Friday, October 31, 2008

Chapter 112: Eventual Release

~ As Jaden settled to the pace that Takyle was setting, he allowed himself to relax just enough that he was able to block out most of the throbbing pain radiating from various points on his body. Behind him Andrew quietly hummed unknown melodies, the stanzas interspersed with an occasional observation about their immediate surroundings. The group walked on through the day, pausing only briefly for lunch and a short break before moving on again. The path continued on a downhill trend, with brief stints upwards over smaller rises, though the scenery remained similarly uneventful.

As the hours passed, Jaden found himself slipping into a melancholy that he couldn't shake. With each step he felt himself sink a little deeper still. In the back of his mind a constant nagging voice threatened to tell him the reason for it and he continually shoved the thought away, only to have it return again and again, pressing against his defenses, pushing through the cracks.

A mantra set itself up in his mind, chanting over and over, "Just keep walking, just keep walking."

After the sun slipped behind the horizon and the slopes had faded to black Takyle finally called a halt to their long march.

"Alright, we're going to eat, sleep for a couple of hours and then head out again. I want to get off of this stupid mountain."

Jaden and Andrew both nodded and silently went about pitching their impromptu camp and fixing something nondescript for dinner. The meal was eaten for the most part in silence and in the dark each member of Team 6 crawled into their sleeping bag for a fleeting bit of rest.

Jaden lay staring up at the stars far above and the deeper blackness surrounding each point of light, wishing for sleep and lying in continual disappointment. Eventually Jaden's vision blurred and he gave into the thoughts that were screaming to be heard, until he was startled by Andrew's voice.

"Jay, why are you still awake?" he murmured. Jaden sat up and looked over to where he knew Andrew was supposed to be sleeping.

"How did you know?"

"We've been rooming together for nearly a year dude. Your breathing changes."


"So what's wrong?"

Jaden sat for a long moment in silence, staring out into the dark. Finally he spoke.

"Are you scared to be around me, Andy?"

"If I was would I be sitting here in the dark with you, knowing that you're armed?" asked Andrew, his voice carrying his smile. "But um... What would make you say something like that Jay?" The quiet that surrounded them was heavy while Jaden thought about his response.

"Well... What happened with Kathleen... I don't... I didn't really think-" Jaden's failing speech ground to a halt when Andrew interrupted his stammering.

"You mean because of the fact that you fully intended to kill that woman before I stopped you?"


"What did she do to you, Jaden?"

"How does he know?"

"Because he can read you like a book."

"I want to tell him everything."

"I don't know how."

"Just say it. Say it now."


"Just say it!"

"Kathleen tried to rape me." The words spilled out quickly and Jaden regretted them immediately. Inexplicably he felt a rush of shame.

"What's wrong with you? You didn't do anything."

Andrew was silent for a long time and for a moment Jaden imagined that his friend was judging him. Surely Andrew would think that he had brought it on himself somehow.

"Don't be such an idiot. He's on your side," Jaden reminded himself harshly.

When Andrew did finally speak his voice was edged with icy anger.

"What happened? What did she do?"

Jaden drew a deep and somewhat shaky breath, allowing himself a moment of relief over Andrew's response, and then he began to describe what had happened. He left nothing out and Andrew was silent through the entire narrative, though Jaden could feel his eyes on him through the darkness. When Jaden had finished pouring his heart out the stillness of the night settled itself around them once again. Eventually Jaden heard Andrew sigh.

"Andrew... What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking that I was an idiot for getting you into this." ~

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chapter 111: Indistinct

~ Jaden was not awake long enough to see the traps that Andrew and Takyle were discussing put into place. As soon as they were done eating Jaden cleaned up their mess kits and then, at Andrew's nod, curled up on top of his sleeping bag and passed out. Three hours later he woke, shaking in the chill air, the left side of his body slightly numb from laying in one position on the rocky ground. He fumbled around with the zipper of his bag and took a half-asleep glance around to locate Andrew and Takyle's still forms in the dark before crawling into his sleeping bag. Now that he was aware of just how uncomfortable he was, Jaden found it more difficult to fall asleep again, but it wasn't long before his exhaustion overcame even that and his thoughts slipped away. After another three hours passed, Jaden was startled awake when Andrew placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Morning Beautiful," Andrew whispered. Jaden sat up stiffly and looked around at the surrounding darkness.

"If you say so," he said, scrubbing his palms across his face.

"It will be getting light soon; we need to be moving."

"Ok. I'm on it." Jaden blearily dragged himself out of his bag and began rolling it up while Andrew moved off and fired up their camp burner again. By the time Jaden and Takyle had stowed their gear Andrew had warmed up what was left of last night's dinner and mixed some instant coffee.

Jaden scarfed down his portion of breakfast as quickly as possible, more to get it over with than to conserve time. Aging hadn't really helped the gruel at all, but the coffee wasn't bad. A quick glance around showed that Andrew was already done eating and packing up the tiny stove as Takyle finished off her coffee.

"Do you have a plan for today Takyle?" Jaden asked.

"Other than "Try to make progress," no." Takyle hoisted her pack onto her shoulder after shoving her tin cup into one of the pockets. Jaden nodded and followed suit while Andrew swallowed two of the painkillers that the medic had given him.

"Well I'm ready to go," Andrew said with a good deal more cheer than the situation merited. Takyle's mouth turned up in a smile for a moment before she silently turned and led off down the sloping mountain path. ~

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chapter 110: Too Close For Comfort

~ It didn't take long for Team 6 to cover the surrounding territory, but by the time they were finished the sun was already sinking low on the western horizon. They regrouped South of where they had scaled the cliff at Takyle's call. On that side of the mountain the grade was much more shallow and the granite was clothed with a thin layer of rocky soil. A little further down the slope the occasional scrubby tree had managed to get a toehold among the boulders. Stunted and bent to the wind, but still standing nonetheless.

Takyle stood on top of a large rock, gazing down.

"So guys, there seems to be a path here. It looks like it winds down the mountain."

"Awesome, are you thinking that's what you want us to follow?" asked Andrew.

"Well I don't see any other clues, unless one of you two found something?" Takyle said, hopping down from her vantage point. Andrew shook his head and Jaden joined in.

"Alright then. Our options seem to be to go ahead and make camp right here, or we could follow the path down for a little ways while there's still daylight. If we do that though we have no idea what we might run into."

The three people looked between one another for a second. Finally Jaden spoke.

"Listen, I am sore and exhausted and, make no mistake, I would love to collapse right here. But if you guys want to go on for a little while then I'll do it. I still want to win." Andrew nodded.

"Well Jay, I'm all about the winning side of things, but I did promise you some rest, and to be perfectly truthful I wouldn't mind a bit myself . My stomach is killing me, or at least trying damn hard. Ta?"

"Even though it doesn't feel like we've made it very far today, we've been hitting it pretty hard in the last 24 hours, so yes, let's go ahead and find somewhere to camp. I will suggest going at least down to one of those little trees so that we can have a fire though."

"I'd support that," Jaden agreed.

"Ok, let's do it then," said Andrew with over the top cheerfulness.

As it turned out, even at the base of the tiny trees there were very few fallen branches and what twigs they did find were not anything that would feed a fire for more than a couple of minutes.

"I guess maybe it's time to break out that camp burner that we've been hauling around for all this time," suggested Andrew.

"I suppose it is." Takyle found a large patch of ground that was relatively level and set her pack down. "I think I have that. Shit, I hope it still works. Remember, when we fell into that stupid dungeon thing my pack was open."

"Sit down Jay," Andrew ordered and Jaden did as he was directed without a complaint. Takyle quickly located the little burner and its tank of fuel and set them up on a flat rock.

"Ok, the moment of truth." Takyle hit the primer and auto-ignition buttons and held them down. For a moment the small contraption sputtered impotently before a small blue flame suddenly burst forth. All three team members cheered quietly and gathered around their tiny beacon.

"Fantastic. Warm food. And it will be for reals warm because I know that this fire is actually here," said Andrew.

"Yup, warm food. If you can call it food," Takyle agreed.

Jaden didn't really care if it was really warm or even really food. All he wanted was to have something in his stomach before he just gave up and let himself fall asleep. Luckily, Takyle and Andrew seemed to be similarly motivated and it wasn't long at all before there was a little pot of something nutrient rich and steaming over the flame.

"Should we take watches, or do you feel confident that we're away from danger?" asked Andrew.

"I don't know that it's possible to be away from danger in this race," Takyle answered. "At least it's beginning to look that way." She leaned over to stir the pot on the burner and then picked up Andrew and Jaden's mess kits and spooned out some of the colorless gruel for them before doing the same for herself. "I guess that means we should probably rotate watches. Unless of course you feel that you sleep light enough to hear someone sneaking up on us."

"He sleeps very lightly," Jaden contributed helpfully between bites. "If I get up he knows." Andrew shook his head.

"Yeah, but I'm not sure I'd gamble our safety on that... Unless... I could rig a couple of traps real quick. A trip wire maybe. We are surrounded by gravel, which is hard to be silent on as well. I don't want to take undue risks, but I doubt I can overstate exactly how tired I am. If I had the first watch I'd be afraid that I'd go to sleep."

"Yeah, me too... I like the idea of the traps. Let's do that," Takyle decided. "I'll help you with whatever you have to do for that after we're done eating."

"Sounds like a plan," said Andrew. ~

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chapter 109: Purely Academic

~ For a moment all three members of Team 6 stared up the ramp in disbelief. Finally Jaden spoke.

"Couldn't be that easy could it?" Andrew shook his head in response.

"Seems doubtful. But then, I've been surprised by this race before, so who am I to talk."

Takyle placed a foot on the ramp experimentally. When nothing happened she continued several steps up, and with one last look around Jaden and Andrew followed her up towards the sunlight.

"Watch yourself, Ta," Andrew directed. "There could be someone waiting."

"Yes Andrew," Takyle whispered down. "I am fully aware that I might die any second now."

"Ok, just so you're looking out for it."

"Hell, I really hope Takyle doesn't die right now," thought Jaden. "That would be damn inconvenient for any number of people. And it would suck." Jaden realized that he had begun to like Takyle. He rather saw her as more his friend now, as opposed to just his boss. He couldn't say when it had happened, but the dynamic had changed somewhere along the way, and he was fairly sure that she felt the same. That being the case, he was rather resistant to the idea of watching her get shot down in cold blood, and hurried to draw even with her on the ramp. If Kathleen had given orders to shoot someone, he figured it would probably be him.

Jaden held his breath as they rose above ground level, having half convinced himself to expect a bullet through the temple at any moment. When nothing happened he glanced around for danger, then gave a sigh of relief and hopped up and off of the ramp to one side as Takyle did the same on the other. Andrew hurried off the ramp and knelt to take the third point of the triangle.

"Clear," Takyle called quietly and both Andrew and Jaden responded in kind. Andrew pointed off in the direction of the setting sun.

"I think that's the outcropping that we tried to get out of the rain under."

"Well that's almost poetic," said Takyle with a hint of bitterness. "We're literally right back to where we started."

"Well I do love me some friggin' poetry," Andrew replied.

"Don't we all Andy, don't we all," Takyle muttered. "We should get moving. I have no idea what we're supposed to do next and it's going to be dark very soon. I'd prefer not to be stumbling around blindly on a mountain top if I have a choice in the matter."

Jaden stood and adjusted the shoulder staps of his pack.

"Maybe that map had something to do with what we're supposed to do next."

Takyle shook her head. "Well if it did it's too late now. I wasn't lying when I told them that I'd lost it. I noticed it was gone just before we fell into that dungeon."

"Can you remember what was on the map?" asked Andrew.

"Yes, quite clearly. It wasn't detailed at all. It showed the foothills and the woods and this mountain. It had a path leading from where we came out of that quiz show thing to the point where we climbed the mountain. Everything other than that was pretty vague."

"That's not very helpful. Though I am glad that you remember it or we would be left wondering just exactly how helpful it would or would not have been," said Andrew. Takyle nodded absently.

"Yes well, now a plan would be good. I really would prefer not to stand here counting dust motes. I think maybe we should take a quick look around, make sure that we didn't miss anything in the rain, and then see if we can't find somewhere relatively secure to make camp."

"Good, yes, food, rest, good," Andrew grunted.

"Well then let's hop to it," Takyle ordered. "But keep a sharp eye out."

Jaden very much intended to keep a sharp eye out. He twisted his shoulders and heard his back pop loudly. The idea of taking yet another plummet into a rocky abyss was not at all tempting at the moment. ~

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chapter 108: Stage Right

~ Team 6 jogged across the open passage spanning the marble court and back through halls towards the stairwell that they had come up from the dungeon in.

"How much time do you think we have?" asked Takyle.

"I have no clue," answered Andrew. "We may have Kathleen's entire guard tied up. On the other hand there might be an army waiting for us around the next corner. There's really no way to tell."

"Well that's reassuring."

When they reached the door to the stairwell Takyle pulled it open and waited for a second to listen. Finally she slipped through with Andrew and Jaden right behind her and they began to climb. For the most part they remained as silent as possible, but what little noise there was echoed throughout the stairwell, making Jaden very worried about who else might hear the ruckus.

After what Jaden counted to be another seven flights, the stairs simply ended with a door just off what would be the last landing. Looking wary, Takyle pushed it open and peered through cautiously. She turned back to Andrew with a scowl.

"What the hell? It's just a little room."

"Do you think it's a trap?" Andrew asked, stepping up to take a look for himself.

"I don't know, but I think I might have to kill me a woman," growled Takyle.

"Well before you go and slaughter anybody let's have a closer look inside. Maybe there's more to this." Andrew stepped into the tiny room and gazed around. Indeed there didn't seem to be any other outlets of any kind. Takyle waited impatiently on the landing and Jaden stood in the doorway watching as Andrew made a quick circuit of the room, gently tapping at the walls. Finally he shook his head.

"I don't know what the deal is, but if there is a hidden passage in here, I can't find it."

"Um, Andy, what's that?" asked Jaden, pointing up at the top of the far wall. Just barely set out from the ceiling was what appeared to be a thin handle, painted white to match everything else.

"I don't know what that is... But judging from the way the ceiling panels are arranged, it could very well be the exit. If I give you a boost up do you think you could reach it?"

"Yes, I think so, but why don't I lift Takyle up since she's lighter than me?" suggested Jaden.

"What are we doing with me now?" Takyle asked from the door. She directed her gaze toward what Jaden and Andrew were looking at. "Oh hey, a handle. I totally missed that one. Yeah, why don't one or more of you guys lift me up there."

Without further discussion, Andrew and Jaden linked their fingers together to form a place for Takyle's foot and lifted her up to grab the handle. She gave it a quick jerk and suddenly natural light flooded into the small room as one of the ceiling panels pivoted downwards. Jaden and Andrew gently lowered Takyle to the floor while she kept her fingers hooked in the handle, pulling the panel down until it formed a long ramp from floor to what had been the ceiling. The top surface of the ramp looked as if it was either covered in, or made of, stone; presumably so that it could blend into the mountain top when closed.

Takyle looked back and forth between her teammates and then up into the sunlight.

"Oh my gosh... I think we're out..." ~

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 107: Conservation

~ Jaden made quick work of securing their three prisoners' hands behind their backs. As an extra safeguard he looped a zip tie through the backs of each of the guards' belts and then through their wrist bindings. Once they were all tied, Andrew slipped his knife into his belt and pulled the guards over to a set of locked cabinets that were built into one wall. He swiftly fastened the men to the metal handles with additional ties and then placed Ms. Scarlet in one of the wooden chairs.

At Andrew's nod Takyle lowered her pistol and picked up her pack, swinging it onto one shoulder.

"We have our stuff. Let's get the hell out of here."

"Do we know how?" asked Andrew. Takyle stepped over to where Ms. Scarlet was bound to the chair and pressed the cold barrel of the handgun into the side of her neck. For the first time Jaden saw fear in Kathleen's eyes. Considering the aura that Takyle was projecting, Jaden didn't blame her.

"Don't make me ask you this twice," Takyle warned in a low voice. "How do we get back to the surface?"

"Find the stairs and keep going up."

"That's it?" asked Takyle.


"If this doesn't work out for me you have my word that I will come back here and gut you alive." Takyle withdrew the gun and turned to the door. "Let's go," she ordered.

Jaden and Andrew grabbed up their packs and moved to follow Takyle as they buckled their utility belts back on. Jaden looked over at Andrew as he fastened the lower strap on his dagger's sheath around his thigh. In addition to that he also still had his own and Jaden's requisitioned knives tucked in his belt.

As soon as they were out in the hallway with the door shut behind them Andrew turned to Takyle.

"You're amazing. And where the deuce did you come by a gun?" Takyle grinned.

"It was in the desk. The drawer was open just a crack and I thought I saw something in there but I couldn't really tell what it was; when that one guy started getting all up in your grillz I thought that it was probably a good time to risk finding out."

"I'll say; well done."

Jaden was shaking slightly as he followed Andrew and Takyle back the way they had come and he suddenly felt sick to his stomach as he began to review everything that had just happened in his mind.

"Oh God, you were ready to kill someone. You were really going to do it."

"She's not real."

"That you know of! It could happen just the same in real life."

"No it couldn't. I wouldn't do that."

"Like hell you wouldn't."


A stride ahead Andrew and Takyle both turned around to look at Jaden.

"What is it?" asked Takyle. Jaden felt the moment draw out as he searched for something to say.

"I...I don't feel good."

"Well you don't look good either," Takyle answered, dryly.

"Is it very bad or can you keep going, Jay?" Andrew asked.

"I can keep going."

Takyle gave him a look that suggested she wondered why he had brought it up in the first place if that was the case. Andrew just nodded understandingly.

"As soon as we get out of here we'll see about getting some rest and food. Right, Ta?"

"Yeah, sure, but let's worry about getting out of here first." ~

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chapter 106: Where it Counts

~ Jaden stood in the middle of the room, clutching his journal and shaking with rage. One thought fought its way to the surface of his mind.

"This is ridiculous. You probably look like an idiot."

"I don't care."

In front of Jaden, Andrew held his ground, staring at the woman in the door.

"You know, I don't feel all that comfortable with the idea of dying today. I'm not sure why you've got it in for us, but I'm going to ask you to please move away from the doorway and keep your hands in sight."

"Oh, I don't think so," answered the woman. She beckoned with one finger and on either side of her a guard appeared in the wide doorway. Neither of them looked at all familiar except for in one respect. They were just as burly and dangerous looking as the ones hopefully still locked up downstairs. Jaden began to realize that they were going to have to fight again. Part of him clung vigorously to the overwhelming anger that was still inflaming his body and mind, the other part urged in a voice very reminiscent of Andrew's that it would be better to have a handle on his feelings in order to act in a more controlled and deliberate manner.

"Anyone can strike out when they're mad enough," he would say. "It takes a good fighter to know when to hold back."

In front of Jaden, Andrew had not yet wavered from his position. Jaden wondered what he was waiting for. Perhaps for one of the enemy to make the first move. If that was the case then he didn't have to wait very long. The man on the left of Ms. Scarlet began to step forward. Before the fellow's foot had touched the floor Jaden heard a drawer being jerked open behind him followed by the unmistakable, metallic sound of a round being chambered.

"I wouldn't," Takyle warned in a steely voice, and the man froze in his tracks.

Jaden turned halfway to look at Takyle, his rage suddenly lost in bafflement. Takyle stood behind the desk holding a semi-automatic handgun trained on Ms. Scarlet, her finger on the trigger. Without lowering it she spoke.

"You should know that I don't take kindly to being threatened. I also don't include coercion, manipulation, or torture in my list of fun summertime activities. Now I think you and your boys should step all of the way inside here like Andrew said, and if you try anything at all somebody will be dying today and I promise you it won't be one of my team."

For a moment Ms. Scarlet seemed to weigh her options. Finally she stepped out of the doorway and her two guards followed her. Andrew backed up two steps and gestured to the left with the knife he'd taken from Jaden.

"Put your hands on your head and face the wall," ordered Takyle, never taking her aim off of Ms. Scarlet as she stepped around the desk. Jaden looked at her eyes and suddenly realized just how feirce and protective Takyle could be. He had the distinct impression that it was not for herself that she had stepped up.

"Jay, find some zip ties," Andrew said over his shoulder, prodding Jaden out of his reverie and into action. He quickly located the ties that were in Andrew's pack, as the last of his had been used in their own capture. He set his journal on the desk and stepped over to stand beside Andrew.

"Got 'em."

"Great, now you hold the knife and... Tell you what, I'll keep holding the knife and you tie them up," suggested Andrew. ~

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chapter 105: Simplicity of Plan

~ Jaden knew beyond the barest shadow of a doubt that this one time there was no way that he would miss. Just this once his aim was impeccable. All he had to do now was let go. He wasn't even throwing really. He was just releasing the knife. Into her throat.

Jaden remembered the rattling gurgle that the hellbeast he'd fought had made with Andrew's blade buried hilt deep in its neck. The sound of a living creature drowning in its own blood as its life fluid rushed to fill its lungs, suffocating it from the inside. A horrific and perfect way to die.

With shocking and disturbing clarity Jaden could visualize Ms. Scarlet slowly collapsing, crimson liquid spurting from her throat, spilling down to soak her breasts, painting them the color that she seemed so enamored with. Could hear her take once last gasp of air before the blood flooding into her trachea began to fill her lungs, drawn deeper with each subsequent attempt at breath.

Jaden felt his hand draw back.


From behind the desk Andrew had watched as Jaden had picked up his knife. It was with no small amount of horror that a second later he realized what was about to be done with it. In a fraction of a moment a decision had to be made. Andrew was nothing it not decisive.

With a quick heave he vaulted himself across the desk, scattering countless papers to the ground and knocking Jaden’s pack off the edge and onto the floor with a loud thud. He lurched into Jaden’s back, throwing his friend off-balance as he grabbed the knife with one hand and jerked it out of Jaden's fingers. Andrew landed squarely on both feet in front of the desk and took two strides forward, brandishing the knife at the woman in the doorway.

"Give me that book this instant!" The woman sneered but didn't resist as Andrew snatched the journal from her hands. He thrust it out behind him and Jaden, having regained his feet, quickly grabbed it. Retreating one step Andrew gestured at the woman angrily, the dagger still in his hand. "Now you better thank me for saving your freaking life!"

"For whatever it's worth," he heard Takyle mutter from behind him.

"Saving my life? Sure. If you say so." Ms. Scarlet replied with a smirk. Andrew shook his head.

"You have no idea. Now who the hell are you?"

"I'm the woman that is going to kill each one of you with my own two hands, and you," Ms. Scarlet addressed Jaden, gazing past Andrew's shoulder to meet his eye. "You are going to watch these two go." ~

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chapter 104: No Place for Contemplation

~ While Andrew fished the keyring that Takyle had given him out of his pocket and began fiddling with the lock, Jaden turned around to keep watch on the hallway. The seconds ticked by as Andrew tried each key on the door, muttering his irritation under his breath as each one successively failed to disengage the catch.

"Andrew!" Jaden hissed. "Hurry the hell up, I think I heard something." Takyle immediately lifted the hand that she held her knife in and stepped around to Andrew's other side to defend if necessary. The latch clicked quietly and Andrew slipped through the door.

"Clear," he whispered out to Takyle and Jaden, and they followed him into the room. After pulling the door shut Jaden turned to look around the room that they had broken into. A huge mahogany desk filled a good bit of the floor space, and its own surface was nearly covered with stacks of papers and files. Andrew stepped around the desk and gestured for his teammates to join him.

"Guys, I found our packs."

"Fantastic," Takyle answered, coming around to pick hers up off the floor. Andrew handed Jaden's pack across the desk to him and set his own up on the desk chair to unzip it.

"Better check and make sure that your stuff is still actually here," he advised his teammates, quickly rifling through his own supplies. Takyle nodded and knelt to do the same as Jaden lay his pack on one of the only clear spaces on the desktop. For a moment all three people were silent as they took a quick inventory, but then Jaden looked up at Andrew.

"My journal is gone."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. It was right here in this pocket. It was the only thing in there."

Andrew looked over at Takyle and began to open his mouth to say something but whipped his head around when there was a quiet laugh from the door. Jaden spun to see the woman that he had taken to referring to as Ms. Scarlet in his mind there. She stood with her feet set wide, one fist resting on her hip, a scowl making her eyes look dark and vicious. Dried blood stained the front of her dress and all across the bridge of her nose and the undersides of her eyes was already taking on a sickly purple-green bruise. In her left hand she gripped a small leather-bound book.

"Looking for something, Sweetie?" she asked, her voice cutting the silence like an edge of steel. Jaden felt the core of his being flood with fiery heat and his vision narrowed. Of its own accord his hand moved to grip the knife that he had lain on the desk beside his pack. The fire rushed through his limbs and as a distant and ethereal thought in the very back of his mind Jaden heard himself make note of the fact that he had never in his life felt the kind of rage that was now threatening to take him.

"Give it back." To his own ears Jaden's command sounded as far away as his thoughts had and he wondered for a moment if he'd actually spoken it aloud.

"I don't think so," Ms. Scarlet responded, drawing her hand in to let the book rest against her stomach.

"Give it back to me now!" Jaden hissed, incapable of even thinking of holding the menace from his voice. Every second that she held his journal in her hand, against her body, his rage escalated further, and he did nothing to stop it.

Jaden could feel her hands on him all over again, pressing up against him, choking him, her body wrapping around him, her lips on his neck, her teeth, her fingernails biting into his skin. Trapping him, suffocating, hurting, killing. For a split second Jaden's vision went completely dark before one thing snapped into crystalline focus.

Her neck, bare and white, mere feet away. Whole. Not for long.

Jaden felt his hand lift, felt his fingers release his dagger on the upswing, flipping it in the air 180 degrees, grasping it once again, but lightly this time, barely caressing it, holding it only by the tip, only just enough pressure. His arm came up. He took aim.

Satisfying wouldn't be the word. ~