We Didn't Start the Fire
Disclaimer: I do not own G.I. Joe, Kingdom Hearts 2, or Charmed or any of the other recognizable franchises that will appear in this fic. The character of Bryce Anthony Lightfoot, CIA Special Activities Division, is my creation however.
This story takes place around the timeline of my Misfits fics, The Coming of the Foe, Meet the Incredibles, and Facility Kronos. I was inspired by a recent trip to Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. This ties into my Misfit storyline, taking place at the same time of the story Facility Kronos.
Northern Mexico, 1530 Local Time: The hot sun beat down on the patrol as it snaked through the northern desert. The patrol of a dozen men took a break, sitting hidden in an arroyo sipping water, changing socks, or eating bites of rations.
Lt. Vince Falcone watched the patrol, seeing the Mexican soldados setting up a perimeter, taking turns on the watch and nodded approvingly. So far no signs of any COBRA activity, despite reports to the contrary. After six days into an eight day Long Range Reconaissance Patrol (LRRP) he felt tired and dirty, feeling dirt in every possible fold of his body. He glanced to his left, noticing one of the four CIA paramilitaries that were helping the Joe detachment train soldiers of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Mexican Infantry Division's reconnaissance company.
The recon platoon was searching for signs of activity from the Barillo Cartel, thought to have been destroyed Once Upon a Time in Mexico, but apparently rising again. Rumors of some weird creatures lurking in the hinterlands of Northern Mexico and of some bizarre chemical called 'The Serum' together with the sighting of the Dreadnocks had conspired to send Falcon, Duke, and Footloose down to Mexico.
Bryce Anthony Lightfoot sat on top of a large flat rock, his AK-47 rifle less than an arm's length from his right leg, glanced at the G.I. Joe operative named Footloose and nodded in acknowledgement before taking a long slug of water from his canteen. Aside from the ChiCom (Chinese Communist) chest webbing containing his magazines and the AK-47 he resembled any civilian hiker from head to toe, clad as he was in jeans, a gray Salt Life t-shirt and well broken in Montrail hiking boots.
Bryce took a small bottle from his pack as Footloose took a seat on the rock.
"What've you got there, spook?" Footloose asked.
"Some hot sauce I picked up in El Paso before we got down here." Bryce replied.
"Pretty good stuff?" Footloose said.
"Hell, I bet it'll eat a hole through this rock." Bryce joked.
"I only imagine what it's doing to your intestines." Footloose replied.
"I honestly don't want to know." Bryce replied with a low whisper, as he poured the sauce onto the bread and began to eat it.
"Any reason you carry that thing?" Footloose asked, asking about the AK-47.
"The Glocks they gave us for operations down here won't cut it, especially with the firepower the Barillo Cartel's starting to carry around." Bryce replied.
Falcon made a hand signal and Footloose said, "Looks like we gotta get moving again."
"Shit." Bryce grumbled as he hurriedly munched down the rest of his meal.
Footloose grabbed his M203 after refastening his webbing and rucksack. Bryce grabbed his rifle and his own civilian backpack as the patrol began to fall into a column formation, traveling out of the arroyo.
The dense mesquite forest ahead of them provided plenty of cover for the patrol, and for any contacts they might encounter. The point man, Corporal Cruz, with a 12-gauge shotgun in his hands looked around, the tangled brush tearing at his fatigues.
Behind him Bryce kept his thumb on the safety of his AK, waiting to flick the safety to the fire position in case the point man ran into any trouble. In dense terrain such as a mesquite forest, contacts could just jump out at close range. He was glad that Cruz was competent with the weapon, despite the man's small stature and the M500 shotgun's sturdy kick.
Falcon and Footloose, as the other advisors were in the middle and rear of the column respectively. A Mexican second lieutenant, Angel Goya, was technically in command of this patrol. He was standing fourth in the formation, glancing behind him every few steps to make sure that the column was staying together.
Just then Cruz fired his shotgun. "Contact front!"
The patrol dispersed and hit the ground just as a creature that had once been human staggered backward under the impact of a shotgun blast. The creature's eyes glowed yellow, most of the skin on it's body was midnight black and strange black antennae protruded from it's forehead, its hands had formed into strange, twisted claws. A huge hole just below the heart had just been torn in its chest, revealing lacerated viscera. It only sent the creature down to one knee.
Then a deranged howl ripped from the throat of the creature. The creature charged forward. Bryce leveled his Kalashnikov and squeezed the trigger on full automatic, hitting the creature in the head and torso with numerous 7.62mm rounds. The creature shook violently before collapsing to the ground.
"What the hell is that?" Falcon growled.
"The demons we've been facing, Teniente." Cruz replied, scanning the mesquite for any more creatures.
Jesus Christ. Bryce thought. A creature that can take a fatal shotgun blast and barely be stopped? Those reports we were getting from the Mexico station were true?
"Where the hell are these things coming from?" Falcon demanded of the CIA paramilitary officer.
"According to our reports, they're coming from the Barillo cartel hideaways." Bryce replied, as he took the mostly empty magazine from his webbing, and put a new magazine into his AK.
More gunfire, but it didn't come from the patrol. It came from the left of the patrol's position. The patrol fired back.
"Bryce stand by!" Footloose said.
Footloose stood up, running towards the gunfire, Bryce at his heels. Both men took some cover and began firing. Falcon fired a 40mm grenade from his 203, sending a bomb into the midst of two Cartel gunmen, killing them outright.
In pairs the rest of the patrol followed, Cruz and Montoya came next, running, taking positions behind cover and returning fire.
In pairs the patrol advanced, leapfrogging towards the threat, changing magazines on the run, the others providing a base of fire. The fire from the relatively undisciplined Cartel gunmen began to lessen and several of them fled.
"Assault through! Assault through!" Montoya shouted. Immediately the patrol all stood up, weapons at the ready, safeties off, rounds in chambers as they advanced past the enemy position.
"Casualties? Ammo? Equipment?" Falcon called.
Reports came back up the line. Ammo, casualties and equipment were relatively good. A groan sounded just then.
"We got a live one." Footloose began.
Already the patrol was searching the dead gunmen's pockets for documents and money. Falcon inwardly frowned as several of Montoya's men began taking money from the dead Cartel members and stuffing it into their cargo pockets. He made a mental note to chat with Montoya about his men looting enemy corpses later on.
Private Hurtado, the patrol medic, was refusing to treat the Cartel member. The CIA paramilitary, Bryce, was talking to him.
"Senor Lightfoot, these people have been terrorizing the area for years. My own parents were forced to give over a percentage of my income to these pendejos every year. Simple farmers extorted for food, vehicles, shelter…" Hurtado replied, "Leave him for the rats."
"Information. We need information, and this prick has to be alive for us to get that information." Bryce replied.
"How much do you think this bato knows?" Hurtado replied.
"Nothing if you don't treat him." Bryce replied, "Whatever we can glean from him will give us information keep these 'pendejos' from terrorizing your country."
Hurtado grumbled before treating the man, who was a boy no older than sixteen. Bryce made sure the boy's weapon was out of arm's distance.
"Lo sa Heartless…" the boy muttered.
"What's he saying?" Footloose asked.
"Let's get ready to travel." Falcon said, as the patrol began to exfiltrate towards friendly territory.
At the Mexican army base, Falcon turned to Bryce, "Any intel from that kid we picked up on the patrol?"
"I'm about to interrogate him right now." Bryce replied, as he began to put his AK back together after having cleaned it, "He wasn't in any state to talk, he was muttering about something called Heartless for the trip."
"I'll go with you." Falcon replied.
The two men walked across the compound to the infirmary. The wounded boy lay propped up, an IV in his arm.
"Buenos noches." Bryce began in Spanish, "What was that creature that attacked our patrol?"
"El demonio…el demonio…" The boy replied.
"Demon?" Falcon began.
"He was muttering about that the whole trip back." Bryce replied.
"¿Qué demonio?" Bryce replied.
The boy groaned in pain. Bryce asked, "¿De dónde vino el demonio?"
"Fue un hombre una vez..." The boy replied.
"What?" Falcon asked, his Spanish was a bit rusty, he spent a while at DLI learning Arabic and Afghan dialects, and his Spanish had fallen by the wayside.
"He was saying it was once a man, once human." Bryce replied.
"Who was he?" Falcon asked.
"¿Quién fue él?" Bryce asked.
"El tomó el suero..." The boy replied.
"He took something called the Serum." Bryce replied.
"What is the serum?" Falcon asked.
"¿Qué es el suero?" Bryce asked the boy.
"El suero hace a hombres en demonios." The boy asked.
"Whatever this serum is it turns men into demons." Bryce replied.
"Where does this serum come from?" Falcon asked.
"¿Dónde viene este suero de?" Bryce asked.
"Puedo no...Ansem me matará..." The boy began.
"Ansem?" Falcon asked, "Who is Ansem?"
"¿Quién es Ansem?" Bryce asked.
"Puedo no...Ansem me matará..." The boy repeated, with more emphasis.
"What…" Falcon began.
"He can't say, Ansem will kill him." Bryce replied.
"Tell him he's safe from Ansem here." Falcon replied.
"Usted es Ansem a salvo de aquí." Bryce replied, trying to reassure him. Meanwhile Falcon was writing the word Ansem with a big question mark on his notepad.
"Yo no soy Ansem a salvo de dondequiera...Yo no es a salvo del Cártel pero Ansem." The boy replied.
"He's scared shitless of this Ansem guy, that's all I'm getting out of him. He's less afraid of the Cartel knowing he's talked to us." Bryce began.
"Tell him we'll protect him from this Ansem." Falcon replied.
"Nosotros le podemos proteger de Ansem." Bryce translated.
"Nadie me puede proteger. ..No que uno puede proteger usted cuando Ansem quiere matado." The prisoner insisted, "Por favor no me pregunte ya pregunto. He dicho demasiado."
"He's claiming that no one can protect him, that if Ansem wants him dead he's as good as dead. He's not talking." Bryce replied.
Falcon was about to reply when the boy let out a strangled gasp and arched his back. "Medic!" Falcon shouted.
Antennae appeared in the boy's forehead, his eyes began to glow yellow as his skin began to become black as night. His body shrunk to about four and a half feet. Standing atop the table a Heartless stood, its claws extended, ready to leap towards the two men.
Instantly Bryce drew his Glock 17 9mm handgun and began shooting steadily, hitting the creature between the eyes, just above where its nose used to be and the throat and chest. The Heartless lay dead, black blood oozing from half a dozen wounds.
"What the hell!?" Bryce demanded, his smoking Glock still aimed at the Heartless, in case the creature were to rise and kill him.
"Ansem." Falcon replied, "Whoever he is. Somehow the kid was right."
Sometime later, when Falcon had headed to the radio room to contact the states and Bryce had already transmitted his report to Langley, the latter wandered out into the compound with his backpack, rifle, and webbing.
"God damn it." Bryce grumbled and kicked a nearby stone. He was a goddamn kid, a teenager. Someone whose worries should've included school and what that cute girl in math class thought about him. He of all people didn't deserve to be dead.
"Can't win 'em all, kid." Tucker Robertson said as he came around the nearest corner. A former Navy Operation's Specialist, the salt and pepper bearded Tucker was one of Clandestine Services most aggressive field commanders.
Bryce bristled. He resented being called kid, being just shy of his twenty-ninth birthday. "I thought we were getting closer to where this damn Serum is coming from, or how they synthesize it. For once we got a live prisoner."
"But he turned into a Heartless, I know." Tucker said, "I could hear you killing it."
"I'm going to go walk around the perimeter." Bryce said, "I need to clear my head."
"See me when you get back." Tucker said.
Bryce nodded as he walked the perimeter of the camp, nodding in acknowledgement at two Mexican soldiers that passed him. He kept walking while keeping the fence line, a twelve foot high chain link fence with several spools of barbed wire on top of it, in sight.
Bryce walked past an area he knew was a blind spot for the two guard towers, checking for any signs of excavation or attempts to infiltrate the perimeter.
"Good evening." Came a voice.
Bryce turned suddenly and saw a man wearing a bluish black suit jacket and trousers with a white collared shirt with the top button unbuttoned and no tie. "Who the hell are you?" Bryce demanded.
"Bryce Lightfoot, right. Or is it Bryce Anthony Lightfoot." The man said.
"Did Langley send you over here?" Bryce demanded.
"No, I have no connection whatsoever with the Central Intelligence Agency, or any of maybe a dozen other agencies on your mind right now." The man replied.
Bryce was about to reply when the man replied, "How rude of me, I forgot to introduce myself. Cole Turner…"
"And who do you work for, Cole Turner?" Bryce replied, "And if Langley didn't send you, how the hell do you know my name?"
"I don't work for the Cartels either, Mr. Lightfoot." Cole replied, "But I know you quite well. You work for the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division, you've been an operator for a year. Before that you spent five years in the U.S. Army with the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. Your last billet was a company commander. Though I can't quite fathom why a Navy man would want to join an Army unit."
"That's enough." Bryce began, reaching for his rifle.
Cole acted as if the AK wasn't pointed solidly at his center of mass, "Before that you spent two years in the United States Navy as a surface warfare officer, two very unfulfilling and frustrating years after graduation from the Naval Academy…"
Bryce tried not to let the fear show. Whoever this Cole guy was, his information was damn good, almost a hundred percent accurate. "How'd you find that out? That's not exactly common knowledge." Bryce replied. Almost my ass, its almost as if he's known me my whole life.
"Let's just say I have more than a little knowledge about you and leave it at that." Cole replied.
"Your sources are good. I'll have to remind Langley to look for a mole or two." Bryce challenged.
"My sources aren't at Langley. They're in fact far superior to anyone Langley can bring up." Cole replied.
"Who, or what the hell are you?" Bryce replied.
"Go ahead and ask your superiors to look for a mole at Langley…" Cole said, in a somewhat dangerous tone, "If you survive the task before you."
"What task?" Bryce demanded.
"In due time, Bryce…" Cole replied, closing his eyes and gesturing, "Ex is universitas abolesco."
Bryce's view of the world expanded and contracted, as if the scene before him were some obscene painting stretching and contracting. The world spun crazily before him, spinning like some demented amusement park ride before he blacked out…
San Francisco: Samantha Julia Grayson took a cursory glance at what she'd had to wear that day. White satin blouse and a short, and tightly hip-hugging, black skirt with matching black hose and high-heeled pumps. A simple yet tasteful outfit worn in anticipation of dinner with her old college roommates, Amanda Walker and Lauren Callahan, who were flying in later that night. Not to mention Tyler…Amanda thought. God, I haven't seen him since graduation six months ago.
She thought about Tyler McManaway, finishing out his senior year at North Western University. Lauren and Amanda spilled the beans. Tyler was planning to visit her by surprise, but Lauren accidentally spilled the beans. God that is so sweet. I'll act surprised and then…Shit, I'm late…Elyse is gonna kill me…
Samantha grabbed her keys and her black leather attaché bag and practically ran out of her apartment, barely caught the elevator in time, and practically broke every speed limit in the city before she got to the Bay Mirror.
She walked into the building and practically collided with Phoebe Halliwell. "Oh…oh my God, I'm sorry." Samantha stammered as a shower of papers and stationary flew everywhere.
"Feeling a bit rushed." Phoebe said, gently.
"I got a little bit on my mind." Samantha replied.
"I can tell." Phoebe said, remembering that the young woman was the new girl at the place, "Samantha, right?"
"Yeah." Samantha smiled shyly, "Sorry about your papers, I'm in a bit of rush."
"The fashion show?" Phoebe said.
"You know it." Samantha replied.
"You're not late." Phoebe replied, "And besides, I've had my share of near misses around here. Besides, I wasn't going anywhere without you."
"Thanks." Samantha replied, "When do you want to leave."
"As soon as you're ready." Phoebe replied.
"Do you mind if I go to the restroom first?" Samantha asked.
"Not at all." Phoebe replied.
Samantha went to the women's bathroom and turned on the sink. She froze in her steps. Standing behind her was a man, casually dressed, without a tie. "Can I help you?" Samantha asked.
"As a matter of fact you may." Cole replied, "Or can I help you."
"What are you talking about?"
"Samantha Grayson." Cole replied, "Nice outfit by the way, you have wonderful taste, I can see why Elyse had you follow the fashion show. So how does it feel to be the new girl from the Midwest at the big city?"
"OK, you're starting to creep me out…" Samantha began.
Cole acted as though he hadn't even heard her, "You graduated from Northwestern University, six months ago with a degree in journalism. You're seeing their star quarterback, who is flying in with your two old roommates. By the way, I'd dump him if I was you…"
"How do you know all this? Are you stalking me?" Samantha began.
"In a way." Cole replied.
"Listen you, you've got about five minutes before I call security…" Samantha began.
"I don't think a fat old man really poses any threat to me, nightstick or not. Personally I think he carries that stick to compensate for a deficiency." Cole began.
"What do you want?" Samantha began.
"What do I want? A favor." Cole replied.
"I really don't have the time for this…" Samantha replied. Note to self, try and stomp on his foot if he gets any closer, followed by a knee into the groin.
"Really Miss Grayson, is that any way to treat a new friend." Cole replied.
"Who says we're friends?" Samantha replied.
"Where you're going, I'm the closest thing to a friend you're going to have." Cole began.
"Wait? WHAT!?" Samantha began. Cole put a finger on her lips.
Cole closed his eyes and began chanting, "Ex is universitas abolesco."
Samantha felt like she'd been sucker punched in the stomach and simultaneously thrown onto a roller coaster. She felt her stomach rise into her chest, her heart and lungs wanting to invade her neck, her head wanting to fly to pieces before blackness enveloped her.
Just then Phoebe walked into the ladies room. She saw no sign of anyone in there, especially not the new girl. "Samantha?" Phoebe asked.
But there was not a sound to mark the woman's presence. Little did Phoebe know she was not alone in the room. "She that doth teach the stars to burn bright…" Cole said to no-one in particular. Cole knew she would never know he was here. He had developed a way to prevent her from perceiving him through either empathy or premonition.
Phoebe was about to leave when she spied the sink was still on. She touched the spigot to turn it off when she felt a premonition come on.
She was seeing things through Samantha's eyes, feeling what Samantha was feeling. She could see him, a large, massive fellow, six and a half feet tall, hideously over muscled. He was clad in a pair of torn trousers and the top hat he wore was something straight out of a nineteenth century Victorian romance novel. He lifted Samantha onto one massive shoulder and carried her off…
"Oh my God…" Phoebe said, with sure fingers she grabbed her cell phone and began to dial a number, "Piper, we have a demon."
"Just great!" Piper could be heard over the line.
"Woo woo woo woo woo!"
"KLONDIKE(1) GET BACK HERE! NOW!"
"Woo woo woo woo woo!"
"First a gray furred wooing menace, and now a demon! What else can go wrong?" Piper asked.
"Piper, I have a feeling you might not want to ask that question." Phoebe replied.
"When did you last see him?" Falcon asked.
"Fifteen minutes ago, Teniente." PFC Jimnez began, "He was heading to the blind spot in the fence."
"Do you think the Cartels got him?" Pathfinder asked.
"If that was the case, we'd have heard sounds of fighting. Bryce is pretty hard to sneak up on." Tucker replied.
"We'll start a search party; if he's alive we'll find him." Ambush began.
If I had known I was going to be traveling through some bog I'd have worn boots instead of these damn pumps. Samantha thought as she lifted her foot out of some ooze.
Where the hell am I? Samantha thought.
She wrinkled her nose at the scent of the bog. It smelled only slightly worse than the country landfill. As she looked around she heard something moving in the brush nearby.
"Hello?" Samantha said, hoping to God it was a person.
Things live in swamps, right? Alligators? Crocodiles? Big nasty cats? Great. Less than one week as a reporter and not only am I fired I'm also the swampland's Blue Plate Special…Samantha thought.
Just then a creature not like anything she'd ever seen before jumped out of the brush, landing where she had just been standing several seconds earlier. It stood about six feet tall, with elongated, thin, yet unmistakably strong arms and legs. Its skin was a pale gray and it didn't seem to have eyes, just a gaping maw of a mouth.
Samantha backpedaled only to run into another creature just like the first. She narrowly avoided being bear hugged by the thing and ran, only to stop just short of a third creature. She was surrounded. Trapped. Three of these strange gray monsters were around her. She did the only thing she could do. She let out a scream, knowing with absolute certainty these gray monsters were going to be the only things that could hear her.
An inhuman roar answered her scream and the monster closest to her was tackled from the flanks by a large, humanoid shape. The thing twisted the monster's neck and Samantha heard the sound of a spine fracturing.
The other two gray monsters attacked the beast that ambushed them. The beast roared and turned and Samantha got her first good, if brief, look. The attacker stood about six and a half feet tall, with mass and musculature that a champion weightlifter would envy and the strength to match. The only article the man wore was a pair of torn suit trousers and the ragged remnants of a suit jacket together with a muddy old top hat. A glowing cigar was clutched between yellowed and crooked teeth.
The gray monsters let out a shriek in unison and charged towards the man. He grabbed one monster by the neck and jammed his cigar into it's face before grabbing the second monster. Their arms and legs wrapped around the strongman like tentacles, but he started tying them in knots and snapping bones, stomping on the head of first one monster and then the other.
"Stay the bloody hell out of my swamp!" The beast yelled with a British accent.
Samantha was too shocked to speak. "Who the–? What the hell…"
"Who the 'ell are you?" The beast demanded.
"Samantha, Samantha Grayson…Thanks for saving me…"
"I wasn't bloody saving you." The beast replied, approaching her menacingly, "I'm warning you, get the 'ell out of my swamp. Property of one Mr. Edward Hyde. I only want to be alone."
"But there could be more of them…" Samantha replied.
"Not my bloody problem." The beast replied, "Now get the 'ell out of my swamp! I've 'ad enough of a problem with those Nobodies…"
"Those what?" Samantha asked, "Please, don't kill me Mr. Hyde, just tell me what the hell is going on, where the hell I am…"
"You're encroaching on me territory, that's what." The beast replied, "You and all the rest are just as bad as those bloody Nobodies I just killed."
"Then help me. Help me get out of your territory and I won't bother you." Samantha replied, "Please…"
"Very well." The beast replied, "Right this way…"
Samantha followed the hulking thing down the path when more of those Nobodies jumped, taking Mr. Hyde completely by surprise. There were more than half a dozen of them, and they pinned Hyde down with their collective weight. A seventh Nobody grabbed Samantha, pinning her against a tree…
Meanwhile Bryce Lightfoot was trying to get his bearings. His GPS wasn't reading anything so he'd thrown it into his Camelbak. He took the compass from his webbing and took out a map. There was not a damned thing here that he recognized and he fought the urge to throw his compass against the nearest tree out of sheer frustration.
He heard the sound of a woman screaming just over nearby hill. He stuffed the map back into it's case, running over the hill. He saw a petite young woman being attacked by a gray contortionist type monster and a hulking mass of a man being attacked by about six more.
Bryce shouldered the AK-47, taking aim at the creature attacking the woman before squeezing off a short burst of gunfire.
Samantha felt the tendrils of the gray monster around her body, wrapping around her, she felt her vision narrow as they wrapped around her neck…This is it…
The sound of gunfire could be heard and the pressure around her neck subsided. Grayish blood spattered onto the foliage and the Nobody lay in a pool of its own blood. She saw a man, wearing jeans, a gray t-shirt, and hiking boots, moving down the hill, aiming at the other Nobodies with an AK-47 assault rifle.
His weapon spoke again and another Nobody fell, body punctured by a dozen bullets. The man moved, drew beads on the creatures and squeezed off short, controlled bursts. She heard a click of a chamber emptying as two of the Nobodies that were on top of Mr. Hyde turned towards the gunman.
Bryce saw two creatures heading his way, as the magazine of his AK went dry. There was no time to reload. Damn those bastards can move. Bryce thought. He reached to his side with his right hand as he flung the AK, on a tactical sling, aside with his left. He pulled the Glock 17C from the holster swiftly, flicking the safety off as he punched it out in front of him. The creatures were getting closer.
BLAM BLAM BLAM
Bryce sent three 9mm rounds into the chest and head of the first monster, causing it to fall forward and tumble on its own momentum. He shifted his aim point and fired again…
BLAM BLAM BLAM
The second monster took two rounds into the chest and a third into the throat. It fell twitching on the ground. Not skipping a beat Bryce fired a single 9mm round into the center of the monster's forehead, obliterating its brain from less than two feet away.
Meanwhile Mr. Hyde got back onto his feet, a Nobody still tangled around his limbs and torso, it was still clinging to his back. A solution was directly behind him. He ran full tilt, backward into the nearest tree, and crashed against it again and again before disentangling himself and wrapping the Nobody around the tree.
Bryce helped the woman to her feet, "You injured?"
Samantha checked herself, and shook her head, "I'm fine. Thanks."
"You're welcome." Bryce replied.
"Oi! Wanker! Who the bloody hell are you? Get the 'ell out of my swamp!" Hyde demanded, "All I wanted was to be alone, but no, first the lass and now you."
"I was on my way out." Bryce snapped back, aiming his Glock downward, but prepared to bring it up on the hulking beast.
"Get out before you regret it…" Hyde replied.
"As soon as I get my bearings." Bryce replied evenly.
Hyde stepped towards Bryce and shoved Samantha out of the way, ready to pounce. Bryce aimed the Glock at Hyde.
Samantha knew one thing at the moment. She was hot, thirsty, tired, and scared. She was also determined to get the hell out of the swamp. "WILL YOU TWO ACT LIKE ADULTS!" She shouted.
Both men turned.
"That's better." Samantha replied, "Mr. Hyde, it's obvious this guy didn't mean you any harm, he just saved our lives…"
"Oi, I only agreed to help you find your way out of the swamp, not this wanker." Hyde replied.
"And you," Samantha gestured to Bryce, "Thanks for saving us, Mr. Hyde was just a little concerned that you might be a threat."
"Well, be sure to tell your oversized boyfriend I mean him no harm." Bryce quipped.
"First of all, we've only just met. And second of all, he's not my type Mister…" Samantha began.
"Is that like Cher?" Samantha replied, "Am I supposed to recognize the name Bryce."
"Bryce Lightfoot." Bryce replied, holstering the Glock.
"Samantha Grayson. OK, now we can get to finding our way out of this swamp." Samantha replied.
"Sounds good to me." Bryce replied, "It looks like our friend might know the way out. Think you can lead us out of here."
"I'm not turning my back on you for one second, wanker." Hyde replied.
"Likewise." Bryce replied, and gestured towards the swamp, "After you."
"No, after you." Hyde replied.
Samantha busily dug into her handbag and took out a penny. "Call it. Heads or tails."
"Heads." Bryce began, as he reloaded his AK-47 and chambered a round.
"Tails." Mr. Hyde replied.
Samantha flicked the coin into the air and it landed on the ground. Tails. "It looks like you're leading us, Bryce."
Bryce didn't say anything as Hyde pointed in a direction. He immediately began to get moving, dodging around trees and fallen logs with almost monkey-like swiftness.
"Will you slow down, not all of us are commando types." Samantha said.
Mr. Hyde hung back, keeping an eye on the two newcomers. His eyes moved to the female of the pair. Such a lovely lass. 'aven't seen one of those in a long time, since I decided to go into isolation. It would be so easy to just grab her and take her deep into the thickets. The bloke in front won't even be able to react in time.
Another voice insisted in Hyde's head. But you went into this swamp for the sole purpose of avoiding problems with mankind. You promised all you would do was lead them out of this swamp.
What the hell do you know? This is our swamp, and nobody knows these two are even around. Just kill the bloke and take that little strumpet...The first voice insisted.
No. She's a lady, not a common whore to take advantage of. Leave her be. The second voice argued.
Grumbling, Mr. Hyde continued to lead the newcomers out of the swamp until they reached what looked like an Arabian bazaar built upon crumbling ruins.
"Where the hell is this place?" Bryce asked.
"How the hell should I know?" Hyde began.
"Look all I know is some ass clown sent me here…" Bryce began.
"Ah, I thought you two would never make it out of the swamp." Cole began.
"YOU!" Bryce and Samantha declared simultaneously and Bryce leveled his assault rifle at Cole, squeezing the trigger. The bullet passed right through him, as Cole put his hand on his mouth in an exaggerated yawn.
"What the hell are you?" Bryce asked.
"As I said, someone not of your world." Cole began, "Pretty impressive for a quote 'ass clown' unquote."
"Where are we?" Samantha asked.
"You're currently on the outskirts of Mr. Hyde's swamp, near the Port of Entry for the Five Islands." Cole began, "Not the most agreeable creature alive."
"At least my hideousness is on the outside, not on the inside, Belthazor!" Hyde snapped.
"Must we bring up the unpleasant past?" Cole replied.
"Past?" Samantha asked, "You two know each other?"
"More like acquaintances." Cole replied, "I fulfilled your wish, Mr. Hyde, to be removed from humanity…"
"A fat lot of good that did!" Hyde replied, "You send these two into the middle of my swamp, and those bloody Nobodies!"
"The lady and the right wing gunslinger were sent into your swamp by me, yes. The Nobodies. No." Cole replied.
"Why should we believe you?" Samantha replied, "You kidnapped us…"
"For a good reason." Cole replied as the trio headed into the bazaar, which seemed empty of all life.
"And what would that good reason be, hmm…" Bryce demanded.
"First of all, you've already determined you can't kill me. Second of all…ah speak of the devil." Cole began.
A specter came from behind a crumbling stone wall. It was a woman, fair complexioned, with dark hair and dark eyes, wearing garments that identified her as a courtesan of Medieval Arabia.
"I am Scheherazade, the Guardian of the Five Islands. I assure you, Mr. Hyde, Bryce, Samantha, neither I nor Cole means you any harm." Scheherazade began, "But we need your help."
"And what help do you need?" Samantha asked.
"Your world is beset by a great evil – Monsters that consume the hearts of men." Scheherazade replied, "Bryce, you have seen them."
"There were reports of heart devouring beasts in Mexico." Bryce began.
"And you, Samantha, you have heard someone talk about a pair of glowing eyes they saw in an alley in San Francisco." Scheherazade replied.
"What does all that have to do with us being sent here?" Bryce asked.
"Great evil is afoot on your world. We have brought you to the source of that evil…" Scheherazade replied.
"And for what reason?" Bryce asked, "Surely you don't want us to fight it…"
"No. Knowledge is power, Bryce. You should know that, given your line of work…" Scheherazade began.
Samantha glanced at Bryce with a questioning look. Bryce simply shrugged.
"We want you to gather knowledge, for it will help your world to repel the Heartless and the Nobodies." Scheherazade replied.
"Heartless?" Samantha asked, "I know what the Nobodies are because Mr. Hyde told me, but what are the Heartless?"
"If one such as you, Samantha, yields to the darkness in your heart, you will become a Heartless." Scheherazade replied, "The Heartless are always lurking, always seeking to capture new hearts. Beware."
"What about Nobodies?" Bryce asked.
"If a being with a strong will yields to the darkness, the empty shell left behind develops a will of its own." Scheherazade began, "An empty vessel whose heart has been stolen away, a spirit that lives on even as its body fades away. That is a Nobody."
"The most powerful of the Nobodies have formed a group called Organization XIII, and it is they who ravage the Islands." Scherazade continued, gesturing out to the shore where fog hung heavy, but thinned in patches.
"The Five Islands are five worlds. Each of which contains something of value to Organization XIII." Scheherazade replied.
"It is Organzation XIII that is behind the Serum whose victims you keep encountering in Mexico." Cole added.
"So what are we here to do? Even if we learn everything about this Organization XIII, nobody will believe us when we get back to our world." Bryce replied.
"A great sage wrote reports, containing information on the Organization. We hid them on the Five Islands, with Scheherazade as a guardian. Find the reports and you can return home…" Cole replied.
"So where are we going first?" Samantha said, "And how will we get there?"
"To the North a Lost Continent lies ravaged by a New Evil." Scheherazade replied.
"How you get there, is up to you." Cole replied.
Cole and Scheherazade disappeared then. There was nothing there. Not a sound. Only the wind howling through the alleys and the sand blowing around the bazaar could be heard.
"Wait, Cole said this was a port, right?" Samantha asked.
"Yeah." Bryce replied.
"Well if this is a port, there's got to be a boat somewhere, right?" Samantha asked.
"It doesn't look like anyone's been trading here for a while though." Bryce replied, "But it's worth a shot."
The trio headed down for the dock, "Where do you think you're going?" Bryce asked Hyde.
"If I'm to be left alone, I might as well tag along on this mad quest so I can get some peace and quiet in me swamp later…" Hyde replied.
On the dock was a boat. It looked like a white tour boat with a covered top. "I might've known…" Bryce grumbled.
"She said islands, Bryce, how do you expect to get from island to island, swimming?" Samantha quipped.
The trio boarded the boat and Bryce searched around the control console for the keys, finally finding them and starting the motor. Bryce pushed the throttles backward and said, "Take those lines onto the boat."
Samantha and Hyde complied and the boat began to back up into the basin. Bryce turned the boat north and started the engine. The trio started on their quest for the reports and their passage home…
1 Klondike, my OC Mountaineer's dog. He first appeared in the Misfit fic I'll be Doggone…