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|This has got to be the most fun I have ever had writing a fight scene. I give you Part IX in all its majesty!|
The quotes in the dialogue that don't sound like my own (I italicized them) are from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. Brilliant stuff I tell you.
Marlowe quotes O, lente, lente, currite noctis equi! from Ovid, and it is latin for, 'O Slowly, slowly, run you horses of the night.' Christopher Marlow and Ovid are both verrrry old, and therefore public domain...just in case anyone was wondering.
She put away the gloves, placing one in each pocket to balance herself, “I’m afraid I can’t give them to you. They have sentimental value, you see.”
“I guess I’ll just have to take them then.”
He took on a fighting pose and raised an eyebrow at her.
She pulled an elastic from around her wrist, appearing nonchalant as she tied the curls away from her face in a messy but effective ponytail. Flipping her hair, she smirked at him and raised her fists.
“Over my dead body.”
“We’ll try and arrange it.”
For a moment as long as eternity they stood stock still, facing each other across the field of lilies. The afternoon sun glared down at them through the glass of the greenhouse, but a line of fans whirred gently along the walls and a cool breeze wisped across their faces, gently fingering their clothes and hair and teasing the stalks of the flowers.
Earsplitting as the gunshot before a race, the hothouse’s misters hissed suddenly and loudly to life. Rook kicked off of the bench behind him, launching himself into the damp air. Despite her sunglasses, Rubix had to squint against the white-hot, rainbow-haloed glare of the sun through the greenhouse glass and mist, but still couldn’t see his shadow against the light until it was almost too late. She caught the black-booted foot of his outstretched leg before it reached her person, but only in the nick of time.
With a dexterous twirl of her wrists that should have broken his ankle Rubix twisted his foot, but he allowed his whole body to move with it in the whirling motion and brought his other leg around in a kick that would have knocked her teeth out had she not bent out of the way and released him.
The battle began in earnest. He moved too quickly for her to even think about drawing her gun or any of her other gadgets, but she was just as fast, or at least fast enough, and neither seemed to gain an edge. As the moments passed in a blur of adrenaline, heat, and color, however, Rubix started to get the bleak impression that despite all she could do, despite all her training, Rook was only toying with her.
With a desperate swipe she and her multicolored nails left five angry scratches on his face, catching the string of his eye patch and snapping it away. She gasped, briefly glimpsing his evil-auraed, black-marble eye before he grabbed her by the arm and wound her around as though in a complicated dance. Quick as lightning he rolled her into him so that she ended up against his heaving chest, her throat uncomfortably lodged in the crook of his elbow.
Her expression remained placid and unyielding as her shrewd, calculating mind went into overdrive. In a matter of nanoseconds she’d figured a simple way out of his hold but didn’t put her escape in motion when she realized that he didn’t intend to throttle her, yet, and curiosity got the better of her.
“Do you believe in the Devil?” he asked in a composed, smooth voice that sent shivers up and down her spine.
She replied in an equally composed voice, though without the maniacal touch to her tone, “I believe there is a Devil. But do I believe in him? No. Try as he might to tear down the world, he will not succeed in the end.”
“But if he can take down just one soul,” he whispered, his deep voice roughening at the edges, “He has already succeeded.” He paused and tightened his hold on her throat, “What fate truly awaits the impenitent sinner? I suppose you are soon to find out.”
Before he could strangle her in earnest she brought her elbow down hard into his ribcage, winding him and breaking his hold so she could turn with a quick upper cut aimed at his jaw. He dodged and swung at her hard, but she back handsprung away, once, twice, and came to a skidding halt with her feet planted firmly in the ground and her fists raised.
“And who are you to know the Devil so well?” she asked, “A sinner yourself?”
“Of course,” he replied, “But we’re good friends, he and I. At least in Hell I’ll have a crown with Satan and stand at his right hand as he whips the likes of you and your precious Gloria.”
“May God have mercy on your soul,” she spat, dashing at him with inhuman speed as she activated the rocket boosters on her boots with a click of her forefinger and thumb nails. A trail of fire burnt a patch of Queen Anne’s lace to ash at her passing, and she leapt toward him. He braced himself, expecting her to use the power of her boosters to ram him, but she deactivated her boots with another cricket clap at the last moment and flipped backwards, kicking him not once but twice as each of her feet made contact with his chin.
He stumbled back and she charged him once more, pummeling him with move after move. It seemed that she had found her edge at last as her attacks began to make solid, undefended contact. She backed him once more into the field of lilies, now glittering with diamond drops of mist, where the glare of the sun on the pure white petals hurt his eyes but did her no harm with her sunglasses to shield her.
He stumbled and nearly fell, apparently weary from his battering, but again she performed her back flip double kick and sent him flying skyward. She jumped to meet him in the air, and grasping the collar of his leather vest in a tight fist, she brought both her feet to his stomach so that for the splittest of seconds she curled in a crouch against him. In that moment of freefall she activated the boots, blasting him to the ground as she flew up into the air. He skidded in a flurry of sparks and leaves and petals.
“You’re free to surrender now,” she called to him cheerily, flipping once in the air and turning to look at him as she hovered, her pistol now clasped in her hands.
Rook lay still amid the waving lilies and laughed, a scorch mark seared across the front of his jacket. A strange shadow began to creep up the outside of the greenhouse in tendrils and the light grew dimmer and dimmer. Panic seized Rubix and she blasted with all her might toward the roof, but the darkness rushed up to meet her and she couldn’t reach the top in time to break through. Blackness deeper than the deepest well, emptier than the night sky without stars, and evil as the eyes of Mephistopheles swallowed her whole.
Something grabbed her from the air and threw her toward the ground. In the brief second that her heels were above her head she saw by the flame of her boots the outline of a dark-winged, humanoid creature. Coupled with the poor lighting it was nigh on impossible to see with her sunglasses on the wrong setting, and when she opened fire she heard breaking glass as she missed her target and shot out a pane above her.
She deactivated her boots before they blasted her into the ground, and landed in a crouch. The darkness pressed upon her like a living, sentient being, trying to suffocate her in its grasp. She almost thought she heard its heartbeat, but discovered this to be her own, and almost thought she heard it breathe, but discovered this to be Rook when he grabbed her from behind in a stranglehold.
“Welcome to Hell, sinner.”
* * *
“Did you find her?” Dark Horse asked, panting as he dashed the last few yards to the boarding house’s front gate.
“No. – the Landlady said she hasn’t seen Hut since she left for work this morning,” Glass Slipper replied, opening the gate and motioning for him to sit with her on a white painted garden bench, “But Dark, I did find this.”
“Do we honestly have time to…?”
“Yes, I think we do.”
She handed him a diary. The ribbon attached to its spine marked only a few pages into it, and it looked new and little used. Dark Horse opened it cautiously. There was something almost sacred about holding that little book in his hand, and he felt a bit awkward and wicked reading it. Yesterday’s date marked the latest entry.
“Dear Diary,” he read aloud, “I think I may have finally discovered who I am, and it’s more farfetched than even I could dream up. I know this is going to sound crazy, but somehow it really resonated with me when I heard it. I am, or was at least, part of some secret society. I was a secret agent! Like James Bond or something…”
Dark Horse stopped and looked up at Slip.
“Read on,” Slip said, waving at the book.
“Michael told me everything. Oh, he told me his name’s not really Michael and that I needed to start calling him ‘Rook.’ And now he calls me Cardboard Hut, since that was, or I suppose is, my codename. Weird codename if you ask me. Anyway, apparently I got kicked out of the agency for something ridiculous…”
The diary went on to detail Rook’s lie, and described her meeting with Shade Darker.
“I can’t even begin to describe how much it hurt when he started prodding around in my head. I imagine it’s how it would feel to be struck by lightning over and over and over again. And I had a bit of a flashback then, which really confirms what Mi…” she’d scratched out the name and written ‘Rook’ above it, “Rook told me. I was floating in something like water, but it couldn’t have been because I wasn’t drowning. And something was zapping me, and it burned so much that I couldn’t breathe, but I must’ve because I was screaming but I couldn’t hear myself. It was so ethereal, but it felt so familiar, like a recurring dream, or nightmare I guess you could say…”
Dark Horse looked up at Glass Slipper and was surprised to see the hardened expression on her face.
“Are you alright?”
“Fine,” she said wiping the beginnings of tears from her eyes, “It’s just hard to hear her say that stuff about the Trauma Factor. I can’t tell you the nightmares I’ve had about watching her go through that.” She took the journal, and read on.
“I could see a lot of people outside the tank I was in. They were a bunch of shadows really, and I couldn’t open my eyes much between these flashes of incredibly white light. There was one shadow in particular that I kept trying to see; a group of three people huddled together. Something told me they were really important to me…”
Dark Horse and Glass Slipper exchanged glances.
“It takes so long to describe all this, but it really only happened in a split second, and it hurt so much that I screamed aloud, and the man reading my mind did too, and Rook broke the connection…”
They went through the rest of the entry together. It was long, and the handwriting sloppier than usual, Hut’s excitement apparent in her run-on sentences.
“And so you see, this ties in perfectly with why those people attacked me at the masquerade and why there were so many people there protecting me. I wonder who my old enemies were. I suppose that’s something I can ask Rook about. Anyway, I’m going with him and those other agents tomorrow morning. They said they needed my mechanical talents for something. I tried explaining that I can’t tell a wrench from a ratchet, but they just looked mysteriously at each other and said that I would understand soon enough. It’s all so exciting!
“Signed, Gloria aka Cardboard Hut,” Glass Slipper finished, closing the diary, “She’s at their base by now I shouldn’t wonder.”
They sat together in a preoccupied silence. Dark Horse spoke first.
“Whatever they need Hut’s talents for, it can’t be good,” he sighed, leaning forward and rubbing the stress out of his forehead.
“But they couldn’t convince her to build anything bad, could they?” Slip posed. When Dark Horse didn’t answer she prodded, “Could they?”
“Probably not,” he said pensively, “But they could convince her that what they need her to build isn’t bad or that their cause is just…”
“Um, no,” Slip interrupted, “You don’t convince someone with a moral compass that building a weapon of mass destruction is for a just cause.”
Dark Horse sighed and stood. “You forget that she’s in love.”
* * *
Cardboard Hut counted the clouds as they flew by her window and wondered how much farther they had to go. Rook had been about to get in the car with them when he saw someone in a long purple trench coat approaching. “I’ll deal with this,” he’d said dramatically, and then to his cohorts, “Take care of her, guys, I’ll meet up with you later.”
She already missed his company. Somehow, though the limo was spacious, she felt stuck in something of a clown car. Her new companions struck her as a bit off, and she longed for a familiar face.
The driver wore a buttercup yellow suit, and she couldn’t be sure, it might be the light, but she thought his skin had a verdant hue. All that coupled with his bouncy pouffe of hair brought to mind a rather seedy dandelion. The man sitting behind him stroked a wretched looking creature and murmured to it nonstop in a language she thought could be Russian. It let out random yowls but otherwise sat twitching silently in his lap. By the window opposite hers, a furry sort of man in a pink and gold tutu kept shooting her something of a glare and had his arm around a familiar woman, who slept against his shoulder. Hut didn’t recognize her without her makeup, otherwise she would wonder what her old “college roommate” was doing here. Hut felt sorry for her but when she asked what had happened to the poor woman and whether she needed a doctor, she received a mysterious and inadequate response.
The only person who seemed to pay any polite sort of attention to her was the man she already knew to call Shade Darker. He introduced her to the others (she had to hide her giggles at a couple of the names), and made civil conversation. She liked his British accent, but had to wonder at the silly, wild western idiosyncrasies he threw in now and again. When she asked him what he meant by it, he grew offended, informed her that he was in fact a cowboy, and refused to speak with her for the rest of the trip.
So she leaned against her window, watching the clouds go by, and wondered when she’d see Rook again.
* * *
Rubix fought back the panic that threatened to cloud her mind. In a matter of seconds Rook had adeptly pushed all the air from her lungs, but she’d trained for this sort of thing. Against all her instincts she forced her tense limbs to relax and go limp. After a few seconds that were breathless eternities to Rubix, Rook laughed. --Not the manic hyena chuckle of Spoon, but a laugh of true amusement, deep and resounding. He threw her to the ground and she resisted the urge to gulp down air, taking in a slow, steady, silent breath that didn’t cause her chest to rise too much as she had by now gotten the distinct impression that Rook could see in the dark.
“Take the gloves,” she heard him command, “and consume her if you wish.” Someone or something bent over her. A feather brushed her face. She tensed. Before who or whatever it was could get too near she lashed out, standing on her hands and twisting so that both her legs helicoptered outward. As her legs made contact time and again in the few seconds she took to pull the move, she realized that more than one something crouched beside her in the dark, though the creatures made no noise to acknowledge their pain. Every nerve tingling in warning, she pushed off from her hands to stand on her feet, and mashed the heat sensory option on her sunglasses.
Now she could see Rook at least. He smiled at her, his teeth a shocking shade of fluorescent orange in his spectrumed visage. Around the missing eye the colors showed cold shades of blue and black, like a great hole in his face. The creatures in the darkness remained difficult to spot, but as she squinted she thought she saw black, amorphous shapes against the expanse of navy blue that was the heat still clinging to the surface of the greenhouse’s glass. With a quick flick of her finger she hit another button on her glasses and switched to night vision, but then the shadows disappeared completely in dark, velvety green. In the split second it took for her to flip back to heat sensory, Rook was upon her, but she quickly recovered. The amorphous shadows remained stationary and silent as the humans launched round two.
None of the fighters she’d combated in the past, not Agent Sudoku, nor Sensei Gyoza, nor even Hut’s TRTBV virtual reality training simulator, and definitely not Dave, could match Rook now. Rubix still clutched her pistol, but couldn’t get a clear shot as her opponent began to show his true mettle in seemingly super-human speed and agility, so she used the gun as a bludgeoning extension of her arm.
After a long bout the two backed away, breathing hard and trying to ignore the sweat dripping into their eyes. Rook recovered soonest and launched himself at her again, so fast, so unpredictable, every move a bolt from the blue. She wasn’t ready to defend herself. – A blow to the chest. – A blow to the face. – Her sunglasses were flying off somewhere in the dark. –He had her by the collar. –He had her off the ground. He hurled her into a row of daffodils, and she skidded, coming to a halt only as she bumped her head painfully against a long table, which teetered and tipped, dumping a number of potted plants with a crash.
Rubix didn’t wait for the throbbing pain in her head to subside; she couldn’t afford the luxury. Aiming blindly, she lifted her pistol and fired round after round as she got to her feet. More panels of glass shattered in the distance, but she couldn’t seem to hit her target.
Click, click; she’d run out of ammo. The sound of Rook’s breathing drew nearer and nearer as he walked unhurriedly toward her, a smirk indubitably plastered on his unseen face.
Beating back the panic, she mashed a button on her multifunction pistol and it sprouted a grappling hook, which she launched behind her, breaking another glass panel before hooking onto the greenhouse’s framework. Pulling once to make sure the rope was taught, she depressed the trigger and found herself flying along the line in the dark, up and away from Rook.
“Ah Faustus, now hast thou but one bare hour to live, and then thou must be damned perpetually.”
His voice came from right beside her where she landed. Resisting the urge to scream she fumbled along the wall and away from him, stubbing her toe on a rake as she went. She knew it was fruitless, knew he watched her efforts with a smug look on his face, but fear drove her onward.
“Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven, that time may cease, and midnight never come!” His tone held a hint of annoyance now.
She stumbled face first into a pyramid of clay flower pots. They crashed around her heavily, leaving not a few gashes on her tremulous frame. On the way down she thought she felt something in the wall ahead of her, something cold and metallic and switchlike. It scratched her face as she fell.
“Ah, half the hour is past! ‘twill all be past anon! “
He snapped his fingers. Something pulled her unsympathetically from the wreckage of pots. It held her arms behind her back and she struggled fruitlessly against her faceless captor, trying to keep her pistol from slipping through her fingers.
“O, lente, lente, currite noctis equi! The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike. The devil will come and Faustus must be damned.”
Rook stood before her now. He struck her hard across the face.
“Oh, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air, or Lucifer will bear thee quick to Hell!”
The rasp of metal on metal ceased Rubix’ struggles as Rook drew a long, serrated knife from a hidden sheath and laughed his deep, amused laugh. She closed her eyes, well aware of what was coming, and tried to think back to training camp. Head Agent Gyoza was making the trainees fight blindfolded. Her opponent was WD-40 with a dull, wooden training dagger. MP3 held her arms behind her back. It was all a game. – All farce.
“O soul, be changed into little water-drops, and fall into the ocean – ne’er be found.” Rook emphasized the last part with a frightening finality, then added, “No, Faustus: curse thyself; curse Lucifer that hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.”
He lunged forward. Rubix felt the whoosh of movement and turned on her heel at the very last moment. The dagger plunged into the monster that held her, and the creature remained voiceless as it released her, dissipating sluggishly into the darkness like slow-motion steam.
Rubix kicked expertly toward the wall, toward where she’d felt the switch, and the florescent lights inside the greenhouse burst to life, throwing Rook and the monsters and every single leaf and flower into sharp relief. Had Rubix the time to be curious she might have stared long and hard at the creatures, which in this light appeared as shadowy as they had to her heat-sensory vision. Flat and dark, like sable tears in the fabric of reality, they flexed their wings as though they could shade themselves from the light, but, of course, a shadow casts no shadow, and this offered them little relief.
“I grow tired of this,” Rook said, flipping the knife skillfully around his hand. The blade was all the more threatening now that she could see it.
“As do I,” she responded flatly.
“Then I’ll have the honor of ending it, shall I?” Rook nodded toward something behind her. The creature made to grab her but she leapt clear. It caught her coat in the process, tearing a huge section of it off and throwing it to Rook, who took it with a smirk.
“The devil will come,” he said again, twirling the blade into the air and catching it by the hilt, “And Faustus must be damned.”
He threw the knife with lethal precision. At that exact moment, Rubix fired the grappling hook. It struck the knife as it spun through the air, reversing its momentum. Rook barely had time to register what had happened before it struck him smack dab in his false eye. The blade glanced off of the marble’s surface, leaving a long white scratch like a crooked cat’s pupil.
Rook cried out in horror, but it was nothing to the sound the hitherto voiceless creatures made. They screeched a cacophony of wordless wails, and turned toward their master with claws outstretched, not in proffered aid, nor in beseeching, but in anger. He looked about the greenhouse in fear for the first time.
“It is not broken!” he cried, “It is not…aaaaugh!”
He fell to his knees. A shockwave blasted through the greenhouse, throwing Rubix and the creatures flat onto their backs. The walls not hitherto broken shattered; the light fixtures burst in showers of sparks. Glass rained down, and the darkness shrouding the outside of the greenhouse rushed in like pure black water or thick, pouring smoke. It passed over Rubix as though she was another flower pot or gardening tool, but it swept the creatures away in an inky maelstrom with Rook at its epicenter.
“NO!” he cried, “THE BARGAIN IS NOT YET BROKEN!”
The Maelstrom froze as though thinking, then rushed in to Rook’s horrified scream. Rook and all the nightmarish shadows disappeared, and sunlight poured in to the ruined greenhouse and on to Rubix’ upturned face as she drew herself shakily from the ground and found herself back in the field of lilies where the shockwave had thrown her.
“Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight, and burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough, that sometime grew within this learnèd man,” Rubix said sadly, looking to the place where Rook had disappeared and then turning her gaze heavenward. A gentle, sunlit rain fell like glittering diamonds from the now red-gold sky, echoing the showers of glass from only minutes before, “Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall, whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise only to wonder at unlawful things, whose deepness doth entice such forward wits to practice more than heavenly power permits.”
She took a step forward, toward the door. She needed to find Dark Horse and Glass Slipper. – needed to tell them all that she had learned. Exhaustion swallowed her, and despite the strength of her will she collapsed into the waving lilies and succumbed to sweet oblivion while the diamond rain glittered and fell, making the flowers dance.
|Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part VII||Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part XV|
|Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part XVI (Final Installment!)||Atalanta and Hippomenes|
|Trench Coats and Love Notes - Part XI A|