New Babylon, present:
By lunch, the group was exhausted from learning new mental techniques. Evan called a halt to the lessons for the day and insisted that everyone go and eat something with lots of calories.
He left the temple without answering questions, and when people went out to find him, he had disappeared. Irra’s eyes narrowed when he looked up and down the street and found nothing that indicated the man’s direction. He moved off from the group, took out his cell phone, dialed, and spoke quietly into it.
“What was that?” Waterfall asked, looking up and down the empty street. It had been a long time since she had sat for new training, and her head was a little achy from the strain.
“I don’t know, but my head isn’t as loud,” Oliver said, giving his right lobe a tug.
Ninah narrowed her eyes as she looked down the street. Her store was on her right, and the sheriff’s office another couple blocks beyond. The street itself moved to the northeast for about a quarter mile and then made a sharp turn northwest, continuing until it hit the 5 to Shoreline and eventually into Everett.
The old road to the old house behind Ninah’s store cut off the main street just before the NE-NW bend in the road, turning east, going through several poorer neighborhoods, coming down a little southeast, and then into the woods until it ended up a mile behind the store.
Squinting to see the old house across the mile-wide field, something told her she was right to go after it. The house was hers, and she needed to clean it.
“Irra, please get Thayer, grab a credit card from the drawer, go to the feed store, and get three large bags of rock salt. Meet me back at my store. People, we are going monster-bashing.” She whipped around and marched back to her store before Irra could snap at her for giving him an order.
It wasn’t what Evan taught them that had her shaking on the inside; it was the fact that she had another vision, one that included both Evan and Rick looking battle weary. The smell of dust and iron filled her nose, crying and moaning voices in pain made her turn her head, trying to dispel the ghostly echoes in her ears.
Ninah wanted to go back to her store and bury herself in the comfort of things she knew. Her totem, on the other hand, was taking orders from higher up, and sending her into the fray whether she wanted to go or not.
Irra considered following her to ask her intentions, and to inform her that he doesn’t take orders any better than she does, but decided against it. For now. He would see what she had in mind before informing Severance of his irritation.
While a few people in the group caught onto the whole telepathy thing, the other half found it helpful to know the technique. They, too, were feeling better after Evan’s impromptu lesson, and their own talents were clarified for the short time spent with him. The lesson would be taken back to their clans and taught to others.
When people filled cars, jeeps and trucks, and set out with bags of salt, shovels, picks and jars of water, and with maps in hand to find their way around the woods to circle their quarry, folks tended to take notice. Folks just walking by, those who lived in the area around the store and temple, stood and watched the goings-on; the weird pagans were up to something.
Ninah knew Severance wasn’t going to like it, and would probably tell her off when he got home, but she was getting that house be-damned to any slimy alien that decided to take a squat.
She might have to actually tell him he wasn’t her boss.
What the hell was she doing?
Irra took the lead vehicle, a truck, instead of his bike, while Ninah held the rear in a Jeep. Just as she was pulling out, a car stopped in front of the store. She would have ignored it except for the universe shifting when the man stepped onto the pavement. He shimmered. He was one of them.
“Pardon me,” he said, stepping out of the way of her car. “I was looking for Ninah Adams.”
“Are you Aaron?” Ninah asked, recognizing his voice from the phone. He had a slight accent that she was still trying to place. He was tall, his light brown hair trimmed into a modern, professional style, and his business-casual attire looked expensive.
“Yes,” he said, surprised. “Ms Adams?”
“Ninah.” She now knew why Karrin had the man in charge of the Seattle office. “Hop in.” Startled, Aaron squeezed into the back.
“We’re going to stomp on aliens,” Grandmother told him with a pleased smile. “You can help. Just call me Grandmother. That’s Waterfall and Morag.”
Introductions? If he was talented, and worked with Karrin, Ninah wondered why the group didn’t know him.
From the scattered cycles of his energy, they knew Aaron wasn’t trained; he probably wasn’t even aware of his own Talent.
“Uh… aliens?” he questioned. “Illegal immigrants?”
“From way up,” Grandmother said, nodding her head with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Just stay with me, Aaron,” Ninah told him. “Ladies, Aaron worked for Karrin; he headed the Seattle office, and I believe he’s now in charge. Did you need anything in particular?” The others reached to touch his shoulder, unable to help themselves; he didn’t realize it, but they also helped to calm his energies.
“Uh…. oh, yes, just an informal meeting to talk about house plans,” he said. He winced at a fast turn and squealing tires, and grabbed the JC bar in order to keep from falling into Morag’s lap. “I called your store and the man who answered told me to come up.”
Ninah would have to discuss the concept of ‘appointments’ with Thayer.
“Not a problem,” she said. “We’ll be going by the house, so you’ll be able to see it.”
Once at the main junction, the vehicles split up to begin circling their wagons around the forest, dropping a person off at regular intervals. The grove of trees was about a half mile in diameter before another grass field and farm land separated it from the larger grove of trees and the mountain to the northeast of town.
“Uh…we’re not going to harm anyone, are we?” the nervous man asked. He was cute, Ninah saw. He was around forty or so, and had the body of a twenty-five year-old swimmer. Ninah wanted to hate him, but couldn’t.
“We’ll be harming something, not someone,” Ninah told him. “Don’t worry; the alien is illegal, not us.”
Aaron swiped a hand across his beaded forehead as he debated calling 911.
“So, Aaron,” Ninah began as she ran a stop sign. “How is your office holding up?”
“We’re getting there,” he said. “Lots of shuffling and legal work going on. Karrin’s assistant, Peter, said that Karrin considered you a top priority. Oh, dear, that wasn’t polite, I didn’t mean….”
Ninah smiled. “It’s okay,” she said. “I understand. Although, I would say, No, I am not a priority. I’m anxious for my house, but if someone else has more immediate needs, by all means put them first. Clear?”
“Clear,” he agreed. He wasn’t sure about the mental state of anyone in the Jeep, but he liked her attitude. So many clients seemed to feel that the more money they had, the more permission they gave themselves to be asses.
“Are you Aaron Somers? Michael’s partner?” Morag asked. He turned at the Scottish accent.
“Yes, I am,” he confirmed. He knew it had to happen. If Michael didn’t insist on dragging him into the limelight at every opportunity, Aaron would be happily anonymous.
“Loved his latest single,” she said. “Karrin never said you worked with her.”
“Who?” Ninah asked, looking in the rearview mirror.
“Michael Black,” Morag said with an eager smile on her face. “Fantastic singer and gorgeous! He’s the star of that science fiction show, Delta Four.”
“Oh, right, yes, that Michael; I have CD’s,” Ninah said with a nod. “Love the new single. I didn’t realize he lived nearby. And you’re his partner?” she looked at Aaron. “Cool. I’m getting a little tired of all the cute guys heading off with other cute guys, but….! If you want forgiveness for the slip, Aaron, you’ll get one of my CD’s signed.”
“Done,” he quickly agreed as he grabbed the door handle again. “Just… could we turn around and pick up my liver? I think it’s on the side of the road back there.”
The infected area they were circling included the house that Ninah wanted. The house stood at the southeast section of the map she and Irra had split up between the groups. An old, rundown road went between the house and the grove they were circling, just a little north of the road Severance took when he brought Ninah out for their little scavenger hunt in the woods.
For Aaron’s safety, he was told to stay back and out of the way. Study the house and make his notes, but don’t go near it. He had no idea what these crazy people were doing. He’d keep his head down, take his notes, and ignore the weirdness. Weirdness seemed to go with the damp climate. Mold and moss on the brain was considered.
The old, rundown house was built in the early 1900’s, had three stories, including an attic, and probably a fourth story which would be a basement underground. It looked sturdy, Aaron noted, seeing the straight lines of the frame. He looked at the group of people setting up some kind of strange… well, ritual, was all he could think of; he decided to wander around the house while they all did whatever it was they were doing.
Using cell phones to conference in everyone, Ninah and Irra then instructed people to form a barrier around the edge of the infestation. Don’t let the stuff get past them.
Everyone was given a quickly thought-up, easy to remember chant which would keep their minds focused on image and intent. Words had power, but it wasn’t the words themselves that caused things to happen; it was the intent behind them which came from the speaker of the words, carving the intent into the fabric of reality.
The chanting began with individual voices separate and distinct, heard through cell phones set on open speakers so that they could all hear each other. The energy began to grow when the voices began to get closer and closer to being one voice, one rhythm, one cadence.
Sort of understanding what Ninah was going to try, which he thought was a larger version of the cleansing ceremony at the temple, Irra sent in a tone of command which was picked up by the rest of the group.
The air was thickening, and although the sun was high in the sky, a curtain fell over them, darkening the light around them. Birds and insects fell silent.
Ninah felt a ‘click’ when everyone was linked, and she clamped down on them, locking them in place and securing the energy-dome to the earth. She raised her right palm to the sky and set the other toward the ground.
“By Earth and Sky,
By the Air between!
Secure this blighted place!
As once was, shall be again,
Let all be green and hale!
A snarling came from the center of their circle. Now that she was ‘listening’ correctly, Ninah could hear the snarl much more clearly than before. Nuances also came through, warning her to leave.
*I don’t think so,* she said with her new telepathy. *My planet.* It was an alien thing! How did it get here? A sense of being sniffed and studied came to her. It drew a startled step back. Ninah immediately took advantage and closed the circle to fill the gap.
“Begin laying down the salt,” she said over the Bluetooth in her ear. “Sun-wise, please. Set… now.”
The line began moving, step by step, in a counter-clockwise motion, to follow the sun’s course in the sky. Shedding light on a subject was always a good thing, Ninah felt; by following the sun’s path, things became illuminated.
Some domes of energy were meant to close things in, others were meant to illuminate what was inside. It all depended on the intent of the weaver. Only truth existed, once a thing was illuminated, and if a thing can be seen, it can be banished.
Counter-clockwise to disarm or release, and clockwise to set. By including the concept of ‘illumination’ into the matrix, the energy dome was forcing the Thing to reveal itself. Once seen, they could get rid of it.
And, revealed by the light of their incantation, Ninah could feel revulsion rising at the sight of the stygian sludge. She saw it clearly in her mind; it rolled slowly, heaving with every breath it took in, and fouling the land with every exhale. It was alive, a living entity, as Evan told them. Evan was wrong, though; it reacted to threat. It responded. It might not be sentient, but it did have a primitive consciousness.
Taking a handful of salt, Ninah concentrated on its energy signature. It was tingly, a sensation that only someone with silver fillings in their teeth would know. When the filling was new, it gave a slight tingling in the mouth.
She then dropped the salt onto the ground.
The creature below them shuddered.
Another image hit her; it wasn’t the salt itself that destroyed the blackness, it was the salt’s energy!
She filled herself with the salt signature, tasting it, getting to know it. The creature below them shuddered. Ninah spread the salt signature out, into the protective energy dome they had created. Once it was saturated, she called out,
“Everyone, when I tell you, take two steps back. Do not take the line with you! Drop it immediately!” She paused for a moment. “NOW!”
Everyone took two steps back, releasing their hold on the energy. Ninah took the saturated shield away from the group, and collapsed it into the earth, covering the entire diameter of the infested area with the salted cloak. There was an ear-splitting scream, heard only by those listening with their newly re-trained ears.
The black sludge disintegrated into harmless smog which the wind and rains would carry away to return to the earth.
The dark cloak was removed and light filled their sky again. Whoops and shouts of triumph could be heard from the nearest people, and all around the area.
“To me,” Ninah called out. The people were quickly picked up in Irra’s truck as he circled the area to get them, and then raced to Ninah’s location.
The people nearest to her came in and tossed their arms around her, shouting and laughing.
“It’s gone!” Morag shouted, spreading her arms out at the house. Ninah looked closely at it. The darkness was gone from it, and an old, run-down house remained. It seemed to heave from exhaustion. There was also a man knocked out on the ground. Ninah jogged to Aaron, knelt by him, and lifted his head.
“Hey, Aaron, wake up,” she said, giving him a small shake. “Backlash,” she told the others as they gathered close. “He really needs to start training. Get the excess off him.”
Aaron groaned while the others cleaned his aura of the energy from their activity. Ninah dug small holes in the ground and buried his hands, patting the moist dirt onto his skin. He was swearing weakly in French under his breath; Ninah figured out his light accent.
“Are you burying me?” he groaned, blinking his eyes open.
“No,” Ninah smiled. “You have too much energy going through you; it knocked you out. Earth and/or water will dissipate it when it isn’t being used. You’ll feel better in a moment.”
“What the hell was that?” he asked. It was too much trouble to open his eyes, so he kept them closed. The ground beneath him was damp, but at the moment he didn’t particularly care. Michael was going to bitch about the grass and mud stains, though.
“We told you,” Ninah said, draining the excess energy off him. “We were beating the crap out of an alien. I want this house, dammit; the alien was in my way.”
He propped open a blue eye. “Remind me to never piss you off.”
The others arrived. The truck screeched to a halt, doors were slammed, people jumped out of the back, and ran for more hugs and kisses. When Irra arrived, he walked slowly toward Ninah, a straight line until he reached her. He stopped a few feet away and stared at her.