Coach looks different, all done up in the blue camo of the guards, with one of their silver guns hanging from her chest harness. She’s wearing a light blue beret, which contrasts sharply with her dark skin and shows her eyes in startling clarity.
She looks troubled.
“You just stepped on five pounds of C-4,” she says, not moving. “And from the looks of things, you guys aren’t at your best. So before you do anything stupid, just listen.”
She’s not alone, we’re starting to understand. Dark forms are rising out of the water: frogmen armed with machine guns. Navy SEALS, maybe, or worse. They’re a good hundred feet from us—maybe close enough for Sidewinder, but would that be enough? Other shapes are coming out from the rocks, and others are on the hills above the bay. Some even behind us.
“C-4.” Bally pushes himself upright. “You guys love that stuff, don’t you?”
Coach’s troubled look grows. “I didn’t know about the explosive implants. I swear,” she says.
“Doesn’t seem to make much difference,” Ball Buster says. “I mean, clearly you’re not opposed to killing kids trying to escape.”
“The stuff under there won’t kill you. It’ll just blow you to smithereens. I imagine it’d hurt plenty, but you wouldn’t die,” says Coach.
“But I would,” Heather says, moving up alongside Bally.
There’s a pause.
“Right.” Coach gulps. “Which is why I’m saying calm down and listen. I don’t think any of us want Heather to die today.”
“Fuck,” says Mouse. It’s the first time I’ve heard him swear.
“I know I don’t,” Coach says. “But there’s a lot riding on this.”
“What?” Ball Buster says. “You’d kill an innocent civilian to contain the horrendous alien menace of the Nephilim?”
“You guys got this far because you had help,” Coach says. “Seems a bit late to worry about ‘containing’ you guys. The boys I knew weren’t a ‘menace.’” She shifts position. “But of course, the boys I knew wouldn’t have blown up three helicopters and part of the base.”
Her hand taps against the missile launcher. “I can’t help but be very conscious right now that that C4 is probably the only thing that’s keeping me and my men still alive.”
“You didn’t leave us with a lot of options,” I say.
“We’re not leaving you with a lot of options right now,” she says. “But I don’t know that we have a lot of options either.” She swallows, slightly, and I realize that she’s very scared. “Because one way or another, here’s the situation we have. You hate us right now. You’re willing to kill us right now. And while I don’t know who you’re here to meet, I’m guessing they’re also people willing to kill us and who might conceivably hate us. Am I wrong?”
Nobody answers. That’s gotta give a bad impression. “I don’t know that we hate you …” I say.
“I do,” Mouse says.
“Me too.” Sidewinder nods.
“I’m fine with that part.”
“You’re not helping, guys,” I say.
“I have no particular feelings,” Destro volunteers.
“Don’t know that I’d believe you anyway,” Coach says. “You have enough reasons. And we can’t take the risk …”
It’s like a blur. A sense that’s something’s moving in the corner of my eye. That’s all the warning I have before the beach utterly explodes in blood.
The frogmen are suddenly writhing on the ground, blood spilling from every hole in their wetsuits. The soldiers among the rocks go flying, smashing up against the cliffs, falling to the ground like limp meat sacks. I hear screams from the surrounding bluffs and the sound of dropping bodies.
Coach’s hands shoot up. “I surren—”
Shadow appears from out of nowhere behind her, and the flaming sword in his hand slashes once across her throat.
Coach drops to the gravel, gagging, her hands clutched to the gash. Blood’s flowing out like cherry-colored water.
The other guys are just working out what happened as the other long-coated figures I saw before drop into the bay. “Holy!” Sue says flinching.
“What the fuck?”Sidewinder stares all around.
Heather throws up.
I can’t spare a thought for that. “Shit!” I yelp, as I run over to Coach. She isn’t writhing, but her whole body’s rigid, with her hands gripping her neck. Her jaw’s clenched tightly, and she’s staring intently at the sky. The only thing coming from her are gurgling choking noises.
Well, and blood. There’s a lot of that coming out. From … everywhere.
Ball Buster’s screaming at Shadow. “—iotic fucker! What if they’d set off the C4?”
Shadow’s voice is haughty. “She was bluffing, you—”
I strip out of my shirt. “Hang on, hang on,” I say to her. Should I seal up the wound? Would that just close up a lot of internal bleeding? What do I do?”
Ball Buster is still yelling. “And what the fuck was the point of making us come all the way out here … come halfway across the ocean!”
I don’t quite hear Shadow’s response. Some bullshit about a test and proving worthy and stuff. I can’t deal with it right now. Blood’s everywhere. That’s a big hole in her neck. What do I do?
Shit, she’s dying anyway. Trying to help can’t hurt. I summon up a flaming scalpel. Coach’s eye locks onto the flame, and her breathing speeds up. I pry her fingers apart and trap her hands in place under my knees. She’s writhing all over, and blood is spurting more than ever. I grab her head with one hand, holding it in place. But the wound in her neck is too big. I can’t just run the scalpel along, right? I must need to close the wound, but I don’t have enough hands to hold it…
“How can I help?”
It’s Destro. His chubby face is grave and clear.
“I need the wound to be held shut,” I say.
He drops down, trapping Coach’s head in place with his knees. I mop away the blood with my shirt as his fingers smooth the skin flat. Close enough. I press the flaming scalpel to the wound.
Coach screams, and her whole body tries to shake me off. She’s pretty impressively strong, but between Destro and I, she doesn’t have a chance. Destro holds her head in a death grip as I seal the wound.
“Square, what the hell is going on over there?” Ball Buster’s voice comes over my shoulder. “Just let her die, man. No point in kicking the … what the fuck are you doing!?”
“Can’t deal with you right now, Bally,” I say.
“No, but seriously, what are you doing, Square?” That’s Mouse’s voice. “Like torturing her or …?”
Coach is wriggling as much as she can, which is making things really tricky right now. Destro’s doing his best to hold the flaps of skin in place, but it’s not easy.
“Shit. She still alive?” Sue asks.
“Damnit, did I miss the jugular again?” Shadow sounds annoyed.
“I’m telling you, it’s because you keep trying to do that light anime ‘flick’ thing you do.” This new voice sounds like one of the Templars. “Looks cool in the movies, but you’re not actually killing anyone that way, Shadow.”
“It takes them down, doesn’t it?” Shadow snaps. “Doesn’t take much to finish, anyway. Here, move out of the way for a bit.”
I have just a little bit left to finish.
“Square, I said move.” There’s an edge to Shadow’s voice.
I seal up the last bit and let the scalpel fade away. “There.” I let out a deep breath.
“Yeah, great. You patched up the hole,” Shadow says. “Now fucking move so I can kill her already.”
“I just got her fixed up,” I say, though honestly, I hadn’t considered the full implications when I had. “Look, she surrendered, okay? She’s barely hanging on as it is; there’s no point to killing her. It’d be an asshole thing to do.”
“Yeah, man,” Sue says. “Don’t be a dick.”
I notice the others have gone oddly quiet. Destro has stood up. He’s staying close to me, but he’s not saying anything either.
“Can’t very well be a dick and an asshole, now can I? Don’t think that’s anatomically possible.” Shadow gives a creepy smile. “She’s one of those pricks who was keeping you fuckers down at that stupid camp, right?” He shoots her a quick look, full of venom. “Just one of the bitches.”
“Yeah,” says one of the guys behind Shadow. It’s the guy with purple dreadlocks from the camp. “Just another bitch human.”
“Anyway, she’s seen us now,” Shadow says. “And the submarine.”
In the bay is a gleaming black shape, complete with a conning tower painted in red crosses. Looks a bit tacky, honestly.
“So?” I say.
“So, she’s gonna tell people,” Shadow says. “Wolfe’ll know about this if we let her go.”
“So?” I say again. “It’s a sub, right? Stealth? Goes underwater? Who cares if Wolfe knows about it or not?”
Shadow sighs. “Dude, why are you being such a drag about this?”
“You’re talking about killing someone!” I say.
The other Templars seem to be growing impatient. “Hey, Shadow, are we going to be long about this?” the one in the boat asks. “You know Ash gets upset when we spend too long above the surface.”
“Right, right.” Shadow waves at them before turning back to us. “Look, you guys need to go. Either get on the boat, or stay here and wait for the choppers.”
“Right.” Mouse moves toward the boat.
“You planning to stab her as soon as I move?” I ask. “Because if so, I’m not moving.”
There’s silence, and I realize with a chill that I was right. I’d said it as a bluff, but now.… I glance back at the others, thinking they’ll back me up, but instead they look a little … embarrassed. Like I’m making a scene.
And seeing that, part of me wavers. Did I really mean what I said? Should this really be a big deal to me if it isn’t to them? No-one thinks this is cool. No-one’s going to thank me for this. What will change by me staying here? I’ll get the same reward as Doc did.
But I helped her. I saved her. It was just an impulse, but now that I saved her, I want her to stay alive. Who would leave someone behind to die in a dump like this?
“Well, have it your way, I guess,” Shadow says at last, with a shrug. He looks at my guys. “That goes for the rest of you, too. Either get on the boat, or stay here.”
There’s a frozen moment where no-one moves. Then quickly, almost shamefacedly, Mouse steps up to the boat. “If we stay, we’re dead,” he mutters. “She practically is already. Get over it.”
Sidewinder gives a nod and steps in beside Mouse. Sue lets loose a quiet curse and stalks over, angrily. He sits down, crosses his arms and glares over at the rocks.
I look back at Ball Buster, but already he’s shaking his head. “Sorry, Square. But Mouse is right.” He pushes past me. “C’mon. We’ve gotta stick together here. Heather, come on.”
And Heather follows him.
And then it’s just me. And Destro.
“Well?” Shadow says, raising an eyebrow.
Did I really mean what I said?
“I’m not leaving,” I say. “Not … until you give me your word.” Maybe he’ll do that.
“I won’t be doing that,” he says. “Quite frankly, if you don’t know where your loyalty lies, between a Nephil and a human, I’m not sure you belong on board anyway.”
“Well I’m not sure I want to be on board,” I say.
“Square, c’mon,” Ball Buster calls. “Don’t be like that.”
Part of me doesn’t want to be like that. Part of me wants to be like the guy who just climbs on board with Ball Buster.
But that’s not who I should be.
Shadow just tosses his head and scoffs. “What about you, Big Black?” he says, calling to Destro. “Staying or going?”
Destro raises an eyebrow. “I think I will also be staying. That’s what I’ll be doing.”
“Spoilsports,” Shadow says.
“Shadow, we need to go,” the other Templar says again.
“All right,” Shadow says. “You go on ahead. I’ll make one last attempt to talk some reason into these guys. We’ll catch up.”
“Okay then.” The Templar starts up the motor on the raft, and the raft starts to head out toward the sub. The last I make out is Ball Buster, glancing back with a concerned look.
“Well.” Destro’s hand slips to his side, and I see the long silver rod that I’ve glimpsed him carrying before. “I suppose now you’re going to kill us?”
Shadow grins. His long coat flaps around him as the wind picks up. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the human, honestly. But guys like you … any Nephilim willing to side with humans against a brother neff are going to be trouble further down the line.”
Shadow whips up the flame sword, and I just manage to fling myself back before the blade crashes into the ground. He charges at me, but Destro attacks from the side, deflecting him, giving me just enough time to leap up and summon a machete. I charge him from the right, but he knocks Destro back almost contemptuously and dodges around me, slashing me across the back in a way that knocks me straight to the beach. He stands back, a small grin on his lips.
I spit out gravel and turn to rise. “When my friends find out …” I say.
“If your friends didn’t already know when they got on that boat that you were dead meat, they won’t work it out until we’re halfway across the Arctic Ocean.” The wind is really blowing now. Shadow’s coat is whipping around like a sail in a storm. Behind Shadow, I see rising out of the water five Templars, the red ochre showing on their bare, sunken, chests. “And I’m pretty sure they made it clear where their priorities are.”
Destro’s risen. He’s beside me, but the look he gives me isn’t confident. He’s out of surprises.
Shadow smiles and shakes his head. “Sorry, Square, but while I hate to kill my fellow Nephilim …” The wind is picking up, louder and louder, drowning out his words. “… if you’re not w—h us, yo—gainst …”
I notice there’s a rhythm to the wind. A whup-whup-whup weight to it, beating down on us like a pounding wave. It doesn’t sound like wind, but it doesn’t completely sound like a chopper either.
All of us turn to see an A-22 Osprey come sailing over the cliffs, checking its trajectory with blistering speed and turning about to hover over the beach. It’s barely even stopped before I register that something’s fallen out of it—no, something’s jumped out of it, and it’s dropping fast.
The impact shakes the ground, kicking up rock and gravel—not over a foot, but still, it’s notable. There’s a figure at the epicenter—a man, a big man, absolutely bursting with muscle.
“In the name of the holy Saint John and the Hospitallers,” Dr. Schaefer says, as he straightens out of the crouch, “I claim this beachhead and the living and wounded that are on it.” His familiar bald head and thick white beard bristle above a tactical vest inscribed with a white cross. A long, intricately carved sword is strapped to his waist.
Also, I think he’s carrying a machine gun on his back? This is a lot to absorb right now.
“Those wounded are my patients and under my care,” Doc says, speaking clearly and loudly. “Those living are my wards and under my protection. Any who would interfere in my pursuit of my duty are hereby warned of the punitive actions such interference would engender.”
Shadow’s lieutenant with the purple dreads is a little slow. “The fuck?”
“Language,” says Doc.
“Get real, old man.” Shadow swipes at him almost carelessly.
But Doc moves like buttered quicksilver. He slips under the flaming sword and slams a fist into Shadow’s midsection, sending him flying. “You have forfeited your wardship.” He claps the lieutenant’s head between two hands. “And negated the guardianship I offered.” Doc knees Shadow in the forehead and whirls around. “Henceforth, count yourselves as my foes.”
A Templar manages to get up an ice shield of sorts, but it absolutely shatters with a blow from Doc’s elbow. Smooth moves or not, that punch is packed with dynamite. The astonished Templar gets backhanded across the face and goes sprawling.
More Templars are coming out from the water. Twelve or so, maybe. The lead one has some sort of giant axe, but a couple of the guys behind him are carrying automatic weapons, and others have their hands glowing.
I move up beside Doc, with a sword flaming to life in my hand. Dunno how much I’m going to actually help, but heck. I feel, more than see, Destro do the same on the other side.
Doc draws his blade. “So be it, then.”
“Hold up.” Shadow’s struggling to his feet and rubbing his jaw. His other hand is playing with his ear. “Fine,” he says. “Have it your way. Old man Ash says you’d be too much trouble.” He spits.
“You took the other boys,” Doc says in the same calm tone. “I want them back.”
Shadow shrugs. “Want all you like. They joined of their own free will, and they can leave, anytime, of their own free will. Are you planning to kidnap them? You can’t even spare the time to chase us right now—you need to save this little pet of yours.” He looks at me with contempt. “The Templars will fight with you another day.”
“Templars?” Doc says. “Please. I fought alongside Templars. I fought against Templars. I burned Templars. You are no Templars.”
“Let’s call it a work in progress, old man.” Shadow’s creepy grin remains in place. He jerks his head to the others, and they fade back into the water.
Dr takes just a moment or so to make sure they’re really gone before dropping to examine Coach. “That was a bit close for comfort,” he says. “Was the jugular punctured?”
“I don’t think so?” I say. “I’m not sure what exact part of the neck that was.”
“It didn’t appear to be,” Destro says.
“Thank you, Mr. Iskinder. It does indeed seem to be intact.” Doc’s glowing hand runs over Coach’s neck. His hand goes to his ear. “Grand Hospitaller Schaefer to Kestrel, prep for an emergency medical kit. Start plotting a course.”
I stare at him. “Dr. Schaefer, I thought … I mean, I thought you were … how did you escape?”
“This is really not the time,” he says. “I’ll tell you on the way to Marienburg.” He looks from me to Destro. “Well done, both of you. The patient would have been lost without you.” He then looks out to sea at the vanishing sub. “A shame your friends didn’t stay.”
I don’t want to think about that. “What’s in Marienburg?”
“The Hospitallers,” Doc says, standing. “Among others.” Turning to me, he beckons as the Osprey comes to a landing on the beach. “Come, Protector. You have much to learn and much more to see.”
“What did you call me?” I ask.
He seems puzzled. “Protector.” Chad, I hear “That is your name, is it not?”
“Yeah,” I say. “Yeah, it is.”
Thank you for reading! The book of The Nephilim Protocol can be purchased on Amazon for $0.99 on Kindle and $9.79 in Paperback! Also check out the sequel, The Hospitaller Oath, also available on Amazon for $2.99 on Kindle and 12.99 paperback!
Chad has escaped government prisons and half-angel fanatics to join with the Hospitallers, an ancient order dating back to the Crusades. But he’s barely gotten started before he crashes (literally) into a plot involving strange mercenaries–Nephilim like himself–hunting down the Skofnung Sword, an ancient weapon of legend with amazing powers that could change the balance of power in Eastern Europe.
Thrown in with friends old and new, Chad soon finds himself falsely accused of kidnapping when he rescues Freyja Norjavik, a crippled arms heiress under threat of assassination. Chad’s party must race across Europe pursued by the authorities, Russian commandos, and Freyja’s two formidable sisters, as they seek to find the sword’s elusive blade before it’s too late. But there is a traitor in the party.
The Hospitaller Oath is an Urban Fantasy YA series. Fans of Alex Rider and Percy Jackson should love this tale of half-angel superheroes in a modern world of intrigue with deep connections to the past.