Payback's a B-

Marcus stopped at the Rosetta Stone kiosk, picked up a box labeled "Learn Latin." Didyme had taught Marcus Etruscan. How many languages had he learned since then? How many had he forgotten? His childhood tongue was no longer spoken in Italy. Even he could not remember it.

"Master," one of his guard objected, "our flight is boarding."

"Give me your money," Marcus demanded.

His three Volturi escorts exchanged confused glances. The strongest withdrew a wad of bills, handed them over. Marcus purchased the language curriculum and stuffed the remaining currency in his pocket.

Marcus sensed long-dormant emotions in his comrades: hesitancy, uncertainty, sudden awareness. The fight with the Cullens had not gone as planned. Indeed, there hadn't really been a fight at all. And Chelsea was not present to reenforce their commitment.

Aro should have gathered them after the aborted battle. He should have debriefed them and encouraged them. He should have had Chelsea work her magic. But Aro had not been himself. The Volturi had scattered, fleeing to Tuscany with all speed on thirty different aircraft.

Marcus now hastened toward his gate, flanked by guards wondering why they were guarding Marcus at all. And why was Marcus being guarded? What could he possibly need protection from? There were vampires who wanted the Volturi dead, yes. But why should Marcus care? Why should anyone care?

Abruptly Marcus halted. "I'm taking a later flight," he announced. "Proceed to Volterra without me."

"Master," their leader declared, "we must remain with you."

Marcus said nothing, instead focusing on the turmoil within his guards. They had to obey Marcus. They had to obey Aro. But really, why obey anybody? Marcus knew they longed to board the aircraft, to return to the familiar, to have their hearts and minds put at rest. Certainty and simplicity awaited them in the Volterran catacombs - the gifts of Chelsea, though they knew it not.

"Go home," Marcus commanded. He turned and walked away.

Marcus bought an espresso, then found a plastic chair in the middle of the terminal. He observed the endless crowds pass by as only a weary predator could, forcing himself to take sip after sip of the vile liquid. He wondered if humans really liked coffee, or if addiction simply compelled them. Marcus tolerated blood well enough, he supposed. An acquired taste.

What is happening to me? he wondered. He had not wanted to kill Renesmee. Renesmee had not been killed. Should that not have made him happy? Content? Yet the outcome had left him disappointed. He didn't understand why.

There was one person on earth who might be able to help him. Marcus left his Starbucks and found an electronics boutique. He obtained a cell phone hastily even as long-dormant suspicions crawled through his body like maggots. He placed a call to Carlisle Cullen.

It took several minutes persuading before he got to the desired person.

"What do you want?" Edward demanded.

"If I have to ask," Marcus said, "you don't have the answer."

Edward waited several seconds before replying. "Aro killed Didyme," Edward informed him. "He's used Chelsea to keep you loyal ever since. I'm sorry."

Marcus nodded. Then he dropped the phone, rushed into the bathroom, and ate the first person he smelled.

Twelve hours later Marcus finally managed to finish the last drop of his coffee. The terminal was deserted except for police snipers, all keeping their scopes fixed on him while trying to avoid being detected themselves. To Marcus' enhanced senses they were painfully obvious, however. He closed his eyes and listened to hearts banging against armored vests. Marcus thought back to when that sound had once thrilled him, enlivened him, made him salivate. But Marie Antoinette had been right all along: nothing tastes.

A man and a woman passed through a door on the far side of the concourse and began approaching Marcus. Both appeared to be in their early forties, the woman slightly taller than the man. Their emotions toward each other presented a fascinating stew: respect, hate, servitude, devotion, lust, anger, pride. As they got closer Marcus found his attention drawn entirely toward the woman. Her body was too cold for a human. He breathed deeply through his nose and detected an odor he had not smelled since the founding of Rome.

Marcus permitted the couple to sit down. A rare fascination took hold of him.

"I'm Owen Wheeler," the man introduced himself. "This is Lucy DeRose."

"There were rumors," Marcus said, his attention fixed on Lucy. "Your kind is supposed to be extinct," he declared. "Extinct so very long ago."

"We know of no other kind," Owen noted. "Your thermal signature is consistent. But your heart isn't beating."

"A vampire with a beating heart," Marcus mused, staring at Lucy with longing. "So beautiful," he sighed. "So fragile." Then he thrust his left pinkie into his mouth and bit it off.

The pain shattered his stupor, jarring him awake. How could Aro have killed Didyme? Aro's sister. Marcus' love. Marcus' mate. He withdrew the finger from his mouth and handed it to Owen.

"You are novice," Marcus announced. "But I can change that. I can make you part of a larger world. A world you never dreamed of. The world of the Volturi."

Owen traded looks with Lucy. "What do you want in return?" he asked.

"A favor."

Marcus entered the Volterra catacomb two days later, video camera, microphone, and GPS tracking system all safely ensconced within his robe. Owen would have only moments to act. Marcus had made that clear. Once Chelsea recaptured him, once Aro took his hand, the Volturi would scatter.

He entered the sanctum, observed who was present. "Aro," he said for his listeners in the sky. "Caius. Felix. Alec. Chelsea." No Jane. That didn't matter, though. All that mattered was Aro. The vampire who had been his friend for three thousand years. The vampire who had condemned him to three thousand years of misery. The vampire who had killed his wife.

Yet already Marcus found his feelings shifting, weakening: Chelsea did not stand idle. "Take my hand, brother," Marcus demanded.

Aro hastened to Marcus. He just had time to grasp Marcus' undead flesh when a thermobaric warhead pierced into the underground chamber and discharged its contents.

Marcus' vampiric senses gave him several milliseconds to observe the cloud of fuel fill the catacomb. Micro-droplets of ethylene oxide flowed over and around Aro and Marcus. Aluminum nano-particles stuck to their robes. The expression on Aro's face had time to change. So did Marcus'. The weary widower closed his eyes. "Finally," he sighed.

The fuel-air mixture detonated, melting every Volturi leader into ash. Every Volturi leader save one.