Chapter 10:



Part 1: Half MoonBookmark here

Why, it’s absolutely beautiful…Bookmark here

Reverend Enoch Winchester marveled at the sight of his tank. It had recently been repainted in a dark blue hue, and emblazoned with the half-circle symbol that the Half Moon Church occasionally used as their logo. He took in the beauty of it all, a big smile on his weathered face.Bookmark here

His current base of operation was a retired army building out in rural Virginia. As he and his church began expanding the scope of their “projects,” their facilities had to expand as well. Enoch figured that, since they were waging war against the modern world, what better place to use than a military facility?Bookmark here

He hoped that he wouldn’t have to use any of the weapons they had purchased, of course. Project BlueBell was their line of offense. They other stuff would be the fallback in case things got really ugly.Bookmark here

If it comes to that, so be it, Enoch thought. He’d accepted long ago that pursuing his purpose in the world would be fraught with danger.Bookmark here

“Bzzzt bzzzt!” His phone, which was currently in his pocket, vibrated loudly. It didn’t surprise him, however. He had been eagerly awaiting the call for hours.Bookmark here

“Niles!” he said excitedly. “What’s the good word?”Bookmark here

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Part 2: The PlanBookmark here

“You’re gonna love this.”Bookmark here

Just outside of the hotel, Niles glanced around at his surroundings to make sure no one was listening to him. He normally would have called from his hotel room, but he had no idea if the place had been bugged or not. He didn’t think they would try to monitor him like that, but it was a non-zero possibility, and he couldn’t afford to take any chances, especially now that he was so close to completing his mission.Bookmark here

“Remember that data I sent you from Station 8?” he asked Enoch Winchester.Bookmark here

“Of course!”Bookmark here

“Well, we finally found it, the supernatural weapon that’s been killing people. It’s buried deep in that data, but it’s there.”Bookmark here

Enoch was silent for a moment before letting out a little grunt of approval. “Well, I’ll be,” he replied merrily. “And it’s the real deal?”Bookmark here

“Yes. I saw the effects with my own two eyes. One of our team members here got hit with it.”Bookmark here

“What happened?” Enoch asked, somewhat pensively. “Or do I not want to hear that?”Bookmark here

“That part isn’t quite clear. It seems to awaken some kind of paranormal force, but we’re not exactly sure what it is. The guy who died, he… ah, how do I explain this? He said he saw some… things following him.”Bookmark here

“Demons?”Bookmark here

“Don’t know, but whatever they were, they began tearing him apart around midnight. It was brutal. They bent one of his elbows backwards and popped his shoulder out of place, then started suffocating him. I had to put him out of his misery myself.”Bookmark here

“Oh... well I’m sorry to hear that.”Bookmark here

“It’s alright.” Niles thought back to all of Mike’s snide comments. “We weren’t particularly close.”Bookmark here

“Well, you did what you had to do, I’m sure.”Bookmark here

“Yes, of course. But back to the topic at hand. I want you to have your guy find the file within the data. It’s a picture file called ‘433.jpg.’ Just make sure he doesn’t open it. I don’t care what he has to do to avoid looking at it, just make sure it doesn’t happen, alright? Even if he has to modify his operating system or something like that.”Bookmark here

“Is looking at the dang thing all it takes?” Enoch sounded surprised.Bookmark here

“Yes. That’s all. Our running theory is that whoever looks at the picture will die once the clock strikes midnight. It seems that has been the case with all of the known victims so far.”Bookmark here

“I see. Sounds like a powerful weapon indeed... Bookmark here

In his peripheral vision, Niles could see an unmarked van pulling into the hotel’s parking lot. He suspected it was the FBI.Bookmark here

Or they’re from whatever Wolf’s division is called, he thought.Bookmark here

“I have to go,” said Niles. “When is the earliest you can get project BlueBell operational?”Bookmark here

“Operational?” Enoch asked. “I mean, it’s technically operational now. If we want to get the biggest bang for our buck, though…” He thought for a moment. Niles could hear the soft scratching noise of Enoch running his fingers through his beard. “Probably a week from now. Should be a safe bet.”Bookmark here

“Got it,” Niles replied. “I’ll stay in touch. Thanks.”Bookmark here

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Part 3: BlueBellBookmark here

After the call, Enoch Winchester was feeling absolutely giddy.Bookmark here

It’s happening! he thought as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. It’s actually happening! A holy weapon from God to cleanse the Earth!Bookmark here

Using his cane, he hobbled as fast as he could towards the computer room.Bookmark here

Unsurprisingly, Project BlueBell required a great deal of resources: electricity, computer workstations, and a massive server. Enoch had made sure that the first room in the base to be completed was the computer room.Bookmark here

As he entered, Enoch was bathed in the blue glow of the many computer screens. Despite the large supply of equipment, only a few of his developers were there at the moment. Luckily, one of them happened to be the man he was looking for.Bookmark here

“Zach!” Enoch called, spotting his project manager from across the room. “Great news!”Bookmark here

Not content with being on the computer all day, Zach had set up some gym equipment near his workstation, including a set of weights and a bench. He was currently doing arm curls with weights the size of his head.Bookmark here

Out of all of Reverend Winchester’s converts, Zach had perhaps the most dramatic transformation. After joining the Half Moon Church, his entire outlook began to change, followed by physical changes. Once a soft and scrawny Silicon Valley transplant, Zach had transformed himself into a powerful force of nature.Bookmark here

The young man turned his head to see Enoch approaching him. “What is it, Reverend? he asked.Bookmark here

Enoch couldn’t wait to tell him. “They found it!” he blurted out excitedly.Bookmark here

“Found what?”Bookmark here

“That project Niles has been working on. They’ve found the weapon!”Bookmark here

Shocked, Zach let his bulky arms fall down to his sides. “You mean…”Bookmark here

Enoch grinned and pointed at Zach’s computer. “Yes. And that means we got it as well. It’s right there in your computer. A powerful supernatural weapon.”Bookmark here

Zach glanced over at the device. Enoch had already told him about the mysterious deaths, and the theoretical supernatural force behind them. However, could such a thing really be sitting on his hard drive at that very moment? He believed in the supernatural (one couldn’t follow Enoch Winchester without believing in that stuff), but this felt... strange.Bookmark here

“When are we going to pull the trigger on BlueBell?” Zach asked as he racked his weights.Bookmark here

“We’re shooting for a week from now.”Bookmark here

“That soon, huh?” Zach turned to look at the massive server that occupied the far wall of the room. It hummed with electric vigor, its blue LED lights pulsing in the shadow. “It’s really happening…”Bookmark here

“Indeed. The lord has finally delivered his gift unto us, and now his will is in our hands.”Bookmark here

Newly impassioned, Zach scurried back to his workstation and began pulling up the data Niles had recently sent them using the protocol he’d coded specifically for that purpose.Bookmark here

“Just a warning before we proceed,” Enoch said, holding out his hand as a warning.Bookmark here

Zach looked over at him expectantly. “Yes?”Bookmark here

“Whatever you do, you absolutely cannot look at it.”Bookmark here

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Part 4: LazarusBookmark here

Niles held the transparent bag up to examine the contents more closely.Bookmark here

“This is all you could find?” he asked.Bookmark here

Fabi watched him with his dark eyes, heavy and red from sleep deprivation. He seemed just as disappointed as Niles was.Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s it,” he replied. “We searched the entire place several times over and came up empty handed.”Bookmark here

To be fair, Niles wasn’t exactly sure what he had expected. Even if the photo was in one piece, it’s not like he could have looked at the thing. But still, it was hard to deny that the black and white scraps at the bottom of that plastic baggie were so… underwhelming.Bookmark here

Just then, he noticed something unusual.Bookmark here

“What’s thirty-three?” he asked, squinting at the hand-written number on the back of one of the photo pieces.Bookmark here

“Dunno,” replied Fabi. “It was the same number Mike had written down, though. Might have something to do with that.”Bookmark here

“Do you think the image would return if we pieced it all together?” Niles asked.Bookmark here

Fabi shrugged. “I dunno. It’s probably not worth even attempting such a thing because… we’ll, you know. Success would mean death.”Bookmark here

“Fair point.”Bookmark here

Behind Fabi, Kimura stirred on his cot. He had been so exhausted earlier that he had nearly collapsed. Needless to say, a small nap was in order.Bookmark here

Still, Niles thought. Is only an hour enough?Bookmark here

“Fabi,” Kimura croaked out, his throat still dry from his slumber. “How is Lazarus doing?”Bookmark here

The “Lazarus” in question was the man sent by Agent Wolf’s agency. Clad in a leather patch-covered jacket and sporting a green mohawk, the “tech specialist” looked as if he’d stepped out of a time machine sent from the 1980s.Bookmark here

He was currently at Mike’s old workstation, typing away and examining the data they’d gathered. Niles glanced at the strange man from the corner of his eye.Bookmark here

Honestly, Lazarus worried Niles quite a bit. Enoch had assured him that the protocol they’d used to send the data to the Half Moon compound would be completely undetectable to all modern security systems, but that wasn't something they could know for sure. Their agency was a complete enigma. Who knew what kind of technology they had access to?Bookmark here

“He said nothing looks out of the ordinary,” Fabi assured Kimura. “They’re gonna quarantine the 433 file, of course but, other than that, who knows?”Bookmark here

“Understood,” replied Kimura with a quick nod.Bookmark here

Niles held up the plastic bag so Kimura could see it. “Are they going to take this thing as well?”Bookmark here

Kimura stared at the ragged envelope pieces with his usual blank expression. “Of course. It will likely be examined and stored with the other unnatural objects.”Bookmark here

With the others?Bookmark here

Niles hadn’t given it too much thought before, but Wolf’s agency would necessarily have a place used to store the supernatural things they found, right? He thought about all the stories he had heard about “Area 51” as a kid. Perhaps there was some truth in those.Bookmark here

“Uh, guys?” Lazarus suddenly interjected. The three men all turned their attention to him. “We got a problem.”Bookmark here

At that moment, Niles felt as if all of the blood in his body had been frozen solid.Bookmark here

Oh no...Bookmark here

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Part 5: ProxyBookmark here

Agent wolf paced back and forth behind Lazarus’ computer chair. From the chair next to him, Victoria peaked at his computer screen. Kimura, Fabi, and Niles all stood beside the work table and listened to the man’s explanation.Bookmark here

“I’ve never seen a protocol like this,” Lazarus told them, scrolling through the program’s code. “It looks like it’s been built from the ground up. Whoever did this must have been a professional.”Bookmark here

Wolf sighed in exasperation. “Great,” she said sarcastically. “So not only do we have a data leak, but ‘professionals’ are apparently involved.”Bookmark here

“Now, let’s not panic,” Kimura reassured her. “We can still figure this out if we keep a level head.”Bookmark here

“Easier said than done,” Wolf growled. “It’s not your head on the chopping block right now. There was one thing on that computer that I absolutely had to make sure wouldn’t leak, and it still happened.”Bookmark here

“Can we figure out where it went?” Fabi asked.Bookmark here

“I’m trying,” Lazarus said. “It’s very likely that it went through a proxy.”Bookmark here

“What’s that?”Bookmark here

“It’s like a server that data gets routed through before going to its final destination. Handy for obscuring data transmission through several levels.”Bookmark here

Niles watched all of this play out with cold anxiousness. He could feel nausea beginning to build up in his stomach.Bookmark here

It’s alright, he told himself. That data went through several different proxies. It’s highly unlikely they’ll figure it out any time soon.Bookmark here

“I think I got something.” Lazarus chimed in. “The first place the data stopped is a VPN called Astrodust.” He sighed and shook his head in frustration. “It’s gonna be hard to get the data from them. I heard they’re tight with their data.”Bookmark here

Yes! Niles thought. He had to actively suppress the grin that threatened to show up on his face. Bookmark here

They’re stumped!Bookmark here

“No, it’s fine,” Wolf said. “We’ve had backdoor access to their stuff for over a year now. Victoria can get a hold of the info for us.”Bookmark here

WHAT?!Bookmark here

The news felt like a gut punch. Small beads of nervous sweat began forming on his forehead.Bookmark here

This is bad. At this rate, they might actually do it.Bookmark here

In the corner of his eye, Niles could sense Fabi staring at him. The scruffy detective had a powerful gut, and if Niles didn’t play it cool, he would definitely begin to suspect that something was up.Bookmark here

Cool your jets, Niles, he thought.Bookmark here

There were still a few more layers the team would have to get through to figure out what happened. It would take them another few days at the very least. Niles decided that he should call Enoch and tell him to move the activation of BlueBell forward.Bookmark here

It’s no problem. We can still pull it off.Bookmark here

“Hey, Lazarus,” Fabi began. “Do you think this had to have been done from the inside?”Bookmark here

Niles winced internally. Fabi was definitely onto him.Bookmark here

“Oh, definitely,” Lazarus replied. “Could have been installed on the computer yesterday or back when it was originally built for all we know. Have no idea how long it’s been there.”Bookmark here

“Oh. Gotcha.”Bookmark here

“Mrs. Wolf,” Victoria suddenly chirped in a delicate voice. “Home base tracked down the destination for us. They’re sending the location to Lazarus now.”Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

Not good. They’re operating too efficiently right now.Bookmark here

Fabi was staring at Niles once again. It was making him sweat even more than before. His forehead was now drenched.Bookmark here

What’s with this guy?!Bookmark here

“Looks like it went to a private server farm in Serbia,” Lazarus told the others. “We can probably figure out who owns it and give them a call.”Bookmark here

The owner was a contractor that Niles had hired specifically for this operation. He didn’t think the man would squeal very easily, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.Bookmark here

I should hurry up and give Enoch a call.Bookmark here

“Could you excuse me?” Niles said, trying to keep his voice from quavering. “I have to take a little break.”Bookmark here

Without waiting for a reply, he quickly moved to the door and walked out into the hallway. He just had to get into the elevator and he’d be home free.Bookmark here

Don’t screw this up now, Niles. Not after you’ve gotten so far already.Bookmark here

“Hey,” a voice called from behind him. Niles turned to see Fabi’s stubble-covered face staring out at him from the doorway. “Is there something wrong?”Bookmark here

“W-what do you mean?” Niles stammered. “Nothing is wrong.”Bookmark here

The two men stared at each other for a few seconds, both as still as a statue.Bookmark here

SCREW THIS!Bookmark here

Niles suddenly began running towards the stairwell as fast as he could.Bookmark here

“HEY! WAIT!” Fabi called behind him. “STOP!”Bookmark here

Niles didn’t look back to see if he was being pursued. He couldn’t afford to. He simply booked it. Once he got to the stairwell door, he flung it open and leaped down the stairs two at a time.Bookmark here

OH SHI-Bookmark here

His loafers lacked traction, so they slid on the concrete stairs. Niles lost his balance and went tumbling onto the nearest landing. He landed with a loud “THUD!”Bookmark here

His entire body was rocked by the impact. If he didn’t sprain anything, he would at least have a serious bruise by the morning.Bookmark here

Opening his eyes, Niles could see Fabi descending down the stairs towards him.Bookmark here

“You’re coming back to the room, bastard,” Fabi snarled.Bookmark here

Niles desperately dug his pistol out from his holster. Noticing this, Fabi grabbed Niles’ wrist and forcibly moved his aim away. Bookmark here

“BANG!” The gun went off, striking the concrete of the stairs above them. Fabi squeezed hard, hurting Niles’ wrist and making him drop the gun to the floor.Bookmark here

“THWACK!” Niles threw a punch with his free hand as hard as he could at Fabi’s face, knocking the detective backwards. The punch had apparently broken Fabi’s nose, and blood splattered onto his raincoat.Bookmark here

"AAAAAGH!" Niles screamed internally from the pain he felt in his knuckles. It had been a very long time since he had to punch anyone, and it definitely felt that way.Bookmark here

Regardless, he had to escape while Fabi was recovering. He ignored the aches and pains running through his body and continued down the stairwell until he reached the bottom.Bookmark here

“Sir? Is everything okay?” one of the hotel employees asked as she saw Niles sprint by. He pretended he hadn’t heard her and made his way to the front entrance. As he left the building, he reached into his pocket to produce his burner phone.Bookmark here

“RIIIIIING!... RIIIIIIING!” The dial tone sounded from the phone’s speaker.Bookmark here

Come on, Enoch, Niles thought frantically. Pick up. PICK UP!Bookmark here

“Whats going on?” Enoch finally asked upon answering.Bookmark here

“They’re onto us,” Niles nearly screamed into the phone’s receiver as he ran to a nearby alleyway. “Activate BlueBell just before midnight tonight! It needs to happen!”Bookmark here

“Say no more,” Enoch assured him. “It will be done. Stay safe out there.”Bookmark here

As Niles hung up and slipped the phone back into his pocket, a familiar figure emerged from the alleyway in front of him.Bookmark here

“Hey!” the man’s voice called excitedly. “Well, would ya look who it is! It’s Mr. Snappy!”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

Before Niles could react, Earl’s big meaty fist collided with his jaw, knocking him to the pavement.Bookmark here

“I told you I’d remember your face,” Earl said with a chuckle as he looked down at him.Bookmark here

It was the last thing Niles heard before losing consciousness.Bookmark here

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Part 6: SurpriseBookmark here

“Uuurgh…”Bookmark here

Niles groaned as he woke up in intense pain. His arm was banged up and sore, and his jaw clicked when he moved it. Worst of all, there was an intense and painful pounding in his head that got worse the more he moved around.Bookmark here

Where am I?...Bookmark here

He looked around the room and noticed there weren’t any windows. It was just a bare concrete cell with a single cot in it. The old cot creaked noisily as he turned.Bookmark here

Gradually, some spotty memories started to come back to him.Bookmark here

Did Kimura and his team lock me in here?Bookmark here

Suddenly, a nervous rush came over him and he felt frantically at his pants pocket.Bookmark here

DAMN!Bookmark here

They had taken his burner phone. There was no doubt they would be able to track down Enoch from the information on it.Bookmark here

I screwed up so bad, he thought, almost on the verge of tears.Bookmark here

And we were so close...
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He only hoped that Enoch could activate BlueBell before they found him. It was their last chance to do God’s bidding and finally cleanse the world of sin.Bookmark here

“Please lord,” he muttered to himself pitifully. A tear rolled down his cheek, striking the cot’s meager mattress. “Just let us pull through this.”Bookmark here

“CLICK-CLACK!” The room’s single steel door opened noisily, making Niles jump in surprise and shaking him out of his sorrow.Bookmark here

Kimura? Fabi?Bookmark here

He turned to see Mitch, of all people, standing in the doorway and holding the heavy door open. Mitch glared at Niles with an expression of pure scorn.Bookmark here

“Niles,” he said calmly. “I need to let the others know you’re awake. From what I hear, they have a surprise in store for you.”Bookmark here

“A surprise?”Bookmark here

Mitch stood completely still for a moment, his eyes burning with hatred.Bookmark here

“You’ll see,” he finally said before closing the door and locking it back up.Bookmark here

“You bastard,” Niles grumbled as he stood up from his cot. His bones popped and cracked when straightened himself up. “YOU BASTARD!”Bookmark here

Transitioning seamlessly from sadness to fury, he shouted loudly and threw himself against the metal door. The adrenaline in his bloodstream prevented him from feeling any pain at all as he did so.Bookmark here

“BANG!” The sound of his body colliding with the steel reverberated through the small concrete chamber.Bookmark here

“I’LL KILL YOU!” he yelled, particles of spit flying from his mouth. “I’LL KILL YOOOOOUUUU!”Bookmark here

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Part 7: Good CopBookmark here

Fabi was the next to visit him.Bookmark here

Niles was sitting cross-legged on the bed when he arrived, rubbing at his aching head with both of his hands.Bookmark here

“Where am I?” Niles asked immediately.Bookmark here

“The hotel,” Fabi said calmly. He had been carrying a small chair, which he ended up placing directly in the center of the room. “We made a special space in the basement just for you.”Bookmark here

Niles had suspected as much, but it was good to have his suspicions confirmed.Bookmark here

“I’m sure you know what I’m here for,” Fabi said, making himself comfortable (at least as much as he possibly could) on the tiny chair.Bookmark here

“You want me to tell you why I leaked the photo, right?”Bookmark here

Fabi nodded grimly. “That’s right, and we could do this the easy way or the hard way.”Bookmark here

Niles couldn’t help but laugh. This was a scene straight out of a cheesy police procedural.Bookmark here

“Let me guess,” he began. “You’re going to play good-cop-bad-cop with me. You come in first and call me all sorts of names while threatening to beat me up, then Kimura comes in with a snack and reassures me that everything will be alright as long as I spill the beans. Do I have that right?”Bookmark here

Fabi’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “You think I’m the bad cop here?”Bookmark here

Huh? What does he mean by that? Niles wondered.Bookmark here

“So what’s it gonna be?” Fabi asked. “We can keep you here as long as it takes.”Bookmark here

Niles simply stared in defiant silence.Bookmark here

“I thought so,” Fabi continued. “You’re gonna regret not coughing it up sooner rather than later. I can promise you that.Bookmark here

As Fabi eased himself back up, Niles leapt from his place on the cot and launched another punch straight at Fabi’s head. This time, however, Fabi was ready. He grabbed Niles’ fist and rammed his forehead into Niles’. The pounding headache Niles had immediately increased a hundred times over.Bookmark here

“GAAAAH!” He grasped desperately at his skull as it was filled with blinding white agony.Bookmark here

Fabi ignored his screams completely. “Kimura will be here within the hour,” he said as he made exit. “Make sure you’re ready for him.”Bookmark here

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Part 8: Bad CopBookmark here

Niles coughed. He hadn’t been given even a drop of water since he’d been imprisoned.Bookmark here

How long have I even been here? he wondered. Has it been an hour? Three hours? A day?Bookmark here

Regardless, his condition seemed to worsen with every passing moment. Not only could he barely move his arm, but his chest hurt every time he breathed.Bookmark here

Is there any way I can get out of this?Bookmark here

It didn’t seem to be the case. Even if he did manage to get out of the room, he wouldn’t be able to get very far without getting caught.Bookmark here

He stared up at the fluorescent light on the ceiling and thought about Enoch and his crew. It should almost be time to activate BlueBell and cleanse the world. If they actually went through with it, Niles hoped he could live to see the end result.Bookmark here

Our new world, he thought. Ours to build…Bookmark here

He was supposed to be the one to lead the chosen people to their paradise. It was his destiny. Instead, what did he actually preside over? A tiny concrete room?Bookmark here

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.Bookmark here

“CLANK!” The door opened once again and, just as Fabi had promised, Kimura peeked inside, a playful smile on his face.Bookmark here

“Ah, you’re awake,” Kimura said. “Good! We have some work to do together.” In his right hand, he carried a small leather briefcase. He set this down on top of the chair Fabi had left and carefully opened the twin metal latches on it. As he slowly opened the case up, Niles felt his heart drop into his gut.Bookmark here

You have to be kidding me…Bookmark here

Inside the case was a long pair of bronze-colored scissors, roughly a foot long and patched over with scratches, scuffs, and bits of rust. Although they looked old, the blades still seemed exceptionally sharp.Bookmark here

“Ah,” Kimura said to the scissors, his eyes shining. “My old friend. You remember me, right?” He picked them up and gave them a couple snaps.Bookmark here

This can’t be real, Niles thought, absolutely petrified. It’s not legal! You can’t treat prisoners like this!Bookmark here

To his horror, Kimura’s smile grew bigger and more sinister. His eyes also became wider and redder as he turned to glare at Niles. This was a side of Kimura that he had never seen before, and dearly wished he hadn’t.Bookmark here

“What are you going to do?” Niles asked, inching backwards as Kimura took a step towards him. “You can’t possibly be serious, right?”Bookmark here

Kimura laughed. It sounded distorted and too low, as if it were coming from an entirely different person (or even a different kind of creature entirely). Scissors clasped firmly in his left hand, he reached out and opened them up, showing Niles the sharp clean blades.Bookmark here

“You can end it at any time,” Kimura said, taking another step towards him. “Just confess, or you’ll end up like me.”Bookmark here

“N-no!” Still on the cot, Niles backed up into the corner, as far as he could possibly go in his position. “NO!”Bookmark here

“Yes!” The blades of the scissors inched closer to Niles’ arm. He felt the shock of something cold as one of them brushed up against his flesh. To his horror, that was all it took to draw blood. The red liquid trickled down onto the thin white sheets of the cot, creating vibrant stains in the fabric.Bookmark here

“OKAY!” Niles shouted, “Okay, I’ll tell you! Just please stoooooop!”Bookmark here

Kimura backed away and closed the blades of the scissors. His face seemed to revert back to normal instantly.Bookmark here

“Alright then,” he said. “Talk.”Bookmark here

Niles felt warm tears begin to spill all of the details. “I work for the Half Moon Church,” he confessed. “I installed the program on the computers so I could send the photo to their Virginia compound as part of project BlueBell.”Bookmark here

“BlueBell?”Bookmark here

Niles nodded and let out a small pitiful cough before continuing. “It uses a massive computer system. I don’t understand all of it, but it involves a botnet.Bookmark here

“A botnet?”Bookmark here

“They’ve been spreading a special virus around for years now. It lays dormant on the computers it infects until BlueBell is activated. Once that happens, they have remote control of computers across the entire country. It’s something they’ve been working on for years.”Bookmark here

Kimura tilted his head slightly. “And the photo?” he asked. “They plan on using it with that botnet?”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“When?”Bookmark here

“Midnight tonight. I made the call just before I was knocked unconscious.” He looked downward, unable to make eye contact out of shame.Bookmark here

“Midnight?” Kimura seemed panicked. He immediately shoved the scissors back into their case and flew out of the room in a mad dash, closing the door and locking it behind him.Bookmark here

“W-wait a minute!” Niles desperately called after him. “HEY! WAIT! CAN I AT LEAST GET A CUP OF WATER!?”Bookmark here

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Part 9: Thunder and LightningBookmark here

Standing outside of his compound, Enoch Winchester watched as the helicopter slowly approached in the dark night sky. He breathed deeply the crisp night air, and felt his body become reinvigorated.Bookmark here

It truly is a good night, he thought with a smile.Bookmark here

His team was currently hard at work making final preparations on BlueBell. If he could keep the federal agents occupied, they’d be finished within the hour.Bookmark here

Just in time too…Bookmark here

He reached up and pulled the black eyepatch off of his face, revealing the completely black eyeball underneath. It was finally time to unleash his true power.Bookmark here

He lifted his hands up towards the approaching copter, and dark clouds began to form in the sky. They swirled around at an unnatural speed, looking almost like the start of a tornado. The helicopter became unsteady, rocking back and forth in the furious sky.Bookmark here

“BOOM!” A bolt of lightning burst from the clouds and struck the top of the helicopter directly. Enoch watched with glee as the machine plummeted into the forest below.Bookmark here

They’ve been grounded! he thought gleefully. Good!Bookmark here

Out of his coat pocket, he produced a walkie talkie. He pressed the button, prompting a beep from the device.Bookmark here

“Jacob,” he said to the crew member on the other end. “Open up the garage door. It’s time to prepare the tank!”Bookmark here

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Part 10: 33 MinutesBookmark here

“We’ve got thirty-three minutes left,” Kimura said, a panicked expression on his now very pale face. “Once the clock strikes midnight, that botnet is going to display the photo on computers all across the country!”Bookmark here

The whole team in the hotel room went slack jawed in abject horror at this sudden development.Bookmark here

“A-are you serious?” Lazarus asked. He frantically scrambled to remove the phone from his pocket and began dialing someone. “There’s no way around it. We gotta get the country’s power grid shut down now. Otherwise a ton of people are going to die!”Bookmark here

“He’s right,” Agent Wolf chimed in. “I’ll get a hold of the president. Victoria can try the FBI as well.”Bookmark here

Fabi felt dizzy in the middle of all of this chaos. Just a few days ago, he was a normal small city detective investigating an alleged suicide. Now he was at the epicenter of a national crisis on a scale he had never imagined.Bookmark here

I can’t just sit here frozen, he thought. I need to do something as well.Bookmark here

Fabi took out his phone and dialed the only person he knew could do something about the situation.Bookmark here

“Sheriff,” he said immediately as Sheriff Zimmerman answered.Bookmark here

“Fabi?” the sheriff asked. He had obviously been sleeping, and his voice was still raspy and dry. “What’s going on?”Bookmark here

“I need you to call the city power plant as soon as possible to shut down the power grid.”Bookmark here

“Th-the whole thing?” the sheriff asked incredulously. “Why? What for?”Bookmark here

“I can’t explain, but we only have half an hour! It’s a matter of life and death! Please, I need you to do this!”Bookmark here

The sheriff considered it for a moment before replying.Bookmark here

“Mendez,” he finally said. “Do you know how insane that sounds?”Bookmark here

Fabi was at a loss, so he handed the phone over to Kimura, who took it instantly.Bookmark here

“Sheriff,” he said. “This is Inspector Shozo Kimura, working with the FBI and CIA. I hope you’re in good health.”Bookmark here

Sheriff Zimmerman was taken aback by this sudden turn of events.Bookmark here

“Uh… Yeah, I’m doing fine. You said the CIA?”Bookmark here

“Correct. There’s reason to believe that an attack on your city is imminent. We need the power grid shut down as quickly as possible. Can you do this for us?”Bookmark here

A stark silence hung in the air. Fabi felt his nerves burn with anxiety as he waited for the reply.Bookmark here

Sheriff Zimmerman sighed audibly. “Okay, okay. I’ll do it. But I need you guys to give me the rundown afterwards.”Bookmark here

“Of course, Sheriff,” Kimura replied. “We appreciate your cooperation on this matter.”Bookmark here

After Kimura hung up and gave the phone back, Fabi began dialing the sheriff of the next town as well. Sadly nobody answered this time.Bookmark here

After giving the call another try, he glanced back at the clock at the far end of the room. There were only ten minutes until midnight, and they were going to go by fast.Bookmark here

“Any luck?” Kimura asked Wolf.Bookmark here

The expression on her face was dark and grim. “They’re going to do it,” she said. “But it will likely take them at least ten minutes.”Bookmark here

Fabi’s gut churned at the news. He had to forcibly stop the bile from coming up into his throat.Bookmark here

“You mean…”Bookmark here

She nodded solemnly. “It will likely be too late.”Bookmark here

Feeling the room spin around him, Fabi turned to look at the clock once again. With each tick of the second-hand, a little more of him seemed to die inside.Bookmark here

No, he thought, his mind buzzing with nervous energy. This can’t be happening… It can’t be real…Bookmark here

Kimura closed his eyes, unable to watch the clock any longer. “Dear god,” he muttered. “We’ve failed.”Bookmark here

Real Aire
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