Blood & Thunder, page 26part #2 of THIRDS Series
Rifle in hand, Sloane hurried toward the doors, unsure of what he was going to find on the other side. An image of Dex lying in a pool of blood flashed through his mind, and he quickly pushed it away. This was not a dream. Dex needed him. Sloane ducked to one side of the large doors and carefully peered in through the glass, hearing a voice he knew well, one he wanted to shut up for good.
“Come in, Sloane. Let’s chat.”
Sloane tapped his earpiece, speaking quietly. “Guys, I found Isaac, and he’s got Dex. He says he wants to talk. I’m on the eighth floor, Wing C. Calvin, you know what to do.” Taking a deep breath, he pushed open one of the doors and walked in, his teeth gritted. The expansive gray room looked as it did in his nightmare—empty, except for the man who’d killed his lover, shed innocent blood, caused chaos, and now kidnapped Dex, standing in the center in a bulletproof vest, a side arm strapped to his leg, and a grin that Sloane wanted to punch off his face.
“Where are they?” Sloane asked, keeping his rifle aimed at Isaac.
“How does it feel to be home again?” Isaac asked pleasantly, motioning to the drab room in serious need of paint. The gray walls were chipped, scratched, and filled with questionable stains. The floor was concrete. It contained no windows, only a solid steel door off to his right. “It’s a bit clinical for my taste, but it has its appeal.”
Sloane refused to be baited. He repeated through his teeth. “Where. Are. They.”
“I should feel relieved, having everything I believed to be true about you confirmed,” he patted the pocket of his tac pants containing something rectangular, “but instead, I’m disappointed. I’ll be the first to hold up my hands and say, we—the Human race—only has itself to blame. The virus, the vaccine, the result,” Isaac said, motioning to Sloane, “was all our doing. But instead of correcting our mistakes, we make them worse. We created mutations, and not only do we treat them as Human, but we start giving them rights. We allow them into our government. We hire murderers to enforce the law.”
Sloane’s jaw clenched. He wouldn’t allow Isaac to distract him. Isaac had a plan, and Sloane had to make certain he didn’t fall victim to it.
With a grin, Isaac called out. “Dexter, come out here please. And bring the good doctor.”
Sloane watched, stunned, as the door on his right opened, and Dex walked through, dragging a bound up Dr. Shultzon with him. His partner’s face was bruised, faint blood stains under his nose and across his cheek, but other than that, he looked perfectly healthy.
“Put him over there, will you. Place him on his knees.”
“Sure.” Dex did as Isaac asked, dragging the gagged doctor over to where Isaac pointed, lifting him, and pushing him onto his knees. Then he stood idly by. He’d been stripped of his tac vest, weapons, and uniform shirt. Sloane couldn’t understand it.
“Dex?” Sloane received a smile from Dex, and his heart felt about ready to stop beating. It looked like Dex, talked like him, acted like him, but something was wrong. “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing your organization hasn’t done to its own. I gave him a little concoction the THIRDS created containing scopolamine. The US government tried to use it as a truth serum back in the sixties, but unfortunately, along with the truth, they got a bunch of crazy ass hallucinations. Looks like the THIRDS found a better use for their new and improved drug—controlling their agents. The power of suggestion can be a wonderful thing. For example, I suggested to Dex that we’re good friends. Isn’t that right, Dex?”
Dex nodded. “We’re good friends.”
“You sick son of a bitch.” Sloane took a step forward, only to have Dex step in front of Isaac. “Dex, get the hell out of the way,” Sloane snarled, his glare on Isaac. He was going to tear the guy apart for what he’d done to his partner.
“Easy there, Sloane. Dex is protecting me because that’s what friends do. They protect each other. You shoot me, and your partner will take the bullet, and he’s not wearing any protection.”
“What do you want, Isaac?” Where the hell was his team?
A loud bang echoed from somewhere behind him, and Isaac laughed. “Those doors are fortified. They locked after you came through. Both sets of doors. This facility was created to withstand feral Therians. Your team won’t get through. And if they somehow manage, there’s still the set of doors behind you. This will all be over by then. Dex, take this.” Isaac handed Dex his gun.
“Calvin?” Sweat dripped down Sloane’s face, and he ran through the variables in his head. Whatever Isaac’s plan, the end result would be for him to get away with the files.
“In position,” Calvin confirmed.
Sloane slipped his finger over the trigger.
“Dex,” Isaac said, his gaze on Sloane. “Kill the doctor then kill yourself.”
With those few words, Sloane felt the pain Isaac had intended. The bastard knew THIRDS protocol. Preserve civilian life. Sloane’s duty would be to save Dr. Shultzon, no matter the cost. Dex took a step forward, and the rest happened in a blur. Sloane pulled the trigger, hitting Dex who fell to the floor, Sloane following his lead as he shouted the signal into his earpiece. “TARE!” A familiar ‘pop’ echoed through the air, and Sloane lifted his head from his position on the floor, his eyes meeting Isaac’s lifeless stare.
Isaac had been counting on separating Sloane from his team, thinking Sloane would choose to handle the situation alone, and therefore fall into Isaac’s trap, forced to make a choice: his partner or the doctor. He had been counting on Sloane’s anger, on his hatred for him, believing Sloane would attempt to seek justice on his own. That’s where Isaac had made his mistake. Sloane’s anger and thirst for Isaac’s blood hadn’t clouded his judgment as it had Isaac’s. Instead, Sloane drew on the strength of his team, of his family, and the man who’d come to mean more to him than he cared to admit, to gain clarity. Sloane wasn’t alone, and he hadn’t needed his team to get through the doors. He only needed his best sniper to get through the glass.
Scrambling to his feet, Sloane ran over to Dex’s side. To his horror, his partner was still reaching for Isaac’s gun. His leg was bleeding where Sloane had shot him, but it was as if Dex didn’t feel it.
Sloane wrestled the gun from Dex, and Dex fought against him. A blast exploded through the hall, filling it with smoke, and soon his team was blasting through the second set of doors, while Sloane did his damn best to restrain his drugged partner.
“Dex, stop it!”
“I have to kill the doctor then myself,” Dex said, pushing and writhing to get free.
Sloane gritted his teeth, his full weight on Dex as he crossed Dex’s arms over his chest and held them down.
“Sloane!” Ash came running, emerging from the smoke filled corridor with the rest of his team. “What the hell’s going on?”
“I have to kill the doctor then myself,” Dex answered, his face contorted with pain and frustration at not being able to carry out Isaac’s request. Sloane had heard of the drug, had seen videos of victims sharing stories of how criminals had used it to rob them blind, simply by asking them for their belongings, by suggesting the victim take them to their homes. It was mostly used in foreign territories, often used to rob tourists. One whiff of the stuff, and the person was gone, though you’d never know from looking at them. And the most fucked up part? The victims never remembered anything.
Sloane shook his head, and turned his gaze to his startled teammates. “He’s been drugged with something containing scopolamine. Isaac suggested he kill the doctor then himself, and now he’s trying to do it. We need to knock him out, or he’ll keep trying.” Because that’s what the drug did. Dex wanted to please his “friend.” Thank God it would soon wear off.
“Shit? Scopolamine?” Rosa knelt beside Sloane, and took out her medical kit from her backpack. “That shit will fuck you up. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’ll give him an anesthetic. When he wakes up, he won’t remember what happened, so you’ll hav
“Better stitches than dead,” Sloane replied, “Calvin, the files are in Isaac’s pocket. Get them to Lieutenant Sparks.” He looked up to find Dr. Shultzon standing before him, smiling warmly.
Sloane swallowed hard and gave him a nod. “Abraham.” Words and emotions bubbled up from somewhere deep inside, but Sloane forced them back down. This was neither the time nor the place. He’d been sixteen the last time he’d seen the man who’d changed his life in so many ways.
There was a commotion down the hall as backup arrived, including Maddock who ran over to Sloane’s side and dropped to his knees beside Dex. “What happened? Is he okay?”
Dex shook his head groggily, his lids growing heavy. “I need to kill the doctor….” He groaned, his head lolling to one side before he was out. Sloane debriefed quickly, though he would be filing a full report of the incident as soon as he got back to headquarters. The medics arrived, and Sloane stood, reluctant to leave Dex’s side as they readied him for transport. Hudson and Nina gave Sloane grave nods as they walked past him to Isaac. Sloane couldn’t help but note the way Isaac had fallen, the position he was in as he lay in a pool of his own blood, as Dex had in Sloane’s nightmare. At least the real nightmare was over. Isaac Pearce was dead. Unable to help himself, he crouched down beside him, staring into his eyes, and speaking quietly.
“I hope you rot in hell, you son of a bitch.” Maybe that made him a bad person, maybe he should be more forgiving, but fuck that. The bastard had killed Gabe, had kidnapped Sloane, and tortured him. He’d set off a bomb in a youth center, and then taken Dex with the intention of having Sloane kill his lover. No, there was no forgiveness in Sloane’s heart for Isaac Pearce. Men like Isaac deserved what they got in the end, and if that meant Sloane was as fucked up as the rest of them, so be it. That wouldn’t stop him from going after guys like Isaac. It was up to them whether they ended up walking out, or wheeled out.
Sloane stood, his sight down the hall where the EMTs were wheeling Dex away.
“Go ahead,” Maddock said. “We’ll clean up. Lieutenant Sparks is on her way. She wants to see for herself what’s going on here. Someone’s not been completely honest with her, and you know how pissed she gets when they keep her in the dark about these things.”
Thanking Maddock, Sloane rushed off, hoping to make it to the ambulance before it drove off with his partner. The worst was over, but it wasn’t completely over. He doubted the Order was going to simply disappear because Isaac Pearce was dead.
As Sloane rushed down the stairs, he thought about how close he had come to losing Dex. He had a lot to think about, and although he knew it would end up changing what was between them, Sloane knew what he had to do.
SLOANE PLACED a frothy cappuccino dusted with chocolate powder on the coffee table beside the couch, hoping it might help get Dex out of his funk. His partner had been given some time off for his leg, though the stitches would fall off soon. The wound hadn’t been deep, and although Dex had sulked for a few days after Sloane had told him what happened, he understood why Sloane had done what he did. Dex was more pissed off over not being able to remember anything since he’d been injected. He’d started to feel guilty, but Sloane put a quick stop to that. He couldn’t let his partner drive himself crazy with what-ifs. Isaac was dead, Shultzon was safe, and Dex was alive. That’s all that mattered.
Isaac’s men had been rounded up, but the Therians who’d attacked the Order’s followers had all escaped, retreating when THIRDS backup arrived. Calvin had handed the files over to Lieutenant Sparks, who’d been mighty pissed when she was shown the lab Dex had been drugged in. They’d been informed the facility was closed for good, and an investigation was underway for who was using the lab, and why, though Sloane wasn’t buying any of it. It was undoubtedly more cloak-and-dagger shit from their organization. Dr. Shultzon asked Sloane if he’d like to meet up for coffee, and Sloane said he would consider it. He’d taken Shultzon’s number. Once Dex had been released from the hospital, Sloane had stayed with his partner to take care of him, growing more worried by the day at Dex’s stillness.
“I can’t keep doing this.”
Sloane stopped on the way to the kitchen and turned around. “What?”
“Pretending it doesn’t hurt every time you push me away. Pretending I’m okay with the way things are. I said I would wait for you, and I would, that I would take things as they came, okay. I understand you needing time. I do, but this getting close only to run in the other direction kills me. We’ve been through a lot of shit together, and every time, you act like it’s no big deal. After what happened in the facility, I realized… I want more.”
“You’re right.” Sloane couldn’t put it off any longer. “I don’t know how you can look at me the way you do, now that you know.”
Dex looked down at his fingers with a frown. “I didn’t read the file.”
“What?” Sloane came around the couch to look at Dex. “But… you had it in your hands. Everything about me was in there.”
Closing his eyes, Dex drew in a deep breath. When he opened his eyes, he met Sloane’s gaze head on, and Sloane was taken aback by the intensity he saw there. “I want to get to know you, Sloane, the real you, not through clinical accounts from some shrink. I want to hear it from you. I want you to trust me. When you’re ready to do that, I’ll be here to listen.”
Sloane could see Dex’s heartache, and he hated being the cause of it. Dex was right. They couldn’t keep going the way they were. “I was fourteen when I tried to kill myself.” Sloane took a seat on the coffee table across from Dex, his hands clasped between his knees. “Dr. Shultzon found me and put me back together, physically and mentally. By then I was with the THIRDS. He was convinced I was a viable asset, that I wasn’t the soulless animal I’d been convinced I was. But I was so messed up, I couldn’t do it. I was so scared.
“The first time I almost died, I was eleven years old and living in a padded cell, waiting for the day I’d either go as crazy as they said I was, or find a way to end it all. I was never supposed to have gotten out of there. Somehow, Shultzon found me, fought to get custody. Well technically I was property of the U.S. government.” Sloane frowned at the memory. “He was nice to me. That’s all it took for me to agree to anything he told me.”
“That night you, you mentioned a ‘her.’ Who was she?”
“My mother.” Sloane took a deep breath and let it out slowly, the ache in his heart a familiar deep throbbing he knew would remain there for the rest of his life. “I killed her, Dex. I killed my mother.” He braced himself for a gasp, for the horror—or worse, pity, in Dex’s eyes, but it never came, only a gentle touch to Sloane’s hand as Dex leaned forward, his voice gentle.
“You’ve met me and Ash. Any other First Gens you meet will be as fucked up or more, depending how well they’ve learned to cope. When our first shift happened, there were no classes, no First Shift Response Kits, or Therian Youth Centers. I didn’t know what the hell was happening to me. No one knew what was happening. When we were born, all our parents had been told was that we were different, our DNA was different. They wanted to study us, find out what was wrong with us. My father blamed himself. He’d fought in Vietnam, came back infected like so many of the others with the Melanoe Virus. He was one of the lucky ones to survive, even after the Eppione.8 vaccine was administered.
“He was just another Human unaware of how it was changing his blood, how it would change my mother’s, how the mutation would solidify itself in their unborn son. I was born healthy, looking like any other Human baby, except for my eyes.” Sloane let out a humorless laugh. “They thought the mutation was in my eyes. They had no idea. The first time I shifted, I was terrified. The pain was excruciating, and I thought I was going to die. It was like I was trapped inside this animal, looking out at my parents, with no control over my own body. I wanted what any frightened child wanted, his mother.” Sloane swiped at
Dex rubbed his hand soothingly over Sloane’s head, brushing his hair tenderly away from his face. Sloane leaned into the touch, his eyes closed as he continued.
“The police arrested him. And me? You know who came for me? Animal Control. The most fucked up part? I’d shifted back by then. Here I was, this scrawny little kid, naked, covered in blood, and I was dragged away by Animal Control. I was institutionalized. My father killed himself shortly after. It was all in that file. What happened with my parents, the institution I was in, the hell that came after, all the way up until I was recruited, how Dr. Shultzon was the one who decided to give us a second chance at life, who understood, but it came with a price. They would turn us into agents for their new organization, but they had to study us first, understand us. Every day there were tests and more tests, poking, prodding, shifting under predefined conditions.” He straightened and wiped his eyes. “You should know those meetings you think I go to every month aren’t meetings, at least not work related. They’re psych evals.”