His head exploded like a water balloon bouncing over a spike strip. His brain was instant mush, matter flying every which way, as his blood splashed forward and covered the overalls I wore atop my suit.
Fuck! If I ruined another pair of boots I’d have him revived so I could kill him again, even if the first time was an accident.
I glanced sideways at the tech bay where three misfits observed us. I waved two fingers in the air and a flurry of activity started. It began with the whoosh of machines shutting down, then the whirring sounds of three angels manually opening the titanium lined door, followed closely by the click-clack of several more shuffling in to clear the room, and my person, of brains and guts.
Their actions weren’t driven by love, admiration, or loyalty. They were driven by the need to avoid being next. That was fine with me.
My father had taught us, and Mundanes, that fear was far better than love or loyalty anyway.
And I should be feared – by all of them.
“Rafaela!” Tobin screeched, skidding into the room like a bat out of Hell. You would have thought my brother was dead on his trails.
“Yes, Tobin?” I asked, a sigh escaping my lips as I pulled my hair back into a ponytail. Hair was my least favorite part of taking the woman’s form. So many expectations. What humans found important in the grand scheme of their speck of existence boggled my mind. Currently, the black tresses hung a little past my shoulders and were now becoming bothersome. I ached for the days in Washington when I sported the clean Mohawk. Yet, apparently, this current display of humanity I was undergoing required an innocent motherly persona that was not enhanced by said Mohawk.
At least, that had been Tobin’s argument. As a handler he was very good at sniveling his point across and staying alive. So, I usually listened to his advice. Even when it had me looking like a June Cleaver impersonator.
“There’s been a development,” Tobin finally verbalized, after taking in the scene around us, while the other misfits stretched to get brain matter out of crevices that shouldn’t have been possible in an airtight room.
Slowly, my brow raised. Tobin moved closer into the room, while managing to angle to the right to still maintain a healthy distance. “Shall I ask or shall you keep me in suspense for the rest of the day?”
“Gabriel has arrived.”
I nodded, sighing. “My pathetic brother was expected, was he not? Fate and all that drivel. What had you running in here as if from the hounds of Hell?”
I watched Tobin shiver, his pale skin turning an almost purplish red. “Hounds are very scary,” he whispered absently.
Smirking, I breathed deeply, and closed the distance between us before he could blink. “Not as scary as I am, Tobin. Remember who put that little treat in your mind. Do not make me question you further.”
He nodded, gulping slowly. “Yes, Rafaela, ma’am. Before Gabriel’s arrival… you received an invitation.” He blinked, tearing his eyes from mine, looking around the room. “It was a fire message. From Rumplestilskin.”
My brow furrowed. Absentmindedly my nail trailed up Tobin’s chin, drawing a drop of blood as it went. Trailing my nail across my tongue, I closed my eyes lavishing in the taste of his partial humanity.
He stank of fear.
But it was also cloaked in worry, for me, which is why no matter what I did to him he returned, and why I had yet to take his life.
That and the fact he made the best Long Island Iced Tea. He should’ve been a bartender instead of … I shook that thought off.
Turning from Tobin I strode out of the room and straight to my office. As expected, when I crossed the threshold he was right behind me.
“lā sayfa ʾillā ḏū l-faqāri wa-lā fatā ʾillā ʿalīy,” I muttered softly as the door closed behind me. Instantly the Zulfiqar blade appeared at my side. At least the blade I’d made from my portion of the sword I’d found.
The energy, vibrating lowly from the core of the talisman, sang to my inner being and forced my mind to attention. I could taste the power on my tongue as it radiated throughout my aura.
They should all fear me, an inner voice declared.
“What did Rumpel’s message say, dear Tobin?”
Tobin’s eyes locked onto my hip, glued to the Zulfiqar. I snapped my fingers, freeing him from the trance. “Tobin.”
“Yes. Yes, um. He summoned.”
“He did what?”
Tobin looked increasingly nervous. I actually felt kind of bad for him as I tossed the Zulfiqar across the room, pinning his jacket to the door. “Spit. It. Out. Tobin.”
“He’s bringing supernatural beings together. He wants you to come to sin city and see what he’s doing there.”
“What’s the catch?”
Tobin eyed the blade warily, it’s power humming next to his head, making his whole body shake. I truly hoped he answered before he released his bowels on my wood floors. “No catch that I could see.”
“It’s Rumpel, there’s always a catch or a deal. He didn’t make his name, such as it is, by being friendly and outgoing.”
“Not like you, Ma’am, no.”
I growled toward Tobin, my tongue clicking as I focused on the Zulfiqar, increasing its vibration. Sweat beaded on his brow, his upper lip quivering to the tune of the magical song within the blade. “So-sorry, ma’am.”
Focusing on the prayer, I called the Zulfiqar to me. The blade somersaulted from Tobin’s jacket and back to my hand. Spinning the blade against the pad of my finger I asked, “What is your recommendation?”
Tobin stood straight, still shaking, as he worked to adjust his jacket. “Ma’am, I think it could be beneficial to The Project. It would definitely bring you closer to some mystical alternatives we anticipate you may find need to utilize.”
“There is very little I can foresee him implementing as a catch. The upside appears to be more in your favor, Rafaela.”
I nodded. “Fine. Go. Send a response. On the way, tell one of misfits to send sniveling Gabriel in.”
Tobin chuckled, opening the door to leave, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Yes, Ma’am?” he asked, glancing back over his shoulder.
“If this goes awry you will feel every painful second of it.”
“Understood, Ma’am. Understood.”