Chapter Twenty Two

Travis groaned when Josh tried to wake him for lunch. He didn't get back to Earth until midnight and then it was a two hour lecture from his parents. He got in maybe three solid hours of sleep.

In between nightmares of Demeter ravishing him and reliving Phoenix and Manasa getting it on, he could hardly keep his bruised eyes open. The slightest sound was like a hammer to his head. Walking was a feat in itself; every step sent another wave of pain through his lungs and ribs. To top it all off Josh wanted to talk about them.

He trudged to cafeteria and sleep-ate whatever he bothered to pill his plate with. Once done the surly teen placed his head on the table and snoozed away.

"Oh no you don't. I haven't seen you at all lately. And when I do you get me worked up and leave me with an epic case of blue balls."

Josh prattled on, his voice grated on Travis's nerves until he couldn't take it.

"Contrary to what you may have thought, there is no us. You were a means to end that has outgrown its usefulness."

As soon as the words left his mouth he regretted them, but it was too late. Josh bailed from the cafeteria, tears streaming down his checks. His eyes were glossy globes set in a vacant gaze. There was a numbness to them that belied the pain within. Piece by piece Josh broke, and part of his soul died that day.

"What the hell you go and do that for?" Jason said and chased after Josh.

Travis groaned, put his blazer over his head and shooed away the senior. David sat down next him and pulled off Travis's blazer so he could no longer ignore him. He took one look at the boy and laughed.

"You look like three-day-old shit."

"Thanks for the color commentary. Now would you be so kind and go screw yourself with a rusty hack saw."

"Not happening until you kiss and make up with JJ."

Travis rolled his eyes and glared at David, who stuck out his tongue and flipped him off.

"How about I gut you from sternum to anus and wear you like a cape instead?"

"Jesus dude! Psycho much?"

"You don't know the half of it," Travis said under his breath. He placated David by promising to call and straighten things out with Josh. The rest of the day passed without drama until he got home. Josh never showed for their study session and when he called him it went to voice mall. He was grounded and only allowed out of house for school and community service for the next three weeks. Since he was alone Travis risked sneaking out, but there came a knock on the door.

When he opened it a tall man dressed in an Armani suit stood before him. Travis interrogated him, but the man reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. In elegant script it read, Damien Domino, AKD Inc. Travis recognized the logo on back as the symbol of the Midnight Society and got into a defensive stance.

"Explain why you're here or perish."

Damien chuckled and placed his hand on Travis's wrist.

"I see you're wearing Marshall's ring, good. By now I'm sure you're aware with his passing there is a vacancy in the group." Damien quirked his eyebrow and removed his hand, pausing as he did so to notice the bracelet on the teen's wrist. Travis's eyes bounced from Damien to his wrist and he removed the bracelet.

"What makes you think I want any part of your organization? My plans don't require you."

"Yes we've looked them over and they are but the pipe dreams of a babe."

"Then you know those were phase one of a multilevel end game, the details of which are right here," he said tapping his head.

"Bluffing doesn't suit you." Damien dismissed him with a wave of his hand and chuckled to himself.

The whites of Travis's eyes became clouded with flames and he released his Aura. Damien was pushed back and fell to his knees.

"Do you take me for a novice? I am Travis the Hungry, knight of Rose, and vassal to The Cadaver King himself. I am the Prince of Pain, The Wielder of the S-blade, and I will tear your soul apart."

It felt good to give into his darker nature and Travis reveled in it.

Damien picked himself up and clapped.

"Impressive, it took me close to fifty years before I could manifest my Aspect."

A sword like the twisted hoof of a goat appeared and Damien leveled it at him. Travis disappeared in a cloak of shadows and Damien's screams pierced the air.

"Listen well, boy. You trifle with a power beyond your station. For that you will pay," Oblivion said, speaking through Travis, and crushed Damien's Aspect. While the big O was distracted plotting Damien's torture Travis fought back his possession and slipped the bracelet back on.

"No!" Oblivion clung on and refused to be driven back. Weakened from recent events Travis struck a deal. At the time of his choosing Travis would let Oblivion out to cause as much carnage as he wanted. The Old One agreed and let him be, for now.

Travis turned to Damien who was sobbing over the loss of his Aspect. He told him he'd regain its use in time and said goodbye.

"What about the Midnight Society?"

"I'll put it under consideration. Until then any attempt to thwart my plans will be taken as a declaration of war."

Damien nodded and left his card in Travis's pocket.

Travis dug into some left over jerky from the feast and chased it downed with ribs and corn bread. He was on his third plate when there was another knock on the door. Kyle stood before him, hands in his pocket and fidgeting nonstop.

"What brings you here Goldilocks?"

"Cut the prince of snarkness routine. Tommy and the other agents are coming to take you back to the Nursery. I managed to give them the slip, but we don't have much time."

"Lovely, remind me to stock up on lube for the next time the universe decides to screw me.

Kyle giggled then caught himself.

"You're joking at a time like this? Seriously dude, you're majorly boned here."

"Meh, it was bound to happen sometime. At least this way I can steer the outcome in my favor."

Kyle shook head and told Travis he was crazy.

"Not in the slightest bit. And know this, if we go up against each other I'll come at you with everything I have."

"Wouldn't have it any other way, my butt monkey."

Travis laughed and play hit Kyle on the shoulder and then placed him in a head lock.

"OK T Man I can't breathe."

Travis ignored Kyle's plea and turned to Agent Anderson and his men. He told them to stand down and he'd release Kyle. Tommy got them to comply and Travis released the oxygen deprived blond.

"Now that I have your attention, this is how it going to be. You get in your cars and leave, and I don't cave your skulls in, comprende?"

"Easy there Kiddo. You come with us like a nice super powered homicidal maniac, and we won't have to rough up your boyfriend."

Tommy snapped his fingers and a grunt pulled Josh's bound and gagged form into view."

Travis considered teleporting Josh to safety, but didn't want to chance exploding him.

"Update your files. We were never boyfriends, so do whatever you want with him. As for me? I'll come along and let you run your experiments."

Josh was set free and Travis left a note explaining he'd be at Richard's house undergoing testing until further notice. As he and got in the car with Kyle, Tommy and the soldiers they shot him with their tranquilizer guns. As Travis concentrated on deflecting the shots a soldier stuck a needle in the back of his skull and he was out.

***

When Travis came to he was strapped to a gurney and attached to drip of an unknown blue liquid.

"Well Sleeping Beauty here finally decided to join the show. Easy there freak boy, the doc says we can't kill ya. 'Course it'd be too easy what with you pumped full of neutralizer."

The guard laughed and the others joined him. Travis shook his head and tried to think straight. He brought up hid HUD and saw three days had passed. He tested the restraints again. They held, but gave way more this time. Good, he thought, and planned.

"What's a matter? Is the baby gonna cry?"

"Has it ever occurred to you why I came here so easy?"

"Don't make a lick of difference to me. 'Sides act up and you'll get a bit of lead poisoning. Doc says it won't kill ya, so fine by us."

"What's your name soldier?"

"Byron Bellflower, why?"

"So I know what to put on your tombstone."

"You're a real joker, aint he fellas?"

Travis laughed and the other soldiers joined him until he stopped.

"No, what's funny is my healing factor is dynamic. I don't just become stronger after recovering from an injury. My body becomes more impervious to damage."

"Keep squawking and I'll remove your tongue."

"Go right ahead, but here's the kicker. The neutralizer is losing its effect. And while you've been talking, I've been setting you up for the kill."

Flaming hooks sprang from every corner of the room and tore the soldiers apart. With a twitch of his eyes tendrils burst forth from him and Travis was free.

He ripped the IV from his arm and laid waste to the next wave of grunts that entered the room. Travis continued onward carving a path of death in his wake until he got to Agent Anderson and Kyle. He flung the teen against the wall and locked Kyle in place with his mind. Tommy pulled his gun but Travis had him disarmed and pinned to the wall before he got a round off.

"Tell me Tommy boy, ever hear the tale of the scorpion and the frog? The details are unimportant, but the moral of the story is be careful who you pick up."

Travis turned to Kyle and locked lips with him until he passed out.

"Relax, numb nuts is fine. Vivisection always makes me a bit peckish."

Travis strutted around the room, a demented smile plastered on his blood stained face.

"To answer your questions: Yes everyone sans you two is dead. I know this is a holding facility and the Nursery is several miles underground from here. As to why I've kept you alive? A favor to Jenny and so you can deliver a message to your bosses."

"Whatever you want I'll tell them, I swear," Tommy said, daring to speak for the first time since Travis encountered them.

"Come after me again and next time, I won't hold back."

***

It was a quarter to five in the morning when a tapping woke Travis up. He opened his window and was hit with a rock. He looked down and saw Josh bent down to pick up another rock.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Travis said slightly above a whisper.

"Why do you think dumb ass?"

Josh tossed a folder up to Travis and inside was his missed assignments.

"You shouldn't have. I would have got them today anyways, and call the next time you decide to show up at the ass crack of dawn."

"Well excuse me. I was just being a friend. But you wouldn't know the first thing about that. I'm nothing but a means to an end, right?"

"We are not having this conversation. I've dealt with enough crap the past few days without you jumping on my case."

Travis slammed the window shut and went back to bed. Josh didn't let him slide and called him every thirty seconds until he hopped out of the window.

"You wanted me, now speak."

Josh balled up his fists launched a flurry of punches at Travis. With each blow the read head felt more defeated until he stopped and collapsed into Travis's chest.

"Why do you have to be such a dick? What's it going to take to make you realize I love you and you love me?" Josh said through his sobs.

"I care about you but I wouldn't classify it as love."

"Then call me when you know what the fuck I mean to you."

"No wait."

Travis grabbed Josh's wrist and his hand slide down before Josh turned back and stopped. Their fingers intertwined for a brief moment as they stared at each other, longing to close the gap between them. Then the moment broke.

Josh yanked his had away and glared at Travis.

"No, you wait. I'm sick of you treating me like shit. Go find a whore and feed off her because I'm done with you."

Josh left without sparing Travis another glance and it was his turn to hurt. As with everything else he compartmentalized and channeled his pain into the one constant in his life. His rage.

Night after night he went out and fought. It mattered not who or what as long he sated his hunger and left blooded. His favorite victims were the homeless. No one noticed if they got banged up or cared if they disappeared.

He was on the hunt like any other night when three hooded figures ambushed him. The air charged around them as they manifested their Aspects. The first was an ivory spear with serpents coiled along the shaft, followed by a giant ornate key, and the last was a broadsword with a crucifix in the hilt and runes that ran along the blade.

The broad sword user struck and Travis parried with his S-blade. The lancer came under his guard and caught Travis in the gut. The metal seared his flesh and paralyzed him.

"Peter, bind his powers before Patty's spell wears off. Joan, ready the chains and bring the car around."

Michael turned to Travis and shoved a handful of yellow flowers in his mouth and made him swallow them. He coughed and vomited as spasms rippled through his body. The trio placed Travis in their sedan and burned rubber out of there.

Travis came to in a derelict warehouse. He was bound to a chair with chains, but what scared him were the glyphs surrounding him. How could he have been captured by such amateurs?

The chains broke with easy, but even for novices the devil's snare he was trapped in was tough.

Michael approached him, his bald head reflecting the light from a single bulb that swung from the rafter by an extension cord. With a heave of his broad shoulders he hoisted Patty up and pointed it at Travis's heart.

"Whom do you serve demon?"

"News flesh you're not human yourself."

Michael socked Travis in the jaw with his lance.

"Tell me who holds your Faustian contract or I will vanquish you."

"For the record genius, I'm a Cambion. Which means, say it with me, I was born with the soul of a demon."

Travis flexed his power but the trap held. Michael didn't notice anything amiss and continued grilling him.

"Come on. I've felt harder hits from toddlers."

Michael was about to drive his lance through Travis, but Joan stilled his hand and told him to trade places with Peter, who was on watch duty. She tossed her brunette hair and flashed a coy smile at him.

"Be a good boy and tell me who trained you," she said and twirled her hair around her fingers. Travis smirked and made a kissy face at her.

"Try harder sister. Your glamour is pathetic."

Joan's blue eyes became black pits and she drove her sword into his shoulder.

"Did I strike a nerve?" she said with the air of a manic pixie and laughed. Peter watched from the corner with worry written on his face. Most demons they'd encountered had broken by this point. He looked down at his key-blade and begged it to continue holding out.

"It's been fun, but I'll be leaving now."

The devil's snare shattered along with the wards around the warehouse. Peter and Joan rushed Travis, but with a point of his finger they were bound in place. Michael came in and leveled his lance at Travis.

"Let them go and your death will be painless."

"We can whip them out and have a measuring contest, or we can talk."

"I have nothing to discuss with an abomination like you."

Michael crashed into the wall and his lance sailed towards Travis's outstretched hand.

"Then listen. You're Wildlings who learned to tap into your demonic abilities."

Michael nodded and told him to get to the point.

"There are demons far beyond your powers, and trust me, they're not as nice as me. I have use for your talents. Join me and I'll teach you to master your abilities."

"Never!"

Travis slipped his card into Michael's pocket and dropped the lance at his feet.

"Think it over and call me when you've decided. For future reference St. John's Wart doesn't bind a demon's powers. It does make them sick and prevent them from fleeing whatever body they're possessing, but the effects are temporary."

He snapped his fingers and released the trio. Travis flipped off Michael and returned home.

The trio regrouped and left in search of a new headquarters. At Joan's insisted they stopped at St. Joseph's and saw Father Gideon. The portly man was thumbing through an old tome on his cluttered desk when they entered his office. After exchanging pleasantries Michael cut in and explained the situation. Gideon retrieved a hand bound text from his drawer and turned to a page he'd marked with several post-its. He sighed and checked another book bounded in brown leather. The scowl on his face deepened.

"Spill already G," Peter said and drummed his fingers on the desk.

"You see the upper echelon of demons believe in the coming of a dark messiah who will allow them to once again walk among us and usher in a reign of blood and terror."

"Basically he's the Antichrist then?"

"Yes, in a manner of speaking. Do put that down."

Gideon swatted Michael's hand and put the leather bound book back in his drawer.

"What makes you think this...Torin guy is him?" Joan said as she read the name off the business card.

"First he shrugged off your Aspects and obliterated the safe house without breaking a sweat. Then there's the timing of this. The text says the Vessel would emerge around this time."

"OK. Say this kid is the prophesy boy. What are we gonna do about it?"

Peter and Michael agreed with Joan and they argued who would take him out.

"Listen to me! I forbid you from engaging him until after I've spoken with the Order of Light and we've reached a consensus. Is that clear?"

They agreed and left, but Michael vowed the next time he saw Travis they would do battle. Before they retired for the night in their new hideout Michael hugged Joan goodnight and took the first shift of watch duty. When he was sure they were asleep he pulled his cell and called Travis.

***

Phoenix pulled Manasa in for a kiss, but she shoved him away.

"No we must go on trip to another pit," she said in broken English. It was June and the Draccon rainy season was still two years off. Phoenix had added a few new Hebin phrases to his vocabulary, but ultimately it was she who took the initiative to learn English.

In the months since Smilodon's demise they upped their attacks and had multi-million kin bounties on their heads. At Phoenix's insistence Travis set up a make shift electrical grid powered by a fusion generator. At first the pit was scared of the fridge. But they overcame their fear when Phoenix showed them the benefits of the technology.

They traded their tents for simple clay huts and cooled them with fans.

The other pits envied them and attacked to steal their technology. When they discovered the devices were useless it infuriated them. To keep peace Manasa allowed them into camp, for a fee of course.

"Where we off to babe?"

"The Adder plot against us. I wish to make them our friend."

Phoenix shrugged his shoulders and followed her. Manasa walked to a sand dune and whistled. There came a rumbling and from the depths emerged a giant spider with woolly hair and a saddle.

"What's that?"

"Our ride," Manasa said and jumped on its back.

"OK let me contact my brother so he can look after the guys."

After Phoenix and Travis sparred they rode on. Along the way they had to stop because she got sick. Manasa shooed him away and they continued to the Adder pit. Though he didn't let on, Phoenix couldn't shake the feeling something was off.

Nagaraja Adhisheshan greeted them when they arrived and negotiations began after they feasted. They talked long into the night and retired to his tent and nibbled on blue stocks of straw. When Phoenix bit down his mouth flooded with saliva and he spit it out. Manasa's face froze in shock. Adhisheshan flipped over the bowl of sip-sticks and withdrew his Kiba. The scimitar was a red metal and the guard was made of polished black leather that shone in the moonlight.

"He meant no offense my friend." Manasa genuflected before him but, Adhisheshan raised his blade. She pulled her sword and they circled around the tent.

"I thought the point was to make nice? Not off the guy and start a war."

"You're right. I forgot myself for a moment."

Manasa nodded to Phoenix and sheathed her sword. They agreed to continue talks in the morning with the hope their tempers would cool with sleep.

Phoenix kept his mouth shut and ate whatever was placed in front of him without complaint. As a sign of good faith Manasa offered Adhisheshan two bottles of water and in exchange he gave them five Sparassi babies. The spiders were the size of softballs but would reach their full height in a year.

"So it's back home then?" Phoenix approached Manasa's spider and hopped on.

"No we have a job to do."

She told him the Adders had been hit by a rash of mysterious deaths and they suspected her pit was behind them. In order to prevent war Manasa had to capture the culprit.

They set up a stakeout and lay in wait. Two nights in and there was no sign of the intruder. Three more Adders died the night before and Adhisheshan all but accused Manasa of double crossing him. Phoenix checked in with Travis who was on Earth, but his advice to wait it out and sweep the area with psychic radar weren't much help.

They nodded off around dawn and awoke to a commotion coming from a nearby tent. Upon investigation they found a Nekoshin warrior slaughtering the Hebin inside. Manasa drew her sword and charged. Phoenix summoned his axe and flanked her. The warrior flipped the tent and made a run for it.

Phoenix launched a flurry of plasma balls, but the warrior dodged them and fired back with an energy cannon. The pair split up; he went right, and she left. Manasa launched forward and went on the attack. Her blade clipped the Nekoshin's right arm and she followed up with round kick to the chest.

The warrior flipped backwards, but Phoenix was there. He charged forward and they toppled to the ground. They wrestled and threw sand at each other. In the scuffle Phoenix pulled the hood aside and saw the warrior was none other than Margarita, general of the gamma sector. But what was she doing out here?

He didn't have time to ponder this because she blasted him in the face. He saw white then nothing. Manasa used the opening to go on the attack and was winning until Margarita threw a handful of needles at her. She laughed and continued the fight.

Something was wrong. Manasa's muscles ached and she broke out in a cold sweat. Her breath hitched and her head spun.

Margarita laughed then removed a garrote from her waist and strangled her.

"Get away from her you bitch!"

Phoenix brought down his axe and Margarita's tawny and white fur was painted red. She screeched and swept his legs out from under him and rolled on top of Phoenix. From her cleavage she pulled a hooked blade and drove it home. Margarita paused as her knife bounced off the barrier of his vest.

Phoenix released an energy blast at point blank range and sent her soaring into the air.

"Well that's done," he said as his vision faded again. When he checked Manasa she was warm to the touch and passed out.

"Come on stay with me, damn it!"

He shook her but it hand no effect.

Travis, get your ass here. Now!

It was 8pm Earth time and he showed up naked.

"What's so cataclysmic you interrupted me mid-shower?"

"It's another general. She did something to Manasa and now she's sick."

"And that's my problem how?"

"Quit being a dick and help her. You owe me for that time in the alpha sector."

"It was the beta sector. And I wouldn't have needed back up if someone had stuck to the plan and cut off access to the reserve forces."

"We can sort this out later. Make with the science and help her already."

Travis scanned her and was dumbfounded by what he discovered. Phoenix saw the look on his face and lost it.

"What's wrong? Tell me!"

Travis smacked him across the face and Phoenix calmed down.

"She was injected with a poison but will be fine."

"So why did you go all catatonic then?'

"I'm surprised you know that word. Let alone can use it in a sentence."

"Can the lecture and spill already poindexter."

"She has a healing factor."

"Bull, the Hebin don't have those."

"It's not hers."

"What?"

"She's pregnant."

They stared at each other as the knowledge sank in. How was this possible? They were different species and shouldn't have been able to reproduce, yet the child she carried was three months old by the read out on his HUD. Which would place the time of conception...?

"The night we iced Smilodon?" They said in unison.

Before they could speculate future to the nature and paternity of the child, Margarita landed before them and attacked. Together they were no match for her, until Adhisheshan and the Adders joined them. Outnumbered and the light of day on their side her stealth attacks and trickery failed to distract them. After a long battle they prevailed.

Before she died Travis read her mind and found out Vasuki tipped her off to their whereabouts in exchange for the bounty. Unfortunately for him once he gave up their location Margarita disposed of him.

Adhisheshan thanked them for their help and pledged his support to the Nagini in all their future endeavors. Manasa extended the same courtesy and they left. When they were out of sight they teleported back to camp. Travis gave her another once over and the poison had cleared her system but she was starving and ate three times the normal amount of a Hebin.

Manasa's hunger grew with each day until they had to make routine trips to Earth for food and water to sate her. Travis carried on as usual but inside he was petrified. He checked around and resorted to asking Isis, but they all told him the same thing. Such a union wasn't possible and there was no telling what would happen if the child was allowed to come to term.

Travis tried to make them see it his way but Phoenix refused to consider doing such a thing. Every time Travis brought the subject up or questioned who the father was, he and Phoenix fought until they were exhausted. The issue was dropped and they concentrated on the other generals and forming allies.

If Margarita found her way to Draccon it was only a matter of time before the others did as well. If the Nekoshins could find their way to the Hebin home world, what about Earth?

 

Author's note: And the plot thickens. Will the Nekoshins find their way to Earth? Will the child bring doom or is Travis overreacting? Find out in the coming chapters. Until next time keep those comments coming and remember to donate to nifty.