subject has not attempted to overpower or dominate me, and I let her have her way when it is beneficial to our end. We speak from time to time, and she tells me of the Superior. She tells me that she is in love with him. She speaks the words as if they are entirely inconsequential—as if the entire world is already aware. What’s more, she believes that the Superior returns these affections. It is a disturbing development, to say the least… I continue to observe and report. Glory to the Superior.

You had better have her.
Demonic sent the message to the Sister Crow’s personal phone, issued by the organization itself, being careful not to allow Dolosus so much as a glance at the words. She needed him to believe that she already had Kat, but the truth was that the last time she heard from the Crow, she had met up with Kat and was trying to persuade her back. Time was of the essence now, and though she could certainly stall her former assassin for perhaps a day or two, he would demand to see her soon enough. She could not afford to disappoint.
“You kept your old alias.” She said, breaking the silence as her driver pushed on through a sudden fog towards the main base. Dolosus paused for a moment, then shrugged and said,
“I didn’t think you’d be coming after me, what with everything that happened. That alias is, as it always has been, only to protect my identity from government authorities. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but I’m technically a murderer.”
“Technically?” Demonic replied with a wry smile, “We’re all ‘technically’ murderers, Dolosus. It’s people like me and you who are actually murderers, and don’t you forget that.”
The man’s expression was unreadable. The two fell silent and Dolosus turned his gaze out the window, feeling an odd turning sensation in his stomach as he noticed his surroundings becoming more and more familiar as they neared headquarters. In the distance, he could see the steeple of a church he recalled from two snowy nights. His brow furrowed and he fixed his gaze on it, watching as they came nearer and nearer…
“Sir, stop the car, please.”
“What?? No, keep going,” Demonic ordered her driver, turning on Dolosus indignantly, “what do you think you’re doing? We had a deal.”
“I know, I know,” Dolosus responded hastily, “I’ll make good on it—I can get back to the organization with my scythe. I just… I really need to take care of something. Stop the car.”
Demonic sighed heavily and rolled her eyes, then said lamely,
“Stop the car.” The driver complied and pulled over to the side of the road, about fifty feet from the church. Dolosus got out, thanked the driver and shut the door, then turned to face the church and, more specifically, the graveyard which rested in its shadow.
He sighed heavily and hooked his thumbs on the hems of his pockets, then walked towards where he knew the grave would be. It was next to the one he’d visited twice before, and so he had the exact spot memorized. When he neared it, however, he scowled angrily at what he saw. The spot in front of the tomb stone had quite obviously been dug up. The grass had been overturned, leaving a clumpy mound of dirt unceremoniously piled over the hole. Dolosus’ heart throbbed with rage as he stood over the defiled resting place of a man he respected more than any, and he cursed under his breath, fists clenched.
“He’s been dug up,” said a soft voice behind him. He whipped around and saw a girl standing in front of him, familiar pink hair long and curling sweetly around her face. Her soft features were marked with years of worry, and she had grown up some since Dolosus had last seen here, but there was no mistake. Without a word, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, practically squeezing the breath out of her lungs. She struggled a little to reciprocate the embrace, and she laughed, but it was almost a sad kind of sound. After some time, she tried to pull away a little, but Dolosus held on, his heart pounding against his chest as her hair brushed his neck and face. Finally, he let go, but still held her arms gently.
“Kat…” he looked her up and down, then laughed a little uncomfortably, “Kat, how old are you?” Her initial response was an oddly amusing expression of incredulity. Her mouth hung open for a moment, then she laughed as well,
“I see you haven’t learned a thing about social etiquette,” she said with a grin, “Is this one of those old ‘making conversation out of random thoughts’ things? I didn’t mean for you to take that so literally.”
“No, no,” he laughed and let his hands drop to his sides, “I just realized that I never asked you… I never asked you a lot of things, really. I’ve… had a lot of time to think about it.”
“Three years.” She said. They were silent, made eye contact briefly, but looked down quickly, laughing nervously, “I’m twenty now.”
“I see… I’m six.” They both laughed, and Kat slapped her forehead.
“So you know about all that’s going on now, right? About your marks and the three others?” Dolosus said in a fairly casual manner, glancing at Kat beside him out of the corner of his eye. They were sitting on the grass in front of Altojo’s grave. His body no longer rested there, but the spot seemed sacred regardless, and so they’d sat to have a few quiet moments within the chaos and talk things over together.
“Yeah, I heard. The sister Crow told me about it. Seems I just can’t get away from these people, huh?” Kat said wryly, then shrugged, “though I suppose that goes double for you.”
Dolosus gave a short laugh and leaned back, resting his weight on his hands. He looked over at her and his half-smile slowly faded.
“Seems true, yeah,” he replied. He watched a soft breeze weave through her hair for a moment, eyes half lidded, then turned his eyes up to the cloud-covered sky above them, “How did they find you?”
“I wasn’t careful enough,” Kat said, clearly a little embarrassed, “I had an online profile, just for kicks. The sister Crow found it and hacked my profile. She looked through my photos and found one Crimson took at our favorite café. There was a napkin with the name of the place, and well, she followed her leads.”
“You’re with Crimson still?”
“Yeah, we’d been traveling around western Europe together. Changed locations fairly frequently, but the picture was recent enough to pinpoint us in England.” Dolosus nodded and Kat sighed softly, crossing her legs and leaning forward. Dolosus mimicked her movements and they sat quietly together. Kat let her head rest on his shoulder.
“And what about you?”
“Demonic found me.”
“She went to get you herself?” Kat said, impressed, “Man, she must really be short-staffed these days. Maion took her toll” Dolosus nodded again,
“She found me at this bar I’d been working at. My mistake was in staying in one place for too long.” He finished and said no more for a time.
“What have you been doing for three years?” Kat asked when he didn’t seem to offer any continuation of his thought process.
“Mostly stayed in America,” he answered, “It’s a big place, a lot of different cultures depending on where you are. When she found me, I was in New York City, taking odd jobs here and there, mainly stocking shelves and things like that—jobs where I could watch people, but not have to interact with them much.”
“And you stayed there long enough for her to find you?”
“I was… having fun.” Dolosus laughed and shrugged a little awkwardly, “Watching people is more entertaining than dealing with them, and… it’s not something I’ve ever really done before. Besides, I didn’t think she’d actually try to find me, so I didn’t try too hard to hide myself from her.” He got to his feet and brushed off the seat of his dress pants, then offered his hand to Kat. She took it and stood with him, looking at him curiously, “I told Demonic I’d meet her back at the Organization. She knows who’s after you and as such, who we’re after.”
“Oh! Well, I guess we should go-”
In an instant, Kat thought she saw a blur of Dolosus’ scythe, and it was gone. She blinked and shook her head, and now in front of them was a portal back to headquarters. He’s gotten faster… she thought, so these three years weren’t just about travel…
“Shall we?”
Kat nodded and held his hand tight, then stepped into the portal with him. She felt the odd sensation of utter silence enveloping them as she left the dimension she knew and followed Dolosus through the emptiness.

Dolosus lead them directly to Demonic’s throne room at headquarters. He and Kat were greeted with blank stares from Demonic, Crimson, and a man neither of them recognized. The three had evidently been conversing when the portal opened, and on seeing them, Demonic spoke first,
“Good timing. I was just about to fill these two in on what I’ve concluded regarding our target for this mission. This is Nemestrinus, by the way,” she added as the two new arrivals approached the group, “he’s our client, but he’ll also be partaking in the mission.” The tan, brown haired fellow nodded graciously to his new acquaintances,
“Nice to meet you,” he said in an even, sociable tone, “I’m looking forward to working with you both. Demonic tells me you’re some of the best in the business. And you must be Kat,” he turned to the girl, “You bear a mark, correct?” Kat nodded,
“Yes, but… I don’t know too much about it, apparently.” Nemestrinus smiled kindly,
“That’s quite alright, Miss. I’ll tell you all I know soon enough. But first, I think Demonic should explain her findings.”
“Right, regarding our target,” Demonic began. Dolosus noticed she seemed oddly at ease, given the situation. If he had to guess, he’d say it was because of Nemestrinus; the man had an oddly calming presence.
“About ten years ago, before Dolosus’ creation but some time after I’d gained control and established myself as leader of this organization, Maion captured a man by the name of MacHeath. His general pattern had been to murder his victim using only a switch blade, and for no discernable reason. As far as anyone could tell, he was just demented; he killed people whom he thought would be fun to kill. He was making business hard for people like me and Maion. Kept going after our men and jeopardizing our missions for the fun of it.
“Well, eventually MacHeath started rummaging through Maion’s files and data for kicks in his off-time and it seems she had enough of it. I had resorted to simply intensifying training and preparing for his attacks. She took a more direct route and managed to capture the man himself, who by that point had gained the alias ‘Mac the Knife.’ I don’t know how she managed to get her hands on him, but she kept him imprisoned with an amulet around his neck.”
“Like Ikonu…” Dolosus said to himself. When he saw the rest of the group watching him expectantly, he said, “I fought him during the invasion three years ago. Could manipulate gravitational pulls. Anyway, he wore a gem or amulet or something around his neck which kept him bound in servitude to Maion.”
Here, Crimson cut in, though she’d only listened silently up to this point,
“So now that Maion’s dead, Mac the Knife has somehow escaped.” She mused, “and how did you come to this conclusion?”
“His nickname wasn’t meant just to be catchy,” Demonic responded, crossing her arms, “It’s based on an old song. The song is about a serial killer, and it details his various crimes. Lately, someone has been committing those same crimes locally. Their detailed resemblance to his namesake and the locations, so close to Maion’s mansion… he wants me to know he’s back. Somehow, he knows that I have you,” she nodded to Kat, “and he’s declaring war.”
“Couldn’t it just be any mentally disturbed fan of the song? Or a complete coincidence?” Crimson said.
“The deaths are too unique for a coincidence. And no, I’m almost one hundred percent certain it’s him. He targeted both Maion’s and my groups while he was at large, and he knew of our… rivalry, of sorts. He played with it, and provoked us into a race to catch him.” Demonic scowled, glaring at no one in particular, “I never heard the end of it, after Maion finally caught him first. She was a braggart, and would talk so much that she was careless. Let on about the kind of data Mac had been looking into.” A brief silence followed, but Crimson prompted,
“Elemental power. The exact power he’s after now.” Silence prevailed for some time, as each person fully took in the situation. Dolosus suddenly became aware of how very exhausted and overwhelmed he felt. Just that afternoon, he’d been going about a day of work as usual, then Demonic came out of nowhere and brought all of these new worries and concerns with her. A serial killer, four powerful marks, Kat in danger… too much. It was all just too much.
Eventually, it was Nemestrinus who broke the oppressive silence,
“Miss, I mentioned I would tell you what I know about your mark,” he said to Kat, “If you like, I’ll escort you to your room and you can show me the mark, tell me what you already know, and I can fill in the blanks.”
“Oh! Yes—that would be really helpful,” Kat replied with a smile, and Dolosus immediately stood at her side and said,
“I’ll go with you,” he glanced at Nemestrinus, then Kat, then added, “I’m… curious about those marks. I’ve never heard much about them.”
“Very well, I’d be glad to have you. In the meantime, I believe you two are our most tactically minded,” Nemestrinus said to Crimson and Demonic, “so if you would like to discuss our next course of action, I believe it would put us one step ahead.” With that, he, Dolosus and Kat turned and headed towards the door, then down the hall towards the room where Kat had stayed three years ago. Nemestrinus made pleasant small talk, hands resting comfortably in his pockets, and Dolosus stayed by Kat’s side all the while, his hand barely an inch from hers and brushing it now and then.
Once in her old room, Kat made her way to the foot of her bed and sat, gesturing towards her desk chair for their new ally as Dolosus made himself at home on the bed next to her. He was silent, but watched carefully. Nemestrinus moved his chair to sit across from Kat, and he began,
“Now… I’m going to need to see your mark first.” Kat nodded and rolled up the bottoms of her jeans to about knee-height, then turned her leg and focused her power on the marks, so that a small wing, like a tattoo, appeared on each of her ankles. He nodded slowly, eyebrows raised with curiosity. He bent down and placed a hand on the mark.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said shyly and withdrew his hand, “… May I?”
“It’s fine, you need to see it, right?” Kat responded, amused and slightly bewildered by the man’s impeccable manners. Moving his seat a little closer to her, he raised her right foot up to rest on his lap and set himself to examining the mark. Intrigued, he frowned slightly and traced the lines with his fingertip and said,
“And what about when you really activate them?”
“Well… this.” The girl replied simply, and in an instant, small translucent wings sprouted from the marks themselves, flapping gently. This truly captured Nemestrinus’ interest. He made to touch the one near him, but his hand passed through it, though it met some resistance. It felt like moving his hand through slowly flowing water. Kat began her explanation,
“Those wings don’t exactly do anything of their own, but I figure they’re sort of a… physical manifestation of what’s happening. The mark’s power allows me a jumping ability that’s near flight, really, and heightened agility. They’re very useful, but Alt—someone told me once not to use them unless it’s an emergency.” She stuttered over Altojo’s name, but managed to tell all she knew, as Nemestrinus continued to observe the wings and marks.
“I see… and that’s all you know?” Kat nodded, and he went on, “Well… that person was right. You shouldn’t use these unless it’s an emergency. But you’ve been in hiding for a while, so you haven’t used them recently, right? You should be fine for now. Anyway, the reason is because each mark has its own drawbacks. There’s a price for that kind of power, though it’s not always obvious. Would you happen to know anything about that?”
“No, why would I?” she said, rolling her eyes, “I told you, I hardly ever use them. I mean… sorry, that came out wrong.” She laughed awkwardly. Dolosus frowned curiously, and Nemestrinus simply stared at her for a moment. “B-Besides,” Kat went on, “He also gave me this ointment to use on the marks after I activate them. They start to sting after a while, so it helps the pain.” She pointed over her shoulder to a bottle on her bedside table.
“Dolosus, could you hand that to me?” Nemestrinus requested, and once he had it in hand, he squirted some of the cream in his hands and began rubbing it on Kat’s foot and ankle. He took his time practically massaging her, watching her steadily all the while. Dolosus scowled, noting dully that the oh-so-polite persona had vanished now that he had his hands on her. What was worse, he glanced over at Kat, and she seemed rather contented with this arrangement.
But… that’s not like her at all… he thought incredulously. Just as he was about to get to his feet to put a stop to this, Nemestrinus gently pushed her foot off of his thigh and onto the floor. Kat groaned and smirked at him,
“Oooh, c’mon, why’d you stop?” Dolosus clenched his fists and opened his mouth to speak, but Nemestrinus put his hands up defensively,
“Purely for study. Let me explain.” He said calmly, “Miss Kat, deactivate the marks.” She seemed perplexed, but did as told regardless. He watched the wings dissolve, then said, “Right, so, would you have let me touch you like that normally?” At first, she said nothing, taking to a moment to really consider what had just happened. Dolosus watched her expression transition to utter embarrassment as a cute shade of pink spread across her face.
“N-No, definitely not… why did I…?”
“The marks.” Nemestrinus got to his feet and stretched out his back and arms a bit, “It seems like this may be one symptom that all mark-bearers share. They turn you into a different person. Well, not really, your basic personality stays the same, they just slowly do away with your values, morality, that sort of thing. Does that sound about right?”
Dolosus frowned and let his mind wander back to a time four years ago, on the day when he first met Kat. Back then, she had casually slaughtered at least a dozen of Demonic’s men, burst into her throne room, and proceeded to make demands of her. She had been sarcastic, mocking and sadistic. Weeks later during training, she had been somewhat curt towards the crows, though she had always gotten along alright with them. She had used the marks on both occasions, to varying degrees. What Nemestrinus said did add up…
“Well…” Kat frowned slightly, “I noticed they tended to make me feel sort of… liberated, but guilty. Like I could do whatever I wanted, but it would all be terribly wrong… Like that?”
“Precisely like that,” Nemestrinus nodded, heading for the door, “I should take my leave—I want to see how Demonic and Miss Crimson are fairing. I’m not sure that was the socially optimal situation to leave them in, come to think of it… thank you for your time.” he shut the door behind them, leaving the heavy silence to engulf the two still sitting on the bed. Kat glanced over at Dolosus. He was bent over, resting his head on his hands, with an unreadable expression. She bit her lip and waited, hoping against hope that he would speak first. Silence dragged on however, and it slowly dawned on her that Dolosus was, of all things… jealous.
Kat didn’t know where to go from there, and he certainly wasn’t helping. She placed a hand gently on his cheek and turned his face to her,
“Dolosus, please don’t be upset. I-I wasn’t in the right mind while he was doing that, and he didn’t mean anything by it…” he kept silent, and she went on, “Too much is going on to worry about little things, and we’ve been apart for too long,” as the words left her lips, Dolosus finally looked into her eyes. Then, the urge struck her all at once, and Kat kissed him, deeply and tenderly, and his arms wrapped around her tightly. Each seemed equally surprised and relieved to finally have time together like this, and so held nothing back. She let her fingers run through his thick, brown hair as his tongue slide into her mouth, then, all at once, Dolosus gently pushed her back onto the bed. His heart thudded heavily in his chest as he continued to kiss her, atop her now. His hands slowly made their way down her sides, in at her waist and out around her hips, memorizing every contour.
Their lips parted, and Dolosus began to kiss her neck, letting her soft, curling hair brush his face. Kat whispered his name, and he moaned in reply, swept away by how incredible his name sounded in her voice. She gasped aloud as he bit down at the base of her neck, leaving a small pink mark, then moved lower, kissing and nipping her collar bone and her chest—
“D-Dolosus… is… is that your phone…?”
He paused for a moment, completely frozen, and listened to the ring which was, sure enough, coming from his pants pocket. Dolosus let out a low groan and planted his face in the pillow beside Kat’s head. She laughed and stroked his hair gently,
“You should pick it up—it could be Demonic.”
Dolosus propped himself up on his forearm, still on top of Kat. He stuffed his hand into his pocket and grabbed the phone, pressing the “call” button and putting it to his ear,
“What is it?” He growled into the receiver, “…I’ll give whatever tone I like, we have a deal… ugh, fine, fine… I get it, I’m coming…. Yes, Kat too.” He hung up and shoved the phone back into his pocket. He groaned, “I really hate that woman.” Kat laughed and kissed him once more. The two got up from the bed and straightened out their clothes and hair as best they could. Dolosus took a moment to clean his glasses, and Kat asked,
“So what was that about? Something up?”
“Yeah. They’ve found us. We need to relocate immediately.”



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