Currently listening to “Behind These Hazel Eyes” by Kelly Clarkson.
And here is the second short story, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post.
The story is called “Viper’s Last Stand,” a story about Scythe and Lightning’s father. This is another even that is referenced in Prism World but is never actually shown.
The story is written from the point of view of one of the Phantom masters, Mr. Perei, who is also featured in Prism World, and it is probably my favorite of the short stories I’ve written so far. I hope you enjoy it, too. Happy reading!
“Viper’s Last Stand”
He was a tall, solemn, mysterious creature, with eyes like ebony and black hair that glowed faintly of blue in the moonlight. His footsteps were inaudible, his movements so deft that he could have been compared to a breath in the night. He was every bit the ghost he should have been.
His name was Viper. His specialty: poison.
In another life, had he not been born a Phantom, Viper might have made an excellent doctor. His weapon was the needle, and his eyes and instincts were so sharp he could find the smallest of veins in the darkest of nights. He was quick and efficient. He killed dozens in his lifetime. While he was active in the field, not one mark escaped.
I remember the first time I met Viper. I had heard stories about him. He was the pride of the Alpha 6 establishment of the Phantom Legion. Actually, I’d say he was the pride of the entire Phantom Legion.
He was retired from the field by the time I met him. His mates were carefully selected for him, in the hopes of improving the Phantom bloodlines through him.
He was perfectly obedient. Too obedient…
Viper never spoke, but his dark eyes watched everyone and everything. Nothing escaped him. And though I didn’t notice it much at first, there was always a glint of rebellion in those ebony eyes. He was truly a perfect snake, a deadly viper waiting for the right moment to strike.
I suppose it was after his last offspring was born that I first heard Viper use his voice, and his words surprised me so much that I myself couldn’t speak at first.
I jumped at his words. His voice was a deep bass, rumbling, powerful. His was the voice of a king, and for a moment I was taken aback.
“How is Mercy?”
It took me a moment to realize that he was asking about his last successful mate.
“Why are you asking, Viper?” I inquired, trying to dodge the question.
There was a pause before he spoke.
“I heard she had a child by me and that the child was ill.”
He never looked at me when he spoke. Part of me wondered if he was even speaking to me at all. His gaze seemed distant, absent.
“How do you even know what a child is?” I responded.
I could hardly believe I was having a conversation with a Phantom. If I hadn’t been running some simple tests on him, I might never have.
There was a moment of silence before Viper spoke again.
“I have ears,” he replied quietly. “And masters have mouths.”
I had no idea how to take that response.
“Well…yes, you were successful with Mercy, and though there were complications, your offspring is as strong as you now. She will make a fine addition to the Legion. Would that you had continued to be successful with your most recent mates.”
Viper didn’t look at me, but his eyes narrowed.
“I need no others,” he stated flatly.
I drew back quickly at this statement.
“Are you telling me you haven’t been successful on purpose?” I inquired incredulously.
At this, Viper finally looked at me. I could almost imagine a dark snake coiled and ready to strike as I stared into his ghostly-pale face.
“I am telling you nothing,” he responded.
Viper didn’t speak much after that. He didn’t need to. His behavior told us everything. The poison of rebellion that he had been harboring all his life was beginning to rise to the surface, and more than one of us noticed it. It had to be stopped before it got out of hand. That was what we told ourselves. And so we set a plan in motion, one we thought would bring Viper back under our control.
We should have just killed him then…
It was a cold day in early winter as I stepped out of my car and into the humid warmth of Alpha 6. I grumbled to myself as I removed my coat and dropped it in my room before heading to the conference room on the other side of the compound. I was supposed to be on leave. What could they possibly need me for that couldn’t wait until I had finished my vacation?
I ground to a halt as I entered the conference room. It looked like every employee in Alpha 6 was gathered there, with row upon row of heavily armed soldiers crowding the corners. And there, sitting in a chair in the center of the far side of the room, was a man with dishevelled hair, a black eye and dried blood streaked across his bare skin.
“Good of you to join us, Mr. Perei,” a voice called to me from nearby.
I cocked an eyebrow at my superior, Mr. Neims, from my position in the doorway.
“Care to explain, sir?” I inquired.
“A rebel,” Mr. Neims responded, nodding toward the bruised and battered man who sat silently glaring at us. “We have reports that he has been trying to start an underground rebel force in Randburg.”
I smirked over at the rebel when I heard this.
“Not so smart, are you?”
The rebel spit on the ground as his reply.
“There is another issue which needs to be dealt with as well,” Mr. Neims added, turning to face me. “I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about.”
“Viper?” I questioned.
“Precisely,” my superior nodded. “I’m afraid that in his retirement he has forgotten who is in charge here. Refreshing his memory would be for the best, don’t you agree?”
“Absolutely,” I nodded, turning back toward the door. “I’ll go get him.”
I quickly wound my way down the hall toward Viper’s room, inserting my key into the lock and watching as the dim hall light filtered into the pitch-black room. I could see a shadowed figure sitting on the bed, staring at the wall. If he had been younger, the punishment for remaining visible would have been exceptional. Viper was retired, though, so he couldn’t be expected to move with the flexibility of the younger Phantoms. Still, it didn’t seem like he cared to move at all this time.
“Viper,” I called. “You have a job to do.”
For a moment, the Phantom didn’t move. Then, slowly, he slid from his bed and stepped over toward me.
He followed me like a shadow, so quiet that I had to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure he was still there. He didn’t even flinch as I closed the conference room doors behind us. Instead, his gaze settled on the rebel in front of us, and his dark eyes narrowed.
“Good boy, Viper,” Mr. Neims smirked, reaching into a case nearby and holding out a filled syringe toward the Phantom. “Now, we have a little rat here who has been causing trouble, and we want to give you the honor of dealing with him.”
Now even Viper’s eyebrows were narrowed.
“You just can’t stand the idea of someone wanting freedom,” the rebel suddenly spat. He was too weak to move, but his mouth worked just fine. “You’re monsters. All of you.”
This time, Viper did flinch.
“Hurry it up, Viper,” Mr. Neims growled. “Kill him.”
“No,” the Phantom interrupted before Mr. Neims could even finish his last word.
There was a visible shift in the room, with all the armed guards standing up alert and all the other masters exchanging bewildered gazes. I don’t think any of us had ever heard a Phantom tell us “no” before. It wasn’t a word they were even supposed to know.
“Excuse me?” Mr. Neims said menacingly. “Now you listen here, Viper. I’ve had just about enough of your insolence. Now I’m a good man, so I’m going to give you a choice: your life or the life of this rat. Which will it be?”
The rebel laughed ruefully at the word “good,” but Viper didn’t so much as blink. Then, slowly, he reached for the syringe in Mr. Neims’ hand.
Good. This will take care of this issue and we’ll be back to normal, I thought to myself, allowing a victorious smirk to cross my face.
For a moment, Viper stared at the syringe, slowly pushing the plunger further into the outer casing and watching as miniscule drops of poison began to drip out of the needle point. Then, all of a sudden, he flipped the syringe backward in his hand, driving the needle deep into Mr. Neims’ neck and releasing every last drop of the poison in a flash.
There was a scream as my superior realized what was going on, his hands reaching up to push Viper away, but it was already too late. We were all so surprised that it took a moment for us to respond, and in that brief instant of shock, the Phantom had already pulled a gun from someone nearby.
Gunshots rang through the room, deafening me as I drew my own pistol and aimed.
Bang, bang, bang!
It was hard to tell who was shooting who as I dodged behind a nearby chair. Luckily for me, the renegade Phantom was more focused on the soldiers in the corner than he was on me. Here a bullet pierced his gut; there another bullet split through his shoulder. Still, Viper kept fighting.
He really is a monster.
Just then, the Phantom turned his back to me. If I had any hope of stopping him, it was right here, right now.
Quickly I aimed and fired. The sound of the gunshot rang in my ears, but I didn’t move until I watched Viper slump down onto the concrete floor, rivers of red trickling out left and right. Then, when his body had stilled, I cautiously pulled myself to my feet.
For a moment, I could feel my blood run cold through my veins. Everyone was dead. Everyone. The soldiers, the masters, even the rebel. No matter where I looked, I saw red. 30 men. How had he managed to kill 30 men?
Slowly I stepped up to Viper’s body. He was lying on his back, his breath coming out in short, quick gasps.
He’s still alive?!
I paused over him, a feeling of rage washing through my body as I pointed my pistol at him. How could he? How could he betray the ones who had fed and kept him all his life? How dare he?
“Animal,” I growled, kicking the Phantom in the side and relishing the feeling of satisfaction I got from hearing his pained grunt. “You should have known better.”
“You think this is the end?” Viper snarled back, his coal-black eyes burning with pride and rage. “Kill me. But my blood has already poisoned your ground. My legacy will be the end of you. The Phantoms will not be your pets forever.”
“You’re starting to babble,” I spat back. “Looks like I need to put you out of your misery.”
For a moment, his lips drew into a fine line as his face began to take on the color of death.
“Mercy, forgive me,” he whispered suddenly.
“Too late for that, Viper,” I replied coldly.
Then with that, I pulled the trigger and watched as all life vanished from his body. A menacing grin crossed my face as I turned back toward the blood-stained door.
Idiot. Did he really think that would save him?
I laughed to myself, wondering at the sudden plea that Viper had given in his dying breaths. I should have known better. I should have known that his last words had never been meant for me.