I know it's been a while, but here I have it: The 4th Collaboration Challenge Story. I think I say this each time (or at least think it) but this is my favorite. It is one of the few I think could truly be made into a much longer story.
So ow you can read all of February 2013's Challenge in one place. If you would prefer to blog hop your way through the story, here are your links:
Otherwise, keep on reading to get Anika's Story in full.
Part 1: For What It's Worth
By Carrie K Sorensen
The chill from the chair permeated Anika's jeans and soaked into her skin. She slouched a little more so only the tops of her shoulder blades and hips make contact with the chilly metal. She pulled the over-sized hood on her deep purple sweater over the dark stubble on her shaved head to help hold some of the warmth in her body.
The cops could probably pump the heat from hell into this room and it would still be cold. Concrete floors, concrete block walls, and aluminum furniture, all grey, all fresh from the meat locker as far as she knew. There wasn't even one of those two way windows in this room. Anika lifted a corner of her lips with that thought. The windowless room wasn't to hide any abuse to her - but to hide her, period.
The bolt on the door slid open with a deep thunk. The person on the other side had to shoulder the heavy door open, then maneuvering quickly out of the way before it slammed shut on spring-loaded hinges and the bolt slid into place again. Anika's smile grew.
"Anika." Detective Harper leaned against the door that had almost crushed him. His green eyes peered through a fallen lock of his gold hair. He was handsome, charming and was meant to disarm his young female charge. Anika had seen more beautiful.
She raised her brown eyes to his, meeting his gaze to show him she was not trying to confront him, she was not afraid of him, she saw her time here little more than an inconvenient moment.
"I wish you would reconsider." He always spoke first and last and more. He gave away so much with his words he thought would break her into answering.
"You're better than this." A familiar theme. He'd only said she was better than them once. She'd swung the chair around to catch him in the shoulder on the other side of the table she still sat behind. Since then, he talked to her from the relative safety of the door.
"You have an excellent background. A good school, excellent grades. You have your year of volunteering at the very museum you began to steal from - but not until you met Razor's Edge."
Ah. Anika had been about to yawn, sick of listening to her own history over and over again from Harper's cool voice. This time he'd shared a bit more. They knew the name of the group she worked for now. It didn't change anything, really, but she doubted Harper knew that.
She had broken many things - the law, her supervisor's trust, her parent's hearts. It had all been necessary.
"You could help us. If you could tell us who's behind Razor's Edge, what their goals are, where they're hiding, we could help you. If you returned the amulet, your life could even go back to normal. Mostly. Isn't that worth giving up this gang's secrets, to returning the artifact?"
He lied. Anika wasn't sure he realized she knew that or not. He didn't realize a lot of things - like by putting his back to a door in a room with no reflective surfaces, he would fail to see the alarm light pulsing weakly above his head. All she had to do was stay quiet, let him talk himself into his own head.
"We're running out of time, Anika. The D.A. is only willing to cut a deal with you if we get information on Razor's Edge before they commit another crime."
Harper jumped at the hollow sound of the bolt being thrown. He narrowed his eyes on Anika's face when she failed to flinch, looked up to see the red glow and cursed.
"Come on, Anika," he spoke quick, pushing against the door, trying to plant his feet on the polished concrete floor while the door was pushed inward. "I can help you. Don't do this. Don't let them take you back."
The door flew open under Xav's shove. He wore a hoodie that matched hers, though his hood was thrown back to show his mussed brown hair and the anger in his golden eyes. A bruise was forming on his jaw, accentuating the tick in the clenched muscle.
"Let's go, Annie," he ordered. She rose smoothly from her slouched position, watched in disinterest when Harper tried to punch Xav only to catch a hook to the shoulder Anika had already bruised. Harper stumbled to the concrete wall and glared at the boy half his age.
Xav stood in the doorway, holding the door open with his left arm, the right one ready to fly into offence if Harper moved toward him again.
Anika paused, looking between the two males. Harper noticed her hesitation and hope lit his eyes. Had his long-winded words finally reached her? Xav huffed with impatience when she moved closer to the detective.
"I was a good student from a good, loving family. I had my feet firmly on the ground and was headed for the high skies of success. So why would I abandon all that? What would be worth stealing for, lying for? Disappearing for?"
Disappointment and confusion wrinkled Harper' as she left him to watch the door slam shut between them.
Part Two: Bridges Burned
By L.T. Dalin
The air outside was raw, chilly carrying hints of winter. Anika pulled her hood down further while Xav guided her down the sidewalk toward his car. Four people with identical hoodies stood guard in front of the building – all with waiting motorcycles already fired up.
“The Beast” - that’s what she called it. The largest Humvee to exist and with spare-parts from the chop-shop it lived up to its name.
Xav turned off the radio as they zoomed past the other cars, heading for the bridge. Anika clicked her seatbelt in place.
“What did you tell them?” He didn’t look at her, though she recognized the tone. Much depended upon her answer.
“I didn’t tell them anything. They know whom I’m working for, and he used the information for shock-value.” Anika shrugged, staring out of the window at the passing buildings and cars. In this weather, everything looked black and white: even the people.
He grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. “None of my men would –”
Anika shoved aside, her hood falling back in the process. “I don’t know who told him, but I didn’t. It doesn’t matter anyway, does it? I’m free – they won’t get to me, again.”
Xav regarded her for a moment. “What were you doing out there alone, at night? We have rules, Annie.”
She pulled her legs up on the seat, disregarding his expression. “I had business to attend to.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Business? Well, now. Your business is my responsibility. Or are you hustling on the side? You know we don’t allow –“
“Oh come off it.” Anika puffed her cheeks and let the air out slowly. “I’m not the first to be caught, and I’m sure I won’t be the last.”
“But you are the first who belong to me,” Xav replied, again looking at her.
“Keep your eyes on the road, please.” She didn’t belong to him. He was a safeguard, nothing more.
“I will not have the pigs lock you up and put their grubby hands all over you, just because you can’t keep to the rules.” He paused for a moment, his eyebrows furrowing. “Did they touch you? Are you hurt?”
Anika rolled her eyes. “Now you ask. Thanks for your concern, but I’m OK. Can’t say the same for you, though. How’s the jaw?”
Xav swore under his breath and stared fixedly on traffic. “It’s nothing. They fight like little girls.”
She reached out and switched the radio onto a music station. She needed to drown-out his perpetual talk of rules and dangers. He treated none of the others like this, and she already regretted the decision that linked them together.
No. She couldn’t regret it. Everything was finally coming together, and it wouldn’t be long before…
Anika was hurled forward, and the seatbelt constricted around her, cutting off her airflow. Tires squeaked along the wet asphalt, and the heavy Humvee skidded sideways bumping a compact Fiat into the rails before coming to a sudden stop along the edge.
Xav was draped over the steering wheel – the airbag tainted red. Anika drew shallow breaths.
“Xav?” With fumbling fingers, she released her seatbelt. “Xav, wake up.” She shoved on his shoulder, and this time he groaned.
Xav raised himself into a sitting position. “What the…” He shook his head and wiped his nose; it was the cause of all the blood. “What happened?”
“You’re the one driving.” Anika pulled down the shade and flipped-open the mirror. She had a cut on her right temple, but it wasn’t serious.
“Someone jumped in front of the car,” he said, now looking over his shoulder. “Didn’t you see him? He wore white and appeared out of nowhere right in front of the car.” Xav sounded delirious – and Anika was all for making everyone believe that.
“You’re not making sense. We need to get out of here.”
The others should have caught up by now, but there were no one around. No cars on the bridge, other than the Fiat. The Humvee’s headlights illuminated the green, scratched paint job and the empty interior.
Xav removed the deflated airbag and put the car in reverse. The broken railing was latched onto the Humvee, holding them in place. He mumbled under his breath, fished out his cellphone and hit the speed-dial.
“We’ve had an accident on top of the bridge.” He nodded. “Yes, that’s the one.”
Anika heard animated speech from the other end, but she couldn’t make sense of it.
“We’ll wait. Yes, it’s bullet-proof.” He sounded like a proud father talking about his son’s achievements.
Xav held the cellphone out to Anika. “He wants to talk to you.”
She swallowed thickly. “Hello?”
“Anika. I hear your trip downtown didn’t go over well.”
Jasper. This was only the second time they had spoken. “No, Sir. It didn’t. I’m out now – it won’t happen again.”
Jasper laughed; a deep, throaty rumble. “It seems we have a problem, Anika.”
She didn’t answer.
“The amulet you stole for us. Well, it seems to be a fake.”
Adrenaline: her heart beat faster and her earlobes tingled.
“I didn’t know. I took it from the Museum, just like you asked.”
Jasper clucked disapprovingly. “Is that so?”
Anika looked out the window, making sure not to make eye-contact with Xav. “I swear I don’t know anything about a fake – "
“Anika,” Jasper interrupted, all pleasantries gone from his voice. “I will find out one way or another. You know how… persuasive I can be.”
“Yes, Sir. I am telling you the truth.”
“Wouldn’t want anything to happen to your friend, now, would we?”
Bile rose in her throat, and she shook her head fiercely. “I swear I don’t know anything.”
Xav thrust a semi-automatic with a spare clip into her waiting hand. Anika raised her eyebrows, and he pointed toward the end of the bridge. Dark shapes were advancing.
She shouldered the cellphone and hit the eject button on the gun, checking the cartridge. It was full.
“Sir, we have a situation.”
“Don’t die, Anika. I want that amulet.”
“Here they come,” Xav said and four, large openings appeared at the front, turning the Humvee into a shooting-pit.
Anika looked at the phone, and then clicked the red button.
By Joseph Redhorn
Xav was the first to fire his weapon at semi-rapid lock thru a small firing pit door. What they saw amazed and terrified them both as the being seemed to turn to mist or dust.
“Anika try the UV light in the back seat.” Xav commanded.
Scared nearly motionless Anika slowly reached around a fumbled for the light.
“Hurry your lead.” Xav nearly screamed as the beings neared to no more than five feet.
When Anika had the light in her lap Xav grabbed it and turned the dial all the up and hit the trigger. A blinding flash of light appeared momentary blinding both Anika and Xav. When they regained their sight the being seemed to have created one large mass. A barrier of some type.
“What's happening” Anika asked.
“I have no idea, but whatever is it doesn't look good.”
The creatures didn't move from their five foot distant circular wall. Anika opened the phone but found it was drained of all power. Xav looked at his watch and it too had stopped.
“What the hell?” Xav murmured under his breath.
In a few minutes that seemed like hours a small pathway was formed by the beings directly in front of them. Soon a small robed figure appeared. It came to stand right in front of the Humvee, it raised its head to bear a face that seemed to be rotting as he looked at them.
Their blood began to chill from it stare until it seemed that they were frozen. They watched the creature peel it's figure nail into the paint as it wrote something out. Then it was like they had fallen into sleep. When they came to the beings were gone and the sound of sirens could be heard headed in their direction.
Xav glanced at his watch, it was working and only three minutes had past since the last time he looked at it. Anika stuck her head out the window to read the message on the hood.
'You released us. Vamprye the true.'
She was white as death when she looked at Xav and lipped the word Vamprye.
“What you mean vampires?” Xav asked with sarcasm in his voice.
“Worse. Vampire as we know them are fantasy. Vamprye are the true type who have been called back from the dead and they don't drink blood. The feed on human energy so much so that it kills. Vamprye means soul sucked.
“So how do you killed them?
“I have no idea.” Anika retorted.
Part 4: The Half-ling Escape
By Yolanda Tong
Four hours later, Anika arrived in the neighborhood of her childhood home. At the stop sign, she let the truck idle for a moment, eyeing the neighborhood for a moment. She recognized the police van immediately. An unmarked white van parked at the corner of the street.
She reached for the cell phone in her purse, but stopped, remembering she turned it off. While there were probably many ways for her to be followed, she didn't want to risk it. Not to mention, she didn't want to hear from Jasper. Not yet, anyways.
She took a breath and made a left turn, away from her home and away from the van that waited for her. She needed to get to closer, but needed to avoid those prying eyes.
As she passed the creek that cut across the neighborhood, and had an idea. Sneaking in and out as a teenager without getting caught would finally pay off.
30 minutes later, she managed to make her way through the creek and into her own backyard with mud caked on her shoes and bottom of her jeans. As she crouched behind the bush that hid the broken fence she knew so well, she listened a moment for any extra noise. A noise that would reveal who truly watched the house.
She heard the backdoor of the house open and the door slam. She gasped softly and recognized her father standing on the porch and facing the backyard. Aged by several years now, he looked just like he did the day she left home. She took her own life and her parents in her hands, but she grabbed a small stone from the ground and threw it out onto the grass.
The soft thump noise was enough to catch his attention. His eyebrows furrowed and he searched across the yard. His eyes stopped right where she sat. His eyes crinkled with a smile and quickly faded as he realized the danger of the situation. He stepped onto the grass and acted like he was eyeballing the growth of his plants. He even squatted and felt the leaves.
Finally, he got close enough to her.
"What are you doing here? You could get yourself killed. Don't you know who is watching the house? - "
"Dad, not now. Save the lecture. Where's...." She'd known of its existence nearly her whole life. How could she just ask about it, like it was..."the amulet? I need it."
He stood from his squatting position and inhaled sharply. "I don't know." She had stared at that face her whole life and knew when he was lying.
"It's my life or theirs. You choose..."
"I promised. Them...I never...why did you have to get involved with those people?" His eyes drifted off. "I fought for you to live a normal life. Then you got into your teen years...stupid rebellion and found those...people to hang around. It wasn't long before they realized you weren't going to follow the rules."
He squatted back near her. "The rules that had been created to keep the Vampyres from the humans. The stupid rebellion you joined was created just so those lines could be blurred. Why do you think that Jasper created this."
"And the police?"
"Know about it. Always have known about it. And work very hard to make sure those lines are never destroyed. But then the Vampyres realized how much they would like for those barriers destroyed too."
"Dad, I need the amulet."
"I can't give it to you."
"Do you know what will happen if this ends up in the wrong hands? It destroys everything."
"Destroys everything? Jasper says the amulet protects - "
He scoffed. "Jasper says...what else did he tell you so you would get involved?" He reached into his shirt and pulled out the necklace he kept hidden underneath. A large jewel - very similar to the one she thought she stole - hung on the end of it.
She gasped. "The amulet."
He held in his hands and gazed into it. "I was entrusted to protect it. To make sure it never ends up in the wrong hands."
"And what would the right hands do with it?"
He took it off his neck and handed it to her. "I think you can figure it out."
By the time she returned to her truck, the sun was almost gone from the sky. The old truck provided little protection against the Vampyres she feared were just outside and waiting for her. Her initial plans had been changed just a bit. She hadn't expected to have this in her hands so soon. Even more she didn't realize she wouldn't want to return with it.
Figure it out? She thought of her father's words. Something within this amulet needed to be activated. The top of the amulet looked like the lid you may find on a perfume bottle. As if with one twist, and...
Silently, she said a prayer. A prayer to...she wasn't sure what exactly.
A flash of light. Screeches and cries as if bodies burning alive yelled into the night. Her voice among them.
....is she awake...
....how did she know...
....it's all over....
When she woke up, she wasn't sure where she was exactly. Butterfly prints on the wall. A familiar window. She was home. In her own bedroom. She looked around and there he was resting in the rocking chair by her closet.
"What are you doing here? What happened?"
Xav's eyes blinked open and smiled. "You did it. Why do you even ask?"
"What did I do?"
"The amulet..." Xav stood up and maneuvered to the bed and sat down at the edge of her bed. The one with cloud prints. "...you know the energy that the Vampyres take from the humans?"
"The amulet protects it. The energy has been sealed again."
She looked away and smiled. And then a thought..."And Jasper?"
Xav shook his head. "He left...no idea what happened to him..."
And somewhere in the darkness someone watched and waited. The seal had returned. The protection strengthened. But one day...they would have their chance and take back the world they once thought might be theirs.