Charon was a small dealer that provided basic necessities to the outside world, smuggled in from the cities. The warehouse he had established himself in was on the docks of the river that divided the city of the old world in two. It was barely holding itself together since the world had collapsed, just like everything else.
Senna had managed to find her way here, having escaped the Watcher’s hound and all of the patrols that made their way through the streets. They looked like normal people. But there was something distinctly inhuman about the way they moved. Too unnatural. They were always fully armored, white metal plating over grey leather. Under their helmets were the the red eyes of a demon. She had heard stories that making eye contact with one would kill you. She observed them on her way to Charon. Fortunately, the Watchers still had little roof surveillance, and she knew a quick route to the docks. After the dog, there was no more incidents along the way.
She knocked on the door. Two quick knocks, a pause, one knock, another pause, followed by two more quick knocks.
“Closed for the day,” a deep, yet thin and broken voice said from the other side.
“Charon, it’s Senna. I need your help. It’s urgent.”
There was no reply.
“I was wounded last night,” she continued. “My blood was hot.”
The door swung open, revealing a figure wrapped in a black cloak from head to toe. Absolutely no skin was showing. “Enter,” Charon breathed.
She did. He closed and locked the door behind her. The room was a small entryway to the warehouse. Save for a new set of table and chairs, It looked abandoned since the collapse, which was clearly intentional. “I don’t offer services while the sun is up,” he stated, gesturing to one of the chairs. She sat down.
“I know,” she replied. “I’m sorry. I had a bad feeling about the blood and I only have one pill of fire salts left. I’ve never given you trouble in the past, I was hoping you could do me this favor and help me out.”
“What do you have to trade?”
She shifted uncomfortably in her chair under his scrutiny. “That’s another reason it’s a favor. I don’t have much this time around, but again, this is the first time I’ve come short. I promise it won’t happen again.”
He didn’t reply at first. “You only require salts?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “And I was hoping you would be able to provide insight to the last batch. Is hot blood a known side effect?”
“It isn’t common. Pure salts are sometimes difficult to come by. It is nothing to fear. Wait here.” And with that, he opened the door out to the warehouse and vanished into the darkness.
Dealing with Charon always made her uneasy. He was shady at best, but at least he always provided. Through the doorway, she could see something glinting through the dark. She couldn’t make out what it was, but somehow it sent a chill down her spine. She turned her attention away from it, but kept it in her periphery. She decided it wouldn’t do well to seem nosy when she was already treading thin ice with Charon as it was. The glint vanished for a moment, and Charon entered once again. She glanced back as the sparkle returned to her line of sight, and somehow she knew what it was.
It was the reflection of eyes.
Senna immediately stood from her chair as the door shut behind him. “What is in that room?” she said.
Charon pulled a pistol from his cloak and aimed it at her. “Perhaps we should find out.”
She took a step back. “You’re going to shoot me? What exactly do you hope to accomplish with that?”
“You Echoes aren’t half as invulnerable as you think you are.”
He fired. Her left arm was consumed in an unimaginable pain, and she screamed in more surprise than anything else. Pain. She had forgotten what that was like.
She kicked into action. She knew the door was locked behind her. There was no time to do anything about that. The only other way was forward. At Charon.
Curiously, he didn’t fire. She grabbed his gun and pushed it up, his arm included. Spinning around, she slammed an elbow into his face. Thus disabled, she kept running.
She threw the door open, glancing behind her as she ran.
His hood came off. Turning to face her, she saw his features for the first time.
Most notable were his red, demonic eyes.
She never slowed. The only path to survival was away from him. So she bolted into the darkness.
The warehouse was illuminated by a few streams of light, filtering through various holes and a few windows on the ceiling. It was hard to see, but it wasn’t total darkness.
All around her were people, bound and gagged. Many of them stared up at her, desperation in their eyes. But she couldn’t stop. He was right behind her.
The warehouse was similar to the office space. Columns of boxes were everywhere. She ran to a likely hiding place to catch her breath. Pushing back the pain in her arm, she pulled out her own gun.
“I’m not going to kill you, Senna,” Charon called. His voice echoed throughout the chamber. “The other Echoes here can attest to that.”
Other Echoes?! “You’re a Watcher!” she yelled.
“Of sorts,” he said.
Every other time she had seen him, it was in the dead of night. How was that possible? Nobody knew why Watchers went away at night, but they always just vanished. It was hard to believe a dark cloak would fix that somehow. Besides, if he really was a Watcher, why help her until now?
She slid the ammo into the chamber. “I hope this works,” she whispered to herself. Whatever happened now, she couldn’t allow herself to be captured with the rest of them.
“You must have questions,” Charon said. He wasn’t speaking loudly. He didn’t need to, for the rest of the building was silent. He was much closer now. Too close for her to reply without being discovered. “Since you all will be interrogated soon anyway, I might as well debrief you on your circumstance.
“Decades ago, the world fell apart because my kind supposedly tore it down from the shadows. It wasn’t until society failed that we made our presence known, but it wasn’t us that destroyed it. We created the Echoes as a sub species of humans genetically modified with Watcher DNA. We let you loose, and you tore society down from its foundation.
After that, we forced you into hiding, and we created the fire salts experiment. We weren’t hunting you. We didn’t even need to look. Because of the fire salts, you came to us. Pills that temporarily enhance the Watcher blood you carry in your veins. Tougher skin, enhanced recovery rate. We’ve learned all we need from it. Now that the experiment is over, we have no further use for you. A controlled Echo population is vital to the next step.”
Echoes are people infused with Watcher blood? Controlled Echo population? But it’s not hereditary, she thought. Beyond that it still didn’t explain how Charon managed to exist at night. She peeked out of one side of boxes. Nothing. Looking out the other side, she saw him walking towards where she hid. She sighed. Baxter don’t fail me now, she prayed.
Stepping out from her cover, she raised the gun to Charon’s head and pulled the trigger. There was no loud explosion that resulted from typical gunfire. This time, there was a quick snap, and a projectile shot right at Charon’s head. Upon contact, the pill of fire salts immediately erupted into flames, and he roared in rage. As it so happened, fire salts could make good ammunition with Baxter’s modifications.
She bolted towards him, careful not to make eye contact, and punched him in the stomach on her way through. He bellowed, seething with anger as he swung back around, but she kept running, back the way she had come.
She stared at the group of people, bound and hopeless on her way out. “I’ll come back for you,” she said, and closed the door.