Chapter 1

Chapter 1

I hated working the night shift. The time I spent working my night shifts was mostly coding away on things that most of the day staff hated doing. But in this, it kept me with a job. And honestly, I was good at it. Few loved to dig deep into the code that the ‘programmers’ updated every week. Working as their bug reporter/finder sucked at times. It’s almost like they didn’t care and hoped I would catch it all. They were sloppy as shit. I had been working on this last line of code for the last four hours, trying to find the error in it. Sighing again at the unfairness of it all, I grabbed my coffee and took a sip. Shit, it got cold again.

Getting up from my chair with my coffee mug, I headed to the table behind my desk, where we kept the coffee machine and the microwave and put my coffee in it and hit the thirty-second timer. Waiting for it, I still thought back to my meeting earlier today before my shift ended at 8 am. The manager of the company came in early just to have that meeting with me. It was supposed to be a meeting for the job opening as a daytime programmer that I applied for last week when one of our programmers took a job offer with a big tech firm. That left an opening. I had been working for this company now for the last ten years and figured I had it in the bag. I was their top debugger and thought I could finally move on up the chain within the company.

Well, it proved to me otherwise. I had studied the company system for hours at home for the last couple of days. I knew the system inside and out. I know our goal, our product. Better than any other person I felt. But that got destroyed within five minutes of the interview. My manager said I was too precious to lose as a debugger on the night shift. Fucking asshole. He went on and on about how good I was. How I fixed so many bugs and saved the company so much money for their clients.

The microwave goes off, so I open the door and grab the now hot cup of coffee. I should learn to drink the Shit while it’s hot instead of forgetting about it while coding. Sitting back down, I look at the line of code on my desk. Instead of doing work like I should, I rub my eyes. Seriously I need a break. I should do a small run around the building. Usually, when I find I am stressed, taking a run around the building on our campus frequently calms me down. And honestly, that interview is still pissing me off, the manager is pissing me off, and this line of code is pissing me off. Just then, my phone went off, telling me I had a text message. Must be my manager checking up on me again. Swiping the smartphone open, it’s showing a number I don’t know. Who the heck is this? Opening the message app and going to that chat, I start to read the message.

You don’t know me, but you need to leave the building you are in right now. Your life is in danger! You need to go as far as you can from there. Seriously, someone is on the way to kill you, Brandon. Please, you need to listen.

Staring at it, I think what the fuck is this Shit? God damn telemarketers are getting bad. What’s next? It will tell me that to call them off, I need to send them my credit card number? Blocking the number, I stare back at my computer screen with the code and decide I really need a break. I see it’s 3 am, and it’s close enough to my hour lunchtime. I usually just sit in the lunchroom on the couch and catch up on some reading, but I think I need that run, because now I am adding telemarketers to the things that piss me off tonight.

Heading out of the office of four desks that I work in with other coders, I head towards the elevators to go to the main floor and the men’s locker room to change. My coworkers find it odd that I run. Most coders are not anything like me. I don’t run the typical look of a coder, though I wish I did to stop women from hitting on me at work. Being a geek and being 6 foot 4, slim with an athletic build, doesn’t help. I also have blond shoulder-length hair. Not to impress, just I don’t want to waste time to cut it. It’s not that I don’t want to date, I just haven’t found the right women. Period. I dated on and off after college, but at 32 now, I don’t think I will find my ideal partner. Most are just so damn shallow. 

Walking by the guard at the desk, I wave to the guy who is there. Not sure why we have security out here in the middle of nowhere. Not like our company has any secrets to hide or protect. Going down the hall towards the back of the building, I enter the door that says Men’s Locker and go to my locker. Good old #3. It’s been my locker since I first started working here ten years ago. In fact, I think my anniversary for my 11th year is coming up next month.

Getting my running pants, runners and shirt out, I change into those from my everyday work clothes, which are jogging pants, some kind of geek t-shirt, which today is one that just says ‘Dune’ on it and runners. But they are different ones. These are for running. Those are for working. Coworkers honestly don’t understand. Why would I run into my clothes and sweat and wear the same thing again? Putting my hair into a ponytail, I shake my head. I close my locker and head back out. Since I am near the back of the building, I go out that way.

Once I am outside, I breathe in the Florida air. It’s hot tonight. I would say close to 80F. Tomorrow will be a scorcher. Christ, I hated June weather. At least running at night, the humidity isn’t as bad. Crap, I forgot my damn phone and earbuds upstairs. Fucksakes! See what happens when you get distracted, Brandon? Screw it. I don’t feel like going back up. At least I didn’t forget my ID lanyard and get locked out. Again. Shrugging, I slowly stretch as I walk towards the side of the building. Once I turn the corner, I slowly pick up my pace from a walk to a jog.

Just as I am about to hit the front of the building, to head out to the road to run down the 5 miles of the street to the major road, I hear a screeching of tires. What the fuck is going on, I think to myself. Heading past the building, and looking to the front entrance, I see a black SUV with two enormous men in black combat fatigues come out of the car. They are tall. About my height, but they are wide where I am not. These guys look like fucking linebackers. But what stops me in my tracks is the fact that they are carrying weapons in their hands. Handguns. They must have heard me since I am only about 100 yards away from them. They turn towards me. One of them holds up a smartphone, looks down, and looks back up.

“That’s him; grab him!” I hear the driver yell to his partner.

What the fuck do you mean I am him? OK, I don’t care who the fuck you are, but if you see someone like these men with guns say, “That’s him, let’s grab him!” you will not stick around. Turning on my heels, I head back towards the back of the building. I do not know who they are or what they want, but I don’t know them. Good enough for me. Just as I am going around the corner of the building, I hear a loud gunshot. Then in front of me, the wall of the building shatters in a shower of cement, exploding from an impact point.

Holy fuck, are they shooting at me? I feel a sudden fear for my life. Why the fuck are they shooting at me? Hearing them run behind me, the fear I feel gives me a burst of speed that sends me around the corner before I hear the next gunshot. Shit, I need to get into the damn woods and hide! This is fucking nuts. Who are these assholes? Are they cops, and they got the wrong guy? Running as fast as I have ever run before, I head towards the back of the building and the treeline back there. It’s dark back there, so maybe I can hide from them.

I make it to the treeline and into the tree. But then suddenly, there are more gunshots, and the surrounding trees explode with bullets. Thinking about what I always saw in army movies, I zigzag left and right, hoping they don’t hit me. For the next couple of minutes, I try to escape these fucking crazy men. What the hell! After a while, I finally hear nothing, so I slow down and hunker down to catch my breath. I am not sure how far I am from the back of the building. We are in a private area, and I know behind us is just forest and swamp for miles and miles. Taking deep breaths, I try to catch my breath, but my heart is still racing, and I am sure it isn’t from the running.

Then to my left and behind me, I hear them. They are trying to be quiet, but I can hear them easily. They aren’t even breathing hard. God dammit. You look like linebackers. It should wind you! Getting up again, I run ahead again, and this time I head away from them, trying to see if I can circle towards the building. Maybe if I can get to the building security, he can call the cops to find out what is going on, and maybe tell Thug-One and Two to leave me alone.

“He is heading back towards the building!” one thug screams.

What the hell! How did he hear me? I was quiet! I might be a nerd, but my parents, before their deaths, used to take me camping all the time; Dad used to show me how to run quietly in the woods. Slowing down, I head away from the building again, but going slower also means I am quieter.

“Shit, I lost him. I can’t hear him anymore!” the same thug yells out to his partner.

“What do you mean you can’t hear him? Use your fucking ears. It’s what we pay you for!” thug two screams at him.

“I am using my fucking ears. I don’t know how he is doing it, but I can’t hear him,” he screams back at his partner.

Even though they had stopped to yell at each other, I had not. I had kept going away from the two of them. Once I am sure that I am far enough away, so they don’t hear me, I run faster, and now I circle back towards the building. Looking up at the moon, I can tell that I need to turn slightly away from it to do so. After about fifteen minutes, according to my watch, I slow down and walk instead. After about another five minutes, I see the lights from the building in front of me. Good, finally, I can get into the building and ask the security guard to call the cops.

Just about two feet from the treeline, out of nowhere, a sleek black shape comes out of nowhere and grabs me and throws me hard onto the ground. A hand goes over my mouth to stop the scream I was about to let go. I try to struggle, but holy shit this person is strong, I cannot even move. It’s lying on top of me with me on my stomach. The person has their arm around my throat, and the other hand is covering my mouth. There is just enough pressure to send me a message to stop struggling, or they will choke me. I stop fighting and the pressure eases off slightly. Then I can feel them lean down towards my ear and so soft I can barely hear it; a very female voice says.

“Do not move and keep silent, or we are both dead.”

Now I am thinking to myself. What the fuck is going on here. I have two thugs after me for a reason I do not understand. They are shooting at me. And now I have this ninja lady who came out of nowhere, put me to the ground like I was a five-year-old kid, and could keep me there like I was said five-year-old kid. In the chokehold, I could tell she was strong. Much stronger than me, and I wasn’t a pushover. I might have been a geek and a coder, but I still went to the gym regularly and ran daily. Only because, my dad said, I would never know the situation where I would need to run. He used to joke he was getting me ready for the Zombie Apocalypse. That was another reason he showed me survival skills, and even like what I was doing earlier, running quietly in the woods.

A noise to my left brings me back to my senses around me. Closing my eyes, I try to figure the direction. It’s coming from just slightly in front of me. When I was thrown onto the ground, the ninja lady had turned me away from the building, so that meant the thugs had somehow followed me. How? I was damn quiet, and it’s too dark to track me, even if they had wanted to. You can’t see shit. I try to get up to run again, but the hold around my neck jerks very hard, as if to say, don’t you dare. I nod yes. I get it, don’t move.

Slowly the arm moves away from around my mouth, but it’s pressed to the back of my neck. Then slowly, the arm around my neck eases and slips away. I naturally try to get up, but she presses down on my neck. Hard. Jesus, this lady is strong! Instead, I just put my head back down. I hear the thug again, and I can tell he is moving slowly. Trying to be quiet, I assume. But somehow, I can still hear him walking around out there. How is that possible? Even with my dad, my hearing wasn’t that good. Must be the fear making me more acute to things. Hell, I can even smell the sweat off this ninja lady. I can tell she is afraid, but excited. How the fuck do I know what that smells like? The night gets darker, and looking up, I can see that some cloud cover is now covering the moon. Then the ninja lady does her trick, and she isn’t there with me anymore. Looking around desperately, I can’t see her anywhere.

Then the thug I heard moves closer and sees me in the dark.

“Well, well. Finally stopped, have you? Good, my partners should be around soon. But I am taking the kill for this one, not him. I will enjoy the reward for bringing you in dead,” he says with a big evil grin on his face. Lifting his hand with the handgun, he aims it at my head.

Before I even have time to do anything, there is a snarl of something like an enormous dog, and out of the woods on the side of the thug, comes the biggest dog I have ever seen. It snaps its jaws around the man’s throat and bites hard, causing the man’s screams to cut off and then all I see his blood everyone as the dog pulls away from the thug. Then all I hear is him gurgle, holding his hands to his throat. Then after ten seconds, his hands slip away from his throat limply, and he falls over dead.

There is a gunshot and the dog yelps in pain, but then it’s gone into the woods again. Just then, the thug’s partner comes through the trees, handgun pointing at me, and he is pissed.

“What the fuck have you done to O’Leary?!” he yells at me, like I had something to do with it. “They didn’t tell us you had a fucking dog. At least I shot the little shit. Now it can go die in the woods.”

Going to his partner, he puts his hand on his neck. I assume to check for a pulse. Not finding anything, he looks through the pockets and grabs the man’s wallet and whatever else he finds there. He then reaches into the man’s shirt, grabs a chain his partner was wearing around their neck and pulls hard on it, causing the chain to break, and he pockets it. That is just gruesome. All this time, he still has his gun aimed at me. I am so fucking scared I just sit there, my back against a tree.

“Sorry it’s come to this kid, but your parents done fucked up,” he tells me.

“What the hell is going on here,” I yell at him. “Why have you been shooting at me! You must have the wrong guy. I work as a coder for a company that I am sure doesn’t have any secrets.”

“Oh, you stupid fuck. I can’t imagine dying without knowing why. But, hey, that’s not my issue. I am just following out the contract. My job was to find your parents and then to find you, kill them and then kill you. But your parents beat us to it, and now the only loose end is you, kid.”

He comes and squats in front of me, with the barrel of the gun still pointing towards me. He takes a deep breath before he continues.

“But, since I am about to kill you, since I doubt your dog will get the jump on me, I will let you in on a secret. The Organization should have killed you when you were born. Because now we have to deal with all this shit, but hey, I came out of retirement for this. It’s a nice chunk of money,” he says with a smile. “But seriously, kid. No hard feelings, it’s nothing against you, but your heritage,” with that, he lifts the gun and points it to my head. 

I close my eyes since I don’t want to watch my death. I am so scared but I am also so angry. I am so livid at feeling helpless. I can feel a well inside me I never felt before. Something that is telling me to push. Reaching down into this well, I feel like time has stopped. Slowly the forest around me fades away in my mind’s eye, and I am transported to somewhere else.

Opening my eyes, I am standing in what I can only call an Ancient ruin. The place is old. I can feel that it’s older than anything we, as humans, have found. Turning around, I see that an animal is sitting on a stone throne. It’s a vague shape, and I can’t tell what it is from here. Slowly, I make my way to stand in front of it. I was never stupid. I don’t know what was in front of me. But I needed to show it respect. Kneeling onto one knee, I bow my head towards it.

Mahna, mi medo,” it says to me. Somehow, I can understand it. “Welcome, my son.”

“How am I able to understand you? And might I ask who you are and where I am?” I ask the shadow animal.

“Ah, they do not teach you the language anymore? You humans have changed much these past centuries,” the voice says in a deep gruff voice.

Suddenly, in front of me, is the biggest wolf I have ever seen in my life! The wolf is about three times as big as any I have ever seen, in any zoo, or even on television. It stood as tall as me, at the shoulder, and it was sitting down. Its coat was so silver, and so healthy that it glowed. But what truly got me were the size of its paws and its teeth. Shit, I will die here too.   

“No, you shall not die here, little one,” it says, laughing. “You were near death, and you called upon your powers. I am but here to guide you on Earth. As you are the last of us, I shall grant you leave to be who you are. When you leave here, I would suggest you move as fast as you can to the right, or left, whichever takes your fancy. This is wisdom that will help you not die. One day we might meet again, little one, but for now, you do not belong here. You are not yet powerful enough,” with that, the wolf howls at me and at the end of its howl, I feel myself slowly go away from this place, back to my body.

Shit, no, not my body! I am about to be shot at point blank range. Wait, he said to move. Without thinking about it, I move to the left quickly, and I hear a gunshot go off. Opening my eyes, I look, and I can see that the thug is looking for me. I am over ten feet from where I started. Holy shit, how did I move so fast? He finally sees me, and I can see the shock on his face, but he brings his gun up to shoot again, but I know I need to get that away from him, without thinking about it I am suddenly in front of him, and my hand is around the gun’s grip, with my hand over his. I squeeze as hard as I can to see if I can dislodge his hand from it. Instead, I am shocked that I end up crushing not only his hand, but the damn grip.

He screams out in pain. Seeing as this guy tried to kill me, I feel that anger coming back. And without remorse, I cock my hand back into a fist and hit him in the face. What I thought would happen was he would get knocked out, so I can run away. But I am surprised that his head explodes into gore, with brain matter hitting the trees behind him. I am left standing there, holding a dead body with no head. Looking down at this now mangled piece of a human being, I slowly look at my hand that is now covered in blood, brain matter, and I don’t even know what else.

“Oh… that sucked for him,” I say.

Then I promptly move away two steps before I throw up.