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A Santa Maria story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria series
"Has there been any change?" Mac asked. Ant looked up from the table where he had been pouring over various occult texts. Mac looked haggard; dark circles resided below his green eyes, he wore several days' growth of beard, and his clothes were dirty and disheveled.
"About which, exactly?" Ant asked. Mac looked at his blue haired friend. The color of his face was drawn, his eyes puffy and dark, and his hair a rumpled mess.
"Rod. I would imagine if there was any news on Melanie's location, someone would have contacted me." Mac sighed.
"No, I can't reach him. Bree's death was just... too much," he said, his voice breaking. "I don't know what to do for him. I don't know how to reach past his pain. Fuck, I can barely function around mine." Elbows on the table, he pressed the tips of fingers to his eyes, pressing lightly. A moment later he swept them along his cheekbones, wiping away the beginnings of tears. "The worst part is I don't have time to indulge him. With the vampiric shadows riled up and striking more frequently and almost nobody left to fight- why am I telling you? You know all this; you know how bad it is. I feel awful. How can I justify spending time trying to help him when everyone in Santa Maria is at risk? Mac, I don't know what to do." The tears this time began to run down his cheeks.
Mac reached out and took his hand. "Hey, you work on this research. I just took down another Shadow creature. We're making progress. I'll go talk with Rod; see if I can reach him. You just focus on keeping your sanity. And maybe finding some answers."
Ant squeezed Mac's hand. "Okay, thanks, Mac. I appreciate it. It's just been too much to bear. I hope you can reach him. He's in with Helen." Ant let go of Mac's hand and ran his hand through his azure locks, front to back and let them rest on the back of his neck."This means the world to me, Mac."
"No worries. I've known Rod a long time. He's always been a person who's loyal to his friends and bonds easily with folks, but he and Bree, well they bonded in a way nobody expected. Probably even supernatural in some way, forged from him awakening her power. There's not a lot know about Kindlers. They're a rare thing on this earth and we still don't really understand what Bree was. Was. Fuck, I still can't really accept that."
"I know, Mac. I have no idea how we can keep going, but we have to, if for nothing else to kill that bitch sister of hers. If need can't fuel us, perhaps the rage of vengeance can."
"No, rage makes you sloppy, careless. Ant, we can't afford that. We cannot lose anyone else. We must stop Melanie Montgomery, but I for one want to know why. Why did she agree to do this? Why do vampires want to control Santa Maria? The power of the area is gone. Is it just because they couldn't have it for so long? I guess it doesn't really matter in the end as long as she's stopped."
"Sure. And I promise, I'll be careful. When we go after Melanie, we'll be together. All of us."
"Okay, Ant. I'm going to check on Rod now." Ant nodded and returned to the books on the table and Mac headed past him down the hallway. He followed it to the second door on the left and knocked. "Rod, it's Mac. I'm coming in." He turned the knob, opened the door, and entered.
Rodrigo was sitting on the floor, his back against the side of his bed. His knees were bent, feet flat on the ground. Helen was wrapped in a blanket and nestled in his arms. He too was disheveled and had several days' worth of whiskers growing.
"What's up, Mac?"
"I wanted to see how you're doing."
"How do think?"
Mac closed the distance between them and sat down across from Rod.
"I think you've been through more than any man should have to bear the burden of and that it's completely unfair that you have to keep going."
"I do?" Rod said with a sneer.
"Don't talk like that."
"I'm not going anywhere. I have to be here for Helen, but as for the rest of it. What good am I? I was just support for Bree. She was the power house. I just unlock potential, how exciting is that? It isn't. It's lame. I'm the fucking Aquaman of Santa Maria."
"Seriously, Mac. You're an Avatar, guided by Enid. Ant and the rest of Gamin can skip through space. Everett has his magic technology and Rodina's a powerful sorceress. What am I? Potential, that's it. I awaken things. What good is it? If I hadn't awakened Bree she'd be alive. Her mother would be alive. Duncan would be alive. Adam would be alive." Mac blanched at the mention of his dead lover. "And Enid. And Diasuke. And Martha. Aubrey would still be here and unharmed. So many people-"
"Stop! Just stop. First off, you have no idea what would have happened. The Ghost Lords might have killed all of us if you hadn't awakened Bree's powers. Maybe you're not the most powerful among us, but that doesn't make you any less important, any less critical. We owe you so much. I personally owe."
"Yeah, the night I awoke Bree, Adam was murdered. Diasuke and Aubrey couldn't protect him because Bree's awakening drew all the magic out of the area. I cost you Adam."
"No, you didn't Rod. It was horrible what happened, but it wasn't your fault. I remember what happened. The Ghost Lord killed Adam before the magic was drained away. Stop blaming yourself. Think about it like this. I'm painter, not that there's been much time to paint, but it was you who inspired me, stirred my creative spirit. Back when you and I were a couple, that's when I started becoming popular. My work had changed; become so much more than I had ever done before. I believe if you start thinking back, you'll see where you've inspired the people around you in many mundane ways. You're a Kindler and you always have been. You didn't start being one when you awoke Bree, you just became aware of it. Maybe you became more powerful in that moment, but I believe with all my heart that you've always had your power."
"What's your point?" Rod snapped.
"My point is that you should start thinking about your ability outside of just enhancing Bree's powers. Or anyone else's. Sure, you can supercharge our powers and that certainly may be needed, but there must be other ways you can use your gift. Think outside the box. This isn't you, Rod. You're not one for wallowing in self-pity. Yes, things have gone to shit. Yeah, a lot of people have died. I'm not asking you to forget, but if want to stop this. If we want to get Melanie and bring her to justice, sitting around moping and complaining you're useless isn't going to get that done. Come on, Rod. Bree wouldn't put up with this bullshit and you know it. We need to make Santa Maria safe again. It's what Bree would want. For her baby." Mac reached out stroked Helen's cheek. "And for everyone else in Santa Maria. I know you lost family in the 'quake. I know you're worried about your Mom and your cousins and the rest of your family with these monsters terrorizing the city."
"No, they're gone. After what happened to Bree's Mom, I-" he closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath, then opened them again. "I had my Mom take everyone down Zacatecas. Cost me everything, but I know they're safe. They keep asking when they can come back. I don't know what to tell them." Rod started crying. "How am supposed to do this? I have to raise Helen, who I don't even really understand. Is she the reincarnation of the Shaman? Something else? I don't know. I can't keep my family sequestered down in México forever. Oh, Mac, what the hell are we going to do?" Mac hugged Rod.
"We're going to survive. We're going to win. You have to have hope. I have good news." Rod broke from the embrace some and looked Mackenzie in the eyes.
"My Mom was able to push through a temporary foster order for you and Ant. Well, you and Jordan Monroe."
"That's not his real name."
"Well, I know. It's David Storlie. See, when he was arrested, when they thought he killed Oliver, his fingerprints were identified. His parents had him fingerprinted as a child, part of a program to help protect kids. Easier to track them down if they went missing. Mom's done what she can to keep things off of him, but there are only some much we can control. Luckily life as a Gamin has kept David Storlie off the radar. No bills, no bank accounts, no jobs. They won't find him with just that name, but the cops, the public too, they want David Storlie to pay. One of the safest things we can do for him is to set him up as Jordon Monroe. Mom and Everett cooked it up"
"Wait, how the hell can we be foster parents? Prop 8 passed."
"It has nothing to do with being parents, just being married."
"Sorry, you're right. It's not like I've had a lot of time to deal with activism. Hell, I didn't even vote."
"Yeah, me either, but don't worry, I don't think our two votes would have balanced out the other 5,661, 583 assholes who voted for it." Rod smiled.
"So your Mom really pushed it through for us to foster Helen?"
"Yeah. And eventually to adopt. The biggest problem will be Melanie challenging it, but seeing as she's a vampire, she's going to have a hell of a time showing up during the day and filing a petition."
"Thanks, Mac. And thank your Mom, too."
"You thank her. She should be here any minute."
"Really? Man, I'm a mess."
"Don't worry about it. My Mom knows everything that's been going on, she's hardly going to judge you on your appearance, but once you two sign the papers she's bringing, you're going to need to clean up for your court appearance. It's in three days."
"Okay, I think we can do that, but you get to tell Ant he needs to dye his hair a more acceptable color." The both laughed. Mac wiped away Rod's tears. "Come on, let's go out to the front room and wait for my Mom." He stood, and then reached down. Rod extended on arm and held baby Helen close to his chest with the other. Mac pulled him and the newborn up. "I promise, Rod. Things are going to be okay. Somehow, I just know it will be okay."
The two men, baby Helen in tow, walked out of the room and back to where Ant was reading, hoping to find a bit of arcane knowledge that would help aid them in their fight against the creatures plaguing the city.
"Hey there Daddy-Ant, Helen wanted to say hello to you!" Rod chimed at his blue-haired boyfriend. Ant looked up, his face dominated by the largest smile his mouth could produce. He stood up and went to Rod and Helen and kissed them both.
"Hey there, beautiful Helen," Ant said, tickling her belly with his fingers.
"I've got great news, Ant," Rod said. "Mac and his Mom, with a little help from Everett, have arranged for you and me to have foster custody of Helen. They even have a new name for you, Jordon Monroe. I think it's cute."
"Jordon, huh?" Ant asked with a smile.
"You have a court date in three days. My Mom is coming by in a few minutes with some papers for you two to sign. Oh, and Ant, you're going to need to dye your hair another color. Frankly, I'm surprised you haven't already with everyone looking for a blue-haired psychopath."
"I can dye it I suppose. I've just always liked blue hair. It's been my thing for many years; ever since I joined the Gamin, and mostly, it just never occurred to me change it."
"Well, you should. Someone with blue hair is going to have to pay for the crimes."
"Enough, Mac. You brought good news; let's just focus on that, for at least next hour, if not the rest of the night," Rod said.
"Okay, deal. We can-" Mac was cut off by Jack Dandelion and a young, bare-chested man skipping into existence in the center of the room.
"Jack! Brady. What are you two doing here?"
"Sorry to just pop in unannounced, but Ant I've got some things to talk to you about. Do you have time?"
"Sure, if it isn't going to take too long. Mayor Nolan is coming over to have us sign some papers. We're getting custody of Helen, legally through the mundane courts."
"No, it shouldn't take long at all," Jack answered.
"Okay, sure. Let's talk," Ant said.
"Mac, Rodrigo, do you mind keeping Brady entertained? He's the young man Ant shared his jail cell and subsequently saved the life of when the shadows attacked."
"Oh, wow," Mac said. "I'd actually like to talk with you." Brady smiled, the charming smile of the youth, and he and Ant switched places. Then Ant and Jack crossed the room at took a seat on the black leather sofa.
"So, what did you want to talk about it?" Ant asked.
"Well, first I want to tell you that Brady has been taken into the Gamin; he's one of us now. Citywolf did his ink. He's not quite mastered skipping yet, but he belongs among us. I know this as sure as I knew you did."
"Oh. Well, cool, I guess. It doesn't seem the like the best time for new recruits though."
"Well Ant, destiny chose him, not me. You were meant to find him, to make the choice to break the Covenant instead of letting Brady die. You exposed him to our world; you made the right choice, just as I made the right choice all those years ago bringing you into our world."
"What are you saying, exactly?"
"I'm saying, that the Gamin are more than mere street urchins who can bend through space. We are tools of fate, here to do her bidding. We have a lot to discuss, but there isn't time at the moment, but you need to know that Brady is important and your life is twined with his, just as mine is with yours. When you take up the role of-"
"Hello everyone!" Mayor pro-temp Daphne Nolan exclaimed to everyone as she entered the apartment. Ant jumped off the couch.
"We can finish this when we're done with the papers, Jack," Ant said over his shoulder as the crossed across the room to join the others.
"Ant." Jack said, uselessly. He sighed and stood, walking towards the others. Daphne was already at the table opening her briefcase, asking about the handsome young boy. Just as her son Mackenzie was about to answer, they attacked.
The windows of the apartment blasted open. Rod shielded baby Helen with his body and Mac went to his mother. The first shadow creature in the room went for Ant. Brady was frozen with terror, again having to face the horror of these creatures he'd been attacked by once before. Daphne screamed as another shadow monster slide past Mac and slashed at her, spraying blood across the papers she had brought. Within seconds, dozens were in the room.
Ant was gouged, but he skipped and rear appeared next to Rod. He was about to blink out with him and Helen and the front door was kicked off it's hinges. There stood Melanie Montgomery, fangs barred.
"I believe you have my niece," she snarled. "Anyone who tries to keep her from me, dies."
To be continued.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2008
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2008