Read Ascension Online

Authors: Christopher De Sousa

Ascension (11 page)

“-Soldier, why were we not here sooner,” Walter had been quick to interrupt.

Blake watched as Lance stuttered his response, but he too felt entirely baffled from trying to comprehend this night's events. For less than a few hours ago when on duty within the Anabasis city's centre, he'd received a call about the presence of a celestial disturbance running along Delphi Crescent, from his direct superior. Suspecting it would in some way involve Katherine, he'd thought the gryphon had finally acted. But when they reached the home, he sensed an unusual pair of energies without physical shape.

Once Walter spun round in his chair, his narrow grey eyes locked upon both he and Kulullu, Blake sought to explain what they'd experienced as best he could.

“We were under the control of another once we entered within the property's perimeter, that much I'm sure of,” he said. “But all we witnessed was clearly contrary to the events as they truly occurred.”

Walter rubbed his temple. “What exactly did you see?”

“An empty yard, there was nothing that looked out of the ordinary,” Blake responded.

“And this was once you stepped into the shadows?” Walter asked.

“Yes,” he replied, indignant.

“It would seem we still have much work to do,” said Walter, before he turned his back to Blake, and focused his attentions upon Lance, “We must be more vigilant in gathering intelligence about our enemies. It looks like we will also need to conduct further training with respect to all operatives' current sensory abilities, if we're to be ready in the event of his returning soon.”

The prospect of more training, on top of that to which he was already committed, fatigued Blake just to think about it. But the mere mention that
he
might return sent a cold chill to running down his spine.

Few things in this world can make me even flinch
, he thought,
but the stories of what he was capable…well you'd have to be ignorant not to think with some sense of trepidation about facing such power.

This fiend, he remembered, had somehow defeated both his direct superior and her guardian. Even Walter and his own guardian had fallen before its strength. But suffice it to say, and despite this sudden anxiety to which he'd rarely been exposed, Blake also relished the prospect of such a challenge.

I believe I was born for this very purpose
, he thought,
specifically selected to confront this ancient creature and vanquish him at his own game.

His attention soon returned to Walter. “I had expected better… from both of you,” his superior was quick to say.

With Walter's words falling like lead, Blake looked to Lance and saw him as a mirror of his dejection. He knew that Lance in particular took any and all forms of criticism to heart.

We both work so hard in service to this organisation
, he thought to himself,
but Walter was one who always seemed to expect just that much more
.

“What are we to do with Sergeant Munroe's daughter?” Lance questioned, upright in anticipation of his next order.

“She will leave with us,” Walter said, as he headed up a ramp-way before the porch and through the home's front door.

Blake glanced over at Lance, as the operative had reclaimed his stoic post beside the entranceway, before he too drifted inside. Once inside, he focused upon the stairway that spiralled upward from the kitchen. Knowing that Katherine was most likely lingering up above in an irate frame of mind, he decided to creep up the stairs and provide her comfort.

Well I can't think of any person more suited than me, who can provide some kind of grounded insight into her ailing situation
, he thought
, but last time I offered her my support, she didn't want it. It really is a curse to be so intelligent a young man, and possessed of such invaluable intuition beyond my years
.
But I've little choice; I must take it in my stride if I'm to help those in need, even if she isn't really the sort who can handle what must be said. I can't afford to stray from my duty, even if I think of her as too immature and naïve to make any sense of what's said.

Upon reaching the top, he found that Katherine's wooden bedroom door was firmly closed. Without knocking, he pressed the door open and waltzed inside before gazing up and about the walls of artwork. Katherine was slumped over at her bedside with the gryphon, now visible to Blake, lying there before her feet. He noticed that she'd not batted an eyelid upon his abrupt entry; she only continued to sit there, staring up at an unusual sketching. He looked closer, and soon recognised that it depicted an unfamiliar interpretation of Atlantis; one in which he too found himself quickly immersed, paying close attention to its architectural monuments, and its vast technologies on display. But before long, his focus returned to Katherine, and on how she'd yet to acknowledge his presence. She appeared pale to him, had not once blinked. Dark rings had formed around her eyes.

“You know, Sergeant Munroe knew of the risks involved,” he said. “And he served the organisation well.”

Immediately the young woman, who only moments before had been hunched over and unresponsive, sprung up and pounced on Blake with her hands gripping the collar of his neck.

“His job, my father is dead because of those monsters,” she cried, her eyes puffy and red. “Where were you? I thought you were the one who was supposed to protect me.”

She then, and much to his surprise, flung him backward and hard up against the bedroom wall. Despite the noticeable dent he'd left in the wall's plaster, Blake was undeterred by her sudden outburst and attempted to retaliate in kind. But before he was able to obtain a grasp of her arm, the gryphon impeded his advance, adopting an aggressive pose by propping itself up on its hind legs, and reaching out with its sickle-like talons. Fortunately, Kulullu promptly positioned herself between Blake and the gryphon, shielding him from any potential attack.

“You really should not have done that,” Blake muttered, seeking to refrain from losing his composure. “You didn't even want my help in the first place. I struggle to see why you're so upset.”

“You're impossible,” said Katherine.

“Everything is impossible with you; guardians are impossible, elemental control is impossible, and now I'm impossible. “So tell me, you silly little girl, do you wish to continue feigning ignorance, and pretending that all you see and experience must be false?”

She shrieked at him, her hands clenched into fists. “My father is dead. He was killed by those monsters, and there was nothing I could do about it. How can I possibly refuse to acknowledge their existence, and how could I possibly forget?”

“Sergeant Munroe was assigned to care for you,” Blake told her. “Assigned by the organisation to oversee your growth; it's likely he was not even your biological father.”

He then fell silent. He saw a change sweep over Katherine. The fiery resolve that had existed, intent to knock him down from his perch, had faded; replaced with futility and despair. She now only gazed back at him through glassy eyes and trembling lips.

“He raised her nonetheless, and he's the only family Katherine has ever known,” he soon heard his brother say from outside the bedroom door. “Now, calm yourselves, and call off your guardians before they tear one another to pieces.”

Blake glanced at Kulullu; the water spirit stood before him and the gryphon, clutching at a conjured spear of ice. And once Lance emerged through the bedroom doorway, his older brother shot him a dirty and disgruntled look.

She sobbed, collapsing to her knees. “I don't believe you. This can't be happening to me.”

“Your father was a senior officer within our ranks,” said Lance, solemnly. “In fact, he taught me everything there was to know in the service of this organisation.”

“My father was just an honest labourer,” she responded, which drew a chuckle from Blake.

“I've never met a labourer in possession of, and with such savvy control over such elaborate weaponry,” he scoffed, discarding any and all effort of self-control.

“I can't even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you to hear, and I'd rather you learned about this from those more capable within the organisation,” said Lance, as he glared over at Blake with disdain. “We want to take you with us Katherine; it's no longer safe for you here.”

“Who are you?” Katherine asked. “Why should I trust you?”

“Perhaps your father spoke of me. My name is Lance, and I am an officer of a secret organisation; an organisation better known as
Project Indigo
.”

“Your name rings a bell,” she replied. “But he used that name when referring to a new labourer working for his firm, not an officer of some secret organisation.”

“He would've told you only what seemed necessary at the time,” said Blake, not willing to remain passive throughout their conversation. “He had an obligation to ensure the secrecy of certain information beyond all else, particularly to that which carries any connection to the
Project
.”

She averted her gaze from Blake, and looked only to Lance. “What is the purpose of this project? And what is an Indigo?”

“All your questions shall be answered in due course,” Lance responded, taking Katherine by the hand. “You will just have to trust us.”

Fat chance of that happening
, thought Blake, as he observed Katherine's blue eyes dart about the room as if she were trapped in a cage, and looking for a means of escape.

Thinking of the many fears which must be racing through her mind, his imagination took hold him. He envisaged her as a lab rat, ready to be examined at the organisation's leisure and dissected. He'd also grown accustomed to this specific look Katherine expressed throughout the years; with pupils dilated as if she were in a stupor, the biting of her bottom lip that revealed a slight gap in her front teeth, showing this nervous twitching as she sought to comprehend what which was going on about her.

If only it were true
, he thought, regarding the prospect of experimentation
. Perhaps it would show to me why the organisation values her so highly, because right now I fail to see it
.

Attempting to conceal their weapons in holsters to avoid upsetting Katherine any further, he noticed that a couple of his colleagues had surfaced, and now stood there in the doorway.

“It looks like I have little choice,” said Katherine, her gaze on these two additional operatives.

“I'm afraid not,” Lance replied. “My orders were to take both you and your guardian with us.”

Chapter 9

Lance had said I will have to trust them
, Katherine remembered, as she was guided by two operatives of this strange organisation down the staircase.

But how can I trust anyone when everything and anything I've known to be true might in fact be a lie? This ‘project' in which they refer to
, she thought,
might only want me for the sole purpose of conducting some sinister experiment. And yet here I am, allowing myself to be led directly to their evil laboratory.

Is this to be my fate
? She questioned.
To be the subject of a biological study? To be a specimen placed beneath the microscope? To put my trust in this organisation, how can they expect me to do this knowing that Blake is one of its members? The very suggestion of spending any more time in his presence is enough to make my skin crawl.

Once they made their way into the kitchen, the operatives guided her through the front door, and along the pathway that weaved its way from the porch to the cold, hard pavement outside eleven Delphi Crescent. Parked alongside the footpath were numerous black utilities. They led her toward the back of the one nearest to them, and help her up into its trunk. She found little room inside, and it wasn't exactly easy to have so many eyes peering at her with morbid fascination from those sharing in such a claustrophobic space. Forced to lean up against what appeared to be an ammunition crate of some kind, and trying to ignore those unfamiliar gazes, she focused her attention on Lance who was kneeling on one knee with a rifle resting at his side.

I can't help but like this man
, she decided, in spite of feeling weary about the casual way he held his weapon.
At least he seems somewhat sympathetic of my situation.

Prior to their departure down the stairs, Lance had given her a guideline of sorts that made note of what he could, and could not say. In particular, he had emphasised it wasn't his prerogative to part with information concerning the organisation. He'd said that, and anything else related, was also best kept for more capable officers than himself. He had his orders, he'd said, and that included keeping his silence about related affairs, regardless of how often she'd ask him questions. Although she found what little he'd actually said useful, his soft and compassionate tone had somehow brought her comfort. For all the others she'd so far encountered were about their mission, concerned with their own agenda, and had taken little time to talk with her following the attack.

But there was something different about Lance, she believed, there was a sincerity that shone from his deep brown eyes, and there was a kindness that carried across from his warm smile. In a sense, it reminded Katherine of her father, and the affection and compassion he'd shown her throughout his life. Even of the times he'd expressed feelings of concern and frustration, she now found herself thinking of with fondness. It was, after all, his way of showing her that he cared. Only, now it had dawned on her that she could no longer hear his voice, or would ever again have him hold her tightly within his strong arms, and whisper calming words of support. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but Lance could only offer her a look of sympathy and appeared unwilling to utter a single word.

With the vehicle having finally set off, she felt the swift jolt of movement about the cabin. She glanced about her surroundings in a vain attempt to look upon eleven Delphi Crescent one last time. But it was still dark out, and there was little visibility through the trucks' back window. The further the vehicle travelled, deep into what she presumed to be that of the desert, the more she also found it grow significantly colder, and couldn't keep from shivering or to stop the chattering of her teeth. Upon seeing her suffer with this abrupt drop in temperature, she watched as Lance gathered an old blanket from off a nearby crate and draped it over her shoulders. But once he'd done so, he reclaimed his post and his solemn demeanour. She stared back at him, pondering what she should and could say that might make him engage her with conversation and alleviate her burden, anything which might help distract her from her own thoughts of recent loss.

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