Chapter 7 – The Limo Ride
The black limo pulled up to the graveyard, immediately granted clearance by the gatekeepers.
It drove slowly around the broken tombstones and stone angels, undoubtedly the poor souls below had been taken from their resting place by those infernal grave robbers; Abnormals trying to make a profit no doubt.
The car stopped at a crypt, a relative paradise compared to the others, no one dared touch it. The soul inside was beyond precious, and not just to John.
John stepped out of his car and made his was to the front door, his guards following behind him.
"Oh Helen, this would've all been so much easier if you hadn't married that fool," he sighed. "If I couldn't have you, he certainly couldn't…I wish it ended better for you, my love."
He heard a gasp from behind the door, like a faint whisper.
The girl was inside.
He gestured to his guards to the door of the crypt. One nodded silently then moved to kick the door open, tossing a gas canister inside.
A shriek came from inside and the guards stepped into the heavy fog and brought out the young brunette.
So much like her mother.
The young girl was half-unconscious, the watch on her wrist beeping an alert.
"Put her in the car, she'll be fine," sighed John as he stepped back inside the limo.
A few minutes passed as the limo started to pull out of the cemetery. The girls started to blink her eyes open.
"Wh-What happened?" she blinked.
"A small fainting spell," answered John.
The young girl jumped in surprise.
"I-I," she started.
"It's alright, I'm sorry for my abrupt entrance, my guards are in charge of my safety," John smiled softly.
"I can't stay long, my father will worry," she twiddled her thumbs nervously in her lap, just like Helen.
"Don't worry, I'll have you home before your father even notices your gone, I guarantee it," he watched as the girl scrambled to her bag to pull out a small thing of tablets, popping one in her mouth. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's ok, I have blood pressure issues…it's a bi-product of my, uh, disease," she looked at the window shyly.
"Yes, I know all about your condition," John leaned over and handed her the small, almost ancient locket. "I used to know your mother, you look very much like her," she glanced at the picture in the locket but refused to touch it.
"I don't, really, I wish people would stop comparing me to her," Shae rung the straps of her bag.
"No matter, I can still cure you," said John.
"Why would you do that?" asked Shae, eyeing him curiously.
"Call it a fulfillment of a dying wish…I wish I could've saved your mother," he said sadly.
"I don't need your charity," said Shae.
"Well I do need your help, call it a trade off," he tucked the locket back into his pocket.
"A trade off of what?" she relented slightly.
"Well first off, I need someone to accompany me to the fair, would you like to see the Magnetic Opera, I'm sure you would enjoy it very much," John handed her a ticket.
"I-I can't, I'm not even supposed to be outside, if my father found out," John shushed her.
"When he sees you cured and your life extended for many years, don't you think he will be happier, you are the key to your father's happiness. This is your life, child," John leaned back in his seat.
"Sh-Shae, my name is Shae," she sighed.
"I remember," he nodded.
"Well, I guess if it means curing me, I guess he won't be that upset," she brushed her curly brown hair behind her ear.
"So, is that a yes, Shae? Will you be my date to the Opera?" he asked, extending his hand.
"Fine, as long as I get home, I don't want my father to know…call it a surprise," she sat stiffly in her chair as John just grinned at her.
"As you wish, Shae," he signaled something to his driver and the cab of the limo fell silent.
John watched her intently. She reminded him so much of Helen, despite her denial of any similarity. It took him back to those early days of Oxford, Helen being so young and bright, the peak of innocence and knowledge. The dark brown hair undoubtedly came from Nikola's genetics, but the bright blue eyes and the small but so very Helen mannerisms that she tried so hard to conceal.
How dare Nikola hide her from them all! The selfishness of that man never failed to astound him. Kate was crushed the most by the news of her supposed death, she had taken the whole death so hard. Helen had been a role model, Nikola, a friend, and as much as her rough exterior portrayed a strong bitter woman, inside she was a crippled scared little girl hiding behind a mask for survival.
Of course, Nikola only ever thought of himself. Like that hadn't taken enough lives.
The girl was shy, mostly due from her limited exposure to the outside world. John was going to fix that.
He wasn't going to leave the world in the hands of those pathetic minions, he kept around for Helen's sake. Will was ever the disappointment, and he wasn't even going to think about Henry; none of them were fit to run the Sanctuary, all had been tainted. Shae was to be the light for the world, just like Helen was.
Shae felt his eyes on her and it made her uncomfortable, there was something about John Druitt that made her feel like a butterfly in a jar, being studied. She knew it had to be from her striking resemblance to her mother, a painful burden she had to carry. She got enough of it from her father. Everyone always saw her mother, they never saw her.
The sounds of the fair, a yearly event held in the downtown square. She'd watched it on her television every year, dreaming of being amongst the people, the opera singers, the noise, but now it was all too close. She reached for her medication and popped another pill, to keep her blood pressure regular as the long limo pulled up to the grand fair gates and a henchman opened the door to the limo and Shae was soon flooded with lights and sound.
John extended his arm to her.
"Ladies first," he said softly, she took his arm, afraid of being lost in the swarm of light.
A man ran down the dark alley, fear gripping at his heels. A line of sweat trailed down his forehead into his eyes.
The alley turned into a sharp corner and the sudden deceleration caused him to collide into the hard surface of brick and mortar. It neither stopped, nor slowed his efforts.
He cried out for help but any passerby quickly ducked back into their home and locked the doors and windows behind him. The man was alone.
He pulled open a cover hole that led to the waist system below. The smell caused tears to well in his eyes but his feet kept moving.
The sewer was dank, and water dripped down the walls and pooled in rat-infested puddles on the litter ridden ground. No one came down here unless they were desperate to get away.
He tripped, smashing his knee into the concrete, the pain washing over him, but he kept moving, crawling on hands and knees.
A sound from behind alerted him, his heart beat faster, he struggled to push himself on to his legs but a thick boot swiftly brought him face first into the ground. He screamed out in both pain and fear.
He turned around to face his attacker. A man in a dark black suit, his face covered with a mask. A Ripper.
He gasped, his eyes widening as the Ripper pulled a clear, cylindrical device from his jacket, holding it in long, clawed hands. The pointy dark ends of the nails caught the man's eye.
"P-please! Don't kill me! I'll pay the debt I swear," the man pleaded, holding up his hands in surrender.
The Ripper wordlessly cocked his head, his foot lightly rising to pin the man's arm to the ground, then the other, standing on his wrists.
The man whimpered with pain, tears mingling with sweat, fear pouring out of his eyes into every facial feature.
The Ripper squeezed on the device and the center of it glowed with a light blue hum of electricity and in a flash rammed on to the man's chest. It sucked at the man, stripping him of his genetic gift, of the barrier between him and the poor souls buried in the cemetery. His chest tightened, his breath hitched, his voice screamed, and all the while the Ripper remained silent and unfeeling. This creature had no remorse, no guilt for what he was doing. It was his job.
The man looked through the mask and saw two dark orbs peering back at him.
"H-h0w can you do this?" gasped the man.
The device was pulled away from him, leaving him human, exposed.
The Ripper silently tied something to his foot and the man found himself hoisted upside down, arms flailing around his head. The Ripper kneeled down towards the man's head and a deep rumbling came from beneath his mask.
"Because…I have to," he said, almost sadly. Like there was a human underneath that mask trapped in the same debt he was.
They were all in debt; no one was safe.
The realization dawned upon the man as the long claws of the Ripper came towards his temple.
"You won't feel a thing," said The Ripper softly to the man as the man quietly prayed for forgiveness to whatever deity would listen to him.
Then there was black.
~~~~At The Fair~~~~
Kate rolled her eyes. She hated these festivities. Every year she looked around, and every year the people she saw became more and more depraved. People who once believed in something now spoon-fed this crap. The fair was nothing but a showcase of traits and abilities, street vendors selling their cheap home remedies for scratches, burns, and chaffing. Contests promoting every freak low enough to stand on their head and twirl plates.
They handed out discounts, leases, and free samples of all of NSN's newest, biggest, and brightest as the sound of the Magnetic Opera, a show equally as depraved as the people who watched it. She despised it all.
Will spent the whole even shouting and giving orders, threatening to terminate contracts if he didn't get his damn coffee on time.
Henry paraded around with girls on his arm, hiding behind his stupid mask, flaunting around his new technology to impress the masses, and of course John was late.
"Kate, what's with the sour face, it's the fair!" teased Henry, dismissing his girls with a pat on the butt.
"Can you be any more of a tool?" she rolled her eyes at him.
"No, but I can probably build one," he retorted.
"Where is John? We are supposed to be announcing the new line of LL in 10 minutes, where is he?" spazzed Will.
"He won't answer his communicator Mr. Zimmerman," mumbled a weasel of a secretary.
"Then call him again! What do we keep you alive for?" Will glared at Kate and Henry.
"Geez, take a pill," muttered Kate.
"Maybe I would if I wasn't the only one doing his job instead of standing around or getting laid!" barked Will.
"It wouldn't hurt…" started Henry but Will grabbed him by the throat and hoisted him off the ground.
"Just try me!" he fumed.
"Children! Children, no fighting, this is neither the time, nor the place," John came up to the threesome, calmly and coolly.
Will released Henry, letting him drop to the ground.
"Where the heck have you been, Druitt?" snarled Will.
"Picking up a special guest, she is my date for the evening, come here, dear," he gestured behind him and a young girl walked up.
Will stared at the girl incredulously.
"How young is she?" he asked.
"I-I'm 18," answered the girl.
"Don't get any ideas, she's not that kind of date," John glowered at his associate.
"Oh my god," muttered Kate, quickly turning away and walking off without a word.
"Don't mind her, Shae, she cares very little for anyone but herself," he gently lead her through the many tents of the fair, Will and Henry trailing behind them quietly confused.
"Dude, does she look familiar to you?" asked Henry.
"I don't know, but I do know Druitt's up to something, has to be to pull a stunt like this," growled Will under his breath.
A beautiful long-haired woman stepped out from one of the tents, her unique looks almost as beautiful in real life as the were onscreen. Shae stood in awe of the graceful creature.
It was Sally the Mermaid. She was dressed in a long evening gown made to mimic her previous heritage. She seemed to float as she walked towards John and the others.
"Are you ready Sally?" asked John.
"As ready as I'll ever be for these events," said Sally. Her voice hummed as she spoke.
Her sea green eyes fell upon Shae and she gasped slightly; Shae felt suddenly shy, like she was exposed or something.
"Who is she?" asked Sally, looking up at John.
"Look familiar to you Sally," he smirked deviously, he didn't have to tell her and she knew. Despite her transformation their were some traits of her native species that she still held, and she could sense it immediately, as soon as she looked into those bright blue eyes. "We have an announcement to make, my dear."
John signaled to his henchmen.
"Show my guest to my tent…don't let her out of your sight," John whispered.
The henchmen nodded and moved towards Shae.
"I will meet you later, dear girl, go with my henchman," said John, Shae nodded wordlessly and allowed the big man to lead her away from the group.
John looked at Sally.
"Where did you find her?" Sally whispered to John as Will and Henry pushed by to make it on to the conference stage, calming the sea of paparazzi and anxious people.
"Seems our old friend has been keeping her locked away for quite some time," said John.
"Where did you find her, John? How did you find her? Nikola hasn't talked to any of us since Helen's passing," she grabbed his arm sternly.
"I know where everyone is, he just managed to keep her a secret, until she broke it and came into my circle of knowlede," said John, he kept walking.
"What are you planning to do with her?" asked Sally.
"I plan to cure her of whatever Tesla has done to her and then I plan to restore the balance of power, she is an untouched flower in a garden of weeds, all twisted and thorny, she is who I plan to leave my empire to, the empire that should've belonged to her mother if her mother didn't fall in love with that heartless creature," snarled John.
Sally looked into John's deep blue eyes, wishing she could see into his soul, unfortunately he had blocked her from his mind, a condition of their contract, a contract that would soon be forfeit.
"Shall we, my dear?" he took her hand gently.
Sally sighed and nodded.
Part of her contract was to attend these bawdy public affairs, smile, sing a high note, promote NSN's new product. She grinned and beared it, knowing soon enough she would be free of this awful bond.
John stepped up to the podium, the businessman in him flashing a white smile to the crowd, they cheered and applauded, none of them knowing the death coursing through his veins. He was slowly dying in front of them and they would never know because of that smile.
"We are very happy to open the fair, though this will be the last year we will feature the beautiful Sally the Mermaid as the front runner for the Magnetic Opera," a flood of questions came from the crowd and more pictures were snapped. "She would like to say some words, come out here Sally."
The beautiful woman graced the stage.
"I am very sorry to be leaving, I enjoyed my time at the opera, but after 18 years it's time for a change," said Sally into the microphone. She smiled sweetly and stepped back to let John steer the audience.
"And we'll be sad to see you go, but more on that later, for the time being we'll have my associate Kate Freelander come out and talk about the new and improved Liquid Lightning, come out Kate!"
The audience clapped but their applause was met with and empty space on the stage.
"Kate! Don't keep us waiting," said John again but no one came on stage, the crowd fell into an awkward pause. "Kate?"
"Not here sir, she's gone."
A low rumble started in John's just and reverberated up through his throat and past his lips.