Z was beyond angry, the Seekers would pick up a trail only to lose it hours or even moments later. And when she would ask if it was the energy signature of Gryphon they would reply that they were almost sure. Almost sure? To her that wasn’t enough to go on. She wondered since they were clones of Gryphon and they called him the Alpha, could they just be sending her on a wild goose chase? She didn’t trust them any more than she trusted Gryphon. Her life depended on them finding Gryphon and if they failed she knew that surely Lord Apex would end her. Too much depended on whether or not these Seekers’ were truly trying to help her find Gryphon. They knew that Lord Apex had ordered that he be found, but they were of Gryphon’s blood, where was their true allegiance? To Z ever cloning the Seeker’s was a bad idea, if they were true to Gryphon then he now had an army to rise up against the Shroud. They were soldiers who served without question now, but that didn’t mean it would always be so. She felt that the Sovereign worked too quickly to make the Seeker’s the new soldier of the Shroud army. Many would disagree with her to be sure. Everyone automatically rose to Commander status leading their own group of Seekers’, to her some were not worthy to do this because not everyone had the ability to be a leader. Of course she never voiced her opinion, to even speak slightly against the Sovereign would mean death. She was no fool. And now she was out with her own group of Seekers’ and she didn’t like it one bit. She led them but her instincts told her that she was not their leader, that possibly they had their own agenda.
This was getting to be a joke, a slow moving hunt for Gryphon. She sat in the back seat the windows were darkly tinted from the outside, all Shroud agent vehicles were unmarked. The license plate signified that it was a government vehicle of high status so it would never be interrupted by local law enforcement. The vehicle was a standard issue black Chevrolet Suburban, it had ample room for her and the three Seekers’ who were with her. She crossed her arms sighing while looking out of the window, not like there was anything to see, it was pitch black out. They were somewhere near a town called Darby Creek in Colorado, out in the country where the sky was full of stars yet the ground below stayed pretty dark seeming to swallow up any light given off by the night sky. The Seeker adjusted himself in the passenger seat catching Z’s attention, she could tell that he had noticed something. The other Seekers’ also were looking in the same direction, Z knew for sure that something was picked up, she wondered how connected mentally the Seekers’ were, they always seemed to work in unison. “What is it? Have you found Gryphon’s trail again?” She asked. “No Commander, it is not the trail of the Alpha, but we have detected the trail of two Gifted who appear to still be at the rest stop that is approaching.” Z was annoyed by hearing the Seeker call Gryphon the Alpha before she focused on his other words. She leaned across the seat ordering the window to be rolled down so that she could see out, it was dark but the rest stop ahead was well lit, from the road she saw a small dark two passenger sports car, and a white mini van. Her mind began to form a plan of action before approaching.

Tarik flinched in his seat waking up instantly, he always trusted his gut instinct, something wasn’t right. He had the driver seat tilted down as far as it could go. Sitting up he looked back seeing that Derrick was stretched out on the very back row seat still sleeping peacefully. Tarik looked around, everything seemed fine and quiet but something kept telling him that it wasn’t. “Wake up!” Tarik yelled at Derrick who slowly stirred then rose rubbing his eyes. “What’s up?” Derrick said smacking his lips. “I don’t know yet” Tarik said starting the engine, he wasn’t going to just sit around and wait for something to happen. And if he was wrong then no harm was done. Tarik looked up in front of the van, there was silent motion that caught his attention. He moved to the side just as a dagger became lodged in the window in front of him cracking the windshield, the blade of the dagger sticking through the window. Tarik didn’t hesitate he slammed on the peddle urging the van backwards, a Seeker rushed forward eagerly from the hidden darkness leaping into the air landing on the hood of the van as Tarik spun the vehicle around. The Seeker kept its balance staying low on the hood. Tarik inhaled deeply before exhaling a blast of energy from out of his mouth it sprayed outward burning the windshield. The Seeker rolled off the hood avoiding the burning energy landing on his feet, the van sped off leaving him at the side of the road. Derrick looked back seeing the Seeker take up pursuit, Tarik looked in his side view mirror noticing that the Seeker was gaining, the peddle was touching the floor, the engine revving. “Stop the van!” Derrick said excitedly. At last he had found his first Seeker, he knew it must be one. Tarik didn’t listen, he didn’t want to risk Derrick’s life, and he had already failed against a Seeker the first he tangled with one. He wasn’t afraid to face another one, but he wanted to do so on his terms and in the right environment. He didn’t know how many more Seekers’ there were, the last thing he needed was to be overrun by them and be killed then Derrick would have no back up thus being killed as well. Derrick continued protesting for Tarik to stop the van then he gave up and opened the back hatch jumping out of the van rolling on the ground before coming to his feet. When Tarik saw Derrick exit the van he slammed on the brakes cursing under his breath at the foolish gung ho nature of Derrick, he didn’t know what Derrick was thinking, the fool. The van hadn’t even made it out of the exit of the rest stop. There was only one other vehicle there, the freeway had a few cars driving by but he doubted that it would be enough witnesses to stop the Shroud from attacking. Witnesses could merely be erased if in smaller numbers.
“Just fucking great!” Tarik said under his breath as the Seeker finally caught up to Derrick, Tarik exited the van and started to run toward Derrick to aid him.
“Headed to sanctuary by chance?” Z said standing just a few feet from Tarik, he stepped away from the sound of her voice quickly looking at her, how did he not see her? Two Seekers’ stood behind her. “Don’t kill him yet, I want information that could lead us to the Shroud Hunter!” She said. That was the Seekers’ queue to attack. The Seekers’ moved so quickly, Tarik remembered how fast they were. He attempted to defend barely getting his guard up before a barrage of punches and kicks came at him from both Seekers’ his arms stung from the powerful blows, he was struck from a kick to his midsection. Tarik gasped from getting the wind knocked out of him, he couldn’t inhale to use his energy spewing gift from his mouth. He leapt into the air only to be grabbed by the ankle and slammed to the ground. Enough time had passed before his gift activated, and just like before he couldn’t absorb the Seekers’ abilities. He rolled to his side standing back up, he knew he was outclassed he wasn’t going to win this. One of the Seekers’ stepped forward punching at Tarik’s face, to his surprise Derrick stepped in front of him slapping the punch away before dive tackling the Seeker. Tarik saw that the other Seeker pulled his dagger out ready to stab Derrick in the back while he grappled with the Seekers on the ground. Tarik stepped up to aid him, Z rushed up with a speed superior to the Seeker’s, he didn’t even really see her move at all. She reached out grabbing Tarik’s face, her palm at the center. Smoke rose from her hand, the smell of burnt flesh filled the air as Tarik cried out. Tarik’s flesh melted away from his face like liquid, Derrick spun easily blocking the Seekers’ downward thrust at his back, he stood up running toward Z, her face filled with the pleasure of dealing such pain. She was surprised at how easily he broke free from the Seekers’, her hand released from Tarik’s face as Derrick was upon her. He threw a few punches that she blocked quickly while she back peddled away from him. Derrick looked at Tarik’s face in awe and disappointment, Tarik wasn’t even recognizable. His cheekbones were visible through melted muscle tissue, there was no skin left on the front of his face. Derrick didn’t have time to mourn Tarik a Seeker was already on him again. Derrick moved about swiftly blocking the dagger strikes of the Seeker, Tarik dropped to his knees. The other Seeker was about to rush Tarik. “Stop!” She ordered the Seeker. “He is of no danger now, help your brother finish off the true threat here!” The Seeker turned his attention on Derrick.
Tarik had no eyelids, they had been burned off. He patiently watched Derrick as he fought his face looking like something out of a horror movie, he noticed how well Derrick was doing against them’. After watching Derrick side step one of the Seekers’ knife attack before striking him in the neck he saw on Derricks face complete calm. Tarik realized that it was Derrick’s gift that was how he was doing so well. Tarik’s face started healing skin forming back over muscle. And bone. He kept his eyes focused greedily on Derrick, his eyelids forming back over his eyes a realization came over him. “Damn it!” Tarik yelled out frustrated, he discovered that he could not steal Derrick’s gift. He threw a small fit catching everyone’s attention, all were surprised to see that his face had completely healed. Derrick smiled with great happiness seeing that Tarik was no longer badly injured.
“Holey Moley yea!” Derrick cried out joyfully.

(Continued)

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