Tyler checked his bag to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. It wouldn’t do for him to leave the decidedly unhealthy amount of snacks that Katrina kept preparing for Ethan. He wasn’t sure what she was putting in the damn things, but Ethan should have been grown horizontally instead of vertically. At this rate he’d be look more like a college graduate than Tyler did.
He grabbed his jacket as he headed outside. December in Los Angeles had the tendency to get suddenly cold without warning. Not that today was such a day, it had been dreary and chilly for the past week since Christmas. There was supposed to be a lunar eclipse tonight, but as usually it would be impossible to see thanks to cloud cover. What a happy new year it was looking to be.
Weather be damned, Josh and Ethan’s building was only around the corner and there wasn’t much parking near it.
Somehow he’d timed his arrival for the shift change. It wasn’t the first time. Cpt. Haynes accused him of planning it, but since they never changed shift at anywhere remotely like the same time every day it wasn’t possible.
Cpl. Cavazos was on his way out, but he didn’t seem to be making much headway. He was joking with Haynes as he gave his briefing of the last several hours.
“Ah, the junk food fairy has arrived.” He said spinning around on his stool.
“It’s not all junk food,” Tyler said, “Only like, seventy five percent of it.”
Cavazos arched an eye, “I don’t know what your sister does to them but it’s all junk food after she’s done.”
Tyler laughed, “That’s not Trina, that’s Josh’s policy to cook everything in lard.”
“How do you grill a steak in lard?”
“You put the lard on beforehand, duh.” Tyler countered. Cavazos was becoming a regular at the bar and was bringing in a large police presence with him. Which wasn’t a bad thing, they weren’t exactly located a good neighborhood.
Josh knocked on the doorframe as he stepped in, “Dammit, I don’t pay attention for five minutes and he starts holding wild parties.”
Cpt. Haynes shook his head, “that’s sad if you consider this to be a wild party.”
“Wild for Ethan anyway,” Josh shrugged, “How has he been today?”
“Not in a party mood,” Cpl. Cavazos replied, “hasn’t come out of his room today.”
Tyler took his bags and headed over to the fridge and started unpacking as Josh headed towards the back to see if he could coerce Ethan out of his room.
He was halfway through unpacking when it happened. He could never remember the details exactly afterward.
There was a loud thud and he turned around to see Ethan had shoved Josh against the wall. There was a Josh’s expression was shocked, his eyes wide. Ethan let his father go. His hand had been forced into Josh’s ribcage and when he pulled it out, Josh’s heart came with it.
Somehow there was enough time for Ethan to place the heart in his mouth and swallow it before two hulking figures materialized next to him.
The einherjar each grabbed hold of an arm, twisting them back just to the point of popping. Ethan’s expression held no emotion. When the einherjar stopped, content with their positions, he swung his arms at full strength, slamming both warriors into each other. A secondary flash of energy, burned through the mashed bodies, disintegrating them.
Cacophony of sound reverberated in the small confines of the apartment. Cavazos was attempting to disable, shotting his assault rifle at short range, he hit Ethan at the shoulders and knees. This didn’t seem to perturb him much. He shifted his weight as bones broke and muscles were unable to take the weight of his body, but as fast as the bullets tore through Ethan the damage was repaired.
Cpt. Haynes seemed prepared for this. He pulled his pistol and took a headshot.
The first bullet stopped a half an inch from Ethan’s forehead. The second was stopped sooner, a foot short by a field of energy, but instead of deflecting, like those fields normally caused bullets to do, it shattered both the bullet and the field, lighting up with an arcane symbol Tyler didn’t recognize.
Whatever it was, Ethan realized his danger and dodged the next bullet as it passed where his head had just been. He dove to the ground, gesturing towards Cpt. Haynes as he did. The couch flew across the room crushing both men, but not before two more bullets fired, The first barely nicked him, but the second tore through Ethan’s outstretched hand.
A jolt of energy flashed along the arm towards Ethan’s torso and he let out an unearthly wail of pain as he shook on the ground. He recovered quickly, he stood up inhumanly fast, his right arm dangling uselessly.
With another gesture the couch crashed back across the room. Ethan grabbed Cavazos by the leg and toss him out the window like he was toy doll, not a fully grown man.
He then found the Colt on the ground and unloaded the rest of the bullets into Cpt. Haynes before tossing the gun aside. He knelt down by the disabled, if not dying solider and Tyler heard him tearing Haynes’ shirt off.
And that’s when Tyler regained enough sense to activate the Wards.
Technically, he didn’t know they would do anything. They were supposed to keep demons out, and Ethan was already in the building. The reaction was fairly spectacular.
Runes glowed to life across every wall and even across the now broken window.
Ethan hadn’t been expecting it, entirely intent on Haynes, and the jolted him back for a moment. Vaguely, he looked around, as if unaware of what was going on, but it passed almost as quickly as it began. He leapt through the window and was gone.
For several moments there was no sound.
Josh coughed, “Tyler?”
“Yea?” He answered, slowly walking around the counter to see him. Haynes stared straight up at the ceiling, blood pouring from seemingly everywhere.
“My radio.” Haynes said thickly, “We need to tell him.”
“Right,” Tyler said, spotting it on Haynes hip. He tried to pull it off gently, but it as securely attached to his belt and every movement evoked a gasp from from Haynes.
He got it detached and then looked to Haynes for instruction. “What do I say?”
Haynes was losing focus. Where his skin wasn’t covered in blood, it was pale and he was sweating. “Call to base. Wait for a response, then call code black. Tell them the stars are right.”
Rob stared into the mirror examining his forehead. The new fuzz of hair was barely visible. It wasn’t bad considering it had been less than a week. He even had eyebrows, sort of.
A mote of concentration and the fuzz turned black, but it was wrong. the first fuzz of hair isn’t black, it’s probably dark brown. This resulted in Rob’s hair looking like someone stuck dryer lint on his head. It was a look, but not the look he was going for.
In irritation he made another attempt to manifest an illusion of a full head of hair. once again, it came out cartoon. Too one dimensional, like it had been drawn with markers. It was a kind of surreal look being on a living person, but it wasn’t in any way realistic.
It had never occurred to Rob that he’d just been coloring his hair with his sorcery. He’d started so long ago he couldn’t even remember. It was likely the first enchantment he’d ever crafted, even before the more obvious fire throwing powers he develops when he was around nine. He’d wanted black hair to look more like the Robin and so his hair suddenly became black.
Sure, Eric’s hair was lighter colored – right up until he started dying it black with traditional products but that had been the way to tell them apart for ages. It wasn’t until around the Resurgence they realized Rob’s hair wasn’t naturally black. By then it was iconic and he had trouble not covering it with the minor glamor.
And it was minor. All he did was change the color. He never changed how his hair fell, how it was affected by the wind, it’s length or texture. Thus he discovered he had no idea how to make realistic looking hair.
He’d done all he could to make it grow back too. He thought if he had something to start with he’d be able to fake the rest of it. Either that wasn’t going to work or he needed to grow more and growing hair was tiring, assuming he’d grown anything. Skin, muscles, eyeballs… they were all living parts of his body. Hair wasn’t Hair was already dead the moment it came out and made itself visible.
He sighed, stepping away from the mirror. He had more important things to do than care if someone realized he was blond and therefore make a joke about it.
For example, he still felt nauseous from overcoming his burns. He may have talked it up to Ric, but it had really pushed him to his limits. If he hadn’t come in and distracted Alessa when he had…
The wave of nausea grew and he stumbled back to the bedroom and fell on the mattress. Was he out of shape? It hadn’t been this bad when he got back from Wales.
No, he thought, it was something else. He felt it on the edge of his conciousness. He flipped on the TV, just to drown out the the silence that was banging on his ears for a moment. He’d look up the cause of his distress as soon as he could think again without vomiting.
The new flashed on, a story about the upcoming lunar eclipse. That made him think…
The door opened and Helena stepped in quietly, “Still not feeling well?” she asked.
He didn’t focus on her as he attempted to sit up. “There’s an eclipse tonight.” he mumbled.
She glanced at the TV, “Yeah. People are still impressed by those.”
Rob stood up, stumbled and then let himself fall towards the trashcan that had been left for precisely this purpose. Helena walked around, grabbing a towel for him as she did.
“You need to get back in bed.” She said helping him sit up.
“Can’t” he said, “Eclipse. Stars are right.” he laughed, “It isn’t just a saying you know.”
He watched her reaction. He knew she’d test out to see if any Gate or Portals were being formed. She turned almost as green as he felt.
“When’s the eclipse?” he asked. They’d missed most of the report between the vomiting.
She pulled out her phone and sat on the ground next to him. Rapidly trying to get the phone to cough up the information.
“At eight fifty two.” She answered, “We have plenty of time.”
Rob gasped as a searing pain tore through him. He couldn’t speak, just shook his head.
She didn’t understand. She didn’t know. No one knew. She got up to get things ready. She didn’t see the tears forming.
Rob crawled back to his feet, using the bed. Standing, he shuddered as another wave of agony tore through him. He fell, but Ric caught him.
“Dear God,” Rob said, “Why does this hurt so much?”
Ric didn’t answer, he just stared at him in a mixture of horror and amazement, “He knew.”
“Yeah, he’s a giant dick.” Rob said gritting his teeth through the pain, “He knew someone would have to die for months.”
Ric picked him up and shoved him back on to the bed, “What was the intention when you did this?”
“Wards. People he helped. Need to keep them running for longer,” Rob replied.
“Oh, you know. One or two-” he gasped in pain, “hundred or so.”
Helena stared at him helplessly, “Is it supposed to hurt this much?”
Rob jolted a final time and began breathing normally.
“I’m good.” he murmured.
Ric frowned, “You don’t look good,” he commented, “And I’m not talking about your physical appearance.”
Rob gingerly sat up and climbed out of the bed, “Well, I just felt someone I had bonded with on a spiritual level die and then someone activated the Wards on Ethan’s apartment before I really had control over them. It was kind of like having my arm ripped out of it’s socket.”
Helena’s cellphone began ringing, she stepped away answering it. Her expression confirmed what Rob already knew.
He swallowed, “Who’s dead?”
“Only Josh.” Ric answered, “The others remain alive for now.”
Helena hung up, “Cavazos is concussed. Ethan threw him through a window. Haynes was shot multiple times with his own gun. He might bleed out before he even gets into surgery. Tyler’s with him.”
“What was Tyler doing there?” Rob asked.
“He was dropping off food.” She said, “He was the one that activated the Wards. Ethan never noticed him. He thinks he reflexively did some veiling Josh taught him to help out with stake outs.”
Ric frowned, “What do we do now? Ethan’s fully possessed and out on the town.”
“We figure out where he’s going to be.” Rob said.
“How? He could be anywhere.”
Rob shook his head, “That was before we knew the stars were right, He needs to open a Gate. A massive portal that will spell Hell on Earth. He needs energy for that.”
Ric blinked, “Oh. I guess we do know where he’s going then, don’t we?”