Charise peeked around the corner, the coast was clear. How they had made it out of the hospital and into the Gut was beyond her and the staggering Bianca only caused her heart to race faster.
“Maybe we should of waited…it’s not like he’s in town. You would have been fine making a full recovery first.”
Bianca shook her head no and wheezed a bit in pain as she leaned against the wall of the freak show. The Bucket was busy. How could she tell? Only place that would be so obnoxiously loud at midnight on a Friday in this part of town. Her mind stopped to wonder who was on shift, but her heart quickly reminded her she just didn’t have time to care. Charise put an arm around her friend and helped her to her feet as they walked towards the House of Vermillion to finish their mission.
Bianca opened the door, the thunderous silence of the house felt like she had stepped into her grave that was welcoming her. The feeling caused her to shiver and through the tightened muscles she felt the pain crack into her ribs like lightening.
“Ouch…” she muttered again leaning against the door frame to catch herself as Charise grabbed her tightly. “Steady girl…you’re almost there. We’re almost done,” she said and tried to offer her a reassuring smile through the terror she felt herself. Bianca stood at the ready and made the slow trek towards the kitchen her eyes burning into the photos of her and Underby and she felt the need for her stomach to expel the sickening feeling that came from the falsified affection that emitted from those images gazes.
Bianca disappear up the stairs as Charise found herself raiding the cabinet of the kitchen, looking for the bottle of Adder Bianca kept around for special occasions and ‘What better occasion could there be,’ she thought as she pulled the bottle out and popped the cork from it. The creaking of the floor boards only caused her to jump slightly but she figured it was Bianca on the floor above, however she was mistaken as the voice of a man caused her to drop the bottle she was holding and spin around.
“You, miss. Have you seen a woman in a blue dress? She was supposed to meet with me. ” he lied plainly. The man was tall, had rather tailored blonde hair, and eyes that could pierce a soul mercilessly. Charise gathered her composure and stood up straight with a shrug, “No, I haven’t. Not many women would choose to have a meeting at their home if regarding business. Being stood up?” She smirks slightly.
The man didn’t smile or flinch, “I figured you would lie to me…very well then. Let’s try it again.” he whipped open his coat, a long barreled gun at his hip soon came to his hand. It was ornate, and clicked as he pulled back the hammer. “Once more…with feeling. Have you seen the woman, in, the, blue, dress my dear?”
Charise glanced silently at the display and cocked her head defiantly placing her hands on her hips. She remained as cool as possible on the exterior as she screams in her head for Reed to show up or at least be near by. “Is this really the way to talk to a woman? I already told you, I. haven’t. seen. a. woman. in. a. blue. dress. I just got here to check on a friends home while she recovered and I’m not the only one in the neighborhood. Why don’t you go ask someone else.”
He smirked and lowered the gun a little, smirking wickedly as he took a few steps forward menacingly “You’re not really a woman…anyone in such -filthy- attire can’t be considered anything but….”he stopped as he saw the figure out of the corner of his eye and slowly coming down the stairs “Habibiti…..” he whispered cruelly. “So good to see you…my little desert rose…”
Bianca stood up straight and stiff seeing the gun as she stepped to the bottom stair. peek from behind the wall she looked to Charise with a grave fear in her eye. No more needed to die in the Gut, no more needed to shed blood on the floors. Her eyes turned to lock nervously with the phantom of her past. “Ashief…so you escaped after all. At the fall of my people.”
“Very grateful I am too for the sacrifice that you made, but not really interested in rekindling a past that has gone up in smoke..”
“Tsk, such foul language Sultana…it was your fiery ignorance that I found myself so fond of. Now…the plans from the Markeshian Empire please.” he held out his hand and cocked his brow impatiently, waving the gun towards Charise signaling her to move next to Bianca. Bianca took a step back as Charise slowly backed to stand beside her, hands raised. “Have many enemies?” Charise muttered softly, her eyes quivering as they peered at the man she now knows as Ashief.
“Just bad luck…” Bianca said strongly holding the pouch that looked worn close to her chest. “Do what Underby wasn’t man enough to do Ashief. Kill me, and you will lose everything I have learned of these weapons.”
“Grr…Bianca you taunt me? You really are a fool, yet I forgive you…”
“You are a monster and should crawl back into the hole you came from.”
“Monster? Ha! You’ve called me many things Bianca, and I will save you the….embarrassment of the words you’ve used in your chambers. Sultana. But death can grace your presence if you want it too, after you give me the papers.” sneering he fired the gun at the floor right above Charise’s boot grazing the tip. Charise jumped as Bianca flinched a hand going out before Charise to draw her back,
“Bianca, just give him what he wants, he’s obviously willing to do more than shoot the floor,” Charise said nervously.
“Those papers destroyed my home Ashief…My brother! My family! My people! You lied to me and you expect me to hand you over the things that would bring hell to earth? To Babbage? No…not this time. You are the LAST shadow of my past and I will face you.”
Charise stood there silently, glancing from Bianca to the man and back again, wondering what in the hell the two are discussing but seeing Bianca stand firmly she stood beside her as well and glared the man down.
Ashief rolled his neck and as it popped loudly, the hammer cocked again, “Why. Yes, actually habibiti. You see, Mondrago was a testing ground…and well after going back to look through the ruins, it was nice to see that the scarabs and…well…sandships could do the damage they did do. Granted, there is no sad in New Babbage, or any other realm outside of what once was, however the conclusion to the experiment of power executed by the coil driven ships was, outstanding and the results…I couldn’t of begged for better.” He lifted the gun and smirked as his finger went over a little switch that shown from the top of a tube upon the gun. “Observe what a bit of science will do for you. This my dear, is a cope, a nice little device I created out of mirrors to help me focus better on my targets. Upon this development I have increased in my marksmanship and have rarely, ever missed. Want to see it work?”
Bianca blinked a moment as she watched the beams path until it landed dead center of Charises forehead. Bianca stood infront of Charise and glared holding onto her in what she hopes to be a protective manner. “Ashief…there has been enough blood–“
“Shut the hell up you dirty, filthy whore! You think you of all people have ANY rights to tell me what to do, or to speak logic to ME? Ha! You don’t even know what logic is! From day one all you have known as abandonment. Every man you ever loved, gone. Every family you ever knew, destroyed. EVERY home you ever thought you could grace your lips with peace has been hell on earth. Dare you. Dare you to speak words of logic and reason to me woman…for you have known nothing of it, but you will know the peace of the grave.” Charise glared at the beam, biting her lip hard for a moment as she glanced at Bianca, then back to Ashief. Her mind was racing over the mans words and the defiant nature that Bianca had been showing. She was standing in between her and this man, she had taken her in when she was intoxicated and lost on the streets. Bianca was family, more than family that she ever knew. Taking a deep breath Charise quickly shoved Bianca hard towards the staircase and whips a gun from the top of her boot, aiming it at the man and fires off a shot.
“NO! CHARISE!” Bianca dropped the pouch as she landed upon the stairs breathing heavy as she felt the wounds jar a bit but Charise just stood there with the gun still held out and her eyes clenched shut, too afraid to open them to see what’s happened.
Ashief turned his face just slightly as he felt the hot metal graze across his skin, the warm blood cascading upon his cheek before the bullet was heard behind him cracking the wood in the wall. He repositioned himself, wiped his cheek with his hand and tsked. “You know…there is another reason why I like my vision cope…..” he lifted the gun and mercilessly fired cracking the front of Charise’s skull with a slender brass bullet. “Precision.” He then fired two more, emptying the clip into her torso.
Bianca twitched with each bullet and looked upon Charise with horror as her gun clattered against the floor before the sickening sound of her body thudding against it was heard shortly after. The gunshots and Bianca’s scream into the night alerted Reed that was perched on the roof next door and within seconds he was climbing down to the ground with the utmost dread in his often emotionless eyes.
Bianca continued to scream in anguish as if the bullets seared her own flesh but her cries almost guteral were for her fallen friend, the only one she had left…She lowered Charise’s body to the floor, praying for any chance, any hope…but seeing the marked butt of the bullet in the middle of her forehead, she knew there was none. “Charise…no no…Charise. Please, no no more blood please! There’s been enough blood! There’s been enough damn blood!!!”
Ashief shrugged and re-cocked the hammer on the gun irritated now “Oh dry it up sultana, you can’t tell me that this , “thing” means anything to you—caught off guard as he felt the sharp pains in his and and the splintering wood, he had no choice but to drop to he floor on a knee and curse in old desert tongue.
Reed walked in from the front entry way with his arm raised, gun held as it smoked from the shots fired, one into the man’s hand the other into the butt of his handgun flinging it from his grasp. Reed stopped for a moment to asses the situation, but as his eyes landed upon Charise, the pool of blood and the bullet hole between the woman’s delicate scared eyes his vacant expression turned to actually have emotion and that emotion was of pure, unwavering rage. Reed turned to unleash his anger on Ashief firing a shot off into the knee of the man, making it certain he can’t move and that even breathing would feel like hell. Bianca felt shock and dismay settle as she felt the warmth begin to cool as it left Charise who was now settled in her arms. “She…didn’t….have to die.”She whispered still holding Charise close, like a girl with a broken lifeless doll paying no heed to the wretched scream of Ashief who had a very wroth Reed bent over him, and judging by the noises, death would be merciful for him now. Reed shoving Bianca was the only thing that brought her back to the reality of the situation. She watched helplessly as he scooped up Charise kissing her torso in lament of his fallen friend before saying deeply, his voice shaken, “”This is your mess, you will clean it up” he growled throwing Charise over his shoulder next and leaving almost bumping into Akdiami and Hono who’s ears picked up the shots during their conversation in the street up the road. Akidami got word of Bianca leaving the hospital and was chasing her down before running into Hono who was confused about everything.
Bianca sat in the blood…
She wanted to cry, but no tears came. She wanted to scream, but with what voice?
Akidami was fuming and the words he stated she dared not repeat. Hono looked at the body and cringed a bit shivering at the man who’s innards laid on his lap like a napkin folded.
In disbelief Akidami leaned down to grab Bianca by her arm and help her to her feet. “What happened here?”
“Hono, take care of this.” Bianca said.
“Huh? What? How?! What happened here?”
“I said…take care of this place…the memories…I want to be the ashes I rise from.”
Hono nodded his head in understanding but still confused as he let the sparks of his hand like a flint lighter and began to run the fingers across the walls which slowly began to smolder then catch flame. Akidami looked at Bianca who still looked at the floor, but feeling the heat of the house grow more and more, he scooped up the woman into his arms and carried her out of the house rather she approved or not, but the thought settled in Bianca’s mind that this…was far from the end of it all.