The Box's Pandora part 3

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I was still stunned, feeling from the events of a couple hours ago. In just a matter of minutes, most of what I thought I knew, had been thrown out the window.

First, someone had tried to kill me and everyone else, with what appeared to be a magical flamethrower. Then, I’d watched that same attacker get shot and killed. And unlike in the action movies, where the good guys toss off a good one-liner, then shrug the whole thing off, the real thing was quite different. Someone had died, right in front of me, and that was no small thing.

Of course, as shocking as the entire attack had been, what was even more surprising, was what I’d learned about the people I knew. Mom pulled out that gun and acted like she really knew how to use it, and she hadn’t seemed the least bit phased about going out to help Cliff check the body. And that was nothing compared to Aunt Dora, and that strange wooden box she had.

Now, I had a lot of questions, but almost no answers. The only answer I had been given, was when Mom said, “In spite of what society has told you for your entire life, magic really does exist. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for explanations right now, so your questions will have to wait.”

After that, Cliff went out to take care of the body, though I didn’t know exactly what it entailed. What I did know, was that when I looked to where the body had been, there was no longer any trace of it.

I didn’t bother to ask why we weren’t calling the police about this. I’d seen more than enough movies to know, that when things got weird, you usually didn’t want the police to get involved, because more often than not, they’d only make things worse. It was one of those rules from action movies, with the only exceptions being, when the main characters were the police.

Mom and Aunt Dora began to gather all the real valuables in the house, and then started to hide them in some secret room in the basement, that I’d never even heard of before this. That left Dad and I to board up the windows, or at least the holes where the windows had previously been. Dad had a grim expression on his face the entire time, and I could see that he wasn’t about to answer any of my questions either.

Once we were done with our tasks, Dad told Aunt Dora, “I always thought this kind of thing only occurred on your little adventures…”

“Adventures aren’t limited to other places,” Mom pointed out with a sigh, and an apologetic look to Dad.

“I do apologize for this inconvenience,” Aunt Dora said with a pained expression. “Unfortunately, it probably isn’t safe to remain here any longer, at least for now. I recommend you all return home, while Cliff and I will find another place to stay for the near future.”

Mom gave a faint chuckle at that. “If I know you and Cliff, you already have a couple possibilities lined up.”

“Take care,” Aunt Dora told us. “I will contact you again, once it is safe to do so.”

Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot filled the air, and a second later, my dad was thrown back, where he collapsed to the ground. The entire front of his shirt was soaked with blood, and all I could do was stare in shock and horror. There were more gunshots, and Mom slammed into me, knocking me to the ground and practically dragging me to the side of the car.

“Stay down,” Mom ordered.

I was in shock from what I’d just witnessed, and when I looked up into my mom’s face, I saw anger, grief, and tears. She pulled out the gun that she’d taken from the cabinet a couple hours ago, and then with a yell of rage, she poked her head and arm out from behind the cover of the car and began shooting, though I couldn’t see what or who she was shooting at.

“Dad,” I gasped, with tears already running down my cheeks. I looked to his body, which was motionless on the ground, with a pool of blood already spreading out. I had no doubt that he was dad.

“Lucas,” Mom whispered, her voice cracking in pain. She fired another shot. “You bastards...”

I crouched further down, yet at the same time, I tried to peak out and see how Aunt Dora and Cliff were doing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well. They’d both been hit before they could get to cover, and were now trapped out in the open. Aunt Dora was bleeding heavily from her leg, while Cliff had one shoulder that was covered in blood, and the arm was just hanging at his side. However, both were armed and shooting back.

“Get out of here,” Aunt Dora yelled.

“I’d be happy to,” Mom called back. “Just as soon as they stop shooting at us…”

A couple seconds later, the other side, whoever they were, stopped shooting at us. “They’re up to something,” Cliff announced warily.

“Yes,” Aunt Dora responded with a grim expression. “But we can take advantage of this pause…”

But just as those words left Aunt Dora’s mouth, the sky above us began to glow with an eerie green light, which only lasted for a second before it exploded in a brilliant flash. The light blinded me for just a second, then it was gone.

“What was that?” I blurted, looking to my mom for an answer, though she was motionless, almost as though she’d suddenly turned into a statue. I gulped in dread, “Mom?”

“I can’t move,” she gasped, proving that she could at least move her mouth.

I looked to Pandora and Cliff, and saw that they were both frozen motionless as well. They did appear to be talking to each other, but I was far enough away that I couldn’t hear what they said. However, from their expressions, it was pretty obvious that they were worried.

“They can’t move either,” I whispered, which confused me a little, because I could still move with no problem.

While I was still crouching down behind the car, trying to make sense of what was going on, and shaking my mom in case I could knock her out of whatever was going on, our attackers arrived. There were five men, who carefully walked towards Aunt Pandora and Cliff. Four of them were dressed as soldiers, wearing camouflage outfits, and carrying machine guns. However, the fifth one was different than the others.

The fifth man appeared older than the soldiers, by at least ten years. He appeared to be in his forties, and had dark hair that was beginning to turn gray at the temples. He was also dressed in a nice looking suit. From nearly every movie and video game I’d seen, I knew that he was the guy in charge.

“So, you are the famous Pandora,” the man in the suit announced. “We’ve been looking for you…for quite a long time.”

“It appears that you found me,” Aunt Dora responded, glaring at the man in the suit. “But it seems you have me at something of a disadvantage.”

“Of course,” the man in the suit responded, almost sounding polite. “My name is Alexander Kraesse. I believe that you may have heard of me, and of my father Gregor.”

“Artifact collectors,” Aunt Dora stated with a look of distaste. “And mobsters.”

Alexander looked rather pleased by that, perhaps simply because she recognized his name. “Over the last three decades, you have stolen several priceless artifacts out from beneath us…”

“You mean, I kept them from falling into your hands,” Aunt Dora responded. Then, she glanced to Cliff, who was frozen like a statue beside her, though still bleeding from his shoulder. “How are you doing this? What kind of artifact are you using?”

Alexander gestured to one of the soldiers, who stepped forward and held out some sort of stone figurine. I was too far away to make out any details, but Aunt Dora seemed to recognize it.

“The Peacemaker,” Alexander calmly explained. “An idol representing a forgotten goddess of peace… When used, it stuns anyone wielding a weapon…” He looked rather pleased with himself.

Aunt Dora’s eyes narrowed. “And the man with the fire staff…?”

“A…canary, if you will,” Alexander answered. “I sent August to test your defenses, and see what we would be facing. But more importantly, I sacrificed a useful artifact in order to confirm that you really are the woman I was searching for…and that you had the box with you.” Then he stared at Aunt Dora for several long seconds, before commanding, “Now, make that box appear.”

“It will do you no good,” Aunt Dora responded grimly. “The box is not meant for you or yours.”

“Present the box NOW,” Alexander demanded, pulling out a handgun and pointing it right in Aunt Dora’s face.

“Byron,” Mom gasped from beside me, still frozen motionless. “I can’t see what’s going on…” I realized that she was facing in a different direction, and though she was moving her head a little, her whole body was positioned at the wrong angle for her to ever see anything. “Tell me what you see.”

“This Alexander guy has a gun,” I whispered nervously. “And he’s pointing it at Aunt Dora…”

Mom’s eyes widened at that. “The Peacekeeper… The effects haven’t worn off yet, but it isn’t active anymore…”

For a moment, I wondered what Mom was getting at, and why she’d abruptly stopped. Then, it hit me. I was terrified, but also angry and desperate. I grabbed the gun right out of Mom’s hands.

“No,” Mom exclaimed. “They’ll kill you…”

However, I was already sure that I didn’t have anything to loose. Alexander and his people had already killed Dad and looked like they were about to kill Aunt Dora and Cliff too. I had no doubts that when they were done, they’d come over here to finish us off as well. After all, it would be a bad idea to leave witnesses around after what they’d already done.

While I was taking Mom’s gun, Aunt Dora was doing what Alexander asked. Suddenly, that wooden box that I’d seen earlier, appeared on the ground, right in front of her. Alexander stared down at it with a hungry expression. Then, he bent down to try opening the lid, though it didn’t budge.

“Open it,” Alexander commanded.

“I am unable to move,” Aunt Dora reminded him, with her tone suggesting that what she really meant was, “You’re an idiot.”

“There are many ways to open a locked safe,” Alexander stated grimly. “I no longer need you.” With that, he pulled the trigger and shot Aunt Dora in the face.

“NO,” I cried out in horror as Aunt Dora’s body collapsed to the ground.

I pulled the trigger and tried to shoot Alexander, but one of the men beside him was hit instead. I silently cursed myself for not shooting sooner. If I had, Aunt Dora might still be alive. Or, I realized as I fired two more shots and missed hitting anyone, I might have hit her by accident. Still, I continued shooting, while Alexander and the soldiers dove for cover.

Suddenly, Mom let out a gasp and exclaimed, “I can move again…” She snatched the gun out of my hands, then fired two shots of her own. Both of hers hit their targets, two of the soldiers who’d just began to shoot at us.

A moment later, I realized that Mom wasn’t the only one who could move again. Cliff lunged forward, shooting one of the soldiers in the head, and then trying to do the same to Alexander. However, Cliff’s gun had either jammed or ran out of ammunition, because nothing happened. With only a moment of hesitation, he dropped the gun and drew his sword, which actually began to glow with a faint blue haze around the blade.

“What the…?” I started, only to stop myself. I’d already seen more than enough weird shit and magic in the last few hours, that I shouldn’t be shocked by seeing it one more time.

“Get the box,” Alexander commanded, shooting at Cliff, who leapt to the side positioned himself so that one of the soldiers was between him and Alexander.

“What box?” the soldier responded, pointing to where Aunt Dora’s box had been mere seconds earlier. Now, the spot was empty, and there was no sign of the box.

Alexander blurted out something in another language, which had the sound of a profanity. Then, sounding angry and almost desperate, he demanded, “Where is that box?”

Cliff lunged forward, using his good arm to swing the glowing sword. It sliced right through a soldier, who fell to the ground in two pieces. “Without Pandora, there is no box,” Cliff snarled furiously. “You just killed the only person in the world who could get it.”

With that, Cliff charged towards Alexander, who suddenly grabbed at an amulet around his neck, and began to glow. Cliff’s sword hit Alexander, and then bounced right off without any effect.

“I would kill you if I could,” Alexander said with a look of anger. “But this protection prevents me from taking any hostile action.”

Another of the soldiers seemed to be using this distraction to take aim at Cliff, until Mom shot him in the head. When the soldier fell, Alexander snarled, muttered what I assumed were profanities in another language, then turned and ran away.

“He’ll be back with reinforcements,” Cliff said with a grimace. “To search the house for artifacts, if nothing else.”

“We have to get out of here,” Mom said grimly. She bent down beside Dad, and I saw tears pouring down her cheeks, which were a match for the ones on my own. “We don’t have time…”

“I know,” Cliff said, looking to Aunt Dora. Or at least, he stared at the spot where Aunt Dora had died. Her body was no longer there, apparently vanishing the same way her weird box did. Then, with a pained expression, he quietly said, “I failed you. It was my job to protect you, to keep this from happening. I’m sorry.”

A minute later, we looked over our car, which now had a couple dozen bullet holes in the side. Two of the tires are flat, and from the position of a couple of the bullet holes, I wasn’t very optimistic about the engine.

Our car wasn’t in any condition to drive, or to be inconspicuous even if we could drive it. Fortunately, Aunt Dora a couple vehicles in the garage, a big van to hall things around in, and a silver Lexus sedan, which looked like it would be fun to drive.

After Mom fixed Cliff up, using an emergency medical kit in the garage, we quickly threw our bags, some weapons, and some emergency items into the Lexus, and tore out of that driveway as fast as we could. Alexander was still out there and nearby, and we didn’t want to risk running into him again, especially if he came back with reinforcements.

Mom was behind the wheel, not saying a word as she drove. Cliff was in the passenger seat, having called shotgun…literally. He had a shotgun with him, as well as that magic sword and a pistol. There were even more weapons in the back seat with me, and in the trunk.

I just stretched out in the back seat and collapsed in exhaustion, the emotional kind even worse than the physical. However, as I shifted positions, my hand settled on something in the seat beside me, something hard and wooden, which hadn’t been there a few minutes before. Then, I finally looked, and was surprised to see a now familiar looking wooden box.

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