The next morning, we all gathered in the dining room for coffee. The morning news was on the t.v. in the background, but none of us were really paying much attention to it. We were all anxiously waiting to hear what Trodaire had to say. The man silently came into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. He paid no attention to the seven pairs of eyes pointed at him until he had finished his first cup of coffee and poured himself a second.
“We must fight back,” he said. “There is no other option. To live in hiding for the rest of our lives is a coward’s way, and I do not think any of you to be a coward. The question remains, then, of how we go about our resistance. It must be done intelligently and strategically. Our opponents have shown themselves to be very cunning and very capable; an unorganized assault would be squelched before it even began.
“Blaise, you mentioned last night that there was potentially another team that had survived the attack, correct?”
I panicked for a moment. “Shoot…in the mess of things that were going on, I forgot to try and get ahold of them.”
“Calm…be calm. There is nothing that can be done about that now, and frankly, it is completely understandable. You cannot be expected to consider everyone involved when your own life is in constant peril. What you must do is contact them. If they are alive and free, have them meet us in Dublin. Once you are sure that it is truly them, you can give them the address of the safehouse I have there. We will set up our base of operations there. I do not believe this cottage to have been compromised, but I would still prefer to keep this as a safe haven in case some other unforeseen catastrophe strikes us. We will gather there in a week’s time. I will meet you there, and we will begin to formulate a plan to strike back. In the meantime, I am going to do some research and field work on my own. I will try to get some information from some of my old contacts, and hopefully have a better idea of what we are up against. Until then, hunker down in Dublin, stay out of sight, and wait for me there.”
“I’m coming with you,” Raven said.
“No, my dear, I want you to go with the Valkyries. I will be safer if I am alone. An old man by himself will be less conspicuous than if he has a young woman at his side.”
“That’s massively sexist…”
“And yet it is still true. No one will give me a second glance, whereas if you are traipsing across Europe with me, we are more likely to be seen. We are all safer if you wait with them until the time for action comes along.”
With a “harrumph,” Raven crossed her arms and began tapping her foot. The conversation probably would have gone further, but something on the news caught our eye and captured everyone’s attention. The t.v. went fuzzy for a moment, and the morning news was replaced with an image of a long, curved table, and at the table sat twelve masked men. One of them stood and began to speak.
“Citizens of the world, we are the Twelve. We are a conglomerate of men who believe that the world is in need of a drastic change. We demand that the Tri-Council surrender their authority over to us and allow us to put the world in its proper order. If the Tri-Council does not surrender, their seats will be taken by force. We believe that they have become fat, weak, and soft in their current state, and the world has suffered greatly because of it. They have become an infection to our species; an infection that must be removed immediately.
“We have brought the Valkyrie Order to its knees. They, too, had become weak and needed to be replaced. We have taken control of various local governments and corporations, and we have built an army that is ready to wage war upon any who oppose us if a new world order is not established. It is not our desire that any blood be spilled, but if it is necessary, we are more than prepared.
“Any rebellion will be crushed without mercy. Any who wish to join our ranks, however, will be welcomed with open arms and shown just how reasonable we can be. Any remaining members of the Valkyrie Order are encouraged to join our cause. You will be given positions of authority as captains and generals, and you will be properly compensated for your contribution to society. Any of your Order who resist will be killed, and your bodies will be displayed as a warning against any further rebellion.
“We are not monsters; we believe that this transition can be accomplished without any violence. We do not wish that any would die, but that, together, we can remake the world into a place of utopian bliss. We are the Twelve; we will be heard, we will restore order, and we will not be opposed.”
Just as quickly as it began, the broadcast ended. The news returned to the screen, but the newscasters were so stunned that they could not speak. Likewise, those of us in the room sat in complete silence.
Trodaire stood and turned off the t.v. and straightened his shirt. “They are cunning, that’s for sure. They almost sound reasonable there. That is all the more reason for us to move quickly. We must stop them before they take control of the Council. These men will stop at nothing to rule the world and make its citizens their slaves. The code of the Valkyrie Order must be upheld; we must protect the people at all costs.”
Trodaire’s speech broke the spell that seemed to be holding us all. We rose, gathered our things, and left the cottage. I was able to contact Terry and tell him to meet us in Dublin. The seven of us slowly made our way across Europe. We were concerned about being spotted; Terry had told me that there were roaming groups of soldiers, turning over every rock, looking for us.
It took us several days to get there, but we finally made it to the coast and took a boat to Ireland. Terry and his team arrived mere hours after we did, and when he did, we all shut ourselves in at the safehouse. We kept a constant eye on the news, watching for any more announcements from the Twelve as we waited for Trodaire to arrive. Six days after the broadcast, Trodaire arrived with five other people. When he had reached his contacts, they all insisted that they wanted to help in any way they could. So our little army grew to sixteen.
When the newcomers had gotten situated in the house, Trodaire decided to address everyone present.
“Times are dark; I think we can all agree on that. We are up against a very powerful enemy. They use deception and guile just as easily as they use their brute force. These times make me want to trust no one, and I am already a very cautious man. However, if we are to overcome this beast, we must trust each other like never before. I have the upmost faith in every one of you. It will be an uphill battle every step of the way, but we can succeed; we MUST succeed. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say the fate of the world rests on our shoulders.
“We have two missions, in my mind. We must fight back, obviously. But we must also find Tragedy. It is possible that the Twelve did not kill her, and if she is still alive, she will be a valuable asset to us. She has led the Order for some time now, and has proved her exceptional ability to lead time and time again. If she is still alive, she is vital to this fight. If she is not, all hope is not lost. We still can overcome the Twelve. We must make a move immediately to eliminate the Twelve. We cannot take on their army as we stand, but we CAN take out their leadership. Regardless of what happens next, the road to reestablishing peace will be a long one. We must move quickly and begin the process.”
Over the next few days, we rested up and began to plan an attack. During the week between the cottage and everyone arriving in Dublin, the Twelve had taken the Tri-Council building in New York by force. They had established themselves as the ruling party, keeping the Council hostage there. We decided that our only option was to attack the building and eliminate the Twelve there. It was the only place where we knew we could find them all.
When we were ready, we made the trip back to America. We knew we had to attack them during the day, when they were all there together. On the day of attack, we lined up across the street and simply charged the front door. Sometimes insanity is the answer; the unexpected, surprise attack was our best bet, and they would least expect us to attack them in broad daylight. In theory, at least. Either way, we marched across the street for freedom.
We blasted through the front door, charging straight for the council room, cutting through anyone who stood in our way. It was surprisingly easy going at first. Once we burst through the council room doors, things got really hairy. The Twelve were seated at the table, and between us and them stood thirty armed soldiers. As we fought through them, a host of guards came pouring through the door behind us, as well as dozens jumping down from the balcony above.
Remember the training exercise with my team in the simulator? The one with the never-ending horde of opponents in the hallway? It was a lot like that. We were getting separated and cut down. Fire, lightning, and bullets flew through the air in the council room. Dianna and I made it through the horde to the Twelve, and just started going into a frenzy. While we attacked the Twelve, we were fending off attacks from behind us, as the guards kept pressing into the room.
I swung my blade at the first member of the Twelve I reached, and he just sat there, like he didn’t expect me to kill him. His head went flying, and Dianna jumped over the table, taking two down in one motion, driving her blades through their chests. She stood, and a guard came flying over the table at her, knocking her onto her back. I wasn’t able to help, as the second member of the Twelve I rushed, pulled a gun from under the table and started firing. The first shot missed me, but the second hit my left elbow, shattering the bones and causing me to drop my blade.
I chopped his gun hand off with my other sword and ran him through. When I withdrew my blade, I was pushed forward over his dead body by a wave of people rushing in behind me. I grabbed my fallen blade with my good hand and shoved in into the sheath on my back, and then stood to continue fighting. When I regained my feet, the sight before me was abysmal. Our rag-tag group of fighters was falling to pieces. In a moment, everything shifted. Wade got knocked down, and one of the soldiers with a blade, went to impale him. Lucas saw this happening and launched himself at the man, opening a hole in the wall of madness for Wade to get up and, along with Jackie and Ricky, race towards the back of the room.
Everyone but Luke was running towards the back of the room. When he hit that guard, the man had turned the tip of the blade towards Lucas, so while he had driven his blade through the soldier’s head (and the faces of everyone he subsequently bowled over), he couldn’t avoid being impaled himself. He had just enough strength to stand, withdraw the sword from his chest, and collapse. Right as he fell, I saw Trodaire running my way, slicing guards to ribbons as he passed them. He vaulted over the table and tackled me, throwing us both out the picture window behind me. What was left of our little battalion followed suit, and we all hit the ground running.
“We’ve done what we can today, Blaise; it’s time to retreat, regroup, and live to fight another day,” Trodaire said to me as he pushed me along.
We ran to the trucks we had waiting nearby and took off, driving until we were three hours outside the city. All told, we had killed eight of the Twelve, but it had cost us dearly. The only ones of our group to survive the day were Blaise, Jackie, Trodaire, and my team. There were only six of us left, and we were all beat up pretty good. We made our way to an old Valkyrie safehouse nearby to gather some bandages and food before we went back into hiding. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found it had been burned to the ground.
We got out of the truck and sifted through the wreckage, looking for anything that might have survived the carnage. At one point, Trodaire picked something up, turned it over in his hands quizzically, and walked over to us.
“I want the five of you to go back to Dublin and wait for me there. You need to rest and heal from your wounds, and I have just remembered something that I need to look into right away. No time for explanation and no room for argument. Take the truck; I’ll go on foot from here.”
With that, he tossed the keys to Ricky, who was the least injured of all of us, and took off running towards the woods. Considering we didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, the rest of us climbed back into the truck and began another secretive trip to Dublin. We spent two weeks hiding out there, our wounds healing more and more each day. By the end of the two weeks, I was almost able to use my arm again.
While we concerned ourselves with basic survival after the bloodbath at the Tri-Council building, Trodaire was off on some secret mission, and during those two weeks, we never heard from him. One day, he simply walked in the door, saying, “I have big news.” And he did, because right behind him was Tragedy.
After our initial shock at seeing her, we all clamored for an answer. Trodaire held up his hand. “Hang on, give me a moment to explain what happened. When we saw that the safehouse had been burned down, I found an old Roman Catholic cross necklace that had belonged to the General among the ashes. I used to have one as well, and we marked them individually on the back, so that we would know they were ours.
“We used to use them as a message; when we knew we would be gone before the other arrived somewhere, we would leave the cross behind, which meant for them to meet us at an old cabin the General had in Virginia. Well, considering mine was around my neck, and he had given his to Tragedy, I had a hunch that she knew about our little system. I took off, stole a car, and made my way to the cabin. I found her holed up in the back bedroom with a shotgun aimed at the door with both barrels loaded.”
At this point, Tragedy took over the story. “On the day that the Twelve took the Base, they had me locked away in one of the rooms. They were trying to get me to contact the teams in the field. I got ahold of Wade, but they didn’t find my message satisfactory, since it raised more alarm bells than tripping the laser wire at Fort Knox, so they took my phone away from me and started sending things out themselves. After they started that little riot they had going on, I was able to bust loose from the ropes they used to tie me up and escape. I didn’t think anyone else had survived the attack until I saw their broadcast a few weeks back.
“I figured you guys would make some sort of attack of your own in New York, so I went to the safehouse there. They had already torched the place, so I dropped the cross there in hopes that Trodaire would make it out alive and come find me. If he didn’t, I was on my own.”
Raven and Dianna hugged Tragedy, and she said, “There’s more to the story, though. Some of my old contacts aren’t too fond of the Twelve. They have been doing some recruiting for me, and they say they are gathering a reasonably sized group of fighters willing to stand up to the Twelve. Given what you guys accomplished a week ago, with a little training, we might just be able to cut these guys down to size.
“We have to rebuild the Order so that we can restore order. As a group, we must live up to the Valkyrie name and fight back. You lost so many in the last several weeks, but your attack on the Council building has left them crippled. You took out two-thirds of their leadership in one blow. This can be done. It’s time to rise up; you are named after angels of war, and the time has come to wage war and make the blood of these tyrants flow in the streets.”