The First Age

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Once it became clear that the buzzing powers were just a quality-control check, Ryker lowered the gun from dead on ready to shoot Marcus in the head to a low ready position. It was more natural, sliding the stock down from the pocket of the shoulder about two inches and easier to move. He could turn his head over the stock and look around should the shadow fog decide to pop out again. Otherwise, he kept both hands on the weapon, balancing the weight like it was the most natural thing in the world. 

The Consul didn’t so much as break a sweat under the attention of the carbine. Given the fact that it was Ryker doing the aiming, it said something about that ugly face hiding a steel resolve. Guess the guy found his balls. And a few extra pair of big steamy rhino balls back in the boiler room. Good for him.

The power swarmed out of the Consul, but Ryker was a bland witness to the probing of the dead guy. Lucky bastard (Marcus, not the dead guy). He mentally checked the thing holding itself around his head. But he could barely perceive it now. Let alone do anything to unravel it. There was power beyond it, he knew it was, but it was far.

He grumbled at the offer, but only because it seemed he had no other option but follow Marcus, but at least they were going to walk toward sunlight. He could go through with the bullshit song and dance of hunting shadows along the way. "У нас сделка," he said in Russian* then gestured that Marcus lead the way. Rifle wasn't going to do a lick of good against the shadow. But there were a few choice inmates (and guards) he hoped to find along the way. May even make the whole bullshit worth it. 

After about a minute of walking, Ryker stopped them. The rifle was lowered to retention position so he could touch Marcus on the arm and halt him. He regretted the touch immediately afterward and wiped his hand on his thigh. Besides that, he was looking him in the eye (and in Ryker’s case, literally looking at him with one eye since the other was white) and say it plain: 

“I know you know how to do it. Just tell me how to break it. I don’t even know what to do.” 

*You have a deal
Malik laughed, though warmth didn't touch his eyes. The imbalance was here, the chaos of this place. And he felt that deep hunger to act, to remove the disorder, to sanitize this place. An explosive blast would do he thought wryly. Scour and scrub away everything here until it was pristine. Purified.

But Ryker could be useful. Malik shuddered at the memory of the shadow thing trying to enter him, the way it lulled him, blinded him so that he could not tell if he was awake or asleep. The disgusting slime of it as it prised his jaw apart, the tendrils slipping down his throat. It revolted him. The two of them together could be better. And at the very least, Ryker could be bait, if necessary. 

He looked around once more, feeling again with his network, before looking back at Ryker. "Ok. Shields. We've only begun to study them. They are made with spirit. The non-physical flavor or type of the power. People have different names for it. And women's power is invisible to us- at least the actual weaves or threads." He probed at Ryker's shield with spirit again, gently examining the "edges" of the klein bottle. The glass smooth barrier was invisible and self contained. He probed but couldn't find any seams or opening or discontinuities. "This shield is not maintained. It has been....wrapped up in such as a way as to let it exist on its own. When you tie off a weave, though, there is a knot, of sorts. I do know that. But I cannot feel the place or point that was done in this case. Maybe you can."

His smile darkened and he showed teeth. Absently, he swiped at the prickle of sweat on his brow. "I could use a hammer of spirit to strike the shield. I think if I use enough power, it might shatter the weave. But as I said, you might not like that." He hated being down here. It was too hot. He took a thread of water and tied it off into a ball and then examined it, his eyes narrowing. He pointed, though he wasn't sure Ryker could see.  As he spoke, he felt like he and Ryker were in a closet. It felt strangely intimate. His voice lowered. No need to yell. "There. That is the tie off point. I would try to find that place where the shield is tied off. Yes, it's female power and you can't see it. But knots have loops." He gestured at his tie, wiping at his forehead again as he peered at the weave. The scale was something beyond sight, really beyond any description using physical terms. But it was a knot and he could sense the gaps, no matter how tight it was pulled. "Try to go for those gaps," he said softly. They should leave. It was getting hot in here. That sleepy tired was coming on him again.

And then he just watched Ryker, waiting for him to act. It seemed like forever that the man stood there. Through the fog, Malik wondered if he was even trying. He didn't seem to be moving. He had trouble focusing. Ryker was there....but it felt like it was the same picture of him, on repeat. The quiet lulled at him, the air warm and suffocating. His nose tickled but he didn't respond.

He felt hot and yet his back was cold, like he was on a slab. And he realized he couldn't see. He had no eyes, saw nothing, only the flickering flame of the Force that called to him hypnotically. 

[[a shadow descended on Marcus again, from behind. Seemed to coalesce around his ears and then to his nostrils. He fell to the floor, head lolled to the side. Marcus only holds on to a single thread of the power.]]
Even as he listened to the explanation, he tried to duplicate the same awareness that Marcus described. The barrier seemed to have an edge, but all the stuff about gaps and knots was bullshit. He felt nothing of the sort, and the inferno on the other side had long grown cold.

Still, Marcus was adamant that something was there. Ryker might have ground his teeth to the gum trying to find it. Maybe? But it felt like padding the dirt for buried shell casings. If there were lumps, he was half-sure the sensation was imagined.

He might have balled his hands to fists if he wasn’t already holding the rifle. Then there was a thud, and he jumped to realize why.

Marcus was on the ground. Seemed that shadow had a hard-on for blackness. Like kind? Heh.

He backed away. Foot over foot. Rifle smoothly rising to aim at the body. This time a kill shot would have found its mark, but one, Ryker knew it might only piss off the shadow to kill its second host, and two, Marcus was his best chance out of here. If he fired the weapon now, guards would cascade downstairs like swarming bees. A few were annoying, but riling enough of the hive could be deadly.

So he stood there alone and in full command of the situation. At least for the moment. He tried to think of those knots and gaps. But there was nothing to feel. The power on the other side distant and unattainable.

And he knew why.

He slowly began to creep around Marcus’ possessed body. Could the shadow animate its host like some demon-infestation? If a zombie Marcus climbed to his feet, Ryker was going to shoot it no matter what his chances were with guards. At least he could shove a few extra meals forward and scramble the hell back into the light.

He made it around Marcus without disturbing the thing feeding on him. His breathing was ragged. Sweat poured off his ugly ass forehead. Bubbles of it mopped his shorn scalp. Ryker could practically smell the powerlessness.

Except Marcus was still hanging onto a thread of power. Could the shadow thing use it too? Like the ijiraq?

To his own fuckery, Ryker made it around Marcus and took off running the way they came. The dead guard was a minute back, but at a full sprint, only 20 seconds or so.

He adjusted the rifle strap so he could skid to his knees and check the guard’s belt.

Bingo. Why the fuck he didn’t think of this before?

When he got back to Marcus, he held an opened tactical blade. It was much preferable to shooting himself in the leg, which he seriously considered for about half a second until he remembered they'd left a guard behind.

One sleeve was shoved up. The skin of his forearm was criss-crossed with hatches of scar lines. Dozens upon dozens. Some so old they nearly faded to the flesh beneath. But they were there. Each one a reminder of the opportunity to channel.

And he added to their number a fresh red brother. It wasn’t without a grimace. The pain had to actually hurt for it to work, and for someone like him, who could take a lot of it, the freshness of it startled something awake in his head.

Suddenly, his awareness of that power on the other side of the barrier swarmed. He breathed a sigh of relief and balled up his fists even as the blood trickled a red stream down his arm.

It started to drip on the floor.

And he found the gaps Marcus described. Found them and wanted to tear it open with his bare hands. He almost stumbled when the power roared back into his grasp.

“Ahh,” he spoke to the darkness. Welcome back, it replied.

And he smiled to himself.

Then glanced down at the prone body of his captor. The power swarmed gloriously and if Ryker wasn’t underground with him, he would have buried Marcus beneath the building.

Instead, he decided to spin up something else.

Knife still clenched in one hand, the other dripping blood from his fingers, he stirred the thread fires into a cocoon around them. The brightness stung even his eyes, and in the light, Marcus’ skin shone wet as asphalt after a rain.

The shadow should flee, but engulfed in fire, it had no where to go.

He toed Marcus on the side. Willing him to nasty-vomit it out and help him incinerate the little bitch.
Marcus...Malik...none so complex existed. His thoughts were pure emotion, reactive and reactionary, deeper than words or meaning. He didn't know who he was. He was just...was just...he just was. That was all. He was. Whoever- whatever he was- drifted in nothingness, untethered to anything. It filled him with unease, the lack of anything, of structure or form. At times, he felt an awareness of...something close by and he 'lurched' toward it. But the nebulous form was too far. Despite the nothingness all around, yet he felt as if he was floating toward something, toward even more nothingness. 

And the only feeling he had was terror, fear as the nothingness drew closer. An unmaking that he somehow instinctively knew would not- could not- be undone. 

He sensed another nebulous something close by and lunged again. Nothing. Again, in the timeless void, again and again it happened, even as he felt closer and closer to the unmaker. The terror was there. But something else, too. Anger. Rage. Resolve. Revulsion. Refusal. An ineffable 'No', beyond thought.

He lurched again, his "movement" a function of his anger. He felt the nebulous forms as being close, but they were still too far away. Again...again....again. Time had no meaning here except for the inexorable drawing close of the unmaker. Again...he lunged...again...

...Malik felt tired. His body fought him, the lethargy heavy on him, the tiredness deep and in his bones. A weight on his chest...and a memory stirred. Someone...sitting on him. Despite the tired, he stirred, the anger feeding him. The Force was a trickle, flickering, a candle guttering. He stretched out toward it, grasping, and felt the stir of life. Jaw clenching, nostrils flaring, he opened himself up, pulling that power toward him.

The fire burned along his nerves, rode his veins, searing him from the inside and he felt a cry ripped from his soul. It was terrible and hurt beyond words. It was orgasmic and he reveled in the pleasure of feel and life and body. The cascading avalanche of fire and ice scoured through him and he felt his muscled tense, vitality and power giving him mobility. One those icy peaks, the jagged, dangerous, deadly freezing mountains of the Sith perspective, he stood, sliding and riding the avalanche of roaring ice flows and lava, searing and burning his mind in turns. And he found the balance, the singular knife's edge, the point upon which he stood, the chasm of nothingness on either side of him. And despite it all, he reveled.

His eyes flickered and then opened, the brightness tearing at his eyes, but he refused to shy away. The pain of burning was not just in his mind. His skin was slick with sweat and felt sensitive. Flows of fire danced around him. His first reaction was fury. Ryker. Somehow Ryker had broken the shield and was attacking him.

Marcus looked again. The threads were careful. Near his body. Not touching it. Reaction held off by a hair, he stirred, tried to move. The thing was there, the darkness, the shadow form. It quavered, having seeped out him, hovering, pulling in on itself away from the threads of Force.

Malik was tired of the game. He wove a net of fire, feeding it more and more power, the Force, the weight of earth and spirit and water, compressing around it. He felt a scream beyond sound rip from it, and he squeezed more, a smile forming on his lips. He fed the black hole maelstrom with energy that was mass, increased the energy with each draw of the power until he felt at his very limit.

The blackness- it wasn't shadow anymore, compressed as it was- was solid, a writhing mecury like liquid, darker that dark. He held the net tight, past the pain and strain of the Force that burned his muscles and mind, held and held and held, his rage and anger the only thing that kept him holding...

the blackness seemed to invert, compressed on itself into nothingness.

It was gone.

With a slump, shoulders and arms that were tense slumped and he lay there, breathing, letting the power flow out of him.

With it went most of his strength.

But he would not stay like this. Summoning a different power, he lurched, rolling to his side. It took longer than he liked and he was none too study, but at last he stood. He looked at Ryker, feeling the power wafting off of him.

A small smile appeared on his sweat covered face. "You did it. Good." He paused. "Thank you," he added. He wasn't sure if that was easy or not. If he felt it or not. But it needed to be said. Marcus knew that. "Come on," he said and shuffled to the door. He paused against the door frame, mentally preparing himself. Then he headed out. The climb was long and arduous. But he would walk out here as he had come.

Guards started for Ryker- the blood dripping arm- when had that happened- and the gun had that effect- but Marcus spoke. "Leave him! He is with me." The look on his face said it all. "He has earned his pardon."

It would be hours yet until bed. Ryker was free. He had proven his loyalty and dependability. That was all that had mattered. Marcus needed to make sure a place was made for him in the Wizarding housing.
Once the pain on his arm faded to a dull throb, so too did his hold on the power. Ryker was willing to let it pass with the imminent threat. By the time the guards started to rush, the rifle was swiftly pressed to his shoulder once more, but Marcus defused the situation with a command.

Ryker nodded a smug, ‘I’m with him’ look. Except for the fact he was in the process of earning his freedom, he’d have shot the fuckers dead twice over. “Be seeing you around,” he said as they left.

The fresh air was amazing.

The closing of gates with him on the outside was a sweet, sweet sound. He looked at Marcus with fresher eyes, literally since they were outside. He had big old bowling balls between his legs. No way would Ryker have traded places with being smoke monster meal. Plus the guy spun some wicked fire and crawled to his feet afterward.

He offered to shake Marcus’ hand. Despite no words passing between them, they didn’t need to be said.

He had a shit ton of work to do, and he made a mental note to keep the flashy stuff out of the public eye from now on and avoid a return visit.

First thing on the agenda: take a long ass hot shower, find a case of whiskey, and forget the last month.
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