This was the only way I could think of to reunite everyone from Yellow Diamond Hunter into one place. I searched for a reason to get them in one location, working together. From this process, I learned that everything doesn’t have to be so “cookie cutter.” My new route is to continue with the unique structure that built the Barcode Series. I have decided to run two (and a half) arcs. We’ll follow Sol’s story from the moment that he meets with Rayne, Julius and Kami as they discover a way out of the dark zone, and Rayne’s surrender to the demon within. Still, it was pretty cool to write the first draft in such a structured way. I liked the way that the characters interacted here.
3 – RE+ASSEMBLY PART 1
Kami shivers while tucking both hands deeply into her coat pockets. Not even her relatively expensive, puffy jacket can defend against this type of cold. The air is crisp enough to clear her nasal passages, like mountain weather. But there isn’t a mountain in sight. No snow either. With this type of cold, Kami expects snow. She would much prefer it to the invasive, chilling wind that pierces her flesh and tingles her bones.
While waiting for her shipment, Kami stands at the edge of a port. The loading docks look out at a black, seemingly limitless sea. The tips of her shoes hang from the edge, tempting the fate of an instant death. Not even a mage of her caliber could cast a spell quickly enough if she were to fall.
Yet, to Kami, the darkness is still attractive. Though Julius removed her father’s curse in Olwami Uthando, Kami has found herself more enchanted by the darkness than ever. Sometimes, she summons creatures from the shadows for no reason at all. As a consequence, her lightly brown cheeks have lost more of their color. The dark magic has left her slightly pale and often expressionless. But when the light from the container ship approaches the docks, a gentle smile lifts on her face.
The ship is nearly five football fields long and double the width of an eight lane freeway. It cruises towards the docks. The crew takes their precious time lowering the anchor, and the security guards keep their rifles close to their chests for even longer. Eventually, a large man motions for Kami to join him on the boat.
She passes several thugs, each set on different tasks. Some begin unloading shipments while others joke about the free time that they will spend on the surface.
Kami never lifts her head to acknowledge anyone. She keeps both eyes to the ground while following a guard to a dirty yellow storage container. There, they meet with two men smoking cigarettes and laughing about their struggles at sea.
One of the men notices Kami. Marcèle scratches his neck before unlatching the yellow storage container. He walks inside and bangs against the walls, which causes several thousand Feufollet, or Cajun Fairies, to dance. They illuminate the storage container, revealing hundreds of talismans and other magical items. Kami’s eyes gravitate towards a two-by-two metal box that is usually used to store severed heads.
While searching the contents, the thug continues his conversation with his friend outside. This time, Marcèle holds the weight of the conversation and his friend laughs while looking at Kami. “Deux femmes se rencontrent. L’une dit à l’autre: Tu as l’air bien contente!” He freezes momentarily and raises the tone of his voice, “Eh oui! j’ai réussi à faire un puzzle en six mois.” Lowering his tone slightly again, he continues, “Et qu’y a-t-il d’extraordinaire?” Marcèle exits the container while staring at Kami. With his high pitch once more, he says, “Sur la boîte, c’était écrit de quatre à six ans!”
Marcèle’s friend chuckles while staring at Kami and taking another drag of his cigarette.
“Am I supposed to understand what you’re saying?” Kami asks Marcèle.
“Non. Just a silly joke,” he says while passing her a small brown package. “Should I translate?”
She tries removing it from his hands, but Marcèle holds on tightly.
He says, “In short, only a silly woman would step on a pirate ship.”
To Marcèle’s surprise, Kami easily snatches the package from his hand and asks, “What about the other thing? I paid you a small fortune for a high mage skull.” Her eyes return to the two-by-two box.
Marcèle snaps his fingers, which prompts his friend to close the crate. “Really? I thought you overpaid for a tarot card.”
“No. I also paid for the head that belonged to Godwin Asante.”
Displaying a menacing smile, Marcèle suggests, “Leave.”
With tears swelling in her eyes, Kami says, “I’ve searched high and low for that skull. Some say it’s mostly ashes, but I know you have it.”
“I don’t deal that type of magic. It’s dangerous.”
Marcèle and his friend laugh, which causes Kami’s blood to boil. She looks around at the dozens of men with guns. There are even more without weapons and they look just as threatening. Not even a single person views Kami as a threat. Marcèle did her a favor by allowing her to pick up the shipment from the dock. Kami didn’t want to be seen in another black market area because people were starting to recognize and attack her.
Stepping forward, Kami’s voice amplifies as she snarls, “You’re the only one that would deal with that type of magic and I need it.”
Marcèle also steps forward, but he completely closes the gap between himself and Kami. The vapors from his breath caress her pale cheeks as he says, “And why is that, Kami Asante?” He watches as her eyes tremor. “What? You think I wouldn’t recognize you? Even if I didn’t, word spreads quickly about a rich little girl running around and flashing money at anyone who will point her to daddy’s remains.”
She stammers, “I can pay more. Three times what I just gave you.”
He grabs Kami’s wrist and grins, “I’m not interested.”
“At least tell me what it looks like. Please.”
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.” Marcèle’s eyes trace Kami’s body. “It’s still smoking.”
Marcèle bends down and presses his lips to Kami’s face. After tightening his grip around her wrist, he whispers, “So much that I can’t touch it. Half of the face has fallen off, so I’ve stored it in an airtight container to preserve it for someone with much more money than a fatherless child. But I will have whatever you’ve got on you.”
A loud thud causes Marcèle and many of the others to stand upright. The noise is followed by a scream that appears to travel overhead. When the men look up, they see one of the guards soaring through the night sky.
Other guards and thugs rush to the area where the sound originated.
Marcèle grabs Kami’s collar and snarls, “Did you bring someone with you? Didn’t I tell you what I’d do?”
Laurent appears from the shadows and grimaces, “Lay another finger on her and you’ll never pee while standing again.”
Marcèle lifts a gun from his jacket and aims at Laurent’s head. Before he can pull the trigger, Kami drones, “Laurent! What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you,” he replies. “You’ve got half of the gangsters in this province eager to rob and kill you.”
“I didn’t know,” she says sarcastically.
“I also need a favor.”
“Can it wait?”
“It can’t. It relates to what’s in that envelope.”
Kami plays with the package between her fingers. Inside is a very rare tarot card that tracks a person’s deepest desire.
Laurent continues, “That’s really why you’ve been making so much noise, isn’t it? It’s not just about your dad’s head. You’ve been looking for him.”
Marcèle presses the gun to Kami’s head and his friend aims another gun at Laurent. Then, the thug asks, “What the hell are you talking about? And who is he?”
With a gentle push, Kami distances herself from Marcèle and opens the package. She removes a long tarot card with a unique alchemic equation on the black side. On the white side of the card, a map of their province appears. Then, Kami chants, “Show me my deepest desire.”
As the card forms another map of a neighboring province, Laurent says, “You’re using English spells now. You must have grown strong.” He steps closer and watches as the card pinpoints the location of a moving target. “I heard that Julius can use his native tongue too.”
“He’s returned to his home,” Kami mutters to herself. Then, she turns to Laurent and asks, “How did you know that I was searching for Sol?”
“I want to find him too. We can use that card to find him. Together.”
A gentle smile forms on her face. “Okay, but first I need to steal a few things from these prestigious gentlemen.”
Marcèle tightens his grip around the trigger and aims at Kami’s head. He didn’t know what the tarot card was truly capable of, but now he wants it. Fortunately, for him, several of the guards have returned to the area to help.
Just as he opens his mouth to call them for help, a sharp tail whips around and slashes his wrist. Both the gun and his hand fall to the ground. Yet, he is too terrified to scream because of the demon standing before him.
Kami’s appearance has changed subtly, but enough to spook the thug. Her eyes are green and her teeth have rotted. Scales cover her face and likely the rest of her body.
Her dull smile vanishes and true joy surfaces on his face. She laughs wickedly while lunging forward and assaulting Marcèle.
Skyscrapers sway in the wind of a unique city, Olwami Uthando. The uninhabitable land has changed drastically since Sol set most of it on fire. Now, men in orange vests and hardhats move about quickly.
The air vibrates with the rumblings from dozens of bulldozers and excavators. The paired machines work in harmony, clearing large debris from the outskirts of the city.
Several white vacuum truck are parked over manholes. Some of trucks discharge centuries of waste into restored sewage networks. Most work to simply remove standing water.
There is certainly no shortage of concrete trucks. These vehicles are paving the new route into the city, which the countless engineers have cautioned against. The new roads have already slowed productivity. However, not all the trucks that enter the city are strictly for construction. For the city’s new owner, Greer, business must begin immediately or money will halt development.
The sorcerer shouts orders to personnel with jack hammers, chipping guns, and hammer drills. Due to the chaos, they’re working around tons of wire cables. The hazard has gone ignored, like many other safety precautions. But in this darkness, most men doubt that they could survive through another month.
Greer finally stops screaming at the construction workers when three helicopters carrying rubble and debris take flight. He looks at his watch and curses under his breath, “Thirty minutes late.” The sorcerer rushes back into the city, in hopes to make up for lost time. He jumps onto the back of a ten wheel truck. The super 10 stops just outside of the area where the excavators are working, parking behind a line of seven other identical transporters.
Just as his feet touch the ground, the superintendent flags down Greer and shouts, “We need the cement moved to the east side of the city and the plumbing shipment brought to us. Damn humans piss their pants after driving two hours in the darkness. They’re too scared to make the right deliveries.”
A construction manager shakes his head and adds, “It’s no good. The last two drivers were my only human contacts, and they’re not coming back.”
“We can use the reserves to buy a truck, but we’re running low.”
The two men continue following Greer, but he still hasn’t reacted. In their opinion, all hope for the city is lost. Greer has already made it clear that his funds are limited, and he has burned through more money than any one man could.
The superintendent adds, “Greer. The club is finished. I don’t know how you’ll furnish it, but Chuck and I are done.” He waits to hear the sorcerer’s response, but they continue following him until the construction sounds are much weaker and they are standing outside of a night club.
When they are just outside of the entrance, Greer says, “Get some heavy lifters to move the cement. Pave the roads that lead to the nearest province. I’ll work on getting the truck.”
The superintendent and construction manager stare blankly at one another for a moment. Then, the construction manager finally affirms, “I’m on it.”
Both men walk away, but the superintendent turns around and says, “I almost forgot. There’s a guy in your office. He won’t leave, and he doesn’t look like the type to be moved.”
“I know,” Greer says nonchalantly. “Radio me when the choppers return.”
The sorcerer dusts lent from his blazer while entering the club. The designs finally meet Greer’s standards, though it took some time. The luxurious nightclub boasts high ceilings with lavender lights that stretch across all seven thousand square feet. The wood stained, concrete floors were replaced three times, but once they resembled mahogany, Greer gave his stamp of approval.
He bypasses the bar and several booths before entering two double doors. This places the sorcerer into a back room for staff members only. At the end of the hallway, Greer can see two men sitting in seats on the opposite side of his desk.
Before he enters the room, Blas begins speaking, “You’re rebuilding Absolute.”
Greer takes his time lighting a cigar before reclining in a swivel chair behind his desk. He briefly glances at Laurent before turning to Blas and replying, “Great deduction, Sherlock. You’ve really put your mind reading skills to use.”
“You should’ve consulted me on the remodel.”
The sorcerer leans forward to get a better look at Blas. Once he realizes that Blas isn’t joking, Greer bursts into laughter. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Greer says, “I built Absolute before you were born. I can’t see why I should require your consultation now.”
Blas leans back and crosses his legs. “From what I can tell, you need financial backing.”
“Will you leave the money on the nightstand when we’re done?” While flipping through blueprints on his desk, Greer adds, “What kind of girl do you take me for?”
“Maybe I should come back when you’re a little less moody.”
“I guess this is farewell.”
Blas plays with his hat, tracing his fingers across the brim. He only looks up to say, “I have a job for you.”
“I’m sure. It’s the only reason that I haven’t thrown you out of my city. Beware, though. By the end of this conversation, you’ll pay me fifteen million dollars.”
The number forces Blas to sit upright. He narrows his eye and grits, “Fifteen? Why is that?”
“You’re the telepath. You tell me.” The end of Greer’s sentence trails as he lifts his head. “Who is the kid that just entered my club?”
“Your new teammate.”
“I was hoping that she was my new mark.” Greer rests his cigar against his ashtray and asks, “What’s the job?”
“Leonardo has escaped.”
“Sounds like a human problem to me. The dark mage hasn’t captured or experimented on a ramanga this century.”
Seemingly aggravated, Blas speaks rapidly, “Kode Payne set him free. As you know, Mother has always said that Kode will bring the sun with him, making it impossible for ramanga to survive.”
“You’re trying to sucker me into doing the work for free.” Chuckling, Greer says, “It won’t work.”
“You’ll be paid up front.”
“Fifteen million up front? You must be serious.
Blas sighs, “I never agreed on a price.”
Greer turns his nose towards the entrance again. With a gentle smile, he teases, “You practically shook on it when you sat in my chair.”
“Are you agreeing to do the work?”
“I haven’t said no.”
Blas stands and smoothly drops his hat on his head. After tracing the brim, he asks, “Is it me or do you seem more hostile than usual? Does this have anything to do with Lennox?”
“I’ve always wondered about telepaths. Are all of your questions rhetorical or do you simply enjoy hearing your own voice?”
The verbal assault forces a smile on Blas’ lips. He removes an image of Sol from his breast pocket and throws it on Greer’s desk.
Greer glances at the image, but makes sure to avoid reacting to it. Even the subtlest reaction allows a telepath to dig deeper into a person’s mind. With someone as powerful as Blas standing in the room, it’s best that he avoids thinking altogether. Fortunately, focusing on the fifteen million that recently walked into the club is an easy distraction.
“Sol Ruby,” Blas announces. “He recently acquired the powers of a full-blown shadow walker.”
“Should I open the club on his behalf?” The sorcerer pushes the image back to Blas and continues, “He seems underage and innocent. But I know a few dancers that could change that.”
“Laurent informed me that Eris hired you to kill him recently.”
“Now, I want you to help him reunite with his father, Leonardo.”
Father. The word resonates with Greer, ultimately producing a visible reaction. Though he tries to regain his composure, Greer finds this information difficult to ignore.
Leonardo Ruby was always considered the most powerful alchemist. Knowing that his son is also a shadow walker is only more terrifying.
Greer stammers, “You want me to use his son as bait?
“Whatever it takes,” Blas replies.
Whatever it takes, Greer repeats the words to himself. The sorcerer has had one run in with Leonardo before, and it was only through luck that his life was spared. It was also the moment that he met Lennox. The dumb brute was silly enough to challenge Leonardo to a test of strength. To Greer’s surprise, Lennox put up a good fight, though he was overwhelmed.
The experience left Greer with a scar best known as common sense. He learned that no amount of money could ever amount to the value of his life. But he received that scar a long time ago and fifteen million dollars up front may be more valuable than his aging body.
Thinking out loud, Greer asks, “Why doesn’t anyone hire me for a simple kill anymore? I developed a fine skill of drawing the victim’s blood and mixing it with alcohol.”
“If I wanted him dead, I’d kill him,” Blas says coldly. “I’m hiring you because you good at finding and manipulating people. And this team I’m building has many flaws. They will require your…finesse.”
“How many are on the team?”
Greer lifts his cigar to his lips once again. “Okay. But seeing how you’re such a penny pincher, I don’t imagine that you’re paying any of my other teammates.”
Laurent corrects, “I’m being well compensated.”
“Three million each,” Greer repeats. “I want all of their pay. Three million for six,” he smiles at Laurent, “I mean, five people. That’s fifteen million up front.”
While shaking his head, Blas commands, “Laurent. Bring the money.”
Laurent follows the orders obediently. In the past, Laurent’s profession was much more respected. He was expected to kill people and nothing more. After working for Godwin, Laurent has learned to provide additional services for his clients.
For a trained assassin, like Greer, he finds Laurent’s actions despicable. At one point in his life, he and Lennox vowed to never cross paths with Laurent. The assassin’s reputation outweighs even that of veteran ramanga. But those days have long passed.
The assassin eventually returns with Kami trailing him. Though Greer sensed her and the money before she walked into the club, he is still surprised to see her. The sorcerer has never had two of his previous targets carrying bags of money for him.
Kami is just as shocked to see Greer. Laurent warned her about potentially meeting someone that she wouldn’t like, but she never expected to be someone that tried to kill her.
Blas motions for Laurent and Kami to enter the office. They continue to haul the four large duffle bags that Kami brought into the club.
A burning sensation eventually gets the best of Blas. “I have to know, Greer. Fifteen million?” He looks down at the bags and asks, “How did you know how much I’d bring with me?”
Greer stands and adjusts the sleeves to his suit. He checks the time once again and makes his way out of the room, bumping Laurent along the way.
As he distances himself, Kami asks, “Where are you going? Where should we leave these?”
With a gentle wave, Greer says, “On my nightstand.”