Chapter Eighteen

Phoenix exited the halo-trainer and saw Travis waiting for him. His arms were crossed and he had caused a small hole in the ground from his incessant tapping.

"Yo who tossed sand in your vagina?"

"I don't have time for your crap, so listen up. I'm going back home to deal with the messed you caused."

"Me? You're the one who went ape shit on your parents."

"Yes but had you never merged with me none of this would have happened."

Phoenix called forth his axe and got into a fighting stance.

"You're so full of crap. It's always someone else's fault."

"Listen you troglodyte. Stay here or go back into space--I don't care, but you will not screw up my plans."

"So what am I supposed to do? I don't have any money, no home, and the fur balls want me dead."

"Typical. You spent that 30 kin I loaned you on Mido and space hookers didn't you?"

"Yeah, and your point?"

"My point is I'm sick of cleaning up after you. You're on your own."

Travis tossed Phoenix his gravity belt then tested the two way communicator. As planned he was able to link up with the computers in the cave and talk with Isis and Horus if need be.

"Travis? Broham? Dude, you can't bail on me."

"Just did."

"If you don't help me out I'll alert the media about my powers and make tons on the talk show circuit alone."

"You wouldn't."

"Yes dear brother, I would."

Travis checked the display on his communicator and saw it was a quarter to midnight.

"Fine. You can stay with me as long as you stay under the radar and you don't draw heat on to Earth from the Nekoshins."

"Deal so what now?"

Travis got a sour look on his face.

"We merge."

Aw, home sweet home.

Keep it up and you're going back on the leash.

***

The waxing moon shone over the naked form of Travis. He stirred the cauldron and added chamomile. The brown liquid bubbled then Travis raised his hand. His hair stood on end, and with a spark the magic took effect transmuting the ingredients into a calming potion.

Ozone wafted to his nose, then he froze. He inhaled the air again and this time strawberries and freshly cut grass tickled his nose. A figure came up the hill and then broke into a run.

"You're back!"

Josh crushed Travis in a bear hug then slugged him in chest.

"You dick. I drove across half the country looking for your ass. The least you could do was tell me you were back."

Josh's grin was met by the blank expression on Travis's face. He looked the boy over. Though ten months had passed since they last met, Josh was still as diminutive. But faint hairs frosted his upper lip.

"Well say something."

Travis turned his then pulled Josh in. Theirs lips and sent Josh's brain ablaze with pleasure. His knees buckled but Travis caught him. Never breaking the kiss, his tongue snaked across Josh's lips and he obliged. Josh's eyes rolled to the back of head and shook.

Travis pulled back taking a stream of green energy with him and sighed. He wanted to continue but sensed Josh's heart beat slow.

Josh fell and then vomited. After he checked Josh's pulse and found it faint, Travis crushed ginger root and ginseng together and shoved it down the boy's throat.

Color returned to his checks.

Feet like jelly Josh stood up and made his way to Travis.

"What the hell was that about?"

"I was hungry. So I fed."

Josh pointed his finger, sputtered, and then threw his hands up in the air. The ritual complete, Travis slipped his clothes back and gathered the potion. All the while he stole glances at Josh out the corner of his eyes.

"What?"

Josh opened his mouth then groaned.

"You're such an asshole. I thought you liked me."

"Still alive aren't we?"

Josh flipped him off then walked away. He got half way down the hill before Travis popped in front of him.

"Crap. You `bout made me piss myself. What is it now?"

"Don't go to school tomorrow."

"Why?"

"I don't want you near there if things go south when I turn myself in."

"Oh." Josh uncrossed his arms and smiled.

"You're food and nothing more."

"And what makes you think I'll agree to that?"

Travis grabbed him by the chin and they locked eyes.

"Who said you had a choice?"

Josh pulled away but Travis was there in front of him. He slithered up to the shaking boy and whispered into his ear.

"Resist and you will suffer beyond your wildest nightmares."

Josh whimpered. The staccato beat of his heat pounded in his ears. He saw an animalistic, glassy look come over Travis.

"Why are you doing this to me?" he said, chest jerking with each breath.

"Hush."

Travis kissed Josh's tears away then ran his hand up the boy's spine. .

"Yield and your wettest dreams will come true. The choice is yours." His tongue snaked across the rosy flesh of Josh's neck an then he bit down.

***

Josh woke up back in room. He shook his head and tried to shake off the nightmare. He turned his head and there was Travis sitting in the open window. He shot out of bed and bolted for the door, but it shut and locked with a flick of Travis's finger.

"What do you want now?"

"To talk."

"Screw you!"

Yeah, smooth move Casanova.

Travis ignored Phoenix, stood and folded his arms behind his back.

"I'm sorry."

"What?" Josh's eyes bugged out and he stared slack jawed at Travis.

"Where are the files on me?"

"I gave them to Agent Anderson, why---hey don't change the subject."

"Never mind."

He made a mental note to drop in on Tommy and the doc once the things died down a bit.

"Look, I am sorry." He sat down next to Josh on the bed.

"Yeah right," Josh said, gave Travis the stink eye and then turned away.

"What you saw earlier is considered nice among the demons I spent the better part of two centuries with. So excuse me if I come off as a bit of a dick."

"You must think I have stupid tattooed on my forehead."

"Whatever, I'm gone."

Travis hopped out the window but then turned back to Josh.

"Stay away from school tomorrow. OK?"

Travis waved bye, but then a chill ran up his spine. Josh shuddered, and rubbed the goose bumps on his arms.

"Stay inside and don't go near the window until I get back."

Travis shifted to battle mode, and sealed the window with a blood shield. He looked to sky and saw them, their numbers bloated out the sky.

"I am Travis the Hungry, vassal of Rose and this is my domain. Leave!"

The night sky lit up as he released his Aura. The weakest among them were scattered to the ether, but the skeletal dragons showed no signs of leaving. The leader dove at him and unleashed its breath. Travis rolled out of the way and the ground where he once stood rotted away before his eyes. It doubled back and Travis summoned his S-blade. When the skeletal dragon opened its maw he sent a blast of demonic energy that obliterated it.

The others took note and swarmed him. As fast as he was Travis couldn't avoid them all. His left arm and both legs hung useless, the skin black and peeling. The vision in his right eye was blurry, but that was better than the left which floated in a festering pool.

"Enough."

He brought down the S-blade but nothing happened. He tried again but this his Aspect dematerialized.

"Shit, shit, shit." Travis called for the S-blade but instead Phoenix's axe appeared. Neither of them had ever seen it cloaked with golden flames like it currently was. The skeletal dragons fell back and when Travis noticed this he went on the attack. As the axe cut into their bones it tore them apart. Containers destroyed, they had to return to demonic realm. Travis removed his Death Mask, opened his mouth and devoured their souls.

He rapid healed, but it would be a few days before he was back to normal. The damage to his soul however would not mend as quick. Skeletal dragon attacks split the soul and when fragmented enough a demon could no longer use their Aspect. In time he would regain its use, but until then the S-blade was lost to him.

Josh watched from the window but couldn't understand how Travis got so banged up. Unbeknownst to him, humans couldn't see demons. Unless they were the one who summoned them, or were part demon.

Travis snapped his fingers and shook off the pain as the bracelet burned into his skin.

"So those things were demons?" Josh said humoring Travis.

"Yeah...and once they attack an area... they won't stop until there's nothing left." Travis wiped his brow, lay down on Josh's bed and rested awhile. Once recovered, he warded Josh's house and then the neighborhood. Josh stood transfixed as he watched the Travis work. He could see the glyphs but had no idea what they were.

"Will they come back?"

"If they do, they'll be blasted back to hell once they cross the ward perimeter."

He stood then reached into Josh's chest. The redhead blacked out. Travis fed him more of the ginger root and ginseng, took a pinch of the mixture himself, and then munched on a chocolate bar he pulled from thin air. Travis explained he'd marked Josh's soul so other demons knew not to attack him. They argued again about Travis feeding on then claiming Josh. He settled down after a while.

"That get up you were wearing. It's like your superhero costume?"

"No. Each item was chosen for its offensive or defensive capabilities, save my cowl and mask."

"So they're not to protect your identity?"

"While they obscure my face, I wear them for a different reason. The cowl is fashioned from the baby blanket given to me by alien parents. I wear the mask so my enemies can't read my emotions. So my face is the last thing they see. And to hide the monster I've become."

"Look if you ever need talk, I'm here. Just don't go all psycho on me." Josh placed his hand on Travis's shoulder and, when he wasn't disemboweled, smiled.

"Why? It's not like you'd ever understand what it's like."

"Hello, gay kid in the heart of Nowhere, America."

"Please, it's not the same."

"Really? Did you know this past month three LGBT people were murdered? Over the last several years violent crimes targeting the LGBT community have sky rocketed nationwide."

"That sucks but it's still not the same. You don't know what it's like to have no control over a part of yourself you never asked for."

Josh's ears and face flashed red, and he clinched his fist.

"You self-centered, arrogant, bastard. Have you any idea how many kids kill themselves because they can't be who they are?"

Travis called up a fireball and held it in his hand.

"This is the culminations of thousands of hours training. If you slip up the worse you'll get is a fat lip or a broken heart. If I lose control it's game over."

"Newsflash, you aren't the center of the universe."

Ha, you tell him, kid.

Travis tamped down on Phoenix and severed their link.

Josh continued his tirade unabated. Travis tried to butt in but Josh plowed ahead.

"Every day I go out into the world I have to wear a mask. For my parents. My friends. Everyone! So don't tell me I don't know what it's like. Yeah it gets better and all that fairy tale crap. But right now? It fucking sucks. I can't drink, smoke, or do anything without asking permission. You want to know what the worst part is?"

His tears flowed freely and Josh didn't care if Travis saw them. He needed to say this last bit.

"The only reason I haven't slit my wrists is because then I couldn't see you again. But what's the point I'm just food, right? Right? I bet you wouldn't even care if I was gone." Josh slumped down and balled his eyes out.

"Look at me!"

Josh turned and saw Travis's glaring red eyes.

"I know how you feel."

"Bullshit! You can crush planets in your hands and I'm just a faggot."

"Long before I got my powers I've been where you are more times than I can count. I know what it's like standing on that ledge. How much you're sick of fighting and want to surrender."

"So why didn't you give in. And if you say because of God I swear I'll scream." Josh wiped his blood-shot eyes and laughed.

"Because I looked inward and found the strength to carry on. You can too, but don't do it because of me. Do it for yourself."

"What makes you think I can?"

"Because you did it before and you can do it again."

"Easy for you to say."

"For the record I would care. Call me if you need to talk." He tossed Joss a tracfone and left.

Travis downed the calming potion and tried to drift off to sleep on the lumpy mattress. The stiff bed sheets were caked in stains from the previous occupants. Roaches scattered upon him turning on the light switch and he dared not touch anything in the bathroom if he didn't want to come down with the bubonic plague. He could have set himself up in a five star joint, but this way he could leave at the first sign of trouble and no one would think twice about it.

"Yeah Channel Four news? You better get up to AP Prep stat. That naked runner kid's suppose show up there any minute."

Travis hung up the phone and dialed the other news stations then destroyed the phone with a blast of white flames. He steeled himself as he made his way towards the entrance but stopped. He lowered his mental shields and scanned the area. Nothing was out of the usual until he sensed Agent Anderson approaching.

"Long time no see Kid. Now if you'd be so kind we need to run some tests on you back at the doc's place."

"Not happening. And tell your boss I've never going back to the Nursery."

Tommy shook his head.

"I was afraid you might say that."

He whistled and out of his car stepped a blond boy about his age. His hair was cut low and he was dressed in shorts and a Sponge Bob Square Pants tee. The five foot three teen exchanged a look with Tommy who nodded and then Travis was sent hurtling into the air. He righted himself and landed on the ground. Tommy and the boy shielded themselves from the inferno that Travis kicked up.

When the flash died down there here stood a vision of destruction. His red eye stared out of his bone mask promising pain. His cowl stood like a tombstone eclipsing them in its umbra. But the piece de resistance was his armor. The spiked shoulder guards and heels were stained in blood and the chest plate was the twisted grin of a creature borne of the darkest nightmares.

"Enjoy this moment because it will be the last thing you ever do."

The boy laughed.

"You look ridiculous and could you be any more melodramatic."

Travis's eyes narrowed to slits and he struck. Upon impact of his fist the boy doubled over, but shook it off and pushed Travis back. He anchored himself to the spot sent the kid hurling towards the car.

Before he collided with the front end, the kid floated into the air and sent the car at Travis.

"For crying out loud Kyle, I just paid that off."

"Sorry boss, but desperate measures and all." He flashed Tommy a cocky smiled then turned back to Travis. He gave the pair a bored look and the car returned to the ground with the grace of a swan.

"I'm sorry. Was that supposed to impress me?" he said to Kyle who looked between him and the jeep.

"But I'm the Mind Crusher, strongest PK user in the world. No one's ever beat me."

"Even if you trained a thousand life times the gap between us would remain the same."

Kyle attempted to launch the jeep again but instead found himself gasping for breath as Travis increased the pressure around his throat.

"That's quite enough Kid."

Agent Anderson called in his back up unit and it was at that time Travis became aware of the crowd of on lookers recording their every movement. A wave of his hand and an EMP swept the area disabling all the electronics. His peers freaked out as they could no longer tweet their every action.

Kyle's lips turned blue and his arms thrashed at his side. Another twenty seconds and he'd pass out.

"Let him go you jerkwad," Josh said as he broke through the crowd.

Travis complied then excoriated the ginger for being there.

"Can it. I came 'cuz I thought you might pull something like this. And I was right."

"Congratulate yourself later. Get out of here before..."

Travis sensed the bullets heading straight towards him. His first instinct was to fling them back at the shooters but bystanders could be hit. Instead he raised a psychokinetic barrier. As the bullets neared they slowed as if going through water. They floated in the air around him then fell to the ground.

"Damn that's miles beyond you struggling to lift me."

"Yeah now get out of here you knuckle head." Travis gave Josh a swat on the butt and turned to see the cops and Tommy's men going at it over who had jurisdiction. The school went into lock-down mode and all the students were ushered inside.

"Give up and save yourself the grief."

"I don't recall asking your opinion, so can it before I rip your tongue out."

Travis gave Tommy a withering looked and smiled on the inside when he saw the news vans pull up.

"OK I give up."

He powered down, changing back to his khaki shorts and tank top. Though no longer as beefy, his five foot ten frame was packed with lean muscles.

"What the hell?" Kyle and Tommy said after witnessing the transformation. Travis ignored them and walked to the police with his arms held high in the air. The reports broke through the barricade and shoved microphones in his face as the cuffs were slipped on his wrists.

"No comment," he said when they asked him why he attacked his parents. They then asked if he planned to pull a Columbine style massacre. He told them off and got in the cop car.

The crowd cheered as the students streamed out of the school. In the rush to get their faces on TV those who recalled the battle between Travis and Kyle were laughed off as attention whores.

***

"How could you let him get away? You had a platoon of our top soldiers plus the meta brat."

"With all due respect, Subject Prometheus had everything planed out. We played right into his hands."

"Ridiculous, he's just a snot nosed kid who lucked out."

Tommy stood and shook his head in disgust.

"No. He acted like a pro and didn't strain for a second."

The gruff senior official downed a shot of whiskey and tossed the report back at Agent Anderson.

"So what's your point?"

"Sir, we're the ones who lucked out. He chose not to take us out. But next he might not go as easy on us."

"Nonsense. Are you sure this has nothing to do with the meta kid getting injured?"

"His name is Kyle and he saved my ass more times than I can count."

"Perhaps you're too close to the issue and a reassignment is in order?"

"That won't be necessary, but let the record show I'm against direct confrontation with Subject Prometheus."

"So noted. Anything else Agent Anderson?"

"No sir, good day."

Tommy marched out of the director's office and slumped into the chair at his desk and sulked until his lunch break. He was pulled out his funk when his cell vibrated. He checked the caller ID and smiled.

"Hey baby cakes what's shaking?"

"Just wanted to call and say I have the night off so you can finally take me on that date you've been promising."

Jenny teased her hair and nibbled on her bottom lip.

"I'd love to but can't."

"Well I don't appreciate games being played with me. Bye."

"Wait! Travis is back in town."

"Since when? Is he OK? Did he hurt anyone?"

"As of this morning. Yes. And Kyle's shook up but it could have worse if Josh hadn't been there to talk him down. I tried to tell my boss this, but he shot me down. I know Josh is the key to taming Travis. I just have to find a way to get him on my side then Travis will follow."

"Hold it right there mister. You mess with my Travis and I'll get medieval on that ass."

"Me? That kid's a walking holocaust and needs to be controlled."

"Let's agree to disagree about that. Chinese food, my place, say midnight?"

"Deal. Will you wear that pink lace thing I like?"

"If you're a good boy."

"Aren't I always?"

"Later babe."

"Yeah later," Tommy said with a dreamy look on his face.

***

"Kid you can save us and yourself a lot of time if you just confess."

The officer had been grilling Travis for the last two hours, but he refused to say anything except asking to call his lawyer or be released. There was a knock on the door and in stormed Harry Mason, bald, forehead damp with sweat and face set in a grimace.

"You've held my client without charging him or reading him his Miranda rights. Questioned him, a minor without a parent or legal guardian present, and continued after he requested legal counsel multiple times. So tell me why I shouldn't have you shield pulled this instant?"

"Easy there buddy we were just shooting the breeze. Aint that right partner?"

"No, and I want your badge number so I can file a formal complaint with the Chief of Detectives."

"Now you hold it right there. You're being held on a warrant for your arrest for violating the terms of your probation and you have two assault and battery charges pending. Also you're being held on suspicion of plotting a school massacre. The preliminary hearing is set for tomorrow morning at 8 before Judge Miller of the tenth circuit court of Michigan. You will be booked then processed out to a juvenile detention center."

"Not so fast. His Grandmother is here and is willing to take responsibility for him appearing in court."

"Fine by me if the DA signs off on it."

Three hours later Travis and his grandmother pulled into the decrepit hotel to get his things then booked a suite at the Renaissance Center in Downtown Detroit. Travis laid out his suit and dress shoes then called Adam to see what dirt he could dig up on the Judge Miller before the morning. Miller came back clean so instead he summoned Blix to intimidate the judge. Satisfied his plan was sound, Travis dug out his grandfather's journal and began reading it.

The script was tiny and neat with flourishes on the end of words. As for the subject matter it was mostly rants about striking it big and showing those stuck up rich kids. Interspersed between this was the chronicles of parties, flunking examines, and botched sexual conquests.

As he skimmed the pages Travis paused to groan and roll his eyes. However half way through Marshall's freshman year things changed when he was approached by the Midnight Society. At the point he was initiated the journal devolved into an unintelligible mess that looked something like this:

Draarekd Adrokgd atrakhdwa rekvdaahr kedwa rekndoadr?

He had neither the time nor patience to decipher the text and cursed Helena for not mentioning this to him. He glared down at the leather bound book and noticed a crude all seeing eye etched on the cover and smirked.

He placed the book back in its box, but stopped when he noticed a rattling sound. Closer inspection revealed as hidden a compartment in the bottom. Inside was a silver ring with a skull and crown on it. Travis rolled it in hand and noted it felt too heavy for its size.

The pit of his stomach tingled as he felt the demonic essence pour from it. Until he was certain which demon had enchanted the ring Travis encased it in a containment spell and placed the ring back in its hidey-hole.

When he turned back to the bed he noticed a scrap of paper yellowed with age on the floor. It said, "The dark reflects the light of truth within."

Travis filled this bit of information away for later investigation and then turned slipped away for his nightly training session before calling it a day.

The morning dawned but to Travis's surprise Judge Miller showed no signs of distress and showed Travis no mercy. It was only due to Mason's legal legerdemain he was sentenced to a year in juvenile prison pending the result of his assault trial forth coming.

As the cops placed him in handcuffs Mason said they'd appeal and with good behavior he'd be out in a few months. Travis nodded and was led away.

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