Modern day. The Ruby Sage Center for Scientific Research was a multileveled building layered with white stone and silver tinted windows nestled in the foothills outside of Geneva, Switzerland. Other, smaller buildings dotted across the campus grounds. The complex was surrounded by a large chain link fence complete with barbed wire twirled across the top. Even the parking lot was secured with guard posts that were staffed twenty four hours a day. Dormitories housed the scientists who worked there. Furloughs were given every ten weeks so employees could visit their families for two days. There was also a cafeteria, a gymnasium and walking trails which led to a small lake. Few visitors were allowed inside and even fewer people knew exactly what the center was actually researching. The Sage family traced its European ancestry back for centuries. Rumors had always abounded that they had earned their fortune by trading political secrets and mystical products to the underground societies throughout the continent. Sage loyalty was attached to no one and could be sold to the highest bidder for a limited time.
On top of the main building, a helipad had been constructed. It was a crisp morning. Professor Ruby Sage could see her breath clouding in the air. She patiently watched the helicopter slowly approaching. With every passing minute, it grew larger and larger.
Ruby Sage was the daughter of the late tycoon, Cornelius Sage. She was young and an academic phenom who had studied the various sciences while earning degrees and titles throughout Europe. She spoke six different languages and published articles in scientific journals throughout the world. If one had not known her, she almost could pass as the innocent girl next door. Her red hair was tied back in a ponytail. Freckles dotted her face. A set of thinned rimmed glasses rested on her pug nose. She wore a pin stripped suit coat with a white shirt and red tie. Her feminine side only exposed by a blue skirt and boots.
The helicopter hovered for a moment over the landing pad before touching down. The rush of wind and noise momentarily blew her hair and clothes out of place. She winced for a brief moment, feeling the cold air, before patting everything back into its proper place. The helicopter door slid open and a figure emerged. He was draped from head to toe in a black, hooded cloak. His face was not visible. He approached Ruby Sage and extended his hand. She ignored it.
“You are quite a long way from the United States, Argus,” she said. “I thought you had been spending time in Florida.”
They began walking toward the elevator located on the far side of the roof.
“Actually, I have been attending to some unfortunate business in the Holy Land,” he replied.
“And what brings you here to our humble research center?” Ruby Sage asked.
“Your benefactors are growing impatient, Professor Sage,” Argus said. “We are seeing little results from our investment.”
They began walking across the platform.
“I am not interested in the opinions of individuals who cannot take the time to review my work,” Ruby Sage replied. “I sent a complete analysis to your organization over six months ago and have yet to receive a formal reply or even an acknowledgement that the report was received.”
“Your work requires our funding.”
“Do you seriously think the cult is the only organization that would love to fund my research? I turn down offers from other foundations every day.”
Ruby Sage and Argus entered the elevator. The helicopter’s blades began to rotate. Within moments, it rose from the helipad and flew away. The elevator began its descent.
“I have succeeded in bridging the dimensions,” Sage continued. “Do you know the value of such a discovery?”
“Your denial of the supernatural manifesting itself in our world is making quite a few people nervous,” Argus replied.
The elevator came to a halt. The doors opened. There was a long hallway, guarded by human like robots. They began walking.
“There is no supernatural realm,” she remarked. “There are only alternative dimensions of reality.”
“Then what do you call the relics we have found?”
“I already told you,” Sage angrily said. “This is not the study of fairy tales. This is science.”
“The cult is not interested in science,” Argus reminded her. “We are interested in protecting the modern world from religious practice.”
“I am well aware of that.”
Ruby Sage and Argus entered a sprawling laboratory setting comprising over ten thousand square feet of the most complex, state of the art equipment available in the world. Everything was a sparkling white. It was an open air design with no walls, offices or windows. Desks were situated around the lab, mixed in with tables, computers, large tubes and generators. The laboratory was bustling with activity as lab assistants rushed back and forth carrying the latest data or monitoring the latest experiment. The team of researchers numbered about twenty.
Argus walked over to a row of large, glass tubes bubbling with cloudy water. He glanced at each one.
“And these creatures that you are creating are for what purpose?” he asked.
“Do you mean my experiments?” Ruby Sage replied.
“There is a colleague of yours, Professor Dox, he has suggested…”
“I’m not interested in what a high school science teacher has to say,” Sage interrupted. “I’m a university trained scientist with multiple degrees. Dox is a fraud.”
“First, Professor Dox is a history teacher,” Argus said. “But, he is also considered an expert in the field of paranormal and world religions.”
“He is a darling of late night radio and conspiracy theorists,” Sage mockingly remarked. “He is also the result of every hack’s ability to create a podcast or publish a book. I’ve told your illustrious leader to pay Dox no attention.”
“You do not believe in heaven or hell, Professor Sage?” Argus questioned.
“Of course not.”
“But, you have seen it.”
Ruby Sage walked over to one of the desks. Argus followed. She retrieved a clipboard and began signing documents.
“I have seen what I have chosen to see,” she answered. “And what I have seen is a gathering of beings beyond our comprehension from another reality. These beings seem determined to invade ours. I am not interested in our world being drawn into a subjective battle between good and evil. If we can destroy them in their own dimension, then so be it. Already, we have begun to see them arriving in our universe.”
“So why the mother and daughter?” Argus asked.
“How do you know about them?” Sage replied.
“We have agents,” Argus reminded her. “Even there.”
“It is not the mother or the daughter,” Ruby Sage answered. “While they have the power of the sight which I wish to study, they are really only the bait. There is a being there known as the Soul Ripper. If he were to enter into our world, only chaos would follow.”
“You seem jealous of this Kay-Li,” Argus observed.
Ruby Sage slammed the clipboard down.
“I believe this conversation is now finished,” she said. “I have important work to do. One of the interns will show you to your dormitory. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
“I will relay your information to your benefactors,” Argus replied. He bowed slightly and was escorted out of the laboratory via the main door.
Ruby Sage looked around the room. The aides and assistants had all stopped working.
“Get back to work!” she commanded. “There is nothing more to see or hear!”
Instantly, they all began scurrying back to their respective stations. Sage walked over to a large glass container filled with hazy, green, bubbling water. Several tubes were connected to the top. She adjusted some levels on a control panel. Waves of electricity coursed through the tubes. There was movement inside the glass container and a deformed hand briefly pressed against the glass before disappearing from view. Ruby Sage smiled.
“You are finished now, my pet,” she said. “You are finally finished.”
Suddenly, a flash of red and black lightning whizzed past her, kicking up her hair. The trail of lightning zipped around the room several times. Papers and office supplies flew through the air in its wake.
“Just wonderful,” Ruby Sage shrugged. “How is a girl supposed to get anything done around here!?!”
The evil speedster known as the Paradox Runner stood before her. His body vibrated rapidly as traces of red and black energy skimmed off and disappeared. His leather suit was a dark blue and orange. A helmet covered his head exposing only the lower features of his face. Ruby Sage rolled her eyes in disgust.
“I see you require an accelerated metabolism in order to preserve your dead cell structures,” she said. “You must not be able to maintain your speed for long periods of time or even maintain your alter ego’s form.”
“Your time has run out,” Paradox Runner said. “Flar demands you cease your assaults on his servant.”
Ruby Sage acted as if she ignored Paradox Runner’s last comment. She turned her back to him and walked over to a lab table. She reached under the table.
“I could have remedied that fatal flaw in you,” she commented. “But, you were too busy looking for ways to betray me.”
“I will only be able to deliver this message once to you,” Paradox Runner remarked.
Ruby Sage whirled around, a high tech laser pistol in her hand.
“Stay out of this, Paradox Runner,” she barked. “The Soul Ripper is mine!”
She squeezed the trigger. A red bolt of energy shot across the room. Paradox Runner zipped away in less than a millisecond. The energy beam struck harmlessly against the back wall.
He slammed Ruby Sage against the table, knocking the pistol from her hand. Then, the trail of red and black lightning picked her up and zoomed over the table. It pushed her to the ground in the center of the laboratory. It all happened in one second. She crawled to her knees.
“For a genius such as yourself, Ruby Sage, you are acting quite stupid,” Paradox Runner said. “It really is quite the paradox for you.”
Behind him, several of the lab assistants and aides were trying to sneak up behind Paradox Runner. They carried chairs. Two of the guard robots had also entered the room.
“Obviously, you employ a bunch of slow learners,” he said.
Paradox Runner zoomed away as the guard robots shot energy beams in his general direction. He took out the guard robots first, dismantling them into pieces in a red and black blur. Next, he raced around the laboratory floor, pushing, punching and knocking the lab assistants to the ground unconscious.
“Enough!” Ruby Sage said, climbing back to her feet. Her clothes and hair were ruffled. “Can’t you see I’ve almost beaten him? You cannot stop the experiments now!”
“There is no desire to have him beaten,” Paradox Runner said, coming to a halt. “Soul Ripper must be returned back to his original purpose.”
“Can’t you see the danger of working with beings such as these?”
“No, Sage,” Paradox Runner remarked. “It is you that does not see. You cannot stop a battle that has been waged for all eternity. The battle is rushing toward its inevitable conclusion. You are making a wager that both sides can be destroyed, but you have nothing in which to replace them with. You offer chaos to stop chaos. You are the gambler placing the unwinnable gamble. It is quite a paradox.”
“What if I can stop the unstoppable?” Sage questioned. “Wouldn’t that be the biggest paradox of all? Humans defeating the gods?”
Paradox Runner raced across the room, scooping Ruby Sage into his arms and effortlessly tossed her into the air. She let out a scream as she tumbled through space. Paradox Runner caught her in mid air and darted across the laboratory. He placed her on a desk in a burst of speed. She gasped out a breath.
“Now, tell me more, Sage,” he said. “You have gained my interest.”
“I can create a device that will store the energy of these beings,” she began, trying to compose herself. “We can collect and harvest that power. I have collected evidence of another race of beings that is already attempting this. Over time, we can use their energy to become stronger than them.”
“To defeat the gods, we become gods ourselves,” Paradox Runner smiled. “That is quite the paradox. But, why the Soul Ripper?”
“I have studied him,” Sage replied. “He is the only one who could survive destroying my device. You already can travel between realms and time. You can collect the energy from this universal source and the dimension it exists in. You can defeat the ones who are already here. Once we have captured enough energy, I can fix you. I can permanently resurrect you.”
“You propose an interesting proposition,” Paradox Runner acknowledged.
“Give me time,” Ruby Sage said. “Let me destroy the Soul Ripper. Then, I can show you all that I have created.”
“We will pretend this conversation never happened,” Paradox Runner remarked. “Even though it did. Another paradox. Be careful, Ruby Sage, for you are playing a dangerous game with forces you do not completely understand.”
Paradox Runner raced away in a blur of red and black lightning. The laboratory had been completely wrecked. Her staff was slowly beginning to regain their senses.
“Clean it up!” she ordered them. Immediately, the group went to work.
Ruby Sage walked over to a large, circular globe resting on a metallic table. She pressed a series of buttons. The globe rose several feet into the air. There was a slight humming noise. The globe began to spin. At first, it was a slow rotation. Then, it picked up speed, going faster and faster. Yellow streaks of energy wrapped around it. The object slowly faded from view, leaving only the yellow energy beams and small crackles of light rotating around in a circular static wave.
“Rage Ripper,” she said. “Where are you?”
Suddenly, the large armored figure of Rage Ripper appeared in the energy wave. He was riding a horse down a dirt road.
“He is such an impressive creature. I almost wish I had created him myself,” Ruby Sage whispered. “But, why do you desire to destroy the Soul Ripper as much as I?”
Rage Ripper faded and vanished from the energy waves. An image of Kay-Li’s caravan materialized. It was travelling down a pebbled roadway. The image narrowed and closed in on Kay-Li and Ojo playing in the royal carriage.
“You will make your way to the river Konso in forty eight hours, empress,” Sage smiled. “Just as I had that fool Zee tell you. I have a number of surprises waiting there for you.”
Ruby Sage glanced across the laboratory to the large, glass container with the tubes protruding from the top. A clawed hand and a large tentacle pressed against the glass through the green, murky water before disappearing again into the bubbly haze. Ruby Sage let out a loud, hideous laugh which echoed across the entire room.
“Yes, quite a few surprises my precious, Kay-Li,” Ruby Sage smiled. She pressed a few buttons on the console. The image faded. The energy wave’s rotation slowed. The globe gradually began to reappear. It continued losing its speed until finally resting itself back onto the metallic stand. “I will be seeing you and your daughter soon enough.”
Ruby Sage laughed again as she walked out of the laboratory and down the hallway.
THE ADVENTURE WILL CONTINUE IN EMPRESS KAY-LI AND THE SOUL RIPPER #2: RUBY ASSAULT......