SOMEWHERE IN MONTREAL
The first thing that had scared Sin was the fact that being blasted out of the old broad’s home had nearly killed him. He took out a wall with him, and he was lucky enough to land in some shrubs. Otherwise, there was a very real chance that he would have broken his neck. He was still aching and limping, having cleared the Prestwich’s estates high gates and finding a nice alley to rest in, when the first APB went out: The Legion were after him.
Okay, well, that wasn’t a surprise, or so he was able to reason. He could avoid the Legion, the half blind idiots who barely were around these days.
And then the Freelancers put out their APB.
It was becoming increasingly clear that Sin was the most wanted man in the world.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit shit shit…” he muttered over and over again, as he stood up. He’d managed to react quickly enough to not die, and shrubbery, goddamned shrubbery, might have saved him from being dead or a fuckin’ quadriplegic. Oh, and there was his damned arm… hanging at an odd angle. Fuck. He’d called the chain back, and formed the metamorphic slime into a improvised sling to hold his arm while it healed, and booked it to said alley. His head HURT. It was like the mental equivalent of pulling a muscle, and any time he tried to use his TK, his headache got worse and worse.
And then the APB’s came in, hearing from the TV store close to his alley. There weren’t enough four letter words to world to describe how fucked he was. Okay. Deep breaths. First things first. Change of clothes. Haircut. Sunglasses and a hat. Bus tickets to one of his sa- which was in Detroit. Fuck. Hokay. Clothes and disguise first… but just going to … rest here a moment. He tried to get his head on straight, but it was pounding. Not… really not good.
He tried to stand again, and his vision swam. Just a moment to sit, just a moment to rest. That’s all he needed.
His head drooped, and then there was a hand wrenching it up so that he would make eye contact. It took him a moment to process the sudden assault, that it had even happened. His vision blurred, settled, and then… the face of his new acquaintance became clear.
There was both good news and bad news:
The good news is that the person who had found him in the alley way was neither Legion, nor was she Freelancer.
She was Anathema.
Anathema, once known as Hyacinth Mills, was one of the most powerful psychics in the world, and she had been presumed dead decades ago. She had killed Robert and Sandra Fishby – the Oathkeeper’s parents – and nearly killed Alice as well. The Legion had locked down Twin Falls, and took her into custody. She escaped, and then… vanished. People thought she was dead, a few conspiracy theorists insisted she had reformed and was now running a bakery, or something…
And yet, here she was.
In front of Sin.
And the scariest part of this entire situation, worse than the APBs, worse than the injuries?
Is that she was smiling.
Sin knew who she was, of course. The damned woman was a legend among criminals. She’d been the closest of anyone that Sin knew to truly icing Oathkeeper, and had kept ahead of the law for longer than he’d probably been alive. His eyes, unfocused slightly as they were, turned a brilliant green for a moment, before dulling. “Well. Fuck me. Either I got hit a lot harder than I thought, or you’re THE Anathema.” There was a bit of hero worship, maybe just a little. And respect. And a healthy dose of fear.
Anathema’s smile widened, and she ran her tongue along her teeth. “Sssssssinner.” Was the first word she hissed out. “You’re a terrible little sinner, aren’t you? Lost and alone in the world? Oh dear, dear, dear.”
He laughed, weakly. He couldn’t help it. Here was the gal that made people quake in their boots, made a rep for herself by murdering the family of the most famous hero of his generation, and kept. ON. GOING. How do you react when you’re talking to a legend? His pride swelled. At least before he bought it, he got to KNOW that she was alive. His eyes darkened to a deep, deep purple.
“Yeah. Picked a fight, wasn’t prepared for. Got cheated, by a fuckin’ hero, of all people.” He laughs again. After trying to murder Estelle, he wouldn’t hold it against her. He got played, she did damn good. Oh, he still try to kill her if he ever saw her again, that’s just principle. But she won that round. He shrugged, weakly. “Ain’t goin’ back without a fight, though. No, ma’am.” Of course, he could just be hallucinating. He didn’t take mushrooms before the fight, did he? He didn’t think so.
“You think I’ll turn you into the Legion or the Freelancers? You think I’m here as your enemy?” Anathema laughed; a hoarse, bitter sound that was creaky from disuse. “I could give you to the mercenary pig dogs, and they’d get your hooks in you in their false social rehabilitation, as if their values mean anything. Or I could give you to the Legion, and they’d parade you in front of a sham of a trial, pretend like their justice means anything. No, no, no. None of that would do. God spoke to me, and His justice is what matters. Now, let me ask you. Why are you such a bitter little sinner?”
Sin looked at her, head tilting just a little. “Why?” He laughs again, taking a deep breath afterwards. “‘cause they’re all fucks. Saying this, doing that. People, that is. Get down to it, everyone’s would be just as bad, as evil as they say I am. I’m just…. enlightened. No reason not to party, to drink, to fuck, to kill, to live it up. I just want… everything, everything that people just deny themselves.”
He leaned his head back, laughing weakly. “M’ mom, fuck her rotten corpse, thought that if she lived in denial of everything, prayed to God and followed the fuckin’ Oathkeeper’s example, she’d get to go to heaven. Fuckin’ bitch screamed you’ve got the darkness in you, Blake, but deny the world! DENY IT.” He rolled his eyes. “Tried to carve whatever darkness I had out with a crowbar, said it was the only way. Mom wasn’t all that intelligent, really. So after she came after me, I bashed her skull in.” He shrugs, and then grins, evilly. One of his first good memories. “After that…. realized, whatever. Whatever the fuck was wrong with her, I wasn’t gonna be. Denyin’ sin was bad, so Hell, I’ll embrace it. Heh.”
Anathema’s amethyst eyes scan’s Sin’s face as if hunting for truth, and then her smile disappears. She nods grimly. “You are so close to being a man of God, an honest man. You understand that… Fishby is a heretic, a false example sent to test us. You understand that we must take what we want, stomp out opposition. Your language needs work. I do not care for your profanity. And you will be respectful. And in exchange for these small currencies, I will save you from the grasping hands of both Legion and Freelancer. Do you understand?”
Sin blinked, rubbed his ears with his good hand, as if not believing what he was hearing. He took a deep breath. In for a penny, in for a pound. She might be crazy, but she was the only help he was going to get. When she emphasized respectful, he may or may not have let out a little scared meep. Maybe. But then he realized what she was offering, really realizing, and green and purple warred for supremacy in his eyes. “Y-yes. Yes, ma’am. I understand.”
“Good.” The word hissed out of her mouth like steam escaping from a valve. She clapped her hands four times. “Attend to me!”
Out of the shadows came four men, each one built like a truck. Their jaws were slack, their eyes glazed over with a dull purple sheen. Anathama smiled, coiling herself around one of them and patting him on the jaw. “Good boys. Don’t worry, sinner. These are my loyal servants, who have fully consented to allowing me to wear them. I think you… will work best independently. Have you ever been to the Underground?”
“The portal group? Yes, ma’am. Though, they’re a bit… unreliable at times. Use ‘em only when I have to.” He nodded nervously, but a little more confidently when he realized that she wasn’t going to brain drain him like her meat puppets. “Expensive, too.”
“If you have to pay, you’re not using them right. I will teach you. Boys, carry him.”
And then Anathema, the most dangerous woman in the world, a woman with the Oathkeepers’ sights on her, a woman who was escorting a man who was on every television screen and comm unit, turned and glided into the street as though she had not a care in the world.
And no one did approach. The streets were empty. Why? Had she… Perhaps it was better not to wonder.
She eventually turned and tried the door of a local electronics repair shop that advertised FULL REPAIRS ON NOVA, MCGOWAN, AND INFINITI PRODUCTS. She tried the knob, twisting it. The door was locked.
“Boys, open it. The Underground cannot hide from us.”
Sin was carried. He was a big dude, but the dudes carrying him were built. He knew guys like this in prison, more muscle than brain usually, but with Anathema riding in their skulls…. scary. And then the streets were empty. His jaw dropped a little, and he looked around. It was a ghost town. The place had been busy as hell not ten minutes ago. What…. oh damn. Just…. damn. He’d hooked up with some real power here. It scared him… and his eyes changed to green. He wanted that kind of power.
And now was a chance to help, even a little. His mind was calming, the headache less. “Please, allow me, ma’am.” He reached out with his free hand, and made a twisting motion with his wrist. The lock snapped inside the door, and the door gently came open with a creak. The rest had helped, yeah. Definitely. Only a little headache, now
“Ma’am. I like that. Respectful.” Anathema turned to him, balanced between the two goons, and ran a finger under his chin, making eye contact. She smiled. “You can be taught. This way.”
The store was empty, tablets and phones, cords and gadgets, comms and Legion and Freelancer merchants lining the walls. Anathema moves to the register. “Boys… which one of you used to work here? Was it you, ah… you.” She beckoned. “Open this.”
The man obediently moved to the register and punched in the code. The back wall of merchandise spun, revealing a hidden pathway and a staircase heading down, down into the darkness.
Sin shook his head, lightly, making sure the TK use doesn’t make his vision swim again. Well, so far, he was healing… ish. “Underground do know their stuff. Ah, I think… I might be good enough to walk, now.” It wouldn’t do to show the Underground, or anyone else, weakness right now.
“Let him stand, but if he runs, knock him down and take both of his legs off by force.” Anathema says, stepping into the darkness. A light radiates from her left hand – a silvery glow that shifts into deep purples and blacks, illuminating the halls around her. The staircase loops around, leading downwards, downwards, downwards…
And then, there was the Underground. This waystation was built into an old basement.
Sin didn’t run. He knew when that would be a bad idea. He followed Anathema, and with her henchmen following him, down, down into the darkness. There were chills up his spine, and mentally, his mind was racing. Okay, a legendary bad lady just saved his weak ass. They’re heading into the Underground. Somehow, she’s keeping both the Legion and Freelancers off of your sorry, TK’d out ass. Check. He didn’t know HOW good a psychic Anathema was, or if she could read his mind. Maybe not, or maybe she was just hiding that power to use as backup. Either way, he couldn’t afford to not be useful to her, not right now. He wouldn’t survive another fight right now. Survival, even Pride bows before it. But Sloth could be useful right now too. His eyes changed to a light brown, and he looked around in the darkness.
“Guys, it is one thing to keep me waiting and in the dark. It is a whole different ball game to keep HER waiting. Do you really want to do that?” He shrugged at the people hiding, and watching.
“Please,” a female voice said. “We’ll – We’re afraid, the Freelancers -”
“Are not here.” Anathema hissed, stepping forward. The harsh angles and slopes of her face were illuminated by her glowing light. “And I am.”
And then the Paranormal charged Anathema – a man with short cropped dark hair and char marks on his face, an aura of smoke around him.
Sin moved as soon as the he recognized the man was charging, tapping the sling, which writhed and launched itself at the smoking man, changing into the heavy spiked chain that managed to do so much damage to Nat earlier. It whipped towards the man’s torso and neck with violent force, intending to wrap and bind and possibly clothesline him.
Sin’s chain pulls the Paranormal away from Anathema, and hurls him into the corner of the room – where he explodes. The blast shakes the foundations of the basement.
“Oh, well done.” Anathema breathes. “I believe you just saved my life. And I will reward that appropriately, but first…”
She raises her hands. “Lord, help me -”
And then she begins to drink in the darkness in the room.
“Of course… ma’am….” Sin kind of trails off as she starts EATING the darkness, somehow. Ow, his head. Ow, his arm. He tried to hold it close to his torso, ignoring the pain in his head and arm.
Anathema holds the darkness in the palm of her hand, and she smiles. “Underground staff, you will perform your jobs, and you will open a portal for three to my destination, or… well, it’ll be clear what happens next.”
The staff immediately scrambled to their posts, the portal began to churn, and Anathema beckoned. “Boys, stay here. Sin, bring the Paranormal now that he’s burned out. Come. Quickly.”
The chain squeezed tight to make sure that the Blast Boy was bound well enough, and lifted into the air. Upside down. Just for that extra cruelty. Blast Boy bobbed behind Sin, as the portal opened. His left eye twitched, but he bites down on the pain. No pain, no gain.
Travelling through the Underground was always disorienting. There was a moment of limbo, of floating in nothing.
But this time, Sin heard a voice:
You know this is wrong. There’s time to turn back…
The voice of Estelle Prestwich?
And then they were at their destination: Anathema’s home.
Sin didn’t know what he expected, but it wasn’t this: A two story home with an attic and a basement in the suburbs of America.
“Final stop, ma’am?” He looked to Anathema, ignoring the equivalent of a burning, stretched and exhausted muscle in his head. The other paranormal floated like a small bobber in a bond behind Sin, the chains grasping him.
“You will see where I do my good work eventually. But this is my home. Please, wipe your feet at the door and take off your shoes. I will show you to your bedroom.”
“Yes, ma’am. Is there a spot I can store the, ah, baggage?” He gestured to the floating paranormal behind him, as he removed his shoes carefully, with one hand.
“I will see to that. You are injured, and you need to heal. You may use the bedroom upstairs, on the left.”
He nodded, and the man dropped like a sack of potatoes. He padded up to the upstairs bedroom, on the left, adjusting his sling as he went up. He looked out the window before settling on the bed, trying to find where or what city he might be in. Everything hurt. Things might not be looking up, not yet. But at least he had a chance…
Maybe a snowball’s chance in hell. Ah well. Better than no chance at all. He sat on the bed, then kicked his feet up, lying down. He was a light sleeper, usually, but dreamland took him quickly then and there, with Sloth changing his eyes to a deep, deep brown.…. and he had nightmares of amethyst eyes, dominating the demons.
When he awaoke, it was dark. Sin heard the noises of pots and pans, running water and knife against cutting board. He wasn’t in pain, and his arm was almost healed – still tender, but another day, and he’d be able to use it again. He walked downstairs, cautiously.
A woman stood at the counter.
The thing is about Nova and McGowan medical tech in every hospital, and Paranormals helping the healing process along, and the (as the Infinity Report once famously called it) Utopia of Tomorrow, is that people aged, but it was with grace. Extended lifespans, staying healthier longer.
This woman was old. Old World old. Her cheeks were sunken in, her face lined, her hair stark white. Her eyes had that same purple glaze.
“Daughter, your guest is awake.”
“Thank you, mother.” Anathema stood from the chair she was curled up in. “Did you sleep well?”
Sin nodded, hesitantly. “Recharged and almost a ‘undred percent. Arm is still a little tender, another day and I’ll be right as rain. Nothing like a decent amount of sleep to help things along.” He looked at Anathema’s mother, then at Anathema herself.. “Thank… you. For getting me out of there.” With Anathema’s almost insane need for politeness, he figured it couldn’t hurt… and keep him one step away from being hijacked.
“You’re welcome.” She glanced at her mother. “Does Mathilda alarm you?”
“No, just… Very domestic. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Ma’am.” Remember the titles. Still not a hundred percent yet.
She throws her head back and laughs. “I’m not a monster. I enjoy food and rest and home as much as anyone. While you stay here, you will need a name.”
Sin was flabbergasted. “I assume my rap sheet is out there, so, I can’t use my real name. Codenames are no good either, I assume? Jacob… Marcone, I suppose? If that will work?”
“Jacob, then. We are in Twin Falls, Idaho. The city belongs to me. Shop, explore, browse at your leisure. For now? I must plan, and talk to our… Paranormal friend downstairs. I’m sure you understand.”
He nodded, as he does understand. Poor guy. Better him than Sin, though. And… the whole city belonged to her? Christ on a cracker. Did people not notice this kind… of thing…. Yeah, he was in over his head. Nothing he could do, now, though. “Yes ma’am.” He knew a dismissal when he hears one, he’d worked with and against those asshats in the Family for long enough. He exited the house. Time to explore the city.