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Aberrant: 200X - The Places In Between [PG-17]


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Shae sat on the subway bench and traced her fingers over the celtic cross charm hanging from her wrist and contemplated her name.


"May I help you, boy? Do you need something?"

The priest's face was a stern visage of strong jaw and sharp planes for the cheeks, but his voice was smooth and concerned. The boy at the door to his church was dressed in tattered clothes, his dusky skin covered in the pale dust of the Arizona desert. He spoke softly in Spanish, coughing wetly the dry afternoon heat. "Please, Father, may I stay here for the night? I've nowhere else to go. I'll leave in the morning, you have my word."

The priest considered the boy. Charity was the work of the Church and of any good Catholic man, but the chapel here was small and run-down, much like the rest of the former mining town. He had no bed to offer the boy other than his own, and there were already enough suspicious looks his way since the scandals and investigations that had plagued the Church for almost a decade now. Charity is the work of the Lord. God provides, and sometimes He provides through you. The boy had stayed where he was while the priest hesitated, his shoulders slowly falling in defeat as the moment of hesitation stretched.

"Of course, my son. I'll need your help cleaning up a bit to make room for you, but the Lord provides." His own Spanish was accented but fluent. The Church gave services in the languages of the laity now and had prepared him well for reviving the disappearing flock in Jerome.

The boy made it to the baptismal font in the vestibule before he collapsed, a small crimson stain spreading on the stone floor underneath him. This, the priest reflected, he had not been so well prepared for.

The boy woke up in a strange room, which was comforting in itself. He was used to strange rooms. There were two other men in the room arguing a few feet from the bed the boy found himself on.

“Father, they were bullet and knife wounds and several days old. It’s a miracle he’s still alive, but the boy is probably in a gang or jumped the border. Either way, you’re going to have to report him to someone.” The man dressed nicely, the boy thought, nicer than most of the people he’d seen when he’d been watching the city. He was richer, then. A doctor.

“He asked for help from the church, Marc,” the priest demurred. The boy knew he’d chosen right, both himself and the priest.

“He isn’t in the confessional, Father.” Marc’s tone was exasperated, as if he was talking with a dim child. “He didn’t claim sanctuary, and for all you know he started the fight that got him shot. If he’s done nothing wrong then it won’t be an issue.”

“He’s been unconscious since he made it to the church. He did ask for the help of the church and that’s close enough for me.” The priest put his hand on Marc’s shoulder and smiled that smile of faith that comes not from age but from true belief. “Trust in me. I’ll call if anything seems suspicious, but the Lord has led him here. I trust in the Lord.”

Marc shook his head and gathered up the doctor’s bag sitting at the foot of the bed. The boy had closed his eyes and pretended to sleep still while the doctor made his exit.

“You speak English, then?” The priest was still standing at the door watching the doctor leave the church, but his voice carried back to the boy.

He debated what to do. “Yes, Father. I’m not in a gang and I didn’t come from Mexico. I was attacked.” His English carried the hint of a West Coast accent, but nothing definite.

The priest folded his arms, still staring at the front doors from the doorway of the rectory. “I believe you,” he sighed. “You’ll have to stay for a few weeks at least, with those wounds. I can support us both on the pension from the Church, but you’ll have to do some work for me here in return. Understood?”

The boy nodded and fell asleep again.

The boy took pains to hide how quickly he was healing from the priest. He’d been given use of the rectory while the priest set up a pallet in the main chamber of the tiny church, so he had privacy to change the bandages at least. The priest put him to work as soon as he was moving around: first on light cleaning like dusting and polishing, then as he seemed to be healing up on more difficult tasks like weeding the church grounds and simple repairs on the building itself. It felt nice to be helpful and included and the boy lost track of the days as they worked.

The parish in Jerome consisted of matrons and widows and the families of any migrant workers wandering through the town towards California or back to Mexico, leaving the boy and thirty-something priest mostly to themselves. The priest taught him the basics of Latin while they worked; mixing Bible stories with instructions on basic carpentry or how to sew up tears and rips in robes without leaving a noticeable seam. The boy learned quickly and contentedly and earned the trust of the parish with a speed and ease that left his mentor breathless.

It was almost a month after he had collapsed in the church before the boy made a mistake. He was listening to the priest go over a passage in the book of Solomon, the smooth cadence of Latin washing over his body like a pious caress. The boy was sitting in the newly polished pews while the priest stood near the alter where he would sermonize from, the candles lit in the early evening gloom due to the cost of electricity in the peak summer season. The boy watched the priest move on to the next passage, willing the older man to look over book at him. After a several heartbeats of the boy’s intense gaze, the priest glanced over and then froze.

“Tell me what you’re thinking, Father.” The boy spoke softly in Latin, as had become their custom once he’d picked up enough of the language.

The priest looked away from the boy and carefully closed the Bible in his hands. “Not the thoughts I should be, my son. Perhaps we’ve done enough for one night. We’ll save candlelight if we sleep now and wake with the dawn.”

The boy watched the priest’s careful moves and the way he avoided looking at him. He stood and made his way up to the alter. “Father, please,” he placed his hand on the Bible between them, “Tell me what you are thinking.” His eyes pleaded with the older man.

The priest sighed. “Please stop, boy. This is not why you were given such gifts from God.” He still couldn’t meet the boy’s eyes or pull himself away from the boy’s touch, but his vows held him from compounding sins of desire with sins of action.

The boy’s eyes widened in surprised even as something dark constricted in his chest. “Gifts, Father? I don’t understand.”

The priest did reach out this time to the boy’s side, placing his hand against the shirt where Jerome’s resident physician has pulled out several small slugs only a handful of weeks before. “Such wounds do not heal so quickly, not for normal humans. You hid it well from the others, but I was watching. You learn quickly. Listen to the Latin you speak nearly as well as I now. It took four years of study for me to reach this point, and with only my limited instruction you’ve reached the same point in just four weeks.”

His hand slid upwards over the boy’s chest to caress his cheek. “You are beautiful, nearly enough to be frightening. I think I understand a little better why angels always begin their messages with ‘be not afraid.’” The priest’s smile was kind but the glint of desire burned in his eyes. “You are a nova, boy, and you know it.”

The boy cradled his face in the priest’s hand, his expression vulnerable. He reached up and laid his hand over the priest’s, “Does it matter? You want me. I want you.”

“God has forbidden man to lie with man,” the priest’s voice nearly broke as he spoke, his will fighting an uncertain battle with the young nova’s.

The boy stepped in close to the priest, his breath warming the cloth of the priest’s collar as he pressed himself against the priest’s chest. “Is that all? That I am a man?” The priest felt the shift in his ward, but didn’t understand what had happened until she looked up at him, her face softer and rounder than before. “Then God has provided for that as well.”

The priest’s breath caught as he took in the young woman pressed against him. The boy had been beautiful enough to attract him, but only because his beauty was unearthly. Now that beauty was matched with the gender of the priest’s preference, a dangerous combination.

“I have vo-” the priest began to protest, but she kissed him. His will faltered then, his hands sliding over the slender curves of his student as his lips returned her ardor. He finally had to pull away simply to catch his breath, “Please.”

The young nova decided to interpret that to her own desire; her features flowing from Latino to Caucasian, from wiry and athletic to soft and pliable. She had watched him while they were together, noting the women his eyes lingered on and learning to see them as he did. “I can be whoever you want, I want to be who you want. Let me. Please.” She trailed her lips over his jaw and neck, her words whispering past his ear.

Several hours later the priest trailed his fingers over the bare flesh of her hips, cradling her body against his on the small frame of the rectory bed. His thoughts were far from easy as he thought over the events leading up to his betrayal of his vows. He watched the young nova before him for several long moments before declaring, “I don’t even know your name. ‘Boy’ doesn’t really seem appropriate anymore.”

She turned languidly towards him and shrugged, “I don’t have one.”

The priest looked thoughtful at this and would have pressed the issue, but the girl pulled him to her and kept him occupied until he fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.

She woke in the afternoon to an empty room and a silent church. Laying on the small desk in the rectory was an envelope. Inside was a letter and a small charm bracelet with a celtic cross hanging from it.

I am a servant of the Lord. I have failed him and I have failed you. You were guided to me by the Lord for protection and guidance, and the weakness of my own will to serve Him as I had sworn I would has led us both to sin. I must seek penance and absolution from the Church; I believe this must been done in the strict discipline and contemplation of a monastery. Please forgive my cowardice in leaving only a note, but I could not trust myself to follow through had you asked me to stay.

I leave you with two gifts, if you will accept them. The first the charm bracelet, a gift from my mother to me when I began my Catechism, that you might remember the gift of Christ and seek to live a Christian life despite the poor example I have shown you. The second is a name: Shae. It is a Gaelic name, one I remember from my childhood. It means admirable. I will love you for the rest of my life and I hope that you may remember me with fondness.

~Jonathan Sommers

It was two days later that they found him at the church. He’d almost mistaken them for new parishioners, but they watched the church and moved in ways that set his hackles up. Last time he’d decided to ignore his instincts and try talking with him. They’d shot him six times before he understood what was happening and fled. He changed skins, taken on the face and age of one the dowager parishioners, left an offering in the church’s donation box and tottered of towards home. There was nothing left for him here.


The subway car lurched to stop and the speakers began their millionth repetition of instructions for the passengers. Shae glided between the people, her mind taking them, learning them, and discarding them as unimportant. She made her way up into the city and let herself be lost again.

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Cities, Shae reflected, are humanity's predators. She slipped quietly in an out of the streets, looking for something she couldn't define. She was being hunted, she knew that. She had been someone, something else before the river and the ocean. She just couldn't remember what.


It was in Nevada that Shae became a spirit. It happened near a place called Walker River and at first it was quite by accident. He'd been walking for days now, taking the darkest skin and lankiest form he could think of to minimize his heat damage. He'd found a canyon with shade and water one afternoon and made a home of the place. On his third day there he found the waterfall where a tributary entered the canyon, a sunny pond that offered a host of earthly temptations to his parched and flaking skin.

He stripped out of the remnants of his clothes, faded jeans and sun-bleached t-shirt, and waded into the pool. He washed for the first time in weeks and reveled in the sheer sensation of so much water. Standing there naked in the afternoon haze, Shae let his mind wander over his scant memories. He became she became he again, the body that held the mind of the nova flowing from form to form, seeking any that felt more real or more comfortable than the others. Sex, race, age, all the little pieces that gave a body identity shifted and merged as Shae lost xirself in the flow of everyone else.

It wasn't a sound or a sight that told Shae xe was no longer along. Xir eyes had been closed for some time now and whoever was hiding here had made no sound since catching sight of the strange creature in the water. Shae settled into a body, a young girl of ruddy skin and dark hair, a complexion common to the people she'd seen in the last few towns she'd skirted. Petite and young, unintimidating and easily underestimated. She waited.

The woman made her way into the clearing of the pond after several quiet minutes. She was fairer than Shae but shared the luminously dark hair and eyes. She was dressed ritualistically with feathers and beads woven into her hair and finely made leather pants and linen tunic. Had Shae remember growing up and bored days in school, she might have thought the woman had stepped whole-cloth from a history book. She stayed at the line of trees several feet from the shore, regarding Shae with awe and fear. She spoke softly and quickly in some language Shae didn't recognize, her expression imploring.

Shae stood silently, not knowing what to do. She didn't understand the woman, but didn't want to let her know that by replying in another language. She opted for silence and waiting to see what the other woman would do. The stranger watched the creature in the pool, hoping that the journey could be over so quickly and so easily. As the girl continued to regard her with such old and strange eyes, she knew her luck simply did not run that strong. She slipped a falcon feather from her hair, a symbol of strength and sight, and left it at the shore as a gift, then turned and made her way back to the sacred cave that was her home until the journey was complete.

Shae waited until she was sure she was alone again before venturing out of the pool and over the feather. She picked it up, twirling it between her fingers and wondering why the woman had been so serious in leaving it for her. She tucked it in her own hair and gathered up her clothes, then quietly followed the trail the woman had left back to her cave.

For nearly a week they played a strange game of hide and seek. They woman left her cave every day to look for the spirit she had seen at the pool, and every day Shae watched her. Shae chose different bodies and different places, but the strange native woman always found xir at some point, sneaking up on xir with a silent grace that left Shae unnerved. She would pick a bead or a feather from her costume and set it on the ground for Shae, then speak again in that lilting language of hers before setting off back to her cave. This silent cat and mouse kept Shae in the canyon and slowly xe learned to understand the meaning of her words: she was asking xir to help her with a demon.

Shae followed her home to the cave on the eighth day and she told him, again the lanky African man, the story of her demon:

I have been blessed and cursed, as happens when the spirits take notice of mortals. When I was born my mother was visited by a spirit she did not know. This spirit told her that though I was born from the flesh of her and my father, I was actually a spirit that would bring them great happiness and great sorrow, but that I would never truly be theirs. My mother asked the elders what she should do and they laughed, for all children bring sorrow and happiness to their parents.

When I was six my mother sent me to the school here, and they said that I was gifted. It is not our way to revel in our difference, so I slowed myself and made as many mistakes as my friends. When I was twelve I was told that I was beautiful, so I spent more time alone in the wilds, for I did not wish to marry so soon. When I was eighteen a great sickness fell upon upon the tribe and it was said that a great evil spirit had captured the soul of the tribe and we would die. My mother came to me then and begged me to intercede with the spirits, to succeed where shamans and medicine men had failed. I was the only one to have been spared the illness, the only one in the tribe to have have been untouched by the Evil One. So I did. I did not wish to be alone, to watch so many die when I did not. My spirits battled with the Evil One and drove it from the land, and the tribe looked at me in awe and fear. Who was I, a woman and bastard child of mixed blood, to have such power? They were grateful, but they feared me, and I was alone anyways. I stayed with them still, and they came to me with illness and injury, with broken hearts and broken trusts. I was their answer and their authority, but I was no longer their daughter or their friend.

I am twenty four now, and I know that if my life does not change again I shall go mad under the weight of my tribe. A darkness has grown in me even as I have become the light and the strength of my people. I watch them and I love them for they are my people. I watch them and I hate them for they are petty and cruel and care nothing for me but that I shoulder their burdens and erase the pains of their mistakes. My hate is growing and their beauty fades in my eyes each day. I have come here to this sacred and untouched place and waited for the spirit that spoke to my mother and placed this burden on my soul. Am I Bright Spirit, as they have named me? Am I to become as the Evil One? Even now a darkness whispers in my soul of power and hate. Should I leave them to their lives and betray their trust? What am I to do?

The last was directed to him, her eyes pleading for revelation and absolution. Shae had listened quietly, his mind picking up the nuances of what she didn't say and how she moved, what words she chose and the minuscule changes in her expressions. He could feel her pain, feel the anger and fear, and by the end of her story he understood what she wanted. What she was so desperately hiding from herself.

He didn't speak to her, but took Bright Spirit's hand as he flowed into a mirage image of her; a perfect copy save for her nakedness next to Bright Spirit's beautiful garb. The spirit undressed her, even unweaving the beads and feathers from her long black hair, leaving her with only the feather that she had laid on the trail the day they had first met.

She heard her own voice speak to her, "I will destroy your demon and free you from the name of Bright Spirit. Stay here until the light has dies four times and you shall be your reborn." And the spirit left, leaving Bright Spirit in the twilight of the cave.

Bright Spirit did as the great spirit had instructed her even though the cave was cold at night without her clothes and there was no water to drink. She was amazed at her fortitude, never having been an especially hardy child, and wondered again just how mortal she was.

She emerged from the cave after the last rays of sunlight fled the darkness in the canyon on the fourth night. Her nakedness might embarrass some of the villagers, but she was a proud woman and no one would dare to chide her. The village was eerily silent as she came upon it, no catcalls from men smoking outside nor any of the village women coming to cover her with a blanket or coat. There were no children playing between the houses or in the road. The smell of death was sickly sweet and fresh.

It was a familiar smell, one she had driven from the village six years before. It had spread more quickly this time, more mercifully swift in its murderous course. Every house held the remains of her tribe, some dead in the midst of daily duties, other huddled in corners or hiding alone in bedrooms. And waiting for her near the village well was the spirit in her flesh.

"Why? I saved them and you killed them. Why? Are you the Evil One?" Her voice cracked and strained in time with her sanity, carried on the winds throughout the village.

The spirit looked at her in confusion, "It is what you wanted, what you prayed for but could not do again yourself. You are free now. Free from them, free from everything you wanted and hated." The spirit walked towards her, her hand held out. "You gave me the power. Your power."

The woman who had given up her name lashed out at the spirit, fighting clumsily through a haze of sorrow and fear. She fell to her knees in road, "Not me! I didn't do this! I couldn't have. I healed them! I made them better!"

The spirit skitted away, easily dodging the clumsy attacks. "After you made them ill, after you created the sickness. I do not understand. This is what you wanted."

The woman stood and gathered her anger and pain to her, focusing the dark rage on the spirit before her. "You are the Evil One! You are the demon. I will destroy you!"


Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping... waiting... And though unwanted... unbidden... it will stir... open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us... guides us... Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? It was quote, Shae knew, although she couldn't remember from what. It came to her as she stalked passed the neons signs and trolling prostitutes, the drug dealers (both illicit and legal), all the petty predators that though they that used the city and not the other way around.

Shae had taken Bright Spirit's name from her and given her her heart's darkest passion, darkest desire, in return. She sighed and spoke softly to the spirit of chrome and concrete that surrounded her, "Was she right? Am I a monster?"

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I hate them.


Shae had switched again, too much time spent dodging would-be john's or pimps as she'd learned the heart of the city. Now it was a young, unremarkable man that watched the scum and the forgotten pulse out the beat of the city. Bright Spirit's clothes had provided him an unexpected gift: they were made of something he'd since learned was called eufiber, and changed to fit whatever was needed when Shae slipped from form to form.

"Hey, kid. This isn't a safe place to hang out in. Shouldn't you be in school?"

The voice broke into Shae's reverie and pulled him back to the now. It belonged to a man in sliding into middle-age, but doing so gracefully. He was dressed in a dark coat and jeans, but his bearing told Shae that he was a trained fighter and used to wearing a gun. He was holding a cup of coffee and a muffin from the coffee shop Shae had been leaning up against.

Shae blinked at him for several moments, part of his mind lost in memories from a month ago and another part of his mind analyzing the man. While Shae watched him the man sighed and checked his watch.

"Look, I don't want to take you in for truancy, but this really is a rough neighborhood. I haven't seen you around here before; is there somewhere I can give you a ride to? I won't make you go home, but you shouldn't be here."

"I don't have a home." Perhaps it was loneliness that made Shae honest, or perhaps some part of his mind already understood what it was that this man wanted.

It was the other man's turn to appraise; he looked Shae over carefully, taking in the quality of his clothes and the clearness of his gaze. He set the coffee and the muffin down on the windowsill and took Shae's arms, brushing up the sleeves of the long-sleeved tee and then checking his eyes for redness or fog. Satisfied, he nodded and picked up his breakfast. "Well, c'mon. I'll get you some breakfast and then we'll see about what to do with you."

At first Shae stayed on the streets, meeting George in the mornings for breakfast. He didn't feel like lying to the LA police lieutenant, so he simply didn't say anything about his past. With no proof of identity, George took a the under-the-table route of finding the kid cash-only jobs around town. Most of it was legal, or mostly so, and none of it involved drugs or flesh. He'd learned long ago that if he was going to save anyone, a bit of legal flexibility was the only way it was going to happen.

Slowly, Shae coaxed the two-years-until-retirement officer into sharing his story. He'd married young and under the social pressure of making his girlfriend an 'honest' woman before her pregnancy showed. He'd joined the police academy because it seemed better than the military and paid enough to keep the young family afloat. He'd learned about real suffering in those first years, and unlike his fellow officers, it had sparked genuine compassion in the young father.

He spent more and more time with his work, looking for a way to make a difference and leaving his wife at home to pass along her bitterness and resentment to their daughter Emily. Emily grew quickly, watered by feelings of abandonment and inferiority from her father's focus on work and her mother's never ending pity-party of lost opportunities. At seventeen she'd finally had enough and ran away from home. Her mother had ceased caring years ago and George wasn't home enough to notice until the school principal finally tracked him down at work to ask where his daughter was.

They'd found her three years later in a bust on a slave-ring group operating less than five miles from his home. She'd been beaten, raped, addicted to heroin, and kept on a starvation diet. The hospital committed her indefinitely three hours after she was admitted. She still didn't know who he was.

His wife blamed him. So did he. She spent her time drunk and high on weed. He spent his trying to save anyone he could. Shae was his latest project.

At first Shae didn't know what to do with the money he was earning. He'd never had money before, and with the eufiber suit and his nova abilities he didn't really need food or sleep. They were pleasant luxuries. It took George nearly a month to figure out why Shae still hadn't gotten himself somewhere to stay: the kid was giving the money to local food kitchens and the Catholic church several blocks away from their coffee shop.

For the first time in his near fifty years, George felt that he had finally done something right in this shit hole of a world. He made it home before breaking down in a cathartic weeping fit; his father had shamed it into to him that real men never cried in public. Jenny, in an half-hearted effort at kindness, told him she could have the rest of her joint if he needed it.

George rented an apartment near the coffee shop. He'd have gotten something in a nicer neighborhood, but he really couldn't afford it. He slipped Shae an envelope with the key and the address in it after breakfast nearly six weeks since they had met. A letter left for him on the ancient refrigerator explained the gift to Shae and that George would continue to pay for the place so long as Shae kept off of drugs and out of trouble. Shae understood, even if George didn't yet.

The young nova continued his hodge-podge of jobs, earning a reputation in the area for discretion, trustworthiness, and having a cop firmly under thumb. He also gained a reputation with the gangs and pimps in the area as a man to be left alone. He'd been approached more than once, and those that decided pushiness or threats would get them what they wanted had been sent packing with broken limbs and the shiver of how calmly such violence was executed.

Shae began by inviting his benefactor over for dinner, a return for the many breakfasts he had bought for Shae. Once became twice, became nearly every night; George had avoided home before his new protege had shown up, and now a pleasant excuse meant he returned to that broken place only to do laundry and sleep in the den.

His first excuse for spending the night was expediency: his wife was out of town and his house was being fumigated. Shae agreed, still amused by his timid self-deception. It took nearly two months for George to move in completely; by that point Shae had tempted him into the occasional brush of skin or moments of closeness that left the middle-aged man's face flushed and his mind whirling for excuses.

The Fourth of July was when George finally succumbed to his desires (with the aid of several run and cokes) and seduced his young housemate. Shea submitted willingly, reveling in the $novelty giving up at least the appearance of control. The next morning George was waiting for him in the living room, sitting pensively on the couch.

"Shae...," he hesiatated, "I've never....I don't want you to think that you have to-"

She crossed the distance between them and took the older man's face in his hands, kissing him roughly. "I know," he breathed.

Summer faded into autumn. Shae lost himself in the pleasure of the moment, forgetting the hunted race across Arizona and the hazy, haunted slivers of memory from before then. He forgot the abandonment in Jerome, the deaths of the Walker River village, forgot everything except that he was needed. He settled into a rhythm of life with his lover and his home. In short, he became careless.

It was two days before George's fiftieth birthday and about an hour before either one of them needed to be out of bed when the door of the apartment was battered down a police ram and nearly a dozen officers in swat gear burst inside. For several heart-stopping moments the tiny home was a cacophony of shouted orders to "Get down!" "Stay where you are!" "Put you hands where we can see them!" and the smells of metal and adrenaline.

Shae would have fought or run, but George motioned him to the floor, putting his own hands on his head and kneeling down. He spoke softly to Shae, ignoring the growled warnings from the officers holding guns on him. "You haven't done anything wrong. Just cooperate. I'm the only one in-"

One of the officers cuffed the aging officer across the face. "Shut up, you fagot!"


The blow made George sway and Shae moved in a moment of rage against the riot-masked officer. One of the others, dressed identical to the others but able to grab Shae and hold the young nova in place.

"Officer!" The sharp censure came from the door to the bedroom as plain-clothes detective stepped into the room. George winced and let out a defeated sigh as his partner of twenty years stepped up to Shae. He looked the young man over for several heavy moments before declaring, "Detective Tanners is a fagot and a pedophile." His eyes flicked around the room before coming back to rest on his partner and the boy. "On top of great many other disgusting and immoral things, it seems. You'll have to be far more observant if you plan on making it to detective yourself some day."

"You corrupt bastard," George's voice hissed from his position on floor. The detective tsked at the kneeling man, leaning down to whisper to him. "Now, George, remember: everything you say will be used against you. I can't help you if you won't play the game."

She tried to struggle free again, not understanding why the strength that shattered bones so easily before couldn't break the grip of one masked policeman. The detective in charge gave a curt motion towards Shae, "He's dressed enough, take him downstairs. Agent Danver is waiting for him."

Outside neighbors had gathered to watch the drama and speculate on what would have so many cops on their street, especially before coffee and donuts were being sold. Shae was man-handled down to the street, never able to fully break away or slip out from the officer's grasp. He was half marched, half carried to a grey sedan with a sharply dressed man leaning against it, arms folded and expectant.

The officer holding him growled in a surprisingly deep woman's voice as they reached the car, "I'm gonna have to hold him the whole way. He's being difficult."

The man stood up and shook his head. "That's not going to be necessary, Angela." He stepped in front of Shae, looking him directly in the eye. "I hear you picked up a name while you were out. Shae, is it? Let me make this very clear to you, then." He motioned back to the apartment building, where George was being marched out at gun point. He was cuffed, dressed only in a part of boxer briefs, and several bruises were already beginning to show on his face and arms. "His career is over. He'll lose his rank, probably his job, and, maybe thankfully, his wife. He's going to be a registered sex offender. And it's your fault."

He waited for this to sink into the creature in front of him before continuing. "If you continue to struggle, if you give us trouble, we'll make sure he ends up as the county's worst case of police corruption in the past century. If, on the other hand, you come along quietly and do as you are told for once, we can make most of this disappear for him. He'll be able to skip what would most likely be a very violent and dangerous trip to prison, perhaps even find someone willing to hire him after the trial and the publicity. Do you understand?"

While the agent had spoken, George had been paraded Roman-prisoner style past the denizens of the neighborhood and to the patrol car nearest Shae. The look on the detective's face made it clear that this was deliberate and he leaned down to whisper something to George just as they came to the car. Between whatever was said to him and expression of fear and defeat on Shae's face, something broke in him.

He shot his head back, catching his former partner square in the face and breaking loose of the hold he'd been in. He was already on Shae and his captor before the other officers realized there was a problem. The three of them fell to the ground in a tangle of limbs and confusion. Shae could hear George yelling "Run!" even as he finally managed to wriggle free of Angela's grasp.

He lurched to his feet, grabbing for George to pull him free. George, on the other hand, had aimed his lunged with purpose, knocking them all down and putting the sidearm of Shae's handler within reach. He grabbed the weapon and rolled into a crouch, aiming towards the patrol car and the latest betrayal in his life.

Exactly guns fired in the early morning chaos, and two bullets struck lethal targets. Shae blinked from the noise and when his vision cleared the detective was missing several important pieces of his face. He pulled on George again, trying to pull him to his feet, while his mind explained a second and third time what the crimson soaking his own hands meant.

"Dammit," Agent Danvers seethed as he holstered his gun again, "Angela! Grab him!"

She lunged to her feet, her helmet knocked off in the scuffle and revealing a red-headed woman who would have been beautiful if her face had not been lined by years of hatred and venom. Her arms wrapped around the young nova again, but confusion and fear had been stripped out of him now. He grieved and he blamed, and reached out to his enemy, fueling his own strength with hers. He dislocated her shoulder when he broker her hold on him and proceeded to use every dirty trick George had shown him for living where they did.

The rest of the raid group had drawn their weapons and fallen into defensive actions, but tragedy and violence happen so quickly. By the time they had finished digesting the deaths of two officers (well, one officer and one former officer), Shae had mangled the only person there capable of stopping him. Agent Danvers had retreated to his car, Bluetooth cellphone speed-dialing his superiors to report his position and request back up. Shae sized up his chances for revenge, but an open firefight on the block would kill too many of the people George had spent the happiest part of his life protecting and befriending. So Shae did the only thing he knew to do.

He ran.

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