(Blogging… Effort… Lack thereof… So, here’s chapter one of Syndicate, the previous, abandoned version of my current WIP. Strong language follows, so…)
Chapter One: The Catalyst
Erin woke up. That wasn’t the problem. She woke up abruptly, from a sound dreamless sleep of complete, glorious blackness, to completely wired. In bed with her, Khloe’s blinding yellow eyes flew open, staring into Erin’s grey. But, the couple shared the same expression of tired annoyance, with their eyes half closed and their brows pulled down.
“Do you want to kill him, or shall I?” Khloe asked. The little clock on their bedside table read five-thirty-two. Khloe groaned, sounding like a wounded animal, and hid herself further underneath the warmth of their duvet, nuzzling up in Erin’s chest. Any other time and Erin might have called the way a half smile played across Khloe’s small round face cute. But her friend next door was her prime focus right now. Anthony was the prime target.
The thought wasn’t her own, nor did it sound like a thought. It was Anthony’s voice, clear and crisp in her head.
Are you actually looking to die? Erin thought. The number of times she had told him to stay the hell out of her head must have been bordering on the hundreds now. Even with the consequences of slashing him across the face, he still hadn’t learned. She shut her eyes tight, wishing she could just jam a knife through Anthony’s head and be done with him. That would surely stop that damned telepathy of his.
Leach called, Anthony sent to her head. He wants us to do another errand for him.
Erin’s eyes flew open as she stared past Khloe at their room door. It was five-thirty in the morning. Five-thirty in the morning and both Erin and Khloe had gone to bed only a few hours earlier. And now Anthony woke them up because that useless swine had an errand for them?
“I’ll kill him,” Erin mumbled, rolling out of bed. She opened the drawer of her bedside table, pulling out a short, but effective combat knife, and walked through the solid wall of her bedroom, as if it were nothing but air, into Anthony’s room. He was already dressed and was on his laptop, doing one thing or another. He looked up at her and scrambled off of his bed, his laptop falling from his lap and snapping shut, upside-down.
“Erin, wait. This is—” He looked down her body, and then averted his gaze.
She looked down, finding herself in only her underwear. Well, if this was the worst the telepath had seen her as she would have been grateful. But right now, she couldn’t give a damn about how he saw her. As she approached him, she let out a quiet yawn and wiped the tears it made in her eyes. He did well staying right where he was. Resistance never faired well for the man. She cornered his stuttering, jittery self and stabbed him in the knee. Nothing fatal. Nothing Jessie wouldn’t be able to heal. But painful enough for him to clench his teeth, groaning in pain, as if it made him any more of a man for not screaming. He still pathetically writhed around on the floor.
Erin shut her eyes with her head down, a reluctant smile playing across her face. If she could continue to stab the man and get away with it, she so would. Not only would she love the feeling, but she wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. But nothing more needed saying. She walked back through the wall into her own room, crawling back under her duvet with Khloe and swiftly proceeded to holding her close.
“You didn’t kill him, did you?” Khloe asked.
“Not yet,” Erin mumbled, closing her eyes and begging sleep to take her again.
Anthony managed to limp his way to Jessie’s room, all the way on the other side of the headquarters, holding back the groans he wanted to make with each step. He had knocked on her door a couple of times, but on not getting an answer, and the sharp agony in his knee getting more and more painful by the second, he resorted to banging his fist against it. The door eventually opened, revealing a young woman rubbing her eyes with one hand and the other arm leaning against the doorframe. As she stood in the doorway, she didn’t look at her boss with pity or even mild concern. She took in his injury and her frown gave way for a short giddy chuckle. “If I wasn’t here, would you still piss off Erin as much as you do?”
He shook his head. “If you weren’t here she wouldn’t be able to do this all the time.”
She gestured him in. “On the floor.”
Anthony carefully lay himself on Jessie’s floor, gritting his teeth, and pulled the leg of his trousers to past his knee. He winced at the open wound and the trails of blood all down his leg, and immediately turned away, closing his eyes before his stomach could respond to the sight.
Jessie just chuckled quietly at him. “Nice.” She placed her hands over the wound. Initially, it stung sharp and harsh. Anthony took a sharp intake of breath, but shut his eyes tighter. Jessie wasn’t the best healer out there, but she got the job done . . . eventually. After a good half minute of silence, the pain slowly subsided, and when he opened his eyes, the wound slowly but surely began to close and heal.
“What’d you do this time?” Jessie asked.
Anthony took Jessie in as she stared at her hands over his knee. Her hair, usually in a punk rock do from the eighties, was a shoulder-length mess that could only have been achieved right after getting up, natural black on one side and natural white on the other. With her pure white irises, outlined black with the black pupils, if she was in her everyday attire and not her pyjamas, she would look like a walking fad.
“Is there something on my face?” she said, briefly glimpsing up at him before resuming staring at her hands.
“The staring. Please stop it.”
“Oh. Sorry.” He glanced around the room, and bit back the urge to ask her how she could live in this twister of clothes all over the place. “I didn’t do anything to Erin,” he said, absentmindedly, as he wondered how someone could let such small room get so messy. Weren’t girls supposed to be neat?
She chuckled a little, again, as the pain had all but disappeared from his knee. “Erin might have a short temper but she doesn’t stab people for no reason.”
Anthony allowed himself a small grin. “Then you don’t know her as well as you think you do.”
“Don’t piss her off. Don’t get hurt.” She stood up straight, hands on her hips and nodded at her handiwork. “There.”
Anthony stood and swung his leg back and forth from the joint of his knee, testing out her handiwork. He smiled faintly at the young healer. “Thank you.”
“No probs.” She smiled back, brushing her fingers lightly on his shoulder on her way back to her bed. “Now get out,” she said, crawling back in and covering herself from head to toe.
“I don’t know about you, but normal people don’t wake up before six a.m. Get out, please.”
He left it at that, and left her room.
Returning to his own room, he changed into his uniform, tight and uncomfortable as the black and green leather jumpsuit was. Leach had called, saying that a new clan had made a headquarters on his clan’s territory. And even though territory was a dead and buried concept, he had no immediate plans of getting on Leach’s bad side. He had asked Syphon, Anthony’s clan, to take care of it. If he had asked Khloe or Erin, he could have guessed that they wouldn’t have bothered. No doubt it would greatly annoy Erin. But this was Leach, and though the vast numbers of his clan in general may not have been as up to scratch as the few members of Syphon, Anthony just could not see the point in pointlessly arguing with someone like him.
As he left his room, and started down the corridor, he sighed and stopped halfway down it. “Can I help you, Erin? I thought you wanted to sleep.”
Running his hands through his head of blonde curls, he turned to face his co-leader as she stood in her robe with her arms crossed. A few seconds rummaging around in her head was all it took to validate the obvious.
“You pathetic piece of shit,” she said to him with a shake of her head, and began stalking towards him.
“You pathetic piece of shit,” she said once more, enunciating it far more than before. “What has he got you doing this time?”
“Why should we even bother calling you a Syphon leader? You do so much for Nexus you might as well fuck off and join them.”
“And a very good morning to you, too,” he said, as she stood right in his face. Well . . . up to his shoulders. From high school till now she had always been a malicious, little, black-haired devil. It didn’t bother him then, but now . . .
“Tell me, because I really want to know; how does it feel being Leach’s bitch?”
Anthony showed nothing on his features and turned his back to her. He wasn’t going to start an argument. There was no point. But as he made to leave her there, she took a hold of his arm, spun him around and pushed him against the door of an empty room with a mild pain shooting up his back.
She leaned in close, a glare sharp on her lightly freckled, yet seemingly poreless face, and as embarrassing as it was to admit, even if he tried he wouldn’t be able to get her off him.
“I’m going to spell this out slowly and clearly of you, Anty, dearie.”
“You sure like saying my name, don’t you?” Try as he might not to, a small blush found it’s way onto his cheeks, but she thankfully ignored it. “We are one of the top clans in the whole of England. Number one in this fucking city.” London’s not exactly known for their top notch villains, though, Erin, Anthony read in her thoughts, though she kept that in her head. “We don’t need you pissing our reputation away by being Leach’s whipping boy. Okay?”
“We’re allies. Am I meant to just ignore his requests?” As his voice broke at the end, of course, she grinned, short-lived as it was. He refused to let her get to him.
“No. You’re right.” She let him go, but he stayed tensed. “You are right. Go. Wipe Leach’s fucking arse. Go suck him off. And while you’re at it, you might as well find your own damn balls.”
He knew it was sarcasm, but he still made to leave. He didn’t even take one step before Erin held him by the shoulders again and pushed him against the wall.
“Are you seriously that stupid?”
“What?” she snapped back. Harsh and vicious.
“You’re being unreasonable.” She didn’t respond, but her brows pulled down more. “Besides, you can’t . . .” He swallowed and averted his gaze. She narrowed her eyes, and Anthony could feel his heart beating faster. “You can’t tell me what to do.” He mentally kicked himself. He sounded like a child. More childish than Taylor, even. And that was quite the feat.
A sound of slight mirth escaped from her, and she let him go. She lightly slapped him twice. Just a light tap. She might as well have said, ‘Aw, bless.’ It would have been just as condescending.
“You are quite the joker.”
“Again with my name! Stop it! It’s freakin’ creepy!” She stepped back from him and made her way back to her own room. “You do anything stupid,” she called back as she punched in the code for her door, “and I’ll make you regret it.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, as he made his way back down the corridor. No doubt it wouldn’t be anything Jessie couldn’t heal.
Walking the streets early in the morning in his uniform was never an issue. It was certainly smarter the driving in a metal death trap that any random freak could destroy, if they had the right ability. Though, if someone was planning an attack on him, Anthony would see it coming a mile away. It would take a special kind of fool to think that they could get the jump on a telepath. It would take an even bigger fool to walk the streets of a villain-run city. Even if the streets were filled, which at the moment, they weren’t, he wouldn’t be that worried.
The address Leach had given him for the intruding clan was quite a few blocks away from Syphon headquarters. Anthony had known a new clan were converting an old school into a headquarters. It just hadn’t interested him enough to look further into it. All he knew was that they were a fairly new clan called Vitality that had somehow managed to slip under everyone’s radars for so long. He turned on to the road, and it was easy to see that the building right at the end of the dead-end road was the headquarters for Vitality.
It was maybe a three-hundred yard road, and he already knew he had been spotted. A bird perched atop a hanging stone gargoyle on the front of the building had spotted him. Except Anthony was in its head, and it wasn’t a bird. It had been a long time since he had come across a shapeshifter.
As he approached the headquarters, he still couldn’t see the bird clearly, but getting into the mind of the shapeshifter, he knew it some sort of large owl. A smart choice of bird for a lookout. Nevertheless, as much as he could appreciate that tiny act of competence, taking them out was the first thing on his agenda. Getting scolded by Erin was the second. Still in the head of the bird, he listened as the bird-man thought about changing into an eagle, and watched as the far away shape changed and vaguely grew in size. It cried out loudly. An alarm, no doubt.
Anthony pulled out his revolvers, but didn’t quicken his pace. If he was going to get torn to pieces by Erin when he got back, he might as well have fun with this now. Maybe one-hundred feet away now, and in unbelievably quick time from the bird’s alarm, two other members of the clan ran out, and in their own uniform. He had to give them credit. For a new clan, they seemed to be on top of things. Their headquarters wasn’t too shabby, either. But as he neared the clan and the most recent arrivals, he stopped dead in his tracks.
The new arrivals did the same as they took in the sight of Anthony. Neither party could believe it to be true. He willed his legs to move forward. The two new arrivals couldn’t be who he thought they were. Still, as he neared them, there was no mistaking it.
He holstered his guns again and approached Damon and Jon LeRoux.
“Uh . . .” was all that came out of Anthony’s mouth. Damon with his headband, holding back that long blue hair of his, and his turquoise eyes to match. This was Damon LeRoux. “Um . . .” This was new. Anthony rarely came up speechless. But if this was who Leach wanted gone from his territory, then Anthony couldn’t have made a better choice in coming.
Jon looked Anthony up and down. And just like him, even after all the years since high school, he was just as expressionless as ever. “Anthony Raine.” Jon gave him another once over. “In Syphon attire. I never would have guessed.”
He wanted to respond to that, but Damon was the one who took his attention. Damon was the one who had some serious explaining to do. Damon was the one, as much as he knew Erin would hate to admit it, they couldn’t harm. “Damon,” Anthony said as Damon averted his gaze. He knew what Anthony was thinking. How could he not?
“I know,” Damon said when Anthony didn’t look away from him. Both him and Jon sounded so different from all those years ago. Naturally they would, but it was still a strange sound to him. “I know.”
Anthony opened his mouth, and waited for his mind to catch up with something to say. “If you weren’t Taylor’s father . . .” Damon noticeably winced as Anthony said his daughter’s name. If he wasn’t Taylor’s father, if his old friend, Jon, wasn’t in this clan too, Anthony would just let Leach take out this clan and be done with it. But that was not the case. He looked between the two men and sighed through his nose. “If you’d be so kind to invite me in, I think we need to catch up.” It wasn’t said with the friendly tone of meeting a close friend from high school. He couldn’t keep his gaze off of Damon. He couldn’t even imagine how pissed off Erin would get at the mere sight of him.
“Come then,” Jon said, and turned back, walking back towards his headquarters.
Both Anthony and Damon stayed behind. “Could you . . . stop staring . . . please?”
“Could you give Taylor a childhood where she has a father?” Damon looked to the floor, and Anthony started to follow Jon. “No? Then I suggest against requesting anything of me.”
As Anthony passed the gate, he could read all the scenarios Damon was playing over in his head about how things would go should he see Erin again. None resulted in him being beaten to a bloody pulp.
“Optimistic jackass,” Anthony mumbled, entering Vitality headquarters.