Prey Universe AU (Ezra, Seven)
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Ezra turned off the engine and slowly got out of his car. He slipped into his jacket and looked at the burned out remains of the place hed called home. The sun sneaked past the trees creating a haunted look, giving the house, or what was left of it, a ghostly appearance.
She stepped out behind a tree, looking as beautiful as the last time hed seen her. After fifteen years, she didnt appear to have aged a day. Her hair was just as blonde and her eyes just as green.
Mother, Ezra said softly...longingly.
Youre lookin rather haggard, darlin. It would appear things have not turned in your favor. She walked toward him, her knitted shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders, and her flower print dress moved elegantly with every step she took.
Ezra stood still, not sure what to think. After fifteen years, hed longed for this day. She stepped up close to him and gently touched his jaw.
Youve taken on your fathers appearance, she said softly.
Why are you here?
I heard some rather disturbing news concerning your loyalties. Her words werent angry, but filled with disappointment. What are your intentions?
Whos asking? He asked, knowing there was a reason Maude had arrived.
You always were an intelligent boy. She smiled, and then looked toward the wooded area beside the charred remains of the house.
Josiah and Chris listened to the conversation, wanting more than anything to learn what Ezra was all about. Even more so, they wanted to know what the Dominants agenda was. JD picked up the Southerners position and then turned to the detective for further instructions.
You were extraordinary, even among the rest of us, Maude continued.
Why are you here? Ezra asked again.
Maude smiled sweetly, her face softening. She reached out and gave her son a hug, rubbing his back affectionately. Ezra didnt respond, unsure if he should, and more confused than anything. Maude pulled back slightly and clasped her hands around her sons face.
Extraordinary, she said softly, before planting a kiss on his lips.
Ezra pulled back, shocked by her actions. When she released him, he stumbled backwards and wiped his chin and lips free of blood. Why? he asked, falling to the ground.
Maude smiled, standing over him. I had to, she responded, pulling a star-shaped item from her mouth. She watched as her son succumbed to the drug that had been planted on the object.
Im impressed, said a voice from behind her.
What would you expect considering you failed the first time, she snapped.
I didnt fail, he replied.
Jones, Maude sighed.
He looked at her and smiled. His hair was white, but his age was unclear. Few wrinkles marred his face, and his eyes seemed as bright as any young college students. Jones reached down and grabbed Ezra, throwing him over his shoulder. The older man sighed, looking at the burned out house, and then at Maude. Would you like to join us? he asked seductively.
Maude smiled: Of course, she responded, touching his cheek. Her attraction to him was obvious, and shed do anything to get into his good graces.
Chris grabbed his magnum and an extra clip. JD, Buck, he ordered, getting their attention. Get your gear. Josiah, you as well.
I can help, Vin said, grabbing his coat.
Chris shook his head: I cant stop you, Vin, he said. But I will arrest your ass for interfering with a police investigation. I dont want you there. Chris wasnt saying it out of anger, but more out of protection. He shifted his gaze to Nathan who sat at the table next to the surveillance equipment. Stay here, he ordered both men.
Buck fastened the Kevlar vest around his middle and watched as JD and Josiah did the same. Weapons were checked, clips assigned, and a heightened sense of awareness was shared with everyone.
Vin tossed his jacket on the sofa and crossed his arms over his chest. It was obvious that he wasnt happy.
Chris grabbed four headsets and handed one to each of the men going with him. I want to hear everything thats going on with Ezra, he spoke to Nathan and Vin, so keep us connected. If you think theres going to be a problem, let me know. He turned abruptly and headed out the door with the others following close behind.
The blackness lifted slowly and Ezra squeezed his eyes shut and then blinked rapidly, trying to clear his vision. He lifted his chin off his chest, finding his mother leaning against the wall across from him. Her arms were folded across her chest, and her once soft features had hardened. Ezra could feel the tightness in his shoulders as he tried to move his arms. His wrists had been cuffed and his arms pulled outward, away from his body.
Maude stepped forward as she watched her son try and regain his footing after hanging limply between two posts. There is a destiny for you, she said softly, forcing his chin up to face her. You failed.
Jones laughed from somewhere behind Ezra. His voice echoed like unseen footsteps down a dark alley. He grabbed a handful of Ezras hair and yanked his head back. What do they know? he asked, his voice deep and full of anger.
Ezra remained quiet, trying to focus on the ceiling.
You might as well tell him everything, son, Maude said, as Jones released Ezras hair, pushing his head forward.
Theres nothing to tell, he replied through clenched teeth.
A quick jab to his ribs caused Ezra to gasp in pain. You failed in your mission, boy, Jones hissed, striking out again with an iron like fist. Do you know what happens to failures? his voice softened and a smiled crept on his lips. When his victim remained quiet, he looked to Maude. What happens to failures?
Maude smiled, feeling Jones eyes upon her. Death, she replied softly.
Jones smiled increased: Yes, he said, turning his attention back to his subject. He reached up and touched Ezras neck gently, lightly touching the scars. Youre too valuable to kill, he said softly, whispering in the Southerners ear. Jones stepped away and grabbed a canvas bag. At the age of five, you were chosen as the leader to your people, he reached into the bag, you bear the mark. He looked up. I placed it on you myself.
Youre of the purest line, Ezra, Maude said.
Jones dropped the canvas bag on the floor. Its your duty to your kind to protect them to protect us. And by doing so, you dont question, or fail to follow an order. He held out his hand that contained a gun and a large needle. Your mother is willing to die for the cause, he turned and smiled at Maude, are you willing to kill her for it?
Ezra looked at him, his jaw muscles clenching. He wouldnt kill her he couldnt.
No? Jones questioned, not surprised by the lack of an answer. He shook his head and laughed, before stepping out of Ezras sight to stand behind him. Jones struck out again, causing the Southerner to gasp in pain as his side flared from the abuse. Tell me, boy, Jones hissed again, what do they know?
Ezra remained quiet, resisting the urge to cry out.
Jones stepped up closer behind him and placed his arm on the Southerners shoulder. In his grasp was the gun hed held earlier. Now, he pointed it at Maude. Do you want me to kill her? he asked, whispering.
No, Ezra replied with a slight hint of panic in his voice.
Jones chuckled and removed his arm only to jab the Southerner again in the ribs. Wrong answer, he hissed, replacing his arm over Ezras shoulder and pulling the trigger.
Ezra jumped, his situation momentarily forgotten as he watched his mother collapse to the ground.
Suddenly, Jones grabbed a handful of Ezras hair and forced his head to the side. Do you know how long it would take for someone to bleed to death with a 16 gauge needle sticking out of their jugular?
Ezra gasped when he felt the sharp sting of a needle slide into his neck.
Not long, Jones replied. But Ill not kill you just yet. He secured the needle with tape as blood flowed past his fingers. Ill retrain you, he whispered into Ezras ear, and this time you wont fail.
This should be it, Chris, JD said, as the lead detective slammed on the brakes. This is where the tracking device is.
Its just a burned out house, Buck gasped, getting out of the vehicle.
Its the right place, Vins voice echoed over the headphones.
Chris stepped out and took a long look around. His held in his grasp his weapon, as he tried to focus on some distant sound. Take it slow, and nobody moves anywhere alone, he said to his men. Ezra was here he could feel it.
Buck and JD, with their weapons pointed toward the ground, headed up the charcoal covered steps. The fire had burned hot and fast, having left most of the houses frame intact. Josiah and Chris walked around the perimeter, looking for anything that could help them.
Minutes seemed like hours and JD kicked a downed piece of paneling out of frustration. I dont see anything, he said, looking at the others.
Keep looking, JD, Chris order came over the headset clearly.
I have to agree with the kid, Chris, Buck said, letting his gun hand drop to his side, there aint nothing here.
Hes here, the detective snapped, look for a cellar or a basement.
Buck nodded to himself and started moving debris away from the floor with his foot. He watched as JD stepped onto the ground. Buck had investigated house fires in the past, but this one didnt look like any hed seen before. Usually there was some kind of personal remains, evidence that a home had been destroyed, but there wasnt any here.
Buck, JDs voice was soft.
The ladies man looked up and noticed the kid had repositioned his gun toward the ground. Buck motioned for Chris and Josiah to join him at the kids side.
The cellar doors had been covered with weeds and charred plants. It was hardly noticeable, except for the handle that glistened off the sun. Josiah carefully pulled the items off the doors and moved back. Like the trained officers that they were, Chris gave the order for JD and Buck to open the doors, and then he and Josiah moved down the steps with their guns drawn.
Dear God, Josiah gasped, looking at the blood covered form hanging in the center of the room. He moved forward, forgetting about procedure, and grabbing Ezra around the waist, tried to relieve the tension on his arms. Hang on, son, he said softly, knowing the man he held couldnt hear him.
JD and Buck checked the rest of the room.
Chris reached into his pocket and pulled out a knife and cut the ropes holding Ezras arms. He alive? he asked, Josiah, whod managed to pick up the Southerners limp form.
Barely, Josiah replied, heading for the steps with his burden.
Chris went to follow but Buck held him back a moment. Wheres Jones and Ezras mother? he asked, trying to understand what was going on.
I dont know, Chris responded, not understanding either.
When the others reached the van, Josiah had Ezra laid out on the back seat covered in a blanket. Hed removed the intrusive needle and covered the small wound with a small piece of gauze.
How is he, Josiah? JD asked.
The big man shook his head: We need to get him to Nathan, he replied, getting up on the seat next to the Southerner.
JD nodded and slid the door closed. He jumped up into the seat behind Chris when the engine started.
Chris pulled the van into the garage and closed the door before Josiah had a chance to remove Ezra from the backseat. Nathan was in the vehicle before anyone could say anything, checking the Southerners blood pressure and respirations.
How is he? Chris asked, stepping up beside Josiah.
I think we should get him warm, Nathan said, shaking his head. He pulled the blanket back, exposing the bloody shirt. He scratched his head, not sure of what to do. Maybe try and get some sugar water down him.
Whats the matter, Nathan? Josiah asked.
If he were human, Id say get him to a hospital, but hes not I just dont know what to do. Nathan shook his head in frustration.
Do what you can, Chris replied.
Josiah reached out and retrieved Ezras limp form from the back seat, the blanket falling to the floor. JD held the door open as the big man moved through with his burden followed by the others.
Buck, Nathan called, start boiling some water. He paused and looked at Chris: Do you have an electric blanket?
Theres one on the bed in the guest room, Chris answered.
Josiah followed the detective into the neatly decorated bedroom. Nathan pulled the blankets back as Josiah laid his burden on the crisp sheets. Chris entered the bathroom and grabbed a washcloth and a bowl of warm water. Vin grabbed more blankets and towels from the hall closet, while JD retrieved the only first aid kit in the house.
Nathan cut away Ezras bloodied shirt and noticed the bruising that was already forming on his ribcage. The doctor shook his head as he wiped the traumatized area. Josiah removed the Southerners shoes and socks before standing back waiting for further instruction.
Chris motioned for Vin, JD, and Buck to join him in the living room. His face was lined with worry. He looked hard at the bounty hunter: If we take you back to the place where we found Ezra, do you think you could track Jones from there?
Get me there and Ill find im, Vin said confidently.
Chris nodded: I dont want to walk into a trap, he said, looking at his men.
Do you think thats why we found Ezra? Buck asked, sticking his thumbs through the belt loops of his pants.
Not sure, Chris answered, but its strange that both Jones and Ezras mother were gone when we got there.
Maybe they sensed us, JD said, scratching his jaw.
Id bet on it, Chris responded.
Buck cleared his throat: I think we should hold off doin anything until we get some answers out of Ezra. There wasnt any malice in his voice, just concern.
Trail could get cold by then, Vin said, leaning against the wall.
Bucks right, Chris supposed. Well wait until Ezras up to talkin and then well hunt down Jones. Right now, we dont know what hes capable of and from what weve seen and heard, he looked to the guest room, hes capable of just about anything.
We should have someone stay with Ezra, Buck surmised.
Chris nodded in agreement: Nathan will stay with him until hes sure Ezra ill make it.
I know what you meant, Buck, Chris snapped, and someone ill be with him.
Between Nathan gettin his lab ransacked and Ezra gettin well, I dont think any of us are safe, Buck sighed, scratching his head.
Well pair up, Chris said, nobody goes anywhere without someone else with them.
JD and Vin nodded reluctantly. Everyone turned when Nathan entered the room. It was obvious to everyone that he was worried.
Josiahs sitting with him, the doctor said, grabbing a chair and seating himself. Hes got a couple broken ribs, but he sighed, hes lost a lot of blood.
He gonna make it? Chris asked.
I dont know enough about his our physiology to do him any good. His blood pressure is almost unreadable, hes unresponsive, and Nathan shook his head, other than keeping him warm and getting as much sugar water in him as we can down him I dont know what else to do.
Can we get you anything from the hospital? Vin added.
Id like to get him an IV
When I was a kid, Chris spoke up, I broke my leg fallin off a roof. My father was a veterinarian and he cast my leg himself, but my mother forced glass after glass of sugar water down me, he shook his head, remembering how much he hated it, but I was out of that cast in two weeks.
Nathan nodded and smiled. He knew what Chris was telling him. Hell make it, he tried to sound confident.
Call the hospital and let them know youre going to be out for a while, Chris ordered. Ill call Travis and let him know whats going on. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked around the room. Buck, you and JD go back to the office and find those files Josiah was searching through regarding Jones. Then find all the records you can of murders executed at close range. Check the files out and then bring them back here.
What are you going to do? Buck asked, out of curiosity.
Vin and I are going down to the Chamber of Commerce and find some old city maps.
Maybe you can stop at the store and get some more sugar, Nathan said, getting to his feet.
Chris nodded: Anything else?
Ill write out a list, Nathan replied, grabbing a pen and paper.
Ezra moved his head when he felt a warm damp cloth press against his left eye. The heat felt good and he shivered, despite being covered in blankets. He could hear voices, but couldnt make out what they were saying, until a strong hand forced its way behind his neck and shoulders, pulling him into a sitting position.
You need to drink this, Nathan said, bringing the cup filled with warm sugar water to his patients lips.
Ezra weakly reached out to stop the approaching cup and he turned his head away. The world seemed to be moving in slow motion and even his eyelids wouldnt cooperate. He felt someone grab his chin and force his face forward and then the warm feeling of fluid pass between his lips.
Jones wouldnt do something like this. It would be days before hed make an appearance, and then the training would begin. The long hours of being told what to remember and what to forget, the long days without water or food, and the longer nights sleeping in dirty clothes on the cold ground. If he protested, the bloodletting would begin again and again, until he yielded.
Ezra struggled to open his eyes and was greeted with the dull light of the lamp next to the bed and Nathans grinning face. How are you feeling? came the soft-spoken question.
Cold, Ezra whispered, feeling as though is eyelids had been weighed down with lead.
Nathan nodded, and slowly lowered the Southerner back down on the bed. Ill turn up the electric blanket, he said, forcing the mans bandage covered hand under the blankets. He sat back down in the chair next to the bed, wondering about the path he and his friends were now on.
Chris looked over the maps on his dining room table. With his index finger, he traced the bold lines that went from one side of the map to the other. Underground tunnels. After the town of Four Corners had been established, Chinese railroad workers had created underground opium dens that had long been lost. However, a one-time resident of the town had taken it upon himself to map out these tunnels.
Looks like a lot of ground to cover, Vin said, tracing the shape of the condensation ring created by his water glass.
We can start where we found Ezra, Chris said, keeping his eyes locked on the map.
Why would they use the opium dens? JD questioned, rubbing tired eyes.
Good place to hide, lots of places to escape to, and nobody likes to be in the dark for very long, Vin surmised.
You think thats where Jones does his training? JD asked, crossing his arms across his chest.
No, Chris replied, shaking his head. He uses the tunnels to get around, but Id be willin to bet hes got a house or building over one of the dens.
Thats why he was gone when we got there today, Buck said, stepping up beside his friend. Theres probably a secret passageway in the cellar where we found Ezra so Jones took Ezras mother before we could get to him.
Makes sense, Vin agreed.
Why leave Ezra after going through all that trouble of getting him there? JD inquired, leaning forward in his chair.
The women, Chris said, coming to a conclusion. If all of the dominant women are as different as the one that we found in Mexico, theyre going to do everything they can to keep them from being discovered.
Chris right, Nathan said, stepping into the room. The males of the species are closer to human than are the female.
Yeah, Vin sighed and then chuckled, it would put a pucker in the seat of the medical field if they found women with four uteruses.
Putting it mildly, Buck responded, running his fingers through his hair.
Josiah sat watching the form buried beneath the pile of blankets. Ezra rarely moved, and the big man wondered what it would have been like growing up without anything. And now, the very form he was watching was going to have to live with the sight of his mother being shot in front of him. The memory would be forever branded in his mind. When Ezra stirred, Josiah poured more sugar water into the cup Nathan kept on the nightstand.
A hand appeared from under the blankets and then moved up to cover tired eyes. Ezra sighed, feeling as though he didnt have the strength to breathe, much less move. He tried to hide his eyes from the dim light with his hand but he let the useless appendage fall back onto the bed. He felt someone move a hand behind his neck and shoulders as he was once again lifted from the pillows he lay on.
You need to drink this, Josiah said softly, bringing the cup up to Ezras lips.
He took a sip and coughed when some of the fluid went down the wrong pipe. Sorry, he whispered, trying valiantly to wipe the sticky substance from his chin.
Josiah chuckled, replacing the cup on the nightstand and stacking some pillows behind the dominants back. Theres nothing to be sorry for, he said, grabbing the washrag from the basin. He rung the excess water from the washcloth and then handed it to Ezra, who weakly wiped his chin. Do you want to tell me what happened?
Ezra watched him for a moment before handing the washcloth back. Howd you find me?
JD put a bug in your jacket, he answered honestly.
Then why are you asking me to tell you what happened? he didnt ask out of anger, but rather out of confusion.
Thought maybe you needed to talk about it, Josiah responded.
How is my talking about it going to make the situation relevant?
The big man chuckled and looked intently at the man on the bed. It wont, but how do you feel about it?
Feelings arent significant, only facts, Ezra sighed, weakly rubbing his forehead.
Who taught you that?
Its not the matter of who taught me, Mr. Sanchez, Ezra covered his mouth as he tried to stifle a yawn. Feelings and emotions are liabilities. They undermine everything that is logical.
But theyre a part of your life, Josiah added, trying to understand.
No, Ezra disagreed. Theyre a part of your life because of your environment. He tried to sit up, becoming more agitated by the moment.
Josiah sighed and leaned back in his chair. Why does this make you uncomfortable? He watched the other mans movements.
Im not uncomfortable, Ezra replied quickly, all the while debating whether or not he could make it to the door.
You know what I think? Josiah asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. He didnt wait for an answer, I think, a few weeks ago, something inside you woke up, like a dragon thats been sleeping for a very long time.
Spare me the melodrama.
Josiah chuckled: You didnt kill Mary when you had the chance. You didnt tell Jones what he wanted to know and you didnt want to see your mother perish, he paused, looking at the man who lay motionless in the bed, Logic didnt make those decisions for you feelings did.
Ezra looked hard at the man across from him. He wanted to ask questions, but his mind couldnt seem to grasp any one subject at the moment. Things had changed so much in the past few weeks. Everything hed grown up believing in was gone, pulled out from under his feet like an old rug. Memories of his past continued to flood his mind. Hed not only lost the past he knew, but also the past hed thought hed had. Nothing was real anymore.
Ezra moved his eyes from Josiahs form toward the window. At least there he wouldnt see pity or be confronted with questions that he didnt have answers for. He succumbed to the weight of his eyelids and never felt the movement of blankets being pulled up over his shoulders.
Josiah entered the dining room to find the others diligently reading over files, documenting data, and highlighting map layouts. The pungent odor of strong coffee filled the air, causing his nasal hairs to bend under the stench.
Hows he doin, Josiah? Buck asked, tossing some papers onto the tabletop.
The big man shook his head: I think hes confused.
Chris looked up from the map, and ran his fingers through his hair. Whats that mean? he asked, not liking Josiahs tone.
I mean that everything hes ever known has been taken away from him, and unlike the rest of us Josiah looked around the room, he doesnt have a strong foundation to fall back on.
Nathan and Chris both nodded in understanding.
Whats that supposed to mean? Vin asked, knowing what it was like to not have family.
Josiah seated himself at the table and entwined his fingers together while resting his elbows on the tabletop. Imagine growing up in a void, he said, looking at the men around him. The only thing you know for sure is that your acceptance into society isnt dependant on who you are, but what you do. He fingered the slip of paper in front of him.
But he made the decision, JD said, not quite understanding the profilers assessment.
Josiah nodded: He made the decision because he wants to do what is right I think theres a deeper issue here that we dont understand yet.
Like what? Chris asked, picking up his coffee cup.
Like the rest of us, Josiah responded. What if were the norms?
Youre throwin a mighty big wrench into the gear shaft, Josiah, Vin said, getting to his feet.
Every society has its clans, or dividers. The Apache Indians, for example, had several different tribes, many of whom fought with each other, while some held the highest of respect
So youre sayin that were one clan and Ezras another? Vin asked, stirring another teaspoon of sugar into his coffee.
Yes and no, Josiah answered. The similarities between all of us are phenomenal. Were faster, stronger, and smarter than most humans. We never stopped to think about this until now; it was just a part of who we are like being human. He looked around; making sure everyone was on track with him. However, we are different, but I dont think our differences were supposed to separate us from the rest of the world. I believe that our species was simply going to integrate slowly with the rest of human kind.
But what about Ezras clan? Buck questioned, tapping the table with his index finger.
We tend to fear what we dont understand. We heard Jones tell our brother that he was from the purest line, which tells me that Ezra has probably been separated from anything that could be devastating to his kind
So he could remain pure, Nathan said, understanding what he was hearing.
Then why did he fail in his mission to kill Mary? Chris asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Because his training went against his nature, Josiah answered, nodding to himself. He liked his assessment, and he thought himself to be right.
So he consciously or unconsciously went against what he was taught, Buck surmised.
Yes, Josiah agreed. Things are becoming more clear to him now, and will continue to do so. Memories from his past, and perhaps he can tell us Jones agenda, when he starts to understand what hes going through.
Chris nodded and then finished his coffee. You should all go home and get some rest, he said, looking toward his guest room. Try and be back here in the morning.
You goin to be up to carin for him through the night? Vin asked.
You can stay in Adams room, Chris replied, with a smart assed grin. JD can stay at Bucks place, and Josiah can stay at Nathans just until we get things settled.
Ezra woke with a jolt and he looked up at the ceiling. The dim light on the nightstand painted the textured wall yellow with specs of shadows creating small crevasses. Weakly, he pushed the blankets away from his body and sat up. Though the air in the room was warm, he still shivered as his feet hit the carpet. He carefully grabbed the jeans that had been left on the chair next to the bed and slipped them on, and then gently worked on the blue long sleeved tee shirt. He tried to keep from gasping as he maneuvered the shirt into place.
The house was quiet and dark, but the cascading street light entered in through the windows lighting his way toward the living room. He moved toward the sliding glass door and leaned against the wall, and then slowly slid down onto the floor. The light from the moon lit the back yard, dancing off the swing set and creating long shadows under the slide and next to the fence.
What had it been like to play on such an item? To laugh with others, joke, and tease? His head swam and he rested against the cold glass. Everything he knew was gone.
You should be in bed, Chris said, sitting down in the rocking chair behind the glass doors.
Ezra chuckled, but kept his gaze toward the yard.
Chris leaned forward and handed the Southerner the cup of warm sugar water hed gotten when hed heard Ezra was up and around. Nathan says to drink as much of this as you can. He leaned back and rested his ankle on his knee.
Ezra took the cup and stared momentarily at the fluid as it reflected the dim light. He sat the object on the floor next to his feet and then tucked his arms between his knees and chest before returning his gaze out the window.
Both men remained silent for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts. Chris couldnt help but notice the swing move gently back and forth in the subtle wind, reminding him of a better time.
Ezra broke the silence, When I was eleven, I killed a man coming out of a bank after it had closed, he whispered, keeping his eyes on the swing set. He had six kids.
Chris ran his hand over his face and leaned forward in the chair, not fully understanding the guilt that was eating at man sitting before him. Whyd you kill him? he asked softly.
I had to, Ezra answered. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.
Is that what Jones programmed you to do?
You make it sound so simple, Ezra replied, his voice laced with bitterness and defensiveness. Jones is considered a talent, he turned to look at Chris. He does what he does because he can and nobody has tried to stop him. The elders of our species were murdered when I was young. Jones was the only survivor. He was looked at by some kind of benediction, and those that didnt believe his words left.
Was everyone that stayed behind trained? Chris asked, trying to understand what he and the others were up against.
Ezra shook his head: No, he paused, Only a select few were chosen.
What is this talent Jones has?
You dont understand, Ezra sighed, annoyed that he had to explain further. Jones is a talent. He was the first of our species to develop and use his senses. He then turned and taught the rest of us to use them as well. He knows things he paused, pressing his thumb to his bottom lip, things that he shouldnt know.
Chris sighed, not understanding. What about the women?
The females of our species become fertile at an early age. However, their fertility is only temporary ten years at the most.
Why such a short amount of time?
To prevent overpopulation. Their uteruses, unlike what Mr. Jackson discovered, are eventually absorbed by their bodies to prevent further childbearing.
What happened during your training? Chris asked softly, hoping to get an answer.
Ezra sighed and shivered, more from the memories than the cold. He didnt notice Vin hand a blanket to Chris who suddenly covered the Southerners shoulders with the soft material. Both men stood back waiting and hoping for an answer.
The others and I were taken to California with Jones. We were all separated and kept in different rooms, but I can remember hearing them through the walls he paused for a moment, keeping his eyes on the swing set.
Ezra? Chris questioned after a long silence.
We werent trained, Mr. Larabee, Ezra said softly, The word training implies some choice in later decisions. We didnt have a choice. If we refused an order, measures were taken to ensure failure would not happen again. He spoke flatly and without emotion.
What kind of measures?
Bloodletting, beatings, starvation, and sometimes death depending on the resilience of the subject.
Are you remembering everything now? Chris asked, guessing that more things were becoming clear for the younger man sitting across from him.
Clear as glass, Ezra responded, trying to sink down further into the warmth of the blanket.
Whyd you decide to help us? Vin asked, grabbing the back of a chair and pulling it forward to sit down on.
Jones has forty assassins stationed throughout the country and Northern Europe
You sure its only forty? the bounty hunter inquired, resting his elbows on his knees.
Forty is all Jones can control. When men like Dale Harper start killing for pleasure, Jones exposes them rather than dealing with them himself.
He left the evidence for me and my men to find on Harper? Chris questioned, slightly surprised.
Yes, Ezra answered.
Why didnt Jones just kill Harper himself? Vin asked.
Thats not the way Jones works, Ezra replied flatly.
Chris nodded, rocking back in his chair.
Whyd Jones leave you like he did? Vin asked the question Chris wanted to.
Ezra shrugged, not really understanding why hed been left. The one thing he was sure of was Jones determination. Whatever he wanted hed get, one way or the other. I dont know, he answered honestly, leaning his head against the wall.
What you told me earlier Chris paused, looking up at Vin and then returned his gaze to Ezra, Im not going to tell Commissioner Travis. He looked up when he saw a cat jump up onto the railing of his fence in the back yard. But I want you to talk to Nathan and Josiah tell them what you told me, and it at all possible tell them more. Dont worry about incriminating yourself just help us find Jones so we can stop him.
What then? Ezra asked, a hint of vulnerability lacing his words.
Chris chuckled: You ever thought about a career in law enforcement? He glanced at Vin after Ezra tossed him a questioning look. Both of you should think about it, he sighed, getting to his feet. Im studying for the sergeants exam he said, walking into the kitchen, might as well make more money doing what I do.
Ezra picked up the now cold cup of sugar water and took a tentative sip. He fingered the handle for a moment, hearing the refrigerator door close. What about you, Mr. Tanner? he asked, looking to where the bounty hunter was sitting.
Hell, Ezra, Vin paused, I aint never even finished high school. Dont see how I could get a job as a cop.
The Southern-born dominant laughed: Its not difficult to falsify records.
Aint exactly truthful.
And just how many lies have you told in search of a bounty? Ezra raised his eyebrows.
I get your point, Vin responded behind a chuckle. So what police academy am I goin to be graduated from? He laughed and took one of the beers Chris handed him on his way back to his chair.
So, Chris paused, opening his beer, where should we start looking for Jones?
Your own backyard, Ezra said flatly.
Josiah hung up the phone after talking with Chris and looked over to where Nathan was working at his desk. He continually typed away at his computer, trying to come up with a scientific reason for the new species. The sun was starting to make its way over the horizon, creeping past the tops of trees and house roofs.
How strange, looking at the simplicity of the earth through its natural environment. Everything seemed to be natural, peaceful, and uncomplicated. Unlike the life Josiah was living now. Hed always tried to live by a certain standard. It wasnt complicated, or so he thought. Hed always understood others feelings, trying to see things from both sides of the story. He was a profiler. He was supposed to see things logically and without prejudice. But hed seen a lot in his life, and over time, those scenes had callused him, caused him to anticipate the worst out of anyone particularly himself.
What did Chris want? Nathan asked, looking up from his computer.
Says he wants us to come on over, he said, looking out of the window. You miss your family? he asked, the question coming out of nowhere.
Nathan sighed and sat back in his chair. Think about them all the time, he said softly, and then chuckled. When I was a kid, I told my mom that I was going to become a doctor when I grew up. You know what she said to me?
She said, Thats good to have a dream like that, but remember, you still got to clean your room. She never let any of us get ahead of ourselves. Always wanted us to remember who we were and where wed come from.
Your mother sounded like a real smart lady.
She was, Nathan responded confidently. What about your family?
Josiah sighed and leaned against the wall next to the window. I never understood why my father was always determined that my sister and I were filled with the devils influence until now. I think he knew what we were, and because of it he didnt know how to finish. My mother tried to make up for his behavior but eventually, it wore her down.
Nathan nodded in understanding. What about your sister?
She killed herself three years ago, Josiah answered sadly.
That before you left the Bureau?
Thats why I left.
Nathan closed the top of his computer and got up. You all right, Josiah? he asked in a serious tone.
Contemplating the path before us, Brother, he responded with a grin. And thank you for asking.
Nathan nodded: Lets get going. Id be willing to bet that Chris has got something new for us.
Buck slapped JD on the shoulder as he passed by. The kid filled his coke glass full and then placed the plastic lid on top, quickly sucking up the pop that overflowed through the straw hole. He grabbed a bag of potato chips and sighed when he saw Buck flirting with the young woman behind the counter.
You bout ready? Buck asked, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket.
Yeah, JD sighed, putting his purchases on the counter top.
Mags, as her nameplate indicated, quickly scanned the items. Fourteen dollars and sixteen cents, she said, batting her large brown eyelashes.
Buck smiled and handed her the money. Keep the change, he said, grabbing his coffee and bag of donuts.
Your pocket is ringin, Mags said, returning Bucks smile.
Shit, Buck yelped as hot coffee spilt onto his hand as he reached for his cell phone.
JD shook his head: You should see him when his beeper goes off, he said to Mags as he picked up his things, and then followed Buck out of the convenience store. He paused, watching his friend nod his head as though the person on the other end could see him.
Get in the truck, JD, Buck ordered, his demeanor now changed.
Ill explain on the way. Buck shoved his phone into his pocked and jumped into his truck.
SHIT! Chris yelled, as canisters broke through his living room windows. White smoke filled the room spreading with a mind of its own. It guided itself over furniture, under tables and chairs, into corners, and through any open doorway.
Vin tripped over a footstool on his way out of the bathroom. He covered his mouth quickly and squeezed his eyes shut when the smoke stung his eyes. CHRIS! he yelled, feeling dizzy.
Chris fell when he collided with the dining room table. His eyes burned and tears fell freely down his face. He didnt see the six men clothed in black tactical uniforms enter his home with gas masks and weapons. Hed heard Vins yell, but couldnt get to him. His head felt heavy and saliva dripped from his open mouth. Chris collapsed in a heap as blackness consumed him.
Vin gasped when he was roughly pulled to the side and thrown unmercifully against the far wall. His head continued to swim and his stomach lurched causing him to dry heave. He collapsed against the wall and passed out, never noticing Ezra being dragged through the room.
Josiah slammed on his brakes in time to see Ezra being forced into a black van outside of Chris house. He jumped out of his suburban and ducked behind the door when gunfire erupted, spraying his windshield, grill, tires, and the door he hid behind. Nathan tried to hide himself between the seat and dashboard, flinching every time a bullet struck something hard.
The sound of tires squealing filled the air and Josiah took a chance and looked up. He left his safety and started running toward the speeding van but he couldnt keep up, no matter how strong or fast he was. He turned suddenly and rushed for Nathan who was getting out. Both men paused for a brief moment and looked at each other before rushing toward the house.
The smoke had dissipated, leaving in its wake a powdery film on the floor and furniture. Nathan rushed for Chris who moaned and raised his hand to his face. Josiah headed for Vin.
What happened? Chris questioned past a rough uncooperative throat.
Lie still, Nathan ordered. You hurting anywhere?
Just my head, Chris responded, trying to clear his vision.
Nathan carefully helped the detective sit up. You should take a cold shower and wash this stuff off of you. He ran his hands over Chris head searching for scrapes or bumps. Make sure its a cold shower. Heat might activate the chemical again.
Vin, Ezra? Chris asked, the others coming to his attention.
Take it slow, Nathan warned, as the blonde slowly got to his feet.
Chris nodded and then walked to where Josiah was sitting with Vin. The bounty hunter had a blood-soaked cloth pressed to his head. Josiahs large hand was planted on Vins shoulder, keeping him in place.
Think he hit his head when he fell, the big man said, looking up at Nathan.
Go start a cold shower, Josiah, the doctor ordered, taking the position in front of Vin.
What about Ezra? Chris asked, annoyed with everyones lack of concern.
They took him, Nathan answered softly.
We dont know, Josiah replied.
What the hell happened? Buck gasped, entering the house with JD on his heels.
Shower first, then well explain, Nathan said in Chris and Vins direction.
So what do we do now? JD asked, feeling lost and uncertain.
We find Ezra, Chris said confidently, drying his hair with a towel.
How? Buck snapped, And who in the hell are we goin after?
Does it matter? Josiah questioned, Either way, were doing this on our own.
Nathan finished taping a bandage to Vins forehead. Whoever took him doesnt know about the rest of us, he said, replacing the bandages into the first aid kit. They dont know that were all dominants.
Whos they? Vin asked, trying to keep from rubbing his eyes.
Chris ignored the question because he wasnt sure of the answer. Well find him, he said sternly, getting to his feet, well find him.
The room was dark except for a single light hanging in the center, highlighting the small cage in the center of the area. No sound could be heard, except for the breaths escaping partially opened lips. He stared out into nothing, looking for a hint of who put him here. He rested on his knees, hunched over with his arms tucked up under his chest. He wore nothing but a pair of black pants.
Ezra bowed his head, wondering what his future had planned. He could feel his heart racing as blood forced its way through his veins. Fear wasnt a feeling hed been familiar with, but now, after all hed been through, it was becoming a close unwelcome, friend. He looked up when he heard the sound of a heavy door opening.
What was going to happen next?
Next: The Way It Is