When she arrived, just over five minutes later, MacKenzie found Lukas in the rear garden, his back to her, kneeling over the crumpled body of Joan Collins, the clairaudient's head cradled in his arms.
'Lukas?' She paused a few feet from her partner. 'Lukas? Are you okay?
'Yeah.' Lukas' voice was a low monotone. 'I'm fine.' A pause; then. 'Joan's dead.'
'Oh.' MacKenzie paled. 'Oh no... Lukas. She's..?' She angled slowly around, until she was able to see Lukas in profile, then she knelt at his side. Gently, she reached out, and brushed away an errant wisp of hair from the medium's face. 'I'm so sorry, sweetie. Was it..?' She looked down at the old woman's face, seeing for the first time, the pale, drawn face, and blooded features. 'Oh.' Was all she could say.
'The Al'urion did this.' The medium's voice was a dull monotone. 'They used Joan - took over her body, and her mind. She had no choice in the matter, and they destroyed her.' His voice took on a sudden hard edge. 'I'm going to destroy them for this. The whole dammed rotten nest of them.'
'Lukas.' MacKenzie glanced around, searching for possible observers. The empty lawn and blank windows of the cottage gaped back. 'We cannae stay here. I'm going to call for an ambulance, then we need to go.'
'The whole.., dammed.., rotten.., bunch of them.' Lukas appeared not to have heard her. He remained, kneeling, bowed over the old woman's limp form. 'Not.., letting them - get away with this.'
MacKenzie waited silently, her hand upon her cell phone. She was about to nudge him again, but he gently set Joan's head on the grass, and straightened. He turned his face to the sky, and MacKenzie saw, for the first time, against the fierce set of his features, the shiny trails of the Medium's tears. Finally, he turned the full force of his glare upon his partner.
'I'm not letting them get away with this, Mac.'
'We're not.' MacKenzie placed a hand on her partners shoulder. 'We'll find them, Lukas; Lukey.' There was no reaction from the medium, at her use of his sister's pet name for him. We will stop them. They will pay for this.'
'Thanks Mac.' Lukas managed a brief, grateful glance, before his eyes were drawn inexorably back to the still form of the clairaudient. 'What do you think we should tell the authorities?' He whispered.
'As little as possible.' MacKenzie dialed and listened. 'Hi, ambulance please.' When the operator answered, she quickly gave her Joan's address, claiming she was a concerned neighbor, looking from a bedroom window. She hung up quickly, cutting the operator off mid-flow. 'Right.' She said, suddenly all business, 'we've only got a few minutes, Lukas. I'm sorry; we have to go.'
'Yeah. I understand.' With a last lingering look at Joan, the medium hauled himself to his feet. He allowed MacKenzie to take an arm and lead him around the house, towards the gate. MacKenzie unlocked her car, and after a final check around the quiet street, to make sure that they were unobserved, MacKenzie slid into the driver's seat. Lukas was already fumbling for his seat belt, as she slid the key into the ignition. The house fell behind them, as the agent accelerated away, pointing the nose of the car towards the city.
Lukas stared out through the windscreen; not seeing anything of his surroundings, as his mind played back images of his encounter with the Outrunners. He didn't realize MacKenzie was speaking to him, until she gently prodded his arm with a finger.
'Hmm?' He refocused his attention. 'Sorry. I was away there, for a moment.'
'I said, where shall we go?' MacKenzie repeated. 'Home?' meaning Lukas' flat.
'Um,' Lukas thought for a moment. 'Where's Jenna?'
'At my place; settling in.'
'Okay.' Lukas came to a decision. 'Let's go to my place, then on to the studio. Then, when we're done, I think we should stay together; and Jenna as well. We'll spend the night at your place, and then, tomorrow, I want to go see Helen, if that's okay with you. I think we need to contact Mentor, and it's always easier, when we're together. And it wouldn't hurt to get her opinion; she's far brighter than I am - well, far more intuitive anyway. Roger's input could be useful, as well.' Roger Bennet was Helen's partner; a massive giant of a man; outwardly boisterous yet deeply shy. He was devoted to Helen, and considered himself her protector, and, to an only slightly lesser extent, MacKenzie and Lukas' as well.
Not long after the events at Lancaster, when Bennet had been seriously injured protecting Lukas, Helen had told him about the trio's true purpose. Bennet had not pretended to understand everything, but was secure enough in his devotion to Helen, to accept what she told him as the truth - and that the peril the earth faced was real, and catastrophic. He was ready to stand beside them, helping where he could, and protecting their physical bodies, when they were conjoined as the Nexus. It was actually quite comforting, Lukas thought, knowing that the big man was there, standing guard over them when they were training with Mentor. And, Lukas told himself, now that he had seen that the Outrunners could pose an actual, physical danger, Bennet's presence could well indeed prove useful.
'A sound idea.' MacKenzie agreed, nodding. 'I'll give Jenna a call, when we arrive at the studio; let her know where we are. She can meet us there, get a little on-the-job training.' She glanced at her partner, then back at the road ahead. 'So; what did they say? The Outrunners, I mean. Do you feel like talking about it?'
'Not really.' Lukas said. 'But you need to know, and so does Helen. I'll contact her later.' He took a heavy breath and sighed. 'They said that they knew who I was - that I was Nexus. They said that they were few, but that soon they would be many. Then we - you, me, Helen - would cease to exist. They would spawn; propagate, it said.' He trailed off.
For a space of time that matured into minutes, there was silence in the door, broken only by the muted drone of the engine, and the occasional soft click of indicator lights. Then MacKenzie spoke.
'Well. I suppose, realistically, it was too good to last.' She said softly. 'After all, it's been what; a year?'
'Yeah; just about.'
'A year.' She repeated. 'It had to end sometime. Maybe we can do something about them before their numbers get too big.'
'It's a nice thought.' Lukas agreed, summoning a thin smile.
'It's something to hang on to.' MacKenzie indicated and turned, and Lukas saw with surprise that they had arrived at the Agent's home. MacKenzie pulled into a vacant space in the small private parking area, and minutes later, they were in the small elevator that rose to MacKenzie's top floor apartment.
'Jenna?' MacKenzie strode along the hallway, towards the living area. 'We're back; Lukas is here as well.'
'Won't be a moment.' The younger woman's voice drifted from one of the two spare rooms. 'I hope you don't mind, but I borrowed your shower.'
'Of course not, lassie. I said to make yourself at home. Coffee, Lukas?'
The main living area was spacious and roomy. MacKenzie veered off, heading towards the small kitchen, and Lukas ambled across to the large panoramic window. He was a little surprised to see that the day had clouded over a little; lowering, grubby cushions of cloud above the city. Before him, the roofs of the science museum were a dull, opaque brown; the towering structure of the studios beyond muted by distance and poor light. It seemed to him as if the day had changed to match his mood, and he felt a sudden savage satisfaction in that. He realized that he was glowering at his reflected self, and had to make a conscious effort to smooth his features. Behind him, he heard MacKenzie returning from the kitchen area, and switched his attention to her soft reflection.
'You did everything you could, Lukas.' She said softly, placing a tray down upon her coffee table. Lukas remained at the window, his posture rigid and his attention fixed firmly upon the darkening Manchester skyline. 'I don't know. I think - I wish, I could be sure.'
'I am.' Quiet certainty. 'I know you, laddie. I would expect no less. I think Joan knows as well.'
'Thanks Mac.' He saw his reflection's thin smile. With a final sigh, he turned. 'Coffee smells great.' MacKenzie glanced at him almost shyly.
'Hazelnut Mocha - Helen's recipe; she let me have it for you.'
'I love you both dearly.' Lukas was unable to restrain a soft laugh. He dropped onto the settee, and flung an arm around his partner. 'You both look after me so well.'
'And don't you be forgetting that little fact.' MacKenzie replied a little breathlessly, winded by the force of Lukas' embrace. She passed him a foaming mug, and a fond kiss. 'We have an hour or so, before we need to get ready, 'She said, suddenly breathless for quite a different reason. 'What do you say we..,' she nodded towards her bedroom.
'Um, I'm game.' Lukas returned the kiss, 'but what about your house guest?'
'Damn; I almost forgot about Jenna.' She snuggled closer, under Lukas's arm. 'I could try to be quiet.'
'That would be a first.' Lukas muttered, then gasped, as MacKenzie's arm jabbed him in the ribs. 'All I meant was..,'
'I know exactly what you meant.'
'Oh.' Lukas let his head fall onto her shoulder. 'I'm sure I could muffle any excessive noise.' He whispered. MacKenzie giggled.
'Hmm; sounds like it might be fun.' She laughed. Lukas nodded. 'I'll let you finish your coffee first.