-martyrs and boogymen-
The sound of metal clacking into place as Colin and Sara checked their weapons seemed thunderous in the otherwise silent room. There was a palpable sense of unease running through the six people who sat gathered, counting down the final few minutes until they began the almost one hour drive south to Portsmouth.
"Umm, I don't mean to state the obvious," said David as he paced back and forth in front of Rageh, Zahra, and Khalil, who were seated around the table to his rear, "but bullets didn't exactly work wonders against The Hand the first time around so what's the point?"
"It makes me feel better," answered Colin dryly. "I'd just rather have it than not." Sliding the weapon into his coat he motioned for David to come closer. "Listen," he said quietly, "do me a favour and keep an eye on Sara for me eh."
"Why?" Asked David, knowing that she could take care of herself.
"Well you know," Colin explained, "she got a pretty good knock on the head and I just want someone to be there in case she's not on top of her game if things go wrong."
David nodded, smiling evenly. "You know she'd kick your ass if she heard you tell me that."
"No she wouldn't," said Colin, not entirely sure he was right.
"Yes she would," Sara said from behind him. "She would definitely kick your ass." The tone in her voice said that she was not happy.
"Bollocks!" He growled loudly. There was silence again as everyone in the room stopped to look at him. "I'm just never going to be able to pull that off am I?"
"No," said Sara and David at the same time.
Sara shot David a look and he backed off, moving out of earshot, then she turned her attention back to Colin, who was busy looking at the floor, the ceiling, anything but her. "I don't need a bloody nanny!" She said angrily.
"I know, I know," said Colin, holding his hands up in surrender. "I just...don't want something to happen to you, especially if I'm not there to do anything."
She wanted to stay mad at him but he made it too damn hard. "Nothing is going to happen to me," she said, her face softening, "alright?"
He looked into her eyes and could see that she was wearing her "serious face." There was no arguing with her. "Okay," he said finally, "but at least let David think he still has the job alright? It'll keep him focused."
"Deal," she said with a crooked smile.
"Good," he said and turned to the group. "Time to go. Sara, David, and Khalil are going to be in the first car. Rageh, Zahra, and I will be twenty minutes behind you in the second. Check out the area and the ship and make sure everything is secure. I've got my cell phone on so you can call and tell us if it's safe to show." He scanned their faces. All of them looked nervous, including Sara. He hoped his own expression showed more steadiness than he actually felt but he doubted it. "Everybody ready?"
"Looks like it," answered Sara.
"Good then," said Colin, never taking his eyes off of her, "we'll see you guys down there."
David and Khalil stood and began walking toward the door, both nodding and clapping him on the shoulder as they passed.
Sara was the last of the three to move to leave. Stopping she took his hand in hers and smiled up at him. "I'll be fine," she assured him, answering again what his eyes silently spoke. "Just make sure you're careful as well."
"I'll be right behind you," he said.
She gave him a gentle squeeze and held his eyes for a second before she turned to leave, holding onto his hand until she was almost pulling him with her and feeling a tingle she couldn't explain as his fingertips brushed hers when she finally let go.
Once again neither of them saw the slight smile on Zahra's face.
Ra was gone, but The Hand could feel itself returning to nothingness as it moved out into the night.
Minute by minute it weakened.
The ritual used by The Bringers to raise it had its limits and time was almost up.
The Fifth was moving again and The Hand pursued relentlessly, tearing through the moonlit darkness, closing the distance between itself and its goal.
The end was in sight.
Purpose would be fulfilled.
Slaughtering the Enemy's soldiers would be its reward.
They had been on the road for nearly half an hour, David in the driver's seat and Khalil next to him, ready to give directions once they reached Portsmouth. The two men talked quietly, about unimportant things mostly. David had never been to Portsmouth by car, having always taken the train so after briefly going over some of the basic directions, talk had turned too football. Or Soccer as Colin continued to call it. Sara smiled inwardly, thinking of how happy David must be to finally have someone to talk to who didn't find the sport as ridiculously boring as Colin, and even she herself, did.
Outwardly her face must have betrayed the anxiety she felt because she noticed David constantly stealing glances at her in the rear-view mirror.
"He's going to be fine," said David after she caught him looking.
"So if I tell you to stop worrying about him will you listen?" The look in her eyes gave him the answer he had expected.
"We're almost there," said Khalil. "The docks are in the south end. When we get to the security gates let me speak to the guard. They have dealt with us in the past and should be expecting us. From there I can direct you to our berth."
"You have your cell ready?" Asked David, again looking a Sara in the mirror. Seeing her hold it up he smiled, hopeful that everything would go smoothly.
Colin reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his ringing cell phone, already knowing that it was Sara. Zahra watched as he listened for a minute, nodding along to what was being said at the other end.
"That was Sara," he said after hanging up. "They just got to the ship but she said so far everything looks good. She's going to call back once they've talked to the captain."
Zahra turned and looked at Rageh, who slept quietly in the back seat. His afternoon spent watching cartoons seemed to have done him a great deal of good and she was grateful to Colin for giving him a small distraction and a few moments peace. Her son had beamed like she had rarely seen when Colin gave him the videotape so he would always remember he had a "buddy" back in London.
"He still sleeping?" Asked Colin as he manoeuvred the vehicle past another car on the mostly empty highway.
"Yes," replied Zahra as she turned back forward. "It's been such a hard few days I was wondering when it would all catch up to him."
"He seems like a tough kid," said Colin, "but you both have a long trip ahead of you. It's probably better if he grabs as much sleep as possible now."
The minutes and miles drifted silently by as they got closer to Portsmouth. Sara had not yet called back and they were still a good half hour out but Colin was clearly concerned.
"Are you in love with her?" Zahra asked after noticing him check the ringer on his phone for the forth time in five minutes.
"What?" Colin laughed a little too loudly. He definitely hadn't expected the question. Zahra looked at him expectantly. He didn't want to talk about his feelings for Sara, especially then and there, but this woman had a way about her. She had a serious face that rivalled Sara's.
"You heard me," she said. "Well?" She prompted.
"Yes I'm in love in Sara. So?"
"Have you told her?"
"Yeah I told her," he said. "Didn't really go the way I'd hoped."
"She cares for you a great deal."
"I know," replied Colin, "but it's not what I feel so..just friends."
"But you still want more." She stated simply.
Colin glanced over at her. "Well it doesn't really matter does it? What I want and the reality are two different things."
"Things change," said Zahra.
He though about that for a moment, "Are you trying to tell me something here?" He asked.
Zahra shook her head. "No," she said, "nothing specific. Just that sometimes fear of change can be a very hard thing to over come. Bashir was afraid of how our lives would change if he let himself believe what he had been taught all his life. In the end I had to leave and our lives changed anyway. He was afraid of losing his family but that is exactly what ended up happening." Colin listened intently, not entirely sure where she as going. "For some people," she continued, "that fear of change, that fear of losing something or someone they care for, can be enough to make them blind to what is right in front of them. It can make them deny what they feel, even to themselves. But the truth always finds the light, one way or another. Change always happens. Just keep that in mind and take my telling you this as a way for me to say 'thank you' for everything you've done for us."
Colin was about to respond when his phone began to vibrate. Answering, he heard Sara's voice on the other end. The ship captain was ready and the dock appeared to be safe. They were good to go.
Hanging up he pressed down harder on the gas. Zahra's words still echoed in his head but right now he had more important things to think about.
Sara stood on the dock, leaning on one of the dozens of shipping crates that waited to be loaded on ships not yet arrived. The sounds of the shipyard floated in and out of her ears, reminding her of her childhood in Belfast before her family moved to London when she was ten. Of course at this time of night, and in this rather secluded area of the dock, there was far less going on than would be when the sun rose in a few hours. The smells made her think of her Grandfather, who had worked the yards in that Northern Irish city for forty-three years.
Hearing footsteps she turned to see David bounding down the gang- plank toward her.
"Hey," he puffed.
"Why are you out of breath?" She asked.
"I was just helping Khalil and some of the crew move some of the cargo crates. They've got a whole little area set up for Zahra and Rageh. It's completely concealable. Pretty bloody ingenious really."
Sara's faced soured, "Just keep your admiration in check," she growled. "Any other time and I'd be arresting these people."
David grumbled loudly. She was obviously in a mood. It had everything to do with Colin he knew. Still out there with some mystical totem and only himself to rely on if they were attacked. He was sure she would lighten up as soon as they were all in one place again.
"They should be here anytime now," he sighed as he glanced at his watch.
"Yeah," she nodded.
David looked her over. "What is it?" He asked, suddenly getting the impression there was something else on her mind.
"Nothing," she began, "I just...something doesn't feel right, ya know? There's something...I don't know, off."
"Vague much?" He joked.
"Shut up," she scolded. "I just want to get this done."
"Yeah well I'm with you on that."
After another few minutes they both turned to start up to the ship but stopped when they heard a car approaching. The bright headlights swept over them as the vehicle pulled to a halt not more than ten feet away.
"It's them," Sara smiled.
Colin killed the engine and was halfway out the door almost before the car had stopped moving. "We ready to go?" He asked, meeting Sara halfway.
"Everything's all set," she began, relief seeping through her voice, "we just-" She stopped mid-sentence and Colin saw her expression change as she looked past him, seeing something in the distance that made her face darken.
At first she couldn't be sure what it was. All she was able to see was movement, swift and distant. She stood silent for a moment, waiting to see if she was just imagining things. A second flash of movement told her that wasn't the case. She never saw The Hand when it attacked at Doctor Asan's but she knew immediately that it had found them again.
Colin turned in time to see the second burst of movement and instinctively started back to the car, yelling for Rageh and Zahra to get out.
Sara went straight for her gun, firing off four quick rounds but missing with them all as The Hand covered the almost fifty metres between them in two giant leaps, landing only feet away from Colin who had literally pulled Zahra and Rageh from the vehicle and pushed them toward her.
At the same time Khalil was racing down the gangplank, having been on the deck when the shooting began. David however, bolted in the opposite direction, heading back up the platform. They had received permission from the Harbour Master to depart whenever they were ready and it was now beginning to look like a perfect time to do so. He had to get to the bridge and tell the Captain to get underway.
Colin looked back at Khalil and shouted, "Get them on board! Now!" He then moved to position himself between The Hand and the two Osirians, making it impossible for Sara to get a clear line of fire in the process.
The Hand paused for a brief moment, trying to regain the strength it had lost on its approach. It was obviously weaker now than in their previous encounter and Colin went for his gun, hoping it would do more damage this time. The monster recovered quickly however, narrowly avoiding Colin's rounds as it attacked, swiping at his chest and opening three large parallel gashes in his flesh. Colin reeled, crying out as hot fire and pain radiated from his wounds. He tried to raise his weapon but The Hand was too fast and attacked a second time, striking him across the face and sending him a good ten feet through the air before he crashed down on the wet concrete of the dock and causing him to lose his weapon, which landed several more feet away at the base of the gangplank.
Sara fired off the remainder of her magazine, all the while moving to where Colin lay sprawled and bleeding. Her worst nightmare was averted when she saw him on the ground, barely moving but still alive. It was only when he coughed out blood and tried but failed to pull himself up that she realised how much pain he was actually in.
Kneeling down and throwing his arm around her shoulder she struggled to bring him to his feet and they began to hobble toward the gangplank.
For his part, Khalil had reached the bottom, having tripped and lid the last few feet. He stood and ran out to meet Rageh, who had his mother in tow.
The Hand seemed momentarily confused, then turned and began a slow, laboured advance. Six of Sara's rounds had found their mark and in its ever weakening state, The Hand had lost much of its initial speed.
"The gun!" Sara screamed to Khalil. "Colin's gun," she repeated when she saw he hadn't heard her, "pick up the goddamn gun!"
The Priest scrambled for the weapon, raising a shaky hand and pointing it at their attacker.
"We can't get away," Zhara said as the three of them slowly backed toward the gangplank.
"We can't let it take him," Khalil huffed. His heart was pounding in his chest and he expected that any moment it would burst through his ribcage. The Hand continued its steady march, leaving footprints of pus from its hundreds of its now seeping sores. It was decaying more rapidly now, but it knew it only had to hold on a little longer.
Sara stopped and bent down, leaning Colin against one of the cargo crates as gently as she could. He was too heavy for her to carry alone and there was nowhere else to lay him down. Khalil and the others were directly to her left about thirty feet and were backed up almost to the gangplank. The Hand was between and to the front of them forming a crude triangle of position.
Again she pulled her weapon, feeling its reassuring weight in her hand. She depressed the magazine lock and the empty clip dropped from the gun, hitting the ground with a muted clang. Then she slid home a loaded mag and chambered the first round. She had no idea what she was going to do. The Hand seemed to have been hurt by her previous volley and according to Khalil and Amir, every second that passed only served to weaken it further. Still, it had almost killed Colin with only two blows.
The decision was made for her however when Khalil took the initiative by doing something none of them expected.
He turned the gun on Rageh.
Grabbing him from behind he, he pointed Colin's gun at the boy's temple.
"What the hell are you doing?" Screamed Zhara, not believing what she was seeing.
"He is The Fifth Totem," Khalil snapped in response, "the Setians need him a live!"
"You can't just kill him!" She wailed.
"Shut up!" He hissed. "It's working!"
Her face scrunched in confusion, "What are you tal-" And then she saw. The Hand had stopped dead in its tracks. Suddenly it hit her. The Setians needed her son alive. The Hand needed him alive. Khalil's move had bought them at least a few more precious moments.
Sara had realised the same thing and now moved toward them, albeit at a snail's pace. She still had no idea what she was going to do. Behind them they could hear the ship beginning to awaken. They were so close to escape yet still so far. It would still take a few long minutes for the engines to fully power up and then begin to turn the massive propellers below the surface.
If The Hand had been able to feel panic, it would have felt it at that moment. Not capable of deep, or even basic coherent thought, it still knew enough to see that The Enemy's soldier threatened The Fifth with death, and that was something to be avoided.
Khalil kept the gun levelled at Rageh's head, knowing that if this didn't work, if they didn't escape, he might actually have to kill the boy. The Hand stood glaring at him, not more than twelve feet away and he swore he could see the rage in its dead eyes as its whole body rocked back and forth in anticipation of fulfilling its purpose. He risked a glance over at Sara, who had been joined by a badly wounded but still functioning Colin and was inching her way over to them.
That small opening was all The Hand needed. It launched itself forward, using much of its remaining speed as it screamed through the air at Khalil, unaware of the irony to be found in the fact that it was now trying to safe the life of The Fifth from the very people who protected it.
It took milliseconds for the demon to reach the man, who squeezed off several shots in a vain attempt to defend himself. A loud thud signalled the impact as it tore voraciously into Khalil who's ungodly screams seemed to bounce off the hull of the ship and echo across the yard. He never knew that one of his shots had struck Zahra in the chest, collapsing one of her lungs before it ricocheted off of her sternum and exploded her heart. The impact of the shell spun her almost completely around as she fell into Rageh, knocking him to the ground as well.
Sara and Colin broke for the boy at the same time. She reached him a split second before her friend, who, despite having recovered enough to move under his own power, was still suffering the effects of his wounds, which had soaked his semi-shredded hooded t-shirt through with blood.
The Hand whirled, turning on Sara just as she grabbed Rageh by the collar and hauled him to his feet. It set itself to attack but before it could Colin roared past Sara and the boy armed with a crowbar that had been left on the crate she set him against.
Reaching back with all the strength he could muster he brought the solid iron bludgeon down hard, connecting with The Hand at the left shoulder in a gut-wrenching crunching sound as its brittle and ever weakening bones shattered under the force of the blow.
"The ship," he growled in a shaky but audible voice.
Sara looked up, seeing one of the crewmen on the deck waving frantically for them to get on board. She could tell by the sounds emanating from the medium sized but still giant vessel that the screws had begun to turn and the ship could pull away at any time.
"Come on," she shouted at Rageh as she lifted him almost completely off his feet and pulled him up the boarding platform, reaching the top breathless. "His mother's gone," she said to the crewman who took the boy from her, "you've got to make sure the Captain gets him safely to Egypt."
"Do not worry," he said in heavily accented English, lifting his shirt to reveal the same Osirian tattoo that Doctor Asan had worn. "We go now!"
Sara nodded, flashing one last smile at the frightened boy who had now lost both parents for reasons no child could ever understand, and ran back to the gangplank, joined by David who had made his way back down from the bridge.
Down below Colin struck The Hand again, hitting it across the face and sending bits of rotted flesh flying free. The demon tried desperately to counterattack but its time had come. It was too weak now to do anything but howl in that horrid voice he had first heard at Doctor Asan's. Over and over Colin sent crashing blows raining down on the softening body of his enemy. Three, five, nine; one after another until he couldn't keep count. The demon was no longer moving, was in fact almost completely dead, but he kept up even though his own strength was waning rapidly as the adrenaline wore off.
Finally he had nothing left and he collapsed, sinking to his knees as he hadn't the strength left to even stand. He looked at the still slightly quivering form that had been The Hand of Set and then down at himself. His shirt was dripping blood, which he guessed was his own, and the side of his face hurt. There was a ringing in his ears that he couldn't explain but he could just make out David's voice calling his name. Good, that meant his friend was still alive. He could hear Sara as well, telling him to hold still, and he knew she was still alive too.
Then suddenly his vision blurred, everything went dark, and the world vanished as he fell into unconsciousness.
Though no longer having corporeal form, The Hand could still feel it.
Agony of spirit.
The agony of failure and of returning to the ether.
The nothingness from which it was formed now called it back.
That pain was a thousand times worse than anything that could be inflicted on the physical body.
Still, The Bringers had the Four Totems and could again raise The Hand if they so chose, but only after re-charging their power.
And that would take time.
Meanwhile The Enemy had won and the agony of that knowledge would linger until The Hand passed completely out of existence.
Colin shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It had been two days since the waterfront battle with The Hand and the wounds on his chest were beginning to itch underneath their bandages. That, and there was pain. A lot of pain.
"Don't scratch!" Ordered Sara, who sat next to him on the couch. It wasn't the first time in the last few hours she's had to stop him from doing just that.
"But it itches," whined Colin.
Sara rolled her eyes, "What are you five years old?" She chided. "If you scratch you'll only make it worse. Everyone knows that."
"Oh ok nurse Ratched," he mumbled.
"What did you say?"
Colin was silent for a moment, considering how he should respond. "Umm...nothing." He said finally.
"That's what I thought," said Sara, smiling to herself. The man who only forty-eight hours earlier had beaten a demon to death with a crowbar now sat next to her, complaining like a little kid.
"When's David coming back Jesus, he's been gone for half an hour?" They had ordered pizza and David went to pick it up as they had ordered from a neighbourhood place that didn't deliver.
"I don't know," Sara replied, glancing at the clock. "I guess it took a little longer to make the pizza than they thought it would. You want to just start without him?"
"Yes I do," Colin grinned. He had pre-ordered a copy of the latest Lord of the Rings film on DVD and they were all going to sit down and watch it since he was more or less incapacitated until his wounds healed.
It had been a hectic week and he was thankful it was over. When Sara returned to Khalil's temple after Colin had been released from hospital she found it empty. The Osirians had cleared out completely. Later that day however, Amir showed up at David's pub. He wouldn't tell them where the others had gone, for their own safety he said, but he just wanted to let them know that Rageh was okay and was safely on his way to Africa. The Captain of the ship had gotten hold of one of their people while in port in France and had sent word back to London.
They were glad the boy was fine physically but they all worried about his mental state. Unfortunately, all they could do was hope those scars healed quickly.
Sara pressed some buttons on his remote and the movie began to play. Then she reached over and turned off the lamp so that only the light from the TV remained. After about ten minutes she looked over at Colin who had already fallen asleep. She expected as much since he had taken some of his painkillers not long before.
Spreading the blanket out over the two of them she slid down, brought the cover up to her chin, leaned her head against Colin's shoulder, and hoped David wouldn't make too much noise when he finally returned.
Author's Note - Ok so this is the longest thing I've ever written, and the first story I've finished since 1997 when I was in Grade 12. I hope it didn't suck. Thanks to everyone who read it, even if you didn't review, and thanks to you people (AKA Willum), who reviewed and stayed with me. I'd also like to thank Norton Ghost and my friend who made me put it on my computer because without it I wouldn't have gotten through my hard drive crashing last week. Thank God someone I know knows more about computers than I do. Fuckin evil machines!
A.N. 2- I do all my writing to music, like most people do I guess. This is what I was listening to while I was writing this fic: Isis - "Oceaninc" A Perfect Circle - "The Thirteenth Step" Slipknot - "Iowa" Matthew Good Band - "Beautiful Midnight" And the songs "Time and Time Again" by Stretch Princess, "The Body Burned Away" by Songs;Ohia, and "Who Am I?" by Breach of Trust.
Heh, now I have to get to work and the next story. I'm out!