“Are you sure there’s time for this boss?” Mac asked Commander Geoffrey Knight, who shared the empty freight elevator with him. Large in stature and presence Commander Knight stood six feet six inches tall and was as wide as a linebacker. “I mean this storm is nothing to shake a stick at. I heard some of the tech boys up stairs calling it the Terminal Tempest for Pete’s sake. Besides, we reunited Spiegel and his daughter all ready. What’s there left to do here? I’m not seeing a reason for Knight Inc. continued involvement.”
“There’s plenty left to do Mac. The Spiegel’s and their research had been granted safe passage from Germany by Knight Inc. We owe them an explanation as to the breakdown of their security. Also, I’d hate to go on yet another assignment without knowing for sure that there isn’t a leak inside the organization. Who knows how long we’ll spend quelling this crazy weather and it’s mysterious after effects. The storm will continue to ravage the Serpent city and the Spiegel’s kidnaper’s trail will have gone cold during the chaos. We’ll have nothing to go on and nowhere to look for the breakdown once it’s all over.”
“If the breakdown exists at all.” Mac offered.
The Commander leaned his angular head back against the wall of the freight elevator car and instantly put himself into a light trance. He’d tried to teach Mac dozens of times, for a month straight once in the Australian Outback as a matter of fact, but Mac couldn’t do it. Too bad too Mac thought, the Commander always came out of it looking well rested and ready for anything.
Mac had never known the Commander to put one man’s safety ahead of what could easily be tens of thousands and he decided that the Commander wasn’t about to start now. No, the Commander could see or sense something about these two goons they were holding on level fifteen of Knight Tower that Mac and the others couldn’t see. They were connected to someone or something. They were special in some way. Whatever it was, that’s what was driving the Commander, Mac was sure of it.
The elevator car stopped on level fifteen, the doors opened and the two men walked out into a barren hallway. It was strange to have a level so empty with all that was going on all over most of the tower right about now but that was part of the design of Knight Tower. Outside the storm raged in a furry, as it too seemed to wait for the Commander like several people upstairs in the Commander’s private labs.
Knight Inc. was not in the law enforcement business. Its members, and the Commander, were not officers of any lawful organization or municipality. Knight Inc. provided safety and security to anyone and everyone who wished it and they did this through two primary means. The first was through consultation and education. The members of Knight Inc. helped make things safe and secure by first determining that they were in fact not safe and in identifying the dangers. Plans were drawn up to make them safe and secure, and education was provided on how to implement the plans and keep those involved safe and secure from then on.
The second method was through well-staffed passive patrols. Knight Inc. staffers, that ranked below a Bishop were never armed, although all staffers trained in several forms of personal defense as well as a handful of distinct forms of martial arts mastered by the Commander and adapted for Knight Inc. Knight Inc staff also taught one martial art, known as Karate, as a part of what they offered in multiple safety and security programs. Checking his hip Mac was grateful for the Knight 10 Machine Pistol holstered there. Custom made by Knight techs the pistol fired a variety of rounds – all of them non-lethal. Mac didn’t actually have an official rank within the organization; in fact he didn’t even think he was “staff” but rather a direct employee of Geoffrey Knight’s. He carried a pistol. Often he carried two, the Commander’s own pistol as well as his own, carried for the Commander until he needed it.
Mac reached the unmarked door first, turned the knob, opened it, and came face to face with two staffers who stood at attention in the small ante room that offered little function other than leading into the interrogation room just beyond the single wall. The Commander followed closely behind Mac and the two sentries snapped to attention when they saw him. There was no salute, the Commander forbade them as they were not a military organization, but respect had been shown none the less. Mac himself received a nod from each man. Mac had decided that the staffers of Knight Inc. mentally offer him the rank of Sargent at arms, which was much higher than sentry. He smiled at the thought, then turned away to hide his grin from the troops.
“Report.” Was all the Commander said, standing at parade rest in the center of the small ante room.
A low growl emanated from beyond the wall leading to the interrogation room. The sound caused everyone to glance at the blacked out window, the only thing in the wall other than the door.
Both sentries were in crimson uniform tunics. The fair haired man had “Baker” embroidered on his tunic chest. He gave the report after shaking off the growl.
“No one has come in or gone out Commander, just as you requested.”
“Have they been talking?” Mac asked.
The two sentries looked at one another. Baker shook his head no but the darker haired man, his uniform not embroidered like Baker’s, looked over at Mac.
“Not exactly talking sir.” He stated sheepishly.
“Don’t be obtuse, just tell me what’s been going on factually.” The Commander drew the darker haired man’s focus back to him. Another growl came from the interrogation room, they were getting louder.
“They’re growling at each other sir.” The darker haired trooper motioned to the other room beyond the wall with a nod of his head.
“See I told you.” Baker scolded.
“That’s enough. You two report to your Bishop’s. You’ll both be needed elsewhere and sooner rather than later I suspect.”
“Yes sir.” The two men said in unison and exited the small ante room.
Mac cupped his hands and placed them on the black window in the single inner wall of the ante room but he couldn’t see inside. Officially this room was built specifically for the police and military’s use. Knight Inc. often worked with several different organization of each type and it’s often easier to hold prisoners here, and even sometimes interrogate them here, rather then ship them back and forth. Since the staffers of Knight Inc. do not have arrest powers other than a citizen’s arrests they aren’t supposed to use this room but the Commander has rules he’ll bend if he needs too. There are rules he wouldn’t bend, but an occasional detention and interrogation wasn’t one of them. In fact, Mac thought, there had been more and more as of recently.
“You stay out here Mac.”
Mac went over and opened a small cabinet built seamlessly into the wall. If you didn’t know to look for it, you’d never find it. Inside were the controls for the blacked out window, a comm phone used for calling inside the building, and an intercom installed inside the interrogation room. Mac turned the dial so that he could see into the room without the inhabitants knowing he could. The black smoked glass began to fog and the chemicals inside it were dissipating. Soon anyone on this side would be able to see inside. No one on the inside would be able to see out, or even realize that anyone on the outside could see in. Mac then activated the intercom so that he could listen inside as well.
The Commander removed a ring of keys from his pocket, unlocked the door, and instantly the growling from inside increased in intensity level. Mac swung around hoping to be able to see in the room by now but there was little more than shadows visible at this stage. The Commander turned the knob, pushed open the door, and all hell broke loose.
The door to the interrogation room opened to an instant attack. With a loud thud something struck the other side of the half opened door. At the same moment, something screamed out in bloody terror. The Commander ducked, squatting close to the door, under the door knob for a moment.
The screams also tore through the anteroom as they blasted over the scratchy intercom speaker and eventually overloaded it causing a thumping static. Mac pulled his Knight 10 machine pistol and took up a position covering the door leading out of the anteroom just as the chemically smoked glass of the window cleared up revealing a sight like nothing Mac had ever witnessed before.
The two prisoners who’d been kept here for an interrogation had somehow transformed themselves into scale infested snake beasts within just a few hours. The darker of the two slammed a meaty fist up onto the ledge of the window to pull himself up from where he’d been thrown against the door to the interrogation room and then bounced to the floor. His tattered shirt was hanging off of him and was now soaked with sweat and slime. His exposed back muscles had been transformed into the oily scale-skin hood of a cobra. He screamed inaudibly at the other one in a hissing language that Mac couldn’t understand.
The Commander had already entered the room, leaving the door swinging half open. He kicked out at the cobra man landing a huge boot sole squarely in the cobra man’s chest, sending the large leather and scale skinned snake beast into the thick manufactured window glass with a reverberating twack. Wasting no effort at all the Commander stepped up onto the single table, bolted off of the floor, and leapt up at the other snake man who had sprouted leather bat wings along the underside of long wiry muscled arms. The winged one was hovering just up near the ceiling hissing and spitting bitter acidic saliva from a mouth with a forked tongue flicking out of it. The Commander could see nothing but blind rage staring back at him from the winged one as he clutched the snake man around the thighs and simultaneously drove his shoulder into the snake man’s gut. The two came down to the bolted table in a crash – dropping like a lead balloon. Recovered some now, the cobra man lunged at the Commander and the winged one. The Commander used his hands to hold back the talon equipped wing tips of the beast he pinned to the table under his back. With both booted feet the Commander kicked out at the cobra man and sent him to the other side of the interrogation room to bounce from the wall to the floor again.
In the anteroom Mac elbowed the hidden cabinet and it opened on its spring hinges. He slapped at the intercom to shut it off and then pulled the phone off its cradle. Before he could punch up the security line Mac heard a large crash and was slammed to the floor by one of the snake men who screeched in Mac’s ear. The man-beast drooled saliva onto Mac’s neck. Mac could feel its forked tongue reach out and lick at him just as he hit the floor.
Mac rolled over, expecting to have the beast hovering over him but was relieved to see it flapping and screeching on the other side of the small anteroom. He struggled to get the pistol up and free, trying to get a bead on the flying rodent when he saw the Commander getting up off the floor and leaping toward the beast in a primal yell of his own. The Commander had been pulled right through the interrogation room wall as he hung on to the clawed feet of the winged snake man. The two had smashed into Mac and crashed into the opposite wall.
Cobra man hissed at them from inside the interrogation room, his own forked tongue waggling at Mac, the wing man, and the Commander who exchanged blows in the air, hovering in the ante room. To Mac it was like being laughed at. He drew a bead and fired three times, knowing the Knight 10 was filled with non-lethal ordinance, Mac hit the cobra man in the scaled head with one shot, the shoulder and chest taking the other two.
The commander wrapped both of his huge arms around wing man and rolled so that the two of them came back to the ground. Mac got to his feet, pistol still at the ready. He couldn’t see cobra man or any blood as the beast had fallen to the interrogation room floor. Looking quickly at the Commander Mac could see that his boss had the wing man subdued for the moment. The wing man screeched and his forked tongue waggled but he could not escape the fire hose size arms of the Commander. Mac decided to follow protocol and clear the room before trying to make another call or help the Commander further. Mac moved to the gaping hole in the plaster board that had been left jagged, the air filled with white dust and floating particles.
The wing man flapped his wings and their tips fluttered on the carpeted floor of the anteroom but the Commander kept the beast at bay and nearly nailed to the ground. Mac looked around the wall into the interrogation room and the cobra man lunged out of the room’s only doorway into the anteroom with a screech from the bottom of its soul. The wing man screeched back at the cobra man and was able to tear one wing away from the Commander finally. The cobra man lunged over Mac and was on top of the wing man with an inhuman speed that took less than a second. Acidic saliva dripped from its fangs as it clamped its mouth down on the wing man’s shoulder area in a ferocious bite. The wing man screeched bloody murder and the Commander’s grip was finally broken as he protected his ears and his face from the saliva.
Mac tracked the cobra man’s movements over the sight on the barrel of the pistol. He could see that the rounds he’d fired at the cobra man did little good. The three gouges along the cobra man’s upper body bubbled and hissed as they seemed to heal themselves very rapidly.
Mac leapt onto the cobra man who’s hooded back pulsed as his fangs delivered a poisonous venom into the wing man’s shoulder. Mac brought the but of the Knight 10 machine pistol across the back of the cobra man’s head. Seeing no effect he brought it back the other way, and then for good measure he brought it down hard on the top center of the cobra man’s head.
Finally the cobra man’s jaw flexed loose and the snake beast went limp. With Mac’s weight on him the cobra man made his decent to the floor but not before the winged man lashed out with a razor sharp talon at the tip of his free wing. The winged snake beast connected with the cobra man’s throat and tore it wide open with a long jagged slash. Green blood gushed from the cobra man’s throat onto the anteroom floor.
Mac rolled off and drew a bead on the winged man. The ammunition he was packing may not be lethal but they still needed to subdue it. Mac fired twice but the winged man began to convulse from the venom that now pumped into its blood from the cobra man. The bullets impacted into the plaster board wall just above the wing man. Mac could see the Commander get to his feet in his peripheral vision.
“Stay out of its reach Mac.”
The Commander went for the open cabinet, to dial up the security office on the tower phone as Mac provided cover with his Machine Pistol, but the wing man dropped from the ceiling and hit the floor with a hard thud. There it convulsed twice and then lay still. Mac moved to the center of both snake beasts and positioned the Knight 10 so that he could cover each of them. Whichever one moved first would draw his fire. The Commander punched a number on the phone and within a single second the line was open and ready.
“Send an armed security detail to the interrogation room on fifteen immediately. Have them use the stairs. Lock down the elevators in the lobby and the penthouse. Put a roving patrol in each stairwell. Just do it. Do it now.”
The Commander set the phone down in its cradle.
“Are they dead?” Mac asked as his machine pistol wavered between the two bodies on the floor.
The Commander moved to check the wing man, probing along the body trying to find a pulse. He checked for breathing and did a few other minor examinations that Mac wasn’t sure about. Then without a word the Commander moved to the cobra man to perform the same examination. When he stood he looked at Mac just as the security detail showed up and entered the room.
“Nobody move!” The first man through the door shouted. Three more came into the room, several others stayed out in the hall near the door as there wasn’t enough room for the entire detail in the small ante room.
“What the hell?” The security officer asked.
“As far as I can tell, they are in fact dead.” The Commander spoke to Mac primarily. “Both of them.”
“Secure this level.” Mac looked at and spoke directly to the lead security man, snapping his fingers to gain his attention away from the monstrous beasts that lay on the floor in rapidly growing pools of green blood.
“Not a word of this until we know exactly what we have here. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir.” The security man motioned for his crew to leave and he followed with a small look back over his shoulder for a last glance at the carnage. Outside the security man gave orders to his men.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Mac asked the Commander.
“The third kidnapper is still in the infirmary is he not?”
“On pain killers.” Mac nodded.
“I think we should visit the man.”
“You said it boss.”
Mac holstered his Knight 10 and the two exited the anteroom heading for the infirmary.
Knight Tower had four distinct medical stations in addition to the infirmary. Of course, that number didn’t include the stand alone station in the Commander’s private quarters, the emergency lock box on the roof, an identical box in the garage, and a small emergency locker aboard the airship that was tethered to the roof station. Knight Tower’s actual true infirmary was located on the 18th floor and it was large enough to take up nearly the entire level.
The Commander pulled his override key from the elevator control bank he used to activate the elevator’s car in the middle of a security lock down. The doors opened and he and Mac stepped out onto the infirmary floor. The weather still surged outside. Lightning pierced the storm clouds not too far off in the distance. The entire eerie scene was punctuated with an EKG machine coming from the infirmary. The erratic beeps coming from the machine echoed off the sterile barren walls and seemed to get louder as they got closer.
The Commander pushed through the double doors without a moment’s hesitation. Doctor Green as well as his four nurses noticed the big man’s entrance into the infirmary but didn’t produce any opposition to his presence even in the midst of what looked like just as big an emergency as the Commander and Mac had experienced a few floors below them only moments ago.
Mac took three steps to the side and stopped so that he could cover the Commander with the Machine Pistol.
“What’s going on?” The Commander’s voice boomed in the large operating theater.
“We do not have time for this just now!” Dr. Green snapped with a quick glance over his shoulder exposing an underlying annoyance for the interruption.
“Make time doc. It may mean life or death.”
The man on the medical table, Mac confirmed it was in fact a human man with a bit of a closer look, covered in sensors and leaking from tubes and needles all over his body screamed like one of the snake beasts that lie dead three levels below.
Mac and the Commander shared a quick glance. Mac pulled the Knight 10 from its holster, keeping it at the ready. The Commander put up the palm of his hand to steady his assistant, friend, and self-imposed bodyguard. Mac decided to take this time to review exactly what types of ordinance he was carrying for the Knight 10 at the moment.
“Making time may mean this man’s life!” The Doctor snapped at the Commander again.
“My god.” The Commander stated quietly motioning Mac ever closer.
The Commander stood next to Dr. Green, between two nurses, and took in the pathetic sight. The third kidnapper who lay on the medical bed, writhing in pain, somehow identified the Commander. The same recognition shone in the man’s eyes when Mac reached the bed.
“Are they dead? My brothers?” The man asked in a gravely cough of a voice.
Small, skin slack and pale, eyes thrust back in their sockets this man was nothing like the other two. Soon there would be nothing left of him at all. The EKG machine changed tones suddenly.
“Were losing him!” Dr. Green shouted.
“What else can we do Dr?” A nurse asked.
“Nothing. I’m afraid I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“Make way doc.” Mac stated as he reached the metal railings along the edge of the bed.
The patient fought to try and sit up. Machines whined and began to beep much faster at the attempt. Mac placed a hand gently on the man’s chest and helped him back down to the bed.
“Are they dead?” The man asked again, this time with a bit of strength and some determination.
“Yes.” Mac answered quietly.
“We need you to help us ensure their deaths were not in vain” The Commander added.
“They are old. Very old. The oldest of us here in fact.”
Mac waited, but he feared the man didn’t have long.
“The Tlaloc breed. They have returned to claim…” The man’s sentence trailed off. The EKG monitor flat lined at the same time.
“Look out!” Dr. Green shouted and shoved his way through the Commander and Mac. The Dr. Placed his first two fingers under the man’s chin to feel his pulse at the throat while a nurse checked at the wrist but everyone in the room knew that the unnamed man was dead.
The Commander gave the chaos a moment to settle. Once the EKG machine was shut off, the sheet drawn up over the deceased man’s head, and the medical staff settled down he addressed the room.
“Not a word of what’s happened here with this patient or the next two that will be brought in to anyone, for any reason, until I’ve given the okay. Is that understood?” Everyone nodded at the Commander. Dr. Green wiped at his wire frame glasses with a clean portion of his lab coat.
“Dr Green, when can I expect to have a report on what has transpired with this patient?”
“Will eight hours be sufficient?” The Dr spoke wearily now, in clipped sentences, and an added chill in his voice after losing a patient.
Both the Commander and Mac checked their watches. It was nine pm.
“The end of business tomorrow will be suffice Dr.”
“Thank you.” Dr. Green spun around and began to collect his things. His nurses followed suit.
With a nod from the Commander Mac followed him out into the hall. The two men headed back to the elevator.
“What’s a Tlaloc?” Mac asked as the two men reached the closed elevator doors.
“The Aztec god of rain and weather if I’m not mistaken Mac. I’ll have to check the Knight research texts to be sure.” The Commander answered the best he could from memory.
“Do you think we should pull some men off the storm detail to chase this down boss?” Mac asked.
“No. If this Tlaloc Breed isn’t connected to what is happening with the Terminal Tempest I’d be very surprised Mac.”
The Commander stuck his override key into the elevator control box and the doors opened. The elevator car was still there awaiting the two men’s return.
“You’re thinking we’ll run into more of them before this thing is through?” Mac asked as the doors closed.
“Find something to load into the Knight 10 that will give us a fighting chance just in case we do.” The commander leaned his head back against the wall of the elevator and fell into a light relaxation trance as the car began to move to the penthouse.
“You got it boss.” Mac answered.
The Terminal Tempest
Stay tuned for more adventures featuring Commander Knight with the forthcoming novel: The Terminal Tempest. Commander Knight, Mac, and the Knight Inc team lead Lady Raven, Iron Horse, Sky Sentry, and the White Wolf straight into the eye of the storm to scuttle it once and for all. You can read all of these characters first adventures – FOR FREE – by clicking “Books” at the top of the screen or traveling to the author’s Smashwords page here.
The Masked Marauder Matinee
Commander Knight is featured in an audio adventure (a reading by the author enhanced with sound effects and music) right here on this very blog.