Vin Tanner entered the town of Kovar the next morning. He had been trailing a disciple of the Vicar. The Vicar was a rebel fraction of Necromongers that had decided to start an uprising in Necropolis and Vin, being the best bounty hunter on the planet was hired by the Lord Marshal to hunt him down and discover the whereabouts of their enclave.
Unfortunately the Necromonger’s trail went cold somewhere outside of Kovar. Since he had lost his prey, he decided he would get some rest, food, drink and a bath before starting out into the desert again back to Necropolis. He knew the Lord Marshal was not going to be pleased. She probably would have him thrown into the worst cell he could imagine and he did not want that. He had to find the rebel.
She had sent Vin not because he was the best bounty hunter in the universe, but because of his what he had inherited from his mother’s family. Vin’s mother was a Ravakar. Ravakars were known for their skills in tracking and adapting to any environment. They lived off the land and were nomads on Helion Prime.
The Ravakars were the first to settle Helion Prime centuries before the religious seekers came from Earth and being so, they learned to live off the planet in its time of desolation and ever changing weather. They were originally sent as advance scouting settlers to determine what would be needed to live there.
Throughout the years that followed, they became to be known as the “Invincible Ones” due to the fact that for everything that nature of the planet would throw at them they would always come out the victor.
When the religious colonists finally came to the planet, it took several hundred years before they would stop slowly dying from trying to cultivate the planet to their wishes, while on the other hand the Ravakar learned to live as part of the planet and so grew in numbers at the same time.
The problem was that the council and government of New Mecca did not know exactly what their numbers were and that worried them. Being nomads and very secretive about their ways, they kept to themselves. No one had ever been inside a Ravakar holding or even knew where they were. It kept ruling council in the dark about how many lived on the planet and it scared them to think that if there was ever an uprising that they would be outnumbered dramatically.
Vin knew that his people outnumbered the religious colonists, but Vin’s people wanted nothing from what they considered sacrilegious defilers of the planet. They took, but they did not put back and Vin’s people abhorred what they were doing to the planet. At first his people wanted to remove these defilers from the planet. But then came a foe more dreaded than the colonists and their disputes had to put aside because this foe would not only destroy their enemies, but the universe itself. It was the only reason he had taken the job in the first place. It was at the request of his people he had agreed to help stop this greater evil that had come from within the planet itself. And now it led him to this town, seeking a Necromonger who might hold the answer they sort.
The small town was quiet and most of the residents were asleep, except for the criminals and the vagrants. Vin pulled his brown cloak closer to his body, hiding the weapons that he carried on him. If he was arrested or searched by the local law enforcement here, they would probably be amazed at the arsenal he carried. It was all Vin owned in the world and it was the tools of his trade.
He came upon an inn about halfway through town. It did not look so hospitable, but there was not much in Kovar to begin with that would. Kovar was a farming town and the rich did not reside here, only the hardworking farmers of the planet.
He pushed open the door and walked into the basement bar of the inn and found it was practically empty except for the bartender, a waitress and a couple of early morning residents who looked like they practically lived here.
One man in particular in a red expensive looking outfit, sat near the bar with an older cloaked man. The man had gray hair and Vin noticed that he bore the ring of the Christianity Church, which surprised him. He did not think any of the Church would be out this far in the outlands.
Vin sat at booth across from the two men who seemed deep in a conversation and held his hand up for the waitress to come take his order.
The waitress, a girl no more than twenty with long black hair and blue eyes came over to his table.
“What can I get you, sir?” she asked.
“What’s ya name?”
“Kitra,” said the girl smiling at the young man in front of her. She had determined that he was a fine specimen of a man, considering the lack of them in this town.
“Kitra, I’ll have a Mandarian ale if ya have.”
“Coming right up,” said Kitra and she walked away towards the bar to place the order.
Vin then went back to his silent observation of the two gentlemen. They seem to be discussing something that they wanted no one else to hear and that interested Vin. They may know of where a Necromonger might be hiding out in this backwater of a town.
Just as he was about to get up from his position and move to where the two sat, he felt a presence he had not felt before. He turned to where his feelings told him it was and saw a cloaked figure in all black come slowly down the stairs that probably led up to the rented rooms. He had blond hair that flowed freely around his shoulders and his eyes were covered with dark sunglasses. Vin assumed he was hiding something and he was not far from wrong.
Chris had woken up with a killer of hangover. He usually did not get hangovers as he thought he was immune to the rotgut whiskey sold in Ezra’s establishment. He came slowly down the stairs, his back straight due to the pain that was pounding in his head every time he took a step.
It was then that he felt a presence in the room that had made the hackles on the back of his head rise. He looked around and found himself staring into the sea blue eyes of stranger. A stranger that he felt might be a danger to him.
Vin eyed the man up and down, trying to figure out what he was. He was not human, like the others in the room. He carried himself like a Necromonger, but he also bore the facial features of a Furian, which could not be possible since they were extinct. The man was quandary to Vin.
He watched the man in black as he joined the other two at the booth. He eased himself down next to the overly dressed man, but Vin knew his attention was on him. He decided to introduce himself and see if either of these men could help him track down the Necromonger.
As Chris sat down next to Ezra, he felt someone’s eyes upon him as he did. He sidled a glance around and noticed a stranger sitting at the table behind them. The man was dressed in desert garb and Chris felt he was very capable in surviving anything the desert had to throw at him. He then saw the man make a decision and start walking towards them. Chris turned to face him and found he was looking into the bluest eyes he ever seen.
“Good morning. My name is Vin Tanner and I’m on official business for the Lord Marshal,” he said to the men at the booth.
Chris looked at the man, appraisingly. He could feel the strength in this man, the determination to complete whatever he started out to do. But there was something else that tingled in the back of Chris’ mind and it was only when he was around this man that he felt it.
“Lord Marshal, huh?” said Chris. He did not think his mother would use a bounty hunter to search for him. In fact, he did not even think his mother knew he was still alive since his escape from prison. He then turned back to face his companions. “And what kind of official business could a bounty hunter be doing for the Lord Marshal?”
Vin stared at the man in surprise, but soon it was masked by calmness. “And how did ya know that I was a bounty hunter?”
“I just know,” said Chris simply. “Why don’t you take a seat and tell us why you’re here?” Chris needed to determine if the man was looking for him or something else.
Vin took a seat next to Josiah. He looked at the priest, curious as to what his business was with these two dangerous looking individuals. Yes. He thought the red suited dressed man was dangerous also. Although to look at him, one would not think so, but Vin sensed something under his boisterous looking exterior, something which others did not see.
“This is Ezra Standish, Josiah Sanchez. My name is Larabee.”
“Larabee? Ya not related to the Lord Marshal are ya?” said Vin jokingly, although the Lord Marshal did not use her given name when it came to business. .
“She’s…my mother,” responded Chris cautiously.
Vin eyes open wide in shock. “Ya kiddin’, right?”
“I don’t kid, Mr. Tanner.”
“Call me Vin.”
“Well, Vin you can call me Chris.” Ezra and Josiah mouth dropped to the floor. It was the first time that they had heard him tell anyone at first meet to call him Chris. Of course, Ezra still had a hard time doing that.
Vin stared at him then as if he remembered something and he did. “Ya Christopher Connell Larabee? I heard of ya! I thought ya was dead.”
“So does half the universe,” interjected Josiah.
“Including my mother,” said Chris smiling wickedly.
“But as you can see he is quite alive,” added Ezra.
Vin looked at three men in amazement and smiled. He could come to like these men under different circumstances. But at this moment, he had a job to do and he needed information.
“So, what are ya doin’ here? How come ya ain’t livin’ in that high and mighty Necropolis City?”
Chris smirked and said with a serious face, “Because it was better than dying.”
Vin tilted his head slightly at this statement and then remembered the rest of the story. It was said that Christopher Connell Larabee, only child of Ailya Riddick Larabee, Lord Marshal had died, yes. But he had died in prison on Crematoria for his actions of sedition. The Vicar.
At Vin’s realization, he stood up quickly from his seat and immediately pulled out his handheld laser. He pointed it at the man called Chris Larabee and said, “I think my luck is changin’.”
Chris sighed and leaned back into his seat at the booth, not taking his eyes off the man. “Yeah, for the worst,” said Chris.
Ezra started to stand up and when he heard the bounty hunter say, “And where do ya think ya goin’?”
“I…I was going to have a small libation, if you please.”
“Sit down until I tell ya otherwise,” said Vin, waving his gun in Ezra’s face.
Ezra sat back down slowly into his previous seat and smiled smoothly at the young man.
Vin returned his conversation back to Larabee. “Let me tell ya a story. About a month ago I was hired by the Lord Marshal for a search and retrieve mission. The mission was to find and capture one Zion Padder, a Necromonger. He’s part of a rebel fraction of Necromongers called the Vicar. Well, I followed his trail through the desert and lost it about a little ways from here. There are no other cities or settlements in this area for miles around so I know he’s hold up here somewhere. Since I was tired, hungry and thirsty, I figure I rest up before I continue in my mission and that’s when I saw this inn and decided to stop in. And look what I find of all things that are holy, beg ya pardon, priest,” he said nodding to Josiah. “Christopher Connell Larabee, wanted for being in collusion with the Vicar. Ya should of stayed dead, Larabee. It woulda been safer for ya.”
“Call me Chris. And I was never safe, Vin. Not in all my life have I been truly safe,” replied Chris sorrowfully.
“Please, Mr. Tanner, you cannot do this,” interrupted Josiah.
“Don’t try to tell me what I can or cannot do, priest,” Vin spat. “I have jurisdiction even here under the orders of the Lord Marshal herself.”
Josiah had not wanted to disclose his reasons for being there yet. At least not until he had Larabee back at New Mecca, but now this bounty hunter had put a snag in his plans. He would have to reveal much more than he or Travis had planned to.
“This might change your mind,” said Josiah reaching into his pocket and pulling out a disk. He held the disk out towards the young bounty hunter.
Vin gazed at the disk. It held the insignia of the Lord Marshal. What was a priest doing with a disk like that? It befuddled Vin to no end.
“And just where in hell did you get that?” exclaimed Chris. He was also confused and shocked.
“As I can see, you do recognize the insignia of the Lord Marshal,” said Josiah looking into those glaring blue eyes.
“Yeah, I do. And ya didn’t answer his question which is the same as mine,” responded Vin.
“I am here to retrieve Christopher Connell Larabee, fugitive of Crematoria and son of the Lord Marshal as per the Lord Marshal’s orders.”
“You lied to me, priest!” said Chris, his voice low and threatening.
Josiah knew he probably just lost the trust of the one person who could save them from their destruction. He prayed that God would forgive him, but he saw no other way.
“Chris, I didn’t lie to you. I was going to tell you as soon as you were with Travis in New Mecca. I just didn’t want you to bolt,” explained Josiah.
“Get up, Ezra!” yelled Chris, his anger at himself and the priest mounting.
“But he said…” started Ezra, pointing at Vin.
“I don’t give a damn what he said! Move it!”
Ezra looked from Chris to Vin and back again. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. But he decided that a laser to the heart was preferable over what he knew lay within the man that sat next to him. So, he got up and quickly moved out of the way of his enraged partner.
Vin tracked Ezra’s movement to the side out of the corner of his eyes, making sure that he would be able to get a shot off if the man proved a threat to him. He then watched as Chris stood up and walked out of the booth and none to gently move pass the bounty hunter towards the stairs that led to his room.
Vin stood there in astonishment at the man’s audacity, his gun still following the man’s movement. “And where the hell did ya think ya goin’, Larabee?”
Chris turned and removed his sunglasses from his eyes. Vin gasped at the vision of those seemingly sightless eyes. He then walked quickly back to stand nose to nose with the bounty hunter.
“First of all, it’s none of your damn business! Second, if you’re going to shoot me, then do it and be done with it. You’ll probably be doing me a favor considering the hangover I have. But right now, my ass is going back to my room and I ain’t coming out until I can get even more drunker than I did last night.” And with that, Chris turned his back on Vin and walked methodically up the stairs and out of sight.
Vin turned to look at Ezra and Josiah bewildered. What the hell just went on here? He had a criminal, a fugitive wanted by the Lord Marshal herself and he had just let him go. What the hell was he thinking?
Josiah knew the young man was confused by his actions, but he should have explained to him that Chris Larabee was no ordinary man. In fact, he was exactly the opposite.
Vin was still looking at Ezra and Josiah for an explanation. Both men shrugged their shoulders, not knowing what to tell the bounty hunter. Ezra then walked back to his place at the booth, motioning for Vin to come join them.
Vin looked at them doubtfully at first, but then he re-holstered his weapon back onto his hip and walked over to take a seat next to Ezra. Ezra motioned for Kitra to bring them some drinks. While they waited for them, Ezra decided to do some investigation into what the hell was going on in his establishment.
“May I inquire as to why you did not fire when you had the chance?” asked Ezra.
“I don’t rightly know. Just didn’t feel right,” answered Vin perplexed.
“And it wasn’t,” added Josiah. “You would have been killing an innocent and good man.”
“And how ya figure that, priest?”
“Call me Josiah. I am no longer a servant of the Church.”
“Well, Josiah, ya ain’t answer my question.”
“Mr. Tanner, Christopher Connell Larabee have done a lot of things and have been a lot of things. But a traitor? Not hardly. Chris Larabee was convicted by the false accusations of very crooked and greedy politicians of Necropolis. Unfortunately for Chris, there was no evidence to prove his innocence at the time, so he ended up serving several years on Crematoria, in effect, losing his sight and his ability to feel temperature as a human should. Be then again, he’s not really human.”
“I have two questions to that, Mr. Sanchez. First, how come Mr. Larabee has not been exonerated from this heinous crime he has been accused of and what do you mean not really human?”
Josiah closed his eyes for a moment in thought and said, “First of all, he has not been cleared of the crime he has been falsely accused because as of recently it was not known that he was still alive. Since he was believed dead, no one thought to remove the bounty posthumous. Second, I said he’s not really human because he is not. He’s a Furian, Necromonger and Elemental hybrid.”
This was something that amazed Vin as much as Ezra but for different reasons. For Vin, his people considered the race of Elementals only a legend and myth. They had never seen or met one before, although they had heard stories of those of New Mecca who had. But they had a tendency not to believe them since the people of New Mecca were considered tainted by the Ravakar.
Ezra on the other hand only saw this as an asset. If he had known what Larabee truly was, he would have utilized him to pinnacle of his potential. But right now, that seemed out of reach, considering the man was totally pissed at him.
“And how do you come by this particular information, Mr. Sanchez?”
“I have been hired by Councilman Travis to bring Larabee back to New Mecca.”
“For punishment?” asked Ezra.
“For the bounty?” asked Vin.
“For neither. There is a threat to our whole universe that has descended upon us and unbeknownst to the ordinary citizens, it is a deadly one. And it seems Mr. Tanner than you are part of this also, although I do not know the why or how of it.”
“Call me Vin and in answer to your question, the Lord Marshal sent me on this mission to retrieve a criminal. He is a convert of the Vicar.”
“The Vicar?” gasped Josiah. “Here?”
“Yeah. I trailed ‘im through the desert, but I lost ‘im some where between there and here. Since this is the only town within miles of the desert, I figured this is where he had to have gone. I was hopin’ that someone might have seen ‘im so I can pick up the trail.”
Josiah face turned to one of somber. Vin and Ezra could see he was in deep contemplation.
“This is not good,” said Josiah finally. “Not good at all.”
“Why?” queried Ezra. He was also concerned since it could prove detrimental to his already tenuous partnership with Larabee.
Josiah realized he had told these men too much as it was. But he had no choice and he believed that these men were somehow connected to all of this. He sighed and said, “The Vicar is the threat that I speak of and I know why the convert is here. He’s looking for Larabee.”
“Chris?” came Ezra’s soft question. “But why? Yes, he is the Lord Marshal’s son, but that makes no sense. He is felon and a vagrant at best. I can see nothing of value to the Vicar.”
“Ezra, everything is not about money. This is about power and you should know this. The Vicar seeks to resurrect the old Necromonger ways and exert their hold on to the universe. Larabee is the means to that end. The latent powers that he possess if they got their hands on him could tip the balance of their holy war in their favor.”
“Does the Lord Marshal know this?” asked Vin.
“No. She does not. We have kept it a secret among a very few of us in the council that can be trusted with this information. We wanted to first obtain proof before we brought this to her.”
“Well, I think ya can’t wait any longer. If what ya say is true, then Larabee’s in danger and so are we,” said Vin thoughtfully.
“We?” chirped up Ezra. “I do not see how this involves me.”
“You know too much, Erza. The Vicar would not let you live,” came Josiah’s statement.
Ezra eyed them stunned. “But, my dear sirs, they do not know that I know, so how is that possible?”
“The Vicar has spies even here, Ezra.”
“I could leave, Mr. Sanchez.”
Vin rolled his eyes up the ceiling and sighed. “They would find ya, Ezra. Let me tell ya, they are good at what they do. I should know cause I’m the best at it,” said Vin none too gently.
“How very modest of you,” retorted Ezra.
“It ain’t modesty that keeps me alive, Ezra. It’s knowin’ Ezra dropped his head onto his hands upon the table. How had he got into this predicament? He was a merchant. What they spoke of was of intrigue and deception. He was not meant for something like this. His head then came up and he smiled gently to himself. Or was he? Intrigue and deception was part of the con game. His profession as a player of chance proved that. He could play this game as easily as he did the others.
“So what do you suggest I do, Mr. Tanner?”
“I think first of all, we need to speak to Larabee. Then I think we need find that convert. We need any information we can get out of ‘im,” responded Vin.
Josiah nodded and agreed with the bounty hunter’s assessment of the situation. Ezra did also. He could also try and discover what these latent powers that Josiah spoke about were available to Mr. Larabee and calculate the odds on whether or not it would be worth risking his life for. Who knows? Maybe there was a profit for him in this somewhere. It was worth a try.
The three men got up from the booth and started to go up the stairs to where Larabee’s room was located.
They did not see the pair of red eyes that were watching them from one of the basement windows outside. The eyes disappeared as soon as it saw the men leave.
Vin, Ezra and Josiah stood outside the door that Ezra had said was Chris Larabee’s room. They had been standing there for the past few minutes arguing about whether they should knock or not.
“Go on, Ezra. Knock,” said Vin smiling. Considering what he saw of the man’s performance earlier, he did not think the blond man would like the intrusion they were about to make.
“What do you take me for, Mr. Tanner? An idiot?” retorted Ezra. He knew Chris was already pissed at him. He was not about to risk getting shot by the volatile man.
“I’ll do it,” said Josiah and he knocked loudly on the door. They waited, but there came no answer.
“Is he in there?” asked Vin. Josiah had hit the door pretty hard, hard enough to wake the dead.
Ezra looked at the door and noticed that light came from under the crack at the bottom. “He’s there,” he said.
“Well?” asked Josiah.
“Well?” repeated Ezra.
Vin sighed and cautiously reached for the knob. He turned it and found it was not lock. He then eyed the other two men and slowly pushed the door open.
When he stepped inside, he found a laser conveniently pushing against his temple.
“You must want to die young, bounty hunter,” came the raspy voice of Chris Larabee.
Vin turned to face the man and found he was looking into crystallized red-rimmed eyes. The man was drunk and Vin could smell the alcohol wafting off his breath.
“Ya drunk, Larabee,” stated Vin calmly.
Chris giggled and removed the laser from its position at Tanner’s head. He then staggered back over to his bed and plopped face up on it, gun still in hand and said, “Not as drunk as I wish I was.” He then laughed hysterically at his own joke.
Ezra and Josiah then walked into the room. It reeked of liquor and of sweat. There were bottles of all types of liquor, littering the floor. They had to make sure that they did not step on any. The bed was mussed up and although it was, Ezra knew for a fact that the man rarely slept in it.
“Mr. Larabee, you have defiled this room. How will I be able to rent it once you are gone?” complained Ezra.
Chris turned glazed crystal green eyes towards the man and smirked. “Wasn’t…wasn’t shit of a room to begin with…Ez ole buddy,” said Chris moving to grab the bottle on the nightstand in the small room.
Vin’s hand shot out like a bolt and grabbed the bottle before the blond could reach it.
“I think ya had enough, Pard,” said Vin determinedly.
“You mind your own damn business!” shouted Chris, slowly moving into a sitting position on the bed. “I paid for it and it’s mine.”
“He’s right, Chris. This is not helping you one bit,” interjected Josiah.
“Who asked you, Priest!” spat Chris. “You lied to me. You…you told me that Travis sent you.” He then fell back onto the bed.
“He did, Chris. It’s just that we needed some help in order to get the right resources. The Lord Marshal offered, but she had no idea that you were alive. We told her that we had someone who we thought would be able to help us prove what we believed to the council. She didn’t know it was you that we were talking about. As far as she is concerned, you’re still dead. Of course, that was before all hell broke loose in Necropolis.”
“Ya talkin’ to air, Josiah. He’s out like a light,” said Vin hovering over the now unconscious man.
“Great,” replied Josiah. He needed the man conscious and awake. He then turned to Ezra and asked, “Do you have a healer in this here town?”
“Not exactly. We have a seer of sorts. He is the only qualified in the medical field around here.”
“Then get him. Bring him here,” ordered Josiah.
“But he will require payment in advance,” said Ezra eyeing him annoyed. He did not like being reduced to messenger boy.
Josiah reached into a pouch he had at his side and handed Ezra some currency in coins. “Will that be enough?” asked Josiah.
“That would be more than enough to suffice, Mr. Sanchez,” said Ezra smiling. Ezra then turned and left the room. Josiah closed the door behind him.
When Josiah turned back to the man on the bed, he had found that Vin had not left his side. He also saw something of concern on the bounty hunter’s face and it bothered Josiah. “Vin? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know, Josiah. It’s just something…I just feel…”
“Something different about him?” finished Josiah.
“Yeah. How did ya know?”
“It’s what everyone feels when they are around an Ether Elemental. What do you know about the Elemental race?”
“Not much, mostly legends and fairytales told to me by my mother,”
“Yeah. She was a Ravakar.”
“Half. The other half is New Meccan, or so I was told. My father left my mother when I was young and I was raised by my mother and her people.”
“So what did they tell you about the Elementals?”
“Well, my she told me that they live on a planet far from Helion Prime, a place where only nature roams called Seefron. They live in complete harmony with the planet and their part of the universe.”
“That part is quite true,” said Josiah and he started to explain to Vin about the Elementals.
He told him that the Elementals, being a race that is made up of the basic elements of life, do not interfere with nature or its course. They were very logical in their thinking and always calculated the odds and risks in anything they do.
They consist of the five elements of life. The first is the Air Elemental. These people had the ability to turn their molecules into the same substance of air. They could control windstorms, tornados and hurricanes. They could not fly, as myth and legend says, but they could float very well.
The second is the Fire Elemental. These people had the ability to generate heat, even to the point of actually creating fire. Their touch could kill as well as heal, depending on how they use it.
The third is the Earth Elemental. They had the ability to change their molecules at will into hard substances of rock and metal. They could control the land, make it form to their will. Josiah told Vin how he had seen them create craters out of earthquakes and even rock slides.
The fourth is the Water Elemental. They had the ability to control all forms of water in liquid or solid form. Josiah had seen one of them create tidal waves, riptides, divert rivers and oceans and create icebergs in the Northern regions of the planet Seefron.
But the fifth and the most unique was the Ether Elemental. Ether is the prime element latent in all things, providing space and balance for all elements to unfold. He told them that these individuals seem to have the unique ability to utilize all the aspects of the other Elementals to increase their power tenfold.
From what Josiah had explained is that they could create water from nothing but air and make metal molten with fire and then cool it hard again once they reshaped it with water and air. They also held the power over what the humans called a “soul” and could change even that in a person with a thought.
“Chris is part Ether Elemental. Alone it is limited at best. But mixed with Furian and Necromonger, well, who knows. The Vicar think that he would have the power to convert humans to his will, without war or destruction. In other words, Chris is seen as an easier way to convert the humans of the universe to the will of the Underverse without conflict. A tool to be used.”
“And I assume Chris don’t think that way,” replied Vin.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know what Chris thinks. I didn’t get a chance to tell him what I’ve told you and now I don’t think he’ll listen.”
At that moment Ezra came back into the room with a young brown-skinned man dressed in the robes of a healer. The man looked at Josiah, then Vin and then his brown eyes stared at the figure on the bed.
“Is that Connell?” asked the young man, his eyes fixed on the man in black on the bed.
“Yes, that is him,” said Ezra.
“Can you help us, ah…” asked Josiah of the healer.
“Nathan. Nathan Jackson, sir.”
“Can you help us, Mr. Jackson?”
“Well, Mr. Standish here tells me he’s drunk and I don’t know what it is you want me to do about it.”
“He is drunk, but we need him to be revived and fully recognizance immediately. I thought maybe you had something that could do that,” explained Josiah.
“Hmm. I might have something, but there’s a risk,” said Nathan.
Nathan moved over to sit on the bed where the unconscious man lay. He opened his bag that he had brought with him and pulled out what looked like a syringe. He put it up against the blond man’s neck and pushed the button. A swooshing sound was heard and then Nathan motioned for Vin to move back away from the bed, as he took his own steps away.
Without warning, Chris gasped and his back arched off the bed. He then started to convulse violently, his arms and legs jangling like a rag doll.
“What the hell did ya do to ‘im?” came Vin’s yell from across the room.
“Calm down. It’s a normal reaction to the activated carbon.” Activated carbon was used in the past for prevention of hangovers, but over the centuries it had been modified to immediately remove the alcohol in the bloodstream that was associated with drunkenness and although it caused violent reaction in the users, it was found to have no detrimental effect on the user’s health.
As the wave of spasms died down, Nathan moved in and administered another syringe to the subject. With that, Chris body completely stopped its macabre dance and fell still.
Josiah, Vin and Ezra turned to look at Nathan who just shrugged his shoulders in apathy.
Suddenly, Chris sat up, holding his head in his hands and exclaimed, “Damn! What the hell happened?”
Josiah and the others did not speak but only looked on in astonishment.
“That stuff really works, huh?” said Vin smiling. For some reason he could not fathom, he was happy that the man was well.
“Seems to me ya had a little too much to drink, Pard,” said Vin sitting down in the only chair in the room.
“Arggh! Keep your voice down,” said Chris rubbing his temples fiercely.
“Got a headache, do we?” asked Nathan as he opened his bag and pulled out a bottle of liquid.
He then walked over to Chris and held the bottle out to him. Chris raised hooded eyes and stared at the bottle as it was held out to him. “What’s that?”
“It’ll take that headache away,” responded Nathan.
“No, thanks, witch doctor. I can do without it,” retorted Chris, slowly sitting more straighter on to the bed.
Nathan was not offended at his denial or comment. He and Connell had known each other since the day he had arrived in Kovar, bleeding and hurt. He had asked Connell how had he come by the cuts that were on his back and stomach, but Connell refused to answer. All he said was that he got it fighting his demons. What he meant by that, Nathan did not know. The man was a secretive one, but he had always treated Nathan fairly and with respect and he had saved Nathan’s life on several occasions.
He turned to Ezra and Josiah and said, “Make sure the stubborn ass drinks plenty of fluids. The carbon will make him dehydrated until it leaves his body. In meantime, if you need me again, Ezra knows where to get me.”
“Thank you for your help, Mr. Jackson. I was wondering if I may have a conversation with later on, if you don’t mind?” asked Josiah.
Nathan looked at the big man, up and down and said, “Sure. Ezra can tell you where I usually am,” replied Nathan. He then turned to Ezra and said in a lower tone, “Keep an eye on him, Ezra. Never had to give him that before. Don’t know how it’ll affect him later on. Some people have complained of nausea, headaches and sometimes dizziness, but it usually doesn’t last but a day.”
“As you wish, Mr. Jackson,” said Ezra making sure the blond did not hear.
With that, Nathan left the room and proceeded to go back to his own home down the street.
“So, how are you feeling, Chris?” asked Josiah concerned. The man needed to hear what he had say and fast. They did not have much time considering what Vin Tanner had told him. He was not naďve enough to believe that the disciple was here by accident. It was too much of a coincidence.
Chris glared at the man, his crystal green eyes sparkling as the sun shined on the small dank room.
“Please, listen to me, Chris. I hadn’t meant to lie to you. It was necessary,” pleaded Josiah.
“Necessary? Necessary? What do you take me for, Priest? Stupid? Or maybe crazy? Well, I’m not! Now, get out!” screamed Chris and he leaned down, holding his head in his hands.
Vin knew that the man was being unreasonable. If he had heard what Josiah had told him, he would know that everything was done for a reason and a valid one at that. The bounty hunter nodded to slightly to Josiah and Ezra, signaling them to leave him alone with the man awhile.
Josiah and Ezra understood and they both walked out of the room, closing the door silently behind them.
When Chris raised his head again, he found the room empty with the exception of the bounty hunter.
“What are you still doing here?”
Vin eyed the man in black and smiled. “Don’t ya think ya was awfully hard on the priest?”
Chris glared at the bounty hunter also, but it did not faze him in the least. “He should of mind his own business, just like you!” spat Chris.
“Come to find out, ya are my business, Larabee,” smirked Vin.
“And how you figure on that?”
“Well, if ya listened to the priest, ya might understand how,” said Vin teasingly.
Chris knew he was being bated, but for some reason, he liked this man and he knew if anyone could be trusted, it would be him. Chris shook the sleep and tiredness from his body and mind and stood up.
“Give me a few minutes to get my head on straight and I’ll come down and listen to the priest’s blathering. But if he’s lying…”
The threat hung in the air between them and Vin knew the man would carry it out without a doubt. Vin stood up and said, “I’ll tell ‘im you’ll be down to talk to ‘im.”
As he was about to leave when Chris said, “Wait.”
Vin turned to face the blond man. “Yeah?”
“Where you from?”
“All over. Here and there.”
“Ravakar. Desert people.”
“Ravakar, huh? Been back there?”
“Not in the past few months.”
“So you work for my mother,” said Chris. It was more of a statement than a question and Vin knew it.
“She hired me through my people to find the assassin.”
Chris stared at him surprised by this information. “You never said he was an assassin.”
“Ya never asked what he did. He’s a wanted criminal no matter what his crime was.”
“Who did he assassinate?”
“From what little Lord Marshal told me, it was a woman and a child about ten or so years ago. Never had a lead on the killers until now. Someone from the city identified him as the man who set the fire.”
As Chris heard these words, his heart started beating faster, his mind swirling in disbelief. It could not be. The words played over in his head, a woman, a child, a fire and the Lord Marshal specifically looking for this man.
Chris without realizing grabbed Vin by his shirt, sending him backwards against the wall hard. Vin saw the rage in those mirroring eyes and how the face contorted with the anger.
“What the hell are ya doin’, Larabee?” he yelled.
“Tell me about this man! Tell me now!”
Vin looked at him confused. Why would this be so important to him? It was just a criminal. But then Vin remembered the other information on the disk that Lord Marshal had sent to him to aid in his hunt. The woman and the child had the initials SL and AL to identify them. The letter “L”, as in Larabee as in the sir name of the man who stood before him. Vin sighed in anguish. “Oh, man, Chris, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” said Vin, placing his hands on the man’s shoulder, seeing the grief in his face.
Chris noticed the sympathy coming from the blue eyes and immediately let go. “Sorry…sorry. Not your fault. It was all mine that they died.”
He watched as Chris bowed his head and sat heavily back down on the bed. Vin moved away from the wall and sat down on the bed next to the man. He could tell that he was in pain and for some reason it bothered him.
“Chris? Who were they?”
Chris let go the breath that he was holding and said simply, “They were my family. My wife and son.”
“How did it happen?”
“There was a fire…a fire in the main wing where our quarters were in the palace. I was away on a diplomatic mission for my mother. When I got back, they…they had said that they suffocated from smoke. They were…were dead before anyone could get to them.”
“But Chris, I don’t understand. I’ve been to the palace and I have seen the amount of technology they have to prevent somethin’ like this.”
“I was told that the alarms and the extinguishers malfunctioned and that probably the fire was around them before they knew it. The engineers had determined that the computer must have had a bug in it.”
Chris then turned to Vin, “At least that is what I believed until now,” he replied anger seeping into his tone.
“Ya talkin’ about Zion Padder.”
“Is that his name?” asked Chris baffled.
“Yeah. Ya know ‘im?”
“Never heard of him,” said Chris shaking his head and then realizing that he should not have done that.
“Ya alright?” came Vin’s voice over the din in his head.
“Yeah. I’m fine, just I guess I’m still a little hung over.”
“That was some drinkin’ ya did. How many bottles was that?” asked Vin laughingly.
Chris could not help but smile at the man. It just felt natural. “Keep it up, Tanner and I’ll have to shoot you.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time someone took a potshot at me,” said Vin getting up. “See ya downstairs, Cowboy.” And he walked out the door, whistling some strange tune.
Chris rolled his eyes and fell back on to the bed to get his thoughts together before going round three with the priest.