A/N: Trying to come up with a new title for this story. I like simply calling it "Dolls," but I recently found a manga called that and, if I was ever able to take this far enough, would like to put my "Dolls" into comic/manga form. Therefore a different name would probably be to my benefit. Any ideas?
Chapter 13: Fragments
"Nothing that grieves us can be called little, by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size." – Mark Twain
When Marianne Facet woke again, she was only half-conscious of the world around her. Her blurry eyes saw Louisa bending over her, and January's voice reached her ears but her brain couldn't make any sense out of what he said. The one thing she did comprehend was a single thought fed into her from Kaleb, which sounded regretful and sad. "He tricked us," the doll told her. Then her eyes closed again and she sunk back into dark ignorance.
Magus Sharp, ranked regional commander in the American Association of Magi, was having a good day. Recently the battle-scarred mage had been in a war to overcome his paperwork rather than going up against foreign Manipulators or rogue puppeteers. But today he had an excuse for what looked like an assignment that would involve some action, so he wasted no time in barging into the Doll Detectors Department and stomping into the nearest cubicle to put in a request for an area search. The unfortunate recipient to his zealous demand was one Arubadaia Herh, an inexperienced young woman who had joined the Detectors at the AAM in just the past year.
"Ruby, I need you to drop what you're doing and get a full-blown Doll search up and running," Sharp commanded in a booming voice, "with particular emphasis on searching out fire magic and Doll Prototype 04C." He continued harrying Arubadaia, listing off locations to scan and recommending particular search methods even though he really had no experience in the field. Arubadaia typed hurriedly at her computer, trying to keep up with the Commander's requests. All the while she was desperately praying that someone would come to let her off for lunch.
"Ma'am, you're injured..." the man at the hotel desk was looking at Kagura's burned hands in horror.
"Never mind, quickly, I need to borrow a phone!"
The man shook his head. "Ma'am, you need to get to a doctor. I'll call for someone to take you." He picked up a phone from behind the desk. Kagura attempted to snatch it away, but he moved back away from her. He dialed a number and put the phone to his ear. "Yes, Mr. January? One of your party is down here asking for a phone to call the police."
Kagura's eyes widened in horror. She saw that everyone in the hotel lobby was staring at her. Two security guards were beginning to make their way towards her.
Kagura clicked her tongue in annoyance and ran toward the entrance doors. The security guards moved to intercept her, but her martial arts served her well and she was able to knock both aside. Her hands were in an agonizing amount of pain, but she gritted her teeth and pushed through the rotating door to the outside. She saw someone on the sidewalk talking on a cell phone and ran up to and past him, snatching the phone away. She heard angry yells follow her but kept running, hanging up on whoever was on the other line and forcing her injured fingers to dial just three numbers: 9-1-1.
"Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?"
"I have kidnapping incident to report. The culprits are in the penthouse suite of the hotel on 7th and Blaine. There are four victims, two men and two young girls. One of the girls is injured, the other is being held in some other facility."
Kana, Kagura thought to herself, I'm going to do everything I can to get you rescued.
Then she saw something that she could hardly believe. A young Japanese girl stood in her path.
The Doll pulled a familiar-looking pistol from her waist.
"Edmund-kun's gun…? Wait, then you're-!"
The Doll raised the gun and Kagura dropped the phone she was holding. She heard someone scream.
A gunshot rang through the air, and the Doll that looked like Tessen ran back into a nearby alleyway and disappeared from sight. Kagura fell to the ground, her eyes wide and staring.
"Sorry, Kagura," Edmund whispered from his hiding place. "I tried to help you escape, but it looks like the best I can do is put you in a hospital. I really hope that you don't end up dead."
Doppleganger, back to his true, blond-haired and blue-eyed form, came up to his Manipulator and returned the pistol. Edmund took it and they both returned to the hotel.
"You planned for this from the start, didn't you?" Louisa asked January coldly. She bent over Marianne, her long hair tied back to keep it out of her way as she worked. "How long have you had that arm prepared?"
January smiled. "It's an experiment I conceived on a whim. Nothing more."
"You have more than just a single arm prepared, don't you?"
"That would seem a reasonable conclusion. I didn't know which limb I would be taking until it happened."
"But you need me."
Louisa sighed. "Yes." Her hands, wet with Marianne's blood, busied themselves at the little girl's shoulder where her arm was being attached. But it wasn't her old arm that she had only just lost. It was a new arm – a Doll's arm.
"I have a location, Sir," Arubadaia said, interrupting Magus Sharp's lecture on the finer points of Doll tracking.
"Huh?" The regional commander stopped mid-sentence and glanced down at the computer screen. "A hotel right in the city? That might make things difficult… too many people around."
"And we have another problem, two of them, in fact."
"And that is…?"
"There was a 911 call reporting a kidnapping, apparently at this very hotel. Police are on their way."
"Great, and no Karenin to remedy the situation. The other issue?"
"Agata Weber must have figured out the same thing through the police records. She's already on her way there."
"Damn impatient, these agents." Sharp cursed under his breath. "What else do you have?"
"Our equipment is showing at least four Dolls at the location, and it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere. If they know about the police being on their way, they aren't very concerned. It seems the hotel is being evacuated with everyone besides the penthouse suite being informed. Those police officers might be walking right into an ambush. It could be a nasty mess for our cover-up department to deal with. There are also signs of multiple magic-users, though we can't get an exact number with the equipment available."
"Alright, good work, Ruby." Sharp patted the young officer on the back. "Now," he grabbed her collar and pulled her out of her chair."
"Eh, Commander!" Arubadaia protested as she began to be dragged out of the cubicle by her burley superior. "What are you doing?!"
"You're coming with me. We never know when they'll run, and you'll be handy for keeping track of the lot of them."
"I don't remember this being in my job description!" Arubadaia shrieked as she was pulled out of the Doll Detectors Department.
"Hehr, you've got lunch break," the Doll Detectors Department manager, a red-haired woman in her thirties, peaked into Arubadaia's cubicle. "Huh?" The woman looked around. "Where'd she go? And did she seriously not even lock her computer?" The manager went up to Arubadaia's desk and clicked through the open windows on the screen. "This is…" She picked up the phone sitting on the desk and dialed.
"Hello, this is the DDD manager. I think the Regional Commander kidnapped my subordinate."