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~:: Endgame ::~
Chapter VII

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If silence is golden, then the ability to move not only silently but without being seen is truly priceless.

The aftershocks having died down, Sheken was happy to find she'd only been grounded for a month for having snuck out and gone to the club against her mother's orders. A month wasn't such a very long time, she reasoned, as she contented herself with spending her time wrapped in reading the romance novels she was so fond of.

Her mother and Keres were once again planning a weekend away, having installed security bars on the windows to Sheken's room and a proximity alarm on her door, so that Zakai might be alerted if she were to try a similar escapade this time.

It was a cool, quiet night. Zakai had the windows to the den open and a soft breeze wafted across the room. Looking up from the book he'd been reading, he noticed his glass of milk was empty again. Shaking his head, he picked it up and headed towards the kitchen.

He didn't see the screen slip from its track and slide out onto the balcony. Before he had poured his milk, wiped up the spillage that had sloshed over the rim of the overfilled glass, and wrung out the rag and hung it to dry, the screen had been carefully replaced.

As the quiet Peacebringer returned to his studies, a silent figure crept unseen down the hallway to his sister's room and slowly grasped the handle to her door. He jumped back and raced down the darkened hallway to hide in the shadows as the alarm sounded it's shrill warning.

Zakai jumped up from the sofa and rushed from the den to the source of the piercing wail. He quickly tapped in his access code to silence the ear-splitting scream as his sister opened the door with a look of shock on her face.

"What's going on?"

He gave her a suspicious glare. "You tell me, Sheken."

She gave him a perturbed glare. "I SWEAR! I was laying on the bed reading. I hadn't moved since I went to the bathroom after chapter three and I am on chapter twenty. I went NO WHERE NEAR that damn door."

He rolled his eyes at her dramatic histrionics and shook his head. "Well you tell me what set off that alarm, then?"

"I don't have a clue. But I know I wasn't anywhere near the door."

Sighing, he nodded, "Okay, perhaps it was just a glitch. Get away from the door and I will reset it."

With a roll of her eyes, she returned to sprawl across the bed and immerse herself in the fantasy world of the book her nose was promptly buried in.

Softly, he closed the door and tugged at the handle to make sure it closed tightly. Turning to the newly installed keypad, he once again entered his pass code. The lights blinked in sequence to indicate the proximity field was clear and that the alarm was now armed and ready to do its job.

With a deep sigh he walked back to the den.

Hidden in the dark shadows at the end of the hallway, the assassin had a plan. He waited for several minutes to give them both a chance to become absorbed in their tasks. He crept up to the door and once again grasped the doorknob. Once again the shrill screech of the alarm split the peaceful silence.

After disabling the alarm a second time, Zakai opened the door and looked around the room. Sheken was still on her bed, albeit in a sitting position after having been startled from her reverie a second time.

"See? I haven't even gotten off the bed!"

He nodded. "The alarm is only supposed to be triggered by motion within a three foot radius inside the door. You didn't see or hear anything?"

"Besides that infernal device screaming? Just my radio." She motioned to the boom box sitting on her nightstand, softly playing her favorite CD in an endless loop.

He looked carefully around the inside of the room and found nothing. Frustrated, he shook his head. "I don't know what is causing it. I am going to go see if I can find the manual. I think dad put it in the filing cabinet next to the desk in the den after he installed it. That is usually where he puts such things. I will return in a few moments."

Once again, he closed the door, made sure that it had latched, and tapped in the code. He trotted back to the den, and opened the filing cabinet. Sure enough, the instruction manual was in the proper folder. Just as he opened it and began to read, the screeching trill once again flooded the apartment.

Running back to the doorway, he disabled the alarm and flung open the door. "If this keeps up, the neighbors will be calling the apartment manager." He dropped onto the bed beside his sister. He was a fast reader, but could find nothing in the manual that applied to their situation. He checked all the connections, replaced the backup battery, and checked the area for anything that might move slightly in a breeze. Assured that he'd taken care of the problem, he once again closed the door and armed the system.

He hadn't even gotten to the end of the hallway when the shrill scream once again reverberated throughout the entire apartment. He rushed to the keypad and silenced it one final time.

"Okay, I do not know what is wrong, but the only recourse here is to shut this off and hope dad can figure out what the problem is when he gets home. I do not understand this. It worked so well earlier." He scratched his head in between his horns with a puzzled scowl. "But this means I am going to have to trust you to stay in your room."

Sheken looked up from her book. "Oh you can trust me, alright. I am already grounded for a month. And after what happened the last time..." She shuddered as she thought of how her last adventure might have turned out. "You know, if it hadn't been for the kindness of that ..." She couldn't bring herself to call him a villain so she merely shrugged and looked up to meet her brother's eyes. "Believe me, I learned my lesson."

As he gazed into the crystal blue of her eyes, he knew she was telling the truth. "Okay, just leave the door shut and stay in your room. Call me if you get hungry or need anything."

She smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Zak. I appreciate that." With a wave she tucked her nose back into her book.

He quietly shut the door and made his way back to the den, as an uneasy feeling settled over him. He dismissed it as being overly suspicious of his sister's antics. Shrugging it off, he returned to his studies. Outside the gentle breeze turned into a gusty gale.

The clever assassin had managed to slip into the room unseen during the commotion. He waited for the young man to leave, and silently slipped next to the little redhead who remained blissfully unaware of his presence.

Standing perfectly still, he remained completely hidden as he watched her poring over the small book clasped tightly in her dainty hands. He drew one deep, silent breath, and with a smooth motion, brought the handle of his katana to bear for a second time at the base of her skull. She never knew what hit her.

Now his only problem was going to be how to retrace his steps and exit the apartment without the boy catching him. He didn't want this assignment to get any messier than it was already.

Darting out of the room, he traced his steps down the hall in the opposite direction, and followed the flight of stairs up to the second floor. Turning down the hallway, opened a door to find a large room with a massive canopy bed. Just beyond the bed was a set of French doors leading out to the balcony. Slipping back down the steps he hoisted the unconscious girl over his shoulder and carried her out through the French doors. Following the balcony around, he found a door leading to a common stairwell. Shifting her dead weight, he stepped inside and descended to the ground level. Silently he slipped out the maintenance doors behind the stairs. In the darkness of the alleyway, he let out a muffled grunt as he shifted her onto his other shoulder, and slowly crept towards the bridge over the small inlet where a small submarine waited just below the surface of the water.

The tiny empath felt a chill course through her. Turning to her lover, she met his gaze with a wide-eyed look of panic. "Something is wrong. We have to get back."

"Are you sure, sweets?" he asked gently.

She nodded emphatically.

"Okay, Dawl," he answered. "I learned a long time ago that your instincts are rarely wrong. Sheken again?"

"I am not sure. I will know when we get closer. But if I had to guess..." her voice trailed.

He dropped her down the hatch into the arms of the grizzled old captain and followed them into the belly of the sub. They carried her to the small berth. He pulled a roll of duct tape from the pocket of his coat. First he bound her hands behind her back. He then bound her feet, and as an afterthought, wrapped the tape over her mouth so that any screams would be muffled if she were to somehow come to before he got her home. As a further measure to insure that this didn't happen, he procured a small syringe from his pocket. One small jab and he was certain she'd sleep until sometime the next day.

The sick feeling once again settled in his gut as he watched her sides heave and fall with each breath. In all the years he spent honing his skills as an assassin, he developed an innate ability to remain detached from his work. This particular job was somehow different. He swallowed hard and smeared a clammy hand across his sweat-drenched forehead.

"Good lookin' piece of filly, you have there, mate," the old captain leered as the eerie light of the darkened quarters cast macabre shadows across his gnarled visage. "I'm bettin' someone's gonna be willin' to fork over a regular king's ransom for that one."

Marcus closed his eyes and simply nodded. He paid the man well for his transportation services and did not feel he owed him anything beyond that. Not even an explanation.

By the time they'd arrived back at the dock in Cap Au Diable, his head was throbbing. He couldn't decide whether to blame the lack of oxygen in the stale air of the submarine or the stress over his present predicament. The captain and one of his hands were more than eager to manhandle the little redhead under the guise of helping him to place her in the back of the panel truck that awaited them. He pulled the small pouch of ancient coinage from a pocket in his coat and paid the captain the remainder of his fee for the stealthy passage in and out of Paragon City.

The salty air was thick and humid even in the middle of the pitch-black night. He bent over the still form of the unconscious girl. Assured that she was still securely bound, he slid behind the wheel and pointed the truck to the southeast, in the direction of Port Oakes.

He finally pulled into the darkened alley as dawn began to creep over the horizon. Shouldering her limp form, he quietly let himself in to his abode and unceremoniously dumped her onto the sofa.

As her body landed on the soft cushions, she let out a muffled moan. He studied her intently. He'd loaded her up with enough tranquilizer to knock out a small horse, but for a moment she appeared to be coming to. He wondered if he should chance a second dose, but given her small size he could not be certain she'd survive it. Shaking his head, he decided to adopt a wait and see attitude. After all, she remained tightly trussed. Even if she did try to resist, he had an ace up his sleeve.

To Chapter VIII