22. Full Circle

The Comanche carried the Ghost back over the city. Below he could see the freeway still glistening with late night traffic. Then bidding a friendly farewell to his more than accommodating flight, he jumped of the tail and landed on a speeding van. While on board he received the location of his next target. Being a clairvoyant really makes tracking people easy. By this method he learnt they had moved Bains to a new location. No doubt his last encounter with Id convinced him to change residence.

From where the Ghost rode he could see a fierce orange glow illuminating the distant night sky. He could hear the screaming sirens of fire trucks and ambulances speeding towards it. Before the van took him too far away from the scene, he disembarked the vehicle from the highway and sped across the rooftops. From there he hopped onto a fire engine and allowed it to take him the rest of the way. As he drew closer he discovered a rising cloud of smoke staining the sky a deeper shade of black. A building was ablaze with fire and plumes of smoke were gushing out from the windows like blood from a wound. The building was shaped like a cube and had about six stories. He looked on as the firefighters struggled to put out the flames. This was what the Monstrosity was capable of. The Ghost was too late.

But suddenly a burning sensation shook Id in his skin. He could feel the presence of all the people still trapped inside that building, screaming to get out. It was stronger than anything he had ever felt, hundreds of souls crying out for help. The sheer force of it was almost unbearable. It was torture for him. Yet in the midst of this incorporeal storm, Id could feel something familiar. Bains. He’s in there. And he’s still alive! His presence was like a beacon in this torrent, yet faint as if it was about to go out like a spent candle.

The Ghost had to think fast. From where he stood he could clearly see that the fire department were at their wits end with this inferno. All their hands were tied up and their resources were nearly spent. He even heard one of the firefighters suggest calling in another department. Id realized that he would have to take matters into his own hands. At the same time, he knew he wouldn’t be capable of rescuing all these people and make it to Bains in time. First thing first, he would have to get inside the building. From the fire truck he stole away into the alley and made it up a fire escape next to the burning building. He hopped over the railing, across the alley and towards the building, shifting into phantom state. But just before he went through the window, fire burst forth and Id could feel in his ethereal form an intense heat sizzling. At the same time, the fire seemed like a solid barrier, and instantly the Ghost was pulled back into his physical form and tumbled towards the ground. He landed hard on the pavement, his head slamming on the concrete. Dazed and confused, he climbed back to his feet. The flesh on his bones was writhing in pain as he pulled off his glove to examine his hand. It appeared red as if it had suffered a first degree burn. The Ghost had trouble understanding what had just happened. He thought that he could phase through almost anything; but apparently fire was as solid as steal while in his phantom state and couldn’t be penetrated. That was an intriguing discovery. Nevertheless, Id was aware that with the Knight Suite he could withstand intense heat as long as he remained in his physical form, however he would be unable to get these people to safety unseen without being able to move through walls. As the fire raged on and glass began to rain down from broken windows, he realized that time was running out.

Making his way back up the fire escape he made it to the roof. From there he was able to look down on the flames that had already engulfed the building, but he could also see the surrounding rooftops. Noticing several water towers, he saw that they could easily hold hundreds of gallons of water which could help quench this blaze. Leaping right over the towering inferno, he landed by a water tower on the next building. Then from his fingers came a ball of light that sparked and electrified the surrounding air, and he threw it at a support column of the water tower. The brilliant ball of energy caused the column to explode and give way, making the mighty tower lean under the immense wait of its content. The Ghost proceeded to do this to two other water towers, making all three of them collapse on to the building. Water came spewing out then down into the floors below, spilling into air ducks and coursing throughout the ventilation system, putting out much of the fire. Great billows of steam came rising out from the windows and went stretching high into the night sky. A steaming, gapping hole was left in the roof from where a water tower had fallen, which the Ghost then plunged into to follow the cascade of water towards the lower floors as it vanquished the flames, allowing him to pass through in his phantom state. He continued his descent seeing the fire crews finally managing to reach the apartments and rescue the victims.

Soon he arrived in what used to be an underground parking lot. The place was riddled with debris along with light fixtures torn out from the ceiling and cars and vehicles thrown all over the place and twisted into all kinds of shapes.

A scene that was all too familiar.

The Ghost had simply been following that scant candle light that he had felt from the outside. The presence of Bains. And now it was near, yet weaker than ever. So scant was it that the Ghost had trouble zeroing in on it. Instead he relied on his ears to see if he could pick up on any minute sounds that indicated human life. At last he heard something: a soft melodious thumping that came echoing from behind a concrete pillar. As he approached he found two bodies dead on the floor.  Stepping over them, he slowly crept up to the pillar and turned the corner to see a decrepit husk of flesh sitting up against it. It appeared dead, but its heart was still beating. Id could hear that the intervals between the thumping were becoming longer. The heart had few beats left. Its head was bowed and it did not seem to notice the Ghost’s arrival. Strands of hair had fallen off its head making it look like an old worn out ventriloquist dummy. It was hardly even breathing. Shit! thought Id. That thing got to you. It did this to you. He knew there was no hope left for this man. He was as good as dead, but he still knew something.

“Bains,” Id finally said. “Look at me.” The mummified Bains slowly began to raise his head as flakes of skin came off his neck like dust. His crusted eyelids opened to reveal a pair of eggnog-yellow eyes.

In a gasping cough he whispered, “You…” Bits of dust seemed to blow out from his mouth as he spoke. “C-came to ffffffinish the job?”

“Quite the contrary, Bains. I came here to help you, because I need your help.” Bains seemed to start laughing, but it sounded more like an asthma attack. Again more dust came from his mouth. He was literally falling apart.

“Why the h-hell would I want to help you? And if you want to help me, then k-kill me.” The Ghost fell silent as if thinking upon something.

“I’m not what you think, Bains…” Slowly the Ghost pulled back the hood over his head, released the silver collar around his neck and took off the mask. Edward Bains’ eyes became large. He probably thought he was looking at his boss, Michael Apollo, but he would have seemed thirty years younger, like a teenager. It was then when he realized that it was not his superior that he beheld, but the son.

“Anthony? Is that you? H-how can this be?”

Id’s eyes were a luminous white and with the mask off the glow within his pupils gently faded away. “I’m not Anthony,” he said. “I’m someone else. I’m just borrowing him for a while.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither does Anthony,” said Id. “Oh, Bains. Why did you stay here? You led that thing right to your door step. It destroyed this building. And now it did this to you.”

“I refuse to go into hiding like a coward,” coughed Bains. “I created this mess, now I must clean it up.”

“How did that thing find you?”

“Good question. How did you find me?”

“A flaming building is pretty hard to miss.”

“Touché,” Bains conceded. “But somehow it seems to share an ability that you possess yourself.”

“Which is…”

“Finding what it seeks. What it desires.” For a moment Id reflected on what the man just said. The idea that we and the Monstrosity had something in common was unthinkable. Bains then continued, “Is this about your brother? Jonathan was it?”

“Don’t you speak his name!” fired Id. A fierce light erupted from within his eyes then instantly died down.

“Or you’ll do what,” provoked Bains. “Kill me? I’m already dead. Or perhaps you’ll torture me. All my pain receptors have been overwhelmed and are now useless. I can’t feel a thing. Your move.”

For a while Id went silent. “Please, tell me. What is this thing, and how can it be stopped?”

“It’s too late now,” answered the dying man. “You’re too late.”

“What must I do. I need to know.”

“I c-can’t help you, son. I’m on the brink of death. Just to speak takes every ounce of strength. You m-must find an associate of mine named Eva Daniels. She has had some involvement with this program and has been after my job for years. No doubt sh-she is the one that allowed that thing to get here, intending for it to kill me. Looks like she’s succeeded. Find her and you’ll get all your answers.”

“Eva Daniels? I think I know who you’re talking about. Perhaps it was her I’ve just seen at a landing strip. But she must be long gone.”

“Well there is one other person who might be of some assistance. He knows more than anyone else.”

“Who is he?”

“Your father.” Once again he made Id go silent. He was really good at that. But Id knew that as much as he could avoid my father, eventually he would have to face him. No matter how far away I moved from the lavish hills of Gellen Island, or how much Estate scum Id bagged to keep his mind off what truly mattered, the blood of the one who killed my brother would always flow through my veins. Bains’ last drop of life was put into those last two words. The thumping from his chest ceased permanently.

Id stood over the shell of flesh wondering what he should do next. It was then when he remembered who he was. He was the sword to my pen. It was him that did whatever I refused to do. In my moments of weakness he would provide strength. In my moments of fear he would ignite courage. When I was in the dark he would let me see. That’s what he’s supposed to be. That’s what he is. Time to stop beating around the bush, he thought. Already he could hear a fire crew coming down the stairs to inspect the damage where he was. He slipped away just in time to avoid the revealing eyes of the flash lights.

Sky Towers stood silent in the stratosphere. As the rain subsided the three giants emerged from the vanishing clouds showing themselves to the rest of the world. On the very top floor of building C the elevator door opened and out stepped Eva Daniels, a young woman somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-two. Already she had ascended the ranks of Apollo Endeavours in her particular department, and yet that still wasn’t enough. Despite being hundreds of feet in the air- literally, she still wished to go higher, ignoring the fact that the higher you go, the thinner the air gets. As she walked out she turned the corner and made her way towards the boardroom. Inside she sat herself down in the seat that belonged to Michael Apollo, and opened her briefcase. Shortly after she began flipping through some files, a voice startled her half to death.

“I don’t believe that chair belongs to you.”

The young woman was frozen. But slowly a smile opened across her ashen face, as if she was delighted to finally meet this invisible guest. “No,” she answered. “But it will someday.” Placing the files back in her briefcase she slowly stood up from the seat. “Who are you?” she called out in a suit of confidence, even though she couldn’t see where the voice had come from.

“If I had a nickel for everytime someone asked me that question,” said the Ghost. Daniels did not seem too frightened of this apparition. Id felt no fear within her, nor was her heart rate increasing. In fact she seemed to be calming down. “Are you Eva Daniels?”

“That’s what my drivers liscence says.”

“Well I have good news for you. Edward Bains is dead. That nightmare you people created saw to that.”

“Just what I wanted to hear,” said Daniels.

“But the bad news is… that came with a cost.”

“Oh really. And what would that be?”

“Dealing with me.”

The arrogant smile on the young woman’s face immediately disappeared. Now there was a look of both disdain and impatience, as if the Ghost was wasting her time. “What do you want?” she asked.

“I’m looking for Michael Apollo.”

“If he’s not in his office then he’s nowhere to be found,” informed the young woman.

“So I’ve noticed,” continued Id. “I was hoping to have a small chat with him, but it looks like the lady in front of me will have to do for now.”

“How did you escape my men tonight?”

“You mean those clowns in those helicopters? That was nothing.”

“Answer the question,” she said belligerently.

“How did I break into that facility? How did I get this suit? How did I make it past security and get this close to you? How do I know that it was you who allowed that thing to kill Bains?”

“Would you mind getting to the point. I have a flight to catch.”

“Tell me everything you know about this… Project Archangel,” said the Ghost.

The young woman began laughing to herself as she closed her briefcase. “Out of all the things in the world, you had to ask me that one question,” said Daniels. “Heck, I would have told you how we engineered HIV, or who really shot J.F.K. Those I wouldn’t have a problem with. But your inquiry, well, it’s a bit more complicated. Anyways, I’d love to stay and chat but I have other matters to attend to.” Taking her briefcase the young lady turned and headed for the door. But just before she could leave, something whooshed under her feet and suddenly a dark being materialized in front of her.

“I won’t let you leave that easily. Until you tell me what I want, your flight will be delayed.”

Daniels paused for a moment then said, “That’s a neat trick. How’d you do that?” A stunned look remained grafted to her face.

“Sit down,” the Ghost commanded.

“I’d prefer to stand, thank you.” Daniels stepped aside and walked back over to the table. Opening her briefcase she pulled out a small silver canteen. Before she placed it to her lips he gestured with it to her dark visitor.

“No thanks,” declined the Ghost. “I don’t drink.”

“Suit yourself,” said the young lady. As she took a sip, her lips rolling in against the acrid taste, she began to pace around the room. “Let’s try to keep this brief, shall we? Ah yes. Project Archangel as it is called. Well, in case you haven’t already figured it out, this experiment is just one paragraph to a much larger chapter. You see, Project Archangel is actually part of a larger endeavour known as the Genesis Program, which is a relatively unknown department funded by Apollo Endeavours. Coupled with the sure-fire election of Nathanial Apollo into the White House, the goal of the Genesis Program is to mass produce a new type of weapon that all nations would want, and sell it on the global market.”

“You mean like a hidden agenda?”

“Hidden agenda is such an ugly phrase,” said Daniels. “We in the business prefer to call it unadvertised operations.”

“Why do you call it that?”

“Simple. We don’t advertise it.” She took another sip form her canteen. “War, my friend, is the largest business in the world. It has been for centuries. Ever since humans learnt how to master fire. Now I don’t know how up to date you are with current events, but in case you didn’t know, the US economy is in shambles right now. We owe trillions of dollars to the Chinese and they’re on the verge of pushing us off our seat at the top of the world. So with every military super power buying this… product, we would regain our stranglehold on the economy along with military superiority.”

“How stupid do you think I am? I know there’s more to it than that. If that were the case then why all the trouble and why all the secrecy. You obviously plan on doing more with this new economic influence. With your own weapons in place of every military on the globe, you people would be able to orchestrate wars.”

“And practically control every aspect of life,” said Daniels.

“You’re serious. And who’s controlling all this? Who’s idea was it?”

“You might say it’s a joint effort. We had seen this economic disaster coming so we set things in motion years ago.  Currently, everything is being ‘supervised’, if you will, by Him.”

“Him?” wondered the Ghost.

“Yes,” Daniels responded. “The one who signs my check. The one who’s office is just beyond this boardroom.”

“How do you guys plan on pulling this off?” questioned the Ghost. “These things were once people. How would you get other nations to go along with it? The ethics involved would be too much.”

“Ethics?” laughed the young woman. “Ethics are an illusion, my friend. And plus, it’s not the soldiers themselves that we would be selling. The Archangel was merely a test subject, a prototype. It’s the technology inside it that we’re offering. The science that makes that thing what it is. The Archangel was supposed to be the manifestation of the future of mankind and technology. The potential of what this technology can do. A symbol.”

“What else do you know about this Archangel?”

“The thing you seek was once human,” said Daniels. From her briefcase she removed a laptop and opened it. As she connected it to a digital projector a large screen descended from the ceiling. On it showed a profile complete with detailed information and the photograph of a man wearing a military officers uniform. A large American flag hung in the background. As the Ghost stared closer at the young African American man in the picture, he saw that the man’s eyes were the same ones that he beheld in the Monstrosity. “His name was Lieutenant Omar Jones, and he served in the United States Marine Corps with the 33rd Infantry Division. He was stationed in southern Sudan and was part of Operation Red Sea. But on a routine mission his unit was ambushed by some insurgents, and he was declared MIA.

“About a year later he re-emerged as a terrorist calling himself Ahmed Elijah. Apparently, our little friend wasn’t dead, he simply went AWOL. Many of his acts were in Africa and the Middle East, but soon he turned his gaze on his home soil and returned here. Before long he had successfully bombed Harvard University, assassinated a foreign diplomat, and attempted to release a deadly nerve toxin at a UN summit. Luckily he was caught and apprehended before he could do so. Coincidentally, Michael Apollo was there that same day. His trial and sentencing were fairly quick, although it did create some media stir. He was given the death penalty but remained on death row for years. I guess they would have rather had him rot in a cell then put him out of his misery.” She borrowed another sip from the canteen.

“Anyways, long story short,” she continued, “when the time did come for him to be executed, our company practically bought his body the minute after he died thanks to our political connections. The media was not aware of this and as far as the populace was concerned, Ahmed Elijah was dead. We were now free to do whatever we wanted to him, and immediately following his execution he was placed in the newly formed Project Archangel to be the proud new test subject of an experimental technology. We wanted to see its effects on humans, how far it could be taken, and what applications it could be utilized for. We incorporated our nanobot technologies into the form of a gas called mecca-oxide. With the exposure of his body to this gas, along with a dose of radiation and a few genetic tweaks, his anatomy had been augmented over the
course of many months. He became  as much machine as he was organic.

“What came to our surprise, however, was that although he was virtually dead, there was still some brain activity. He still possessed memories of his past life. Although we were amazed by this phenomenon, it served quite the nuisance, and the program was plagued by mishap after mishap as we continued to fall behind schedule. Eventually this was taken care of when Bains was appointed to personally administer the program.

“We had thought we succeeded. We believed that all the kinks had been worked out. Until he woke up of course. It was as if we had missed one small detail. One small factor that kept him out of our control. Kept him alive.”

“And what was that,” asked the Ghost.

“We don’t know,” answered Daniels. “And to this day it haunts us. It itches at the back of our minds. Keeps us up at night. Well, it keeps me up at least. So like my old friend Bains, I found a new companion in this small canteen.” She took another long sip then wiped her mouth. “Yep. Omar was quite the interesting fellow.  Some say he even had a kid at some point. Funny.”

For a moment the Ghost thought about that conjecture. “Is that true? Did he really have a family? What do you know about them?”

The young woman laughed. The alcohol was clearly getting to her, revealing a low tolerance. “That’s all speculation, my friend. A rumour. We don’t even know if that’s half the truth.”

“Well, thanks for the biography,” said the Ghost. “I’ll be sure to watch it on E! True Hollywood Story. But you have to tell me. Is there any way for it to be stopped?”

“Deprave it of its food supply,” said Daniels.

“And what would that be?”

“Human beings.   Of course this was never intended, it escaped before we could perfect its energy requirements.  Unfortunately for us, our bodies provide just the right type of fuel it needs.  The prototype has learnt  how to convert spinal fluid and the bioelectrical energy from nervous systems to sustain itself.”

“And what happens if he doesn’t obtain this?”

It will fall into a dormant state. Essentially it will hibernate until another energy source becomes available. During that period it would be most vulnerable.”

“So somehow I’ll have to find a way to isolate it from everyone else,” said the Ghost. “After I’m done with it, Omar Jones would finally be able to rest in peace.”

“Easier said than done, my friend,” said Daniels. “You have no idea what that thing is capable of. And I’m not talking about fancy weaponry. The knowledge that it possesses alone can be dangerous. Even to one as mysterious as you, whatever you are. My advice is this: figure out what it was that my people missed during its psychological conditioning. What was it that we couldn’t grasp and get rid of. What was it that didn’t bring the Archangel to life, but the man inside it.”

“Why are you helping me?” asked the Ghost. “An hour ago you let that thing kill Bains.”

“Good question,” Daniels replied. “Why do we do the things we do? Why do you do the things you do? Well, my answer’s simple; I want this company. I want that office. And I want the power that it has to offer. But I can’t have all that with that thing on the loose now can I.”

“Well don’t get too cozy, Daniels. Because when I’m through with that monster, and when I’m through with Mr. Apollo, I’ll be coming after you.” Those glowing red eyes suddenly vanished and Daniels was left standing there with her empty canteen. She didn’t hear the door open nor any footsteps, but she knew she was left alone.

Shaking her head to pull her mind off the strange situation, she placed her canteen and laptop back in the briefcase, and exited the boardroom.

On board the helicopter she looked back at Sky Towers, three giants that seemed black in the night yet were illuminated from within. Off in the distant horizon the sky was turning from violet to pink, signalling a new day. And as she looked at the pulsating city below, her cell phone began to vibrate. When she looked at the face screen she saw that it said Unknown Caller. Daniels then opened the phone and answered it.

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