The best thing about art galleries these days were their modern art sections Averi had decided. Modern art liked to utilize unique mediums to their fullest, and here lately more and more artists had begun to use computers or tv screens as a way of framing art. They would often quote something about how art was framed said a lot about the piece itself. Averi could appreciate it the theory to some degree, but what she appreciated more was the fact that there was a large monitor hanging in display in the modern art section of her current target museum. It was used for displaying a piece that rotated through many moving images to make a cohesive image of another sort. Averi would have simply called it a short movie but for some reason the way it was organized made it an art piece to be framed in a museum and not displayed at some film festival or another.
None of this mattered, though. The main point that mattered was that there was a monitor in the art museum itself, making Averi's job that much easier.
The monitor, hanging on its wall, flickered to life in the stillness of the darkened museum. Static displayed on the tv, whites and grays and blacks flickering in and out to play together and make the static crackle visually and aurally. A white dot appeared in the center of the static, stretching into a thin line horizontally across the center of the screen. Black, clothed fingers pressed through the middle of the line, grabbing the top half of the static and pulling it up as though it were a cloth curtain to reveal more pure white behind it. A boot followed shortly after, pressing through the opening made in the static and continuing through the screen and out into reality.
Averi fell forward onto the ground in front of the monitor, landing hard on her hands and knees and hissing as she felt the jolt go through her bones and travel up into her body.
What happened? What's going on?
The monitor behind Averi flickered back into pure black as it turned off while Averi pressed her fingers to her temple to focus her mind and keep it from getting distracted by the voices in her head. Jules had taught her that helpful trick. I'm perfectly all right, thank you kindly for asking.
What happened? The woman's voice in her head spoke more sharply.
I miscalculated how high up on the wall the monitor was positioned. I lost my footing and fell. Averi picked herself up off the floor, pulling her clothes back into position and pulling dark curls that poked out beneath her black cap back into position at the side of her face rather than letting them continue to obscure her vision in front of her face.
Did anyone hear you?
If they did they're not saying. I haven't heard an alarm sounding so I am continuing under the assumption that Adam did his job properly. Where is Adam? Have you heard from him?
I'm right here. Can we cut the fucking chatter and get to work ladies? A mental voice that Averi inherently recognized as Adam's cut in. Averi still didn't get telepathy or how she was able to discern how a voice was male or female in her mind, but she thanked her lucky stars that she had found a telepath somehow regardless.
Averi grinned to herself at Adam's curtness but kept her own replies intelligent and polite, disregarding the air of cockiness what was always inherent in her own mental voice. Polite as ever, dear.
Averi, where are you? I thought you knew where the door was, the woman's voice returned.
Be patient, love, I'm on my way. Miss me that much?
Just get here!
You and your brother share remarkably similar characteristics, has anyone ever told you that? I'm on my way now. Just wait for my signal.
Wait. What signal? We didn't discuss a signal, the woman sounded rushed, confused, and scared she had already messed something up.
Averi made her way up the stairs to the rooftop access. She pressed open the large metal door and watched as Jules jumped up, shocked by the sudden creak of the door. Jules turned from the window to face Averi, glaring at her as Jules started towards her.
"That signal, love. Don't give me that look." Averi leaned in to kiss Jules on the cheek as the blonde entered the stairwell. "Now, where is our dear Adam?"
"He's in the park. He started a fire and now he's giving the guards a run for their money," Jules answered as the pair made their way down the stairs. Jules had tried to pull all her hair up into her black cap, but blonde strands fell out of the rim of the hat and served as a stark contrast for the darkness the night gave them. Averi reached forward to tug on one of those strands and Jules jumped, turning to glare at Averi as she placed a hand at the back of her head to rub her head slightly.
"So jumpy, Julia," Averi tsked at her.
"You know I hate that," Jules snapped back at her, more on edge than usual.
Averi pursed her lips together at that tension, and then she took her hand and pulled the other woman to a stop. She focused dark rimmed eyes fiercely onto Jules's blue ones, all laughter dying on her lips as she took a very serious tone with the other woman. "It's not too late to turn back. This is the last chance you will have to change your mind."
Jules hesitated, then pulled her hand from Averi's and continued her descent into the moonlit museum. "I'm here. We're doing this."
Averi watched Jules's back the rest of the way down. Memories of their first time meeting floated through her mind. It had been a night, not unlike this one, and it had been Jules's own room that had been the target. Call it fate or call it coincidence, but Averi had found a young, rich girl with a streak of rebellion to her. It had taken some carefully placed flirtatious comments and sly grins to get Jules to not call the cops. Then it had taken patience and careful timing to get Jules intrigued enough to speak with Averi the next time she had appeared. But Averi couldn't let Jules slip through her fingers, and her hunch that the beautiful young woman in the mansion might just be of value to her had proved true. Jules had warmed to Averi's careful charms and Averi had fallen head over heels for the girl.
Fast forward several months and Averi had pitched an idea to Jules and her twin brother, who had been easy to convince with Jules there. There was a connection between brother and sister that Averi never quite understood, but two for one wasn't a bad deal in a heist. Averi didn't fool herself. For Jules and Adam it wasn't about the money. The two of them had never felt desperation for finances. That much had been obvious by their home. For them it was about the thrill. Rich kids looking to get their taste of the danger.
It's not about the thrill for me. Jules' mental voice cut through Averi's thoughts, causing Averi to snap out of her reverie and look more closely at Jules. Julia was looking into Averi's eyes with such intensity that Averi faltered under that gaze. Jules was the only one who could do throw Averi off her typical game. She didn't have to say what she was thinking. Averi was linked to her mind, she knew. Jules was here because she loved Averi, and this was what Averi wanted.
Averi hesitated when Adam's mental voice cut through her mind. I'm here for the thrill, he volunteered. Averi couldn't help but roll her eyes, annoyed by the obvious amusement in Adam's mental voice at having ruined a moment between his sister and her girlfriend. Sometimes the mental connection didn't help anything.
How much time do we have, Adam? Averi asked him mentally.
How much time do you need? Adam responded. She got the impression from his mental voice that the brief amusement was gone to be replaced by a moment of high stress. Bless his heart for the risks he took for them.
All night, Averi quipped, amused at herself. Adam didn't seem to find it quite so funny when she had jokes at his expense.
You have thirty minutes. Forty-five if I really push my luck.
Then really push your luck, Jules cut into the conversation. She couldn't miss anything between them, as she was their link. But she could easily hold conversations where one of them couldn't hear the other. That thought nagged at Averi's mind.
Trust. She needed to trust Jules.
"Do you know where we're going?" Jules asked aloud, walking through the grey-blue abyss as moonlight settled on her back. The art museum looked foreign in the night like this. It was empty of any guests, no people crowding about in their attempt to find meaning in nothing. The sculptures and paintings all looked like misshapen landmarks and Averi almost doubted her ability to recall the mental map she had made over days of scouting. The high walls seemed impossibly close in on her now; she barely recognized the museum.
"Through that arch way," Averi pointed to a conjoining room. "Just follow me."
Jules fell in line behind Averi as Averi picked up the pace, stepping into the next room and walking with muffled footsteps. The boots were quieter than the heels she preferred, but they were far from silent. Thankfully, Adam kept the guards occupied so Averi wouldn't have to worry too terribly much about her own footsteps.
"Wait, what the fuck is this?"
Averi stopped in her tracks, pivoting on one foot to look at Jules as she stood beneath the skylight. Averi was vaguely aware of the strangeness of two black pedestals on either side of Jules but it didn't strike her as odd when she had passed them herself. She turned more now, looking around her to find three more arranged in a circle at equidistance from each other. On top of each she noted there were white candles and her nose caught the faint smell of dissolved smoke, as if the candles had been burning at some point.
But Jules wasn't gesturing to any of those things. Instead her fingers pointed towards the ground and Averi followed that line with her eyes. She tilted her head and took a couple of steps backwards, staring in confusion at black paint against light brown wood. As she stepped backwards, the strange markings became clearer. A pentagram was painted on the floor, with the pedestals at each point of the star and other strange markings within the star.
"What. The fuck. Is this?" Jules echoed, standing stock still and staring at Averi.
Averi shrugged her shoulders. "It's probably just some artistic piece making a statement about neo-paganism in modern society," Averi said gently to try to sooth Jules's anxiety. She had been anxious ever since they stepped into the building.
"Did you not know this was here? You walked right through it!"
"I hardly noted it. The pedestals are so far apart." Averi made a face of worry as she looked down. "I hope I didn't scuff anything. I would prefer not to leave any traces of our coming behind and scuffing an art piece wouldn't exactly help that desire."
"This isn't right! You were just in here earlier. How did you not notice this?"
"Maybe they just moved it in. Jules calm down," Averi hissed at her. "You need to not panic."
"And you need to stop treating this like it's all a game. There's a fucking pentagram where there shouldn't be and I--- ahhh!" Jules screamed out suddenly, holding her hands to her head. Averi felt Adam and Jules vanish from her mind as Jules cut the mental link between the three of them while she fell to her knees. "Averi, make it stop!"
Averi ran to Jules's side, kneeling on the ground beside her and putting her hands on the woman's back and shoulder to try to steady her. "Jules? What's going on? What's wrong?" She asked the girl in rushed tones.
Jules tilted her head up, a trail of crimson running from her nose to her lip. Her eyes looked wild and strained and she looked positively ready to kill. "That," Jules snarled between clenched teeth. Averi followed Jules's line of sight and her eyes went wide. Standing under the archway at the other side of the room was a being nearly as tall as the girls were when they were standing. Except it was on two legs and two very large arms. It looked at them with four, large black eyes and short tentacles flowed out from the nape of its neck, writhing together. A large glob of spit fell onto the floor from its slightly agape mouth with two large and sharp canines. It opened its mouth, revealing rows of sharpened teeth, and let out a roar that made Jules scream and clutch at her head again while Averi winced at the intense volume.
"We have to move, now!" Averi yelled, grabbing Jules's arm and pulling her off the ground as she took off into the room the way they had come. Jules stumbled to her feet but kept up with Averi. Averi didn't let her grip on Jules loosen for a second, knowing that if she lost the woman she might not get her back again. Averi made her way for the tv on the wall they had just passed to enter the room, but right before the two of them could reach the wall it burst at exactly the point where the monitor had been and the monster pummeled into the room, coming to a stop in front of them. It turned to face them as Averi stopped short, clinging to Jules's arm to keep the woman with her. She wasn't letting Jules fall behind no matter what.
"The roof," Jules muttered. Jules moved slowly and carefully. She took the softest of steps to the side, butthe hellhound hadn't made another move. Averi heard a low grumbling reverberating through the room and realized it was coming from the monster before them, a growl that served as a warning. But still Jules took one soft step. Then, seeing that the hound hadn't noticed too much or only responded to quick movements, Jules took another. Still the hound didn't react, so Averi lifted her own foot to follow in the same pattern.
The hound roared at them again.
"Not fast enough," Averi snarled as she pulled Jules along. Jules looked in pain again as Averi dragged her through the darkened museum room with the hound pummeling through a sculpture to try to cut the quickest path to the girls. Averi wanted to stop and check on Jules, but she couldn't with that thing still on their tails.
Averi made for the stairwell, but the hound had either known about the exit, guessed their path, or understood Jules when she had said 'roof' because its attempt to cut through the room hadn't been to get to them faster. Instead, it came out in front of them. It came to a dead stop in front of them and cut off their escape. It stood still with its backed hunched over and arms on the ground.
"Do you remember the night we met?" Jules said softly, as the two stopped dead in their tracks at a standoff with the beast again.
"Of course I remember," Averi whispered back. "Why?"
"I thought you were reckless and stupid and inconsiderate the moment I realized you were robbing me."
Averi gave a short laugh, hand tightening on Jules's arm. "What changed your mind?"
"I didn't change my mind. I just realized I loved you for those things. And if we're going to die you should know."
"Even the inconsiderate part?"
"You're not really inconsiderate."
"I have my own confession to make before we die," Averi continued, her voice growing softer. "I summoned that thing."
"You what?!" Jules yelled, jerking out of Averi's hand to turn and face her. Averi felt it before she saw it. The hound jumped on Jules, tackling her to the ground and snarling in her face. Averi screamed as Jules let out a sharp scream of her own, Jules' hat falling off her head and hair falling like a golden halo on the hard wood floor beneath her back.
"Get--- off!" Jules yelled as she put up her hand to shove the beast off. Her hand never connected. Instead a force spread from the point of her hand, throwing everything and everyone back. Averi fell hard on her back, slamming her head against the floor and seeing white as the force hit her. But Averi made herself scramble to her feet as quickly as possible, needing to see what had happened to Jules and feeling very confused about where that burst of power had come from.
But the beast wasn't on top of Jules anymore. It was lying in a crumpled heap on the ground as Jules picked herself up onto her elbows. Blood streaked down from both nostrils now and she didn't look pissed. She looked terrified.
"Jules?" Averi whispered softly, taking a step towards the girl. A growling sound made Averi's head snap towards the beast again. She watched as it picked itself up off the floor, snarling as it turned to face Jules again. Jules started to scramble to her feet as well, nearly falling again as she slipped on her own feet in a desperate attempt to get up and face down her opponent. The hound launched itself at Jules.
"Stop!" Averi screamed at the top of her lungs, shutting her eyes to try to protect herself from the image of Jules being attacked by the beast. When she heard no sound of flesh being ripped apart, she opened her eyes carefully to see the beast standing perfectly still, all four eyes still fixated on Jules.
"It wants to know what you want it to do with me," Jules spoke up, her voice rasping with effort as her eyes stayed fixed on the beast. Anger had written itself back into her features.
"Y-you… you can understand it?" Averi asked, trembling where she stood as she watched the pair. Her mind was reeling over what had happened. She had almost watched her girlfriend be torn apart by a thing she hadn't even meant to summon and somehow her girlfriend had developed telekinetic abilities Averi hadn't even realized she had the capability of developing.
"It communicates telepathically. Though it hurts. Give it commands. Tell it not to fucking attack me again." Averi flinched at the harsh tone in Jules's voice.
"Stand down," Averi spoke to the beast now, using as firm a voice as she could muster, though fear threatened to creep back into her words. "Do not harm her. Ever." The beast sat back on its haunches, still bent over with its hands on the floor, but gone was the snarling as it settled into obedience.
"Why?" Jules asked, turning to look at Averi. "What the hell were you thinking, Averi?"
"I-I… I don't know," She repeated.
"You do too fucking know. Don't give me that shit. What were you doing?!"
"I just… They said nothing would happen," Averi's voice got softer on that last part as she watched Jules's eyes grow big with shock.
"They? Who are 'they'?" Jules said the word with such disgust. "What are we really doing here tonight?"
"I… I stole from some people. This was before I met you, but… I stole something I shouldn't have. They were going to kill me unless I did something for them," her voice cracked over the words as she silently begged Jules not to go. "They said it would open a door. They said nothing would come through and nothing would go in the door, it would just be a door they could control when they needed it. They needed me because the wood on this floor it's," She shook her head, scrunching her eyes as she tried to process what she never understood in the first place. "It's old or something. It's from a specific tree with power that got cut down and reused for building a lot of places. This was the most accessible… for someone like me. All I had to do was to write the correct runes on the right kind of wood and perform the ritual with my own blood." She uncurled her hand that had been clenched against her chest and pulled the glove off of it with her free hand. She held up the palm to show the fresh wound.
"That was what took you so long to let me in earlier," Jules muttered, standing straighter as Averi watched anger fade into disbelief at the betrayal.
"I set this up earlier," Averi nodded. "But… I couldn't do this alone. I needed someone who could watch my back in case things go wrong."
Averi nodded again. "Someone who could scope out the room in case anyone who shouldn't be here showed up. I didn't know I was summoning anything, we weren't supposed to be in any danger," Averi's voice pleaded with Jules to understand as she reached for the woman. Jules jerked back and took a step away.
"You didn't happen to come to my room that night. You scoped me out. I was just part of your plan from the start."
"I didn't mean for you to fall in love with me. Or for me to fall in love with you," Averi whispered.
"Fuck you!" Jules snapped at her suddenly, Averi winced and the hound snarled slightly but Jules didn't pay either any mind. "Don't you dare use that word on me. Not now." Jules turned to walk towards the hound. Then she walked past it, heading for the door behind it. The hound watched Jules carefully as Averi stood and watched her just as intently.
"Where are you going?" Averi asked, her voice empty.
"Away from you," Jules snapped as the door to the stairwell slammed shut behind her, leaving Averi and the hound in the vast darkness of the art museum.
Averi stood for a long moment, letting the silence wash over her as she stared at the door. Then she turned her eyes to the hound, weakness and vulnerability disappearing into cold emptiness. "You answer to me, correct?" The hound simply stared at her.
"I am taking that for a yes. Find me Damon Contare, There are words he and I need to exchange," she commanded the beast as she stalked off towards a backroom."And bring him to me alive." The hound bounded off to obey her command as Averi found the door to an empty security office. She entered the room and the monitors all flickered to static. She climbed into the closest tv, the whiteness opening up to her before the monitors all blinked off into blackness.