Alison grimaced. The police had swept the store and
had found no sign of the 'mysterious vigilante' who had stopped the murderer
inside the Circuit City. The police questioned her and the others as to
what had happened. She lied, of course, saying she had come on her own.
No one contradicted her, if any of them had even noticed Red with her.
They were released after a very short period and she would not have been
nearly so grumpy were it not that Red still had the three thousand dollars
in his coat pocket, which meant she could not purchase her computer. She'd
have to drive all the way home to pick up a new batch of money if she
wanted to get her paper done any time soon. For a moment, she considered
just going to the school computer pod to write the damned thing, but for
some reason that didn't strike her as being very feasible.
As she climbed into the car, one of the detectives came running her
way across the parking lot. He had been flirting with her the entire
time he had interviewed her, which had made her incredibly uncomfortable,
since she had dated him in high school in a version of reality he seemed
to have forgotten. "Hey, wait a second!" he called. "You
dropped your glove!"
Alison wouldn't have put it past him to had snatched it out of her
pocket if it they hadn't been surrounded by police at the time. He arrived
at the open car door and handed her the glove in question. He was wearing
a tan trenchcoat over a button-down with a tie and some blue slacks.
She thought he was trying to do a sort of George Clooney thing with
his hair, which he was almost pulling off. It probably worked at the
bars, if she remembered his high school track record correctly.
"Thanks," she said, taking it.
"I was thinking," he said to her with a smile/smirk, "If
you remember anything else about this, or… you want to talk about
something, you can give me a call."
He produced his card.
"My home number is on the back," he said.
He hadn't changed much. Back in school, he had first approached Alison
offering her help on a social studies project.
"Not that I don't appreciate the offer, Tim," she said, "But
I'm actually living with someone and I really have to go." She
began adjusting the seat forward to her height.
Tim looked a bit befuddled. "How did you know my name was Tim?"
Alison's eyes went blank for a moment. "Your… your friend.
The other officer. He called you Tim."
"You have good ears," he said. "I thought you came here
"I did," she said, fumbling with her keys.
"Then why did you have to adjust the seat when you got into the
Alison's mouth hung open for a moment. "Well, I… sometimes
will… stretch out for a moment after driving," she said.
She regretted the words as she uttered them.
Tim was looking at her funny. He didn't look like he believed her,
but he didn't seem like he was going to arrest her either. He looked
as though he was about to speak when he and everything around him suddenly
faded from view.
Alison stood in a large room full of couches, chairs, oversized pillows,
meditation mats, and beds of all shapes and sizes. For a moment, she
thought it must be a furniture store, but then she noticed all the people
around her. A large number of them were about, on the mats, beds, and
such, in various states of removal from reality. Were it not for the
clean-cut nature of the dress and décor, Alison might have guessed
it was some sort of opium den.
Suddenly, she realized that everyone close enough to consciousness
to be aware of their surroundings was staring at her. Scratch that,
they were staring at her and the angry woman in front of her.
When Alison looked at the woman, the only part she could focus on was
her finger. It was thrust angrily in Alison's direction.
"You don't own him," the woman said shrilly.
The lights seemed to dim in the room until Alison realized the room
itself was dimming, giving way to a much darker room full of boxes.
The only light came from around the edges of a door ahead of her. She
heard voices from within.
"This is it," said one.
"Commencing test 9C," said another.
She heard a faint click and then a pounding sound began, like being
outside a Plexiglas window with someone inside hitting it to get your
attention. The pounding seemed to be at a measured pace, but still seemed
Alison's head began to throb along with the pounding rhythm. She clenched
her eyes shut until she could see little fireworks bursting inside her
eyelids. When she opened them, everything remained black for a split
second, before dissolving into a paramedic's face. He was crouched over
her, while Tim stood nearby.
"Miss Ames," Tim said, "Are you ok?"
"Yeah… I'm… I'm fine," she said. "I'm sorry,
it's nothing. I'm ok."
"Does this happen to you often?" asked the paramedic.
"No, I just fainted," she said. "This was a lot of excitement."
"It seemed almost like a seizure of some sort," said Tim. "Your
eyes weren't even closed, just unfocussed."
"You don't have a history of epilepsy?" asked the paramedic.
"No, no," said Alison, "Nothing like that. I just need
to go. I need to get home. Please, just let me go."
The medic looked to Tim, who nodded. "You can go, Miss Ames," Tim
said. "Just give me a call if you think of anything else you need
to tell me."
"Thank you," Alison said, getting up off the ground. She
had been lying right next to the car, so she couldn't have been out
very long, likely just enough for Tim to call over a medic and the two
of them to get her out of the vehicle. She hopped back into the car
and started it up. Tim waved as she drove away.
Alison knew well enough what had happened. It was another vision. Sometimes
they were simple little flashes of inspiration, other times, like this
one, they actually put her out of commission for the duration of the
vision. This was the most severe one she had had in a long time. Most
of her recent visions had been much simpler in nature, barely worth
At first, it was exactly this unimportant nature of them that made
her not mention them to Red. So a vision stopped her from picking "B" on
a multiple-choice question, who cares? It was more likely that she just
forgot about it than that she deliberately withheld the information.
The only problem with that justification was when they began to be visions
of other people, people she did not know. Why is it so important that
this woman misses her flight? Why does it matter that a customs officer
is being bribed to let electronics into the US? Why is one more closing
homeless shelter all that important? These are the kinds of questions
she imagined a wealthy organization like DI&R had the time and money
to figure out. Alison had her own life to worry about.
She'd already been robbed of one life by these things; she wasn't going
to lose another. She hadn't told Red because she didn't want to give
up on having that normal life. Sure, he said he was happy to be done
with it all but she was worried. Look what happened tonight. Granted,
it's good that he helped- God only knows how many more people might
have been killed if he hadn't. But still. If he really was happy to
be done with it, he didn't need to know about the visions. And either
way, like Argento had said, DI&R can handle it. They have people
to take care of it. This… whatever her name was. Chelsea.
When she got home she went to get the suitcase out of the closet for
more money to buy that new computer, but then changed her mind. She
thought a deadly hostage situation was probably worth an extension.
Red got into the back of the Outback slightly befuddled. "How
did you know I would be here?"
Chelsea scoffed and floored the gas, whipping them out of the lot before
Red even had his belt on. His heels were quickly over his head.
"What the hell are you doing?" Red ejected, more afraid for
his life than angry.
"The police will be looking for you," she said flatly. "I
assume you don't want to give a statement."
"You could have waited for me to buckle up, at least."
"Yeah? Why, because we're such good friends? Professional courtesy?
You are something of a fugitive, remember? I'm thinking getting shaken
up a bit is the least of your worries right now."
Red was finally able to right himself and fully take the scarf from
around his head. "You're going to turn me in?"
"Chelsea, I assure you that's not necessary," said Argento. "I've
assessed the situation and Red is not a threat to DI&R. I've been
keeping a close eye on him."
"Don't think you can sweet-talk your way out of this one, my friend," Chelsea
said. "I doubt anyone will be very pleased to hear that you've
been sitting on this information all this time."
"You can't do this!" said Red.
"I can and will," said Chelsea. "I am a Saint. I was
hand chosen by God to do His work. I have a responsibility to Our Lord
to tend His flock. As do you, but you selfishly sit by and let the Garden
of God's work grow to seed. I will not let you squander this gift."
"You're mixing a few too many metaphors for my tastes, thanks.
Are we shepherds or landscapers?"
"Even as a Saint, you were selfish. Wasting your time with romance,
friends. God's soldiers need focus. We have a calling, there is no room
for your own wants, the needs of the Lord outweigh any possible desires
"You know," said Red, "When you said you were turning
us in, I thought you were a stick-in-the-mud. Only now do I realize
that you're actually a Psycho-Bitch!"
"The Lord speaks to me, Red," she said, annoyance taking
over her voice. "I don't expect you understand. You had to rely
on your stupid girlfriend for that. Things began right under your nose
and I'm the one who has to come and deal with it."
"Well, great job," said Red, "You showed up afterwards
to pick me up. Well done."
"That?" said Chelsea. "That was nothing. One ridiculous
madman. I have much bigger things to worry about. Death and destruction
on a much more massive scale than your simple electronics store maniac
could dream up. It has already begun, and still you know nothing."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Tell him," she said, glancing to Argento.
"Earlier today," Argento said, looking over his shoulder
at Red, "A group of boys went into the computer pod at the University
and torched the place. Chelsea was on hand to make sure no one was hurt
and apprehend the perpetrators."
Chelsea laughed. "Interesting phraseology. Apprehend. I probably
would have said eradicate."
"What?" said Argento.
"I destroyed them. Those that go not with God go against Him.
I am a weapon for God to wield, striking down his enemies swiftly and
"You killed them?" Argento squeaked.
"They were nothing. They would have killed all those present had
I not been there. They deserved to die."
"I'm thinking emphasis on the 'Psycho' part of 'Psycho-Bitch'," said
"Chelsea," Argento said, "They didn't need to die! From
all the information we know, this was not their idea. Did you at least
get any information out of them?"
"They had nothing to tell me," she replied. "Those so
easily swayed by the ways of evil are better disposed of. They will
never truly come to God."
"That's insane!" said Red, "You can't just go around
killing people, you know?"
"Red…" said Argento.
"You think that because it's in the name of God you can just murder
people in cold blood? I mean sure, saving people is good, but you don't
need to kill. You're going to turn us is? Go ahead, we'll turn you in.
See what the higher-ups think of you killing a bunch of suspects."
"Red," Argento said, "That's not the issue…"
"You think they don't know?" said Chelsea, pulling into the
Holiday Inn. "They know exactly what I am here for. I am the burning
sword of God's vengeance. The Highers knew exactly what they were getting
in me. I am invaluable to them. I guess you're not, since they only
bothered to send this dunce after you. Still, once you’re rechristened
you could probably handle small things. Helping nuns across the street
By this time, they had parked. Red opened the door. "I'm not going
to let you turn us in," he said.
"You can't stop me," Chelsea replied. "DI&R will
take you back, it is God's will."
"DI&R can kiss my ass. And if God has any sense he thinks
you're a Psycho-Bitch, too. Argento, give me a ride home?"
"You'll go nowhere but inside. We’ve got a roll of duct
tape I'd like to introduce you to."
"I'm so over the duct tape bondage scene, but it was sure nice
to meet you."
Red turned back towards the Outback to walk to the other side. He heard
the familiar sort of 'shlink' of a sword being drawn. He acted pretty
much on instinct. To be honest, if he had thought about it beforehand,
he probably would have assumed it wouldn't work.
He spun on his heels, drawing his sword as he did so. Chelsea was leaping
towards him, her sword overhead. As she swung it down at him, he brought
his up and the two came together with a mighty clang. It was a sound
Red had never heard before in conjunction with his sword- this was the
first time he had ever seen the blade actually touch anything without
either slicing it to bits or passing clean through him/her.
"Huh," he stated.
At this point a swordfight seemed somewhat inevitable, so one began.
Red found he was better at it when he wasn't planning his moves, so
he let his blessings do the fighting while his mind was free to ponder
the situation. Having a swordfight seemed like such a strange thing
to be doing in this modern age. He couldn't help but feel like he was
playing at Star Wars, or something.
Chelsea was quite good at it. While they were fighting Red noticed
for the first time that she was soaking wet. Even so, wearing a wet
T-shirt and jeans in the October air, she was still holding her own,
displaying an incredible amount of focus. The cold air taking effect
on Chelsea's anatomy, however, distracted Red for a moment. Chelsea's
blade whipped through Red's side, leaving a gash cut into his shirt
and coat. From his now severed coat pocket spilled three thousand dollars
Chelsea watched as bills fluttered about her feet. She looked to Argento.
She looked at Red. "The money? The money you spread all over Rockefeller
Red smiled and thrust with his sword. Chelsea swung her own up to deflect
"We thought you had lost it all!" she said.
"Who am I to argue with God's accountants?" said Red.
"How much do you have?" she asked, lunging towards him.
"What's the difference?" asked Red.
This fight was getting them nowhere. Red let Chelsea's next thrust
go right into his chest. While she was off balance, he swung for her
feet and cut the front half of her boots off. He then placed his left
hand over her stunned face and shoved her backwards. She stumbled to
find her footing on her uneven footwear and toppled on to the ground,
her sword embedding itself into the parking lot tar.
"Bastard!" she spat and pulled out her gun.
"This is stupid," Red said. "Why are we fighting? That
things not going to hurt me either. You know how these things work."
"Red-" said Argento.
"All you'll do is puncture a dozen things behind me. Put that
Chelsea was clearly furious. She was gritting her teeth with reckless
abandon and her eyes were squinted vehemently. Red might have thought
she was about to cry if he didn't know any better. Her thumb moved and
the gun in her hands clicked.
Argento slammed into Red's side, knocking him to the ground as Chelsea
fired. Her bullet shattered both the driver's and passenger's side windows
of Argento's Outback before cracking a branch off a nearby tree.
Red furrowed his brow. "But that tree was alive…" he
"Red," said Argento, "Chelsea's primary function is
in Retributions, not Interventions!"
"Jesus," Red said, leaping to his feet, "Why didn't
you tell me?!" Red held his sword in his left hand and pulled his
own gun, still silenced, with his right. He stood at ready facing Chelsea. "What
do you want from me, huh?" he asked her. "What is this about?"
Chelsea just stared at him for a moment, unmoving. Then she holstered
"Forget it, then," she said. "Get out of here." She
picked her sword up from where it lay in the pavement, turned around,
and walked towards the hotel.
"That’s it?" Red said.
"Go," she said.
"You can't do that!" Red said, jogging up to her. "You
can't just try to kill me and then say 'Forget it!'"
Chelsea narrowed her eyes but would not look at Red. "You're the
renegade, remember? If I call for backup, I'll get any and all the help
I need to take you down. Fortunately for you, I don't feel like having
the Highers breathing down my neck before I've even really begun here.
I work alone. You have until I finish my business here, then I am exposing
you. Do with that time what you will."
"I'm not afraid of you, you psycho!" Red said.
"Argento," she called over her shoulder, "I'll meet
you at the Marriott across town. Try not to get caught by the police."
"Thank you-" Argento began, but stopped speaking when Red
shot him an angry glare.
"Tell your bosses to commit ritual suicide for me, ok?" Red
called after her. "And feel free to join the party. And say 'Hi,'
to God when you meet Him! If he asks about me tell him I've been well!" Chelsea
was out of sight. Red turned back to Argento. "And you wonder why
I don't trust you?" He walked to the Outback.
"Red, she… she's doing the right thing," Argento said. "She
was chosen. And she saved quite a few lives today."
"And took a few."
The two of them got in the vehicle, brushing the little squares of
glass off the seats before sitting. Argento started the car. "It's
not for you or I to judge. The Highers have signed off on her methods
and if God didn't approve-"
"You know what? I have been pretty damned happy the last few months
without God sticking his nose in my business. I think I'd like to keep
it that way."
"Fine," said Argento.
They drove in silence for a few moments.
Finally, Argento spoke again. "Well, you have a week or so, at
"What are you talking about?" said Red.
"A few days, at least. Until she reports back to DI&R. From
what I've read of her, she really would prefer to have you go free than
to call one more set of authoritative eyes down on her."
"You don't think… You don't think I'm going to run, do you?"
Argento blinked and glanced over at Red while he drove. "Of course.
"I made this life myself," Red said. "I'm not giving
it up for this nonsense. Not again. This one is all mine."
"Red, they'll come for you."
"I've stopped them before."
Argento shook his head.
"Hey," said Red, "If it was 'God's will' that I be caught,
they would have had me by now, right? Besides, I'm not the only one
they'll be coming for. What are you going to do?"
"I'll do… whatever they decide for me to do. I did go against
orders and I will take the punishment I'm given. But, Red, you can't
stop them again. They're not going to let that even be a possibility.
You humiliated Hayden. He's going to hold a grudge."
"Yeah, yeah, thanks," said Red with a wave of his hand.
"You really won't run?"
"I'll tell you what I'm going to do- I'm going to go home, see
the woman I love, get some rest, get up, and go to work tomorrow morning.
Then the next day, I'll do the same thing. Repeat as necessary."
"That stupid phone job?" Argento asked.
"Yes, that stupid phone job," said Red. "It's easy and
it serves its purpose."
"It’s a job I can do while still… having time to enjoy
Argento laughed a little. "And that's good?"
"Yes," said Red.
"Fulfilling? You feel good about it?"
"I feel fine."
"Well…" said Argento, "That's good."
"What are you going on about?"
"Red… she's right about one thing- you do have a gift. You
have been blessed. Now, I don't blame you for not liking DI&R, but… to
just do nothing with this gift… it seems a bit of a waste."
"Yeah, well, thanks for the advise, Frank," said Red. "Here's
The car pulled to the side of the road in front of Red and Alison's
building. Red got out of the car.
"Give it some thought," Argento called through the broken
window as Red began to ascend the stairs to the front door.
"Whatever," said Red. "Now, if you don't mind. I have
to get to bed. I have to be up early for work tomorrow."