Also, I have plans to add at least two more zanpakuto wielders into the story (I'm tweaking a couple of old characters a bit to make room for some new ones) and I was thinking of doing another Custom Character Contest like I did the back during the story's original run. However, I need to know there is interest before I commit, so if you would like to participate in something like that, please either leave a comment or pm me.
Chapter Four: Cat and Mouse
“So what’s our next move?” Carrie panted when she and her two companions had put enough distance between themselves and her house. She had been reluctant to leave her mother, especially since Seth and Jake were worried that there might be more people after them, but the two didn’t want to have to deal with the police. Seth was determined to figure this out on his own, and Carrie didn’t want to be without his protection. She still wasn’t entirely sure what his strange sword was, despite his quick explanation back at the house, but she had a feeling it was her best chance of staying alive.
“I think we should go a check on Eva,” Seth said. “They might send someone after her.”
“Do you really think so?” Carrie asked anxiously. Seth nodded grimly.
“I doubt that this mysterious girl just meant to injure her. By all rights, she should be dead, but she got lucky and was found soon after it happened. Plus, chances are she saw her attacker, or at least something that would help us find whoever it is that’s orchestrating all of this. If we want answers, Eva’s our best hope.”
“If you say so…”
The three set out again, this time with a more concrete destination in mind. Luckily their mad dash had taken them in the direction of the hospital, and it wouldn’t take them too much longer to get there. Seth led, striding confidently onwards, determined to put an end to the whole ordeal.All around them, people went about their normal business, unaware that anything was amiss.
After a time, Carrie started to fall behind a little, fearful of what they might find at the hospital. What if they showed up and Andrew’s buddies, whoever they may be, were waiting for them? What if they were too late, and Eva was dead when they arrived? Would these two really be enough to protect her? Suddenly, Jake fell into line beside her.
“How are you holding up?” he asked. She shook her head, scared that if she talked about her feelings, she’d break down in tears. Seeing her distress, he continued, “Yeah, it’s a bit much, isn’t it? Two weeks ago, I thought zanpakuto were completely fictional, and now…”
Carrie snorted. “That’s nothing. Twenty minutes I didn’t even know what a zanpak-whatever was. Now all of sudden I’m putting my life in the hands of two strangers (no offense), one of whom can pull a sword out of thin air and control darkness. Hell, in ninety percent of the stories he’d be the bad guy.” She glanced ahead to see if he had heard, but apparently he was too far away.
“I guess you should be glad you’re in the ten percent then, huh?” Jake said, smirking. Carrie snorted, but a hint of smile played on her lips. “Seriously, if there’s anyone that can get you through this, it’s Seth. He’s still pretty new to this as well, but that won’t stop him from doing whatever it takes to keep you safe.”
“And what about you? Will you protect me?” she asked. As she said it, her hand brushed against his, and she recoiled slightly, blushing. For some reason, she felt a connection with this boy she hardly knew. And a freshman, no less! What would Eva have to say about that, she wondered?
“Y-yeah, of course,” he stammered. “I, uh, I won’t let anything happen to you! I promise!”
“Aw, how cute,” came a voice from behind them. Carrie and Jake both whirled around to find themselves faced with five guys. Each carried a weapon of some sort, a baseball bat, a crow bar, a tire iron. The leader had a wicked smile on his face and was smacking his bat into his palm. Carrie cast a glance over her shoulder to see where Seth was, but he had apparently turned a corner, because he was nowhere in sight.
“Damien, what are you doing here? You should be in school! All of you should!” Carrie exclaimed.
“Eh, there’s plenty of time for school, but our princess has ordered us to hunt you down. Most of us went straight to the hospital, but I thought that I could catch up to you before that, and it looks like I was right.”
“H-how did you sneak up on us like that? I should have been able to hear you…” Jake said.
“Don’t worry freshie, you aren’t the first guy to ever be distracted by a pretty face. Or should I say pretty voice, in your case.” Jake clenched his fists.
“Picking on me for my disability, huh? How original.”
“Hit ‘em where it hurts, that’s my motto. Now, if you’d kindly come with us, I’ve got a kiss a to earn.”
“A kiss? You’re doing all this for a kiss?!” Jake yelled. “What the hell has gotten into all you bastards?!” Damien’s smile widened.
“Once we take you in freshie it’ll all make sense, I promise.” Damien advanced a step, and his entourage fanned out behind him.
“Carrie, go and find Seth and get to the hospital. You guys need to get there as soon as possible to save Eva.”
“Just go already! I said I’m gonna protect you, and as such there’s no way I’m letting these creeps get their hands on you!”
“Fine!” she yelled, turning to run. “But you better not die. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if you lost your life my sake.”
“Don’t worry,” Jake said, grinning. “These guys have got nothing on me.”
It took Seth several minutes of walking to realize that Carrie and Jake were no longer with him. He was so lost in his own thoughts that he hadn’t even noticed. He looked all around, but they were nowhere to be seen. He was about to call their names when Carrie came dashing around the corner. She sprinted up to him and shakily related all that had just happened.
When she was finished, Seth thought for a minute, then said, “If Jake wants us to go on ahead, then that’s what we should do.”
“What are you talking about? Jake needs our help!” Carrie shouted.
“True, but so does Eva, and her chances of surviving are far less than Jake’s if these guys catch up to her. Jake is a competent fighter, so even if he’s outnumbered, he’s got a chance. Right now, Eva has to be our priority.”
“I guess you’re right…” Carrie begrudgingly admitted. “I wasn’t thinking clearly.”
“It’s fine, but we should get going. We may not have much time.” Carrie nodded her assent, and the two took off running towards the hospital.
What they found when they arrived was not quite what they wanted. Loitering around outside the front door was another group of guys armed to the teeth with makeshift weapons. The adults going into and out of the hospital gave them a wide berth; they could sense that these guys meant business. They didn’t know what that business might be, but they sure as heck didn’t want to find out. When Seth spotted them, he grabbed Carrie and ducked behind some nearby bushes.
“Oh no,” Carrie groaned. “They beat us here.”
“Maybe so,” Seth reasoned. “but it looks like they’re more concerned with guarding the entrance than with finishing off Carrie.”
“For all you know they sent someone inside already,” Carrie countered.
“If they’d done that, I doubt they’d stick around to menace all the passerby. That’d create a heck of a lot of witnesses and immediately cast suspicion on them. If these guys are under someone’s control, it would make a lot more sense to only sacrifice one goon to take Eva out, not six. No, these guys are here for us.”
“So how are we going to get in? Should we search for another entrance?”
“Wait,” Seth said, holding up his hand. Then, pointing to the door: “Looks like we don’t have to. Those security guards should solve our problem for us.” Carrie looked, and sure enough, three security guards were exiting the building and approaching the group of guys, who immediately turned their attention to the guards.
“Now’s our chance,” Seth whispered. He popped out from behind the bushes, followed closely by Carrie. “Don’t even look their way,” Seth advised. “Just act normal and we should be okay.”
“Right,” Carrie said, grabbing him by the arm and pretending to laugh at something he said. Seth was surprised, but managed to play along well enough, sliding his arm out from hers and wrapping it around her, pulling her close as much in a gesture of protection as to keep up the ruse. Despite his own advice, Seth couldn’t help but glance at the guys as he passed by. To his dismay, he locked eyes with one and saw a look of surprise and recognition pass across his face, followed quickly by one of determination. He started to step forward to come after them, but one of the security guards grabbed him roughly by the arm and pushed him back.
As the guards continued to push the boys back in an attempt to usher them off the premises, Seth and Carrie entered the hospital and approached the front desk. After a brief exchange with the receptionist to ascertain the location of Eva’s room, they headed off to the elevators. Once inside, they breathed a sigh of relief. For now, at least, the guards were managing to keep their pursuers at bay.
“We likely don’t have much time,” Seth said. “So we need to get in and out as fast as possible. Maybe warn someone that Eva might be in danger.”
When the elevator doors opened, Seth and Carrie walked briskly towards the ward that Eva was being kept in. Upon arriving, the approached the nurse’s station and asked the young blond nurse who manned it to see Eva, trying not to let the stress of the day show on their faces, and hoping that if it did it would only be seen as worry for their injured friend.
“You’re welcome to visit, but I don’t know how coherent she’ll be. She’s on a lot of painkillers, you see. I’m sure it would do her some good to see some friendly faces though,” the nurse, whose nametag read Eliza, explained, smiling gently as she led them over to the sliding glass door that led into Eva’s room. Seth and Carrie thanked her, then slipped quietly into the room.
Hesitantly, Carrie approached the bed where friend lay, wrapped in bandages from head to toe. Eva’s eyes were open, but unfocused. As Carrie neared, they slowly drifted over to rest on her. Carrie forced herself to smile, even as tears welled up in her eyes. She took a seat next the bed and wrapped Eva’s hand in both of hers.
“Hi Eva, it’s Carrie,” she said softly.
“Carrie?” Eva asked. Her voice sounded as though her mouth were full of cotton. “Carrie… My friend!” she exclaimed, giving what Seth imagined was a smile but under the circumstances seemed akin to a grimace.
“Yeah Eva, that’s right, it’s me, it’s your best friend,” Carrie said, wiping away tears. “Listen, I need to ask you some questions about the attack.” Immediately, Eva’s eyes filled with panic, and she tried to jerk her hand away from Carrie. “Eva, Eva, honey, it’s okay, you’re in a safe place. Whoever did this can’t hurt you anymore.”
“No, no, no,” Eva moaned, beginning to thrash. The monitors she was hooked up to started to crazy, and Carrie was forced to let go of her and back away as she began to convulse. Doctors and nurses rushed into the room, and Carrie dashed past them, her hand over mouth to stifle her sobs. Seth watched in horror as the doctors tried to stabilize Eva until Eliza the nurse grabbed him by the arm and ushered him out. Outside the room, she whirled him around to face her and asked, “What did you do?”
“We just- We just wanted to know about the night it happened. We think the person who attacked her is after Carrie as well.”
“If that’s true then why didn’t you just go to the police? This is their job, not yours. What you did was very irresponsible.”
“I know that now, but… we don’t know who we can trust. People aren’t acting like themselves today. We don’t know what’s going on, or if the police would even be able to help, so we took matters into our own hands. I know it was stupid, but it felt like our only option. I’m sorry.”
Something about Seth’s statement must have rung true to the nurse, because her gaze softened. “Listen, I understand that you were only trying to help, but Eva’s mental state is very fragile right now. There’s nothing she can tell you about that night. Although…”
Seth glanced up sharply. “What is it?”
“When she was brought in, she was completely delirious. She kept saying something about flying hearts. I don’t know if it’s relevant to you, but if it can help you in any way…”
“You know what, I think it does help. Things are starting to make a little more sense to me now. Thank you. I’m sorry for Eva.”
“It’s okay, you didn’t know what you were doing. Next time though, maybe leave it to the authorities, okay?”
Seth started to voice his assent, but was interrupted by a new voice. “I agree Miss. This is work that should be left to us.”
The nurse turned around to find a police officer standing behind her, holding his badge. “I’m officer Michael Tremble. I’m gonna have to take these two into custody.”
“For what?!” Carrie exclaimed, returning from the nearby bathroom having regained her composure somewhat.
“For your own protection, of course. We got a call telling us you might be in danger, so I came here to collect you,” Officer Tremble said, flashing them a disarming smile.
This statement immediately set both Seth and Carrie on edge. Of course, it wasn’t inconceivable to think that Carrie’s mother had awoken and called the cops, but she wouldn’t have known where they were headed. The only person who knew that was Jake, but he, like Seth, had been against going to the cops with this. That left only one possibility, and it wasn’t one Seth liked.
“Tell me, Officer, how did you know where to find us? Nobody knew where we were, so how did you?”
“Lucky guess, I suppose. I heard there was a commotion with some teenage boys outside a little while ago and figured it would be worth checking out. I rushed over here as soon as I could and what do you know? My hunch was right. Now come with me so we can get you out of harm’s way.”
He reached out his hand, a smile still plastered across his face, but the more Seth looked, the less sincere that smile seemed. He took a half step back, and apparently that was the last straw for Officer Tremble. The smile quickly disappeared, followed closely by a look of pure anger. “Listen here you little shits, you’re coming with me whether you like it or not,” he said, drawing forth his gun and pointing it at Seth and Carrie.
It was then that Eliza stepped in, placing herself between the gun and the pair of teenagers, arms held protectively out to either side. She had a determined look on her face, a slight quiver in her lower lip the only indication of the fear she felt. “I won’t let you hurt this children,” she said. Then, over her shoulder: “Children, I think you should--” She was cut short by the the sound of gunfire, three quick shots right to center of her chest. A small amount of blood trickled out of her mouth as she crumpled to the ground.
The sound of the gunshots sent the place into a panic. The doctors and nurses who had been too busy to notice the gun being drawn all dove for cover, even the ones in Eva’s room. Screams rang out, and before Michael could turn the gun on Seth or Carrie, Seth drew forth his zanpakuto and called out the release command, simultaneously conjuring a globe of darkness around Michael’s head.
Without missing a beat, he grabbed Carrie and started to run as Michael stumbled about, blindly firing his weapon until it was out of bullets. Seth felt one such stray bullet whiz past his face, and heard the screams of pain as others struck innocents. Fortunately, no one seemed to have noticed his zanpakuto, but he knew he wouldn’t get that luck forever. When they reached the stairs, he burst through the doorway and sheathed his sword, hoping he had bought them enough time to escape.
Seth and Carrie ran full tilt down the stairs, always only one misstep away from tumbling to their doom. Above them, they heard the door to the stairs slam open, which spurred them on even to even greater speeds. At the bottom of the stairs, they burst through the emergency exit into a dirty alley filled with dumpsters and trashcans.
“Which way now?!” Carrie shouted, glancing around frantically.
Before Seth could answer, a car skidded to stop at one end of the alley and the door flew open.
“Seth, Carrie, hurry!” yelled Jake, his hand held out to them. Without a second thought, Seth and Carrie sprinted to the car and dived into the back seat. Seth slammed the door behind him, and looked out the window in time to see Michael charge out into the alley. Upon noticing the car, he raised his gun to fire, but the driver was quicker. The car peeled out into the street, narrowly avoided crashing into an oncoming jeep, and sped away from the hospital.
“Damn Jake, if it weren’t for you I don’t know what we’d have done,” Seth said, reaching over Carrie to punch him in the shoulder.
“Ouch,” Jake said, flinching away. “Careful bro, I was just in a fight with like five guys, you know?”
“Oh yeah, in all the excitement, I practically forgot about that,” Seth said. “How’d you manage to win a fight against so many?”
“Who said he won?” the driver chimed in as he pulled to a stop at a red light. He turned around to face them, and Carrie gasped. The driver was Andrew, Eva’s boyfriend. Seth turned to Jake with a shocked expression on his face only to met by an unsettling smile and the barrel of a gun.
Next time: Seth comes face to face with the one behind all the madness, and a battle ensues.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.