Excerpts from Chasing Chango

Dr. Teo Noche is a disgraced religion professor who uses his powers as a medium to help a secret government organization track down and capture the ancient gods.

 

A Competing Offer (Updated December 29, 2015)

“Son, I think this one might be a drug dealer,” said José as a young Asian woman held a pistol to his temple. The young woman’s eyes were cold and dark as the pantsuit she wore. There were several Asian men with her, all dressed in stylish black business suits and sunglasses. One man in particular stood on the other side of José book-ending the elder man.  José was on his knees and his eyes were closed. Teo knew it was not from fear. As a storekeeper his father was no stranger to having a firearm pointed at him. Instead, José had a bum knee from an old baseball injury. The wound made it difficult for José to sit for long periods of time without pain. Teo could only imagine what the marble floor was doing the knee.

“Could you let my father up?” asked Teo.

“We will let him stand as soon as you come with us,” said the man on the other side of José.

“And who are you?” asked Teo.

“We are competitors of Ms. Calder and the project,” said the young woman.

“Ah more ghost busters,” said Teo looking at the gun pointed at his father’s head. “Well, I’ll tell you what I told her. I’m not interested in chasing spirits.”

The young man and woman laughed. “Is that what she told you?” said the young man. “I assure you we are doing something far more important.”

“Like what holding old men at gun point?”

“Everything will be explained to you after you come with us.”

“And if I don’t?” Teo had seen enough movies to know the answer but he asked anyway.

“The news will report an unfortunate robbery-homicide took place at this store,” said the young man pointing his gun at the back of José’s head.

“If they are going to shoot me can you ask them to do it soon. My knee is killing me,” said José in Spanish.

“My brother is not going to hurt you señor Noche,” said the woman in near perfect Spanish. She helped José to his feet. Her brother lowered his gun, keeping it visible and ready at his side. “Our employer just wants to talk to your son. And he has agreed to come with us. Right professor?” Her voice was as sugary as her eyes were poisonous.

“Of course,” said Teo. “Just let me get dressed.” He headed back to the basement accompanied by the brother. The brother stayed by the stairs as Teo got dressed. Teo stared at him as he pulled on a crisp white shirt.

“I know what you are thinking,” said the brother. “You are considering attacking me, taking my gun, and rescuing your father.”

“That never occurred to me,” said Teo who was calculating how fast he could cross the room after throwing his shoe at the man’s face. Teo concluded that someone his size and weight would take too long to cover the distance. He had never done this type of tactical analysis before. He figured this was more of Mackenzie’s psychic influence.

“I have been in this situation many times. I have seen a man’s mind try to overcome cold fear it is experiencing by pumping warm hope into his heart.” The brother came down the stairs and stood in front of Teo’s face. “Let me assure you this is a false hood. No bookish academic has a chance against me and the trained killers upstairs.”

Teo fought the urge to disable the man with punch to the throat. He realized even if he took the man’s gun he could not defeat all the killers upstairs and keep José alive. That would take more than Agent Mackenzie’s tactical knowledge. It also took experience Teo did not have. Instead he decided the best course of action was to let them take him in the hopes he could escape later and get back to rescue his father. Teo completed his outfit with his favorite blue blazer. This was his teaching uniform and it gave him confidence to have it on once more. “I’m ready to go.”

Back upstairs José was sitting in a chair, thumbing a set of rosary beads. His lips were moving but he made no sound. Teo walked over and hugged him.

“Don’t go with them,” whispered José.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back by lunch,” said Teo loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Be careful. Camina pa'lante, no mires para el lao,” said José. It was his favorite song lyric and his pseudo blessing he placed on Teo whenever he left the house.

“Tu tienes un santo pero no eres babalao,” responded Teo finishing the chorus. The woman grabbed Teo by the arm and led him out off the store into the opening door of a large SUV.

 

The black cars with Teo and his abductors drove across the Manhattan Bridge. It made its way through Chinatown and came to a stop in front of a jewelry store on Mott Street. There were met by man Teo recognized from Mackenzie’s possession the night before. Colonel Ching led Teo inside while the brother and sister and the other guards followed.

Inside, display cases filled with jewelry covered the walls. In front of the display walls were glass counters filled with necklaces, brooches, watches and rings. Behind the counter stood three Asian sales people. One older man and two young women were attending to several customers, when Teo and his captors arrived. Colonel Ching nodded at the older man and he pressed a button under the counter opening a side door. Everyone stepped through the door into the jewelry making area. The room smelled of burnt metal and dust. There were workstations throughout the room where men and women in surgical masks used small drills and blowtorches to reshape a variety of stones and metals.

“Why are we at a Jewelry store?” asked Teo. “I thought you guys were ghost busters not jewelry makers.”

“Do to his position as a respected business leader and the unnatural nature of our work, our benefactor cannot afford to meet openly,” said the colonel.  “Instead he uses this shop, which is owned by a relative of his, for these kinds of sensitive meetings.”  The group reached another door and the colonel keyed in a code unlocking it. He and the siblings led Teo inside while their men remained outside in the workshop. They entered a large, dimly lit storage room filled with boxes and trunk cases. There was desk in the middle of the room and a single wooden chair a few feet in front of the desk. The male brother made Teo sit down in the chair. He then leaned on a far wall and lit up a cigarette under a no smoking sign. Colonel Ching went over to the glass desk and opened up laptop. Teo watched as the woman placed a black cube in front of his feet. She pressed the top of the cube and it unfolded itself into a large platform. The platform illuminated, its bright light blinded Teo. When Teo’s vision returned there was an image of a well-dressed Asian man standing on the platform. The man wore a black suit and tie and twirled a pair of Baoding balls. His hair as jet black, parted on the left and he smiled at Teo like someone who was seeing his long-lost friend once again.

“Hello Professor Noche. It’s a pleasure to meet you at last,” said the Asian man. He bowed his head slightly. Teo returned the gesture. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.

Teo recognized the man’s face from the spirit’s possession the night before.  It was Mr. Bu, the man the colonel was protecting during the firefight in the jungle. “Yes, I do,” said Teo. “You’re the man who had me brought here at gun point.”

The Bu’s smile disappeared. “I’m sorry about that unpleasantness professor but our information gatherers suggested that you would not come willingly if we just asked.”

“Information gatherers?” Teo looked around the room at colonel and the siblings. “Don’t you mean spies?”

“That’s a nasty way to put it. However, I can tell you from experience, intelligence gatherers prefer not to be called ‘spies.’”

“Well I would ‘prefer’ not to be here but we can’t always have what we want.”

“Oh but we can Professor Noche. I’m sure of it.” The man’s bright smile returned. “Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Song Bu, President and CEO of the Daedalus Corporation. These are my associates. Colonel Ching and my twin assistants Lei and Xia.” Bu extended his right hand for a shake. Out of habit, Teo reached his hand out and it passed straight through Bu’s image. “Sorry, I forget this is not a hard light hologram. I should work on that,” said Bu. He took out a small notebook and pen from his pocket and jotted down some notes. “Now where were we,” he said putting away the notebook and pen. “Ah yes, the reason you are here. I would like to offer you a position with our company.” Xia came over and handed Teo a business card.

“And what position would that be?” asked Teo examining the card with the Chinese characters on it.

“Officially, you will be a consultant working with us on our climate modification project.”

“Sorry Mr. Bu but I think you got the wrong man. I’m a religion professor not a meteorologist.”

“Oh I’m sure we have the right man. For you see our project is not chasing clouds. We are chasing this.” Bu waved his hand and a large yellow beast replaced his image. It had the body of a bull, the head of a blue jay, and the tail of a snake. “This is-”

“Fei Lian, Chinese god of the wind,” interrupted Teo.

“Good professor, very impressive. You are familiar with the deities of polytheistic religions of China,” said Bu clapping his hands as his imaged returned.

“As I said, I’m not meteorologist. And last time I checked Fei Lian was just a myth.”

“The wind god is as real as you or I,” said Bu gripping his Baoding balls. He quickly gathered his composure and twirled the balls in his hand again.

“Sure he is, Mr. Bu,” smiled Teo.  Now that Teo did not have to worry about his father getting hurt, he was planning his escape. He used the strategic and tactical analysis gifts Agent Mackenzie had left him to evaluate the situation. Teo ran through several options but most ended with him filled with smoking holes and leaking blood.  He decided his best bet was to disarm one of his abductors, take him or her hostage, and force the others to let him go.  The twins were too far to be an option. Xia was guarding the door they had come in while Lei stood on the wall just out of reach.  The colonel was the best choice since he was closest.  Teo waited for the right time to strike as Song Bu continued making his case.

“It is true.  I have seen Fei Lian myself.”

“And I thought that I saw Santa Clause once but it was just my father in a red suit.”

“You mock me professor,” said Bu, again gripping the Baoding balls tightly.  “I am not a man who likes to be mocked.”  There was a force to his words that made the curly hair at the nape of Teo’s neck stand straight.  Bu’s face relaxed and he began twirling the Baoding balls again.  “Have you ever heard of the Liuhu Village, doctor?”  Teo shook his head.  “Almost no one in the West has. And even here on the mainland, very few people remember it even existed.  It used to be here.”  Bu waived his hand again and his image disappeared, replaced by a map of China.  The image zoomed into a red dot next to the Yangtze River.  Then the dot changed into the image of a fishing village, with hundreds of boats in the water.  The scenery became smaller and shrunk as Bu’s image returned, until the image was sitting neatly over his shoulder.  Hundreds of little shacks covered the riverside while small little homes popped out of the lush hills in the distance.  “I was born in this village.  This is what it looked like when I was a boy.  This is what it looks like today.”  As he spoke the images behind Song changed from beautiful, rich countryside to a graveyard of concrete and wood.  Gone were the boats and the little shacks.  There remained only rusted ships, crushed cars, and dilapidated structures. 

“What happened?” asked Teo rubbing his chin.

“Fei Lian happened doctor.” Bu stared at the images of the destruction. “He created a storm that destroyed my village and killed my whole family.”

“I’m sorry for your loss Mr. Bu. That was a great tragedy. However, gods aren’t responsible for the weather. Warm fronts, cold fronts, warming of the seas, polar ice caps melting, greenhouse gases. These are things that affect the weather not a bull looking dragon with a bag of wind,” said Teo.

Bu laughed. “If I were in your position I would also find this hard to believe. But trust me when I tell you professor gods are real. I saw one.”

At that moment, Teo became more concerned for his safety than he had been before. He thought he had only been dealing with gun toting spooks. Yet as he looked around the room at the solemn faces of his captors, he realized that he was dealing with crazy, fanatical, gun toting spooks.

“Of course you did. I see gods all the time too. Why just the other day, Osiris stood in front of me at the coffee shop and Zeus was getting a Gyro from a cart on 42nd and Broadway.”

“I understand your skepticism professor but I know what I saw. When I was a child our mother used to tell my sister and me that if we did not behave, Fei Lian would take us away with a strong wind and eat us. We used to laugh at her when she was not looking. Oh how I wish we hadn’t.” As Bu told his story, the images behind him changed to a little boy and girl sitting on their mother’s lap with their father behind them.

“One day all the men in my village were called to the docks,” continued Song. “The radio reported a large storm approaching and the men spent the day lashing boats to the docks and bring other ships on shore. Women and children boarded up the homes and gathered what supplies they could. I remember my father coming home minutes before the storm came. He pulled us to a corner of the house and we huddled there waiting for it to pass.”

Teo watched images of the wind and rain batter the village. Large waves slammed onto the docks. One by one the wind pulled the boats free and sent them crashing into nearby buildings and trees. “Our house was directly in the path of the destruction.” The roof flew off Bu’s house. “My father pushed my sister and me under and old iron stove before he and my mother were sucked out of the house. My sister and I held on as long as we could but children had no chance against the wind.

“My sister and I became caught in the wind’s vortex and were separated.  I was in the wind’s grasp for who knows how long. Yet while I was there I thought I heard a man’s laughter but I did not know where it came from. Eventually, I saw a bearded man in green and gold robes. He had goat sack tied to his hip from which he was pulling the wind. When he saw me looking at him he used the wind to send me flying.

“I landed in the river. When I surfaced I saw the man hovering above me. He must have taken pity on me because he transformed into a dragon and flew away.”

“They never found my parent’s bodies but I found my sister on the shore. Tell me professor have you ever seen the skull of your loved one cracked open like an egg?” The images behind Bu went dark and he stood there with his eyes closed. “Professor I need your help to capture Fei Lian and other elemental gods like him.”

Teo looked around at the face in the room. He could tell they believed the science fiction Song Bu was selling. “Let’s say for the moment I can help you. What would you do with a weather god?”

“I would place Fei Lian in this.” The image changed to the dark obelisk from Teo’s vision the night before. “I call it the Labyrinth. This machine will contain the god’s energies and analyze them. Then we will use this data to create other mechanisms capable of manipulating weather patterns worldwide.”

Teo laughed. “It’s that simple. Store the god in a battery and then control the weather.”

Song laughed as well. “Actually no. It’s quite more complicated than that. But as you said, you are not an engineer.”

“I may not be an engineer but I know a rain dance when I see one. Men have tried this before from Scottish witches to farmers seeding clouds or the military sending high frequency radio waves into the ionosphere.”

“Yes but all those approaches only took one path either magical or scientific. We will be combining both to make a new path.”

“Like the poet says. ‘Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking.’”

            “Exactly, we will be blazing new roads. Imagine a world without droughts or floods. Think of the lives that can be saved just by having the rain fall in the right place or by diverting a storm.”

“That sounds wonderful. But why do you need me?” said Teo. “We both agree I am not a man of science. And I’m less of a practitioner of faith than a student of it.”

Song Bu leaned in closer to Teo. “Professor you are not here because of your academic gifts. It is your other abilities we need.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said Teo crossing his arms.

“Please professor, you don’t need to pretend with us. We know what you are.”

 “I’m sorry Mr. Bu but I’m not what you think I am,” said Teo.

“That’s not what your mother told me,” said Bu.

“You knew my mother?” said Teo.

“Your mother was a valuable colleague and friend,” said Bu. Teo did not like the way the Song smiled after saying “friend.” “She was a woman of many gifts. Some of which, she told me you share.”

“Where is she?” asked Teo. “Why isn’t she helping you now?”

“Join us and I will tell you everything you want to know,” said Bu.

“Okay let’s pretend I am what you say I am. What you’re asking for is impossible. No human being will survive. You can’t pour the ocean into a teacup.”

“You can if you build a large enough cup,” said Bu. The hologram changed again. “With this you will be powerful enough to contain a god.” A black body suit with large white dots appeared. It was the same one Minerva had worn in his vision. Teo knew his mother was a powerful medium capable of controlling even the strongest of spirits. Yet even she wasn’t able to containing a god. Her screams were still fresh in his mind as was her unconscious body at the edge of the river.

“Mr. Bu thank you for showing me all this this and for the quixotic job offer. It’s all very impressive but I’m afraid I have to decline.”

Song Bu sighed deeply. “Well these things are smoother when there is cooperation but sometimes people need to be conscripted into the cause. Isn’t that right Colonel Ching?” The colonel nodded to the twins and they pulled pistols.

“Don’t you mean shanghaied?” said Teo.

“That’s a derogatory term sir. I prefer to call it ‘kidnapping,’” said Bu smiling.

In Chinese, Colonel Ching told Lei to detain Teo. Lei produced a pair of handcuffs and walked towards the professor. Teo understood what the colonel said. Thanks to the possession the previous night he had been able to absorb the Mackenzie’s ability to speak Cantonese.

As Lei stepped towards Teo, the professor stood up and flung his chair at Lei. The male twin avoided the chair but he could not avoid Teo who was right behind it. Teo landed a solid right cross to Lei’s face. He disarmed Lei with a fancy wristlock he had also gained from Agent Mackenzie. Then Teo grabbed Lei in a headlock and put the gun on his forehead. Teo spun around to face Colonel Ching and Xia. 

“Out of the way, I’m getting out of here,” said Teo.

“The only place you are going is to hell,” cried the colonel. 

“Ching hold your fire,” yelled Bu. The colonel was about to ignore the order when an explosion from above rocked the room. Chunks of ceiling crashed onto the colonel and he collapsed to the ground. Xia jumped under the glass desk for protection. Teo pushed Lie into a nearby wall and jumped behind a large metal trunk. There was smoke and dust everywhere.  Using the smoke as cover, Keegan Calder repelled into the room from the hole in the ceiling. She came down firing an MP5 submachine gun in the direction of the twins. Lei joined his sister at the desk and flipped it over for cover. Calder threw a flashbang grenade at the twins then yelled at Teo cover his eyes. The grenade went off. Its blinding light and loud explosion disoriented the twins. Calder used the temporary reprieve to throw a harness over Teo’s waist. She pulled him close and slapped a button on her chest. “Hold on,” she yelled as she and Teo were yanked up through the hole in the ceiling. Keegan landed on her feet on the floor above while Teo fell on his ass with a loud thud onto the floor next to a two-foot tall winch. 

Shots came up through the floor as Daedalus agents began to fill the storage room below. Keegan unhooked her harness and in one smooth motion turned her MP5 towards the hole and started firing. Teo fumbled with his harness as shots whizzed by him. Keegan yanked Teo from the floor and in one motion whipped out a Ka-bar bayonet from her leg sheath and cut the harness off him. “Jesus,” said Teo.

“If you want to keep winning that game of life, you’ll do what I tell you,” said Calder. From below, the duo heard Xia shout commands at the Daedalus agents. Half the men kept firing while the other half ran from the room. “They’re coming up,” said Teo.

“You speak Chinese?” asked Calder. 

“I learned it last night,” said Teo. 

Calder gave him a curious look. She had a question in mind but she stowed it away for later. “We’ve got to go.” Calder grabbed Teo’s arm and led him to an exit door on to a fire escape.  As they exited, a group of men burst from a door below and began firing. “Hold on to the railing,” said Calder. She took out a detonator from her pocket. 

“Wait,” said Teo but it was too late. Calder pressed the button. Explosions went off on the bolts that secured the staircase to the wall, separating the landing where Teo and Calder stood from the one below. Teo and Calder’s section crashed down and crushed the on men below on their way to the ground.  Teo hit the sidewalk hard, knocking the wind out of him and numbing his right leg.

“Come on,” cried Calder. Once again the red head landed on her feet like a cat. She pulled Teo up.  

“Where are we going?” yelled Teo. Calder did not answer. She ducked under Teo’s armpit and led him down the alley where a white van was waiting with the side door open. Calder threw Teo into the van. “Get us out of here Thompson,” cried Calder. The dark man in the driver’s seat slammed his foot on the gas pedal. The van took off with a screech of its tires, out of the alley and onto Worth Street.

Chango Verses The Ants Part 2 (November 22, 2015)

At a furious pace, Teo and Lei drew more of Chango’s essence into themselves. As they leeched Chango’s energy, the god’s aura dimmed. Chango lashed out at the two mediums. He hurled bolts of electricity and struck them. The currents ran through Teo’s soul and made him thrash with the shock. His consciousness seared with pain and he considered cutting his connection to Chango. However, Lei’s Icarus suit was already illuminated up to his waist. Teo’s suit was only lit up to his knees. Teo feared what would happen to him and to Calder if Lei and Daedalus Corporation managed to posses Chango before Teo did.

Through his connection with Chango, Teo could see events in the physical world. He saw Calder was in trouble. She had used up her drone balls and was in a standoff with Colonel Ching and Lei’s twin sister, Xia. Backup Daedalus guards were running up the hill on the other side of the monument. Soon Calder would be under siege from all sides.

Teo wanted to warn Calder but Chango hit with another round of electricity. Both men howled with pain.  Teo sensed Chango exploring his mind. Teo tried to keep the god at bay but his attention was split between the possession and keeping track of Calder, who in order to avoid being overrun, had shot out a nearby window and jumped inside the monument.

The split in Teo’s attention allowed Chango to read the young professor’s thoughts. The god laughed. “You should go save your woman before they kill her,” said Chango.

“She’s not my woman,” cried Teo.

“Oh no, then what is this?” asked Chango. An image flashed in Teo’s mind of him and Calder having sex. Teo sensed that this was more than a vision. It felt like a memory. Teo shook off the image. Chango was capable of deception and trickery. Teo refused to be fooled by the god.

“That never happened,” he cried.

“Not yet,” laughed Chango. “You are seeing future events. Memories yet to come, but only if you and this other pest survive this encounter, which I don’t think you will.” Chango reached deeper into Teo’s mind. “Let's see how you die,” he said.

As Chango explored Teo’s thoughts, the young professor’s attention slipped back to Calder. She retreated up a set of stairs higher into the monument as Daedalus agents pursued her. Calder’s trusty MP5 was silent, its bullets lodged in the bodies of Colonel Ching’s men. Calder was down to her pistol and Teo realized that it would be empty soon. Teo watched as Calder hunkered down by a wall for cover. She peeked around the wall and found Ching’s position. She breathed deeply and a sense of calm came over her as bullets smashed the concrete above her head. She took out the clip from the gun and counted the bullets. Teo knew one of those bullets was meant for the Colonel’s head.

Teo felt Chango continue to probe. Chango seemed unfazed, though the duo still attempted to posses him. Lei’s Icarus suit was full with Chango’s energy. Teo’s suit was almost filled too. Chango came across a memory in Teo’s mind. He unleashed another lightning attack on the two mediums. Once again the two men convulsed with pain.

“Where is she?” cried the god. “Where’s Oshun?”

Teo could barely focus long enough to speak. “She’s gone. She’ll never see this storm.”

“You insignificant ant. How dare you defy your betters?” said Chango. “You’ll pay for this with your lives.” Chango’s aura began to fluctuate and a sense of dread came over Teo as the god grabbed hold of him.

At the moment Lei’s suit became fully lit, the young man attempted to take possession of the lightning god. Teo felt the fiery grip around his soul dissipate. Chango turned to Lei. The young man’s light shined bright as a star but was still not equal to the Chango’s aura.

“Bend to the will of your new master,” cried Lei. Chango froze in place and his light dimmed a little. Lei seemed to control the god’s essence. Lei raised his hand and Chango floated over to him. Lei smiled. “You’ve lost professor,” he said. “This god’s power belongs to Daedalus now.”

Then Teo heard a chilling laughter emanating from Chango. “You want my power, little master -- then take it,” said Chango. The god’s spirit shrank down to the size of a softball and dived into Lei’s chest. Lei cried out with joy as he became one with universe. Slowly, Chango’s light began to expand within Lei. “Wait,” cried Lei. “It’s too much.”  Yet the light continued to grow. “Stop. I’m the master. I control you and I say stop.”

Teo heard Chango’s laugher get louder. “You don’t control me anymore than a boat controls the ocean. You exist at my pleasure ‘little master’ and I am displeased.” Teo watched as Chango’s light engulfed Lei. The Daedalus agent’s howl echoed throughout the darkness and then went silent.

There was nothing left of Lei. Only Teo’s soul and Chango’s light remained in the nexus. Teo was next on Chango’s list. He did not wait for an invitation. Teo bolted. Chango followed.

“Where are you going, Teo?” cried Chango. “Don’t you want to be a master too? Come, let me show you what true mastery is!”

Teo looked back and saw Chango chasing him. The god caught up to Teo and began to encase him. Teo felt an icy grip on his soul as he disappeared into the light.  He tried to free himself but the light pulled him into its undertow. Teo fought but he grew weak. He was about to die. There was nothing he could do.

The light was up to Teo’s neck. It was about to consume him when Teo sensed a different force within Chango. This force felt warm and familiar. Teo’s soul expanded and he was able to move slightly out of Chango’s grasp. The force kept charging Teo’s soul until it went in to overdrive. With one final push it hurled Teo out of Chango.  Teo was flung out of the nexus where his sprit was swallowed by the darkness and he disappeared.

Chango Verses the Ants Part 1 (August 31, 2015) 

Teo and Calder arrived at the base of the monument to find Colonel Ching and the Tuen Twins preparing for the coming of Chango. The duo took cover on the opposite side of the base of spire. Calder pulled out a round metal ball from her rucksack and placed it on the ground. She then took out a tablet, pressed a button the screen and the metal ball came to life.  The sides of the ball separated from the main body forming two wheels. A small panel slid to the side and revealed a tiny night vision camera and microphone in the center of the ball. Calder turned the camera on Teo and his image appeared on her screen. Calder then guided the little ball around the building until it reached the opposite side, where she spotted several Daedalus agents. Calder brought the little ball to stop near some potted plants. From there the two Project 40 agents had a clear view of Daedalus team.  They saw Lei wearing the black Daedalus possession suit. The circuit lines at Lei’s feet were illuminated and the light rose steadily up his calves. Teo and Calder looked at each other. “It’s begun,” said Teo. “He’s made contact.”

“Looks like these Daedalus bastards are already winning at the game possession,” said Calder.

Lie was in a deep meditative trance. A low chant emanated from his mouth. His sister Xia, waived incense around Lei using her free hand to keep the sticks from crumbling in the wind. Colonel Ching observed the ritual while a Daedalus guard fought to keep an umbrella over him.

The Colonel pulled out a set of binoculars from his leather coat. He examined the approaching clouds. Calder pulled out her own binoculars from her ruck and handed them to Teo. The professor peaked around the building and looked at the approaching storm. In the distance, giant grey clouds blanketed the sky. Lightning flashed within a cyclone at the center of the storm. The dark clouds were about half a mile a way but Teo saw Chango floating in the sky. The god’s appearance was straight out of Teo’s textbooks on the Yoruba religion, where Chango was described as a young man, with black African features.  He wore a red sarong and carried two large axes. One axe flashed with lighting while the other rattled with thunder.

The storm continued to make its way through the city of Santiago. Anything that did not bend or cede to its strength was forced out of the way. Trees were knocked down; cars rolled over; people hit the ground. “I thought hurricanes got weaker when they made land fall,” said Teo.

“They do,” said Calder. She wiped the screen on her pad with her forearm, pushed a button and atmospheric readings appeared on the screen. “That thing is registering as category 3 storm on Saffir-Simpson scale. That’s not normal. It has to be Chango. He must be fueling it.” The rain intensified and another series of lighting flashes and thunder rolls rocked the duo. “It’s show time doc,” said Calder. “Lie’s suit is already filling up with Chango’s energy. Time for us to get in the game.” Calder held out the dark ball containing Teo’s Daedalus suit. Teo starred at the figure in the dark clouds. Legend said that Chango eyes glowed with fire and his voice boomed like explosions. Teo was not sure he wanted to meet such an individual.

“What’s wrong?” asked Calder.

“Oshun called human being ant’s who interfering in the affairs of giants.”

“Ants can be powerful creatures doc. Haven’t you ever read ‘Leiningen Versus the Ants?’”

“That story didn’t turn out so well for the ants.”

“Fine then, you’re Flik from, ‘A Bug’s life.’ Those ants had a better ending.”

“Never heard of it,” said Teo.

Calder shook her head. “Let’s just say those ants had a better ending.” She continued to hold out the ball. Teo took off his soaked lucky jacket.  He rolled it up, kissed it, and laid it on the ground in front of him. He then took the ball from Calder. He let out a deep breath and placed the ball on his chest. The ball changed from solid to liquid, enveloping Teo’s body from his head to his toes. Teo heard the Daedalus suit hum with electricity as the silver circuit lines connected to one another and continue to flow to the chakra points. When the suit completed its transformation, Teo gave Calder the thumbs up.

Calder went to work.  She placed the display pad on the ground and reached in her bag for several more little round drones. Using her the remote control on her pad, she rolled each one out in a half circle to form a perimeter from where she could keep an eye out for any approaching guards. She pulled her MP5 from her back to her chest and nodded at Teo.

The professor closed his eyes. He began breathing rhythmically adding a low chant of his own. Soon he no longer felt the rain on his face or the wind on his body. The world darkened and Teo awoke in nothing. The light from his soul was dim and pale. His spiritual image was an inverse of his physical self. His brown skin and black Daedalus suit were a pale luminescence, while the circuit lines shined dark as midnight.

Teo floated through the spirit searching for Chango and Lei. He came upon two additional white lights in the distance, one large the other small. He headed in their direction. On the way, Teo saw a group of spirits swirling in the nothingness like a school of fish in the ocean. He tries to ask them for directions but they scatter before he reaches them. Teo found that odd. Spirits always gravitated towards him. Now they avoided him. He wondered if his encounter with Oshun had anything do with it.

As he got closer to the lights Teo could make out their forms. Lei’s spiritual form was similar to Teo’s.  Lei orbited the mountainous mystical form of Chango, who was a tall as an apartment building and glowed as bright as the morning sun. He possessed the muscular physique of an Olympic track sprinter. He wore a white sarong around his waist and a fiery crown in his head. In his hand were his twin battleaxes, which he used to direct the storm the way a conductor used a baton.

Teo arrived as Lei was siphoning off bits of Chango’s energy. The energy made Lei shine as bright as a small star in the night sky. The large god occasionally took notice of the smaller light hovering around its edge and swatted at it alike some bothersome mosquito. Yet, Lei avoided Chango’s blow and kept draining the god.

Teo approached the two beings but kept some distance from them. His own light was not as bright as the other two so they did not notice him. Teo began absorbing Chango into himself. Instantly, he felt the warm return of his connection to the universe.  Once again Teo saw and heard everything at once. He lived lifetimes in seconds and spent a lifetime in a single moment. He heard the ocean speak and the wind laugh. He felt the joy of a young bird taking flight for the first time and the agony of a leaf as it separated from its branch and landed on a cold patch ground.

Through his connection with Chango, Teo saw Calder back in the real world. She still crouched by his body’s side. Her thoughts were open to him. He sensed her struggle to focus on the mission while she pushed away desire ask to Teo to let her speak with Mac once more. She wanted to close her eyes and pretend he was there, to hold him close and kiss him. Teo also felt Calder’s dread. It was on a mission like this one, chasing this very same god that Mac had died. Teo realized Calder would rather be damned to hell a hundred times than to lose another partner. He saw her in the real world as she picked up her display pad and zoomed in with the drone’s camera on Colonel Ching and the twins. Teo sensed Calder’s burning hot anger. She held all of Daedalus responsible for Mac’s death and she wanted to them to pay.

Teo wanted to return to his body and comfort her. Yet he pushed those thoughts away. He had a job to do and it was the only thing standing between him and his old life. He trusted Calder not to give into her pain and do something that would get them both killed. Teo turned his attention back to Chango and Lie. Even in the spirit world, the young’s Asian’s Daedalus circuit lines showed his progress. They now shined brightly from his feet to his hips. Teo and began drawing more of Chango’s energy. At that moment, Lei noticed the flow of energy going from the god to Teo. The young Asian used mystical pings on Teo to try and find his location in the physical realm. Teo used some of the energy he had taken from Chango to create a magical barrier to block several of them but a few got through. Lei knew where they were.

Teo felt the young Asian send a message to his sister Xia. “We are not alone,” he said in Chinese. “The professor and agent Calder are nearby.” The colonel pulled out his QSZ-92, from his shoulder holster. He touched a communications device in his ear that looked like a hearing aid and began barking orders at his men.

“Search the area for the professor and the woman agent. Kill them both on sight.”

“Song Bu wants the doctor alive,” said Xia.

“Bu is not here. And we will not need the professor, once your brother succeeds.”

After seeing Lei’s trick, Teo decided to perform one of his own. He focused on his body and a part of his consciousness returned to it. “Calder they know we’re here.”

“No shit doctor,” whispered Calder. She dropped down on to her belly to avoid being seen.

“I’m cutting my connection to Chango. We need to get out of here,” said Teo.  

“No. Keep going. I’ll distract them. Once you have the god we can take care of all these bastards.”

Teo was about to protest but Calder already had her data pad in hand. Daedalus agentsx headed up the hill in an organized sweep using two man teams. Calder sent one of her rolling drones out to meet the first group. The grass was short but tall enough to hide the little ball until it was almost underneath the foot of the lead Daedalus men. Calder waited until the agents almost stepped on the drone before detonating it. The force of the explosion sent both men flying in the air. They fell on their backs three feet away and were knocked out cold. She sent the next drone in search of another group. She found a team taking cover on the ground several feet from where the first two men landed. Calder rolled the drone between agents and detonated it. The men were unconscious before they fell back on the ground. Calder was about to send out the next drone when the shooting began.