Origins of Greed
Johann thrusts out his palm and slaps the basketball out of the opposing player’s hand. Bouncing the ball between the player’s legs, the teenager ducks around his opponent, claims the ball and dribbles it down the court. He spins around a defender and passes the ball to the side as another defender appears before him.
Johann breaks free from the two players marking him and rushes the net. He jumps, takes the rebounding ball, and shoots. Johann descends from his leap; hearing the ball bounce off the backboard, he pictures how it flows through the net. With the grace of an alighting swan, Johann drops onto the blacktop with his ear long, caramel blond hair fluttering behind him as he kicks off back to his position.
A black car driving past the school grounds catches Johann’s attention. Taking a glance while running down the court, he instead sees a tan skinned boy around the age of fifteen, like him, watching from across the street. Johann smiles as he tries to steal the ball from the opposing classmate. “We’ve got a fan.”
The person grins while rotating left and right in search of a person to pass to. Bouncing the ball between his own legs, he sends it back towards a team mate while replying, “You don’t say.”
“Pass it on,” Johann says weaving past the person’s side after the ball. “Let’s give him a show.”
At Johann’s encouragement, the match’s pace increases. The basketball doesn’t stay within anyone’s hold for long as it continuously passes between team mates and opponents. The two sides do their best to both defend their own net and score within their enemy’s. The two sides continue to play, slowly increasing their points until loosing track of the score. The blow of a whistle brings an end to the game with no one certain as to who won.
As the students begin reentering the gym, Johann glance towards the teenager from earlier. Although he’s unable to find him among gathered crowd, Johann still smiles and waves. His classmates call him silly and he while laughing, enters the building for the locker room.
“You guys had an awesome game going on, you know that?” Johann hears a classmate call out to him as he buckles his belt. Feeling a slap on his back, he turns to his classmate and grins, “Thanks man, it was a blast.”
“Dude, come on, you say that every game. Join a team already. You’d easily make MVP.”
Johann laughs as he grabs his bag from a locker. “Sorry, I’m just not interested.”
The final bell rings, preventing the classmate from voicing further objections. Not wanting to argue any further, Johann flashes his hand for a small wave and leaves before the bell finishes.
Detouring at a second hand store, Johann looks through the used “DVD/VHS” rack. He crouches down to pull out a DVD case to read the description when someone says, “That was nice game back there.”
Johann turns to the voice, holding the DVD case at his side, and grins upon seeing the teenager from earlier. He rises, standing a few inches taller than the dark skinned boy, and says, “Glad you liked it. How long were you watching?”
“When you got the rebound, I left soon after though. That got way too crowded.”
Johann chuckles at the remark. “Yeah, I never thought people would stop to watch if we got serious like that. Think more people will gather next time?”
“Who knows,” the teen shrugs. As the two walk for the cash register, he glances at the case Johann is holding and asks, “Seven Samurai?”
Johann suppresses an embarrassed laugh as he lifts the case to see the cover. It displays a picture of six circles lined in two rows of three. At the head of the two rows is a triangle. “The whole samurai bushido concept is kinda interesting, you know? To be honest, I’ve been looking all over town for this movie.”
“Couldn’t you just order it online? Heck, you could just watch it online.”
Johann pays for the DVD and after thanking the cashier, says “No way, it’s more fun like this.”
The two step outside and Johann turns to the teenager. Looking into his dark eyes, he holds out his hand and says, “I’m Johann. I’m going to go out on and limb ask this, but are you knew around here? This is a pretty small city and you know what that’s like.”
With a smile, the youth grasps Johann’s hand with his own. “I’m Gahiji and yes. I’m in from Egypt for a few days to visit some relatives. You know, before seeing the rest of this country.”
“Dude, that’s awesome. Let’s hang out some time and I’ll show you around Port Jervis. I’m busy tomorrow, but how’s Saturday sound?”
Gahiji accepts the invitation and duo exchange phone numbers. Agreeing to work out the details later, the two part in front of the store.
With the movie in hand and plans for the weekend, Johann hurries return home only to be stopped at the curve. He waits for a black car to drive by so he can cross the road. All the way home, he considers what the best places to see in his home town are.
Seeing the small, three story, Victorian style home down the block, Johann picks up his pace to almost a jog. He leaps the three steps up to the porch and walks inside. He greets his father in the kitchen and proceeds upstairs to his room. He steps through the door and stops, starring at his katana. Clicking his tongue, Johann frowns. “Julli!” he calls, storming out of his room down the hall.
“Julli!” Johann repeats himself as he forces open the door to his younger brother’s room. “My sword isn’t a toy!”
“What?” Julius jumps from his bed. With clenched fists, the thirteen year old meets his brother’s brown eyes with his own. “I didn’t touch it!”
“The sageo’s facing the ground!”
“The sa-what?” Julius furrows his eyebrows. Lost by the terminology, he gives his brother a look of helpless confusion.
“The rope used to tie the sheath to your side. I always have it facing up! Look, if you’re going to break rules, do it right and don’t get caught.”
“Sorry, sorry, I’ll do better next time.” Julius giggles as he scratches the back of his head. He points at the DVD in Johann’s hands and gasps. “Now way, you actually found it?”
Johann holds up the DVD and grins. “Yeah, I’m thinking we should watch it after dinner tonight. Maybe around eight?”
“Yeah!” Julius exclaims with a hop. From his pocket he looks at the time on a silver pocket watch and says, “So, in about four hours then. This is gonna be great!”
Johann smirks as he leans against the door frame. “You know, there’s a clock on your desk.”
“Yeah, but this is way cooler. I mean, come on, just about everyone has a phone, but who can say they use a pocket watch?”
Johann shakes his head at his brother’s enthusiasm. With a sigh, he returns to his room and exchanges the DVD for his laptop which he takes to the kitchen.
“What’s for dinner, dad?” Johann asks as he settles himself at the counter and opens his laptop.
“I’m thinking a curry risotto, omelet. Then some flan for dessert and maybe something else with lemons.” His father responds, speaking over the whisking of eggs and clicks of a keyboard. “It should be ready by the time your mother gets home from the office.”
The sound of Johann’s fingers pressing keys halt, leaving only the sharp clicks of a whisk against glass. He swallows and hesitantly looks up from his laptop and towards his father. “Da-dad, you do realize tomorrow’s an important day right? I mean, don’t you think something like this might be, you know, too left field for our stomachs?”
His father laughs and sets the bowl of beat eggs on the counter. He begins adding condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Finally, he holds a lemon over the mixture and with a knife rapidly scrapes off bits of the shell. “The curry will be made with allspice and flan with lemon peels. Now tell me, Johann, do you know why I’m using those two ingredients in particular.”
“Because they add to the flavor?”
“You’re half right.” Johann’s father winks at his son. He puts down the bare lemon and begins scrapping a second one. “While you do have to considering how condiments interact with the taste and texture, you must also understand how they affect the body. These two in particular are great for digestion.”
Johann breaths out in relief as his father resumes whisking. As he returns to keying his program, his father asks, “How’s your simulator coming along?”
“It’s almost done. Programing the landings is taking longer than I thought it would though.”
“What’s so hard about that? The plane either touches down fine or messes up.”
“Yeah, but depending how you mess up, the outcome is gonna be different. Ramming a nosedive into the ground isn’t going to give the same result as trying to land on another plane.”
Johann’s father, upon seeing his son’s gleaming eyes, chooses not to say anything. He pours his mixture into a ring like mold and places it in the preheated over. As he continues preparing dinner, Johann works on his project.
The opening of the front door goes unnoticed by Johann as he codes away on his laptop. As a pair of hands reach to him from behind, his head jolts up and he stiffens from a strange uneasiness. Before he can do anything else, two arms embrace him from behind as his mother announces, “I’m home!”
“Mo-mom!” Johann wails while struggling to break free. As he resigns himself to being trapped within his mother’s embrace, Johann hears Julius’s footsteps going down the stairs.
“Hi mom,” Julius says as he enters the kitchen. He and Johann begin setting the table for dinner as their mother inquires about everyone’s day.
With the table ready, they all seat themselves and prepare to begin eating. Johann, his brother, and mother lift their spoons and hold them over their omelets. At the chef’s encouragement, they pierce into the egg covering. They all gasp, to the cook’s delight, as a wave of fragrance assaults them.
“Da-dad, what is this?” Julius asks. Ignoring the drool sliding from his lip, he takes a spoonful into his mouth.
“I call it, the aroma bomb.” Johann’s father announces over the clicks of metal striking ceramic. Everyone’s reactions satisfy him and he too begins eating.
“Honey, you’ve out done yourself this time.” Johann’s mother sighs with satisfaction. Her spoon clicks as she lays it on top of her plate.
“Now, for the dessert.” He announces, standing from the table. As he walks away, Johann’s mother addresses her eldest son, “You have everything prepared for tomorrow? Did you make sure to double check your work in case they ask for a sample?”
“Yes, mom. There’s nothing to worry about.” Johann drags out his words as he replies.
“What’s the big deal, it’s just an interview.” Julius, unable to keep the annoyance from his voice, mumbles.
“Julius, Camlann Incorporated is one of the most successful enterprises in world with businesses on almost every continent. Being noticed by them is more than just an achievement. If everything goes well, they might not just end up offering to pay Johann through college, but even offer him a high level job.” Johann’s mother reprimands her son.
“Mom,” Johann complains as his father returns with the flan. “Calm down, they still have to accept me for the internship.”
“The fact that they’re personally sending people to interview you means they want you. You cannot blow this chance. Now, are you sure you have everything prepared? You don’t need your suit ironed, right? And remember, both of you, use your best manners for tomorrow. Oh, and don’t slouch your posture.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Julius responds, puffing air from his mouth.
Before his mother can scold him, his father interrupts, “Honey, there’s plenty of time for this later. Let’s just enjoy our meal for now.”
“You ruined my life. Because of you, everyone’s dead!” Johann hears a young man shout as he reaches the family room. Inside he finds his younger brother watching an anime. Upon seeing Julius’s helpless expression of shock and betray, a light laugher escapes him despite his attempts to fighting it down.
Johann stands at the entrance, waiting for Julius to notice him. After the boy in the anime cries, “Taiyou!” he throws a sofa pillow at his younger brother.
“What, is it time?” Julius asks, checking his pocket watch. His expression falls as he pouts, “Oh come on! There’s still half an hour and it’s getting to the good part.”
He walks towards the television where a a girl with hair shimmering like the sun roars while charging a giant black snake. Just as the girl jumps to cut down the snake with her sword of light, the screen flickers off. “Doesn’t matter, mom says hurry up and get ready.”
“Fine, I’m going.” Julius grumbles as he stands. Fuming, he makes his way past his older brother towards the staircase.
Johann scoffs as he watches his younger brother go. Then, seeing the time on a clock, swallows. While repeating to himself, “There’s still time, there’s still time,” he sets off towards his room.
Entering the living room at the front of the house, Johann spots his mother making last minute preparations to the room’s presentableness. From the staircase, he asks, “Does Juli really have to join us? If he doesn’t want to, isn’t it fine if he goes out for an hour or two?”
“Absolutely not,” his mother replies, turning towards her son. “Even if he’s just watching, this interview will be a good experience for his future. Now hurry and get ready. They’ll be here soon. And make sure you have some samples to demonstrate if they ask. Oh an-”
“I’m going, I’m going,” Johann fires out, escaping up the stairs before his mother traps him with her rant.
Johann passes by his brother in the hallway and enters the bathroom to care for last minute grooming before changing into his suit and combing his hair. He checks himself in the mirror for a few minutes, fixing any imperfections he can find. Satisfied, he changes into his suit and combs his hair. He returns to the mirror once more, and searches for new flaws. Realizing he’s attempting to smooth out a wrinkle in his sleeve for the seventh time, he grips the sink and breaths. He continues breathing until he can feel the coolness of the ceramic osmote through his palms and spread throughout his hand.
Rapid knocks on the bathroom door are followed by Julius saying, “Johann, hurry up! It’s four forty-five.”
“I’m almost done.” Johann calls back. Exhaling, he looks himself once more in the mirror. Feeling himself presentable, he steps towards a cabinet and pulls out a bottle of cologne. The teenager reads the label a few times before removing the lid. He brings the nozzle up to his nose and sniffs it. Pursing his lips, he examines the back of the bottle and reads the label again.
“Johann, they’ll be here any minute!” His mother calls from the bottom of the staircase.
With a firm grasp, Johann brings the cologne to his neck and closes his eyes. Gently, he presses the trigger down and feels tiny droplets scatter across his neck in a mist. Taking a breath, the boy recaps the bottle and stores it back in the cabinet. He leaves the bathroom, gets his laptop from his room, and proceeds down to the living room to join his family. Ignoring the looks from his mother, he seats himself and places his laptop on the small coffee table before him.
“Do you have everything?” His mother asks from beside him
“Mom, calm down. There’s still time.” Julius comments from the adjoining sofa while rolling his eyes. As the boy’s father, seated at this side, scolds him, Johann closes himself off and goes threw a mental checklist of everything he needed to do.
“Ye-” mid-sentence, Johann jumps from his seat at the ring of the doorbell. He clears his throat and announces, “I-I’ll get it.”
The blond teenager tugs the bottom of his shirt in an attempt to straighten any new wrinkles as he approaches the door. He takes a deep breath and turns the doorknob. While pulling open the door, he showcases a pleasant smile and, while offering his hand, greets, “Good afternoon, I am Johann Sarajevo. Please, come inside.”
“Thank you,” a man returns the handshake. He enters inside, each of his steps light and controlled despite the leather black brief case he carries. Behind him, a young woman of similar age to Johann follows. Johann shuts the door and gestures for the two to seat themselves on the open sofa across from where his mother sits.
Giving Johann their thanks, the man verbally and the girl with a soft smile, the two make their way to their seats. Their steps are steady. No movement is wasted, and their heads remain level. The fluidity of their movements coupled with the fit of their well trimmed business outfits extends an illusion that their guests are more than human. When they seat themselves on the open sofa across the coffee table, the girl’s golden brown hair brushes against her shoulders.
The uncontrolled movement of the girl’s crisp, wavy hair breaks Johann from his trance and he too seats himself. Next to his mother, he regards both of his guests. The man, with his short trimmed hair and strong blue eyes, gives a resolute impression. A feeling that he will take command and overcome all difficulties thrust at him. In the girl’s light brown eyes, Johann finds a soothing gentleness that threatens to bring out a smile from him. He keeps his gaze on the girl a moment longer and takes in her delicate features. Ready to begin, Johann thanks the two for coming to see him.
“No, thank you for having us.” The man responds with a deep voice. “I am Glenn Eisenhower. As a member of Camlann Incorporated, my duty is to find and recruit talented and promising individuals. Mr. Sarajevo, your self-evolving computer program proves you just that. Creating computer life forms and giving them free reign as they compete with each other for simple resources so they can survive and reproduce is both a simple and ingenious idea. More so, your thoroughness in designing the environment your programs lived in, to their drive to survive, and their ability to create off-springs by copying and mixing their data code is what we’re look for. To be frank, we want you on our team. Now, I’m sure you and your family have questions for me, so please, by all means.”
“I’m sorry, but you sound as though you already want to hire my son.” Mr. Sarajevo, the father, comments. “Isn’t the purpose of your visit to discuss a summer internship?”
“Apologies, allow me to explain. Our internship program serves mostly as a way for students to experience working with us and is renewable every year until their high school graduation. From there we offer them a full scholarship to a top university on the condition that they become full time employees with us.”
Mrs. Sarajevo interrupts with a triumphant ‘humph’ sound. Everyone ignores the smug look she gives to her husband and youngest son. They maintain their attention on Glenn and allow him to continue.
“As for your internship specifically, we are offering you placement this summer at our New York branch. Now, we are aware that commuting by train may be difficult, so we’re more than willing to provide you with housing, should you accept our offer. You’d be in a similar position to my niece here, Cissnei Curtis. She’s my intern at the main building in Indianapolis.”
Johann instantly directs his attention to the girl. Giving her his complete attention, not once does he allow his eyes to wander from hers.
“Thank you, uncle Glenn,” Cissnei begins, speaking in a soft voice. “I myself have only begun my internship last year and I’ll be honest, my life has never been the same. Personally, my interests lie in public relations, hence why uncle Glenn has me shadow him. Mostly, I do secretarial work for him such as scheduling meetings, writing reports, and anything else that he thinks off. Really though, it’s much more exciting than it sounds. In the past month alone, I’ve been to Paris, St. Petersburg, and Canberra.”
“Then, there’s no need to see any samples of Johann’s work?” Mrs. Sarajevo asks.
“What he’s already shown is more than enough.” Glenn responds.
“What exactly will I be doing?” Johann asks, returning his attention to Glenn.
“That’s entirely up to you and who you intern with.” Glenn answers, “Camlann functions by allowing its employees free reign over their research and development. We have projects ranging from gastronomy to the development of renewable energy, and from space innovation and development to athletics. Naturally, we’ll place you with someone who shares your interests.”
Glenn, understanding that no one has any further questions, opens his brief case and pulls out a folder. He slides the folder across the table to Johann and says, “Inside are files listing the various research projects currently underway in our New York branch where you can intern. Should you accept our offer, fill out the application inside and mail it back. A letter with postage has already been filled out for you. You will also find contact information on myself and Cissnei should any questions arise.”
Johann and Glenn rise and shake hands, each thanking the other for their time. The teenager walks the man and his secretary to the door and thanks them both for the visit.
“Don’t worry about it, it was fun.” Cissnei says, offering him a handshake.
“It was my pleasure.” Johann can’t help but smile as he returns the handshake. He feels the girl’s fingers slide from his hand and watches her as she and her uncle walk away. They enter a black car and drive from sight.
With tender down trot eyes and an afterglow smile, Johann steps back inside. As he shuts the door behind him, his younger brother taunts, “All you gotta do is transfer to their main headquarters. That shouldn’t be too hard for you, right?”
“Wh-what?” Johann stammers, his face turning a scarlet.
“Come off it, you’re totally obvious. So, what field do you think ‘ill get you transferred fastest?”
“He really wasn’t joking when he said they dabble in everything. They have climatology, paleoanthropology, reflexology, xylology, and traumatology just to name a few. Johann, do you even know what some of these things are?” Mr. Sarajevo says from the sofa. Spread before him on the coffee table are the various documents listing Camlann’s internship opportunities.
“Make sure you pick something worthwhile, Johann.” Mrs. Sarajevo warns her son, “I don’t want you wasting this opportunity doing something silly like exploring caves or writing fiction.”
“Mom, chill. Once I go through the list, I’ll pick something to do with computers. Just let me get to that later, I have to make plans for tomorrow first.”
Johann begins gathering the documents and places them back into their folder. He turns to leave, but his mother stops him, “Wait, what plans?”
“I’m not completely sure yet. Just going around town, I guess.”
“Don’t call that Cissnei girl. She might look sweet, but a stunt like that might ruin your career.”
“What? N-no, mom!” The teenager panics. He frantically waves his hands before himself in denial while blushing a deep red. “It’s just a teen from Egypt. We met after school the other day, that’s all. The number they gave me is only for official internship questions, you know I know that.”
“Shut up, I did not take your stupid watch!” Johann shouts back to Julius from the doorway. With a huff, he shuts the door and storms away down the road. Casually seeing his face reflecting off a black car, the teenager stops. Using the car as a mirror, he holds his chin up high and straightens his slacked posture. He breaths in and exhales. He repeats the process a few more times and continues towards the river.
After walking a few blocks, the residential houses give way to commercial buildings. Johann cuts though the city park memorial and, among the few people there, notices something white. It’s something long and thin sticking out near the base of the opposite side of the memorial statue. He makes a slight detour and sees that it’s white clothe bundled around some sort of flat, long object. It, the teenager notices as he continues around the memorial, is about three feet long and rests upon Cissnei’s shoulder.
Johann, raising his arm, opens his mouth to call out to her. ‘Don’t call that Cissnei girl. She might look sweet, but a stunt like that might ruin your career.’ His mother’s words stop him. Turning his head to the ground, he lowers his semi-raised arm only to find he can’t will himself to leave. Torn by his indecision, he glances back to the casually dressed girl who’s eyes accidentally cross with his own.
“Johann Sarajevo,” Cissnei greets as she walks up to him. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
The teenager gives a stiff smile and begins, “Miss. Cur-”
“Cissnei, please just call me Cissnei. Anything more formal would be creepy.” She interrupts.
Johann let’s out a chuckle and starts again. “Good afternoon, Cissnei. Are you trying to see the sights before leaving?”
“Yeah,” the brunette sighs. “Uncle Glenn and I are spending a few days here before going back. He always does this. He’ll bring extra work with him to keep himself occupied after we fulfill our objective so I can tour wherever we go.”
“I’m sorry to say, but there really isn’t much to do here in Port Jervis. If it wasn’t for the New York rail, this place would be torturer.”
“You think so?” Cissnei asks. At Johann’s confirmation, she giggles and leads him towards the fountain. As she runs her hand through the water, she comments. “This serenity is something I could live in forever.”
Johann realizes he’s staring and shakes his head. He swallows to clear his throat and says, “Actually, I’m on my way to meet up with someone else to show him around. Would… would you care to join us?”
“I’d love to.” Cissnei snaps her attention towards Johann. “Please, lead the way.”
The girl follows Johann out of the park and asks, “So, where exactly are you meeting this person?”
As they cross the road, Johann answers, “By the river behind the baseball field. Apparently, someone told him it’s haunted so now he wants to look for ghosts.”
“It isn’t really haunted, is it?”
“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that story and I’ve lived here my whole life. I asked him about it, but he said he’ll tell me once I arrive. Still, that might not be a bad place to start the tour.”
“It’s a big open space next to the river that isn’t overrun by trees. You can’t get a view like that anywhere else.”
The duo continue on, walking past various shops in silence. Johann leads the girl past a small wall that closes the road to all traffic. He makes sure no trains are coming and hurries across to the other side of the train tracks. Upon realizing that he most likely made Cissnei break some sort of municipal law, he decides to distract her by asking, “So, what are you carrying in there?”
“This?” Cissnei gestures to the bundled, white cloth, resting on her shoulder. “Just my shuang gou.”
At Johann’s clueless expression, the brunette adds, “A pair of hook swords used in Chinese martial arts. One of the uses is latching the hooked ends together for a sudden six foot long weapon.”
“Oh…” is all Johann can manage to her cheerful, supplementary explanation. Upon seeing her wink, he “ohs” again and laughs.
“Anyway, that’s the river over there, right? About how far are we?”
“We should be there in a few minutes.”
They continue walking and after brushing past some shrubs and trees, come across a vast open space of smooth, leveled stones. Far off by the water, a tanned teenager, Gahiji, appears to be skipping stones on the water. They pick up their pace and as the two get closer, Johann calls out to his acquaintance.
“Ok, Gahiji, so what’s this story about ghosts?”
Gahiji stares at Johann and then glances at Cissnei. A grin slowly spreads across his face as he says, “Originally, it was meant to be about a young man. But now, now it’s more of a tragic love story between young lovers.”
Johann furrows his eyebrows. Slightly shaking his head, he says, “Gahiji, wha-”
“Get down!” Cissnei kicks Johann away and, dropping her bundle, dives to the side. Coming up from the roll, she pulls out a pair of Ruger LCP 380 from within her blouse.
Just as Cissnei points her pistols, Gahiji grabs her wrists from behind. As his pupils narrow into thin slits and his irises turn golden yellow, he pulls the brunette towards himself. With a thin long, ghost white, forked tongue, he licks the side of her neck. He holds her in place, despite her frantic struggles to break free, and comments to himself, “As I though, not one of mine.”
Gahiji shoves Cissnei aside. He steps back to allow a reversed-crescent moon like blade to whip down in front of him. He jumps as the weapon turns and whips back towards him. The blade continues, arcing around in a circle at the joined ends. Johann catches the handle behind the reversed-crescent moon hand guard with his free left hand. Pulling the left sword down behind himself, the teenager unhooks the two blades from each other and slashes at Gahiji who’s still airborne.
Gahiji spits a phlegm yellow slim at his assailant. Johann kicks his foot to the side and forces his body to change direction. As he stumbles to remain on his feet, Gahiji lands and rushes the teen. He drops into a slide tackle, allowing the rounds Cissnei fires to pass over him.
Johann falls as Gahiji sweeps his feet from beneath him. As he falls on top of the tanned teenager below him, he twists the sword in his hand to aim the dagger jutting from the pommel downward. Gahiji catches Johann’s arms and prevents the blade from moving a millimeter closer. With his other hand, he grabs Johann’s chin and pulls it towards himself. He stares deep into Johann’s eyes, letting go once his captive goes limp.
Johann removes himself from atop Gahiji and turns to Cissnei, greeting her with a blank face. He points the two blades at their owner and charges.
“You monster!” She shouts at Gahiji. She side steps Johann’s first swing and lets the blade slide past her. Dropping down with a spin, she sweeps his legs from beneath him, her hair whipping around her as Johann lands on the ground.
Turning to point her guns at Gahiji, she instead shoulder rolls to the side to avoid the pale yellow glob spat from his mouth. Cissnei springs to her feet and lunges forward to engage with Johann. Her two forearms catch Johann’s, stopping his downward swing before the slash can even begin. She uses the momentum to pop his arms apart to take aim at Gahiji over Johann’s shoulders. With her two Rugers just past Johann’s ears, she fires a few rounds at the Egyptian teen.
Cissnei rams through the disoriented Johann with her shoulder, knocking him onto his back. The brunette continues for Gahiji, emptying her shell into his body.
Gahiji stumbles back as the bullets tear through trailing a line of blood from his back as they emerge. He slips on a loose rock and falls hitting his head against a large stone. Cissnei, with her empty guns still up in bluff, inches closer to the body. Not receiving a response despite standing next to her enemy, she kicks him in the head.
She sighs in relief and stores her pistols back under her blouse. She kicks Gahiji’s body a few more times, shouting, “You sick monster! You should all just die! We are not your playthings!” She delivers a final kick and the body flies away a few feet.
She steps after the body to continue her assault, but Johann’s weak voice stops her, “Is… What happened?” Calming down, she takes brisk steps and crouches at his side. She places her hands on him and says, “Don’t move. How are you feeling? Does anything hurt?”
Johann moans, rubbing his face with a hand. He looks up at Cissnei through his fingers and asks, “What?”
“Sorry,” Cissnei apologizes. Seeing that Johann is mostly fine, she helps him sit up. She points at her mouth and speaks, carefully articulating each word. “I’m really sorry. You were under some sort of hypnosis, so I fired near your ears in hopes that you’d wake up. They’re modified to not be as loud as a normal ones, but your ears… Well, your hearing will return sooner or la-”
Johann throws himself on Cissnei and they both fall on the rocks. The stones they were just on melt from the splatter of a pale yellow muck. They see him standing there. From his golden yellow eyes to his forked tongue slithering out of his featureless face. With an entire body covered in pitch black scales, not a trace of hair can be seen on him. From the shirt, tattered in bullet holes and stained with blood, it’s him. Gahiji watches at them, daring them to do anything with his grin.
Johann and Cissnei slowly rise to their feet, untangling themselves from one another. Not once taking their eyes off of Gahiji, they separate. They keep their knees bent, ready to dive should the need arise.
Gahiji does nothing. With his white tongue flickering in and out of his mouth, Gahiji merely continues to grin as he watches them.
Johann hears the clink of metal against stone as he kicks something. He swallows, realizing he now has Gahiji’s full interest. Yet, other than flashing his tongue, Gahiji does nothing. As though possessed, Cissnei appears behind Gahiji with a roundhouse kick.
Johann takes Cissnei’s sword and charges. Just as Gahiji throws Cissnei, Johann punches at Gahiji’s neck. Since most of the actual blade was dissolved by Gahiji’s acid, Johann uses the remaining crescent-moon hilt like sharpened brass knuckles to cut the aorta.
Gahiji sides steps and spins around Johann. He leans forward and before Johann’s currently deaf ears, whispers, “Passed.”
Johann feels Gahiji’s warm breath radiate across his neck. Suppressing a shiver, the teen throws his arm backward.
Gahiji backbends his body. While the dagger harmlessly flies above him, he plunges into the stony ground and burrows away.
Cissnei ignores her pain and rushes to Johann’s side. She tugs on his arm and shouts, “We have to go, now!”
Feeling her urgency, Johann allows the girl to pull him along. As they run, she pulls out a cell phone. They pass the brush at the edge of the riverbank and continue across the open field to the road. From her shouting, Johann only makes out, “Away, worst, now!” Men in black suits running past him and Cissnei to where they just were fight distract him from what the girl might be saying. Black cars are parked alongside the road, one of them waiting with an open door.
Once inside, the car speeds off. In the backseat, Johann grabs Cissnei’s shoulder and demands, “What’s going on already?” He trusts the remains of her sword on to the floor where bounces and lands upon her feet.
Cissnei looks at the teen and flips her cell phone shut. “Your family is in danger.”
“What?” Johann asks, more or less reading her lips. “How do you know that?”
Cissnei remains silent. The anger and resentment behind her glare silence are over whelming. Johann sits and wonders. Personally, Gahiji did not know Cissnei. But somehow, the two are connected.
In the following silence, Cissnei opens a hidden compartment beneath her seat. From it, she reloads her pistols and draws a new pair of shuang gou.
The black car stops. “Stay here.” Cissnei tells Johann, pointing at his seat. She leaves the car and runs off. From her open door, Johann sees a wreckage that was his house. Taking a pair of pistols from the hidden compartment, he rushes after Cissnei.
“I told you to stay in the car!”
“That’s my house!” He shouts back, instinctively knowing what she said.
With a soot covered face and blood leaking from various wounds, Glenn limps from a hole in the side of the house. Upon seeing Johann, he looks away. “I’m sorry…”
“What, what was that?” Johann shouts. Not receiving an answer, he turns to Cissnei and demands to know, “What did he say?”
She stares into his eyes for a moment and then downcasts them to the floor.
Growling, Johann pushes past Glenn and into his house. Unable to believe that there’s a giant hole in the middle of the room, he slows to a stop. He makes his way to the pit and despite the light entering from the openings that extend all the way up to the third story ceiling, is unable to see the bottom. It was as though someone had continuously dug a tunnel that ended at his house.
Looking up from the hole, a glint from the kitchen catches his attention. He stares at the object, recognizing its round silverish appearance. “Julli!” he shouts. Jumping over the scattered furniture, he makes his way to a collapsed and semi-buried table.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out.” He shouts, tossing his two pistols to the ground. He lifts the table, despite all the rubble on top of it, and tosses it to the side. He crouches to help his brother and vomits. A blood stained arm, that’s all that’s left.
Johann takes the watch from his brother’s hand and holds it with both hands. He stares at it. Lifting it to his forehead, he cries. He cries until someone leads away him from the wreckage.
Johann sits up on the bed as he awakens. With his arms on his knees, he sits there. He vaguely recalls Glenn and Cissnei bringing him to where he is. After a shower, he probably ate something, got drowsy, and went to sleep. He’s still clutching Julli’s watch. He stares at the watch and remembers his family. Gritting his teeth, he punches his arm to the side with roar. He takes a few breaths, changes into some spare clothes that’s been provided for him and leaves the room.
In a small living room, Glenn and Cissnei sit at a table. Glenn reading a newspaper and Cissnei reading a document. Johann asks them, “Where am I?”
“My apartment.” Glenn replies, looking up from the newspaper. On it is a picture of Johann’s house with the heading Gas Leak Explodes Leaving Neighborhood in Panic. “Don’t worry, this is still Port Jervis.”
“Why am I here? Who are you people? What’s ha-”
“Please, you must calm yourself.” Glenn stops Johann from being overcome by emotion. He gives Cissnei a glance and the girl rises from her seat. He continues saying, “A lot happened yesterday, and I will explain it to you. This will take some time, so you’d best sit down.”
Johann seats himself at the table just as Cissnei returns. She sets down a tray with various breads, a multitude of spreadings, and coffee. She seats herself while saying, “You should eat something.”
“Good, now Johann, about the other day. From what Warth tells me, you were lured out and attacked. As you might have guessed, the person who attacked you was not a human. Call it a monster, demon, whatever, just bear in mind that it wasn’t human. None of them are. We-”
“You’re not the police. You’re just a multinational corporation. What do you even know? Why isn’t the poli- No, the army doing anything?”
“They would only end up killed. They have nothing to do with this and that’s how we’ll keep it.”
“Don’t underestimate us. Our staff is more than capable of temporarily shutting down all communication within a city. But as I was saying, we don’t know why, but they attack people like us.”
“Camlann… The employees of Camlann…” Johann understands as he sips his coffee. “Is what happened to me? My ‘Camlann’? Then, all of you have your own ‘Camlanns’? Is that what you are, a gathering of people who were attacked? But then you’re… oh. Okay, but why? Why us?”
“What your thinking is probably correct.” Glenn says. “Truthfully, we don’t know why they pick us in particular, but there is a pattern. Every single target, whether they survive the encounter or not, displays a high level of talent and intelligence.”
“Wait… No…” Johann shakes his head. “That doesn’t make sense. They’re purposely angering geniuses and allowing them to form a group? They do this knowing you’ll resist them?”
“It’s obvious, this is just a game to them!” Cissnei snaps.
“Wrath, calm yourself.” Glenn reprimands the brunette.
“Sorry… War, I’m stepping out for a bit.”
Johann watches Cissnei leave the room and turns to Glenn. “War, Wrath.?”
“Our enemies call themselves gods. Many of them take their name and form from deities of various mythologies. That hole, it was caused by a giant black snake. We believe it might be Apophis, a figure from Egyptian mythology.”
“Gahiji…” Johann clenches his teeth. He meets War’s eyes with his own. “You mentioned something about my belongings be salvaged the other day, well don’t bother.”
“Are you sure?”
“All I need is right here.” Johann declares, holding up his brother’s watch. “Make me a sin. Take me with you.”
“You believe everything I’ve told you?”
“After everything that happened? After everything I saw? How could I not? If my enemies are gods, then I’ll sin and go against them! I’ll find each and kill every single last one of them! Listen, I don’t blame you for not being able to protect my family. I get it, they’re monsters. Well, I want in. I’m going to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone ever again.”
“We’re all the same…” War begins, but shakes thought from his head. “Yes, I was going to offer you the opportunity to join like I did with Wrath and the others. Very well, as of now, you’ll be one of my direct subordinates alongside Wrath and five others. Welcome to our organization, Greed.”
A/N: This is something I wrote years back. I came across it on my hard drive and thought, “I really don’t want to just let this go to waste.” Reflecting on it, it find it a bit cringy, but I don’t think it’s bad.