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Where each Thursday, I post an act from my new and ongoing serial story: Theta Waves. It’s been a couple of months since Phoenix was released, so instead of starting there (anyone who enjoys a Thea read has already grabbed it up for free but if you didn’t, you can go over to Amazon and download it), I’m going to begin with Dragon: Episode 2.
So settle back, prepare yourself for a typical tale that has all the darkness you’ve come to expect from a Thea read, but with a little added steam.
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Dragon: Episode 2: Act 1
Theda didn’t know who she’d been in the lifetime that she read for Ezekiel, but she knew who she was now, and that chick didn’t like the feeling of freefall, of being out of control, of suddenly caring. It had been 48 hours or more since she’d taken her last godspit smear, and since then, she’d been abducted from her grotto beneath the bridge, charged with religion mongering in a post apocalyptic god-hating world, and been forced to provide a vision for the man who stood in front of her to prove religion mongering was exactly what she’d been doing. This man–Ezekiel–was attractive in a gut-wrenching sort of way she had to admit that, but he was also the one completely responsible for the predicament she was now in. He had stolen her last smear and dragged her to this place somewhere in the western end of the city after killing her would-be executioners in the capital building. He’d bathed her with and without her clothes because she’d been too far gone into withdrawal to rid herself of the blood from the murder and accumulated filth that comes after a bunch of months without access to a shower. He’d been tender about it, even respectful as though he had some decent molecule somewhere in his body. Then he made her sleep on the floor next to his bed like a common dog.
Oh, yeah; needing a godspit fix was an understatement.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on,” she told him as she stood in a top floor bedroom in Bridget’s apartment. “But I want no part of it.”
She didn’t care if this lover, friend, or accomplice of his named Bridget was awake down below puttering in the kitchen, if breakfast with bacon and sausages and scrambled eggs was waiting for her down there, or if Ezekiel passed Theda over the entire cache of godspit that he kept in his pocket – because she knew he had one; he’d taken them all from her friend Ami when he’d abducted her from the survivor station – and one of the smears was even hers damn him. She was getting out of here. Getting the hell out of Dodge. Blowing this Popsicle stand and any other clichés from old Earth that she could think of.
“It’s too much, all too much.” She made a move for the bedroom door, thinking out there in the streets was about as safe as inside an apartment where her bounty hunter could watch her day in and day out, but she felt him hook her elbow with his meat hook hands, pulling her backwards.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said.
“What are you going to do; taser me like you did Ami?” She choked on the name: Ami, the one who gave her free coffee and free godspit to get her through her nights. The man who kept trying to coax her into a decent life and a decent bed, hoping she would join him in helping the unfortunate to adjust to their new environment. The one who did truly seem a decent man in this world of ruin. The one Ezekiel had left lying incapacitated and vulnerable, damn him.
“I could taser you.” He conceded, twisting his booted ankle about so she could see the butt of the weapon sticking out. “If I have to.”
“He was a decent guy and you left him good as dead.”
“Ah,” he said. “Your young admirer. I left him on the bed like you asked me to before you fled the scene like a criminal.” He chuckled humourlessly, holding up his index finger to indicate he’d just thought of something. “Wait. That’s exactly what you were.”
“Still. He didn’t ask for that.”
His gaze fell to her mouth and lingered there, making her squirm. “I left him alive, at least, “he said.
“Until the beast’s men find him. That’s what you said when we left the capital; that he was good as dead.”
He jerked on her elbow, dragging her toward the bed.
“You can install all you want, pretending you care about that lovesick fool; you’re not leaving,” Ezekiel said to her, squeezing into her elbow just enough to make her wince.
“The hell I’m not.”
He shook his head. Charcoal colored hair fell into his eyes as he loosened his hold and tried to ease her back on to the bed. “Be smart, minou. They’ll find you. Just like I did.”
She resisted. She didn’t want to be calm, sit prissily on the bed. She wanted out.
She struggled to remember everything he’d told her back in the capital building, before she’d been forced to see him through a vision that even now made her tremble. It was a difficult task; the copious amounts of godspit she’d ingested over the last couple of days had begun to play with the timeline, but she was sure he’d told her he’d been watching her for months, trying to gain the evidence he needed to prove that she was religion mongering.
“They might find me, but they won’t know anything.” She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at him. “You didn’t know anything for months.”
“You’ve got it all wrong, minou. I knew right away.”
“And you let me ply my trade for seven months? I doubt it.” All her struggles did no good; he somehow wrestled her onto the bed without effort.
“I didn’t just watch you for seven months.” His lips took on a regretful twist, and he seemed to have a hard time holding her eye. “I gathered information on you.”
She gave him a wary look. “Gathered information? Does that mean you delivered it?”
“Yes it does.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. They can’t prove anything because there’s nothing to prove. I’m not a religion mongerer. I don’t go about telling people that God cares. That they can save their souls. It’s all too late for that. We all know that.” She was on her feet again, waving her arms frantically by now, unable to contain her sense of impotence. Nothing was making sense. She knew that the beast wanted to rid the world of any spark of religious fervor, but really what was the point. The god had come and gone. There was nothing left in the world except debauchery. Everything else seemed a moot point.
“You don’t get it, do you? They don’t want proof.”
“Then what was all of that back in the capital building?” She poked him in the chest with her finger. “Tell me that. If they didn’t want proof then why did they force me to read for you?”
It had been a horrific reading, one she’d been forced to perform tied to a chair while afraid for her life. The vision was so familiar as she walked through it that she felt as though the life she’d led him through was her own. Just thinking about it made the panic rise again. Witch trials and torture and executions without proof. If not for the highly erotic part of the beginning of his vision, she would swear history was trying to repeat itself. The erotic part: well, that made her peer up at him surreptitiously. If he’d been the Cathrin woman in the vision, she’d been pretty damn promiscuous; it made her wonder if the soul he’d been still had a taste for ménage. Then her face burned at the thought and she had to hide it behind the back of her hand as she pretended to wipe fury from her expression. She caught sight of her finger and had a peculiar thought.
“Let me see your where you cut yourself,” she said, grabbing for his arm, intending to examine the point of the finger he’d cut when he’d slipped it, blood and all, into her mouth and against her tongue, bringing on the vision.
He put his hands behind his back and she wrestled him, twisting his wrist. “Let me see it,” she said. “I bet I can do it for you again. Maybe this time I’ll find an even better lifetime for you. One where you’re the zealot and you’re the one being hunted.”
She was behind him now, had the index finger grasped in both fists. It still looked swollen and sore and it occurred to her as she squeezed it that his vision had been exactly like that. She dropped his hand, ashamed.
“What am I some kind of pixie stix?” He growled, inspecting the fingertip.
She straightened up and faced him, chastened but unwilling to appear so. “You were plenty willing back at the capital building.”
“I was doing what I was told. What I was paid for.” He sighed, stepping an easy arm’s distance away.
“And what the hell were you paid for except to abduct an innocent young woman?”
He sighed, rolling his eyes as if he wanted to debate that point, but instead said, “A test.”
“And I failed it, I presume.”
“Quite the opposite. They wanted to know if you could truly see. They wanted to know if you were the girl responsible for the new zealots. But it didn’t matter what the result was. They were going to kill you anyway. Too many people believed in your little trick to let you go.”
For a moment, she thought of the hunger the woman in his vision had felt for the two men she shared, the reason she ended up with a pouch of gunpowder around her neck, and tied to a cross. She had to remind herself that Ezekiel had been that woman from the lifetime. She remembered the pain he’d endured at the hands of a trumped up which trial. But it was the other players in the vision that had her attention as she looked at him. She’d been one of those players, of that she was certain; the reality of it, that she had no idea which one, was the real reason for the panic. But she’d have to stop thinking about that. That way lay madness. Hell she wished she had a godspit smear. She studied her toes, wiggling them on the carpet.
“It’s not a trick,” she admitted sullenly after a long moment and peered up at him to see his reaction.
His eyes locked on hers and something in his posture softened. “I know,” he said.
“What I do has nothing to do with religion.” She took a step toward him, thinking for some strange reason that if she could convince him of the truth, that she could convince anybody and then this whole mess would be over. She could forget about that vision. She could pretend she never had it and move on.
“I just need to eat,” she said. “I told you. I told them. I’m just trying to survive. Surely they’ll understand that.”
He spread his arms. “Look around you. Religion destroyed the world long before the god came. It’s not about evil or good anymore. Those things have gone.”
“I know,” she mumbled. It was true. The notion of good and evil was an antiquated one that proved to only destroy the world and bring it near destruction for its entire existence. The Holocaust of the god’s return proved to be the closest Earth had ever come to extinction and here they still were. The beast wasn’t about to let it happen again.
“But you’re wrong,” she said. “You can’t just set the clock back. We are not Neanderthals. The beast can’t stop us from believing what we want. We have senscience.”
“Some senscience,” Ezekiel said. He reached into his jacket pocket and plucked out a handful of smears, showing them to her. She felt the saliva flood her mouth at sight of them and turned away before he could notice the hunger or guilt on her face.
“See?” he said. “We’re all just back to basics. So many of us.”
The way he said it, the tone in his voice made her look up at him sharply.
She could feel her eyelids slit together in suspicious study. How dare he presume to show empathy. “You have no idea.”
“You don’t know me.”
“I don’t want to know you,” she said. “I just want to get out of here. I don’t want to have anything to do with any of this.”
“You’re already involved, minou. They want you dead. That’s all there is to it.”
She snorted. “Me and a dozen other religion mongerers.” She said. “Let them go find one of them.”
“They will,” he said. “Don’t you worry. And they will find you, and they will make an example of you.”
She gave him a hard look. “I want my smear back. And I want some clothes.” She picked at the oversized T-shirt she wore to replace the clothes he’d cut from her in the tub. The memory of that experience burned on her cheeks as hotly as the steamy memory of Cathrin and her two gentlemen.
Exasperation chiseled itself onto his face, but he turned on his heel and left the room only to return moments later with a pile of material.
“You and Bridget are about the same size.” He threw jeans at her first, followed by a plaid shirt, some socks, and a sports bra. He held a thong by its string. She noticed it still had a store tag. “Not as pretty as yours, but I trust these will do?” He asked so sweetly she wanted to kick him in the shins.
The flaming of her cheeks went behind her ears as she thought of the ratty underwear he’d taken off of her the night before, but she grabbed at the thong just the same.
“Does Bridget know you rummage through her things?” She shoved one foot through a leg hole then the other, pulling the underwear up beneath the T-shirt as quickly as she could.
“Don’t worry about Bridget,” he grinned almost playfully, watching her. “I’ve had my hands in her drawers before. She’ll be okay with it.”
Theda glared at him. The way he watched her through those hooded eyelids with those thick charcoal eyelashes did things to her she didn’t want to admit. And thinking of that same gaze settling on the woman she remembered seeing the previous night did even worse things to her. She had to remind herself that he was a bounty Hunter, looking to earn a few coins for her arrest no matter how it had ended up.
“How about some privacy?” She tried to keep her voice even.
His glance fell to her bare thigh as he shrugged. “Awfully shy all of a sudden for a girl who knows I’ve seen the entire package,” he said, squinting at her. He paused at the door, hand on the knob before he turned back towards her. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
She wanted to tell him that stupidity wouldn’t have enabled her to survive on her own after the Holocaust, but he’d twisted the knob and left the room before she had the chance.
He was waiting outside the door when she exited. His hand rested on the banister at the top of the stairs. Fragrant smells of cooking came from below: bacon, ironically, and the smell of cinnamon. Despite herself, her mouth watered and her stomach growled at her. Maybe she didn’t have to be in that much of a hurry.
“A bite to eat,” she said, inhaling the wonderful aroma. “Then I’m off.”
“Suit yourself,” he said.
She pushed past him, already imagining French toast and bacon sitting on a white plate, fork tucked neatly beside it. Her foot was on the top tread when Bridget appeared below. In the light of day, not blurred over by eyes suffering the rackings of withdrawal, Theda could see how beautiful Bridget was. Hair as glossy black as liquid tar with a sapphire gaze. Theda imagined those narrow hips sporting the thong Ezekiel had dug out of Bridget’s dresser. A lover, Ezekiel had called her. Had his hands in her drawers plenty of times. Theda jammed her hands into the jeans pockets, feeling along her own hip bone. It stuck out in a way that made her chew her lip.
The woman looked up at them, arms crossed. “She’s on the Promo,” she said flatly.
On the Promo. The next thing after the electricity to get turned back on. The way for the beast to pipe through his new edicts. Broadcasted on high-definition screens that ran across the buildings they were mounted on. Not many left, true, those remnants of marketing campaigns in the old world, but one or two throughout the city in highly visible spots. That meant they’d already begun searching for her. That meant every bounty Hunter within reach of the signal would be on the prowl.
She gave Ezekiel a twisted half smile. “Let them look,” she said with a haughtiness she didn’t feel. “The only visual they could possibly have of me is from years ago.”
She imagined the most recent photo, taken before her father had decided to exorcise the prophetess out of his wife. That had been at least five years ago when Theda had braces like most teenagers. She’d been more plump then, the result of the coddling an only child was entitled to. Her hair dyed half a dozen colors, violet being the most prominent. There was no way they’d be able to match that sweet, self-entitled to face to the gaunt, haunted mask she knew she wore now.
“I could be standing right next to my photo and they’d never know,” she said and sauntered down two more steps only to halt at sound of his voice.
“Afraid not, minou.”
She turned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean they would have somehow got their hands on a recent photo.”
Comprehension dawned. “Somehow: meaning you took a picture of me.”
“Took it, delivered it. Identified you by your Mark.” He jammed his hands into his jeans pockets. “They know who you are and what you look like. They even know the street you trick out on.”
“So I’m screwed.”
“You were screwed. But now you are here. With me.” He seemed pleased with himself.
“Doubly screwed, then.” She looked down at the gorgeous woman at the bottom of the stairs, up at the man who had abducted her and then saved her life. Had his hands in Bridget’s drawers plenty of times, this lover of his. His hands, so often rough with Theda in these last two days, had been gentle in the tub, caring. She imagined those hands roaming Bridget’s body, gentle, loving, but urgent.
“I don’t think I’m hungry anymore,” she said and did her best to hold his gaze until he gave in and nodded.
“I understand,” he said. “It’s a lot to take in, but don’t think of it as being trapped here. Think of it as being safe.”
“What I think is that I’ll lie down.” She put her fingers to her temple for just the right effect. He seemed to buy it. They both did.
He galloped down the steps toward the aromas of bacon and cinnamon and she watched him go. They could have a good breakfast together, those two, smiling across the table at each other. They could even hold hands across the gingham tablecloth for all she cared.
She had much better things to occupy her mind.
to be continued next week….
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