I know not many of you read anything of length. If you read one part of this short story, then, read the last paragraph with the kissing scene!
The Beholden – Chapter 6
It was early morning and Stephan was in the throes of a dream. He envisioned himself crawling through Basra in heavy rainfall. He saw a young girl ahead in the distance. His dream shifted. He couldn’t understand why he was covered in thick, clay-like mud. This was not the soil of Iraq. Whistles blew and people were shouting words of encouragement. He was now in an endurance race. Completely exhausted he pressed for every last bit of energy. He collapsed just before the finish. Once again, he was crawling on his hands and knees. Just as he finishes the race a woman picks him up. He looks straight into her eyes. “Madison,” he screams in bewilderment. This powerful vision in his dream awakens him and he bolts to his feet. The doorbell rings. His father, John, answers the door as Stephan is running down the stairs. It is Alden. Stephan freezes in his tracks and greets Alden quizzically.
“What are you doing here?” says Stephan.
“I came to summon both of you for a mission,” says Alden.
“It will have to wait,” says Stephan. “I have to contact Madison.”
“Not to worry. Connell is on his way to get her out of Barcelona.”
“I’ll fill the both of you in later,” says Alden. “Your lives are in danger. We must leave here immediately. Jarek is sending men after you.”
“It is best I stay here and slow them down,” says John. “I can handle this. Take my car.”
Stephan hurriedly gets dressed and leaves with Alden. The two of them accelerate toward Munich. Alden brings Stephan up to speed about their mission and the status of his girlfriend Madison. When they arrive in Munich, they park a few blocks away from the Town Hall Center in order to not draw attention. Both of them keep their eyes peeled for any sign of the Rogue. Alden already mentioned to expect resistance. They hurry inside the hall, pushing aside tourists. Quickly climbing staircases, they reach the access door to the Glockenspiel. They break the door with ease. It is almost eleven o’clock and the show is about to start.
“Ah! The contraption is about to move,” says Alden.
“You didn’t think this was going to be easy,” Stephan says with sarcasm.
Two Rogue members bolt through behind them. Just as the Glockenspiel moves, Alden jumps on the carousel but is pursued. They fight, turning into the open and in full view of the tourists below. They engage with their hands on each other’s biceps and they crash into the court jester. The jester crashes down to the plaza below. Alden falls down on his back with his head overhanging the ledge. With the Rogue member kneeling over top of him and ready to punch, Alden twists to his left and face kicks his adversary, who then plunges off the building.
Standing next to the dead body is Connell.
“From one fight to the next,” says Connell. “No break for me, today.”
Connell bolts up to the top and helps Stephan dispose of his adversary. Alden races to the night watchman character, leans down at its right calf, and opens the access door. He reaches up inside and grabs the hidden key.
“Look what the two of you have done,” Connell says. “You’ve destroyed the carousel!”
“No one will care. It’s just a disappointing tourist trap,” mocks Alden.
“Where’s Madison?” asks Stephan.
“She was taken. We were overrun. There were too many of them,” says Connell.
The muscles on their bodies started to itch, then, their skin began to tingle. They knew what was about to happen. In that instant, all three men were whisked away by the network.
The three find themselves at the start of a street that enters a warehouse complex. The buildings are old and unkempt. The street was littered with potholes and the wind tossed some litter about. They look around and concluded they are in the outskirts of Prague. Overhead, the noise of a small airplane startles them. The airplane swoops lower and descends to land.
“I sense we are at the District 19 airport. Madison must be nearby,” says Alden.
“I don’t think they intend to keep her here long,” says Connell.
A warehouse door opens almost out of sight and over one hundred yards away.
“Look,” Stephan exclaims. “That’s probably them. Let’s move quickly. They are going over to greet their friends at the plane.”
They determined to be expected, so they slinked around several buildings. Each of them had their eyes in different directions. Stephan spotted some construction tools against a wall. He picked up a hand axe.
“What are you going to do with that?” Connell laughs. “We are not hunting zombies!”
“It’s better than nothing,” Stephan says. “You both have guns.”
They arrive at the back wall of the warehouse that has a window. Around the corner, was the door they had previously seen. Alden slowly lifts his head up and peeks in.
“I see her but it’s not good.”
Stephan wanted to bolt upward to look but Alden held him down.
“She’s chained on all four limbs while laying on a table. This place could be a trap.”
“You’re saying if we enter, she could be killed?” asks Stephan.
Meanwhile Connell is examining the situation inside.
“”Yes, she’ll be drawn and quartered. The contraption she is on is trip wired to the doors.”
“We must get to the roof,” Stephan says as he wields his axe.
The roof was sheet metal. All they had to do was breach the roof with the axe and their superhuman strength would take over. Connell stayed down below as he helped the other two springboard their way to the roof. Stephan hacked a large enough hole for them to peel back and area to slip through. At only twelve feet, both of them drop to the floor below. Madison had been awakened by the noise on the roof. When Stephan hit the floor, she was not quite sure if it was him or not. It was not until he approached that her emotions went into high gear. She had not seen him for months. He looked a bit ragged but so was she. It could not have been more fitting for her. A man she thought was near death was now saving her life. Stephan hit the cables tying Madison down. She was now free. Stephan lifted her up from her shoulders. She slid off the table and into his arms. The embrace seemed otherworldly. She smelled the faint scent of his cologne and was reassured it was him. He could smell the scent of her favorite conditioner in her hair. After they took each other in, Stephan lifted her up and Madison placed her left hand on Stephan’s face and kissed him hard. His lips were dry and in need of her nourishment. She had plenty to give as her right hand dug deep into his left shoulder. Madison held on as if she was free climbing a rock face. This time letting go was not an option. She could feel the sweat of her savior’s determination drip onto her nose as their lips remained locked. Her body warmed from within and her skin reacted and recorded every touch. Stephan could feel it and the warmth reminded him of basking in a morning sunrise. When the kissing subdued, they opened their eyes and stared into each other, awakening their relationship. Alden opened the door to let Connell inside. The two of them stared at Stephan and Madison and swore they were glowing. In that instant, all four were whisked away to Mittenwald.
(The photo of the Town Hall is not my own.)