Labno and Carter – Episode 2

PHANTOM GAMES

Bending to snatch up the feather, I felt the subtle shift of air and knew who I would find before I rose.

“Your timing sucks!” I muttered.

Rahim shrugged, drawing attention to his wings. The feather didn’t belong to him. Rahim’s primaries were the colour of autumn leaves. Pretty close to the shade of my own locks, so I make a point never to stand too close.

Great, now I’m making redhead jokes!

The feather was a baton of sorts. It was my turn to enter the gauntlet.

“How long?” I asked, squinting up at him. Rahim was wearing his signature wraparound shades. He wore them day or night, and he didn’t apologise for it. Not that anyone would challenge him. Warrior angles were highly skilled in combat; they were natural-born soldiers, created to protect the heavens. They were also the only angels with wings.

“Twenty-four hours,” he said, the deep timbre of his voice holding a hint of amusement like he knew I was running on empty with no break on the horizon.

“Shit!”

“Your timing sucks, my man,” Dan pretty much repeated my own words as he stepped out, pulling the door closed.

“You need your own material,” Rahim said, the humour now pulling at his mouth in his version of a smile. “None of us have time for Eris’s games, but here we are.”

Ignoring the jibe, Dan passed me a travel mug. I knew better than to hope he’d filled it with the remnants of my glass. He simply knew I needed to fuel up on the way across town. A little shake confirmed the mug was empty. For now.

When I felt the burn in my other hand, the one holding the feather, I looked down. The stark white was already beginning to fade as the thing morphed into an inky substance that ran down across my palm to my wrist. It settled like a brand into my skin, the feather now a temporary tattoo to remind me of my obligation.

“I hate that part.” Talk about an understatement. The first time Eris’s baton of choice had burned itself into my wrist I’d scrubbed off a layer of skin trying to free myself of the mark. But that’s what happens when you cut a deal with a god who enjoys wreaking havoc. 

I mean, everyone knows you should never make a pact with the devil, but in my experience, gods are the ones you need to steer clear of. To stop a killer, I’d agreed to participate in seven tournaments within the Phantom Games.

On the plus side, I managed to bag myself some cool gadgets, most of which I’ve used on security. People have a tendency to underestimate me, and my bullshit meter is fine-tuned.

“I take it since you’re passing the baton, you won your latest round?” When his brows winged up above the shades, I had my answer. Rahim probably cursed the day he’d joined my team. The delights of interagency working. Had he lost the tournament, he’d owe Eris a marker. Not exactly the deadliest of consequences, unless you accounted for the fact you owed a favour to a god.

“If you’d been in the crowd, you would have witnessed my victory.” There was arrogance in his tone, definitely, but there was also disappointment. We had an informal agreement to attend each other’s games, and I had let him down.

“I’m sorry, Sunny-G, but we’re juggling some pretty big cases right now. I’ll be at the next one, I promise. I’ll even bring pom-poms.”

Rahim looked perplexed, even with shades covering his eyes I knew they would be swimming in confusion.

“She’s saying she’ll be there to cheer you on.” Dan said, losing patience. “And as much as I’d like to stand around celebrating your victory, the clock is ticking and we have somewhere to be.”

“I know. I’ve been assigned to clean up crew, given what was discovered!”

I turned to glare at Dan. “You said she found bodies!”

“Now look what you’ve done, you’ve ruined the surprise!” Dan said to Rahim, who just grinned as he spread his large, beautiful wings, the orange tone shimmering like a flame as he rose into the air. Then Dan turned to me with a cajoling look “I never said what kind of bodies, and I knew you’d want in on the action.”

“Don’t take too long,” Rahim said. “Or I might just steal all the fun. I deserve it after the last five hours.”

In response I turned my back and felt the powerful draft caused by his retreat, the laugh carried close on its heels.

“Change of plans,” I told Dan, slapping my palm on the biometric pad so I could duck inside for the keys. “We’re talking my car.” 

Dan looked towards the lean-to attached to the house and groaned.

My car was like everything else on the property, it had been fitted with security features and didn’t much resemble its original shape. It was an Audi – on steroids.

I didn’t pause for discussion when I stepped back outside. I simply pinned him with a glare. “Start talking.”

“Admit it, if I’d told you the RDU were invited to the party you wouldn’t have been so quick to jump in and it’s our case.”

The Realm Defense Network or RDU were brought in at the beginning of the war, now they were a specialist team.

“It is our case and they’re duty-bound to keep us informed, but you might have let me have a little shut-eye first.”

“No time for that, we have twenty-four hours!”

“Oh, we have twenty-four hours. I didn’t realise you were taking part in the tournament with me.”

I missed his comeback, no doubt a good one, when I climbed into the driver’s seat and contemplated setting off one of my booby traps. Then I watched Dan trying to squeeze his large frame into my passenger seat and decided it was punishment enough.

While I waited, I looked out across the land and tried to find the calm it usually instilled in me. The place had been a steal, a two-storey bungalow sitting squarely in the middle of three acres. People tended to stick to cities, especially after the war, but the small village of Friendly suited me just fine, and I’ve created some pretty inventive ways to keep out the vermin.

A call came through a second after I started the engine so the navigation console lit up to display Gibson, another member of the team, and he didn’t look happy. 

“We’ve lost Mrs Miller,” he said, without preamble.

“How the hell can you lose her?” Dan growled beside me, so pissed the energy in the car turned dangerous.

“We were escorting her to a safe house, and we were ambushed.” As he spoke, his camera panned out so we could see the wreckage behind him. He was lucky to be alive.

“Send me you current location,” I said, shoving the car into drive before turning to Dan. “Do you think you might have missed a few things out. like what the fuck is going on?”

“Stop the car,” Dan ordered, still growling.

I knew what that meant. My partner was done with being confined inside a box, and because I could literally feel his energy pushing against me, I hit the brake.

“Can this day get any worse?” I said, stupidly tempting fate, and watched Dan explode from the car.

__________

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Mel

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