Grifter concentrated on the task at hand intensely. It was soothing, familiar. He let his breaths come slow and even. He eyed the target, anticipation growing with each second. With a final breath he committed to the shot. He extended his arm in one fluid motion. With a quiet "thunk" the dart sank into the dead center of the board. He picked up the second dart and prepared to match his previous performance.
The dart board was situated in a lounge outside of the private apartments of the fledgeling team. It was designed for comfort yet still maintained the modern elegance of the rest of the HALO building. Sleek ivory microfiber sofas faced a large monitor. The sofas were interspersed with gray pattern accent chairs. Polished walnut cubes flanked the right or left arm of each piece of upholstery. The dart board was situated along the edge of the room and several feet to the left of the monitor.
Voodoo looked at Grifter appreciatively as she came up behind him. She placed her hands on his shoulders letting them gently slide down.
"You're pretty good," she said softly into his ear.
"They didn't call me 'Deadeye' for nothing." Usually he had shrugged her off by now. Instead he continued their conversation. He only moved away to sink the second dart next to the first one. "Did you have fun shopping in the big city?"
"You could say that. Wait..how did you..? I guess I'll have to be more discreet when I sneak out. Did you have a cozy night in with Zealot?"
"Actually, we went out to see Z's baby sister hoping she could get into that disc Lynch gave us." he replied ignoring Voodoo's innuendo.
"Did she?" With a quick throw the first dart was dislodged as the third dart crowded for the limited space at the center of the board.
"She's working on it. I just know time is running out, but there's not much else we can do." Grifter then flopped down into one of the chairs. He cast her a flirty smile. There was a sag to his shoulders. He looked rough, reeking of liquor and stale cigarette smoke. She leaned over to continue their conversation. Voodoo felt his arm around her shoulder but his eyes were following Zealot as she walked past . Once Zealot was gone he took back some of his personal space. Voodoo didn't need any psychic abilities to read his intentions.
"What the hell was that, Cole?"
"That spectacle you just gave to an audience of one!"
"Whatever, Pris," he said getting up to gather his darts. Maul walked in right then to see Voodoo staring down an unapologetic Grifter.
"What's going on here? Did I arrive at a bad time?" Jeremy asked.
"No, actually you have perfect timing. Let's go watch some Leno or something." She looped her arm with Jeremy's and marched off from the scene. Jeremy just shrugged and wished Grifter a good night as the pair disappeared down the hall. Grifter cracked another beer. The night kept getting better and better...
Zealot sat in her room staring out at the city lights. There was a great deal on her mind. She was finally being reunited with her native people. With a team made up of other Kherubim there was no need for a human partner. She could continue her war fighting alongside her own. The Grifter was just a poor substitute while she waited for the Kherubim lords to come to their senses. Even a half breed should be a preferable comrade in arms to a human. Kherubim had war in their blood. She had been fighting alongside humans too long.
Her mind drifted back to when she had first encountered Cole Cash. Her belief had been that a male could learn the technique of the Coda...a feat that had never been accomplished even on Khera. Though many students showed promise none had been able to master it. Eventually her stubbornness paid off and she had a chance encounter with Grifter.
He was down on his luck. He talked too much. He was rough around the edges. Perhaps he was the perfect candidate because he was broken. Because he was a shell of a man when she found him she was able to mold and build him up into exactly what she needed. They butted heads often. The culture clash had caused many a heated argument. She was born into nobility and he was a street kid who had turned to petty crime prior to his enlistment. Cole Cash absorbed every lesson she taught him. He was fiercely determined. He had a thick skin. She found it impossible to dismiss him as he mastered each lesson. He excelled, sometimes she suspected, just to spite her. Her relentless criticism seemed to spur him on rather than break him. Each step of his training let him gain more control over the raw power that had nearly destroyed him after Team 7. She began to let her guard down a little. Zealot started to trust him and their conflicts diminished. Gradually she stopped doubting he was the student she had been seeking. The potential that had drawn her to him in the first place had proven itself. A full year had passed when she caught him staring at her longingly.
Without her intervention she knew he would have come unglued. Zealot knew a thing or two about power greater than one should possess. She had experienced what it could do and how hard it was to lock it away. Grifter's weary eyes had revealed a man close to the edge. He had been a government guinea pig, given power that a human simply wasn't capable of dealing with. The fact she had returned him to sanity was never forgotten by him. She hated how much she had come to depend on the Grifter. She hated to admit that sometimes he made sense. Sometimes when the world seemed so black and white to her he gave a new perspective. Sometimes he knew exactly what to say to get through to her. She glanced over to his corner of their shared quarters. His entire life was packed into two black leather duffel bags. This was where she belonged. He did not.
The next morning Zealot awoke to an empty apartment and her cell phone vibrating it's way across the nightstand. She was alone. Grifter had never returned. She gracefully rolled over to retrieve her phone as it vibrated just out of her reach and right off the edge. She groaned in frustration rubbing sleep from her eyes. She reached over the side of the mattress blindly groping for the phone. Once it was in her hand she glanced at the display to see it was her sister. She pressed the button to answer but it was too late. Zealot redialed Savant but the call went straight to voice mail. She frowned then put the phone down and went to get ready for Savant's arrival. She knew where they were.
Grifter snored softly in one of the lounge's chairs. He was sprawled out where he had passed out the night before. His snapped awake as he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He groggily reached down to pull the phone out and saw it was Zealot's sister calling.
"Hey, Savvie. How's it going" he asked trying to ignore the pounding in his head.
"Your file is ready. Did you want me to meet you in New York?"
"Can't you just email it or something?" he asked as he shielded his eyes from the morning sun light.
"I am not sending classified information through unsecured channels, Cole!"
"Well, let's meet down at HALO then. What took you so long?"
"What took me so long? I was doing you a favor, you ungrateful son of a bitch! I don't know why I bother doing anything for the two of you."
"Well, we both know you didn't do it for me. You did it for Zealot so why the hell are you calling me?"
"Who do you think I called first? She apparently had more important things to do than answer."
"Figures. I'm glad I'm not the only one she's blowing off."
"What are you talking about? Isn't she with you?"
"She told me she doesn't want a partner anymore. After this gig my services are no longer needed."
"Oh God, I am NOT getting in the middle of this, Cole. I'll be there soon. Track down Zealot and tell her and Emp to expect me." Grifter heard an immediate click.
Grifter stared at his phone. He was always the errand boy. He walked towards the room he had been sharing with Zealot. He thought about knocking but decided there was no need as it was his room too. He walked in to tell Zealot off and fulfill the task he was given. It was a contradiction. His life was full of those already.
"All right, Zealot. I'm not your personal secretary but just so you know Savant is coming.."
The room was empty. His tirade was reaching no one. Once again he sat down in defeat waiting on her. He turned his lighter over and over in his hands as he waited on the loveseat. He didn't like this feeling. When Zealot had taken him in after Team 7 she had become like a part of him. He wasn't sure if he could stand on his own without her. He had drawn his strength from her and this emptiness he felt as she shut him out was crushing. He looked up when he heard the door to the bathroom open. Their eyes met for a moment. That fleeting glance was like a punch in the gut to Zealot. Grifter looked so lost and alone. The look in his eyes reminded her so much of the broken man she had found years ago.
"Savant called...she'll be here later today. She wanted me to let you and Marlowe know."
"E.T.A.?" she asked coldly.
"Soon That's all she said. You know how she is." They both knew. They had all been like family once. Now he was being cut out.
"I suppose. Thank you, Grifter." She kept her expression blank. It infuriated him to see her so cool and collected.
"Well, that's all I came here to say. I'm out of here!" he said angrily. He slammed the door as he left.
Later on after a brief and awkward meeting between Savant, Grifter and Zealot the team was gathered in HALO's executive meeting room.
"Area 51?" Marlowe asked incredulously.
"The mole has scheduled a visit there in three days following some sort of secret delivery. The schematics for the base were also on the disc." Zealot stood solemnly presenting the information her younger sibling had obtained after a lengthy decryption. Grifter stood arms crossed next to her.
"Well, team, looks like we are going to New Mexico in a few days. Any idea what they are working on?"
"There's no indication of what is going on there except that it's something big, really big," Grifter answered. They weren't sure what would come next but the fledgeling team started to formulate a strategy that would hopefully stop the efforts at reunification.
"Why are we always the first ones to go in, Z?" Grifter asked. He was laying down hidden in desert scrub just outside the perimeter of the large military base. He surveyed the guards posted along the fence with a set of night vision binoculars.
"I believe YOU were the one who volunteered us with some nonsense about it being our resource that lead us to Area 51..."
"You had to bring that up? Do you think Jake's crew will be able to hold up their end?" He offered the binoculars to her as he absentmindedly reached for his cigarettes. As he brought the lighter up Zealot gave him a stern look of disapproval. With a sigh he put the offending items back in his pants pocket.
"We were originally going to do this with only Priscilla backing us up. I cannot see how this could put us at a disadvantage."
"I'm not sure if going in and stirring things up is a good plan."
"Did you have a better one? We need to keep watch and alert the others once the Mole has arrived. Then we keep the guards, the mercenaries and Cabal goons busy while the Gifted Ones and Spartan deal with the Mole."
"That sounds suspiciously like our earlier plan except someone else gets all the glory."
"Who exactly are you regaling these exploits to? The covert nature of our work doesn't lend itself to bragging. The end result is all that matters. Your lack of comprehension once again proves how unsuitable a partner you really are."
"Whatever, the Mole is scheduled to arrive any minute. The sooner we go in, the sooner I can get on with my life." They both looked towards the road as the slight rumble of a caravan of black SUVs was heard. "Looks like the man of the hour has arrived."
He followed the trail of cars with the binoculars as they entered the gates. He zeroed in on an SUV in the middle as a massive and familiar looking man in a suit stepped out.
"He's definitely the Mole. Check it out, when did Pike join the Secret Service?"
"If that is the case we need to get in there not stay here gawking at them all night."
"So why do you think he's here?"
"Well the files we received from Lynch indicated he made specific arrangements over the last three months to come here. There has to be something here they need. They are funneling large amounts of money to this facility labeled under..."
"Alternative energy, right?"
"Yes..what is your point, Cole?"
"I think I know what he's here for. Are all the Kheran ships accounted for that crashed on Earth?"
"Yes, they were safely concealed underneath some of Earth's greatest monuments."
"Well how about the Daemonites?"
"Are you saying they are holding one of the Daemonite war ship's here? It wouldn't matter because there's no power source for it. The ship was damaged beyond repair."
"Unless someone high in power authorized millions of dollars in funding to 'study' the ship and innovate military technology based on it. E.T.'s phoning home, sister. I just can't believe they got this far without us figuring it out."
"They still need to power it."
"I heard you the first time! Alternative energy, cold fusion, magnifying the energy output of an extraterrestrial energy source to power something big. You told me about an orb, an almost mystical source of energy needed for interstellar travel. I think the Mole has been exploiting his authority to find it."
"That would put a lot of the pieces together."
The Vice President stepped out of the large black SUV. He was flanked by four Coda warriors each wielding a high powered firearm in hand and a blades strapped to their backs.
"Pike, this really is not necessary. I have confirmed the Orb made it here. NASA sent it this morning. The only task left to complete is a few switches and my Daemonite brothers will be able to join us in taking over this planet and molding it into a more suitable environment similar to Daemon," Lord B'Lial was possessing the body of the first in line to the most powerful position in the Western world. It had been decided that it was a better strategy than possessing the president himself as he would be in the public spotlight far too often to accomplish a secretive task.
"We cannot leave anything to chance. We still have not accounted for Zealot or the Grifter. What if they are seeking the aid of the Kherubim lords?"
"Then they will be too late. We are on the cusp of reunification. Once the ships of Daemon are en route the Kherubim stragglers will stand helpless as we take this planet over."
"You underestimate the determination of our enemies, B'Lial..." Lord B'Lial struck out and grabbed Pike by the throat. Fear did not strike Pike but he looked on in defiance as breath was choked from him.
"Do not question me, Pike. I am a Lord of Daemon. You will address me by my title and you will know your role." After he finished his sentence he threw Pike aside and walked down the hall surrounded by his Coda escort.
This Cabal's plan entailed building a machine capable of ripping open the fabric of space in order to reunite the stranded Daemonite lords with their kin. The crash that had stranded the Kherubim and Daemonites millenia ago had worked out much more in the favor of the Kherubim. They had simply embraced humanity and interbred with the lower beings while they were exalted as gods. The Daemonites had to hide from humanity. They were unable to take their natural form without drawing attention. Living in the shadows was growing tiresome after a few thousand years. The Kherubim needed to be humbled. The Daemonites would have their day, and that day would be tomorrow.
"Spartan, can you hear me?" Zealot asked into her comm link.
"Yes, Zealot. What do you have to report?"
"The Mole has arrived. You must act quickly. Grifter and I will be going in to try to apprehend the Vice President. Have Void teleport all of you to my coordinates."
"Roger that, Zealot. We will see you momentarily."
"So, Z, any last words?" Grifter asked
"..It was nice knowing you, Cole." With that the two of them moved ahead to meet their destinies..and hoped they would survive to see another day.