The Guardians / Chapter 27: Diablo's Keep
Posted June 12th, 2019 by Codename-X12
in a secret bunker finishing the Guardians
The Guardians are back in chapter twenty-seven of The Guardians! If you’re new to the Guardians or just need a refresher on what’s going on, be sure to check out another post which has links to all the chapter in order. You can find that post here: https://www.kidpub.com/book-page-or-chapter/guardians-back-3035162865
You can find the previous chapter here:
Previously on The Guardians:
Written in sloppy, dripping letters were the words ‘Malice does not easily forget what he has lost’. I stared incredulously at the black, spray-painted letters. Malice? Was he responsible for the chemical weapon attack? Wait. Maybe he was responsible for the armed robbery! Hadn’t the criminals been killed in the chemical weapon attack?
I rushed off to inform Devon and Brandyn.
POV: Shane Corvo
“I’m not picking up any traces of poison in the air,” Devon announced. He was holding in one gloves hand a small device that looked like a flashlight handle with a small cone-shaped attachment on the end. In the other hand he gripped a smartphone. I peered over his shoulder. Complicated readings filled the screen, a long list of lengthy and hard-to-pronounce particle names with their PPM recordings next to them.
“I guess the chemical doesn’t remain long in the air,” Devon said almost to himself. I looked on as he swept the baton-like scanner low over the grass. Then, he straightened to consult the smartphone. “Collect some dirt for testing back at the Eclipse Seeker,” he told me a second later, handing me a Ziploc. I looked at it dubiously before bending over to claw through the dry grass. The earth felt cool and moist under my fingers. In a minute the bag was half full of crumbly brown soil. I was about to hand it to Devon when a menacing voice called out,
We both yelped and Devon’s hand flashed for a holster hidden beneath his lab coat. Then his hand froze halfway there as we realized it was just Shane.
“Very funny,” I muttered, eyeing the dirt-filled Ziploc.
“I found something back there,” Sane announced, gesturing to the dark shape of the ambulance. “You want to check it out?” I handed the dirt to Devon.
“Sure,” I replied.
“Malice?” Devon wondered aloud as we stared at the cryptic message a minute later.
“I assumed he had something to do with those robbers,” Shane said.
“Yeah...” Devon replied.
“What use is this to us?” I asked.
“Well, I have a hunch that this guy might be able to tell us where Mirage is,” Shane said.
“Finding him sounds harder than finding Mirage,” I pointed out.
“Well, if Malice has something to do with the criminals, then he probably isn’t too far from here,” Devon said.
“Exactly,” Shane agreed. “Plus, if it’s the same Malice, I think I’ve run into him a couple of times.”
“Really?” I asked in surprise.
“Well, how many weirdos named Malice do you think are running around?” Shane asked. “Not that many.”
“Does he have anything to do with Bleeding Edge?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. It doesn’t seem that likely, but you never know. The world of crime is a crazy one.”
“Do you know where this Malice character hangs out?” Devon asked.
“Yeah,” Shane said. “Well, at least if he hasn’t relocated or something...it’s not really the nice part of town.”
“I guess it’s time we got out of our comfort zone,” Devon replied uncertainly.
“Um, I’ve lived on the streets for the last five years,” I told him. “And Shane here almost got killed by a bomb.”
“I was saying that to myself,” Devon muttered.
Another few minutes found us once again in the cockpit of the hovercraft. Shane was at the pilot’s seat once again, skillfully guided the nimble aircraft. I occupied the copilot’s position while Devon sat in the passenger seat behind us. The streets of Washington, D.C. were far below us, we couldn’t see the webbed network of streets through the ominous black mass of obscuring rainclouds. They swirled and churned around the craft like restless spirits, illuminated in patches as they twisted past the hovercraft’s powerful headlights. We were so completely cut off from the world that we could have been flying through an empty void.
On one of the cockpit computers the words: Destination: Brentwood, Washington, D.C. (19.94 mi.) were displayed in glowing letters. The remainder of the short flight was spent in silence. The soft hum of the electric engines filled the cabin and quickly grew annoying. I stared at the computer display as it ticked down the miles. Shane kept an eye on an electronic map on a screen mounted before the steering mechanism.
I peered back at the passenger seat to check on Devon. He was staring idly out one window, tapping his knee with one finger to the beat of a song playing through some earbuds. For a second I thought I made out a trace of classic rock over the hum of the engines. Then I returned my stare to the computer monitor, which now displayed 3.2 miles.
“We’re here,” Shane spoke up a minute later. The computer screen changed to show a view of the streets below. Glancing quickly out the window, I realized Shane had pulled down out of the thickest of the clouds, giving us a clearer view of the city below.
The screen displayed a disorderly jumble of industrial buildings choking the earth far below. While the structures came in a variety of different shapes and sizes, most of them had a squarish shape and were colored dull grey shades. The dozens of buildings were wedged together on either side of a railroad track that twisted and ran between them. They were grouped messily together like a jigsaw puzzle that had been half-assembled by a short-tempered child. Several of the larger building puffed fumes from smokestacks, joining the dense fog of the clouds.
In another few minutes we were walking among that concrete jungle. From the ground, the drab concrete buildings rose up around us like the walls of a labyrinth. The alleys and passageways were choked and claustrophobic. All types of trash littered the passages like pieces of a shattered mosaic. Graffiti blanketed every solid surface, glaring swear words and cult symbols in poppingly bright colors. It was almost as thick as the layers of dirt and grime that stained the blacktop of the alleyways and the walls that surrounded it.
The clouds above were so thick that no direct light dared to pierce the network of alleys. Instead, it glowed from within those dark clouds, giving the dirty, seemingly untouched district a gloomy, dystopian aura. I felt a nagging sense of dread churning within me as we wove our way carefully through the alleys beneath the sunless sky.
I couldn’t help glancing anxiously at the dark windows gazing down into the alley. At any of them, watching, wary eyes could be looking down, ready to shoot first and ask questions later. At any of the tight turns and corners we had to pass could be an ambush lying silently in wait. Even with our powers, I wasn’t sure we could survive an attack by criminals who knew the twisting alleys like guerilla fighters in the jungle. They could attack from behind, shoot down from behind windows, or even lay down gunfire from on top of the flat concrete roofs. No wonder Brentwood was called one of the most dangerous areas of D.C.
Nevertheless, we went on, picking our way though like paratroopers behind enemy lines. It seemed like forever, but it must have only taken a few minutes to reach the hideout.
Shane, Devon, and I stood staring up at the hulking shape of a large brick building lying at the end of a dead end alley. Rows of dark, tinted windows along the three-story structure glared back at us like ghoulish eyes waiting to strike. Anything could be going on behind them obscured from our view. Trails of dark vines choking the greyish, decaying bricks like bulging veins, and the whole box-like structure seemed to groan with disuse.
It didn’t look like the building could have been occupied in decades. It seemed vaguely wrong somehow, like the building had soaked in the violence from some sorts of brutal acts that had happened behind the grim walls. Hidden away. For some reason, graffiti had not touched this building, even though the ones next to it were layered in spray paint. No trash was scattered near the doorway.
We stalked cautiously up to the hulking structure. Each footstep seemed painfully loud, as if the skittering of pebbles accidentally kicked loose would give us away. We reached the doorway without being mowed down, however. It was an old, sturdy metal door, partially rusted, with no door handle on our side.
I was about to say something along the lines of “Are we really going to try to break into an obviously abandoned building?” Before I could, the door creaked slowly open by itself, as if a ghost was inviting us inside a haunted house. A dry, raspy voice whispered from inside,
“What is the password?”
At the sound of a sudden rustling above us, my eyes flicked upward. One of the windows was slightly ajar. The tip of a rifle hung out of the opening. Trained on us. Scanning the silent rows of windows, I realized almost a dozen guns aimed unwaveringly at us.
I prayed Shane knew the password.
“Answer. I don’t think your corpse can, now can it?” the voice asked again. My eyes flicked sideways to look at Shane. His eyebrows were furrowed and he looked deep in thought. Oh crap. We were dead.
“Escondite,” he finally said. There was silence for a moment. I expected the voice behind the doorway to scream, “WRONG!” and awaited a blistering hail of gunfire. Instead...
“Come in, come in,” the voice rasped again. It sounded like each breath caused the speaker immense pain. “Sorry for any trouble.” Devon shot me a wary looked. Shane nodded at us slightly with an expression that told us everything was under control. At least, that’s what it looked like to me. Looking back at the windows, I noticed the barrels had withdrawn back inside.
Shane took the first step towards the doorway. Devon and I followed.
The first room we entered was shadier and even more gritty than an interior from an old, black-and-white detective movie. The room rang with the noise of mugs clattering and the sound of gravelly, whispered conversation. Clicks of lighters starting cigarettes and the shuffling of cards added to the noise echoing off the walls. The whole place reeked of pungent cigarette smell, musty damp and mold, and body odor, like it had been soaked in countless rancid smells.
The walls, floor, and ceiling were all constructed out of old grey cement that was laced with hairline cracks and dents like it was covered in spiderwebs. I think even a few bullet holes scarred the surface. The dank room was filled with dozens of circular tables spread out across it. They were made of wood so grey and decayed that it looked like it had been left to rot in a forgotten cabin in the woods for a few years.
Dozens of grim, grizzled men lurked around the tables, pausing in the middle of card games or gambling to glare at us with bloodshot eyes. The hulking figures all seemed to be wearing a lot of imposing black or very dark grey, and barely any a mouth was free of a cigar or cigarette. Smoke trailed up into the air from the cigarettes, sending the already-dark room into a dreamy haze. There were too many empty bottles scattered about on the floor or tabletops for my liking. What I liked even less were the large menacing guns propped against some of the table’s inches from the men’s itchy trigger fingers.
A massive glowing sign of fluorescent tubes dominated the far wall. The loopy, bright red letters spelled out ‘Diablo’s Keep’. A few of the letters, like an ‘a’ and an ‘e’, had gone out probably long ago and were now hard to make out. Every second or so one of the letters would crackle and flicker wearily, like they were exhausted from years of labor.
My eyes continued to trail over the room and I at once made out a long steel bar-counter nestled in one corner. It stretched almost from the back wall to the front of the room, elevated slightly above the rest of the room on a several-inch-tall slab of smooth concrete. Several young women stood behind the grimy metal counter, shooting us malicious stares before they got back to work serving probably questionable concoctions to men so drunk they could hardly stay on their barstools.
The man who had let us in quickly closed the door behind us. He wore a dirty black bandanna over his mouth and nose. A long scar adorned the rest of his face like a gruesome string of Christmas lights. It looked like the man had fallen through the roof of a chainsaw factory. A huge knife was strapped securely to each hip, shining coldly in the dim light of the exposed fluorescent panel lights that hung from the ceiling.
As we strode further into the room, I noticed an old wooden staircase at one end of the room led up to a platform above our heads and near the first-floor windows. A few tables were up there as well. I saw a lethal variety of firearms, their owners playing cards nearby to pass the time during their sentry watch on the street outside though the dark windows.
“Haven’t exactly seen you around.”
I turned sharply. It was the man with the scars, who was now resting back in a chair with both feet on the table. One of his massive jackknives was clutched firmly in one dark, calloused hand as he picked his ragged fingernails with the gleaming blade. It wasn’t exactly a reassuring gesture. Then he looked up, eyes sharp and cold despite the rest of his dirty face, and I knew he expected an answer.
“Nah, we’re new around here,” Shane spoke up, trying his best to shrug casually. I was glad to see that the rest of the criminals, ahem, “patrons” seemed to be fully engaged with their gambling and were ignoring the three newcomers.
“The thing is...it’s kind of hard to get in if you don’t know someone,” the grim-faced man rasped. “Y’know, you gotta know the password and all that crap. Someone’s gotta tell ya.” He looked up from the cold steel of his knife blade with accusing eyes.
“I don’t think you’re really paid to interrogate every guy who sets foot in here, are you?” Shane asked, his voice almost as hard as the knife blade. The dagger twitched in the man’s hand. He withdrew it from his fingernail and placed it slowly on the table, handle facing toward him. I noticed his hand was on the other knife.
“Not really, but it gets kind of tiresome ‘round here and a little bit of info goes a good deal keepin’ me from making my own entertainment.” This sounded to me like he enjoyed throwing knives at people for sport.
Shane’s hand dropped to the side of his holster. “Well, what if we got some info from you, just to make it fair?” The man leaned back casually, beady eyes darting about momentarily to make sure no one was keeping an eye on it.
“Yeah? What is it? You come here lookin’ for someone?”
“Not far from the truth,” Shane replied calculatedly. “We’re here to find Malice.”
End of chapter twenty-seven. As always, any constructive criticism is greatly appreciated!
The Guardians will return on Sunday, June 16, at around 4:00 PM (CDT time zone).
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