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The Fellowship of Greed Started by: Strider on Mar 21, '19 08:07

The thrill of the hunt was exhilarating; it resonated with his primal instincts. He moved in and out of the shadows, trailing the two men ahead of him. They were chatting and laughing oblivious to the fact that death was on their tail. Soon the two men separated and his target, Mr Callahan turned right into a dark alleyway named Market street alley. Like a hunter moving in for the kill, he followed his prey into the alley. He moved closer with each step and when he was but a few steps behind his prey he uttered "Hey". The sudden exclamation startled Callahan who slowly turned around to face the cold eyes of his executioner. 

Pop. 

One shot was all that was required, the man knew it was pointless to waste more bullets. The bullet struck Callahan in the neck, right below his Adam's apple. He made a gurgling sound and grabbed his throat trying to cover his wound. Soon he was on the ground choking as blood started to fill his trachea, some of it oozing out of his mouth. The man watched the sight before him with fascination, wondering if Mr Callahan would choke to death or bleed out first. He soon grew tired of waiting for Callahan to die, so he turned around and walked away casually, whistling a merry tune. Meanwhile the dying man, blood foaming at the mouth was trying to speak.
"Mm... mei.... Mary" was all he could get out before life left his body.

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Placing his hat in his lap, Strider sat down facing the group of people staring back at him. Maybe it was a bad idea to come to this interview. William should have given him a heads up before sending him into an office like this; V. S. Associates was printed in bold at the entrance.The only thing William mentioned was that there was a job opening, and that it would be perfect for him.

Gripping his hat tightly he scanned the faces of the people in front of him. Sitting behind a semicircular desk, there were four of them and all four men had their eyes on him as if he were an exhibit on display. Were they connected to the mob families? Maybe. The only thing he was certain of was that these were powerful individuals. 

The older gentleman in the middle, who appeared to be the boss spoke to him. "Strider isn't it? I'm Vincent Sciandra. I am the one in charge of this organization. Do you know what it is that we do here?"

"No sir. William hasn't divulged any information pertaining to his work" Strider could feel beads of perspiration running down his back. He was not comfortable in a setting like this.

Vincent nodded his head and continued. "Before we get into any detail, let me introduce my associates. To my extreme right we have Benito Galati who is part of our legal team. This here" he said placing a hand on the shoulder of the person to his right "is my brother Frank. He helps me run this place.And to my left, we have Chris Mason, in charge of finances and accounting"

Strider looked at the faces of the men he had been introduced to. Benito was a short man with beady eyes who had a pair of thick glasses over his eyes. Frank Sciandra had jet black hair and a scar on his cheek and it looked as if he was uninterested with what was happening around him. Chris Mason was the youngest amongst them. His focus was solely on Mr Vincent, taking in every word coming out of his mouth.

Vincent turned to Strider and said " As to what it is we do here. You see, we help track people down. Our clients come to us for assistance when they can't rely on the cops. We provide the discretion that the cops cannot offer them, for a fee of course. Tracking down runaways and missing persons are what this job entails and there could be the occasional kidnapping. Interesting work don't you think?" 

Strider let a sigh of relief " Yes Sir.. I think so"

"Good. Go down the hall, to the right you will find a door. There you will find the person you will be working with. They will be the one in charge of your assignments. You will report directly to them. Understood?" Vincent asked him,to which Strider nodded quietly. And to wrap up the meeting he said " Good luck Mr Strider. And ask William to join us in here immediately."

Strider thanked them and made his way into the adjacent room where William was waiting for him "Oh man, I thought I was gonna pass out. You could have warned me before sending me in there. Oh and William they want to see right away. I think it's urgent"

William responded "Ah, yes its time to submit my weekly report. Its something we have to do every Friday. I'll see you soon bud." With that he disappeared into the room Strider had just exited. Strider proceeded down the hall and knocked on the door to the right.

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Nene was informed way in advance that she would be getting a new partner to work with. Her previous partner, whose name isn't even worth mentioning anymore, ended up getting sacked - apparently he was undercover for a rival business, and sadly that was the cause of his demise. But hey, he should've expected that when he entered the business as a spy. That kind of shit gets you killed. 

She was hardly fazed when she heard a sequence of knocks at her office door, stood up and opened it to a man she had never seen before. Nene raised an eyebrow, looked him up and down and then finally locked her eyes on his. The guy seemed tense. Nerves, probably. That was normal. Nene could remember feeling the same way on her first day here. 

"So... Vincent sent you here... Hi. I'm Nene," she said boldly as she reached out her hand expectantly and waited for him to return the handshake.

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Strider walked into the dimly lit office expecting to find the man he was working with. He was surprised to find a very young woman instead; she looked to be in her early twenties. For a moment he wondered if he was in the wrong office but then the woman spoke and all doubt was erased from his mind. He shook Nene's hand firmly and took a seat.


"Hi, I'm Strider and yes it was Mr Vincent who sent me here." He looked around the small office, it had a couple of windows but it looked like they haven't been opened for quite a while. The only source of illumination was from an incandescent light bulb that hung form the ceiling. He could find no personal effects anywhere in the office, not even a single photograph. There were papers strewn all over the desk and in one of the folders he caught a glimpse of a picture of a young woman with auburn hair.


"From what i could gather , we are to track down people who went missing aren't we? I wasn't expecting someone..."Strider corrected himself "Errr ... isn't this line of work dangerous for a young woman such as yourself."

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Nene sat down after her hand was firmly shook by the mystery man across from her. There was an interesting vibe in the room, one she could not exactly describe accurately. She wasn't that worried though. She was actually quite excited, yes - maybe a little suspicious, but for the most part excited. 

Her office was stuffy to say the least. Nene didn't like to open the windows or even turn the blinds to let some sunlight in. Nene was very... let's just say - accustomed - to the darkness in her office. 

She followed his gaze around the room, but she came to a complete stop when he spoke his hidden thoughts out loud. She always got the same assumption from people, and she was quite tired of it, but just this once - she would not get mad. Nene felt calm around him for some reason. She answered, just after she pulled out a stack of documents from the file cabinet behind her and plopped it in front of him with a loud bang. 

Nene smiled reassuringly. 

"It's okay. You don't have to mince any words with me. I get the same thing told to me almost all the time. 'Aren't you a little too fragile-...' or 'I don't think you're safe doing what you do-...'. All because I'm a girl. But you see all those documents I just threw in your face? Those are each and every missing persons, rogues and runaways that I've been able to find and capture in the time that I've been working here. Which hasn't been for long. If Vincent thought I couldn't handle this, he would tell me that straight to my face." 

She paused as she leaned back in her office chair, still smiling and her eyes locked on Strider's.  

"But he hasn't done that yet, has he?"

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Strider was taken aback by her reply. Nene seemed outwardly calm but he could see the fire burning in her eyes. He liked her pluckiness and he met her gaze before speaking "I stand corrected Nene. It was unfair of me to judge you before getting to know you and I apologize for that."

He then looked at the pile of documents on the desk "That is quite an impressive feat to have tracked down all these people. I look forward to working with you Nene." They then talked about the finer details of the job and the assignments that were to be given to them. After agreeing to meet Nene the next day, he got up, thanked her and walked out of her office.

Strider met with William, who was waiting for him in the hallway. "How was the meeting with Nene, I've heard she can be quite a handful although I have never worked with her." said William as they walked out of the office building into the street.

Strider looked at his friend and said "My first impression of her was wrong. I think I will enjoy working with her, there is something about her that I found very reassuring." He saw a hot dog stand up ahead and said "I'm starving, lets grab a bite"

They bought a couple of dogs and continued walking down the street talking about their past adventures  "So tell me William, what have you been up to. I hope your pickpocketing and lock picking days are behind you now that you have this job." Strider shot his friend a sideways glance as he asked this.

"Yes yes I gave up that line of work a while ago. I do deal some drugs on the side, not much just 30 units" William replied as he turned his head around to look behind him.

"William!" Strider exclaimed " Are you fucking crazy? That shit is gonna land you in trouble. Man... I don't get why you would do something so reckless, think of your family"

"Thanks for your concern Strider but I am thinking of my family." William paused for a while "The missus is pregnant, I have a third kid on the way and I need the extra dough. I will stop dealing drugs when she can get back to work but for now I need to provide for my family."

Strider's worries  vanished when he heard the news "Little Willie is having another kid is he? " Strider elbowed his friend in the ribs knowing very well how much it annoyed William to be called Willie. "You have two girls don't ya? Do you reckon this one is a boy?"

"Mhm Suzy and Annie... my sweet angels." William replied while grinning. "Oh I know this one is going to be a boy, they way he kicks when I touch her tummy is just adorable"

They wandered down the streets chatting till it was late in the evening and then William turned to Strider and asked him "Do you mind accompanying me to my home?" Seeing the puzzled expression on Strider's face, William said "You know what, never mind. I'll take a shortcut through here. See you around bud."

Strider hadn't a clue why his friend was acting strangely. He replied "Alright. See you soon William and say hi to Mary for me" With that they went their separate ways, Strider headed down the street towards his home and William darted into an alleyway followed by a shadowy figure.

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Nene hadn't heard from Strider for a few days. She was out of town, on a business trip in Seattle. Although, she did inform Vincent, Strider and other colleagues that she'd be back by today. During the flight back to Las Vegas, Nene thought about her last encounter with the guy assigned with her. Last time they spoke was the day after their initial meeting. There seemed to be more to him that she wasn't aware of. Hopefully in the coming weeks she'd be able to get to know the real Strider.

For now, Nene needed Strider on a job. A couple jobs, actually. 

As soon as she touched down in Las Vegas at around ten in the evening, she went to the V.S Associates headquarters and looked for Vincent. He was in his office, and Nene knocked lightly at the door, smiled and waved. "I'm back! By the way, I got your telegram in Seattle. I understand that you want Strider and I on a few missions? It's already late now and I'm actually about to return to my apartment but let's touch base tomorrow morning. Thanks V."

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Strider stirred awake after a night of restless sleep, the recurring dream kept haunting him. All he could recall was the sound of thundering hoofbeats and the faint screams. No matter how hard he tried to remember the rest, it kept slipping away from him. He hadn't the time to dwell on it for this was an important day. It was his first day on the job and Nene had called him the night before to inform him of a new mission. He was to meet her in front of the office building at half past nine this morning. Feeling lethargic from lack of sleep, he decided to take a cold shower.

Standing in front of the mirror as he got dressed, he couldn't help but wonder what he was getting himself into. The meeting with Nene last Friday, on August 30th to be exact was a short one. When she called last night she was very vague and hadn't divulged any information about the mission but she did ask him to pack some heat which was worrisome. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and although he looked tired, he hadn't lost any of his virility. He kissed the chain locket he had around his neck for good luck before tucking it inside his shirt. The locket was the only remnant of his past life and he was not going to part with it. To him it was priceless, even more valuable than his own life.

From inside the dresser he fished out his Colt .45 pistol, made sure it was loaded and strapped it to his waist. It was lightweight,accurate and had a low recoil. A perfect weapon for him and he made sure never to leave home without it. On the table lay his bone handled switchblade which he picked up, folded and slid into his coat pocket.

The leaves had started to turn auburn and the sun was hidden behind the clouds. A strong gust of wind almost blew his hat off as he made his way towards his vehicle. He had trouble getting the car started, he knew he needed a new machine. After a few more tries the engine roared to life and he headed out the gates. He drove towards the city and as he neared the office he saw Nene waiting in front of the office building. He honked to get her attention and pulled up beside her.

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Last's night sleep didn't do much good for her. She was up all night, twisting and turning, felt like she was going to get a fever. Maybe being in Seattle did things to her. Something must be in the air over there. Anyways, when morning came - she quickly got ready, ate a piece of toast, had a cup of coffee - then headed out. 

On the way to work, she started to wonder how Strider was doing, and if he was liking his position at the office. No one ever likes being 'the new kid', but she was sure that he was going to go places if he just works hard.

The familiar building could be finally seen in the distance after a few minutes of driving, and she happily parked it in the staff parking lot. Nene hopped out of the vehicle and locked it. Suddenly, she was distracted by a loud honk, which made her slightly shit her pants. She was okay, don't worry.

Nene cleared her throat, smoothed down her skirt, then smiled. "Morning, Strider. Top of the morning to ya." 

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"Morning Nene. Are you alright? You look pale" asked Strider in a concerned voice. He slid the car into gear when she said she was alright and they moved forward slowly. He noticed the files she had clutched in her hands.

"What have you got there, our first mission? " he asked with a tinge of excitement in his voice. " Where are we headed?" he glanced at her "Who are we tracking down?" He became silent when she gave him an icy stare.

There was a moderate amount of traffic , people were heading to work and kids to school. He weaved through the streets till they left the congested inner city roads behind. He followed her directions and they headed towards the eastern part of the city "Getbackers" he exclaimed abruptly "That's what we should call ourselves.... You know since we track people down and get them back home" he joked.

He saw that Nene was not amused "Never mind, that was a terrible name." he looked around the neighborhood and said "We should be getting close don't you think?." The buildings were getting sparse and far apart. Not many vehicles were on the road as they were almost on the outskirts of the city.

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Nene's smile faded and her mouth went limp. "Pale? Oh, I'm always like that. I'm fine." She waited for him to put his car in park before showing him a stack of files. It wasn't long before he started asking a series of question at a fast pace. Nene tried to slow him down, putting her hands up, but after a couple of tries it didn't work, which caused Nene's body to go tense and frustrated. 

Strider seemed to get the hint when he stopped. Nene let out a sigh and shook her head. "We're going east. There is a man we are expected to meet in an abandoned warehouse. But he is not the one we are trying to track down, but more importantly we need to get the girl he is holding hostage. We only have 24 hours before he blows the warehouse up." 

For the sake of not wanting to bore Strider with more details, she hopped into the car. Nene clicked her seatbelt on, because safety is number one priority. During the 'mini road trip' they were having, Nene caught some of his lame jokes, but she laughed a little at the end because of the effort he was making to make life a little more enjoyable. It was a breath of fresh air. Nene was feeling a little grumpy that morning, but she cheered up eventually as they were getting closer to the destination. 

In just a few minutes, they reached the spot. Nene looked at a page from the files, looked up at the warehouse in front of her, back at the page then finally nodded towards Strider. "Yep. This is it. Time to roll." 

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"Did you say he will blow up the warehouse?" Strider gulped as he parked the car by the side of the road. He got out of the vehicle and pulled out his pistol. The warehouse looked abandoned, the main door was chained shut from the outside. He looked around and there wasn't a single soul around. If this thing did blow up , there won't be many casualties he thought.

"Do you think the kidnapper is alone, does he have any accomplices?" He asked her and she just shrugged in reply. They made their way towards the building and he held his hand up. "You check out the left side, I will take the right" he stated. "Nene be careful, let us scope out the place first."

Gun in hand he made a beeline for the right side of the warehouse. He was careful not to give away his presence but the sand and gravel surface made this task challenging. It crunched under his foot with every step that he took. He needed to find out what was going on inside but the windows were ten feet above the ground, maybe Nene had better luck he thought. He came to a halt and raised his gun when he heard someone whistling up ahead. Hugging the side of the building he inched his way forward. He craned his head and looked around the corner.

Leaning against the back door was a man smoking a cigarette. He appeared to be guarding the back entrance and barring the gun at his waist, he did not look very intimidating. Strider considered taking him out , it would be an easy shot for a marksman of his caliber. No, that would alert whoever was inside and it might end up killing the hostage. He was not going to mess up his first mission. He holstered his weapon and crouched down. Taking a handful of gravel in his hands he tossed it into the bushes at the far end and waited patiently.

He could hear the guard approaching, his footsteps grew closer and Strider tensed. The man examined the bushes and while his back was turned, Strider crept up behind him. He threw his right hand around the man's neck and with his left hand he completed the stranglehold, locking his hands in place. The guard struggled and clawed at the hands wrapped around his neck but Strider didn't budge, he knew that in a few seconds the man would be unconscious. There was no breaking out of this or so he thought. The guard was smart, he went for his gun and Strider had no choice but to grab his wrist with his left hand before he could get to it. This loosened his grip on the man's throat and he fought back with renewed vigor. He elbowed Strider in the ribs, the two of them moved back and forth and in the ensuing scuffle the gun dropped to the ground. Strider pushed forward with all his strength and they tumbled into the bushes. Once again he had him in a choke hold and this time his body was on top of him. The guard struggled in vain and soon he passed out from lack of air but Strider didn't let go. He felt anger and rage take control of him as he persisted with his grip till the man was lifeless.

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Nene nodded instantly, both her hands around her pistol and she moved to the left side of the building. Few minutes passed and she was still looking, but she heard some dangerous sounds from Strider's side. Her body tensed for a second, but next thing she knew she was pointing her gun to a guard being held in a chokehold. It was a little too late though. The guard had already taken his last breath of life. Nene slowly lowered her gun, finally letting a breath of relief out and put her hands to her knees. 

She put the gun back in her holster. "On another note, I don't think the guy is here. Nothing and no one on my side. I don't know how he figured it out but he must have known that we were coming here. He probably switched locations by now." 

Nene started to walk back towards the vehicle, but she looked back at Strider and said in a low tone, "but he can't be too far, I'm sure. Can I drive by the way? I swear I'm not a crazy driver." 

She wanted to find the guy quickly, and Nene couldn't handle Strider's slow ass driving so she... well... had to lie a little. She was a pretty reckless driver. The amount of times she had almost gotten into car accidents. 

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"Yes I don't think there is anyone here except him" stated Strider while motioning towards the dead guard. "But why post a guard outside an empty building?" 

He tossed Nene the keys to the car and said "Let me take a look inside, I'll be quick". He watched her walk back to the car while he headed towards the back door of the warehouse. He tried to open it but it appeared to be jammed. Moving back a little he ran towards the door and slammed the side of his body against it. The door budged a little so he rammed it once more and with a loud creak it swung open.

The inside of the warehouse was almost bare. There were few metal rods on the ground and a row of barrels on either side of the room. Almost to the center of the room was a chair and as he walked towards it he noticed pieces of rope lying beside the chair. Could this be where the girl was kept he wondered. Then he noticed a piece of paper on the chair which he picked up and examined.

 

Sinners and non believers

Your time is at an end

The fires from the pits of hell

Shall purge you and set you free

 

Strider stared at the piece of paper and he even turned it over to see if there was more to the message but there wasn't. Nothing but meaningless words of a madman he thought. Then he heard it. It was faint, a crackling sound. He turned around and that is when he saw it, the fuse he had set off when he opened the door. The flames were heading towards the barrels on either side of the room. He could get to one of them but what about the other one....

He sprinted towards the back door and ran out along the side of the warehouse. Running at full tilt till he saw Nene waiting by the car. "Get away, Go" he screamed at her. When he was but a few feet away from the front of the building the first explosion went off,followed by the sound of shattering glasses. Soon a chain reaction of explosions followed, the loud boom getting closer and closer to him. He made it a few feet from the building when the last of the barrels, closest to the front door detonated. The resulting shock wave lifted him off his feet and he went flying forward, landing with a thud in the middle of the empty street.

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Nene shrugged. She caught the keys just as she was heading back to the vehicle before she said, "makes perfect sense to me why he would put a guard here. Wastes our time and gives him more time." She waited for a few minutes in the car, wondering why Strider felt the need to get back inside the warehouse. 

That's when she heard the sounds. 

She instantly flew out of her seat, ready to attack who or what was inside that warehouse, but she could see Strider shouting in the distance. Though it was faint and hard to hear. Nene didn't need to hear what he had to say anyway. She knew. And she ran as fast as she could, further away from the explosion, hoping that Strider wasn't too far behind her. 

Then - just like that - the explosions finally stopped. Nene rushed over to Strider, panic etched over her face and she put her hands to both of his shoulders. Nene shook his body. "Strider, come on. Let's go. We have to go. NOW." 

Nene helped him up off the ground, and put it upon herself to take the position of the driver this time. She sped off quickly, and looked through the rearview mirror, seeing the smoke leave the warehouse in a trail in the sky. She turned to Strider. "You'll be alright, mate." Then she noticed a bit of paper sticking out of his pant pocket. 

As she continued to drive with her eyes on the road, Nene asked about it. "What do you have there?" She was able to get a look at it as Strider held it up for her. A thought entered her mind. 

"I've been on alot of missions. And in my experience, usually the kidnapper will leave little hints and clues at the crime scenes. Or some sort of pattern should appear. Judging by that note, this guy could be heavily religious. Cult-based perhaps? Maybe our next clue is to check the churches in this area. Someone might know something." 

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Strider sat in the passenger seat, dazed and disoriented as Nene sped through the streets. His body felt sore, he knew he was lucky to walk out of there with only a few bruises. His ears were still ringing from the explosion and it took him a while to respond to her.

"Yes my first thought was the same, that he is from a cult. Do you have any information about him? His description or name or something useful?" he asked while he kept an eye out for any tail they might have picked up. Once he made sure that they weren't being followed he continued " We need to find the girl fast, there aren't many churches in this area. In fact there is just the one" he paused trying to remember the name of the church. "The church of saint Ozai." 

"That's it!" he exclaimed with his eyes wide "Ozai is the patron saint of flames. I'll bet my bottom dollar that our guy is somehow related to that church" He moved around in the seat restlessly, relinquishing control was not something he enjoyed but he trusted Nene to get him there safely "Step on it Nene, we have no time to waste."

She drove like the wind and in a matter of minutes they were in the vicinity of the church. She screeched to a halt in front of the church and he almost hit his head against the windshield. He glared at her before stepping out of the vehicle. "I'll check the premises, why don't you look around inside. Talk to the priest, maybe our kidnapper is familiar to him." Before splitting up he added" I know I don't have to tell you this but be discreet, the last thing we need is to spook that bastard into running away."

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"Eh, I got nothing," Nene replied back to him with a slight frown on her face. "All I know is that he's definitely from a cult. Alright, Saint Ozai it is." 

She couldn't help but feel proud of having Strider as her partner in crime for this mission. His energy and determination was infectious. Nene narrowed her eyes on the road, and she stepped her foot hard on the accelerator until they finally reached the church. She caught his glare, and a laugh accidentally slipped out of her mouth. For a quick second she stopped being professional, but then she remembered the task at hand and she hardened her expressions. 

The gun was lifted out of its holster as she carried it with her, heading towards the other direction. 

Nene heard a sound - it was like a metal pole banging against the concrete ground. She jogged towards it and hid behind a wall before continuing. She stopped, waited... And then noticed the girl she and Strider have been trying to track down. The girl was fighting against the captor's grip, which was around her neck. Nene assumed that she was holding onto the metal pole before it dropped.

"Give me the girl." 

"Drop your gun. Now." The man spoke in a clear and deep voice. The girl was scared and shaking in his grasp. Nene had no choice but to let go of her weapon in order to save the kidnapped girl. She hoped Strider would get here soon. Or now, which would be even better. 

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The sun was beating down on Strider as he searched the grounds looking for any sign of the kidnapper. The church bells chimed, signaling the beginning of afternoon mass. He was sweating profusely and his breathing was erratic, the concussion he suffered from the explosion was taking its toll. He carried on forward , he knew he couldn't give up now. He had to find the girl before something happened to her.

"Give me the girl" he heard a female voice from the other side of the church wall. He realized it was Nene's voice.

"Drop your gun. Now" said a loud deep voice. Strider assumed that it was the kidnapper and judging by his tone he had the upper hand in the situation.

He heard Nene say something, it was inaudible to him but he heard the man reply "I am Lucius named after my Lord Lucifer. The lord of flames shall purge this girl for her sins."

Strider had heard enough. He pulled his weapon out and stepped forward. He saw Nene's gun at her feet and Lucius was unaware of his presence. He raised the gun and pointed it at Lucius, he had a side on view of the guy. He had a scraggly beard and the girl was in his grasp.

From this angle Strider had a clear shot of Lucius and he was confident of hitting his mark without harming the girl. He wiped the sweat from his brow and took aim once more but his vision was blurry. The gun wavered in his hands and be blinked a couple of times to focus. It was now or never. The loud crack of the gunshot erupted as he squeezed the trigger and the bullet flew towards the target. It clipped Lucius' shoulder blades but then Strider stumbled forward and fell flat on the ground. Nene's scream was the last thing he heard before he lost consciousness. 

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Nene let out a piercing scream from her mouth as soon as she saw Strider's body collapse to the ground. Lucius was too busy analyzing his injury and groaning in pain, so she ran towards Strider. On her knees, she shook her body, hoping he would wake up. But no luck. Nene looked to Lucius and pointed to the girl, who was finally out of his grip. 

"Now give me the fucking girl or else you won't be able to leave this church with any of your limbs intact," she spoke in a stern voice. Lucius was powerless. He knew that. Nene knew that. The girl knew that. Earlier, he was set on punishing the girl, but now he was fearing for his life. The man's hands gripped tightly around his gun. It was pointed towards Nene, to Strider, Nene, then back to Strider, until he spoke again. 

"I'll be back." 

"Sure," Nene smiled, "sure you will, buddy." 

He squinted his eyes and glared at her, before turning around and running to the nearest exit. 

When he was finally out of her sight, Nene grabbed the girl and made her wait inside the car. She came back to get Strider too, but she wasn't about to carry him all the way to the car. Time was running out. It had already been more than one minute and he still hadn't regained consciousness, so Nene phoned an ambulance at the nearest phone booth.

"911, what's your emergency?"

Nene tightened her grip on the phone. "Yes, um.. Hi, my name is Nene, and my friend here just collapsed to the ground and I... don't know how to perform CPR." There was shame in her voice. She put the phone closer to her ear, and the voice on the other end spoke. "Where are you?" 

At first, she was unsure, and she looked around for any street signs. "1686 Hall Street," Nene finally said when she spotted a road sign in the distance. 

"Help is on the way. Hold tight."

"Yeah, thanks." 

***

The ambulance finally arrived, the siren blaring. Nene looked up from her position, and waved them over. "Please step out of the way, ma'am." She did what was told and let the paramedics handle the situation. She was questioned as well. Minutes later, they came to her with a definite explanation for his sudden collapse. 

"You said prior to his fall, he was near an explosion?" One of the guys was talking to her. She nodded yes. 

"Then yeah, what happened basically was a secondary blast injury. It caused direct impact trauma to his head from the flying debris. Unfortunately this can worsen so we will need to have your friend in the hospital for a week at most so we can give him the necessary antibiotics."

Nene sighed. "You guys know what you're doing. I'll come into the ambulance with him." 

The paramedics went away to get Strider on the stretcher and into the bus. Nene took the girl with her, who had a confused look on her face. "I'll explain later," Nene said. The girl nodded, and went into the ambulance van with Nene. The girl was still shaking in fear. Nene looked down at Strider on the medical stretcher in worry as she chewed on her bottom lip. She rested her chin in the palm of her hands while her elbows were resting on her lap.

"Oh, Strider... Get better please." 

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"Kill them. Take it" hissed the deep voice.

"No!"

"Kill them now " it screamed.

 

Strider gasped as he regained consciousness and looked around. The room he was in had white walls. He was in a hospital bed hooked up to an IV drip and a few other machines that beeped and clicked. A faded green curtain separated his bed from the rest of the room. His head was  throbbing and as he tried to sit up a wave of nausea surged over him. 

Seeing him awake, a female doctor walked over to his bedside. She had golden hair and pale skin. "Hi Strider, don't strain yourself" she insisted but with a soft voice. "I'm your doctor. Meredith Greyson. Don't sit up, you are still healing."

"What time... what day is it? Where is Nene, is she here, is she safe?" he questioned her as he searched for Nene. "I can't remember what happened, my memory is fuzzy."

She gently pushed him down onto the bed. "Funny, isn't it? The way memory works. The things you can't quite remember, and the things you can never forget" she said with sadness in her eyes."It's the 6th of September. You were out for three days". She picked up his chart and recorded something on it after checking the machines. She then turned her gaze back to him.

"You do have a visitor waiting outside. I didn't catch her name, perhaps she is this Nene you spoke of. I will let her know that you are awake" she slowly headed to the door but before exiting she paused and added "Five minutes, that's all I can allow. After that you need to rest" and with that she walked out the door.

A few minutes passed and he heard the door being opened. He didn't have the strength to sit up or even turn towards the approaching footsteps. He called out "Nene what happened. I can't recall what went on at the church. Did we get that guy wee Lucius". Not getting any reply, he kept questioning her "Is the girl alive. Did you take her to the safe house. Nene?"

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