Primal’s wolf-dogs growled, but with one buzzing sound from their master they were silent. She quietly ordered them to wait outside, and they obeyed, both Baba O’Riley and Spectre leapt through the broken opening.
Primal felt confident that she and Delia were enough to take on the strangers. Even if they weren’t, she knew her wolves would be back in to assist them within seconds upon her call.
Delia pressed her heels into the old plank floor, rocking back for just a second before shifting her weight back to the balls of her feet. She let her knees bend, sinking pressure into the floor. She disallowed any tension in her muscles. Tense muscles make for snapped bones, Delia remembered her Israelite mentor’s lessons well.
Primal was in a similar position, but her entire body was far more aggressively inclined. She pushed herself entirely to the balls of her feet, nearly on her toes, with knees bent and body ready to lunge forward or stand firm against a backward blow.
The strange figures in the dark hall muttered to each other. Delia knew something had occurred, something other than their entry sparked discussion among the figures. She knew it had to be about Dali and Spade.
“All right.” One figure spoke up. “We’ll go snag them.”
“Don’t take so long.” Another seemed to call out as footsteps tracked back down the hall. “They’re already trapped in there; you only need to detain them.”
Primal could see specifically two figures leave the group. She counted four remaining in the hall. Easier, she thought.
One, leading forward from the rest, subtly raised a hand to signal his troop to charge forward. He assumed neither of the girls could see their signals, but Primal saw most in the soothing (to her) darkness.
Two rounded to Primal, the other two straight on to Delia. Upon them closing in on her, Delia could make out that her attackers wore night vision gear. Although her sight was not as keen as Primal’s, her hearing was sharp enough to catch every offensive movement they served. Once she grabbed a hold of one she used him against the other. She never stopped attacking, merciless with her speed and succession of hits and counters, but she was equally coordinated and precise. She never missed her target, never made a mistake.
It didn’t take the Native American/Indian hell fighter long to render both her attackers unconscious at her feet. She felt around one’s face for his night vision equipment to snatch for her own use. When she figured out how to operate it, she found a glowing Primal across the open room. She had already stabbed one man down, and was slashing wildly and relentlessly at the next. She had backed him against one Humvee and promptly sliced at the man’s chest, then just under his jaw, and then directly across his face from left sideburn to right earlobe. She did not stop until he was in the floor, trembling and mentally incoherent.
Primal looked back at Delia. “They’re not dead. Enough blood loss makes them useless, weak, and quickly exhausted in the height of their blood-pumping action.” She nudged one with her deerskin boot. “Then down they go, unconscious from the blood loss, pain, and sometimes the fear alone if I really get into it.”
Delia shrugged; she received an answer to a question she never asked but assumed she was better for it. “They will probably bleed out from the throat where you cut. Unless someone sneaks in to revive them.”
Primal’s eyes were wide and statically glowing, as seen through Delia’s night vision. “But they have time, and that’s the point. They have a chance.”
“Honestly, you realize their deaths save us the trouble later.” She pointed out.
Primal wiped her slicked blade off on her denim. “You sound like Spade.”
“I take no sides.” Delia snappily responded. She kneeled to scrutinize their attackers more closely. They wore military grade uniforms, but she noticed something off.
“These men seem to be military.” Delia said. “Soldiers, for sure. But I don’t see any badges or patches indicating their affiliation.”
Primal cocked her head. “No country flags or titles?”
“No. Nothing.” Her goggled eyes met Primal’s. “They are just wearing the dessert style camo, the entire modern military get-up, and these night vision specs too. The uniform looks specifically American in style. But that’s it, nothing that says they’re actual American troops.”
Primal reached down to the lacing in her boots, and to Delia’s surprise pulled out a sweet, slim cigar and a lighter. “I don’t know what the fuck we stumbled upon, but it ain’t crazy scientists.” She lit the tip and puffed on it. Delia’s assisted night vision displayed green illuminated smoke billowing from her lips.
Delia suspected Primal’s cigar habit- although not an addiction- seemed to help still her. “Perhaps they hired help?” She wondered.
Fingering the thick swath of blonde hair on only half her head, Primal puffed out a single laugh with a cloud of smoke. “With what money? Didn’t Freudenberger state they were running out of funds by now?”
“To be honest we don’t even know what they may have had all this time, or maybe a friend sent aid.” By then, Delia’s nostrils were filled with the rich, sweet tobacco scent. “We haven’t known anything truly solid this entire time.”
“Obviously.” Tipping her ash stacked cigar outward, Primal gestured to the fallen soldiers.
Delia felt a bit intoxicated from the smoke’s scent, but it did little to ease her mind. “We need to find the others.”
Primal scraped her cigar against the nearest Humvee door and flicked it away before re-stashing her lighter under her tight laces. “Down the ominous dark hall we go, my love.”
With a nod Delia strode fearlessly into the blackness.
“Pins, yes?” Dali asked Spade, her searching green and gold eyes to the dark floor.
Spade pressed his hand against the automatic lock which had trapped them in the small storage room. “Ideally, but I’m not holding out hope for that in here.” Although rotten and deteriorated scraps of cleaning supplies and dirty rags were piled in the corners, the rest of the room was barren and useless to his needs. Spade kept a small pocket flashlight with him, which he tossed to Dali to help her in her search for anything small and strong enough to pick the lock apart.
“Thanks.” Dali crawled around the floor guiding the light across the planks like a scanner.
Spade let his hands wander across the door, curious as to how sturdy it was. “I can’t imagine why an automatic locking door would be useful to an old storage room. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the barn’s security at all.”
“That’s because it’s newer than the rest of the barn.” Dali pointed the flashlight’s beam to the door. Indeed, the wood was newer: sanded, stained, and still smooth. No rot or dust had claimed its splinters yet. The lock pad itself was glossy with metal paint. “Someone recently installed that.”
Spade stared at it for several minutes. “Who the fuck did that?” When he turned back to Dali, a thin stream of leaked moonlight crossed over his eyes. They went from slate to blue lightening in half a second. Her eyes picked up on everything different or changed, thus no matter how many times she saw the color shift in Spade’s eyes it never ceased to impress her.
“You think someone else is here? Maybe someone owns the place.” Dali returned to scanning the floor.
Spade sighed roughly to indicate that he still needed the light to study the door. “No, Freudenberger told Delia that this place was still for sale and had been abandoned for years. There’s no way someone would come here to install one amazing door for absolutely no reason.”
“True.” Dali squinted at it as she adjusted her black and orange, rectangular glasses. “That’s disturbing.”
“Yeah it is.” Spade fetched the retractable nightstick from his boot cuff and swung it out to its full, lengthened form. “Fuck the door, different plan.”
Dali sat cross-legged in the floor, ignoring the heavy layer of dust carpeting the entire joint. “Third panel to the right of the door.”
“Perfect.” He swung back and smashed at the weak, rot-flimsy panel with the butt of the nightstick. It cracked. A second hit snapped the plank in two, and cracked a chunk out its middle. He started to work at pulling more of the panel out by the leverage of his nightstick, but Dali’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“No, use this.” She handed him a long, wooden mop pole with the mop head already detached.
“Oh. Thanks.” He smiled at her. The pole was much longer which made it easier for Spade to use as leverage for taking most of the panel out. He did the same to the panel next to it.
Spade tossed the pole to the side and grinned at Dali. “I made dis.”
“I see that.” She wedged her way through the vertical opening, cursing her Irish-descended hips under her breath.
Her companion, however, slid through with ease. She glowered at Spade’s wiry, muscle-on-bone frame. Then the glower smoothed from her face as she looked past him further down the hall. There were visitors.
Dali’s eyes widened and she shut off the light. Just before the light disappeared, Spade had caught her expression and line of sight. Fuck, he thought.
Spade stepped close to Dali and whispered in her ear. “I take it the door installation people are here?”
She nodded. Spade had gotten close enough to her to feel her curls brush against the jet scruff on his jaw line.
“But I don’t need a new door.” He joked. “Where are they?”
“Maybe ten feet away.” She whispered so softly that Spade nearly missed it.
“Go, I’ll follow. But first, lights please.” He turned dramatically in place, directly facing the two men hiding in the hall’s darkness. Dali flashed the light in the men’s eyes from behind Spade.
Spade’s nimble fingers released metal edged cards spastically quick. The men grunted and shouted as they attempted to defend themselves against the barrage of bladed rain. He stopped for just a moment, sprawling his fingers out into jazz hands as he exclaimed, “magic, fuckers!”
Then, the light was off, and the men were just as confused and blind.
Dali took off as soon as the light blinked out. She knew Spade would be close behind her, but she didn’t look back to make sure. She had a terrible tendency to fall like a three legged baby gazelle when she ran too fast, and she didn’t want to doom herself any further by taking her sight off the hall ahead. The darkness was bad enough by itself.
However, Spade had followed her too late. The end of the hall split in two, leading in opposite directions. Spade went left, but Dali had taken the right.
Their chasers also went right.
Dali knew she was trapped. There was no way she could escape now. Once she realized Spade had taken the other hall, she knew she was doomed. She bit her lip, biting back her own tears. She ran down every dark, empty hall she could find, every musty corridor, but in the end found herself halted at four walls. The run-down corporate barn led to a moon-lit shack; most of the roof there was completely gone. Additionally, most of the wood flooring had been ripped up to reveal old, dry dirt.
Without turning around she heard two intruders behind her. She knew it wasn’t her companions. They could not come for her now. She was on her own. One man laughed roughly. The other questioned her standing there, seemingly frozen. However, internally, everything moved all too fast for Dali.
Dali’s heart pounded. Neon images of her heart exploding against her rib cage throbbed in her mind. Panic. Deceit. Forfeit. So many disturbing words were reality for her in upsetting, shattered moments. She felt a creak on the edge of a snap like blood-red stains blooming in her mind; the decimation had begun.
She strove to prevent these breakdowns from happening. Dali spent her life attempting to build a better brain, but the past few years had resulted in a cyclone of endlessly approaching meltdowns. She despised them. For single moments that might as well have lasted forever her entire world fell to dusty shards. Her worst fears piled high around her, crumbling down on her to bury her, to suffocate her.
But these moments were what lead to her survival.
She flashbacked to weeks before when Delia trained with them. The new girl was concerned whether or not Dali could fight. It panged loudly for an instant.
I can defend myself… I am not deadweight.
Cornered. Her heart pounded up into her ears. She turned just in time to see the soldiers close in on her. She fell backwards into a corner. She winced as her breathing crushed and expanded her chest violently. As they advanced, smirking, the agonizing creak finally reached its full, loud snap.
Dali grabbed the first man by his clothing and forced him to the floor with her. The second man snapped into action at his partner’s defense, but she was up by then, rock in hand, and slammed it into his face. He staggered back. The first man was up again and she struck him in the throat while she heaved herself into his chest. They went down to the dirt together, where she repeatedly smashed his head in with the rock. Blood caked its way under her nails; some of it was hers.
The second man, face bleeding, snagged her from his partner’s gurgling body. She fought and pulled, then jerked sideways with all her force and weight. The man fell with her off balance. Dali promptly threw her head backwards striking him in the face again. He still didn’t let her go.
Dali saw flashes of a man she once knew, a man who had done nothing but abuse her. Even after escaping him, that man kept her in his sights. He wished only to rape what he saw was his. He did not succeed.
She would not lose. Dali wedged her foot in between her assailant’s legs; he then held her foot there in a vise clamping his legs together tightly. She wanted that. She used her trapped foot as a point of leverage while she swung her free leg out then swiftly and harshly down against him. She kicked at his knees nearly three times before he loosened his grip on her, and she slid free.
Her shoulders and elbows were torn from grit and gravel. She didn’t notice as she proceeded to stomp the man’s throat. From the dark hall, Spade crashed into the doorway. He had followed her screams which had hardly stopped since the men attacked her. She didn’t even notice her screaming anymore. Their eyes met, and she collapsed. He caught her just before she completely hit the ground, but the damage had already marked her inside and out.
Exhaustion and fatigue settled heavily in Dali’s whole body. She was calm now, but her mind was still far from balance. Spade’s gaze wandered to the two men Dali had demolished.
“I know you hate it, but you did a great job. Again.” He held her like a baby sister. Spade was no stranger to Dali’s ruthless, defensive anxiety. He had grown accustomed to soothing her aftermath with a gentle cradle, a stroke of her dark curls, and eventually a chunk of chocolate. He always brought chocolate with him on every mission for her spells.
“We’ll get to the Jeep, you’ll crawl in the backseat, and you’ll snack on some chocolate while we drive far away from here.” Spade assured her. His gentle voice was just as calming then as it had been terrifying before when interrogating Beitel. It depended upon the situation, but Dali was never terrified of him.
Dali pulled back from Spade, signaling that she was well enough to sit alone. Spade took this chance to investigate her attackers.
The two men were in uniform, sandstorm camouflage, but Spade could not find any trace of their specific military branch, much less government affiliation. He felt around their necks for dog tags, but there was nothing. He searched their pockets, but again found nothing.
“They should have dog tags. How do they not have dog tags?” He muttered. It concerned him. Spade was ex-Navy, he knew they couldn’t be real American soldiers. “So who are you?”