Twilight fulfilled, p.21
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       Twilight Fulfilled, p.21

         Part #18 of Wings in the Night series by Maggie Shayne
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Chapter 21


  "Well, now, Utanapishtim, it seems your lady friend has abandoned you. "

  Utana tugged on the chains that held him, but they only rattled in response. More than an hour had passed since Brigit had left his side-maybe for the final time. He had not heard from her and had no clue what might be happening. But had the plan gone well, she would have informed him by now.

  And he feared for her, for all of them. Night had fallen. And it was on this night, he knew, that Nashmun would set his evil plan into motion.

  "Still weak, I see," his former vizier said.

  "Too weak to do that which you intend to force me to do. You have defeated yourself in this battle, Nashmun. I cannot use my power to destroy the vahmpeers, no matter what you do to force me. "

  "Not yet. But as soon as the antidote kicks in, you'll be fine. " Nashmun walked up to him, driving another needle into his flank.

  Big mistake, moving that close to his right hand, Utana thought. He grabbed Nashmun by his throat, lifting the scar-faced one off his feet into the air. "I will kill you here and now, and end this war. "

  Nashmun tried to speak, but only strangled grunts emerged. He clawed at Utana's hand on his neck, kicked his feet wildly in the air, and finally pointed urgently toward the ceiling up above and those sloping glass panels through which one could not see.

  Before Utana's eyes, they began to move.

  Startled, he watched as barriers that seemed to be contained within the glass itself slid away, rendering the skylights transparent at last. And beyond those windows Utana saw horror.

  The yard behind the hospital, and the chain-link fence that surrounded it, were revealed to him. But the fence itself was barely visible. There were people, a hundred or more people, affixed to that fence. Some at ground level, some up higher. They were stacked two and three high, somehow bound to the fence's metallic links. And directly ahead, bound spread eagle to the fence, was his beloved Brigit.

  "Release me," Nashmun rasped.

  Utana relaxed his grip on Nashmun's throat, allowing him to breathe, but he did not let him go.

  He stared, unable to take his eyes from Brigit. She was dressed in the costume in which she'd danced for him. Her hair was loose, her moonlight curls moving in the wind. Behind her, the sun had set. Beyond the distant blue mountains on the horizon, only a thin curve of fiery orange remained against the deepening sky. Nashmun spoke into the device attached to his wrist.

  And suddenly, all the people affixed to the fence jerked like fish on a pike. Sparks showered around them, and Utana knew they were being jolted with electricity. Brigit's face pulled into a grimace of torment, and her scream of agony joined a chorus of them.

  Then, as Nashmun moved his hand again, the torture stopped. And the people-the Chosens-went lax. Many of them were crying, many more shouting questions, demanding to be released.

  Utana let go of Nashmun, who fell to the floor, gasping a few breaths and rubbing his neck with one hand.

  "I will kill you if you harm her again," Utana said.

  "I will kill her," the scar-faced betrayer promised, "unless you do exactly what I tell you from now on. " He got to his feet, brushed himself off. "I'd rather keep her for research, but it's worth more to me to be rid of the vampire scourge. Now, here's what going down. In a little while-moments from now-it will be full dark. As soon as it is, we're going to jolt the hell out of those people out there. "

  Utana bared his teeth in anguish. "There is no need to torture them further. They are innocents!" he shouted.

  "Yes, in fact it is necessary. You see, the vampires will hear their cries, feel their pain and they will come here to save them. We've rigged the bonds so that the Undead will have to get inside the perimeter in order to set their precious Chosen kinfolk free. So they'll all be in there, all contained in one spot. When I give you the signal, you will blast them with that death ray of yours and they will all die. "

  Shaking his head fiercely, Utana said, "I cannot do what you ask, even if I wish it. You have drugged away my powers. "

  "That injection I just gave you was the antidote. "

  "I do not know antidote," Utana muttered in misery.

  "Your powers have been restored, Utana," Nashmun explained. "But if you try to use them on me, we'll electrocute your lady over and over and over again. We won't stop until her hair catches fire and her eyeballs explode. It will be the most unbearable pain you can imagine. You will do as I say, Utana. Or they will suffer untold anguish. All of them. And your Brigit most of all. "

  Utana stared at Brigit. He didn't think she could see him, but he knew she would hear his thoughts.

  My love, I am sorry. I am so sorry, I have failed you.

  Her head came up straight, eyes searching the night for him. She looked toward him but not at him.

  "Turn on the lights!" Nashmun shouted.

  From somewhere out of sight, in another part of the room, one of his henchmen threw a switch, and the basement-the dungeon-was flooded with light. For a moment Brigit was invisible to Utana, but he knew she could see him.

  I know what he's doing, Utana, but you cannot listen to him! Don't you do what says, my love. Don't you dare hurt my people to save me. Do you hear me? Don't do it, Utana!

  Utana lowered his head, closed his eyes. How can I bear to watch you suffer?

  It doesn't fucking matter how much I suffer! I'm immortal. I'll heal. If I die, my brother will bring me back. It will be fine.

  "He won't do it, though," Nashmun said.

  Stunned, Utana looked at him, his eyes flying wide in surprise.

  "I've been working with their kind for a while now. You pick up a few things. " Nashmun tapped his own forehead. "I can hear their thoughts. They're faint, garbled sometimes, but mostly I can piece them together. Her brother isn't going to save her. You see, not only has he turned his back on her-because of you, I might add-but even if he changes his mind, it won't matter. We'll take them both out, and if they revive-which we think they will, being immortal-they'll wake to find themselves entombed alive. So immortal or not, they're going to be out of commission. Imprisoned. Buried alive. "


  "Yes, yes, yes. Buried alive. Just like you were, Utana. "

  The thought of Brigit suffering the anguish that had driven him to madness made Utana's heart bleed within him. "You do not need to harm them. You do not need to do any of this, Nashmun. "

  "No, I don't have to. But I'm going to. Unless you kill all the vampires. You take those bloodthirsty animals out for me, Utana, and I will let your woman go. And her brother, too. Then the three of you can go off together and live happily ever after. "

  Happily ever after. The words were the very ones Brigit had used. Such a beautiful saying-but befouled by coming from this evil man's lying lips.

  "What do you say?"

  Utana! Brigit was shouting at him mentally. Utana, don't do it! I'll never forgive you if you do it!

  Know that I love you, Brigit. I love you as I have loved none before.

  Baby, please, hold out. Don't do this. We'll get out of this somehow.

  He's reading our thoughts, my lo-

  "That's enough!" Nashmun nodded at his henchman, and the lights went out. Utana could once again see Brigit, but she could no longer see him. "Anymore communication and I jolt her. Understand?"

  "You would rob me of even the chance to say goodbye?"

  "You do what I say and you won't have to say goodbye. " Nash looked toward the spot where the last rays of the sun sank at last below the horizon.

  "Hit them again!" Nash shouted.

  Immediately electricity surged through the fence, burning and jolting them all.

  Utana closed his eyes, unable to watch the agony, but feeling it in every cell of his body. "I'll do it," he muttered. "Please, please, no more torture. Let them be. I'll do as you ask. "

  "Good. That's very good, Utana.
Of course, we're going to have to give them another jolt, maybe two, to ensure the vampires come running to the rescue. But because you've agreed, I'll make them milder and shorter. They would be grateful to you if they knew. "

  Utana hung his head, his tears scalding his skin. He could not bear to see Brigit suffer. And there was only one way to ensure it would stop. Only one way.

  Brigit's entire body was snapping with the remnants of the electric current that had been sent blazing through her when suddenly she heard Utana's voice in her head as clearly as if he were speaking aloud. As she sought him, lights came on in the angled skylights above the basement, revealing Utana beyond them, still chained to that damned wall. He was directly opposite her, and she knew they were going to make him watch her suffer until he did what they said.

  Damn that Gravenham-Bail and the DPI.

  She talked, pled, cajoled, but in the end, Utana went silent, and she doubted it was by choice. He'd managed to warn her that Nash could hear her thoughts, and that was good to know, though it made for a terrible situation.

  Then the lights inside went out and she couldn't see him anymore.

  I love you, Utanapishtim. Ziasudra. And if I die tonight, my only regret will be that we didn't have more time together. And if I die a thousand years from now, my only regret will be exactly the same. I love you. I love you. I love you.


  Brigit went stiff, sensing a presence behind her, just outside the fence. And then feeling a rush of recognition. "J. W. ," she whispered. "Oh, thank God, thank God. "

  "Easy. " Reaching up a hand, he thrust his fingers through the links of the chain, weaving them through hers. "I would have left when you did, sis, but I thought I could talk sense into the others. "

  "And did you?"

  "Of course I did. You know Rhiannon's temper. She would have come around if you'd given her a little more time. Everyone's on their way right behind me, waiting for me to find out what we should do next. But, listen, I want you to know, I would have come either way. Lucy and our parents, too. "

  "Would you?" she asked, her heart breaking.

  "You're my sister. I'm on your side, even if you fall for the Devil himself. "

  Tears streaming, relief rushing through her, she nodded very slightly. "Gravenham-Bail can hear our thoughts. "

  "I gathered as much from the conversation I just overheard. That's why I'm whispering. Did Utana give you back your power? Can you blast a hole through the fence? Break the current?"

  "They've got me goggled. I can't use my power. But you can. "

  "What do you mean?"

  "J. W. , our powers are the same. Mine and yours. Utana says they're just opposite aspects of the same force. I've always had the ability to heal. And you to destroy. "

  "Holy shit," he marveled, but only momentarily. "Then I'll blast it myself. "

  "No! Listen to me, if they know you're here, they'll force Utana to kill you all, and he might very well do it. He loves me so much. . . . " Her whispers dissolved into sobs then.

  "I know," J. W. whispered. "I know, Bridge, I heard the entire thing. And I'm sorry. I. . . the guy really does love you. I was wrong about him. But I'm no more able to watch you suffer than he is. "

  "You need to wait-there's something else you have to do first. There are still people inside. Get them out. If we can't save anyone else, at least we can save them. "


  "A woman named Roxy-she's the one who's been working from the inside to give the vampires information. The DPI must have found out what she was doing. And then there's a very special little girl, and her mother. You have to get them out of there alive, J. W. I promised. "

  "I'll get them. "

  "All hell's going to break loose here soon. You have to do it now. "

  "I don't want to leave you. "

  "J. W. , she's a scared little girl. Seven years old. Named Melinda. They're on the fourth floor, all the way to the right down the corridor behind the nurses' station. Get them. Please. " She nodded toward the skylights. "I'm scared to death that I know what Utana's going to do. Though I pray I'm wrong. You may only have minutes to get them out of there. "

  "All right. All right. "

  "Go, James. Now!"

  And then he was gone.

  Alone again, Brigit stared toward the now black glass beyond which her love, her soul mate, was being held. And she continued to send her thoughts to him, regardless of whether Gravenham-Bail could hear or not.

  Don't hurt the one I love most, Utana. If you love me, you won't do the horrible thing you're thinking of. I'd rather die myself than have that happen. I can take pain. I can handle torture. But I cannot handle losing you-no more than I could stand to lose my family. I love you. I'll love you no matter what, but I'm begging you-

  She went rigid as another bolt of electricity blazed through her body. A shower of sparks rained from the fence around her, and she screamed.

  And then there was a burst of static, followed by a voice coming from loudspeakers mounted on top of the building. Gravenham-Bail's voice. "No more communication, Brigit. Next time, I'm going to have my men hose you down first. Believe me, it will intensify the, uh. . . sensations. "

  Fuck you, she thought viciously. I can handle anything you can dish out, and when it's over, I'm going to make you suffer. And I'm going to make your friends and your family suffer, and I'm going to make everyone you care about suf- "Aieeee!"

  She forced herself to go silent in the wake of the latest jolt, not wanting her pain to distract her brother from his mission.

  And then the others began to make themselves known to her. The vampires were near and drawing closer, enraged by what was being done to her, and to the others bound to the fence around her. Whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen soon-within seconds-and there wasn't a damn thing she could do about it.

  Utana could not communicate openly with Brigit, nor with any of the race he'd created. But he could feel them. He opened his mind to them, to all of them, allowing their essences to fill him. He became aware of James, Brigit's beloved brother, entering the hospital building. Why, he didn't know, though he could tell that James was looking for something-someone. Utana also felt the approach of the vahmpeers. They were near. Very near. Within moments, he knew, those heroic creatures would be leaping the electrified barricade in order to save the Chosen, to save their beloved Brigit.

  And he would be ordered to kill them. If he so much as hesitated, Brigit would suffer the wrath of Nashmun, and even more electricity would surge through her already pain-racked body. And he knew she could not withstand much more.

  She hung limply now, her head down; that most recent blast had nearly done her in. Then, beyond the fence, Utana glimpsed motion.

  The vahmpeers had arrived.

  He closed his eyes, drew up the power within him, and let it build and build until it was humming in his head, vibrating throughout his entire body. He was barely able to contain it. Desperately, he sent one last thought to James.

  It wasn't a thought Nashmun would be likely to interpret correctly. It was a number.


  "The vampires are leaping over the fence!" Nashmun shouted. "It's working. Just a few more seconds, Utana. On my signal. Hold. . . Hold. . . "


  "May the Anunaki show me mercy," Utana said in Sumerian.


  "Keep holding," Nashmun ordered.


  "I will do as you say," Utana said softly.


  Utana continued drawing up the power. It rose from the ground beneath him, a glowing green light.


  "Hold it, hold it. . . "


  The power flowed down from the heavens, a golden yellow beam.

  Nashmun lifted a hand. "On my word. . . "


  "Wait for it. . . . "
br />   Two.

  Get out of the building, James of the Vahmpeers. Do it now!

  Nashmun's eyes went wide and shot to Utana's. "What the hell. . . ?"


  Utana shifted his gaze, releasing the power from his eyes, and the beam burst forth with more strength than it had ever done before. The light blazed with the blinding flash of a sustained bolt of lightning. But it didn't shoot through the glass into the crowd of vahmpeers outside, who were rapidly freeing the Chosens from their fence of torture and death.

  The beam flashed across the basement instead-to the propane tanks that lined the farthest wall.

  James had left his sister and called up the vampire side of himself even as he ran straight for the building. As he vamped up, he poured on a burst of speed and jumped from the ground to the fire escape. Dashing up it, he knew he was moving almost too fast for human eyes to detect. And even if they could, everyone in Gravenham-Bail's command was too busy watching events unfold in the enclosed backyard to notice him.

  He sped, leaping from level to level at top speed, arriving on the fourth floor in mere seconds and smashing out a window to get inside.

  One quick glance showed him the nurses' station and the corridor he needed, and he went lunging down it to the final door on the right. He didn't even need Brigit's directions. He felt the pure song of the little girl's energy the moment he entered the building.

  Without pause, he kicked the door open, and then he was inside, looking at three very startled females. That was about the time he heard, in his head, very loudly, Utana's voice, as the Ancient and Mighty One began what James quickly realized was a countdown, and he started to count for himself.

  "I'm here to get you out!" J. W. shouted at them. "Come with me," he said.

  The little girl was the first on her feet, the other two close behind, and James led the way down the stairs. He was down to the second-floor landing, with the little girl riding piggyback and clinging to his neck when his mental countdown got too low for comfort.

  "Oh, hell. " He had an inkling, and it wasn't a good one. Quickly James darted along the second-floor corridor, running. "This way-fast!" he shouted.

  The women followed. He raced into the first room he saw and kicked the window. Safety glass. Dammit!

  In his mind he heard Utana shouting, Get out of the building, James of the Vahmpeers. Do it now!

  James called up the healing power, but this time he directed it with the intent to destroy, and aimed it at the glass in the window. A blast of light emerged from his eyes, and then the window was gone, annihilated. Without hesitation, he grabbed the two women and dragged them through the window.


  An arm around each woman, the little girl still clinging to his neck, James dove through the open window, even while hearing the deafening explosions that began below and then surged upward.

  As they fell to the ground, landing in a tangle in the backyard, amid the vampires and the now freed captives, the explosion rocketed upward, blasting through the roof straight up into the night sky, briefly igniting the darkness, before it seemed to be sucked back in as the building imploded, collapsing in on itself.

  James hustled his little group to their feet, running for the far end of the lawn as the building fell. He blasted through the fence, clearing the way, and everyone ran for cover.

  Everyone except Brigit, who, freed by her family, fell to her knees on the grassy lawn and released an anguished cry in the shape of Utana's name.

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