Reed laid sprawled on the ground for quite some time. The extent of damage that he had taken from the intense fall and earlier self-mutilation was beyond anything he had successfully recovered from yet. Eventually though his eyes opened, with a physical appearance unbefitting of someone who had just fought an eldritch monstrosity. Although, his clothes remained in bloody tatters.

He got to his feet and approached the tentacled creature that lay splayed across the ground before him. It showed no sign of movement, but Reed kept a respectable distance from the thing regardless. The top of the creature from where he had ripped the construct of bone out was truly a mess. In the time he had spent healing, enough black blood had seeped from the ragged mass of tentacles that the surrounding ground had grown saturated with the fluid.

Their descent into the forest had cleared out the nearby trees enough that Reed was able to catch a glimpse of two columns of smoke rising into the sky a short distance away. Eager to get away from the putrid rotting stench that permeated the area, he set off through the forest towards one of them. Before too long, the clearing of Desmond’s property was again visible through the trees.

Reed entered into the clearing and was greeted with a sight he had been too preoccupied with running from the flying tentacle thing to notice. The car that he had gotten a ride from had been reduced to a shattered mess. Rising from the remains was the smoke column he had been making his way towards. Even from the distance he stood, Reed could see a smattering of blood and remains throughout the debris. He threw up.

His gaze drifted towards the crater where the creature had rammed into Desmond. The trench in the ground was of course dyed red, but there were sparse few bodily remains. It occurred to him that most of Desmond must have disappeared into the creature’s maw.

With an empty look, Reed turned to enter the garage. He spared a glance at the two classic cars sheltered within before grabbing a set of keys off the rack he had seen Desmond do the same from earlier. They went to the black ‘67 Mustang on the left.

He got into the unlocked car and started the machine up to the sound of a roaring engine. Classic rock immediately began to flow out of the speakers. Reaching for the old-fashioned stereo in the center of the dashboard, Reed turned the volume up. He set both his hands on top of the steering wheel before his head followed suit, resting atop his hands. Reed sat in such a manner for quite a while, allowing the music to flow through one ear and out the other as his thoughts were plagued by what he had just experienced. The very real threat of death; The loss of human life, some of the blame for which rested on his shoulders.

After a time, Reed lifted his head with a deep breath and an even larger sigh. He pulled up the directions to Detroit on his phone before putting the car in reverse. The Mustang pulled out of the property, driving down the winding dirt road that contained the wreck of a truck from which came the second column of smoke. As the dirt road emerged onto a paved street, Reed was forced to turn to the left, opposite the directions he received. To the right was a massive trench, stretching most of the road’s width and making it undrivable.

He drove for hours to the sound of rock music blasting throughout the vehicle, in some halfhearted attempt to drown out lingering guilt and fear. It wasn’t until noon that Reed finally pulled up to the luxury apartment building where his parents resided. Normally such a place would be outside of his family’s price range, but his brother’s admission into the academy offered them steep discounts for living in the city. Said discounts had often been a point of persuasion when his mother attempted to get him to move close by.

Their residence was on the first floor, so it was only a short walk before Reed arrived at the door. His father opened the door and raised an eyebrow upon seeing who it was.

“You’re back soon.”

“Yep. Surprise.” Reed said.

“Well, c’mon in.” His father opened the door wider and beckoned into the foyer.

“Who is it!?” A voice called from the second floor.

“Come see for yourself!”

His mother came into view, hustling down the stairs.

“Oh Reed, you’re back already.” She said with a smile upon spotting Reed.

“Yep, I wound up buying a car so I thought I’d take a trip up here.”

“What? I told you to check with your father before buying anything. Take us to it.”

“Give the kid a break. He’s nearly thirty for god’s sake, I think he’s capable of making purchases for himself.” His father cracked up from the side.

“I’ll show you guys later,” Reed chimed in before his parents started a verbal spar, “Actually, I was hoping to talk to Eddy. Is he around?”

“No, he’s spending the weekend at the academy. His team’s training for some event that’s coming up, something about bridge duty.” His mother said.

“Oh,” Reed’s brows furrowed for a moment, “Is there any way you can get in contact with him? I really need to talk with him.”

“We could call the academy and have them relay a message, but why don’t you just go visit him? It’s open to visitors on the weekend and I don’t think you’ve ever been to see him there.”

“Alright, I’ll do that.” Reed nodded.

His mother squinted at him, “What’s so important that you have to talk to Eddy about?”

“Oh it’s nothing, the Rec Center’s just implementing a new self-defense class. They want me to do some research on alien threats so I figured I’d talk to someone in the field.” Reed rattled out one of his hastily prepared excuses.

“What are they expecting people to fight off aliens with some karate?” His father heckled from the side.

“Something like that. I’m just the information gatherer.”

“We should come with you. We’ll help you through the process of getting in, it’s a bit complicated.” His mother said.

“That’s alright mom, I can handle it,” Reed gave an exasperated smile before walking to the door, “I’ll pick up some takeout and come back later in the evening.”

And with that, he speed-walked out of the apartment. Reed couldn’t afford to waste any time. At least not until he understood more in regards to his predicament. Slamming his car door shut and pulling up directions to the academy, he sped to the outskirts of Detroit where it was located.

His motivation for answers was slightly dampened, however, when he pulled into a massive parking lot. Before him lay what could best be described as a college campus. An upscale campus for sure, but it was a stark contrast to the alien base he had been picturing in his head. It appeared that a metal fence encircled the grounds, so with trepidation, Reed approached the open building that was located at the front of the parking lot.

The interior reminded him of a Welcome Center from his days in college. A large, high-ceilinged room, brightly lit and dotted with extravagant furniture. The only big difference lay in the metal gate at the back of the building. He approached the reception desk that sat next to the gate, shielded by thick glass.

“Name?” The woman behind the desk deadpanned.

“Reed Vayne.”

“And what’s your purpose today Mr. Vayne?” She began to type on her computer.

“I’m here to see my brother, Eddy Vayne.”


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