CLOUD SHADOWS OF MIDNIGHT
"The cloud shadows of midnight possess their own repose." --Percy Bysshe Shelly
(The direct continuation of Is There A Chance?)
By Atonia and Jo
Jo writing: Maximus, Caroline, Bud, Marie, Lachlan, Cort, Daisy, Ben, Mae, Rusty, George, Lucilla, Robin,
Jack Knife (Col. John Wales), Jeffrey, Julie, Javert, East, Egan, Jack Corbett, Zack, Jim, Nash, Charles, Steve, Monroe,
Dolly, Ardith, Parcher, Merry Men, Hank, O'Hara, Eve'lyn, Kate, Randolph, Sid, Sidda, Liz, Georgie, Glen, Noah, Glinda,
Muriel, Randolph Martin, Tom Golightly
Atonia writing: Terry, Dee, Alex, Linda, Jack, Tarwyn, John Biebe, Bethany, Max, Sophia, Dino, Anne, Hando, John
Cristofuoro, Richie, Cal, John Brennan, Colin, Andy, Ed, Nicholas, Arthur, Johnny, Jeff, Kim, Sean, Dennis, Mel,
Sandra, Carol, Dylan, Pat, Brenda, Kristen, Darren Lincoln, Stephen Maturin, Killick, Ray, Jor-El, Nan, Klara, Dennis,
Carlos, Dug, Ronny, Penny, Jannie, Jordan, Sienna, Pearly, Jay Wilson, T. R. Holden, Zod
The strains of Auld Lang Syne could barely be heard over the voices of the crowd at the Fluke who were singing along. That is, until the TV went blank. It went to static, came back on for a second and then the lights blinked a couple of times.
“What the...?” Andy left Jannie and went over to the big TV over the bar. “Connection must have gone out.”
“Great timing,” Jeff said and climbed up on a stool to see to the box on the shelf.
“It seems to be all right now,” Jeff added, leaning over to look at the screen.
In the dining room the band had taken up the song.
Max came back to the bar to pay his tab. “Problems with the power bill, boys?”
Andy laughed. “Believe me, all my bills are paid. No idea what just happened. Maybe somebody hit a power pole or something.”
“Yeah, could be. How much do I owe ya?”
“You don’t owe me anything, Max. Happy New Year.”
Big Jack frowned. Even though he'd deeded the Fluke over to Andy, he still felt a definite interest in its well being. Besides, he just been about to approach a peach of a young woman and she was so distracted by the antics of the television, that she'd turned away at the very moment his lips were heading toward hers.
Out in the country at Ashgrove when the lights went out it was total darkness. Tarwyn had lit some candles just before the power came back on. Jack came over and handed her a glass of champagne. “Can’t let this go to waste.”
“Thanks.” Tarwyn took a sip. "Did the ball drop?”
“I assume it did, though the TV blacked out just before it hit bottom.”
Noah blinked as the power went off. "Is this how a new year begins?" he asked Ben.
"Ain't got no idea what the hell's goin' on," Ben said, feeling Mae's hand tighten on his arm.
"Cort!" he called out. "You got power problems?"
"I don't..." Cort began, but just then the power returned. "Transformer might have been overloaded," he shrugged. "Seems ok now."
"Did we miss midnight?" Muriel asked Robin.
"I'm not sure it matters," Robin smiled, taking her face gently between his hands. "Happy New Year," he murmured as his lips lowered warmly to hers.
Klara held onto Jor-El’s arm. “You can’t, Jor-El. You’re all we’ve got. I don’t have the strength or the power that you have. Wait, please, wait and see. It may not be what you think.”
“I know what it is, I know who it is.”
Ed was in the doorway. “She’s right. You’re all we’ve got. Besides, this can’t be a replay of Man of Steel, there’s no Superman.”
“Yes,” Jor-El answered. “There is no Kal-El, but he does not know that, does he?”
Cookie had started barking when the power fizzled and didn't stop even when the lights were on again. "Hush!" Daisy commanded but the fluffy white dog didn't stop. She was looking out the large living room window, her head tipped toward the sky, the barking at last simmering down to a low growl deep in her throat.
Cort knelt beside her, petting her. "What the matter, girl? Somethin' botherin' you? Power's nothin' to get so upset about."
But Cookie's growl continued as did her skyward stare and for some reason Cort's hair stood up on the back of his neck. With a final pat for the dog, he stood and looked at Maximus. "You make anythin' out of that?"
"I do not know," the General said thoughtfully. "The dog seems to sense some sort of threat. Perhaps it would be wise to take a look around."
It appeared as a dark shadow clearly defined between the moon and the earth. John Biebe stood in his front yard looking up with Bud at his side. His dogs had raised a ruckus and he’d let them out in the back yard.
“Some kind of aircraft, hey, maybe it’s the space station.”
"Too close, and too big," Bud replied, frowning.
“Yeah, I didn’t think it was that big either.”
"But what the fuck IS it?"
“It gives me the willies, Bud. You know that gut feeling I get?”
"I know, John. I got a bad feeling myself." He wanted to get back inside where Marie was.
By now, people were out on the streets, heading home from their New Year’s celebrations cut short by the power outages that were still happening here and there. Some looked up but most did not. A partly cloudy sky hid the dark blot on the moon. Nick waited on the sidewalk for his car to be brought around. John Cristofuoro and Jordon were also waiting on the valet service to bring theirs.
“So you think it’s a power grid?” John asked.
“I’m sure it is. I can’t imagine what else could bring a city to darkness.” He hunched his shoulders in his overcoat. “The problem is, of course, that there’s no way to get the word out. The TV stations seem to be hit the worst. I’ll probably have to make some sort of statement, you know, calm the mob.”
Cristofuoro smiled slightly. “Right, calm the mob.” John thought for a moment. “What exactly did Jor-El say to you that made you think he was drunk?”
“Oh, I can’t remember exactly. Something about the world coming to an end. I think he mentioned Zod. Heh, heh, so you see…”
The Wales Fluke was still open. A guitarist was playing an acoustic guitar and singing. All the tables had candle lanterns in the center anyway so they were not left in total darkness when the lights flickered on and off.
Big Jack looked around. His peach was nowhere in sight. Deprived, he needed another drink.
Dee came to herself and beneath the edge of her sofa she could see her phone. She blinked several times to clear her eyes and dialed 911.
George was driving Ardith home when the bluetooth in his car made noises. He punched a button on the dashboard and a hospital connection came through. "Dr. Canfield, you're needed in the ER stat."
George's first thought was that one of his men had been in a car crash on the way home from a party. "Bad?"
"Sounds bad, Doctor. You have four incoming. Sounds like some sort of shootout."
"Shootout? Who would...?"
"Coming from the Thorne's, Dr. Canfield. No real information yet. When the EMT's got the call, they told me to alert you when they recognized the name."
"Terry? More than Terry? Dee?" He did a U-turn in the road.
Ardith had been able to hear it all. "I'll scrub in," she said firmly.
They weren't far from the hospital and got there before any ambulances. The two of them rushed in and George grabbed a scrub nurse who was waiting for them. "Any news?"
"Not yet, Doctor. All I know is that a woman called 911 reporting a multiple shooting out at the Thorne place. Two of the larger ambulances are on their way."
"It's out of the city, George," Ardith pointed out. "Let's get out of these clothes while we wait."
George spotted Abraham Pryce coming down a hall. "Abe! I've got a big emergency coming in. Can you hang around? I may need your help as well as Ardith's."
Max was still at the Fluke with Sophie. Cal and Sandra came in just as the lights blinked off again.
“What the hell is going on?” Cal asked.
“I don’t know but I did notice that when the lights go out, so does my cell phone.” Max looked over at Cal. “I was trying to get Carlos to come for us.”
“Could just be a coincidence, Max. Does it need charging?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’ve still got half a leg left.”
Cal leaned over the bar and ordered two drinks. “What’s going on, Andy?”
“No idea. Want some breakfast? We’ve about to set up and everything is cooked and ready.”
“Um, let me get this down first.” He smiled and took his drink.
“Did you say you have food?” Sophie asked over Max’s shoulder.
“Sure do, Sophie. We’ve got a breakfast ready to bring out to the buffet.”
“Max, I’m hungry.”
Max rolled his eyes. “Never mind, Carlos, we’re breakfasting. You might as well come and join us.”
Breakfast. Big Jack heard the word and instantly his belly let out a loud growl. Food was generally more important than anything, unless sex were in the immediate offing, or battle.
“What do you make of that, John?” Aubrey asked. He’d gone out with the dogs and looked up at the sky.
“It looks like an octopus or something. Well,” he chuckled.
“It’s not one of those satellite things that float around up there?”
“It’s too big for that.”
Jack looked away and spotted something else. “I know my constellations, I know my sky map…nothing in nature has that arrangement of stars. Look you there, John.”
“Jack, that’s not…that’s an airship of some kind. Huge…my God! There are two of them, then.” The massive black shadow was now close enough that its lights could be seen. Indeed, there were two ships, the octopus looking ship slightly to the west and the other appeared to hovering over the state of Texas.
The power went out again and this time it did not come back on.
“Jack, come here!” Tarwyn called out the back door.
Cort, Maximus, Rusty, and Lachlan all went out on the porch then continued into the yard.
"Somethin' strange goin' on up there," Cort observed.
"Perhaps Aries is up to one of his tricks," Maximus suggested.
"Good Lord, I thought we were rid of him!" Lachlan exclaimed.
Rusty squeezed his eyes closed. Aries. He wouldn't return, would he? Or Blue? He didn't think he could handle it if Blue came back.
Colin leaned forward on the sofa trying to work the remote control. The power was off again but the TV showed static. Kristen lit a big fat candle and set it on the coffee table.
“Must be some lines down somewhere,” She said, taking her seat beside him.
“Or Pearly…could he do this?”
With the power unreliable, the hospital had gone to back-up measures. George and Ardith had changed into scrubs and were waiting for the ambulances along with Dr. Pryce. George had communicated with an EMT who'd told him there were two males and two females and one of the females was dead.
"Not Dee," he murmured under his breath. "Please, God, not Dee." But he knew one of the two females had to be Dee since the shooting had taken place in her home. Who else had been there for New Year's Eve? It could be any number of possibilities. Straining for it, his ears were finally rewarded with the sound of sirens getting closer.
Richie got up from his chair and walked towards the bar area where the big TV had gone to static. “What the hell?”
Hando came up behind him. “What is going on here?”
“You know as much as I do, Hando.”
Cal looked down at his phone. “Static…wait.”
The eerily disembodied voice was transmitted through every TV, phone, radio and computer. “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”
Despite the cold, the three doctors went out to the ambulance bay as the first vehicle began backing into place. Then there was a flurry of activity as the rear doors opened and the EMTs began unloading the first patient. It was Dee, pale and sweating, her shoulder and thigh swathed in bandages. Through her oxygen mask she tried to say something about Terry.
Dee was half out of her head but one thing burned hotly. Terry, was Terry alive? She tried asking but the mask prevented her from speaking plainly.
George felt this sigh of relief go through him that she was alive. His eyes moved from her to the next gurney. Terry, his face white, his form still. George patted Dee's good arm. "I've got him. Ardith will go with you, all right, and I'll take care of Terry." He watched as the EMTs rushed Dee's gurney through the doors, Ardith running alongside. Briefly he looked at the second ambulance now backing into place.
"Abe...you'll...?" He knew only one of the victims in that one was still alive.
"I'll handle it, George. You go on with Terry."
George felt almost ill at the thought it might be Alex and Linda in the second ambulance. They lived close to the Thorne's and it made sense they would have gone there for New Year's Eve. Oh, God...if they had, then Linda was dead.
“It begins,” Jor-El said with a sound of defeat. “I should have tried. I should have gone up.”
“You’ll have plenty of time for that, Jor-El,” Ed said. “I imagine the military will have a go at him first.”
“Yes, but you know what destruction that will bring. I must go.” He turned his face towards the banks of computer screens. Every one of them was broadcasting the same thing. “You are not alone.”
One of the guests at the Fluke had gone outside for a smoke. Looking up at the night sky he saw the black ship and dropped his smoke. Inside he called out. “Hey, guys, come out here and have a look at the sky! Something’s up there…alien!.”
Richie locked eyes with Big Jack for some reason. This was all too familiar. He went out with Pat. Hando was close behind him.
“What the hell is that? Bloody aliens!” Hando exclaimed.
“I guess you haven’t seen Man of Steel. It’s Superman’s movie and our Jor-El’s. Jor-El was Superman’s father and he’s one of us.” Richie explained.
“Or something like that,” Cal said, overhearing Richie’s response to Hando. “Zod’s here? He’s come to the wrong place, hasn’t he?”
“What does he do, this Zod?” Hando asked.
“He about destroys the world before Supe sends him packing,” Andy answered. He’d come up quietly behind Richie.
Hando took a look up at the sky again and turned to Richie. “I need a vehicle.”
“You don’t have a license, Hando.”
“Fuck that! I need to get to Anne.”
“Sorry, I’m not going to contribute to your breaking parole. You gotta be careful, Hando.”
“Anne,” Hando repeated, looking hard at Richie. He was either going with a borrowed vehicle or a stolen one, it made no matter to him.
Andy reached in his pocket and brought out his truck keys. “Take my truck, but for God’s sake, don’t have an accident.”
Hando took the keys, “Thanks, thanks a lot, Andy.”
Linda had been outside with some of the men looking up at the sky. She came back in shivering from cold. “Why didn’t you wear your coat?” Alex fussed, wrapping his arms around her. “What did you see?”
“I’m not sure, Alex. It’s huge, black against the sky. There’s another one in the far distance with long legs.”
“Long legs, eh? Where is this thing?”
“Up there in the sky. It’s so big that it covers the whole city area and part of the countryside and it’s still a long ways off.”
“It’s Zod, Linda. While you were outside, it came across my phone, across Cort’s TV. It appears that we’re not alone anymore.”
Checking Terry, George found an entrance wound in his back, up toward the shoulder. The bullet had gone all the way through. The EMTs had controlled the bleeding from that so it was a bright crease across Terry's right temple that had George most concerned. He didn't know what had caused it, but it was obvious Terry's head had impacted something hard and sharp. Sighing, he sent Terry off for x-rays and scans.
He stepped out in the hall just as a gurney with Dino was wheeled past. "Dino," he gasped, then his eyes locked on Abe's.
"It's bad, George. Gunshot to the chest. EMTs said they found him outside. That's probably the only reason he's still alive. His body chilled and slowed everything. I've got to go, George." Able looked down the hall toward the surgical unit. "Pray that I can save him. I just don't...." Abe sighed. "Pray, George."
George watched his friend head into the scrub room. What in God's name had happened at Terry's tonight? Spying an EMT he knew well, he practically grabbed him. "The woman? Who's the woman and what happened to her?"
"No name, Dr. Canfield. She had two wounds, one to the abdomen we think was made with a fireplace poker. Found a bloody one next to her body."
"And the second wound?"
"Gunshot to the head. Probably self-inflicted. Still had the gun in her hand."
"My...God!" George was appalled. He tried to unscramble his thoughts. She must have been with Dino. A little surge of relief went through him it wasn't Linda. But where was Alex, then? Had they been there, too?
"Any others?" George asked the EMT. "Were there more people there?"
"Just these four, Doc."
"Thanks, Wally," he managed. His mind wouldn't stop racing. It would be a few more minutes till Terry would be back from his tests. Going into an alcove, he sank down on a chair. For some reason his cell was in his pocket. He never...no...that was good. Getting it out he called Alex.
"Alex, where are you?"
Alex didn’t recognize the number. “Who is this?”
"It's George. I'm at the hospital. Where are you? Is Linda with you?"
“She’s right here beside me. Why, what’s going on?”
George blew out a long breath. "You didn't stop by Terry's tonight I guess?"
Alex went still and cold at the same time. “No, I’m out at Cort’s. What…what’s wrong at Terry’s?”
"God, Alex, it's terrible. All four of them."
"Sorry, I think I'm a bit overwrought at the moment." He took a deep breath. "There was a shooting, no, lots of shooting, at Terry's tonight."
“Oh, shit! Who shot who? Is everybody all right, alive?”
"Dino's girlfriend...can't think of her name..."
“Sienna,” Alex said and took Linda’s hand.
"Yes, Sienna. That must be her. Dino must have brought her out to Terry's for New Year's Eve."
“She…she shot someone?”
"She did it, Alex. At least it looks like she did it. Shot them. Shot them all then killed herself."
All color drained out of Alex’s face. He fell back on the sofa. “They’re…all…dead?”
"Dead? Oh, sorry. No, they're alive though Dino may not make it. Ardith's with Dee. Terry's being scanned."
“Jesus!” Alex groaned. “Tell me about Terry.”
"Shot in the back, Alex. She shot him when his back was turned. Bullet went all the way through. Looks like he's hit his head hard. Or she hit him. I don't know. Look, I've got to gather myself together here so I can take care of him. You let the others know for me, ok." George took another deep breath. "And, Alex, I'm glad you and Linda didn't go to Terry's tonight."
“Yeah, me too.” He let the phone fall on the sofa.
“Alex, who’s dead?” Linda said softly.
“Not Terry, not Dee, maybe Dino…don’t know yet…Sienna, Dino’s girl shot them all and then killed herself.”
Linda made a sound in her throat and hugged him. He wanted her to get him to his feet. He needed to let the rest of them know what had happened out at Terry’s.
“Linda, if you don’t mind, send the text out so everybody else knows about Terry and Dee.”
He limped out onto the porch. The men were gathered out there in the yard looking up at the sky. “Hey, you guys, listen up. We got a brother down.”
Rusty felt his face tighten. "Car crash?"
“Gun shot, Terry, Dee and Dino. Seems Dino’s girlfriend tried to take them all out.”
"Oh, God! Oh, no!" Rusty moaned.
"Why?" Lachlan asked. "Why would she do a thing like that?"
“I got no idea right now. She’s dead though so no answers coming from there. Me and Linda are riding in.”
Maximus cast an eye heavenward then looked at Cort. "We need to be there."
"I know," Cort nodded. He headed back inside, looking for Daisy and found her staring, mouth open, at the television. "Darlin', whatever's goin' on there can wait. Terry, Dee, and Dino have all been shot. I need to..."
"Of course you do," Daisy said quickly. "You know I want to go, too, but with the children here, I can't. You'll have to..."
"Keep you posted. I will, darlin'." He was gathering a few things together.
Everyone was milling around, all of them talking at once, deciding who should go and who must stay. Lachlan and Young Jack wanted to go with Cort.
"Can I leave Glen here?" Rusty asked Daisy.
"Of course, Rusty. He'll be fine."
The men from Crowne Glen all rushed out to Rusty's car and headed off toward the city. Caroline wanted to go but there was Angel to tend to, so Maximus went with Ben and Mae. "Robin," Maximus said, "I'd feel better if one of us stayed here with the women and children. Would you...?"
Robin had been keeping an eye on the television. "That may be wise," he nodded. "Zod's timing leaves much to be desired."
"I have no idea why he has come," Maximus said, "but it bodes ill. Terry and the others are my immediate concern, however."
"I'll stay with Robin," Noah spoke up. He felt a bit lost in all this, not having seen Man of Steel.
"Thank you," Maximus said, "thank you both."
"You ready, Gen'rul?" Ben asked, his hand on the doorknob.
Jack and Stephen carried his big telescope out into the yard on its stand and pointed it up at the dark mass in the sky. Jack was adjusting the lens.
“Can you see anything?” Stephen asked.
“Yes, I see it. We know what it is now.” He stepped back so Stephen could get a look. The cold Jack felt had nothing to do with the temperature. He remembered when they’d gotten thrown back into Ben’s movie and had to fight for their lives. Worse still, back into medieval England and then with Alexander the Great’s army. But this, this thing could not be fought with saber and gun.
John Brennan came out with this cell phone. “Jack, look at this.” He handed it to Jack and watched his face.
“Oh, dear lord!”
Tarwyn came running out in the yard and grabbed him around the waist. “Jack, Dee’s been shot and Terry.”
“I know, I just saw the text.” He put his arms around her and walked her back inside trying to comfort her.
“Has the world gone crazy tonight?” Stephen asked.
ON TO PART 2
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