Episode Three: In the Dark and Light – Part One

Snapshot

The Dawnrise Corporation’s top security team met Zencho at the airport.  They were faces he knew well, a trio of men that regularly escorted him when residing in London.  The team well knew the routine of getting Zencho through the airport with next to no hiccups.  They weren’t off to a good start.

A photographer managed to slip the security ropes.  His camera flashed the moment Zencho rounded the corner on the passenger boarding bridge.  A string of curses left the man walking at his side.  Marius was his neighbor on the plane since the unscheduled stop in Iceland to pick Zencho up.  By the sounds of the choice words coming out of Marius, he was definitely not used to the life of fame and fortune.

A grin arched across Zencho’s face as he reached out to shake Marius’ hand.  “Sorry about the camera.  Wasn’t really expecting them this soon.”

Marius whistled low, a brief shake of his head made in disbelief.  He shook Zencho’s hand in return. “Hey man, all good. Been a pleasure meeting you. You need help getting out of here?”

Zencho glanced over his shoulder.  The three men dressed in black divided the crowd on their approach, forcing the handful of paparazzi back.  Zencho often wondered just how much the photographers made off these candid shots of him if purchasing airfare to get past security didn’t hinder them in the least. “Nah, I’m good.  Thanks, Marius.  Make sure to give me a ring, yeah?  Go out for a beer while you’re in London, maybe give you a bit of a tour of the sights.”

“Sounds good, Zen,” Marius shifted to give his back to the next camera that raised in their direction, neatly blocking Zencho as well. He walked with Zencho towards the waiting security men where he gave a single nod before continuing on his way. “Take care.”

“Later, Marius.” Zencho said, watching the tall Canadian until he was safely beyond the growing throng of people gathering behind the ropes.

Zencho tugged the black leather coat on one of the security men offered him, zipping it up to beneath his chin.  He already wore the same black leather pants they did, the coat blending him further in with the trio.  Someone shouted his name.  Zencho resisted the urge to look.  He jammed the black full-face helmet on, covering the shock of wild platinum blond hair that neatly indicated who he was like a brilliant flag.  His silver blue eyes couldn’t be made out past the dark tint of the helmet’s visor, helping to further make him indistinguishable from the men around him.

“Zencho!”  A woman shouted his name. “Mister Tori, is it true the show in Iceland is the last?”

“Oh my god!  Zencho Tori?”  A shriller voice echoed his name.  Several more followed.

The security shifted, and Zen moved with them.  He knew how this worked.  They walked two by two, switching up positions as they rounded corners until the paparazzi lost which one of the identically dressed men of similar heights was even Zencho Tori.  They had no need to stop to collect his luggage.  The rest of his security detail saw to that.

The airport staff was not new to having Zencho Tori present, or what that entailed.  They swept him through security and customs in a private room before allowing him to slip out into the main terminal.  This lost the bulk of the paparazzi and fans that had accumulated during their march from the plane towards airport security.  An entire new pack of people waited for him in the arrival’s lounge.  Zencho bit into his lip, forcing himself to keep moving just like the other three.

His habit was typically to be nice to his fans; wave, smile, talk to them. Zencho reminded himself he could do that tomorrow during the scheduled meet and greet interview where he intended to give his notice of an extended leave.  A soft sigh escaped him as he stepped through the sliding glass doors.  The wash of England’s cool evening air was welcome.  For a moment, he forgot about the flashing cameras behind them, the voices calling his name, and just breathed in the familiar air.

“Sir?” A hand touched his elbow lightly, encouraging him to keep moving towards the four motorcycles waiting for them.  They were identical as well, all painted black with silver highlights and reflectors. Zencho lightly nodded, stepping forwards to pick a bike and slide onto it.  There was nothing quite like riding a motorcycle in his opinion.  The wind whipping past him and the exhilaration that built on an open highway always proved intoxicating.

The paparazzi didn’t let up.  Cars and motorcycles chased after them.  The M4 flowed smoothly for a change, letting the four motorcycles ride two abreast.  They wove neatly through what traffic there was.  The cars, unable to keep up with them, soon fell behind.  The highway only lasted so long. Soon, they were well into the tighter roads of London proper.  They picked a random route through the city.  A couple of abrupt turns shook the last of the photographers.

Zencho could see the brightly lit corner coming up that marked the last leg in their journey towards home. The people milling along the road, and congregating in the pubs, were a common sight around London.  Zencho grew up in the Angel district.  He knew the secrets hidden amongst the buildings and streets.  The sight of his father’s tower a few blocks ahead along City Road relaxed Zencho into a familiar sense of security.  He was almost home.

A flash of lights to his left jerked Zencho’s head around.  A small compact car hurtled along a side street towards him and he narrowly swerved out of the way.  A man half hung out the window, shouting and snapping pictures the entire time.  Zencho cursed fluidly.  The swerve took him down a narrow side road.  A glance over his shoulder proved him alone.  The rest of his team either missed what happened or weren’t able to catch up with his sudden change in direction.

“Fuck!” A car horn blared directly in front of him.  Zencho snapped his attention back forwards.  The road was too narrow for him to do much.  Cars and bikes lined the street on either side, leaving one lane shared by both directions.  There was a pocket in the line of parked vehicles coming up.  The pace of the car coming towards remained steady. If he had the time to think about it, Zencho might have found that odd.  Such thoughts were the last thing on his mind.  Zencho’s hand hovered over the brake as he aimed for that small pocket. He knew he wasn’t going to end this still on his bike.

Zencho was right.  The ensuing scream of tires and the crash of metal could have woken a deaf man. The motorcycle slammed into a parked bike then slid into the neighbouring car.  Zencho hadn’t thought much through the entire accident.  A final screech of metal on pavement rang in his ears.  He toppled free of the bike and rolled across the concrete. Zencho laid a few feet away from the mangle of vehicles, breath coming hard and fast.  The urge to throw up was immense, so was the urge not to lie there as vulnerable as he was.

The thought was reinforced as he rolled his head to the side to watch the car slow.  The window lowered.  A man braced his arm on the door and leaned out.  Zencho couldn’t see much of his face. The man had his hood pulled up and a ball cap tugged down low over his brow. The flicker of something silver and cylindrical in the streetlight had him scrambling to get off the ground.

To an onlooker, these events might have happened swiftly.  To Zencho, he couldn’t move fast enough.  A single light on the second floor of a nearby building caught his eye. The door beneath the window was not too far away at all.  Zencho glanced over his shoulder as he limped as fast as he could for the door. The car continued slowly down the road.  His hand slammed into the door as he reached for the handle.

An arm circled his waist. Zencho yelped in surprise. He twisted in the hold that dragged him back towards the narrow walkway between the buildings.  Panic raised his elbow in preparation to strike the man holding him when suddenly he was released into the stability of a brick wall.  Zencho yanked his helmet off, flattening his back to the wall.  His pale blue eyes, bright and wild, scanned the man from head to toe.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” The young man said, his tone low pitched and careful.  Zencho nodded and both men looked towards the road.  The stranger eased back a pace, watching from the shadows they lingered in as the car gave up and drove away.  Zencho exhaled a long breath, his gaze dropping to himself.  His riding leathers were torn and severely scuffed, scraped to the skin in a couple places. The adrenalin seeped from his system, leaving him trembling. His knees buckled and arms swept around him to keep him from falling.

What the hell just happened? This wasn’t how he expected to finish his evening. Clinging to an emerald eyed stranger and wondering why the men in the car hadn’t shot at him after all.

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