A/N: This post introduces a part of the beastie. Also, I'm going to NY in 3 hours, so I most likely won't post for the next 3-4 days (unless there's downtime and internet). If there are problems, let me know.
Three miles doesn't seem like much on paper.
But when Mathias found himself trudging the distance cautiously, in pitch black lighting conditions, and moving from building to building just for the sake of always having cover, three miles was an eternity.
Fortunately, he came prepared. A filtering mode in his contacts allowed him to map out his surroundings even in pitch black lighting conditions, and although every shape that entered his vision appeared to be coated with effects similar to that of a flowing light show, it was better than nothing. He relied on it, as the glowstick had only a limited radius of illumination and the flashlight would draw too much attention.
What did disturb him, however, was the stillness of his surroundings. Even in dilapidated, abandoned settlements, he had expected some form of life to have taken up residence: animals, birds, bugs, etc. But there would be no such creatures here, as the readings on his contacts turned up no signs of life everywhere he looked. It was as if the city was not just abandoned, but inhabited only by death and staleness themselves.
As he moved along, the lighting conditions changed from dark, to pitch black, to non-existent, and finally Mathias paused in his tracks.
But it wasn't the loss of light that troubled him. Rather, it was the sudden removal of all input to his senses and sensor readings combined with the feeling of something moving ever so subtly around him that caused his stomach to churn and his finger to shoot toward depressing one of the capsules embedded in his ablative vest.
Mathias gasped. A bright blue flash of light erupted from his body to illuminate absolute darkness, a void which absorbed all light and was apparent only by its lack of sensory feedback, its threshold having wasted no time in swallowing his glowstick before it collapsed like a tidal wave upon his body.
He braced himself and closed his eyes: they wouldn't help him here. The passing of a rough heartbeat signified his only sense of time, after which he found himself delighted as the hiss and cackle of arcing energy bolts pierced the silence. He opened his eyes and caught the sight of the amorphous void having come into contact with the dim-blue colored energy barrier that had formed and conformed tightly around his body and clothes only to be repulsed violently. The readings on his contacts jumped to life again, indicating the threshold of the void quickly retreating to a moderate distance as a loud dissonance of screams resonated throughout the surrounding buildings and pierced the air.
But that didn't matter. That didn't shake him. He witnessed that whatever it was that he found himself face to face with felt and responded to pain. And that was all the motivation Mathias needed to convince himself that he could fight this thing.
A smirk crept onto Mathias' rough face as he focused his mind within a split second, a series of crimson symbols materializing with a glowing trace in a circular pattern around him. A blink of his eyes caused them to flash brightly as powerful jets of flame lashed out in a radial fashion from their position, illuminating his surroundings for a moment and pushing the darkness further back.
He jumped back and blinked his eyes, another symbol forming and shattering at his feet to emit a soft white light that continuously illuminated his surroundings, revealing that he stood in the center of a four-way intersection with tall buildings on each corner. The void had confined itself to flooding only the street directly in front of him, forming a sea of darkness that towered almost three stories in height.
Holy son of a—
Before he could finish that thought, the incessant shrieking of creatures that were neither human nor animal interrupted his previously composed train of thought. His eyes widened as he watched a short section of the void creep into the intersection, distinct shapes starting to rise from the pitch-black puddles and form into recognizable shapes.
A deep roar shook his body as he blinked his eyes. The next frame of his vision caught the sight of a large, lion-like animal composed completely of black fur which let off an effervescent shadow to complement its gleaming crimson eyes descending upon him. Eyes shining, teeth glaring, and monstrous claws ready as others just like it forming themselves from the puddle of void on the far side of the intersection.
He shot from the hip. A smirk of satisfaction crept onto his face as the whining noise of his weapon preceded the projection of a bright pink-colored pillar of energy lashing out from his side and skewering his target, disintegrating a clean, decently-sized hole in its side before a burst of heat and light shattered its frame to pieces.
He didn't have time to waste. The ground shook with the violent percussion of the horde of such animals materializing and racing towards him, climbing and circling the buildings around him.
One leapt from the side and landed with a loud crash on the asphalt. Stepping back instinctively, a symbol formed on his free palm to greet his attacker with a searing hot fireball to its ugly face, his other hand maneuvering the NPB pistol skillfully as carefully-timed bursts of energy sizzled through the air. He moved and weaved in and out of claws slashing, sharp teeth clamping and flaming tails swiping, taking the occasional strike to his energy barrier but not allowing it to throw him off balance. But it didn't take long before he found his mind fatigued, and his NPB running quite low on ammunition.
He surrounded himself with symbols, having closed his eyes and brought himself to full concentration. The beasts swarmed him from all sides, the percussion of their footsteps shaking the ground as Mathias dropped his weapons, a pattern of symbols forming a circle around him. He could feel the heat of their collective breathing as they drew closer, only a split second passing before they simultaneously leaped into the air.
The symbols flashed brightly. Mathias blinked his eyes: one frame displaying the swarm of beasts about to descend on his position, the next displaying powerful jets of streamlined fire erupting from the shattering symbols around him, incinerating his attackers as rings of fire cascaded outward from his position.
The air was stifling hot, no thanks to his previous endeavor. He rose to his feet and caught his breath, fatigued but relieved, and a small indicator in his contacts informing him that his energy barrier was intact at thirty-two percent strength.
He had won the battle, but not the war. The void sat patiently on the other side of the intersection, more shapes starting to rise from the puddle of shadow. Mathias prepared himself, but not before noticing that these shapes were different.
The shadows slithered together to form a humanoid shape before solidifying into solid black gunmetal, appearing akin to medieval knights clad in full armor. Only these constructs did not bear any form of sword or spear.
Is that a--?
Mathias gasped as the constructs clanked forward, drawing what appeared to be a small, gas-powered chain gun from their side, composed completely of black metal but otherwise looking the part. And apparently, functioning it as well.
Mathias didn't waste any time as the black knights let off their first flurry of shots, the bullets themselves being composed of the same metal as their armor. He dove out of the intersection and into the nearest building, the pattern of gunfire following his every move as every piece of cover Mathias had dove behind for protection was instantly sandblasted to pieces within seconds of his use of it. He poked his head out from behind any barrier he could find at the moment, symbols on his hands letting off bursts of streamlined fire only to watch them have no effect on his new opponents. Combined with the renewed roar of the lions which had started entering the building in pursuit, he decided to focus on running.
Come on, give me something!
His wish was granted as he managed to put enough distance between him and his pursuers and found himself hiding behind what appeared to be a bar counter. The display in his contacts flickered, indicating that his energy barrier had just quit on him. He heard the footsteps of his pursuers quickly entering the vicinity as he clenched his weapon tightly and watched from behind the counter through a small hole in the barrier.
A knight had wandered astray from the group and stepped into the bar. It scanned the area methodically, moving closer and closer to Mathias' position only to find a small red dot from a targeting laser pointed at its chest.
With a smirk on his face, Mathias pulled the trigger, the burst of energy ripping through his opponent's body before it shattered to shadowy nothingness. Mathias let out a sigh of relief in finding an effective attack, but his satisfaction was short lived as he found the threshold of the void itself creeping through the window and wrapping around his feet. He struggled to move, but it was of no avail as he suddenly found his body whisked away by the darkness through the window and into the street, his attempt at screaming not even managing to leave an echo throughout his surroundings.
Shit, shit, shit!
Shortly, he found himself back in the center of the intersection, the void surrounding him and restraining his body to the ground, his only link to the outside world being the glint of moonlight that peered through a small gap in the void. A large disturbance in the fluid caused it to shift violently, seconds passing before something visible appeared from within it.
It blinked at him.
Emerging from the void was what appeared to be a giant, glowing crimson eye. It peered down upon Mathias with no restraint, peering deep into his eyes as he suddenly found himself unable to control or feel his own body. His back jolted painfully, as a disorienting high-pitched noise pierced his senses, making him want to tear his own head out. The eye glowed brightly as Mathias could feel his mind being accessed, the entity linking with him in search of something. He could feel its intentions, albeit painfully, as he attempted to let out an agonizing scream to take his mind off the pain but was forcefully prevented from doing so.
The hell…do you want from me…?
Mathias gritted his teeth. He felt something in his hand, his last hope. With all of his remaining willpower attempted just one last endeavor, screaming on the inside as he forcefully regained control of his hand which lay clenched around a very important piece of equipment that he switched to secondary-fire mode.
This is what you want…then have it!
He aimed the weapon and depressed the trigger, a resounding whine filling his ears as the NPB pistol let out a powerful burst of energized particles in a wide-area cone formation, using the entire clip in the process but smirking as he watched the energy blast disintegrate a large hole through the center of the eye. All seemed to pause for a moment as the forces of the void that bound him weakened, the eye itself shattering to bloody pieces as the surrounding shadows instantly collapsed to dormant nothingness, their essence fading from existence and leaving no evidence of its presence. A loud roar of pain resonated throughout the city, originating from further within and indicating the presence of a much larger, overbearing entity. His opponent was simply a part of it, and he had only won the battle, but not the war. But that was good enough for today.
For a moment, he just laid there, catching his breath and attempting to process all of what just happened. He glanced up at the night sky, now clear of clouds and dotted with twinkling beads of light.
That thing wanted my knowledge so it could use it. The things I just fought were constructs created out of knowledge previously absorbed by it, and it hungers, hungers for more of what it doesn't know. It brought me here for that, but it wasn't the only reason.
Mathias collected himself and rose to his feet and activated the orb-like device, noticing that the previously detected energy signature was still active.
I've gotta get to that signal.
He collected his gear and continued into the city, resolved to reach that contact at any cost.10/14/2010 #151
I stopped, thought I heard something--far off, far, far away. Oh, human. Human, human, I recognized.
"Do you feel that?" I asked, my magic echoed me: did you hear that? to no one in particular.10/14/2010 #152
The vampire seemed more than ready to get things moving. Kane watched as he produced a sword from the gutter. The girl, Hailey, quickly voiced her agreement, for herself and the dog as well. Kane waited for a moment, to see if anyone else had anything to say, but there was nothing.
Jude looked around at everyone. "So Kane, Hailey, doggy, and I are off," he said slowly. Kane nodded, ready to go. Now that things seemed to be starting to move along, he was eager to get going. He was itching for a fight or something. If you counted the time he'd been in this strange world with the time since his last fight back home, it had been days; it had been decades since he'd gone so long without killing something.
Lost in his thoughts about fighting, it took Kane a moment to realize Jude was talking to him. "After you, brother," the vampire said, a wide smile on his face. "I'm fairly efficient at taking orders, and you look like you have a good eye for direction."
Being as old as he was, Kane was no stranger to leading, so he shrugged and nodded. He opened his mouth to respond to the vampire, but before he could say anything, Jude spoke up again. "Do you feel that?"
Kane stilled and tried to sense what the vampire had felt. His sharp hearing immediately picked up something, a sharp whine. It wasn't a sound he could recall hearing before. Confused, he turned in the direction the sound had originated from, waiting to see if it would happen again. A second later a different and much more familiar noise rang out; an agonized roar. It was a hell of a lot louder than the previous sound and seemed to be coming from a much closer location.
"Well, if that isn't a sign for us to get moving," Kane stated, "I don't know what is." He looked towards Jude, Hailey, and the dog. "Come on, let's go now. You three try to stick close to each other; I'm gonna take to the rooftops. Hopefully I'll be able to spot anything coming toward us. Try to avoid being overly loud as well. We know we aren't alone and the last thing we need is something hearing us and jumping out of an alley or something." The others all nodded.
With a final wave and a smirk for the people who were staying behind, Kane turned and started off down the street. He aimed for where the first noise, the whine, had come from. As soon as he felt the other three follow trailing after him, he leaped up onto a nearby building. He waited for them to draw even with him and then gestured in the direction they should head. "Something or someone else is over that way, so we're gonna go there. Hopefully it's someone from this world, who can tell us more about what we might be dealing with. And if it's an enemy…" He trailed off there, but the blood-thirsty grin that spread across his face was hard to miss. "Let's go."10/15/2010 . Edited 10/17/2010 #153
Hailey hadn't heard anything, but trusted them. Going to face an enemy wasn't exactly her plan for a good time, though.
Kane had leapt up onto a nearby building and pointed the direction they should go. Hailey glanced over her shoulder, watching the others recede as the distance increased. What was this place, really? A meeting point for different universes, it seemed. Which meant anything they were running off to find could be.... anything? Hailey shuddered.
A cute whine from the dog running at her side brought her attention to the front. She smiled at it as they ran. We'll be all right.10/15/2010 #154
The Large Unknown known as Kane led the three of them away from the rest of the group. As the others were swallowed up in the shadows, Trick wondered if he was making the correct choice here. Which group would meet with the most danger? Which group was his reason for being here?
He noticed Hailey looking over her shoulder at the group left behind, jogging down the street with her head turned. She apparently felt no need to look where she was going; Trick found it rather endearing. She was young, sweet, naive... He whined up at her and she looked forward again, giving him a little smile as life moved on and she focused on the task at hand.
The four of them moved quickly through the empty city streets. Kane led the way from a nearby rooftop, and Trick watched, amused, as the vampire meandered along ahead of himself and the girl. 'This'll be quite the story for the 'tween-lives crowd,' he thought. 'What a grand start to a joke! A vampire, a shapeshifter, a hellhound, and an enormous I-don't-know-what walk through a city...' Trick grinned as he imagined Lady Grey's reaction.
He was so lost in thought he almost missed the return of the whisper of movement he'd heard before, this time from very close: just ahead and to their right. Trick stopped in the middle of the street. Glancing at Kane and the vampire, he didn't think they'd heard it yet. They all just kept moving, closer and closer...
Without thinking, Trick barked a warning to the other three and ran to block Hailey from approaching whatever loomed in the darkness. She stared down at him, a wordless question in her eyes that he didn't have the answer to; he was as surprised as she was. It was against the rules to interfere...
"Careful, friend!" he thought to the vampire. "Here comes beasty!"
...but some rules were made to be broken.
Trick prepared to fight.10/15/2010 #155
The dog smelled it first, warned me--spoke to me.
"Right, doggy, we're all ready," I muttered, my magic echoing again, not aligned but getting there, Gaia I hoped so.
Then I was caught up, stopped, beast beast might take everything from me.
And it did somehow, I couldn't know. What I first saw was black, all darkness like shadows but unkind and there was fur and metal and red eyes and then it was--
Oh, fuck, my magic repeated.10/16/2010 #156
And then I thought: We're going to die, or at least, we're dying.
All of us together. How poetic.10/19/2010 #157
Ruin had never seen such a ragbag group of non-humans in his life. The sight of them stopped him from following the beast that had lead him to them in the first place. The monster had engaged itself with a man, or something of a man, as he was attacking the strange shadow beast with bright energy beams.
Ruin wasn't sure if it would be a good idea to announce himself to the others. How many were there, exactly? How powerful? Had they even seen him come in?
He crouched and broke away from the trail, hugging several buildings. At the same time that he didn't want them to see him and potentially kill him, he wanted to get their attention. He needed to know what was going on!10/21/2010 . Edited 10/21/2010 #158
"What in the bloody hell is going on here?" Geneviève shifted out of a shadow, hands on hips, and was surprised to be met with such thick darkness. "I can't leave you lot on your own for five minutes without something happening," she mumbled.
"What do we have here?" She lowered her hands and strode forward, eyes searching the darkness laid out before her. She allowed her magic to crawl some distance before calling it back. "I think we ought to stick closely to one another... there's something powerful out there." Her magic wrapped itself around her protectively. "What are everyone's strengths? If this thing's hostile, we'll want to work together."10/21/2010 . Edited 10/21/2010 #159
Ruin held his breath when the tall woman appeared. He hadn't seen her, nor smelled her. But, he couldn't smell any of them. That scared him more than the fact that he had managed to wander into this strange town of sorts. She said something, but he wasn't paying close enough attention. Ruin edged closer.
"...we ought to stick closely to one another... there's something powerful out there."
Ruin sensed a shift in atmosphere and he almost hissed. Magic! Was she a mage? Ruin pulled back into shadow. Magic users were bad for him. Very bad.
"What are everyone's strengths?" she said. Her voice was very authoritative and Ruin snarled. They were all the same, but he had to pay attention. Perhaps he could use this information against them if they proved dangerous. "If this thing's hostile, we'll want to work together."10/21/2010 #160
And then, after 4 hours of inactivity, everyone died.
ACT CLOSED2/15/2011 #161
The first person to post will get to determine the setting. The plot will develop based on Player's actions.
None. Just come on in and play.2/15/2011 #162
Since this is anything goes, we were hoping to refine some of the game play for this Act. Hopefully that's okay. Credit for this idea goes to Lyra, I'm just the poster.
A group of supernatural characters are brought together to obtain a powerful weapon
Only one character per player2/15/2011 . Edited 2/15/2011 #163
Anton woke up in bed, blinked up at the ceiling for a moment, and sat bolt upright. He didn't need psychic images in his mind to know something very strange was going on. He knew he'd fallen asleep on his brother's couch the night before, and this was neither a couch or his brother's apartment.
He surveyed the small room with wary eyes as he swung his bare feet to the floor and stood up. The room looked like anything you might find in a classroom: crappy worn carpet, dingy white walls, a drop ceiling with the almost mandatory flourescent light flickering behind a plexi panel, and a metal door with a lever handle. If it weren't for the bed and complete absence of desks or students, he might have thought he'd just fallen asleep in class; he still entertained the notion that this might just be a prank on him. Albeit a very elaborate, entirely pointless prank.
Anton walked to the foot of the bed and found his sneakers there, neatly tied together with a pair of socks thoughtfully tucked inside. Resisting the paranoid urge to search the entire room for a camera, Anton tugged his socks and shoes on as casually as he could pretend to be, and walked out the door.
He entered what appeared to be a lounge of some sort, and the door lock clicked behind him. This room was much more open and bright, with skylights all along the top of the walls. Sunlight streamed in, painting rectangles of light on the long conference table and rolling desk chairs that made up the only furniture in the room. Otherwise, the place had the look of an office building that had been cleared out. The walls were all eerily bare, save for 5 more doors, and a corkboard with 3 tacks sticking out of it. His footsteps seemed painfully loud there.
Anton looked left and right, checking once more that no one was present, then approached the table. He ran his fingers lightly over three chairs, looking for some clue. Then he turned his attention on the table. At the head of the table, his fingers were drawn to a scratch in the varnish. Anton inhaled sharply as quick bursts of information flooded his thoughts. He heard people milling about, hundreds or maybe thousands of greetings and meetings held around this table, arguing and negotiating and at least one instance of sex that made him blush and hastily withdraw his fingers. The last thing he sensed from the table was the feel of many hands around it, lifting it, and a far-off voice saying 'Put it there. Mr. Aulie needs that in the lobby."
Disgusted, Anton tried to wipe the memory of all these things from his fingers onto his jeans and grey sweatshirt. He knew knowledge didn't linger like germs but he could still feel every bump that table had ever experienced tingling in his skin. Benign or not, it was irritating, and in this instance completely unhelpful.
Defeated, Anton flopped down into one of the chairs to wait for someone to come and tell him what the hell was going on. The rectangles of sunlight crept along the table and he grew quite bored. He was idly spinning in a chair wondering what kinds of people enjoy sex on conference tables, when he heard the click of a door opening and someone cleared their throat.2/15/2011 #164
The first thing Hailey noticed when she woke up was the dizzying headache that accompanied the painful greeting from the lights above her head. The second thing to capture her attention - which took a while because she never got headaches - was the blank white room before her, aside from the atrocious choice in carpet.
She didn't know what was weirder.
Insane? her mind formulated after a second.
No.... she thought to herself after a second. There'd be padding everywhere. And certainly better choice in carpet. Bleh!
She slid her legs over the side of the bed and let them dangle for a moment before jumping off. Her bare feet barely sunk into the carpet that tickled her slightly, and she noticed a small post-it note at the end of the bed. She picked up and read its scrawled type, "Do you need shoes?"
Hailey flippantly threw the note away, which fell right where she picked it up. She shrugged. "Shoes are lame. Socks might be nice, though." She realized what she was doing and rolled her eyes at herself. Like anyone would be listening. Maybe I really did go insane...
A quick noise came from behind her, and she turned to it. A pair of socks, bundled up nicely, had appeared near the corner. She went to retrieve them, and then became satisfied with their comfort and texture after slipping them on.
"Uhh, thanks, I guess?"
Turning back to the bed, another post-it had appeared. She picked it up. "You're welcome. We couldn't find anything when we picked you up."
"Picked me up? What is this for?"
No answer, even after turning her back on the bed several times to see if another post-it would appear.
She tried the door, happily finding it open. It swung open, and a man sat at a table with three other chairs. With the post-it still in her hand, she held it out towards him. "Hey, what are you doing? What is this about?"2/15/2011 #165
Kane drummed his fingers along the arms of his chair as he waited for his host to arrive. He was not especially patient at the best of times, and to be kept waiting after agreeing to do his host a favour did not sit well with him. There wasn't even anything in the room to keep his attention occupied. The little office was bare of all save for two simple chairs and a large, wooden desk. Nothing adorned the bland, dull-coloured walls. There was only a single small window, up near the ceiling, behind the desk. There were two doors, one behind him, and one off to his left. He'd entered the room through the latter, and had no idea where the former led to.
Just as he was seriously considering getting up and going through the desk drawers, Kane heard the door to his left open up. He turned his head and watched as a familiar form stepped into the room. "Jack," he said, as the man closed the door and approached the desk. "You're looking old."
"And you're not," Jack replied, as he settled himself into the other chair. The two men observed each other quietly for a moment. Kane took in his old friend's appearance. The hair was still brown, no gray to speak of yet. He still held himself with the same quiet strength he always had but there was no doubt about it. Jack Aulie was starting to get old. The silence was broken suddenly. "I want to thank you for agreeing to help us here, Kane. I appreciate it."
Kane shrugged. "What are friends for, right?" He grinned at the other man. "Besides, if what you say is true, I don't really have much choice, do I? I don't want this world destroyed any more than you do, my friend. I'd miss tv, baseball, and whiskey far too much." That drew a chuckle from Jack. "So, how close are we to getting this little excursion on the road?"
"Close," was the immediate response. "We collected three others who will be extremely useful. My people tell me two of them are already up and about, and it won't be much longer before the third is as well. Would you like to meet them?"
"Oh yeah," Kane said, quickly jumping to his feet. "Anything to get out of this shit-hole. Seriously, Jack, you need to look into getting some magazines or something. Maybe a television. Even a fucking poster on the wall would be nice." He shook his head as Jack let out a short bark of laughter. "You're lucky I like you. Any longer, and I would have torn this place up, just for the entertainment value."
"I'll keep that in mind," Jack said, as he got to his feet. "Come on, they're just through there." He pointed to the other door, the one behind Kane. "I'm sure they're pretty anxious to find out just what the hell is going on."
Kane nodded as he started towards the door. "I'm sure they are. You didn't tell them anything?"
Jack chuckled. "We figured this was a case where it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Once we fill them all in, I'm sure they'll be just raring to go."
Kane turned and shot his friend a skeptical look. "Right." Before the other man could reply, Kane opened the door and stepped into what looked like a conference room of some sort. There were already two others in the room. One, a male, was sitting in a chair beside a conference table. The other, a girl, was standing by a door. Both looked up when Kane and Jack stepped into the room, and the male jumped to his feet.
Before either of them could say anything, however, Jack spoke. "Please, just wait a moment. We're waiting for one more guest to arrive. Once he does, everything will be explained."2/15/2011 #166
These were dark times.
Oh, Kitty, she sighed, I felt her breath on my cheek. When will I see you again?
I don't think I can make it back.
But you're so important...
I woke with a start.
We were all plagued by nightmares, not even the vampires could escape.
"Charlotte," I said, on instinct, out of habit.
There was no response because there was no one in the room I occupied. I stood from the bed, a dizziness sinking into me. I sat back down, quick. It was a room I didn't recognize. It was blank save for the bed, the walls a dripping watery green. A chill crept through me and I glanced down--a bright yellow square note caught my eye on the floor.
I looked around--still nothing, no one. Unless this was a witch trick. I picked up the note cautiously, turned it over, and got a feeling for the magic. It wasn't anything I recognized, no tricks from Jude. "Kja," I said to it, scratching my head, "Sh'marook, ka?" I ran my fingers through my hair and felt a magic ripple at my left, near the end of the bed.
And there, an answer--clothes. Something simple, Sh'marook. My mouth slackened at the sight, I grabbed the pair of brown loose pants and the dark green suspenders. The pants were light, lighter than the witch clothing--it felt good to feel free again, truly, they cut off at the knee, and I flexed my toes as I put on the suspenders, happy--new clothes, I liked this magic.
Need shoes? the note said next.
I thought about the cement in Cypress that scrapped at my feet. I was uncertain what might be beyond the door, better to be safe. "Kja, ah--enchant, danuka je..."
My witch shoes appeared, the ones Jude gave me along time ago--the same pair, worn from use, muddy from the forests. Perhaps this was a test or a dream, I thought, tying the laces. There was only one more thing I needed.
"Jant a'arn?" I said.
No, not possible.
"Zauk..." Just my luck.
I crumpled the note and tossed it on the floor on my way to the door, hoping it wasn't locked.
It wasn't. I hesitated a moment--uncertain if I should proceed, what danger awaited, I was cautious, I didn't want to walk in on a fight. But I noticed my hand, without the binding ring. Just feeling the freedom again, comfortable freedom, gave me confidence. And out the door I went.
A room of onlookers met me--each staring. I stared back, unsure what to do. There was a young man about my age sitting at a chair by a table, and a young woman standing near a different door, giving me the same confused expression. And then the center of attention--a large muscular man, big like a warrior, and another beside him, standing as if they'd just spoken and I interrupted. It looked like I had just walked in on a band of witches. Magic hummed.
"Ah, zauk zhek," I swore. Always my luck...at least this time I could shift and run.2/15/2011 #167
here it comes.... are the characters ready for it? I suppose they'll find out soon!!!!2/15/2011 . Edited 2/16/2011 #168
"I've been stuck on this Gosh Darned telephone wire for days," though our weedy friend as it dangled helplessly above the busy city street.
Until this point, the tumbleweed's usual tumbling had been going according to plan! He finally had achieved his goal of making it out of the suburbs, but now that he had achieved inner city status, the tiny tumbling fellow began to question the quality of his quests.
"I miss the good ol' rollin' hills of the countryside," thought Tumbles McWeedy while some dumbfuck pigeon, completely confused by the ball of bristley bush matter, bothered its branches from above. "You know, the city would be more negotiable and not nearly as nasty if these butt-ugly birds weren't so bothersome!"
The tumbleweed, whose name is not actually Tumbles McWeedy, quickly learned to appreciate the place of pigeons in modern city ecosystems, because quicker than you could say "Oh hi, Mark," the hideous winged rodent freed the tumbling traveler from his elevated prison. The wind, gushing between buildings like Alexander's army gushed through the Persian Empire, plucked our prickly hero from a surely terrible fall and tossed him violently through the air. If Peter Pan was on taking hallucinogens, and was a ball of branches instead of a person, he would have looked something like our friend the tumbleweed at this point in the narrative.
Equally terrified of flying around a busy city as it had been of being plucked at by a pigeon, the tumbleweed had nearly given up all hope of a decent future when BAM!!!!!
"Oh hot damn!" silently exclaimed the weed ball as he was violently thrust against a large glass window of what appeared to be some sort of conference room. "Who are all these strange charac--- OH MY GOD! THOSE ARE SOME OF THE TERRIFYING FIGURES I CAME ACROSS IN THAT STREET FIGHT BACK IN THE 'BURBS!" GEEET MEEE OUTTAAA HEEEERE!" And, as if to answer the tumbleweed's request, another pigeon swooped out of a polluted sky.2/15/2011 #169
Things went from being very dull to very noisy in just a matter of moments. Before Anton could answer the brown-haired girl, another door opened. Anton jumped to his feet as a giant tattooed man and a more normal but still stern-looking middle-aged man entered the room.
The normal guy calmly spoke into their stunned silence. "Please, just wait a moment. We're waiting for one more guest to arrive. Once he does, everything will be explained."
Anton used his waiting time to assess the others. The girl seemed as bewildered as he was, leaning on the door as though she wished the latch wasn't an auto-lock, but trying not to show it. The tall guy generally ignored him, standing with his arms crossed, looking phenomenally bored by all this. Anton hated how quiet it was and briefly considered starting up a conversation with the girl.
Fortunately, the promised guest arrived: a shirtless man who strolled out of his room, met everyone's gaze, and began cursing in a language Anton didn't understand. He assumed it was cursing, anyway, and immediately felt for the guy. Anton had come into classes late like this before and felt everyone's eyes on him and knew that momentary flash of panic at being the center of attention for all the wrong reasons...
"Hi!" Anton blurted out, lifting a hand slightly to wave at the newcomer. The shirtless man stared at him, and he felt all the others turn their attention to him but Anton continued. "We're all kinda confused here too, but I think this guy here was about to explain." Anton pointed at the middle-aged man, who rolled his eyes before gesturing for them all to sit.
"I know for some of you this will have been a stranger experience than it was for others, so I'll keep things simple," he began, pacing back at the head of the table. "I had a wizard bring all of you here for a special mission."
Anton laughed. "A wizard?"
"Yes," the man said, stern face refusing to smile. "A wizard. Moving on." Anton gaped at him, not sure what to make of such a bizarre claim. Glancing around the table, he saw the girl looked perplexed but not shocked. Across from him, though, the shirtless man was muttering under his breath again, but in English this time since he thought he caught some rather vehement curses against witches and someone named Jude. But their host just kept on speaking so Anton shook off his confusion and just let the words wash over him.
"In 1914, Renato Ubina was on a humanitarian mission in the Western Sahara desert, providing medical care for some of its poorer inhabitants when his group came upon an entire village of bodies. Several dozen people lay dead in their homes. Now, Ubina suspected a virus of some sort so he carefully procured samples from what was left and sent them back to Britain for study. With World War I gaining momentum, however, the package never made it there. It was captured by a German cruiser and brought to Berlin, where it was found to be a highly infectious virus which could be transferred by simple contact with a live, infected host. With incubation time a matter of hours, the scientists in charge of studying the Ubina Virus tried to destroy all samples of the disease and it was thought eradicated for almost a century."
The man paused to pull out a small bagged vial from a briefcase and placed it carefully on the table. "However, this arrived anonymously in the mail six months ago. We've compared it to the original notes and it's definitely a strain of Ubina Virus, but it has mutated or, more specifically, been magically altered. By who and for what purpose, that's what we need you four to figure out."
He looked them all in the eye as he went around the table, introducing everyone. "Hailey and Achitophel a' Maj'wer, you were chosen for your morphic abilities. We may need to infiltrate sensitive places to find this virus in some form or another." His gaze fell on Anton, who flinched back into his seat. "Anton Hale, we picked you for your psychic abilities, to gather the necessary information and keep everyone aprised of any dangers that might hinder progress." The others glanced at him and Anton had the sinking feeling in his gut that he was in way over his head. Fortunately, the others looked as uncomfortable as he did, all except for the last man. "My friend Kane has agreed to help out on this mission as well. He can tell you what he's good for on his own time." Kane smirked in his chair.
"But now that we've got that out of the way," their host said, and slid the bagged vial down the table toward Anton, "it's time to get started."
Anton gingerly grabbed a corner of the bag and inspected it. The bag was impressive enough, boasting its origin at the Aulie Research Institute, but it didn't give him anything to work with. He glanced up. "Is the vial safe to touch?" he asked, and the man nodded. Carefully opening the bag, Anton reached in and lay a finger on the cool glass. He felt many gloved hands touch its surface, passing it along, opening and closing it with muffled voices discussing its contents. He dug deeper, reaching toward the time it was first pulled from the package six months ago, back to its journey in the mail, and finally to another pair of gloved hands. Back a little further, and it was in a pocket, bouncing around to the familiar cadence of a person walking. He heard distant conversation, two men talking. "Early night tonight, Harvey?" A booming voice, the vial's carrier, replied, "You know how it is. Sick kids at home, wife's calling to make sure I'm there to take over barf cleanup." The first voice chuckled. "Which job is more glamorous, then, that or working here?" Fabric crinkled around it, an action Anton assumed was a shrug. "I'll let you know tomorrow, Rolvsson." More bouncing, as Harvey walked away, taking the vial with him. Anton pulled his finger away.
"I couldn't see where it was from, but a guy named Harvey is the man who sent it in the mail." Anton slipped the vial back in the bag and slid it along the table toward their host.
"Harvey. Is that a first or last name?"
"I'm not sure," Anton admitted. "But the place he took the vial from, wherever that is, there was another man he called Rolvsson."
The middle-aged man wrote those details down and nodded. "We'll cross-reference known bio-hazard and medical research labs for employees with those names. In the meantime," he said, standing up and walking out of the room. "Get to know each other. We'll let you know when we have something." He left, and the four of them stared at each other, waiting for someone to speak.2/16/2011 . Edited 2/16/2011 #170
I was on the Mainland--I had to be. I'd never been so far from home--nor had anyone from my family, to my knowledge. I doubted even Jude's family had ever been off Lugosi. I shivered. They said there was no magic in the Mainlands, but that must have been a lie. I felt diverse magic. I looked towards the fellow shapeshifter woman named Hailey, but when she met my gaze I looked away, shy.
"Um," she said, "what was your name again?"
I crossed my arms, "Achitophel."
The intimating burly man named Kane stifled a laugh.
We looked at him.
"What?" he growled, "sounds like pedophile."
"Kit," I corrected with irritation, "Just call me Kit."
"Right," the other young man sitting said, he leaned back in his chair. I thought they said his name was Anton--he was like a witch, the closest to the familiar. What he could do didn't surprise me, but I was more curious to know if that was all his magic could manage... "Well you're obviously not from around here, what with the different language and all."
"Uh, are any of us from around here?" Hailey said.
I shrugged. "I'm from Lugosi, it's Sh'marook--the language, I mean." They gave me blank expressions. "Lugosi's off...well...nevermind."
"Lugosi--you're from Bela Lugosi?" he laughed again.
I glared, not understanding.
"I'm from Michigan!" Hailey said.
Anton sat up, "Really? Because I'm from--"
"You know, I don't really think this is what Jack had in mind when he said get to know one another. We've seen Anton's abilities, but let's see what the rest of you sorry fucks can do...hey Pedophile, you're up first."
I didn't like this Kane one bit. I started slipping off my shoes, "Fine, kja," I said to him, not hiding annoyance.
"What are you doing?" Hailey screeched, covering her eyes and peeking through her fingers.
I looked at her strangely, "Well I can't shift with clothes, can I?"
"Eep!" she closed her eyes.
I knew nakedness was not a thing accepted comfortably in most cultures, but I was confused that Hailey who could also shift was taken aback. Still, I had to prove something to Kane. I prepared for him to be quite unimpressed--it was a thing I was used to by now. Humility, as well, I didn't care anymore, not after everything I'd been through.
Anton looked elsewhere with crossed arms and raised eyebrows, only glancing once.
I bent and took change into my second form. I hadn't been in it for so long that there was disorientation--smells, light change--I was overwhelmed.
Zauk, back! I returned fast with a deep breath. "It's been a long time," I said immediately.
"Is that it?" Kane snorted, "what use are you going to be--"
"That's what I know best. I--I can do anything related, quickly," I said, unsettled and bothered by how I had reacted, "but I can't fly. I've never been able to fly. Feline, maybe, I can do that. If it's anything smaller--I don't know. It would take me longer, I'd need an imprint for it." I started putting my clothes back on.
"A dog, can you do a dog?" Anton said, "Because I can tell you right now, a fox is not going to blend in out there." He waved his hand in some direction.
I started struggling on my shoes, "Yeah, yeah, kja, I can do a dog." I remembered the witches finding me before beating me--binding me.
Anton sat back again, seeming satisfied.
Kane rolled his eyes and then smiled at Hailey. "Let's see it. Please tell me you can top that."
I stood and looked at her. I was sure she could. I was one of the worst form-takers in my country, and not many knew it. I wondered if Jude knew... But no matter, I had been bullied, humiliated, and hurt enough times to be numbed by any disappointment. It didn't matter what anyone thought about me anymore--at least I wasn't bound. I was free. And I waited for Hailey to best me.2/16/2011 #171
Hailey felt her heartbeat accelerate as soon as all eyes rested on her. The challenge had been made, and she was going to take it.
Please tell me you can top that. Kane, whom she had dubbed hulk-gone-wrong as soon as she had laid eyes on him, was grinning smugly. There was something about him that made her want to have all of her limbs fall off in a second.
She blinked. That might work.
"Would anybody happen to have a... a really big blade? This'd be better suited if somebody had like, a machete or something, but I doubt that any of us would just be carrying that around in our pocket."
Before anyone had the chance to move, a blade had appeared in Kane's hand. Kit looked even more frightened than he had a moment ago, and his eyes darted between the knife and Hailey. Anton likewise raised an eyebrow at it, perplexed.
She shrugged. "Well, uh, great." She walked over to Kane, the superior grin still etched on his huge features. Severing the main connection of the nerves to her arm, she held it out. "Take a big swing, chop if off it y'like." She could only imagine Kit's wide eyes.
Baring his teeth in a smile, he brought it down at the elbow with such speed she barely had time to blink. The separated arm fell to the ground, the blood oozing out of the many arteries and vessels that ran underneath her skin. She grimaced.
"My bad, I could've done that cleaner." She reached down and picked it up, her arm hanging limp in her hand.
"Zauk, that didn't hurt??" Kit barely spoke above a whisper.
Hailey shrugged again, placing the two ends of the severed arm together. "If I hadn't cut off the nerve endings in my shoulder, maybe." The skin, muscle, and bone in her elbow started to stretch out, tiny fabrics of flesh snaking out to encapsulate the bloodied mass in her other hand. Once connected by a few, the rest of her arm pulled at each other like its own living thing, vessels and arteries and tendons realigning under the skin. She flexed her fingers after a moment and smiled at Kit. "Nothing too bad."
She bent down and reached to put her hand in the center of the blood pool, soaking it back into her skin like a sponge.
"So you're invincible?" Anton asked, his eyebrow still raised.
"False." She frowned. "I can't deal with fire; kills all the cells so I can't do anything with it. I usually bring a huge jar of extra ones, but it seems to have been left behind when I was brought here. Oh! Uh, I can change my DNA type too, so I can become anybody else if I have a sample of their skin or something. And... well, I could change into a guy, too, but I think I've done enough demonstrating."
She looked over at Kane. "Satisfied?"2/16/2011 #172
Kane shrugged. "Not bad," he allowed. "Could come in handy."
His eyes roved from the girl to the others. Anton, his power would be useful. To touch something and learn who had touched it in the past was a powerful tool. Like scenting something, but exponentially more effective. Physically, he looked weak, nothing but a regular human, but that couldn't be helped. Kane would just have to make sure he remained relatively unharmed. The male shifter, Kit, he didn't particularly like. He was weak, fairly reeked of it. His power, while noteworthy, wasn't overly impressive. Still though, Jack had been convinced he was getting the team he needed. So Kane would humour the human. This Kit would get the benefit of the doubt, until he either proved his worth or died in the process. And the girl, Hailey, her powers would be of great use. To change genders, without the use of a glamour, was definitely not something to sneeze at. And the arm thing was pretty damn cool. Kane had never lost a limb, but he knew if he did, it wouldn't be reattached nearly as easily as Hailey's.
"Well" he said, letting a wide grin stretch his face. "That was quite the show. You'll do, I suppose." Pulling up a chair, Kane seated himself, and then leaned forward. "Now, let's get down to business. You've all heard why you've been brought here. Once Jack gets a lead, the four of us are going to head out and track down this virus thing. I'm sure none of you are eager to die, so this is something we're gonna want to get right. Any questions?" There was only silence. "Of course," Kane continued, "if any of you aren't interested in helping, I'm sure Jack would be happy to send you back. Then you could die in the comfort of your own home."
Again, silence reigned. Kane crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. He knew one of them would pipe up eventually. He didn't have to wait long. "So what is it you do?" It was the girl, Hailey. "I mean, you've seen what we can do. What do you bring to the table?" She looked a little apprehensive, even as she asked. Kane couldn't blame her. He wasn't the friendliest-looking guy.
"Fair enough," he said. "You don't like fire, right?" She nodded. "Better stand back." Holding out his arm, Kane let a little magic out. Immediately, flames began to lick up and down his arm. Everybody's eyes widened. He grinned and expanded the fire a little. He knew they would all be able to feel the heat, even from a distance. It was no illusion. He held it for a second longer before cutting the spell. Leaning back in his chair, he smirked. "I'm the magical muscle. Also"-- he leaned forward and lifted the table up off the ground-- "the physical muscle." He set it back down after a moment. "Anything else you want to know?"
Hailey just shook her head. Kit was just looking on with wide eyes. He still looked scared, but Kane didn't really care. He'd get over it soon enough. Or he wouldn't. Either way, he was there and they all just had to accept it and move on. And the human, Anton, looked much like Kit, except the fear wasn't nearly as tangible. Amazement and disbelief seemed to be the two emotions warring the hardest within him.
"Now, while we're waiting for Jack to get his shit together, I think it would be good for all of us if we went out, and did a little digging of our own." He grinned as he got to his feet. "I know a guy who knows a guy, who knows a demon who reportedly knows a bit about this whole situation. What we're gonna do is go and beat that demon until he spills his guts. Then, once he does, we're going to spill his guts on the ground. How does that sound?" They all looked pretty sickened by the thought. "Great. Let's head out. Follow me."
He headed for the door, and heard the three of them fall into line behind him.2/16/2011 . Edited 2/16/2011 #173
As they made their way through the city, Anton couldn't help but notice that he was by far the least useful in this sort of situation. His brother Ian was the one who'd been good at physical things, like sports and martial arts. They'd both taken karate when they were younger and Ian had gone on get his black belt, but after two mediocre years, their mother told Anton it was time to quit. He could still throw a few punches and could hold his own against Ian (…for a minute or two…when his brother was drunk or letting him win), but Anton suspected Kane's demon friend probably wouldn't be into karate or playing nice.
So, as they paused outside a dingy little pawn shop, Anton cleared his throat to get the large tattooed man's attention and said, "So, um, if things get ugly, you've got things covered, right?"
Kane grinned as he ducked into the alley to the left of the shop. "It'll get ugly. I guarantee that. And yeah, I can handle it."
"But," Anton continued, hoping this guy was friendlier than he look and wouldn't throw him through a wall or something for questioning him, "if you don't…" Kane rolled his eyes and Anton rushed to finish. "…it'd be nice to have a weapon of some-"
Before he could finish, metal flashed from Kane's jacket pocket and he tossed Anton the knife that had hacked Hailey's arm off just an hour before. "Happy now?"
Anton caught it, careful to keep his mind close to whatever else the knife might have (probably had) been used for in its time. He nodded. He felt there was at least a 10% chance he wouldn't die now.
In the narrow, garbage-strewn alley, they were forced to walk single file most of the time, with Kane in the lead, Hailey behind him, and Anton and Kit bringing up the rear. No one said much. They emerged from the alley into a small loading dock between the back of the pawn shop and the rear of some sort of restaurant. On one wall stood a large green dumpster with something enormous hunched over and rummaging through it.
Kane walked nonchalantly forward. "Charlie, it's been a while."
The thing known as Charlie stopped digging through a garbage bag, straightened up, and turned to see who had interrupted its dinner. At its full height, the demon was taller even than Kane, a big grey mass of muscle that did not look like it was pleased to see them. It growled a string of obscenities their way before it threw itself toward Kane.
Anton gripped the knife with grim anticipation of his imminent violent death, but Kane easily dodged the much slower demon. It smashed into the wall behind them with the force of a small car, cracking some of the bricks. It stumbled, dazed, and Kane moved in, grabbing its foot out from under it and smashing it to the pavement.
Kane crossed his arms and smirked down at the prone demon. "We just want to ask you a few questions, Charlie. The sooner you do that, the sooner this ends."
From the look in the demon's eyes, it had no intention of ending this quickly. 'I wish we'd just waited 'til that Jack guy ran those names,' Anton thought. ' This was a bad idea.' They waited for the demon to choose its next move. They didn't have to wait long.2/18/2011 #174
Charlie jumped back to feet quickly. Or he would have, if he was about three hundred pounds lighter. As it was, he managed to lift himself into a sitting position before Kane planted a foot on his chest and forced him back down. "Stop being an idiot, Charlie," he said. "You know how this is going to end. I'm going to beat your ass like a piñata, you're going to tell me what I want to know, and we're going to leave you unconscious in the dumpster. It's easier for all of us if you just give up now."
That seemed to give the demon pause. He gazed back at Kane thoughtfully, or as thoughtfully as a being as stupid as Charlie could. After a minute, he rolled his eyes. "Fine. What you wanna know?" He held up one massive hand, which Kane used to pulled the hulking demon to his feet.
"A magical virus, Ubina. Really scary, deadly shit, my friend. What do you know?"
Charlie was quiet for a moment, as he studied the others. His eyes paused on Kit, and he inhaled deeply. "What's this thing?"
Kane just shook his head. "Doesn't matter, dumb-ass. Just answer the fucking question." Charlie continued to stare at the others, who were looking a little nervous. Finally, Kane reached out and slapped the demon across the side of his head, hard. "Focus, moron."
"Okay, okay," Charlie said, his deep voice little more than a rumble. "Virus, you said?" Kane nodded. "Yeah, I heard of it. About year ago, wizard was asking around, looking for muscle to help get something. Word was, he trying to get virus."
"Really?" Kane said. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about this wizard, would you?"
Charlie bobbled his head from side to side. "Not much. Name's William, or Willem, something like that. No last name. Lives in New York or New Jersey, I think. That all I know." He held up his hands and shrugged apologetically.
Kane appeared to ponder that for a moment. "All right, that's not bad, Charlie. Congratulations, you get to live. But if one single word about this little conversation somehow gets leaked out to anyone else, I will find you and string you up with your own intestines. Understand?" The demon nodded, and started to slowly back away. "Good. Get out of here." There was no hesitation as the huge demon turned and ran out of the alleyway. "There," Kane said, smiling at his companions, "that wasn't too bad, was it? You guys got lucky tonight. Charlie is one of the biggest pussies out here. Anyone else and I probably would have had to carve him up."
Before anyone could respond, a loud ringing suddenly sounded. Kane immediately recognized the sound of his phone and pulled it out of his pocket. "Yeah? What? Already? Okay, we're on our way." He pocketed the phone and turned back to the others. "Good news, people. Jack managed to get some possible leads from those names Anton gave him. He wants us to head back to the base right now. Let's go."
As a group, the four made their way out of the dark alley and began the short walk back to the Aulie Institution.2/20/2011 . Edited 2/21/2011 #175
Jack stood by the conference table at the Aulie Institution with a few envelopes in his hands. We all waited, and though my instincts would have regularly told me to find an escape from the group, I didn't know the Mainlands, and it was obvious some dark magic had brought me here for a purpose. I resolved to stay because I had no choice, but teamwork wasn't something at which I succeeded.
Jack explained. "There are four possible leads--these people might know where the virus is located or information about how to destroy it. Some of them could be dead, others might prove valuable."
He put the envelopes on the table and Kane took them, opening the first.
"One's a wizard, Wilheim Aryl..."
Kane smirked, "Lives in New York."
"Second's a woman, goes by Rachael, demon..."
Kane handed the first envelope to me. A young man smiled back, his glasses too big for his face--I had expected him to be older, especially if he was tangled with the Ubina virus. I passed the envelope on to Anton.
"Third's a human, some scientist, codename Nod, I figure he had contact with Wilheim."
The woman was beautiful, there was a sense of eeriness and unease about her eyes that bothered me, as if even though a photograph she could see straight into my conscious. Passed her to Anton...not keen to study her profile long.
"And the fourth is a man named Joshua, he's a wild card, could be the dead end, or could be something worse. They've all had connections with the virus--could be trying to access it to re-create it, standard end-of-the-world shit."
The scientist had red hair, glasses--beard, and he looked serious.
And the man Joshua was older, his hair was cut in some absurd attention-grabbing manner. He had a tattoo on his neck of an elephant. His profile was void of any interesting information.
I passed him on...
a silence settled over us.
"So who do we want to pay a visit to first?" Kane asked.2/20/2011 #176
Hailey thumbed through the files, having gotten them all at the end around the circle. Wilheim the wizard was in New York, as Kane had mentioned, and Joshua was living to LA, according to the file's date of a year ago. Scientist Nod was in Chicago and had possible ties to the mafia, while the demon Rachael was scrounging in Toronto.
She frowned. Of all the random places to go.
"I say we go to whichever's furthest away and then make our way back," she offered after a moment of nothing. "LA, probably, then jump to Chicago, Toronto, and New York City."
"If you're worried about transportation, the wizards who brought you here can send you wherever you need," Jack said. "They brought you from all over the place, this is simple enough."
Silence followed. Hailey took a breath. "Well, if nobody objects, I kinda wanna go to Canada. Seems like a nice place."
"Well sure, not counting all the demons we're sure we're going to find..." Anton mumbled.
"Canada?" Kit repeated, concern in his voice. Hailey almost laughed aloud - Canada was the most chill country she could think of; she almost laughed at her pun as polar bears and eskimos were brought to the front of her attention. Although, Kit obviously wasn't from around here, and he'd looked more or less frightened since he came.
"Right, fine, let's get going." Kane rolled his eyes. Jack nodded.
Jack led them out of the conference room, down a short hallway, and into another room. It was completely empty. Jack ushered them inside. "The wizards will send you just outside of Toronto, out of sight of everybody. Because we've already transported you once already by this method, it shouldn't knock you out again. When you're ready to come back or go somewhere else, give me a ring. We'll do the process again."
She crossed her arms out of habit after he left. Kane looked bored, Anton was looking around the bare room, and Kit shifted around uncomfortably. A moment passed, then a minute. A thought on the tip of her tongue disappeared as a slight whirring sound came from the ceiling and engulfed them. The three, minus Kane, looked at each other perplexed, and with an inexplicable crack the world disappeared into a pool of black.2/20/2011 #177
Like with most teleportation spells, there was a brief moment of disorientation when they reached their destination. Kane closed his eyes and counted back from ten, and when he opened them again, the feeling had passed. He hated teleporting, but there was no other way to move from city to city fast enough.
While he waited for the others to steady themselves, Kane took the opportunity to look around at the surrounding area. He didn't recognize the area, which was not much of a surprise. The spell had deposited them in what looked to be the top floor of a very busy parking garage. No matter where he looked, he could see cars coming and going. There were only four or five empty spots, as far as he could tell. The group was situated right next to a door, off to the side, which appeared to lead to either an elevator or a stairwell. Wonder if they were actually aiming for here or not? Kane thought. Teleportation spells were notoriously inaccurate. Either way, it was a stroke of luck they hadn't ended up appearing in front of a moving car. That wouldn't have ended well.
Turning to his left, Kane wandered a bit away from the group and looked out over the city. "Hey," he said after a moment, "good news, everybody. I can see a subway station, only one street over from here. Did that file have an address on that demon chick?"
"No," Hailey replied. "Just a neighbourhood." She thought about it for a minute, remembering, before recalling the name of the area.
Kane nodded, pleasantly surprised. "It's been a while since I've been to Toronto, but if memory serves correctly, there should be another subway station about a block away from there. Means we won't have to walk so far, which is a good thing in this city. Come on, let's go." He walked back over to the group, and made his way through the door. Turned out stairwell had been the correct response. There was no elevator in sight. With a heavy sigh, Kane started down the stairs, and the others followed suit.
Down the stairs they went, floor after floor, until the finally reach the bottom. Kane led the way out of the stairwell, which opened up on the ground floor, which looked to be exponentially busier than the top floor had been. There were moderately long line-ups of cars waiting to both enter and exit the structure. Ignoring the traffic, Kane made his way toward the exit, not bothering to see if the others were keeping up.
When the group finally reached the street, Kane took a moment to get his bearings. After looking around a bit, he spotted what he was looking for and strode off in the proper direction. Down the sidewalk they went, cutting through the crowds of people. Most gave Kane a wide berth, and his three companions quickly figured out that walking directly behind him kept them free from most of the clutter. Around the corner of the parking garage they went, and Kane immediately spotted the subway station. There was a large sign over the entrance, which made it pretty hard to miss.
Surprising enough, it wasn't actually too crowded once they got into the station itself. Kane was really surprised by that, but he chalked it up to good timing on their part. They arrived just as a train did, so the four of them quickly piled into one of the cars. It was only about half full, so all four were able to grab a seat along the same wall. There was a short waiting period before the train started to roll. Kane spent the time looking around at his fellow passengers. Most of them were dressed formally and playing with their Blackberries. Fucking suits, he thought, must be on their lunch break. He quickly grew bored of the people watching.
Luckily, the ride was a short one. Kane saw the sign over the door light up, and the right name scrolled across the narrow screen. "This is our stop," he announced, getting to his feet. The other three did likewise, and followed him off the train, along with about half a dozen other people. Kane led the way up the stairs and out onto the street. "All right. I recognize the area now. We're pretty close. But first, any thoughts on how we find this Rachael?"
There was silence as the other three thought about it. It's not like they could just go around, showing her picture or asking random questions. Most demons had at least a few friends, or acquaintances who were willing to defend them for the right price, and poking around where you weren't wanted was a good way to get yourself jumped. Plus, if the target caught wind of what was going on, they could just flee the area. So they definitely needed to figure out what to do before they stormed in and made a mess of things.2/21/2011 #178
Anton searched the busy street for some idea what to do next. He'd never been in a city this big before, or had to find someone he'd never met. The enormity of the situation finally hit him: here he was in Toronto, having been teleported twice in one day with a guy who could do magic, a shapeshifter, and a girl who didn't mind getting her arm cut off, and they were trying to find their second demon of the day to track down some magical virus that could easily destroy everyone in the world. This was by far the most out of his element he'd ever been in his life. How the heck was he going to be any help?
Anton closed his eyes and breathed a steadying breath, getting his nerves back in check. When he opened his eyes, a flash of movement at the end of the block grabbed his attention. Walking over to investigate, he found a small electronics store with a bank of tvs in the window, complete with an old-fashioned camera to show everyone walking by.
Anton smiled and entered the store. The others waited outside, looking at him like he was nuts, but he ignored them, focusing instead on the camera. The man behind the counter eyed him but said nothing as Anton nonchalantly ran his hands over the tvs and finally settled on the camera. He'd never opened his mind to a camera before so the information was disorienting at first, all bright lights and distorted shapes whooshing by. But he gave it a few moments for his brain to start interpreting the camera's eye on the world. Soon, he could see the others in front of him, delayed by a few seconds but distinctly Kane, Kit, and Hailey.
Now confident he would be able to do this, Anton started going back through the feed, watching children and mothers, businessmen and teens all walk by in reverse, flashing backward so quickly he almost didn't have time to register faces. But he knew what he was looking for, and after searching through nearly two days worth of people making faces, he spotted the woman from the file. Anton let the memory play itself out. Rachael walked by on the opposite side of the street, talking to a tall, dark-haired man who looked to be in his fourties. They crossed the street toward the electronics store but kept walking, around the corner to his right.
Anton took his hand off the camera, waved to the man behind the counter, and joined the others on the street. "I think I can figure out some of the places she's been," he said. "It'd at least give us a general idea where she frequents most."
"Lead the way," Kane said.
Anton walked backward toward the corner, explaining as he went. "I saw her go this way the other day, but I'll need to find more cameras to track anything more recent."
The others helped him spot three more cameras along the busy sidewalks. From them, Anton was able to track her for two blocks before he found a security camera that showed her entering a corner diner on five separate occasions in the last week, entering but never coming out the same door. Anton grinned, pleased that he'd been able to help again, and said, "I don't know about you guys, but I could go for something to eat." Kit and Hailey stared blankly at him and Kane just rolled his eyes. Sighing, Anton explained, "She hangs out in there a lot. She won't stop by today for another hour, though, so we'll have to stake it out."
"I always wanted to go on a stakeout," Hailey said, and the four of them went into the diner and sat down to wait.2/21/2011 #179
Hailey stirred the straw around in her glass, mixing up the mountain of ice cubes at the bottom. Anton was munching on his last of the french fries, and Kane had recently polished off a massive burger that had made Hailey sick just looking at it. Her diet was simple, comparatively, since she could take any food in its most basic form and put it straight to where it was needed - not to mention she didn't need it that often since she wasn't producing protein-eating activities like hair and fingernail growth. More often than not, it was straight sugar that proved to get the job done. For now, she'd stick with water and play with her ice cubes.
For the most part of the hour, they had sat awkwardly at a booth in the corner. They had watched every woman come in and ask Anton if she was it. He'd sneak a glance and roll his eyes. They stopped asking after a while, but Hailey still glared at every one who came in. Small talk proved to be equally as boring.
"So... what are we actually going to do when we get her?" Kit asked.
Hailey pointed at Kane with her straw. "I vote you get her to talk."
His fang-teeth glinted under the lowlit fixture that hung above them. "Pleasure."
"But what are we even asking about?" Kit piped again.
Hailey drew circles in the air, still pointing her straw at Kane. "I still think he's got this under control, hun. Stop worrying so much, we're not going to let her eat you."
"I might, if she doesn't," Kane said, seeming to seriously consider the thought. "Wouldn't think you'd taste very good, though."
Kit glanced at Hailey for reassurance. She rolled her eyes and laughed under her breath.
"There!" Anton whispered sharply.
Hailey's eyes snapped up to the door to catch her face, then buried her sight back into her glass. If the picture in the profile had been any indication of her beauty, it was terribly underscored by how she was in real life. Her long hair swept past her shoulders, and there was something in her arctic blue eyes that seemed to pierce everything. It was unsettling.
"Keep an eye on her, Hailey, we're not really in the best of positions to watch." Anton said.
Hailey kept glancing up every few seconds to track the demon's progress. She stopped to talk to the bartender for a brief moment before heading to the circular staircase in the corner. On her way up, the demon accidentally caught her sight. Hailey glanced away, her ears wanting to burn a bright pink, but she refused to let them. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the slim figure pause for a moment before continuing up the metal stairs and out of sight.
"She said something to the bartender then went up the staircase in the corner," she said. "I caught her eye for a split second, and she paused as if she knew who I was and what I was doing here. She kept going, though, and she's out of sight now."
"So... do we go now, or in a few minutes?" Kit asked. Hailey glanced at Kane for an answer.
"Well we know she's not coming out the same door," Anton said.
"Get a move on, then, psychic." Kane pushed at the man blocking his way out. Anton jumped up to let him out, and the three followed Kane to the staircase.
But they didn't go unseen, despite the chaos of the diner and bar. The bartender called out to them as they neared it, "Hey! Youse can't go up there! Restricted access, that!"
"And just what're you gonna do about it?" Kane shot back.
The man's eyes flashed a fire that made the hair on Hailey's neck stand up on end. "Don't go up there!"
"We don't need to get into any more trouble than it's worth," Hailey cautioned.
Kane snorted. She could swear she almost saw smoke come from out of his nose. "Fine, have it that way."
The four went and sat back down in the booth in the corner. Anton spoke up first. "So what now?"2/23/2011 #180
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