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Back to Reality

Bullets ricocheted off the wall nearest Fehed.  He and Tala were pinned down and could not move.  On the other side of the corridor, he could see that Chepi and Ezra fared no better.

Just then, the gunfire stopped.

Fehed took a deep breath and prepared to look around the corner, but Tala pushed him back against the wall and shook her head with concern.  Across the hall, Chepi and Ezra seemed to be having the same silent conversation with Chepi holding Ezra back.  Instead, Ezra pulled out a mirror with a flexible handle and used it to look around the corner.  Fehed and Tala stared at him intently.

Ezra gave the all clear signal, and they all stepped out from behind their cover.

At the other end of the ingress, Vittorio stood with a female cyborg amidst what was left of the guards.  The two groups met up at the halfway point between them.  Vittorio joined them without his usual smirk... he looked highly peeved.

          “Well, at least you found the target,” Chepi offered as they reached each other.  “...so why do you look as though you have a mouthful of lemons?”

                    “First, she is no target,” Vittorio snapped at Chepi.  “Her name is Donatella.  And, second,” he continued in the same less-than-congenial manner.  “How do we get the hell out of here?”

Chepi narrowed her eyes at him, but considered the overall situation for a moment, and decided to let his demeanor slide, this time.

          “Donatella, is it?” she echoed, eyeing the cyborg suspiciously, and then, to Vittorio:  “You sure make friends fast, old man.  You shouldn’t be getting chummy with her, though.  Our job is to get her back to Gallia, and once there, she is no longer any concern of ours.”

She turned to Donatella.

          “I apologize if that seems rude from your perspective, but I’m afraid that’s just the way things are.”

                    “Oh, I don’t mind,” the cyborg graciously deferred to the apparent leader of the group.  “I understand that for you, this is just a job.  But I can also understand how my father would naturally see things differently, of course.”

Donatella shifted her attention to the old man, then.

                    “Isn’t that right, Papa?” she directed to him.

          “Papa…?” Chepi looked stunned.  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she shook her head at Vittorio, taking a step back.

Tala and Fehed looked at each other for a beat, and then both squealed in unison,

          “No, way!”

Ezra’s jaw dropped.

          “Whoa,” was all he could manage.

          “Vito, you never told me you had a child!” Chepi pouted a bit, nursing a mildly bruised ego.

                    “Well now you know,” Vittorio spat.  “...and when we return I am going to have some words for upper management,” he added with a snarl.


As they reached their exit from the building, they heard noises coming from outside.  They had easily dispatched the small security force for the building on their way in, and Ezra had disabled the alarms, so no one should have been there.

It was 2:30 in the morning.

Why would anyone be out skulking about around a top secret lab?

Chepi motioned for silence.

Tala and Fehed immediately morphed into their combat forms, replacing the presence of a woman and a man with a werewolf and a panther-human hybrid in merely the space of a stolen breath.

Vittorio bared his fangs, and assumed an attack posture.   Rescuing his daughter apparently put him in a kind of mindset that was more bloodthirsty than usual, if that was possible, and he seemed to be just itching to deal out more death.

Ezra accessed his wrist console to scope out the scene.

          “I’m hacked into the building’s security system,” he announced.  “...and we have a huge problem.”

His expression clouded over.

          “Local law enforcement is on the scene,” Ezra informed the group.  “...They’re out there with a swat team, by the looks of it.”

          “Shit!,” Chepi hissed.  “We cannot take on the police!  That would start an international incident!”

                    “#_@% ’em,” Vittorio grinned.  “We can take them out, piece of cake!”

He was positively glowing.

                    “They won’t even know what hit ’em!”

          “Are you insane?” Tala growled in the guttural tones of her wolf guise.

          “We are only going to engage them if absolutely necessary,” Chepi commanded, looking around the group.

Then she turned to the technomancer.

          “Ezra, find us another way out of here.”

She leaned in close to Tala and Fehed.

          “Keep close to Vittorio,” she stressed, in a low, but sincere tone.  “...Don’t let him do anything stupid.”

In the next moment, the main door to the building blasted inward, and a green smoke began to fill the entryway.  Flashlights from the end of rifles bobbed and ebbed in the gaseous cloud.  Stealthily, the team retreated farther back into the building.

          “There is an access panel that leads to the sewers in the secondary lab,” Ezra whispered to Chepi.

Chepi did her best to motion to all the others, indicating to move to the secondary lab.  Fehed and Tala’s heightened senses were causing them issues.  The gas from the canisters deployed by the advancing party had begun to impact them before it reached the others.  Chepi motioned for them to go first, with Vittorio following.  It seemed he was reacting negatively to the gas as well.  Chepi, Ezra, and Donatella brought up the rear behind them.

As they entered the second lab, Fehed and Vittorio had just opened the access panel, and the wolf was first in, with the cat and the old one following quickly on her heels before the gas could overtake them.  The noxious cloud began to darken the room to minimal visibility, and Chepi  ducked into the cavern just as a hail of bullets showered over her shoulders, bouncing around the entrance.  The gathered group narrowly managed to miss the shots, and all of them bolted ahead at full steam, not looking behind them.  It wasn’t until they reached a manhole cover and emerged into the crisp night air that they realized Ezra and Donatella were not with them.


Back at the hotel, they heard disheartening news on the police scanner... two suspects had been shot at Marwin Labs; one dead, the other wounded and in critical condition, unlikely to pull through.  Vittorio was unusually calm and quiet in the corner, until the report came back that both suspects had died enroute to the hospital.  He let out a blood curdling wail and then fell silent, despondent.


At headquarters, after reports had been filed and debriefings endured, the remaining members waited in a meeting room for Rhiannon.  Chepi figured their recently forloughed commander would be returning from sabbatical to be placed back in charge of the team again, and was almost relieved.  They were also going to be meeting a new team member.  Besides answering all the statements mandatory before the board of inquest, Vittorio hadn’t spoken a word of conversation to any of them since they returned.

Rhiannon eventually drifted into the room with a sober look upon her face.  Behind her was a burly redhead.  He looked as though he had been chiseled from marble, and was about the same color as well.

                    “This is Auley,” she said as she moved toward them, wasting no time getting right to it.  “He will be joining us, and, yes, for the record, I will be once again resuming leadership.”

Rhiannon sat down at the head of the table, and Auley stood behind her.  The two of them looked over the room together, she at the faces of her team, he at the integrity of the space.

                    “Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering about possible disciplinary actions regarding your last mission,” she began slowly, making eye contact with each of them individually, one by one, in a manner none of them could quite interpret.

The team sat up stiffer, holding their collective breath.

                    “There will be none,” their leader stated, matter-of-factly.

The group responded, inaudibly, in various forms of relief and disbelief.  Rhiannon turned her attention to the giant behemoth who’d come in with her.

                    “Auley,” she nodded to him.  “...make sure this room is secure.”

Auley moved around the room with a scanner, and gave Rhiannon the thumbs-up signal to let her know the area was clean.

                    “First things first,” Rhiannon sighed, after getting the all-clear.  “I want you all to know that from my perspective, I would say your performance on the last mission was exemplary.”

          “What the hell are you talking about?!” Chepi retorted, astounded.  “Your cousin is dead, Vittorio’s daughter is gone... We not only failed in our objective, but in every other respect, this was a total loss!”

Chepi was nearly yelling, practically on the verge of tears.  She struggled to maintain her composure.

          “As a mission, as a group, as a PEOPLE, this entire assignment yielded nothing but complete, and utter FAILURE!”

Her shoulders were heaving, as she was breathing hard with the weight of it all.

The corners of Rhiannon’s lips slowly curled up in a sly smile.  Chepi turned beet red, her face burning with rage.  This was NO laughing matter.

                    “Oh you did not fail; you performed exactly how I expected you to perform,” Rhiannon beamed.

          “So it was you who assigned us the mission?” Tala accused, barely able to keep the growl out of her voice.

                    “Yes I did,” Rhiannon nodded, gesturing with her hands held up, as if to stop the oncoming onslaught of pained and confused inquiry.   “...and I assure you, Ezra is not dead; neither is Donatella.  They are both very much alive.”

The four fell silent, stunned.  Their chief smirked.

                    “The reports you heard were fabricated,” she continued, obviously pleased with herself, and then, more serious...  “However, that information is not to leave this room.”

Rhiannon looked over the others sternly.

                    “No questions at this time regarding their fates please,” she warned.

And then, turning to the quietest among them, she added,

                    “Vito, I have a letter here from Donatella.  You may read it, but you may not keep it.  You need to destroy it before it leaves this room.”


Ezra awoke in bed with a start and surveyed his surroundings.  He thought he must be delusional.  This looked like his aunt’s spare bedroom.  Even smelled like it.  The last thing he remembered was being shot multiple times, and there was a rolling green fog, or gas of some sort.  There had been someone else with him... someone that had fallen, also.  That’s right... the cyborg... she’d been hit with an EMP blast and went down.  He shook his head and looked under the covers.

At least I’m not naked,” he thought.  He was just wearing his skivvies, but that was better than nothing. 

Just then a voice spoke inside his head.

               “Glad to see you’ve come around,” it said.

     “Oh great,” he mused.  “Now I’m hearing voices.”

               “How are you feeling, luv?” the voice continued.

     “Ummmm, fine...” he said aloud, confused.  “Aunt Enora??” he questioned out into the room, uncertainly.  He was still cloudy and not sure of his surroundings.

               “Can I come in, hon?” the voice of his Aunt asked.

     “Uh, sure...” he scratched his head.  “I mean, it is your house right…?”

Ezra’s voice trailed off.  He looked himself over.  He remembered being shot multiple times yet his body showed no wounds.

     “Am I...” he stopped himself... he couldn’t finish that statement.

His Aunt Enora bustled into the room with a glass of lemonade.  Ezra always loved Aunt Enora’s lemonade.

     “Merlin’s Beard!” he thought.  “I’ll never get to see the others again!

As that deduction flitted about his head, the door behind his Aunt Enora slammed open abruptly against the wall with a loud clamor, to accommodate the hulking form of his Uncle Alden, standing in the doorway.

               “Get your damn ass out of bed and follow me boy,” his Uncle bellowed.  “I’ve got something you need to fix right now!”

Alden jerked Ezra by the shoulder and led him out of the room.

     “Gaia’s Ghost, I’d thought I was in the other place,” Ezra’s disjointed thoughts rushed about faster than he could process as his Uncle practically dragged him downstairs.

Alden was happy see Ezra up, but there was no time for greeting his nephew.  Donatella was in critical condition and he, Dajan, and Enora had been doing everything they could to keep her alive, but they needed Ezra’s skill with technology to save her.

The pair joined the others in a sterile lab room, where Donatella lay upon a hospital bed connected to all sorts of medical equipment and what appeared to be a vehicle diagnostic machine.

The fog in Ezra’s head cleared immediately when he surveyed the condition she was in.  He gently placed his hands on her robotic left arm, and reached out to the electronics that made up a third of her body.  In a state of technomantic trance, he was able to affect the needed repairs and Donatella awoke, alive, but in bad shape.

It would be a while before she would fully recover.


Additional stories from this world, in chronological order:
| In The Beginning  |  Escalation  |  Project X  |  The Woodshed  |
| Meet the New Boss  |  Back To Reality   |  The Interview |
| The Turing Test  |  Ohm’s Law  |  Hero’s Anthem |


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 20th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
I loved how you worked the prompt into the mission. It was a wonderful tale!
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Aug. 20th, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC)
It's really cool to finally see all of the groups from this world coming together into one storyline. I can't wait to see what they do with all that power, and am very interested to know what the new guy's special "gift" is!
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you are enjoying these characters,Yo'll have to check back to see waht he can do.
Aug. 21st, 2014 01:24 am (UTC)
Awesome... \o/ thoroughly enjoyed it! :)
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)
I'm glad they got through safely. :)
Aug. 21st, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
Whew it wsa close that they might no have been. But I still have ideas for those characters, couldn't have them exit just yet.
Aug. 21st, 2014 06:30 am (UTC)
I am somewhat wondering how a human (oid?) has a cyborg child, but she might not have started out that way. Or might be partially living, since cyborgs are different from robots.

The next question is, who's the mother? ;)
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:42 pm (UTC)
You are correct in that she was not always a cyborg as far as her mother goes that is a tale for another day.
Aug. 21st, 2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
VERY cool that you used the prompt in your established 'Verse! You've got such a flair for action and this was nice because it was so complete....with questions....that keep the attention of the reader!
Aug. 21st, 2014 03:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you I really do enjoy telling these chaacters tales.
Aug. 21st, 2014 07:46 pm (UTC)
The dialogue in this piece is priceless. <3
Aug. 21st, 2014 09:32 pm (UTC)
thank you, I sometimes worry about how my dialague is going to turn out.
Aug. 21st, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
Ooh layers in layers in layers. I'm intrigued.

I am amused by Ezra's first thought on waking up, makes me wonder what's happened to him before.
Aug. 21st, 2014 09:33 pm (UTC)
Well Ezra has lived a very intresting life hopefully I will get to sahre some of it topic willing.
Aug. 21st, 2014 11:46 pm (UTC)
Love the matter-of-fact "there will be none."
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )