BASILISK [The CHIMERA Novels #2]
See no evil. Seek no evil.
Survive no evil.
A Note From Rob:
While CHIMERA was told from Stefan’s point-of-view, BASILISK is told from Michael’s. I wanted to see him discover what it’s like to be a genuine person…not a kid raised to be an assassin in the Institute. It’s a very different POV as Stefan is an ex-Russian mafioso and Michael, Stefan’s kidnapped brother, is a trained (but utterly reluctant) assassin with no knowledge he can remember of the outside world. This is two and a half years later when Michael and Stefan have settled in a small town, hiding from the Mafiya and the Institute and Michael thinks that as a genius and trained killer (he keeps the trained part and discards the killer portion completely) that he is adjusting very well to the world. Stefan, on the other hand, might disagree. The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is from Chapters 3 & 4, not the beginning of the book, as I want to see the reaction to Michael as he’s now nineteen going on twenty and much more confident than perhaps he should be. Enjoy.
Stefan didn’t seem as satisfied.
“Bombs? You were making pipe bombs?” he demanded incredulously as he drove on.
“Garages don’t blow themselves up,” I pointed out with some exasperation at his lack of gratitude and memory. “And they’re not pipe bombs so much as proactive explosive measures. Little pipe bombs,” I emphasized. “You know…just in case.” With electrical detonation devices—very simple. Military detonation cord wasn’t as quick as I might need it to be. “They’re really quite easy to make. Too easy. They should be more responsible with the information on the internet….”
“You told me that equipment was for your genetic research.” I think he hit a rock on purpose as my head smacked the inside roof of the car. “To find a cure for the rest of the kids. You lied to me, Michael Lukas Korsak.”
“I didn’t lie,” I shot back indignantly. “I said that the equipment was to help me find a cure. I didn’t say all the equipment was to help me find a cure. Some of it could be used to save our lives too.”
“And you didn’t think that was worth mentioning? You running an armory behind our house?” Stefan gritted his teeth. “I swear when we switch cars I’m going to take a minute to beat you like a red-headed stepchild.”
“I didn’t not mention it. It didn’t come up, that’s all,” yes, a fine line, but my line and I was stubbornly walking it, “and why do people have a dislike for people with red hair? I’ve heard that saying once or twice since moving here. Why would their hair color make them the targets of violence?”
“Not the time, and you know it’s just some old saying. Don’t think I don’t recognize your version of smart-ass, Michael.”
“Misha,” I insisted again.
“And what’s with that? We’re running from who the hell knows and you’re worried about your nickname?”
“Michael is the Institute. Misha is free. I’m free and I’m staying that way. I’m a man now, a new person, and Misha will remind me of that. I don’t want their name anymore.” But I couldn’t go back to Lukas. That seemed wrong. Unless I ever got my memories of my first seven years back, and that was doubtful after all these years, not to mention what I’d discovered in my research, I couldn’t be that person. I couldn’t be Lukas. I was Misha and only Misha now, for good. I was me, finally finished, finally recovered from the Institute, finally whole. They weren’t getting me back and they could keep their damn Peter Pan name.
“Fine. Misha the Mighty.” The car bounced again and I heard the muffler hit one rock too many and it was gone behind us. “You got it. Now put that mighty brain to use and figure out how Raynor, and whoever the fuck he works for, found us.”
I didn’t have to put my brain to work. I knew. In a flash of inspiration…and subconscious brilliant deduction, a given…I knew. “Anatoly and you, Stefan. You both told him where we were.”
Raynor was smart all right. Too smart. And we hadn’t tried to finish him off when we had the chance. It was a thought I wouldn’t have had three years ago—when I hadn’t known what it was to have a real life. I wasn’t ashamed I had the thought now. I’d learned a lot in those three years. Life and death…it was the cycle of the world. For someone to live, someone had to die—especially if that person was trying to take your life, be it mental or physical.
I wanted to live.
The hell with the Institute and their lies about what I was and what I could never be.
I wanted to live.
“We need to take the 84. We’re heading southeast towards the Burns Paiute Indian Reservation,” I told Stefan. I had the route memorized, but I handed him the map from the glove compartment. Stefan didn’t like GPS. He thought all the voices were annoying, and when I programmed in HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, he tossed it out the window and drove over it. I’d known Stefan wasn’t technically…adept. That was the best and most polite way to put it, but I didn’t know he was afraid of killer computers. I thought they were rather entertaining myself. No explaining taste.
He snatched the map. “Burns? Why the hell are we going to…wait. What the fuck. How did Anatoly and I give away our location? How the hell did you come up with that?”
Burns was one of my nine…technically, ten back-up plans if Canada didn’t work out, but Stefan didn’t seem in the mood to appreciate that right now, and I couldn’t blame him. “Raynor must’ve found Anatoly,” I said. “And as smart as he appears to be, Anatoly was smart too. It must have taken him about,” I exhaled, “up until four weeks ago to find him. Almost three years.”
“But I told you, kiddo, I made sure Anatoly never knew where we were. Never knew were our money was, didn’t know our account numbers in the Caymans. Raynor couldn’t have found him through us.” The car bumped again and I thought I heard something else fall off. I let Stefan’s ‘kiddo’ go. He was running on autopilot, but that would have to change in the future.
“But he did know one thing…all the properties he owned and used to hide. He knew about the beach house where we were shot. Raynor must have gone to every one of them once Anatoly told.” And anyone would tell eventually, no matter how Mafiya tough when a saw was cutting through their bone. I cleared my throat. “Raynor would’ve gone to every single one and dusted for prints then entered them in AFIS,” a collection of criminal and certain occupational workers’s fingerprints. How he became fixated on Anatoly to begin with was a mystery, but not one I was going to mention to Stefan. “He would’ve kept them classified. He’s Homeland. He can do that. But he would’ve had them, just waiting for one to pop up.”
“Ah, shit.” Stefan pounded his head once against the steering wheel. “And my stupid ass fucks up trying to blend in and be ‘Harry the handy-man,’ good guy, up for a bar fight gets arrested and printed. Two weeks. Two goddamn weeks and he’s probably been here watching us at least half that time. Brought along a buddy, not Homeland, but trained. That shithead was trained to fight and kill. He even sends him in to annoy you day after day to see what you’ll do. Make sure he has the right kid.” I had changed a lot in the past three years—I had my contacts concealing the color of my eyes. I was taller, my hair a little darker, enough for there to be some doubt, although living with Harry/Stefan as my brother, not more than a molecule of it. “He did it to see if he can trigger you.”
“And he did,” I said quietly. “That means I fucked up too and maybe worse than you.”
“I don’t think so,” he gave my shoulder a light push, “but if you want to share, let’s say we both screwed up and you tell me why the hell we’re going to the Burns Indian Reservation. Assuming the car holds together to make it to the interstate. The pipe bombs will talk about later, I haven’t forgotten. But why the reservation?”
“Oh, the reservation?” Actually he probably was going to forget about the pipe bombs. “That’s where the plane is. Didn’t I mention that before?”
“Plane? What plane?” he demanded.
“Our plane? Since when do we have a plane?” His fingers were slowly beginning to whiten as his grip tightened on the steering wheel.
“Since I bought one,” I replied as if it was the most obvious of answers.
I could see his jaw tightening now as he tried to hold onto his temper. In the beginning when he’d rescued me, taught me how to live in the real world, taught me…hell…everything (even cursing), he was nothing but patient. The most patient, protective ex-mobster you could find, because he knew how damaged I was, which I think might have been only marginally more damaged than he was from guilt and despair. Not once in almost two years did he ever snap or lose his temper with me, even if I deserved it—especially if I deserved it. But after two years he went from treating me as a phantom brother that would disappear at any moment and started treating me like a real brother.
It turned out that I liked that. After two years I wanted to be given a verbal ass kicking when I deserved it (good, more cursing), I wanted to pay off the half-blown up garage with my paycheck from the coffee house, despite us having money in offshore accounts, I wanted all of that. Why? Because that meant no matter how annoying I was and how quickly Stefan would make sure I paid the price, he still always had my back. He still protected me from anyone and anything.
Blood is thicker than bratty behavior.
And while that wasn’t a hundred percent correct, I still took it. Good, bad, and all that came between, Stefan would always be my brother, my family, and that was something…that was really something.
“Since you bought one? Why did you buy a plane? How did you buy a plane? Who’s going to fly the plane if we need a plane?” Now I could hear his teeth grinding. I tried not to smile, but it was fun…just a little. That didn’t make me a bad person. I simply found amusement where I could. That made me emotionally healthy and I could write a one-hundred thousand word paper to prove it.
“I bought one in case some of our other back-up plans didn’t work and Raynor cancels out at least three of them. I bought it with the money from the Caymans. Who does our banking, remember? You’re horrible with numbers. That’s why that old lady hit you with her cane when you were in the ten items only line with sixteen items.” I crossed my arms and Godzilla came slithering out from under the seat to paw at the glove compartment. He knew where the goodies where. “Besides it’s only a Cessna.”
“Only a Cessna? Damn it, Michael, Misha, whatever. The government tracks that sort of thing, especially since 9/11.”
“Oh, it was a totally illegal purchase. I have quite a few friends of that sort on the internet, but that time I went to your friend Saul. I told him not to tell you, that it was a surprise. He laughed a lot about that. Then I found one of my friends from the net who said there were a few people with flexible morals at the Burns Indian reservation who would hide it for us in case we needed it.” Like now. With Raynor, we definitely needed a plane, because he was going to the same place we were: the Institute. Not that that’s where he’d think we’d go. I imagined he thought that was the very last place we’d go. A man like him wouldn’t understand trying to save what you could own instead. No, he knew it was the best place to get his own fresh from the oven-baked assassin, a very special one, because he’d seen what I could do when merely annoyed by a fake tourist. He wanted to be prepared. He didn’t know I wouldn’t use what I had in me to kill…that I wasn’t like him or Jericho.
“What? They’re hiding a plane? Jesus, they’ll think we’re terrorists, and you hauling around pipe bombs isn’t going to help with that impression.” His knuckles where bone-white now, and he was going to get hoarse soon if his voice became any louder.
“No, don’t be ridiculous. I thought about that, so I told them we’re drug dealers” I said with the complacent certainty I had in any of my plans I’d thought up. The Institute had taken my life, but they had taught me to plan like a son of a bitch. More cursing. It seemed I only needed adrenaline to bring it out in me. I probably shouldn’t have been pleased by that accomplishment, but I was.
“Drug dealers? And they believed you?” Now he was looking at me, not the road, which wasn’t the best way to drive, and that amber I’d never seen directed at me was beginning to glint in his eyes.
“Why wouldn’t they?” I reassured. He no doubt thought I’d made a mistake. Big brothers were like that…always questioning the younger ones. Never letting us grow up. “I pay them to grow marijuana. It took them a while to get…the hang of it? Right, the hang of it–that’s how they refer to it, but last month they finally said they figured out the correct temperature, hydration, where to get better grow lights and said they have a great crop now.”
He blinked, his darker skin turning nearly as red as a sunburn. Pulling the car over into the emergency lane, he turned back and rested his forehead on the steering wheel and said nothing. I waited about five minutes. It was just a plane and some barely illegal drugs, which I thought should be legal. It was no worse than beer. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to drink beer yet as I wasn’t twenty-one and Stefan was as strict as a TV grandmother on things like that. Plane, drugs only just illegal…and if I could’ve gotten a doctor involved, maybe not illegal at all—surely five minutes was enough to recover from my ‘surprise.’
I patted him on the back. “Are you okay? Was the healthy breakfast too healthy? Did it upset your normal intestinal workings? Do you want a Three Musketeers to counter-act the health?”
“Tui nemnogaya dermo,” he said without lifting his head.
I stopped patting. “You little shit? You called me a little shit. I am as tall as you now. I am not little.”
“But you are a shit. What happened to that agreeable kid who used to be afraid of grocery stores? Who only scared me when he wanted the sex-talk? Where did the pipe bomb building drug lord come from?” He leaned his head back against the head-rest and covered his eyes. “Where did I go wrong?”
I wasn’t offended. In fact if I’d known it would be this much fun, I’d have told Stefan about all my plans…although some of the others might give him a heart attack…at least a year ago. I grinned, even if he couldn’t see it, and punched him hard in the shoulder. “I grew up.”