This is part three of the four part series. As always let me know what you think and comment. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter Three: Precipice of Truth
Sure that Erin would stop paying the bill for him at the hotel, Max packed up the few sets of clothes he had to his name in an old backpack he had bought at a thrift shop and checked out that very day. He had all of eighty dollars to his name and no way of getting around so he was forced to remain in Los Angeles while he looked for a way to get the hell out of there. To be honest though he had no idea what he was going to do for money, food, or even a place to sleep and he was starting to freak out internally at the image of him squatting in an alley under a cardboard box.
Max had never been in this position before and he really had no idea what he was doing. While his parents weren’t loaded like Erin’s were, they were fairly well off and he never had to want for anything growing up. When he was old enough to get a job of his own he laughed at the idea, because of his celebrity status around the world he had never needed money before. Back then he could replicate expensive clothing by thinking about it, he had no need to eat if he didn’t want to, and if he needed a place to sleep he would often just impress some random girl in a bar and crash at her place for a night. Things had changed drastically now and he was at a loss as to what to do.
He knew he had to find a place to crash that night, so he wandered around town for the better part of the day looking for a cheap motel he could afford. As the sun began to set on the sparkling city he was starting to lose hope and was about to give up when he stumbled upon a run down three story motel with a group of unsavoury people standing outside the small door. The sign above the door said that there were rooms available from fifty dollars a night so he quickly went in and got a room key, happy that for at least one night he would have a place to stay.
The next logical step would have been to find a cheap place to get some food or maybe go to a grocery store and buy some cheap packs of noodles, but that’s not what Max did. He had spotted a shabby little bar across the street and now more than ever he needed to get a drink. As an Immortal, drinking had mainly been a thing to do when hanging out in a bar because the Immortals couldn’t actually get drunk, but now that he was mortal he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And if it could help him get his mind off Erin, than even better.
From the outside the establishment looked like a total dive that you usually wouldn’t catch Max in, but once you got in you were pleasantly surprised. The owners must have recently renovated the bar because it still sparkled like it had just been built and bright multi-coloured lights flashed brilliantly on a small dance floor off to one side. The seats looked comfortable, the people actually pretty attractive, and the music blaring through a state of the art speaker system was crystal clear.
Max made his way through the crowd of people and found an open seat at the bar, quickly ordering a rum and coke and handing over the seven bucks it cost. It was a substantial portion of his remaining money but he didn’t really care, as long as it made him feel good again. The athletic looking woman behind the bar quickly filled his order and handed him his glass a second later before moving down the bar to take the order of a group of men who looked like rejects from the Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. They were obviously there looking for women to pick up and had chosen a bar in the bad side of town thinking their hunt would be made easier.
Max paid no attention to the monkeys wearing their designer clothes and turned to look out over the dance floor, taking a small sip of his favourite drink. Normally Max would be in his element sitting there watching the pretty girl’s dance, but tonight he was in no mood for it. He just wanted to get drunk and forget about everything that had happened to him in the last week. Sighing sadly to himself he turned back to face the bar and delved deeper into his strong drink, finishing the amount he had left in one long gulp that burned the back of his throat and sent tendrils of warmth through his extremities.
The night wore on around him and he was getting down to his last ten dollars, the effect of the alcohol in his stomach a powerful influence on his thoughts. He had been hoping getting drunk would make him forget about his troubles, but instead found that he was focusing on them even more than before and he had to shake the thoughts out of his head roughly.
‘Do I know you?’ a shrill feminine voice asked from his side and Max turned to find a fairly attractive redhead standing next to him, her brown eyes dancing over his body and taking him in fully. ‘You look really familiar.’
‘I doubt it,’ Max answered and turned back to his drink.
‘No, I’m serious,’ the woman persisted and Max sighed inwardly at this unwanted distraction. ‘Are you an actor? Maybe I saw you on TV.’
‘Nope, not an actor,’ he groaned and then turned to the bartender a few feet away, ‘Can I get another please?’ he asked and placed the last of his money on the bar.
‘Well either way,’ the redhead said and pulled up an empty seat next to him, ‘I’m Marie.’
‘John,’ he lied and ignored the offered hand, grabbing his fresh drink instead. Just once he wished he could blend into the crowd and go unnoticed. He had been hoping that since his immortality had been taken from him that people wouldn’t recognize him, but it seemed it wasn’t a drastic enough change for people to ignore.
‘Looks like you’ve had a rough day, John.’
‘Try a rough life.’
‘Well maybe tonight doesn’t have to totally suck. Why don’t you come have a drink with me and my friends, maybe we can take your mind of your problems,’ Marie said with a provocative smile and motioned towards a table near the dance floor filled with young men and women enjoying themselves.
‘That sounds like fun, but I think I’d rather be alone right now.’
‘Oh come on party pooper! It’s one drink. Would it really kill you to stick your neck out for a few minutes?’
Max wanted to tell her that it in fact could kill him to take a chance because he was no longer immortal, but he didn’t want any more attention than he was already getting. Why couldn’t this girl just take a hint and back off? Under normal circumstances he would be the life of the party but tonight he didn’t feel like it. It had been his old self that had gotten him into all this trouble and he never wanted to see that side again. He was about to tell her no again but suddenly someone interrupted, cutting between the two of them.
‘Beat it,’ an immortal voice said softly and motioned for the woman to take a hike.
‘Excuse me?’ Marie said with ire but quickly noticed who she was talking to now and her face turned white with realization.
‘I’d like to talk to my little cousin, if that’s alright with you?’ the Immortal said and all but pushed the girl away, sending her back to her friends babbling about knowing he had looked familiar.
Max looked up from his drink and found himself face to face with Anna, her short spiky hair standing tall with no gel and her fierce eyes with a golden tint to them staring directly into his soul. She took the seat Marie had just vacated and scooted it closer to him so she could talk without being overheard, but Max just wanted he to leave now.
‘What do you want?’ he asked in annoyance and took a long sip of his rum and coke. The resurgence of alcohol warmed his body and he revelled in the feeling, remembering how hot Erin’s body had been and wanting to replicate that feeling.
‘To talk,’ she answered and quickly ordered herself a shot of vodka from the bartender. ‘How’s mortal life been treating you?’
‘Seriously?’ Max groaned and looked at his cousin with anger. ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve Anna!’
‘Alright, calm down Maxy. It was just a joke. I’m actually here to talk to you about Erin.’
Well there was one subject he didn’t want to discuss, especially with someone Erin considered as her older sister. Why couldn’t he catch a break anymore? It was like all his good luck had been sucked up when Gabby took his powers and he was destined to live the rest of his now short life with nothing but back luck.
‘I don’t want to talk about her,’ he said coldly, ‘how the hell did you find me anyways?’
‘Oh I had a feeling you would try to run away once you woke up so I kept an eye on you. I was pretty surprised when I saw Erin kidnapping you in the middle of the night though. If you knew half the things I have seen watching the two of you, well you would be blushing.’
Suddenly Max found himself on his feet, his half-drunk glass of rum and coke smashing at his feet as every eye in the building was suddenly on him. A couple of beefy looking bouncers started to push their way through the crowd towards him but Anna quickly stood up and waved them off, her status as one of the Big Immortals more than enough to get people to stand down.
‘Sit down, Max!’ she said sternly and Max did as she asked. ‘You need to stop acting like a dick!’
‘Takes one to know one,’ he muttered and in the blink of an eye he was lifted up off his seat by the shirt with Anna’s face pressed against his.
‘That’s not a nice way to speak to someone who can kill you in an instant, little cousin.’ She breathed and then let him fall back to his chair.
‘Give me a break, you wouldn’t kill me. You’re a goody two shoes!’
‘I’m not above putting you in the hospital though,’ Anna growled, ‘especially after how you hurt my little sister!’
‘Erin’s a big girl, she’ll get over it. Besides, she’s the one that walked out, not me.’
Anna sighed heavily and sat gracefully in her chair, taking the shot of vodka in front of her before sliding the glass back to the bartender who was still eyeing them nervously. Most likely news hadn’t gotten out that Max had lost his powers so the poor girl tending the bar was probably freaking out over a possible fight of Immortals breaking out on her shift.
‘You really don’t understand do you? My gods you are dense! Erin is in love with you, you moron! It doesn’t matter what you do or say she will always love you because that’s how Immortals are. We may not be destined to fall in love with one another anymore, but that doesn’t mean our love doesn’t last forever. For reasons I will never understand, that amazing girl has somehow fallen in love with you and will until the day time ends. And what do you do with that love? You step all over it like it doesn’t mean a thing!’
‘That’s not true!’ Max blasted but tried to control his anger this time, ‘What we did was Erin’s choice and I even tried to talk her out of it! So don’t come here acting all high and mighty! All I did was ask her to stay with me and leave Eric to the rest of you, and the next thing I know we’re fighting about moral duties and she just teleports away! Now why don’t you go back to my dad and tell him where I am hiding so he can come and drag me home!’
‘I don’t know if you have noticed or not Max, but we have bigger problems to worry about than some little twat! Who knows though, maybe trying to survive on your own will be a good lesson in humility.’
Anna stood up and took out a wad of cash from the pocket of her jacket, handing a fifty to the bartender for her drink and broken glass Max had shattered on the floor. She then turned back to Max with an angry glint in her eye and handed him the rest of the cash she had in her hands.
‘I don’t want your money,’ he protested in disgust and tried to walk away from her. Anna quickly teleported in front of him though and stuffed the money right into his pants pocket and gave him a soft shove away from her.
‘It’s not my money you idiot! Erin asked me to give that to you.’
Before Max could even think of something to say to that Anna teleported away, leaving him standing in the middle of the bar with fifty people standing around him whispering to their neighbour. Not wanting anyone to come up to him and ask for an autograph or something he quickly left the bar, walking out into the cool night air as he felt the buzz he had been nursing slip away from him.
The wad of money weighed down his soul and he absentmindedly clutched it in his hand as he walked across the street towards his motel. A few feet away from the front door he suddenly stopped and looked up at the windows above him, a feeling of disgust filling his stomach. Maybe Anna was right about him. He had never known her to lie to him before and he knew if anyone was going to get hurt between him and Erin, it would most likely be Erin. When it came to certain aspects she had very thin skin and it would make more sense to see it from that side. They seemed to believe two separate things though and that had driven a wedge between them.
He didn’t even deserve to stay in the piece of shit motel he was standing outside, and neglecting his bag of clothes he began to walk down the quiet street, not really sure where he was headed. He really didn’t want to use the money that Erin had made Anna give him, but even though she had been hurt by him she was still looking out for him. Anna was right, how in the hell did she ever fall in love with him? He couldn’t think of a single thing he had done for her that would warrant such devotion.
Max wandered aimlessly around the streets of Los Angeles as night grew deeper and darker around it. Somehow he had managed to find his way deeper into the bad side of town and everywhere he looked now he saw vagrants, closed down stores, very old cars missing parts, and the random sound of people yelling loudly. Remembering that he was mortal now he quickly turned around and tried to retrace his footsteps, wanting to get the hell out of there before he got hurt. Crime was almost a thing of the past but sometimes something would happen. Before Eric’s killing spree that started with the random man in the alley there hadn’t been a murder in all of North America for close to a year and a half.
Those odds still didn’t seem too favourable to him though and he knew with the luck he was having lately he would end up being found in some dirty gutter the next morning if he didn’t find some place safe quick. Here’s the funny part though, he had somehow managed to get lost and couldn’t make heads or tails of where he was anymore. He could see the massive skyscrapers of the main part of downtown in the distance but the streets kept leading him away from there and unless he could find a place to call a cab he would probably be stuck there for the night.
A few minutes later he managed to track down an all-night Laundromat with a payphone inside. The place was dead and one of the two large florescent lights on the ceiling had burned out and half the room was covered in shadow. Max quickly entered the small building and rushed up to the payphone, only remembering at the last minute that he didn’t have any coins on him. Actually he didn’t have anything smaller than a fifty and he doubted there would be someone out at this late hour that could break it for him.
Sighing in defeat Max hung the phone back up on the receiver and slumped down into one of the hard plastic chairs lining the wall, covering his face with his hands as he struggled not to cry. He had fucked up things royally and he had no clue about how to get the hell out of there anymore. The possibility of him being stabbed was becoming increasingly more likely and he was honestly starting to have a bit of a panic attack.
‘What the fuck is wrong with me?’ he groaned into his open hands but he didn’t have time to dwell on his pitiful existence as something happened in that moment. Even before he heard the sound of the explosion he felt the first shockwave rock through the streets as the front window bay of the building he was in shattered inwards so brutally that Max could feel shards of glass cut into his skin all the way at the back. In the next moment the second shockwave hit and Max was deafened by the terrible sound of the massive explosion, the sheer force of the sound pushing him out of his chair and smacking his head against the wall.
It was a full minute before Max became fully aware that he had come back to his sense and was lying in a pile of broken glass, a powerful throbbing beating at his skull. He slowly pulled himself to his feet and surveyed the area around him, finding that every sheet of glass had been broken under the intense explosion and the light that had still been working had shattered as well. In the distance he could make out the shrill sound of emergency vehicles screaming through the streets, heading towards the source of the explosion. Besides that though there were no other sounds and that’s what really freaked Max out the most.
In a state of shock at what had just occurred, Max ventured out onto the streets in search of the cause, his mind focused on that one thing. Other people had filtered out onto the street by now as well and Max saw his own ghostly expression mirrored back in their faces, some of them even bleeding from vicious looking wounds on their face and arms.
Peering out above the downtown vista he couldn’t see anything that would indicate an explosion had happened, not even a trail of smoke reaching to the sky. He quickly realized that he was looking the wrong way though and he turned backwards to find what most of the other people had already spotted, a massive, almost mushroom shaped cloud exploding into the sky from the heart of the ghetto.
‘What… what happened?’ a Hispanic woman with two small children clutching onto her bathroom asked softly and Max could only shake his head. He had no idea what had happened, but he desperately wanted to know.
With no thought about his own safety he broke out into a run, rushing down the streets towards the black cloud hovering over most of the ghetto. Every face he saw standing on the street was shocked, their eyes locked on the area the bomb had gone off at and small kids crying as their parents pretty much ignored them. A few people like Max had decided to go see what was really happening and before long a large group of people were running down the street as fast as they could.
Max fell in behind a few people who seemed to know where they were going and followed them. They ran a total of fifteen blocks before they saw the first signs of destruction and Max was floored by it. He had seen the shattered cities in films and television before and even glimpsed it first hand through his families thoughts, but none of that had prepared him for this. Buildings lie in smoking ruins with shattered bodies buried in the rubble, cars were overturned and on fire, and thick black choking smoke clogged the air.
He wanted nothing more than to turn around and run away but he was compelled to go forward. He felt sick to his stomach and after a few minutes of these horrific sights he saw before him he vomited as he continued to run. One of the men ahead of him who had heard his puking slowed down just enough so they were running next to one another and ripped off a chunk of his black shirt and held it out to Max. He gratefully accepted it and wiped his mouth off before pushing forward.
With his lungs burning, his legs threatening to give out, and an unhealthy amount of sweat forming all over his body Max finally rounded the last block and stopped dead in tracks at what he saw, the rest of the people rushing there following suit. What had once been a small street filled with families and small run down houses was now a twenty foot deep crater with charred ash filling it. There was nothing left standing for a four block radius and the air stunk of burned hair and flesh, causing Max and most of the others to wretch on the ground.
‘Are… are we under attack?’ the man who had given him a piece of his shirt asked in horror and others chimed in.
Max could feel his heart tighten in his chest and he tentatively took a few steps forward as the first wave of responders came roaring down the street and suddenly stopped at the edge of the crater. A moment later the air rang with the sound of multiple Immortals teleporting onto the sight and they appeared in the very center of the crater, their golden armour seeming dim against all the destruction.
Max could make out the faces of his entire family standing there in the crater, his father kneeling down and grabbing a handful of ash, his mother sinking to her knees and crying, Anna and Gabriella clasping hands, Samantha and Alexander walking back and forth. And then there was Erin, her spiked armour making her stand apart from the others as she turned in a circle and took in everything she saw. Even from this distance Max could see the distraught look on her face and the tears filling her eyes, and he knew it wasn’t from him this time. She dropped her shield and sword into the ash and suddenly started crying in the open as people started taking pictures of her.
Policeman, fireman, and EMT’s started to slowly walk towards the group of gathered Immortals and the air was now full of helicopters, shining bright white lights as they hovered high above them. Max took a few more steps forward and his feet sunk deep into the black ash of the crater and he could finally hear his father talking to his mother.
‘It was him,’ he heard the man say and there was a certain amount of conviction in his eyes.
‘How can you tell?’ Richard asked and slung his golden battle axe over his shoulder.
‘I can feel his power in the air still. It touches everything around here.’
‘Where did he go?’ Samantha asked and everyone began to look around for any signs of some sinister face hiding in the darkness.
It was in that moment that Erin caught sight of him standing on the edge of the massive crater and frozen on the spot. He saw as her eyes narrowed on him and for a minute he was afraid she was going to point him out to the others. Instead she wiped away the stray tears on her cheeks and waved at him with two fingers, turning her back on the others so they didn’t see it.
Max desperately wanted to wave back but found he was incapable in that moment. Instead he started to back out of the crater and soon the crowd enveloped him and he lost sight of Erin. The second he could no longer see her he burst into a run, his heart in his throat as his legs threatened to throw him face first into the shattered pavement. He had never been so scared in his life as he was in that moment and he just wanted to run away and hide like a little child.
His legs wouldn’t carry him very far though and as he rounded a corner two blocks away he suddenly collapsed against the wall of a half destroyed apartment building, his breathing erratic and tears freely streaming down his own face. He had heard his father’s words; he was certain that it had been Eric who had caused the destruction and that was not good news at all. Even back during the second invasion it had taken millions of demons to cause the same amount of destruction that one half immortal had.
It wasn’t the raw power of Eric that Max was afraid of; in fact he couldn’t even care less about that little puke anymore. It was the fact that Erin was determined to hunt him down with the rest of the family, and seeing her standing in the middle of that crater just now had freaked him out. If she was going to fight against him there was a very, very good chance that she wouldn’t survive and Max couldn’t live through that. He knew for sure now that he was in love with her.
‘Max…’ he heard her suddenly say from beside him and he quickly jumped to his feet and screamed in surprise. Erin quickly wrapped him in her arms though and ran her hand through his hair while trying to get him to quiet down. ‘It’s okay, it’s just me.’
Max’s legs were starting to give again and Erin helped him to the ground, his back up against the wall of the building once more. Still dressed in her full armour she kneeled down before him and held his face in her hands, tears welling in her eyes at the overflow of emotions she was feeling. Max knew he should be the one trying to comfort her in that moment but he just couldn’t; he was too broken up about everything that he could barely function.
‘Tell me what happened baby,’ she whispered gently but her words were urgent, ‘Were you here when the explosion happened? Are you hurt? I can go get an ambulance for you, or take you right to the hospital. Just talk to me Max.’
He opened his mouth to tell her that he hadn’t been there but no words came out. He could feel sticky blood drying on his face and he knew he looked like a mess right now which was probably why Erin was freaking out so much. He pulled his shirt over his face quickly and wiped the blood away but it was quickly replaced by fresh stuff as his wounds were still open.
‘Max I need you to talk to me right now!’ Erin continued and her voice was a little more forceful, ‘You’re in shock. Tell me what happened.’
‘I… I... wasn’t there for it,’ he finally forced out and his voice was nothing more than a dry husk.
‘Okay, but how badly are you hurt? Do you want me to get Michelle?’
‘N… no. It’s just cuts from a window smashing around me. I need to go somewhere else. I don’t want to be here anymore!’ he cried out and Erin pulled him into another warm hug. A moment later he felt the world fall away from his feet and then landed softly as the vortex closed around them. Opening his eyes again he found that they were now sitting in the middle of a hospital emergency room with nurses and doctors staring at them wide eyed.
‘What happened?’ a young woman in a white doctors coat called out and rushed towards them.
‘He was in the explosion in Los Angeles,’ Erin said quickly and helped Max get to his feet, ‘I think he’s gone into shock.’
‘Someone get me a wheelchair!’ the doctor yelled and she took out a penlight and flashed it in his eyes, her face dropping at what she saw. ‘He has a concussion and some of these cuts will need to be stitched up. Don’t worry ma’am, we’ll take good care of him.’
A moment later Max was being helped into a rickety old wheelchair and pushed deeper into the hospital as people jogged along beside him and started to patch him up. Erin had been holding onto his hand the whole time but once they got to a curtained off room she gently let go and pulled the doctor aside.
‘Keep an eye on him,’ she told the woman, ‘and make sure he doesn’t leave. I’ll be back as soon as I can to check up on him. If anything happens call me immediately, here’s my number.’ Out of the corner of his eye as he was being hoisted onto a hard gurney Max saw Erin grab a pen and write her cellphone number on the clipboard and with a soft smile to Max she teleported away.
Everything that happened next was a blur and Max had a hard time keeping track of the dozen or so people walking in and out of the room. He felt his larger cuts being stitched up gently and then he was laid back on the bed and someone brought out a neck brace and fitted it on him. He heard someone somewhere say it was just a precaution and he realized he must have been freaking out about it.
‘Where… where am I?’ he asked through a sore throat and coughed immediately afterwards.
‘You’re in a hospital sir,’ the doctor told him but he quickly shook his head. Actually it was more like he shook his entire upper body due to the neck brace.
‘Juno, Alaska,’ one of the nurses answered and flashed the doctor a worried look.
‘He’s fine Angie. One of the Immortals brought him here. He was in the attack on Las Angeles,’ the doctor explained. ‘Alright let’s get him into X-Ray and see if he’s broken anything. Careful moving him. I really don’t want a pissed off Immortal breaking down my door because we dropped him on the floor.’
The woman really wasn’t kidding and she proceeded to put Max through almost every test imaginable before bringing him back to his room. He sat through an X-Ray, an ultrasound, a Cat-Scan, and blood tests. By the end of it all Max felt more like a pincushion than a human being and he was in even more pain than he had been before. He was hooked up to an IV and given a small dosage of morphine before his room was cleared and he was left alone.
He was fighting conciseness and it turned out that every five minutes a nurse would come in and make sure he was still awake. They didn’t quite know how serious his concussion was so they wanted to play it safe, but it was really making it hell for Max. He had been expecting the doctor to come back in and tell him what his test results had been but she never showed up, and when he asked a nurse about it he was told that they were waiting for someone.
It was early morning when the door to his room finally opened and the doctor walked in with her clipboard in hand. She walked over to the IV and checked his levels, taking notes and then walking back to the foot of the bed and waiting. Max wanted to ask her what she was waiting for but he couldn’t find his voice so he grabbed the plastic cup of stale water beside his bed and drank it all in one go. Before he could even open his mouth to ask the question he wanted there were two loud pops and the doctor was suddenly surrounded by two immortals in their golden armour; one was Erin and the other Michelle.
Erin immediately rushed over to him and clasped his scraped up hand in hers, placing a soft kiss on the one spot on his forehead that hadn’t been cut. ‘Are you okay Max?’ she asked with worry dripping off her words and he nodded slowly through the neck brace he was still wearing.
‘You brought Michelle?’ he asked and they both looked over at the other Immortal who had changed into a lab coat with stethoscope and all.
Erin didn’t get a chance to answer his question as his doctor quickly lit up like a Christmas tree and quickly shook Michelle’s hand, a soft squeal coming through her lips. ‘You have no idea how much of an honour it is to meet you! It’s because of you I went to medical school!’
‘I’m proud to hear that,’ Michelle smiled politely, ‘but I think we should get to our patient here.’
‘Right,’ the doctor said and quickly composed herself, ‘If you’d come with me into the hall I can show you the CT and X-Ray scans.’
Michelle nodded quickly and the two of them exited the room, closing the door tightly behind them. Max turned his attention back to Erin now and looked up into her pale face, noticing the black bags under her eyes. She had been really worried lately and it was starting to show in her appearance, making Max feeling bad about it because he was sure that he had become more than half of her worries.
‘I had to bring her Max,’ she explained softly and nuzzled his cheek gently, ‘I was worried about you and I asked her for some advice. When she found out you were caught in the blast she demanded to be taken to you so she could check up on you herself. She’s just here to help baby.’
‘She’ll tell my dad where I am though,’ he groaned.
‘No, I made her promise that she wouldn’t. Just let her make sure you’re okay, please? For me?’
Max nodded begrudgingly and then let himself be swept up in the heat radiating from Erin’s body. It seeped into his skin and covered him like a blanket and he could feel some of the soreness flee his muscles. He gently squeezed her hand and fought the urge to start crying again. He couldn’t believe how emotional he was getting, but he still didn’t know if he was going to live or not. For all he knew he could die on that bed and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
‘Did you guys find him?’ he asked after a few moments of silence, even though he didn’t want to know the answer.
‘No. Your dad thinks Michelle and I are scouring South America for him right now. You’re more important though.’
‘I suppose there’s no way you would say yes if I asked you to stay with me again is there?’ he whispered softly and looked towards the door on the other side of the bed. For a few minutes Erin didn’t answer him, but after a while she squeezed his hand and kissed him on the cheek longingly.
‘I’m sorry Max,’ she sighed, ‘I want to just stay behind with you so much but I can’t, especially now. I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t scared of fighting Eric, because in truth I am terrified. The power he has is amazing and I know there is a good chance I will die against him, but if there is even a slim chance that I can help stop him from killing more people than I have to try. I don’t expect you to understand because even I don’t, but I want you to know just how much I love you. I’m fighting more for you than anyone else. If you live then I have accomplished what I wanted and my death will be worth it in the end.’
Fresh tears were falling down both their cheeks now and Erin climbed into the bed next to him, gently tossing an arm over his chest and holding him snuggly. Max wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to fight for him, that she could have him completely but he couldn’t. She was doing what she saw was right and he didn’t want to take that away from her.
Thankfully Michelle entered the room a moment later with the doctor’s clipboard and pulled up a seat next to the bed. She quickly glanced at Erin lying next to him and rolled her eyes before looking down at her board and flipping a page up. ‘Well there’s good news and bad news, which do you want first Max?’ she asked.
‘Bad first,’ Erin answered for him.
‘You have a mild concussion, a broken rib, you sprained your ankle, and it will take some time for your more severe lacerations to heal up. Now the good news is that there is no internal bleeding, no haemorrhaging, no damage to your spine, and your blood tests came back all clean. You should only need to stay in the hospital for a few days and then you will be free to go. If you ask me you got pretty damn lucky.’
‘Yeah, lucky…’ he groaned and the effort caused his ribs to throb, ‘the only lucky thing last night was Erin coming after me when I ran away. I probably would have passed out in the streets without her.’
‘Right… well anyways I’ll be popping in every few hours to check up on you but I would feel much better if you were at my hospital where I would be able to get updates every ten minutes. I’m sure Erin would feel much better if you were there as well.’
‘Got that right,’ Erin answered and snuggled into Max’s side causing him to groan in renewed pain. ‘Sorry.’
‘Fine, whatever you think’s best doc. Just as long as no one else knows I am there then I am okay with it.’
Michelle smiled at him and stood up, putting the clipboard down on the table beside the bed and saying; ‘Don’t worry; you will be protected under the Doctor Patient Confidentiality. If you start to get worse though, I will notify your parents. Does that sound fair?’
Max nodded and Michelle left the room quickly, probably to tell the doctor that she was moving him to another hospital. Erin continued lie next to him and only got up once Michelle entered the room again and said it was time to go. Michelle had wanted to be the one to take him with her when she teleported to the new hospital but Erin fought tooth and nail until she finally gave in and let the youngster do it.
Less than a minute later Max was climbing into a new hospital bed while a new set of nurses came into the room and did whatever Michelle told them to do. Max thought he was done with the tests but Michelle ordered a whole new battery for him and he was once again poked and prodded until he could take no more. This time Erin stuck with him during the whole ordeal and it was her who helped him back into the bed once it was over, pulling the warm blankets up over his chest and making sure everything was within his reach.
It wasn’t long though before her and Michelle need to get back to the rest of the family. Erin hugged Max tightly as she said goodbye, promising to come and see him the instant she was able to and kissing him gently on the forehead. Max struggled his hardest not to let go of her but in the end her strength was just too much and she pulled away, a single tear rolling down her cheek at having to leave. She told him that she loved him and he opened his mouth to return the affection but she quickly shook her head and teleported away, Michelle following a second later.
Francis stood atop the U.S. Bank Tower in the heart of Los Angeles, gazing out over the city glinting in the late day sunlight. He was seventy three stories above ground and the pedestrians down below him looked like nothing more than scurrying ants following a honey trail. Off in the distance he could easily make out the black scar of the massive crater that marred the landscape, four square blocks having been completely incinerated in an immense explosion.
It hurt the usually collected man to look at the crater and he could still hardly believe something like that had happened. He and the rest of the Immortals had been completely in the dark on where their quarry was and because of that they had been helpless to stop the devastation of the previous night. How could things have gotten so out of control like this? They were struggling to catch up to this psychopath and once again they had lost him.
When James had left with his wife Amy for a little private time, Francis had assured him he would handle anything and everything that happened, but he had failed miserably. Hundreds of people had died already and he had no way of stopping more people from dying anymore. All the Immortals great power seemed to be useless against this new threat and even Anna and Gabriella couldn’t find him with their almost god like abilities.
So there Francis stood, contemplating how he had screwed everything up so severely and struggling with the decision on whether or not he should let his friend James know what was happening. He knew it was the right thing to do as James was their natural leader, but Francis’s pride had been dented and he felt like a complete failure now. How could he face his best friend and tell him that because of him many people had died? How could he tell James that his own son was now missing and no one seemed to know where he was?
It was because of Francis that Max had run off. He had been severe in his discipline of his son and it had cost him dearly. He had no idea where he was or if he was even okay and the whole team seemed to be suffering because of it. Max’s closest friend among the family, Erin, was the one who had been affected the most and she was often gone when she wasn’t on patrol. Francis knew that Erin and his son had been really close but he had no idea that Erin would take what happened so hard. On more than one occasion he had to pull her aside and tell her to get her head in the game because she was going about her job like she was a ghost.
Francis wanted desperately to send a few of the Immortals off in search of Max but they couldn’t afford to split up right now and it killed him. His wife Lucy was even distancing herself from him now and he knew she blamed him for their sons disappearance; and what was worse he knew she was right. He had been left with no other choice though. Max had been the one to rile this Eric up and set him loose on the planet and good men and women had died in his first attack. Hell even Alexander had almost been killed because of his son’s incompetence so what else was he supposed to do? None of his other punishments had seemed to even faze Max so he was left with no other option but to strip him of his powers.
That had been an ordeal in and of itself. It was the one power that Gabriella never wanted to use and yet he had asked her as their leader to do it to his son. It had hurt her mentally to take Max’s power and ever since then she hadn’t spoken a single word to Francis, instead depending on her fiancée Anna to speak on her behalf. The group was falling apart around him and he had no idea how to fix it anymore. First of all they needed to find this Eric and deal with him before anyone else got hurt.
As Francis stood there, lost in thought, a cold wind picked up and raged around him as angry clouds started to descend on the city. Dozens of helicopters continued to hover above the crater in the distance and he could only wonder what the news networks were saying about them now. Many years ago James had stood before the United Nations and the entire world and declared that they would always be there to protect humanity for as long as time existed, but now here they sat completely powerless to stop one kid on a power trip. They still had no idea who is father even was and Francis had gone over every woman the male Immortals had ever slept with to see if they could figure it out. The strange thing was though that they had all be in contact with their past lovers and every single one of them denied having an illegitimate son. So who the hell was this kid and where the hell had he come from?
There were a million different things they needed to find out about this kid but they didn’t have a single lead so far. Michelle had even been over some blood samples they had been able to find at the destroyed police office in Chicago and those came back incomplete. It was like his DNA didn’t exist at all, not just his blood type. Michelle couldn’t find anything on earth or beyond that was even close to what Eric’s was and that was really starting to freak him out. It was like he just appeared out of nowhere with amazing powers and he was convinced for some reason that his father was one of them, even though he wasn’t.
Sighing in frustration Francis peered out over the city again, staying vigilant in case this kid decided to pop his head out in the area again. He knew it was a long shot though. Eric could just disappear now and they might never find him. Francis knew it was imperative that they did find him though, and he was giving it a few more hours before he called James and Amy back from their second honeymoon.
‘Brutal, isn’t it?’ a voice said grimly from behind him and Francis spun around as quickly as he could, summoning his golden sword into his hand. Standing there in the center of the helipad was a young looking kid with black hair and black eyes, dressed entirely in black like he was going for some kind of look. Francis immediately recognized him as Eric and he could feel his power washing off his body in large waves that rocked him to the very core. ‘I believe you’ve been looking for me.’
‘Are you here to surrender yourself?’ Francis asked hopefully but Eric laughed at the notion.
‘What? No dude, no way in hell! I just wanted to ask you a question is all man.’
Everything in Francis screamed at him to call out to the others for backup but for some reason he didn’t. It was this kid’s immense power; they both knew that if Eric wanted to he could destroy this entire city and every living thing in it, mortal and immortal, without even breaking a sweat. Francis knew that if he called the others it would only force Eric to attack and he couldn’t risk a loss of life that huge. He had to try to barter with him.
‘What do you want to ask?’
‘Which one of you is my father?’ Eric asked loudly and his face was full of both hope and anger. Francis instantly knew he wasn’t going to like the answer he had to offer.
‘I’m sorry Eric, but none of the Immortals are your father. We tested your blood and talked to all the women the men have been with and not a single one of them matched. You’re not one of us.’
A look of rage flickered over Eric’s savage face and his power suddenly expanded exponentially, forcing Francis to his knees as he fought against it with his own. It was a losing battle though and he realized he was at this kid’s mercy completely.
‘You’re lying! Stop protecting him and just tell me the truth! Which of you is my father?’ the kid growled and his voice echoed through the air.
‘I’m telling you the truth Eric. I have no reason to lie to you!’
‘Then if you don’t have the answers I want, I suppose there’s no reason for you to remain alive!’
‘Eric! I am not your enemy! There is no reason for us to fight!’ Francis yelled and forced himself to stand once more. The power flowing out of this person had taken him by surprise at first but he had dealt with similar situations back during the last invasion. Although during those times he had always had his wife at his side protecting him his ass, a luxury he didn’t have now.
‘Your people tried to kill me in Chicago so that makes us enemies! If I have to I will kill every single one of you until I find out the truth about my father! Looks like you’re up first!’
Like a meteor, Eric descended on Francis and stuck him savagely in the stomach with his fist before Francis had even been able to defend himself. Intense pain shot through the Immortals body and he doubled over and was held up only by Eric’s fist still on his stomach, a dribble of golden blood falling from his mouth.
Now, Francis had been in many battles before and had fought some pretty powerful opponents, especially that twenty foot demon in Washington that destroyed an entire military outpost by itself, but that was nothing to the single strike he just took now. It was easily the most devastating attack he had ever received before and he could hardly believe that this much power resided in a single living being. It felt like he had been struck by one of the gods.
Francis tried to fight through the pain and bring his sword up to attack but Eric was far too quick and brought his elbow down on the back of his skull brutally. Francis fell to the ground and landed on his face, a massive pounding just behind his eyes and black spots clouding his vision. The solid concrete beneath him caved in slightly and dust burst into the air as the whole building seemed to groan under the strain of the impact.
It was in that moment that Francis realized just how foolish he had been. His failure was complete now and he would be the next person to fall before this strange and powerful boy. Fear gripped his heart and he called out through his mind, searching for his wife and his son. He knew his son would no longer be able to hear him but he had to try. He wanted to tell him how sorry he was and how much he loved him, even if he had been too serious lately.
Knowing that his time was rapidly coming to a close he sifted through his mind and found the one memory he would always cherish, the one that would always be able to make him smile no matter how dire things had gotten. It was the moment he first held his little Max in his own hands and felt the strength in his tiny limbs. The smile on his pudgy little face seemed to light up the entire world and Francis had felt like the luckiest man in the world. He would hold onto the thought of his happiest moment as he was living out his worst moment, and he would meet his fate with a smile on his face.
Whatever happened next had been so devastating that the entire building collapsed, all seventy three stories cascading down in a plume of steel, concrete, glass, and plaster onto the streets below. Francis felt no pain in that moment, just regret as he was savagely beaten until his eyes closed and did not open again, the voice of his wife calling out his name in his mind.
Max was really beginning to enjoy the amenities of a larger and better funded hospital having just recently come from a smaller one in Juno, Alaska. He didn’t have to pay per day for his television set and in fact he now had access to over five hundred satellite channels so there was never a shortage of good things to watch. He also now had his own spacious room with a bed that was a mix between a hospital bed with the ability to adjust multiple things and also a bed like he had slept on back in that expensive hotel in LA. The best thing perhaps was the food though, and he couldn’t get enough of it. It was near gourmet and the kitchen was open at all hours of the day so all he had to do was ring a nurse and they would go down and get him whatever he wanted off the menu. For the life of him, Max could not understand why people tried to avoid going to the hospital all the time; this place was great!
The nurses on his floor all knew that he was Michelle’s cousin but unlike most people they were very friendly and never once asked him about what it was like to be an immortal or if they could have his autograph. That may have been due to the fact that he was laid up in a hospital with very mortal like ailments though, but even still they never even asked him about what had happened for him to lose his powers; which he was grateful for.
It was a little past four in the afternoon when the head nurse came in and took off the neck brace Max had been wearing since he had arrived in Juno, saying that the test results had come back and shown no spinal cord injury so he was in the clear now. The swelling in his brain had also not been as bad as they first thought so he could finally catch a few hours of sleep without worrying about being interrupted every ten minutes, which was welcome news to his ears. He had been dying to get some sleep for a while now and as soon as the nurse left his room he quickly turned off the television and rolled onto the side without a broken rib to get some much needed rest.
Getting to sleep was easy, but it proved that being asleep was the hard part of it all. The second he felt himself seep into the depths of his mind he was bombarded with violent images he had seen on the streets of Los Angeles the night before; charred bodies, destroyed houses, blood and gore, and then that horrible crater that had once been a part of the city. Even though it was just a dream he could still smell the horrible and putrid stench that had permeated through the streets as he moved closer to the epicenter. There was no way to explain how exactly it smelled but once you had gotten a whiff of it, you would never forget it for as long as you lived.
Unlike what had happened in reality, Max found that when he got to the crater he was utterly alone. There were no sounds as he stood there motionless against the black night, his only source of light coming from the smoldering fires that dotted the area like ghastly lanterns. The soft black ash beneath his feet shifted under his weight and Max could feel the heat it still held pulse through the soles of his sneakers and touch his soft flesh. It was the most uncomfortable Max had ever felt in his life and he wanted to run and get as far away from there as he possibly could.
Before he could tuck tail and run away though, two people suddenly appeared at the very center of the sunken crater and Max felt his heart seize up in terror as he recognized both of them; Eric and Erin. Erin wore her golden armour with large spikes jutting out all over the surface and Eric was naked from the waist up, powerful muscles rippling under his pale flesh as he flexed and rushed at Erin. The two of them met a split second later and it was plain to see that Erin was completely outmatched and she was grabbed by the throat and lifted high into the air.
Suddenly Max’s instinct to run was over ruled and he found himself rushing towards the two powerful beings locked in combat. He was just too far away though. No matter how fast he ran, his mortal legs wouldn’t get him there in time and in a horrifying moment as he screamed out to Erin he saw her neck suddenly snap to the side and her whole body went limp.
All at once Max found himself awake and screaming loudly into his empty room as his nightmare vanished around him. His heart was racing, a sheen of cold sweat covered his body, and one very freaked out nurse was pressed up against the wall with wide eyes. Max had to fight to bring his breathing back down to normal and the only thing that remained with him after his nightmare was a voice calling out his name that he could swear had been his fathers.
‘M… Max…’ Erin said from the open doorway to his left and his dazed eyes quickly found her standing there.
Instantly Max knew something was wrong when he saw her. She was dressed in her full armour with her sword and shield gripped tightly in her hands, tears running down her pale face, and a thick layer of white dust covering her from head to toe. The expression on her face is what stopped Max’s heart cold though. Her beautiful face was distorted by pure, undiluted grief that rushed out from her eyes and covered her entirely. Max had never seen her look so fragile before.
‘What’s happened?’ he asked and ignoring the pain he jumped out of bed and rushed over to her. The second his hand touched hers he felt the world drop away and then rematerialize a moment later as he suddenly found himself standing on another floor of the hospital. There were people running about in a panic and every single one of the Immortals were there in their armour. Even Erin’s parents, James and Amy were standing there with the same expressions on their faces that their daughter wore. The only ones not there were his mother, father, and Michelle.
‘MAGGIE GET IN HERE WITH THOSE DAMN TOOLS!’ Max heard Michelle yell loudly from a closed off room down at the end of the hall and a second later a young woman in scrubs ran past with a cart full of golden medical equipment and disappeared into the room.
‘Are those what I think they are?’ Max heard himself ask, his voice barely a whisper.
‘Michelle had them made in case one of us needed medical attention,’ Gabriella answered sadly and Anna quickly pulled her into a long hug.
‘No...’ Max whimpered and started to numbly walk down the hall towards the room where he was certain he would find one of his parents fighting for their life.
No one tried to stop him and he continued to walk slowly towards the closed double doors where he could now make out the sounds of Michelle cursing loudly and his mother crying. Max’s heart seemed to have given up on him and it felt like the blood was pooling in his legs, weighing him down and making each step take a hundred times more strength than ever before. It felt like he had been walking for an hour but he had only taken ten steps and was still another fifteen feet away.
Max would never make it though.
The hall around him suddenly erupted and Max was tossed into a wall, all the pain from his previous injuries flaring up just in time to greet new ones. His head was spinning and his vision was dull around the edges as he tried desperately to get to his feet. He could hear people screaming and the sound of metal scraping against metal as some kind of fight had broken out.
With blood falling from another nasty cut on his forehead Max finally managed to get to his feet and he slowly spun around to see what was happening, the breath being knocked right out of his lungs as his eyes settled on the view. Lights flickered and live wires crackled as they dangled from a gaping hole in the ceiling right above where the Immortals had been standing a minute ago and everything in a ten foot radius from the impact point had been shattered and sent flying.
There was a blur of gold, black, and silver movement in the decimated hallway and Max realized his family was locked in combat with whatever had dropped out of the sky on top of them. It was too fast for his mortal eyes to glimpse but he could easily make out the sounds of the fight as he stood there stunned. He could hear the sound of powerful fists slamming into solid flesh, the crack of an Immortal weapon smashing into a wall or the floor, and the agonized cries of unidentifiable people as they were injured in the fray.
Just like in his dream Max found himself struggling with one of the most basic laws of the natural world; Fight or Flight. His mind was screaming at him to run away from whatever was happening because he knew he would only die, but his body seemed unwilling to move and he found himself rooted on the spot. He wanted to see this through; he needed to see this through. For good or bad he knew that he had to witness the outcome.
‘ENOUGH!’ a voice ripped through the destroyed hallway and suddenly the blur of motion stopped. The Immortals stood there with cuts and bruises forming all over their bodies and some of them had even had their armour almost torn off their bodies. Standing just ahead of them and with his back to Max was Eric, a dark black hoodie over his head and something golden moving just in front of him. With a sickening realization Max realized he had taken one of the Immortals hostage and had one of his hands wrapped around their neck. With a quick check of the faces before him he noticed that Erin was missing.
‘Let her go!’ James roared out and a sudden staggering power rippled through the building as the eldest of them tapped into his ancient strength. ‘Or I swear I will rip your head from your shoulders!’
‘Compared to me you, all of you combined are nothing!’ Eric growled and for good measure he squeezed against Erin’s neck tightly. Max could hear her groan in pain and his heart suddenly started to beat once more in his chest, quick savage thrusts that pumped pure adrenaline into his body.
‘Please!’ Amy begged and took a small step closer to the mad man, ‘Let go of my daughter!’
‘Tell me which one of you fuckers is my father or I will kill her where she stands!’ Eric demanded. The eyes of the male Immortals there said more than their words ever could and it was obvious that none of them was his father, which was a death sentence for Erin.
It was in that very instant that Max’s mind suddenly shifted priorities and he saw that he had been looking at everything all wrong. His instinct was no longer to run and hide, instead he wanted to rush Eric and fight him. It was insane and he knew that, but he knew if he didn’t do anything Erin was going to die at that bastard’s hands and he couldn’t let that happen. Erin had told him that she was fighting more for him and not humanity and he never understood it until that moment. When you place someone above yourself and your needs and desires there wasn’t a single thing you wouldn’t do for them, and that included giving your life to save them.
With that awareness Max did the only thing he could and ran at Eric as fast as he could, diving the last few feet in an attempt to tackle him to the ground. It failed miserably and Eric didn’t budge so much as an inch as all of Max’s body weight was thrown into him. It felt like the once Immortal man had just ran headfirst into a brick wall and he was momentarily dazed as he dropped to one knee and clutched both his head and shoulder in his hands, the pain of a broken bone shooting through his body.
‘Well look at who we have here,’ Eric laughed manically when he looked down at his feet to see what had run into him. ‘What’s the matter pretty boy? You’re even weaker than I remember!’
‘Let her go Eric…’ Max said through his pain and lifted his eyes up to the man standing over him to find no sympathy in his eyes.
‘I don’t think so. In fact I think I will kill her just for the fun of it now, so I can see the look in your eyes when you watch her fall to my power! I owe you for stabbing me in the shoulder in Chicago!’
Eric’s hand squeezed over Erin’s neck and her eyes started to bulge in duress as tears streaked down her face. In an instant of pure rage and idiocy Max gritted his teeth against the pain and stood back up, throwing his weak fist into his enemies face as hard as he could. Max could feel two of his fingers shatter under the attack but it had garnered the desired effect, Eric was now focused on him completely.
With the hand not clutching Erin by the throat, Eric lashed out and caught Max in the chest brutally and sent the mortal flying through the air and landing savagely against the near wall. In the very next instant a silver blade streaked through the space between Gabriella and Eric and threatened to take his head off, but at the very last moment he teleported away and dropped Erin on the floor as she gasped in relief.
Most of the Immortals gathered instantly teleported away as they set off in search of their attacker, leaving only a few behind to assess the damage that had been caused. Erin quickly jumped to her feet and flung around, spotting Max leaning up against the wall and her face instantly fell at the sight she saw. The wall he had been thrown against had been partially destroyed during the fight and a long piece of rebar had been sticking directly out of it, driving deep into Max’s stomach when he hit it.
Thick crimson blood bubbled out of the gaping wound and fell to a puddle at his feet as, against better judgement Max pulled himself off the rebar and fell at a heap in his own warm blood. Erin was next to him the very next moment and she pulled him up into her arms as his whole body began to shake from the shock that was setting in. His face was pale and only getting worse as the amount of blood around them was growing larger by each second, staining everything it touched with morbidity.
‘GABBY!’ Erin cried out and in a blur of silver her older sister was at her side, kneeling down in the pool of blood as she looked upon Max with tears in her eyes. ‘Give him his powers back! NOW!’
‘Erin… I… I don’t think it will work,’ Gabriella cried and placed a gentle hand on her sisters shoulder. ‘He…he’s too injured. Even with his immortality back I don’t think he would be able to heal fast enough. He’s lost too much blood already.’
Max was conscious as Gabby spoke and in his heart he knew what she was saying was true, but he could hardly comprehend it. Growing up with the powers he had, Max had thought himself invincible because… well because he had been in all technicality. He had never thought about death or dying and even now as he felt the cold shadow cross over him he was at a loss. He knew he would be alright though. He knew that he had done at least one good thing with his life and that had been saving Erin.
‘E...Erin…’ he choked through the blood forming in his throat and her brilliant green eyes marred by thick tears snapped to his face, ‘I love you…’
‘DO IT NOW GABBY! JUST TRY! PLEASE!’ Erin cried out and she bent down and brought her face next to Max’s, her lips touching his cold skin softly and repeatedly. The very next moment he could feel something hot pouring through his body and the pain he felt intensified to a whole other level as he screamed out in agony, his eyes rolling into the back of his head.
He could feel his old power surge through his mortal body and set fire to everything it touched, electrifying every nerve ending and snapping bones back into place. He quickly realized that his former power wasn’t enough and that Gabby was right, he had been injured too badly to be healed quickly enough. The wound in his stomach had pushed too much blood out of his body and his heartbeat was faint at best. He was still dying, but now it would take longer and he would be in a considerable amount of pain. That had been what Gabriella was trying to warn Erin about; she knew that he wasn’t strong enough and that a quick death would be better.