Zero Hour – Chapter 4

The pulsing sensation led Lucas across the lake once again.

His feet trembled as he took steps off of the ice and back onto solid ground. Before him was a crude assembly of man-made structures, a perversion of the white plain that stretched out on all sides of him. He wanted to tear the structures down, to scatter them to dust, but he knew that even the dust would pervert the world around him.

Instead, he stepped inside. The pulsing drew him further and further, deep into the base. Rooms became tunnels, and tunnels became shafts which led ever downwards, down towards the revelation…

Someone knocked on the hotel room door. Lucas jerked awake, nearly falling from the couch he was sleeping on. Trevor, who had been sleeping in the bed, had already opened the door by the time Lucas righted himself. Isabel slid past him and walked to the center of the room. She set down the tray with three coffees on the room’s only table, selected one, and turned to regard Lucas with a raised eyebrow.

Before she could say anything, Lucas stood up and brushed himself off. “Yeah, I slept on the couch.” He walked over to the coffees and picked out one of his own. “Night terrors. Remember?”

It was always amazing to Lucas how Isabel managed to convey the idea that she didn’t believe him, wanted to press further, wasn’t going to, but also wanted him to be aware of all of these things into a single “Hmmm.”

Trevor finished checking to make sure Isabel hadn’t been followed, closed the door, and grabbed the last coffee from the table. He took a sip without making eye contact with anyone before speaking. “So we need a plan. We can’t just keep moving from hotel to hotel forever. The Nameless is going to find us eventually, and we might not all get away next time.”

“I can reach out to a few contacts,” Isabel said carefully, “but we need a studier base of operations for them to do us any good. Do you have family, Trevor?”

“Yeah,” Trevor snorted and took another sip, “I have a lot of family. Do I have any family I potentially want to bring a dragon down on? No. No, I do not. Besides, my family isn’t going to be a lot of help in this particular situation.”

Lucas sighed. “And what would help?”

“Well, this Tabitha Morrow person clearly is the one we need to be finding.” Trevor said. “So we’d need somebody who can track her down, remotely, and also track The Nameless and his movements. Somebody who had no trouble acting outside the law. And somebody who wouldn’t be worried about The Nameless showing up with a chimera or a wendigo or whatever else he’s got hidden away.”

“I don’t know anyone like that.” Isabel frowned.

But Lucas was already frowning for entirely different reasons. “Trevor, no.”

Trevor took a step closer to Lucas and tried to take his hand, but Lucas snatched it away. “Babe. Listen. I know you’ve got stuff going on with your family-”

“-it’s not about ‘stuff going on.’” Lucas snapped. “There’s my shit family, Trevor, and then there’s the shittiest of the shit family. And the person you’re talking about is… just… not someone we want to go to.”

Isabel cleared her throat. “It sounds to me like we should be taking any help we can possibly get.”

“Even if- that’s not-” Lucas threw his head back and let an exasperated groan escape the back of his throat. “Look, it’s not about that, okay? It’s just… fine. You know what? Fine. We’ll ask him for help. You’ll see what I’m talking about.”

“Wonderful,” Isabel cut in, before Trevor could say something stupid. “Where do we find this mystery person?”

 

The noise of the thumping bass and faint smell of a vape pen began to reach the group even before they could see the dorm room door. Talking their way past security had been the easy part, as simple as Isabel dropping her name and a few hundreds on the table. It had gotten particularly easy when Lucas explained who they were there to see. The reaction from the security guard had been a confused “Why?”

As they drew level with the door, Lucas knew that Trevor and Isabel were asking themselves the same question. He gave them a moment to take in the sensations, then reached up and knocked on the door.

No answer. He knocked again.

“Wyatt!” Lucas shouted. “I know you’re in there.”

Something beyond the door crashed. There were sounds of scrambling, and the door cracked open, revealing the face of Wyatt Parker. Skinny, pale, acne mixed in with freckles, stringy brown hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in days, and Wyatt’s unsettling eyes – one blue, one green. He looked exactly the same as he had the last time Lucas had seen him.

“Oh, hey! It’s Uncle-”

“Hello, Wyatt.” Lucas cut in, before Wyatt could completely alienate everyone in a single sentence. “Can we come in?”

Wyatt glanced behind him. “Uh, yeah. Sure. Why not? Let me just get rid of the… give me a second.” He tried to close the door, but Lucas jammed his foot in the way. It creaked open just in time for Wyatt to close whatever he’d had open on his computer monitor, settle back into his chair, and spin around to smirk at them.

Lucas stepped into the room first, followed by Trevor, and then Isabel. He coughed as Isabel shut the door behind them. “So… guys, this is Wyatt Parker, my nephew. Wyatt, this is Trevor Graves. He’s my boyfriend.”

“Oh, neat. Hey, no judgement. Do whatever you want.” Wyatt’s smirk grew wider. “So which one of you’s the girl? Like, no offense, but I never pictured you as the boy, Lucas. Now I’m not so sure.”

Trevor glanced over at Lucas and mouthed “I hate him.”

“And this,” Lucas continued before Wyatt could say something else incredibly stupid, “is Isabel Lindsey. She’s Robert Lindsey’s daughter.”

Wyatt leaned forward in his chair. “Oh, yeah. I’ve read about your dad, and how he’s monopolizing industrial production in the greater Chicago area. Buying up all sorts of companies on the back end, cutting out the competition. Good stuff. Stick it to the unions and all that. Go capitalism.”

“Yes,” Isabel replied tersely. “He’s dead.”

Wyatt shrugged. “Really? That blows. I don’t keep up with the news.”

With a sigh, Isabel turned to level her steeled gaze on Lucas. “I’m beginning to see the reason for your hesitation with reaching out to your nephew for help.”

“Help with what?” Wyatt furrowed his brow and took a hit from his vape pen.

The smoke sent Lucas into a coughing fit, so he couldn’t answer right away. Once he’d regained use of his lungs, he started with the best he could think of. “This is going to sound weird, but I swear, it’s all true, and these two can back me up. It all started a couple weeks back with a lady I met while waiting for the train…”

“Was she hot?” Wyatt cut in. Then he glanced over at Trevor and shrugged. “Never mind.”

As Lucas told his story, starting with meeting Lady Morrow and up to the confrontation on the train platform. When he got there, Wyatt suddenly spun around to face his computer. “What platform did you say it was?” After Lucas told him, he started to type furiously. “Keep going. I’m listening.” Lucas then told the rest of the story, including the attack on the train, The Nameless’ attempt to kill him, and the destruction of the lake house. Wyatt never interrupted, but he kept working on whatever he was doing on the screen.

Lucas finished with “…and I know it’s absolutely insane, but it’s what really happened.”

“Yeah, I know.” Wyatt said simply.

This wasn’t the answer that Lucas was expecting. “You… know?”

“Well, yeah. I wasn’t gonna just take your word on it.” Wyatt spun around in his chair and gestured to his computer screen. Playing on the monitor was security footage from a camera with a good view of the platform that the confrontation had happened on. As the train pulled into the station, Lucas realized what was going on and turned away.

Trevor gasped. “Holy shit.”

Lucas could time the confrontation in his head. He knew how long it was between the train pulling into the station and the doors closing. He didn’t need to see it in front of his eyes. He constantly replayed the nightmare in his mind. So he watched Isabel and Trevor’s reactions as they saw, for the first time, the accident as it happened. From that angle, Lucas knew that they wouldn’t be able to see the crash properly, but they’d see enough.

The sound of a mouse clicking brought Lucas back to reality. He looked back at Wyatt to see the kid watching him intensely. “So, this is the lady you need to find.” He zoomed the footage back a bit so that Lady Morrow was featured clearly on the screen. “Lady Tabitha Morrow. And because you have exactly zero leads to go on, you need me to see if the internet can help you out.”

Lucas nodded. “That’s about right.”

“And if I do this, it’s very likely a dragon will show up and obliterate my dorm room.”

“Er…” Lucas hesitated, “It’s a possibility, but not a likely one if you’re careful.”

Wyatt clapped his hands together. “Fucking sold. I hate this building.” He swirled around again and began typing furiously away at his keyboard. After a few awkward glances at Isabel and Lucas, Trevor jabbed a thumb at the door and Isabel nodded.

“We’ll leave you to it,” Trevor said carefully, “…Lucas, you want to go get some lunch?”

 

Despite the fact that his breakfast had been just coffee, Lucas wasn’t feeling particularly keen on his sandwich, even as he forced himself to take small bites. Trevor didn’t seen enthused about his salad either, judging by the way he kept shifting the lettuce around with his fork. Only Isabel and her soup seemed to be getting along.

“So…” Trevor finally broke the silence. “…is all of your family… like that?”

Isabel choked on her soup.

Lucas frowned. “No. Most of my family is a lot worse than that, honestly. Wyatt is just… Wyatt means well. He’s just… bad at it.”

“I’m starting to see why you’ve never mentioned them to me before now.” Isabel said gently. “If Wyatt is the best of the worst…”

“Yeah, and frankly, it’s nobody’s business what my family is like.”

Trevor cocked his head to the side. There was no hiding the pained look on his face. “It’s kinda my business. They might be my family one day. I hope so, at least. I might as well know what I’m signing up for.”

Something inside Lucas welled up, a deep anger that he hadn’t known was there until now. “You’re not signing up for them.” He snapped. “I love you too much. I won’t let you-”

“You won’t let me?” Trevor hissed. “What are you, my babysitter?”

“No, but-”

Trevor leaned forward. “Then it’s not your job to cut me out of things that clearly affect you, my boyfriend, who I love more than anyone else in the world, just because you, again, my boyfriend, think that I should be protected from them.”

Isabel raised a hand. “Boys. Boys. I love drama, as you know, but this is something best left to a time when we don’t have an audience.”

Her words brought Lucas crashing back to reality, where he was sitting in the middle of a very much occupied cafe with his boyfriend and his college friend. A college friend who hadn’t said a word about herself since the attack on the lake house, despite her being in the middle of her own stresses and tragedies…

“Isabel, are you okay?”

She turned to look at Lucas with a raised eyebrow. “Yes, darling. What do you mean?”

Lucas swallowed. “I mean… this whole time, you’ve been dealing with your dad’s death. You never said what happened when you went to your meeting. Are you… okay?”

“No.” Isabel replied simply. After a moment of silence, she continued. “My father willed plenty of money to me, but that doesn’t matter. All his businesses, his rights, his work… he apparently tied that up behind so much red tape that I can’t even know what will happen to it. The bank claims it needs time to sort it out, but I’m very specifically not named. His entire legacy is out of my reach.”

Lucas and Trevor glanced at each other. Suddenly, Lucas felt even worse about his argument with Trevor while Isabel was dealing with having her family taken away from her. It all seemed trivial now. Lucas wondered how Isabel had gotten so good at keeping pace without letting her problems creep out and affect everyone else. Lots of practice, he supposed.

His phone rang. The sound nearly made Lucas leap from his chair. He snatched his phone out of his pocket and pressed it to his ear. “How did you get this number?”

“The internet,” Wyatt replied. “Fucking everything is on the internet. Though it’s actually still listed as your Mom’s number.”

Lucas briefly mouthed “Wyatt” to Trevor and Isabel before he responded. “Great. Thanks for letting me know.” He pulled the phone away from his ear and hit the speakerphone, dialing the sound back enough so it wouldn’t fill the cafe. “What’s up? Did you find Lady Morrow?”

“Yes and no. I found out who Lady Morrow is, and I also figured out how she’s able to just disappear without any record. It’s all data. I can work with data.” There was a pause and a sucking sound, most likely Wyatt sucking on that stupid vape pen of his. “You might want to get back here for a crash course on the woman you helped not die. She’s a mysterious one.”

“Right. On our way.” Lucas hung up the phone before Wyatt could say anything else and glanced back up at the other two. Isabel was already standing, but Trevor hadn’t moved.

“You go on ahead, Isabel.” He said. “Lucas and I need to talk.”

Lucas felt his chest tighten.

With a wave of her hand, Isabel stepped away from the table. “Fine. I will handle the little rodent you have helping us. But remember – audience.” She turned and strode towards the exit, her form as elegant as always. Even in hiding, Isabel couldn’t be hidden.

Once she was gone, Trevor turned and looked directly at Lucas. “I’m going to be direct with you. This can’t go on like this.”

“What-”

“You know exactly what I mean.” Trevor cut him off. “You won’t let me in. You won’t tell me anything. You would literally rather die than let me help you.” He paused and swallowed, as though he didn’t want to spit out what he was really thinking. “Lucas… what do you want me to do?”

Lucas sat there for a moment. His brain screamed a thousand different answers at him, drowning him in possibilities. Finally, he struggled his way to an answer and choked it out. “I… want you to leave.”

If Trevor was crushed by what Lucas said, he didn’t show it. Maybe it was because they were in public, or maybe it was because he already knew what Lucas was going to say. He learned back in his chair and folded his arms. “I see.”

“I- I want you to be safe. The Nameless is never going to stop coming for me. You’ve almost been killed twice. I can’t… I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you.” Lucas swallowed. “And I… apparently have to live.”

After a moment of contemplation, Trevor nodded. “Okay.”

Those two syllables hurt worse than death.

 

Isabel seemed to pick up immediately that a dynamic between Trevor and Lucas had shifted. When she saw them step into the dorm room, she immediately crossed her arms and frowned at them. Fortunately, however, Wyatt was far more dense than she was, and he managed to speak first. “Great, the dynamic duo is back. What were you two doing?”

“None of your business,” Lucas snapped before he could stop himself.

Wyatt shrugged and pushed the chair back with his legs to give the other three a good view of his monitor. “So. Lady Tabitha Morrow. A very real person who exists, fortunately. That was the easy part. She’s minor British nobility, specifically the daughter of a Baron. So that ‘Lady’ title isn’t just your Nameless one being a dick – she really is a Lady. Hot, too. Like an seven. She’d be an eight if she smiled mo-”

Isabel cleared her throat. “Wyatt. Focus. Tell them about her history.”

“Right!” Wyatt clapped his hands together. Lucas threw a grateful look in Isabel’s direction as he continued. “Working backwards, Lady Morrow’s last known appearance was at a gala six months ago with… this guy.” He tapped a few times on the keyboard, and a picture of two people appeared on the screen. One was very noticeably Lady Morrow, though she looked wildly uncomfortable in a dress. The other was a older man with a narrow goatee and a handlebar moustache.

Trevor learned forward. “Who’s he?”

“Francis Halliday. Some weird british position, not even a real word, doesn’t really matter.” Wyatt clicked away to a few more pictures of Lady Morrow. “Anyway, she shows up a bunch over the five years before that, but-” He was cut off by the sound of his video messaging ringing. A message with ‘unknown caller’ popped up on the lower portion of the screen, but Wyatt clicked away from it and giggled nervously. “Sorry about that. I’m popular on certain… subreddits.”

No one said anything. There just wasn’t an appropriate response to that.

Wyatt coughed. “Like I said, five years ago, she comes back from vanishing for two years. No mention of her anywhere. Nothing. But before that…” He clicked the mouse a few times, and another picture came up. This one was of Lady Morrow in a flight uniform.

“So,” Isabel chimed in. “She was Royal Air Force.”

It suddenly clicked in Lucas’ brain. “So that’s how she’s not traceable. She’s able to fly herself in and out of small airports without giving her name or flight plan.”

The video call incoming message popped up again. Wyatt grimaced and rejected the call a second time. He’d opened his mouth to speak when the message popped up again.

“Wait.” Trevor said, before Wyatt could click it away. The other three turned to look at him. “I think you should accept the call. I don’t think it’s from your friends on Reddit.”

Wyatt frowned. “What do you me… oh. OH.” He spun around and, before anyone could say anything else, hit the accept call button. Lady Morrow’s face filled up the screen. Her arms were crossed, and her face was set. The room behind her was dark, and the computer light in front of her shone dimly on her face.  

“I think,” She intoned slowly, “before you go any further, we should talk.”

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