The boat floated in the silence of the night, sliding effortlessly across vast expanses of black waters whose stillness seemed almost dangerous here, their depths full of dark secrets hidden from the mere mortals. The thick fog blurred their vision, but Talia had navigated these areas often enough that she could now follow the invisible path to shore. Their guide also appeared to be just as competent as he steered their small embarkation in the right direction, so she offered no unsolicited councils, pulling her coat tighter around herself when a breeze of freezing air hit them directly.
Next to her, Tigris slightly turned her head in Talia’s direction while keeping her gaze lowered in a show of respect. The omega was never unaware of her place, one of the qualities Talia appreciated the most in her fellow colleague. “Are you alright, my lady?”
“Fine,” she answered promptly. “I simply tire of this endless journey.”
Their guide flinched, clearly taking the remark as a criticism to his own abilities and, to Talia’s great amusement, he rounded his back a little more as if to hide himself from her sharp gaze. A submissive posture typical of betas, offered almost as an automatic response to a powerful alpha’s displeasure. The scent of his fear filled Talia’s senses and she was almost tempted to take pity on the poor man. Almost.
Instead she said nothing and their short voyage continued in complete silence.
Not for the first time, she wished her father had sent someone else for this mission. Other members of the League could have accomplished the task just as easily and using Talia for such an insignificant errand seemed almost insulting. No matter. Ra’s Al Ghul’s word was law and she could not shirk from his authority any more than the lowest member of their community could. Moreover, despite the sheer amount of boredom endured since she had departed from Addis-Abeba, something in her father’s voice when he had given these new orders had piqued her curiosity.
The information she was currently working on was not much. Merely a location. Not that Talia expected more considering that all eyes were currently turned towards the remnants of the grand battle that had taken place between the Justice League and an armada of aliens threatening to invade their planet. The menace was such that even her father had secretly deployed their own forces on the ground, swiftly dealing with the attackers that had escaped Earth’s mightiest heroes’ notice. After all, even diverging parties ought to unite when the fate of their shared world was endangered.
The Justice League ultimately succeeded in pushing back the invaders. Of course they did. Talia hadn’t expected anything less from her beloved. She herself had been in Ethiopia, dealing with a few alien survivors, when Ra’s called her back. The threat had been vanquished; it was time to return to their duties.
Tigris’ voice pulled her out of her thoughts. “We have arrived.”
Talia blinked, focusing on her environment once more. Like curtains being opened, the grey fog slowly faded away to reveal the shorelines of a land that seemed to be untouched by the mechanisms applying to the rest of the world. Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, only visible to the most experienced sailors’ eyes and hidden from everyone else, there was an island whose secretive nature was such that no maps showed its location. The people inhabiting these lands were recluse, satisfied with their simple way of life. A long time ago, they had offered sanctuary to Ra’s Al Ghul, recognizing some of their beliefs in his teachings. The shores of their home had been opened to their family ever since.
And yesterday, right as the earth shook under the indescribable ferocity of a world defining fight between titans, the Elder of this small community had contacted Ra’ with a request urgent enough that her father had pulled Talia from her previous mission and sent her right away.
“Keep your head down and do not speak unless I order you to,” Talia said to Tigris. “These people follow the ancient caste hierarchy and will not take well to an unattached omega speaking their mind openly.”
Tigris nodded. “Yes, my Lady.”
“I wonder why my father picked you to escort me on this journey,” Talia mused aloud. “A beta would have certainly been more eligible for the parameters of this mission.”
Tigris’ face betrayed nothing. “Whatever his reasons might have been, I am honored to have been chosen for this task.”
Talia smirked. Truth to be told, she appreciated the other woman’s company. A sharp mind and an even sharper tongue that were carefully hidden behind a soft face and a guarded composure that none could shake. Tigris never spoke more than she had to but there was no hiding the intelligence in the depths of her dark eyes, the piercing gaze of a hawk aware of their surroundings at all times, predator looking for its next prey. In many ways, she was the perfect assassin, quick and efficient and as elusive as a shadow. Talia herself did not know much about her strange companion’s past; that alone was enough to speak of Tigris’ impressive skills.
The puzzling contrast between the woman’s omega nature and the brutality she was capable of was absolutely fascinating and a subject Talia would love to study further. But for now, they had a mission to accomplish.
The boat rocked as it finally touched land and their guide immediately jumped out of it, safely tying it up to what probably served as a quay before offering a hand to Talia. His fingers were slightly trembling.
Graciously taking his hand, Talia got out of the small embarkation, quickly followed by Tigris, and frowned as she looked at her surroundings. In the dead of the night with a dull black sky that allowed no stars to shine, the fishing village seemed nearly lifeless while its locals slept, a few torches and lanterns scattered across the habitations the only providing source of light of the area.
And right on the other side of the quay, a man standing near a jeep served as their only welcome committee.
Talia turned towards their guide. “Wait for us,” she ordered, walking away before the man even started vigorously nodding his head.
Lifting her chin high, she strode across the wet, wooden surface of the dock, her footsteps light and airy as she made her way to the car. Just as discreet, Tigris followed her obediently, carefully staying behind Talia and perfectly playing the part of the dutiful omega. When they finally reached their interlocutor, the man only spared a curious glance towards Tigris before bowing his head to Talia.
“Lady Talia. Thank you for arriving so promptly.” His scent was weak and uninteresting, the scent of a law level alpha.
“My father honors his old friendships,” was all she said. “However, he failed to state what exactly the matter was.” Talia allowed a note of frustration to leak in her voice, making the man tense with uneasiness.
He swallowed nervously. “Perhaps it would be easier if I showed you.” He awkwardly gestured towards the car, opening the rear door for Talia to get in. She did so without a word, Tigris taking a seat next to her while their newly appointed driver rushed to start the jeep.
Soon, they were off and driving across the village towards the looming forest, diving straight into the dark vegetation and making their way onto unpractical paths which rattled the vehicle so much that Talia had to grab onto the rear seat to keep a still. The other alpha seemed to sense the intensity of her glare and he kept apologizing profusely until the road finally evened out, allowing for a more smoothing excursion.
They drove without any more problems for a little when, suddenly, Tigris poked at Talia’s knee, just once to grab her attention, before tilting her head to her left side. Talia frowned, following her companion’s line of vision. Tigris really must have the eyesight of a hawk because it took a little longer for Talia to notice what the other woman had realized right away.
“Stop the car,” she barked, jumping out of the jeep before it had even came to a stop.
The car headlights were facing the wrong direction, offering barely any light to the area Talia wanted to examine. Holding out her hand to Tigris, she demanded “Give me a flashlight.” Barely a few seconds later, a heavy object was put on her palm and she wrapped her fingers firmly around it, walking between the trees until the reach of the torch could illuminate the zone.
She stopped short at the sight that awaited her.
A little further away, barely noticeable in the dark, a part of the forest appeared to have been utterly destroyed by what could have only been a devastating hurricane. Thick trunks of ancient trees were tore down and scattered all around a massive crater, so deep that Talia was struck by the eerie impression of the earth opening right under her feet, ready to swallow her whole.
Behind her, their driver was breathing a little too heavily, spikes of anxiety marring his scent.
“I supposed this has something to do with what you wish to show me,” Talia said steadily.
“If we could continue,” the alpha pressed tentatively. “Our Elder is best placed to discuss this matter with you.”
Talia ignored him, turning to look at Tigris. “What do you think?”
The other woman lifted her own torch to look towards the sky, brows furrowed in concentration as she observed her surroundings. “This was not a natural phenomenon,” she said simply, showing a line of trunks that had been cut at different levels. “The impact is too neat and the trajectory of the projectile appears to have been too straightforward.” Bowing her head again, Tigris threw a quick, cautious glance at Talia. “Whatever caused this was not human.”
Talia hummed, having reached the same conclusion. Perhaps the invasion had managed to touch even the furthest corners of the world. If so, she could not blame the pitiful alpha for his clear unrest.
They left without further delays, driving for a few more minutes before they finally came upon their final destination. The cottage standing proudly in from of them was solid, if small and a little frugal, and Talia could only assume that whatever it was that fell onto their lands, they did not want to keep it close to the village and its inhabitants. Wise decision.
Sitting on chair next to the front door, she recognized the Elder and leader of this community. The old woman struggled to get up at their arrival but still managed to do so with a dignity that Talia could only appreciate, wrinkled hands holding onto a cane for support. Simultaneously, they both bowed their heads in greeting.
“Elder,” Talia said.
“Lady Talia.” The Elder tilted her head, not acknowledging Tigris but appearing to be unbothered by her presence anyway. “I apologize for the long journey we have imposed on you. Unfortunately, this situation is beyond what we can handle on our own.”
“I’ve seen what happened in the forest.” Talia cut to the chase. “Show me the rest.”
The elderly woman nodded. She was on blockers, so her scent was carefully hidden, but there was no mistaking the spark of relief that crossed through her tired eyes as she pressed her lips together and went to open the front door. “Just you.” Talia nodded and, as a mark of respect, waited until she had disappeared into the cottage before striding towards the door and following her inside.
There was only one room, illuminated by a few candles. Barely furnished and obviously having been uninhabited for a long time, the cabin looked as Spartan as Talia expected it to be. But she was not fooled by mere appearances. After all, even the most decrepit chest could shelter incommensurable treasures.
That was a lesson she was once more reminded of when her curious gaze fell onto the corner of the room and discovered what had been so preciously hidden there.
The sight nearly made her recoil in shock.
It wasn’t possible—… It couldn’t be—…
“How?” she breathed out in astonishment.
There were slight tremors in the Elder’s voice. “He fell from the sky like an avenging demon.” Despite her unease, there was a real repugnance in the tone of her voice. “The earth shook when he touched our lands. I thought it was the end of the world.” She shook her head. “We could not allow this creature near our children.”
“You were wise to contact us,” Talia approved, slowly approaching the table where the unwanted intruder was currently lying, unconscious.
“He is on blockers, but his scent is too strong to be concealed,” the Elder continued. “You sense it too, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Talia said, her amazement growing overpoweringly with each passing moment. She put a hesitant hand on the creature’s shoulder, tracing her fingers against his bare collarbone, the expanses of his neck, his jawline. His face was badly bruised, the skin blue in some places, dried blood under his nose and over his lips, but one could not deny the softness of his features or how pure he looked in that moment, lost to a world of dreams Talia had no access to. The devil masquerading as an angel.
An omega, uh? Talia thought, not without terrible irony. Who would have thought?
“We’ll take him off your hands,” Talia said sternly to the Elder. “He is no longer your responsibility.”
The Elder exhaled a long sigh of relief. “I want him off my island as soon as possible.”
Talia nodded. In this case, their agendas matched perfectly. “It will be done.”
Oh, yes, she now understood why her father sent her here. No one else could have collected such precious price. Smirking, Talia lowered her fingers and pressed the palm of her hand against the torn up blue suit, right where the man’s symbol was supposed to be.
“Hope is such a fickle little thing, isn’t it?” she murmured to the unconscious man. Enjoy your rest, Superman.