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Petra 1: Rock and a Hard Place - Part 11

By Renae

[Note the author does not speak Italian, or any other languages, so apart from a few words here and there all dialog will be in English. You may however presume that it is what ever language you feel comfortable with. Special thanks to Warren for providing taxi ride experiences in Italy, and a bunch of other insanity. (Yes some of it really is his fault! :) And Maggie for help with Saul.]

 

Rome, Italy

“I think I liked the Rose Palace better when it was intact,” I said as we walked and rolled around the outskirts of the deconstruction site.

“Yes, it was a nice place to some extent,” Rider shrugged and watched the odd gathering of onlookers, “I never spent too much time in it if I could avoid it.”

“Oh?” I asked as Michelle gave us the high sign from the van.

“Well most of the Roses are anal and the Thorns don’t stay in one place long enough to have a party,” Rider said as he started angling back to the minivan.

“I see, the Knight Marshal keeps you all busy?” I asked as I rolled along beside him.

“Not that the Roses can’t be effective as field agents, but they tend to plod along. Though some of them make Sherlock Holmes look like an amateur when it comes to deductive reasoning and detective work.” He paused and made a critical study of the crowd; “Where as most of the Thorns have a gift or knack that guides us through the stickiest of situations.”

 “Like my marks, and I guess magicks?” I asked as I waited for him.

“Well I am not too shabby of a mage, and I am sort of in line to be the next Librarian, but I don’t have the patience for the job.” Rider shook his head, “Mercy who is our current Librarian, and she tends to be closed-mouthed about things, but when she uncorks…” Rider paused to laugh, “Well you were there.”

“No kidding, with the psychic back hand from hell,” I said with a roll of my eyes.

“True, but if she says something you can rely on it,” he shook his head, “so if she’s says you are a good egg, its good enough for everyone.”

“But its not, is it?” I asked as he motioned to the ramp leading to the mini-van.

“Give it time Petra, right now the Order is pretty much head-fucked due to being caught short,” he smirked and said, “we have a bunch of overly prideful sorts in the Order, and they won’t admit that it was inevitable.”

“Inevitable?” I asked as I paused at the ramp.

“Pride going before a fall, and things like that,” he said with a sigh. “As much as I want to point fingers and laugh at their asses, I can’t as it’d be too cruel.”

It took a few moments for everyone to get situated back in the mini-van and to get me locked in place. I was seriously missing the freedom of just hopping in a seat buckling up and going. So as the rest of them did their thing I studied Riders profile as he looked back at me.

Rider was easily six foot tall, though he didn’t have the bulky frame of a linebacker, but more of a businessman. He also skipped the clerical blacks and was casually dressed in a light gray jacket and black suit pants. Against fashion he wore light tan moccasins that were lightly embroidered with turquoise, and his blond hair was collar length and a bit windswept form the breeze.

“What’s on you mind Petra?” he asked with lazy smile before turning back to the front.

“Why did the Librarian call you an agnostic?” I asked after mentally fumbling for a topic briefly.

“She did it to twit me,” he admitted with a chuckle, “I was a professor of religion at UCLA before becoming a Knight; and while I can acknowledge the ‘Christian God’ as being a god, I can’t accept it as being ‘The God.’” He paused briefly and then said, “There are a plethora of gods who can fit the ‘Christian Mythology’ and over half a dozen with ‘Crucified Saviors’ in them.”

“So it’s an intellectual stand point for you?” asked Rose as she closed the door.

“Or if you prefer, ‘I’m just being pissy about it.’” He smirked and with a laugh said, “It drives Mercy nuts in that while I have seen Heaven; I refuse to concede the point that while there is a god it doesn’t make him or her ‘The God.’”

“But you have seen Heaven?” I asked curiously.

“Yes, more times than I care to admit,” he said with a resigned sigh.

“I’ve never seen it,” I said slowly as he looked back at me, “not even once.”

“You fall into a different rule set Petra,” Rider said with a shrug, “or if you like, a huge set of loop-holes. The normal rules don’t exactly apply to you, you can carry things and souls back and forth across ‘veil’ for instance.”

“Yeah messenger girl Petra at your service,” I said sourly as Michelle started the van.

“So where now?” asked Michelle as she glanced at us in the mirror.

“To lunch I think,” said Rider with a thoughtful smile, “with enough driving time to see if we pick up any tails if you please.”

“Then what after lunch?” I asked as I plugged in a feeder line for a quick ‘snack.’

“I suppose we should make a showing of the license plate at its owner’s place of business,” he grinned and added, “if only to see if our invisible friends are there too.”

“So how many did you count?” asked Rose as she rubbed her eyes.

“Two, and you?” Rider asked in turn.

“Three I think,” she shook her head, “one was in the distance.”

“Ah, so we made a good ‘showing’ of Petra being alive and well already, now we just need to turn up the heat,” Rider seemed pleased as he removed his cell phone and began to dial, “three hits in less than thirty minutes on scene, all in all a good bit of work.”

“I suppose we should be grateful that our enemy dumb enough to equate visually invisible as magically invisible too,” said Michelle with a forced laugh.

“For ninety-nine and some odd decimal points of a percent thrown in for good measure, it works for them,” pointed out Rider with a dismissive shrug, “we know what to look for and have mage-sight, the rest of humanity is blind to them. Also while we can target them with the mage-sight, shooting with anything but a spell is hard.”

“So why not hit them with a spell and take a prisoner or two?” I asked quickly.

“Its on the list, but we want to have spell cancellers on them pretty quickly if we want to interrogate them,” he shook his head, “the Roses really dropped the ball when they didn’t slap them on their first prisoner from the get go.”

 

Lunch or rather the restroom break after lunch took an odd turn while I was taking care of ‘business.’ I was there just doing my thing when the bathroom stall shook violently. Not one to be disturbed when attending to ‘things,’ I ignored the commotion. When the door caved inwards under a mass of people, most of them my dinner companions, I was understandably a bit perturbed.

“What the hell?!?” I asked in my best indignant and startled voice of impending doom.

Considering the group seemed to be wrestling with a tablecloth that was over something or someone, I didn’t get much of an answer for a few moments. Finally after they had pounded, stomped and then tazered the person under the tablecloth a few time, I was greeted with several amused but distinctly happy faces.

As they stood there I tried to gather my aplomb, which given the circumstances took a bit of doing. “What the freaking hell are you people doing!” I hissed in a loud whisper.

“Sorry, were you busy?” asked Rose as she kicked the person under the tablecloth a few times when they moved.

“You could say that,” I said looking at them in outrage, “I’m only trying to crap here…”

“It’s all right,” said Rider with a blank expression on his face, “don’t mind us.”

“Don’t mind…” I gave them all a dirty look, “do you have any idea what the glop in the tubes does for your constitutionals? Let me clue you in. I’m constipated and pissed off, so go the fuck away!”

“There’s no need to be shitty about it,” said Rider as he bent down to pick up the odd bundle.

“You are so going to pay for that Rider,” said Michelle as she gave the flickering lights a wary glance.

“Right,” he said with a grunt, “I’ll meet you in the ally, bring the mini-van around once Petra has completed the paper-work.”

“I am going to hurt him,” I said loudly, “really, I am going to hurt him.”

“So you say,” said Rose with a shake of her head, “do try to hurry Petra, I have a hunch Rider is improvising his ass off.”

“It’s in the plans,” he protested as he banged his way our of the ladies room.

“I’ll go make nice with the staff,” said Rose as she shook her head, “I suspect they may have called the police.”

“Ya think?” I asked as Michelle tried to close the busted door for me.

“Something tells me it is Jedi mind trick time,” muttered Michelle as she gave up and just held the door closed.

“Fuck, fuck, ka-fucking-fuck fuck,” I said disgustedly as I registered what part of my abdominal discomfort equated to.

“What?” asked Michelle with peek in at me.

“I think my fucking period has started,” I said and opened the my purse and dug down to the bottom for a tampon, “I am so going to hurt him.”

“Ah, need anything?” she asked quickly as she peered in at me again.

“Privacy and later a baseball bat,” I said morosely.

“Ah, ok.”

 

Rubbing my knuckles I carefully sat back into my chair, “What?” I asked as Rider looked at me blankly as he rubbed his jaw. “I told you I was going to hurt you.”

“Be happy they don’t sell baseball bats at restaurants,” said Michelle with a faint smile.

Shaking his head he glanced down to the ground and then seemed to take a deep calming breath, “I am sorry, I suppose we might have waited until you came out of the bathroom, but the opportunity was just too good to pass up.”

I struggled with several choice insults most of which were in Chinese and thus useless at the moment. I sighed and made sure I was speaking Italian, “F-f-fine, le-ts just-t-t go.”

“Yup he’s doomed,” said Michelle as she shook with suppressed mirth.

“Why?” Rider asked wearing a pained expression as he glanced at each of us.

“You’re male,” said Michelle sweetly, “I’m sure you will figure it out.”

 

“I am not sure a small nick counts as a valid ‘wound’ but since you brought ‘presents’ I’ll over look it this time,” said Satan with a smirk.

“Well excuse me, I didn’t feel like stabbing myself with Rider’s dull penknife,” I replied as Satan picked up the screaming man and slapped him around a few times for the fun of it.

“So this is one of the cult’s members and you want what in exchange for him?” he asked with a smile.

“Well we figure he’s got to know something useful, and since he is going to die anyways… from his own group or ours.” I shrugged and said, “Rider’s fairly insistent on that, something to do with the contamination in the guys body and dangerous knowledge.”

“Well yes, we can’t have people just running around summoning up horrors from the past and so on,” said Satan with a pleased nod, “it makes life so much harder to hold onto.”

“So we want to know everything this guy knows about the cult, what they are doing and so on,” I said with pained shrug, “I’m not good with torture myself…”

“I’d be happy to demonstrate or even teach you,” Satan said cheerfully as he drug the man by one leg over to a rack, “it is a valid skill in any age after all.”

“I’ll pass, besides you get such pleasure out of it and I would not want to deprive you of that,” I said sarcastically as he pegged him in place.

“I suppose, but what will I do with you in the mean time?” he seemingly asked the air.

“I’ll be happy to stand out of the way and attempt to scream artistically for you,” I said quickly as he turned and advanced upon me.

“Yes, but I find it better if the screams are not faked…”

 

“So here you are Rider, everything you wanted to know about Robert Benton Smythe, but were afraid to ask,” I said as I let the large stack of heavy books drop off of my lap.

Rider picked up one of the books and sighed, “Satan can be such a literal pain in the ass.”

“Well yeah, he said you would find the last book in his life more useful than the others,” I shuddered and looked away from the pile, “Mr. Smythe will not be rejoining us in this life or most of eternity, the important parts of him anyways.”

“Oh?” asked Rider as he looked at me expectantly.

I pointed down at the books as my stomach roiled unpleasantly, “Let me just say blank paper is a ‘rare commodity’ in Hell… or so Satan says.”

Rose gave the pile of books a horrified look, “Its his skin?”

“As well as his blood, though Satan says red ink is fairly common there in Hell.” I shook my head as Rider gave me a worried look, “You were going to kill him anyways…”

“Yes but…” he said as he paused and sighed, “giving someone to Satan for eternity is a bit harsh.”

“Sacrificing pregnant women and kids will get you that anyhow,” I said with an annoyed grunt. “Satan had me transcribe his entire life for you, this guy is getting off light if you ask me.”

“I see, well thank you, I think,” Rider replied, as he looked slightly ill when he re-examined the book he was holding.

“Yeah, well enjoy your reading,” I said as I backed the chair away from the pile of books, “I’m going to go take a shower and throw up a few times or something like that.”

“It’s that bad?” he asked slowly.

“You could call it a crash course in necrophilia among other things,” I said as I suppressed an urge to vomit.

Rider looked unhappy as he looked at the book in his hands, “I’m sorry if I had known, I would have found another way.”

“I don’t think his associates knew or cared about his perversions, he was pretty careful,” I explained and sighed, “he’s out of the game in any case.”

“Right, I’ll see what I can glean from this book, then burn them,” Rider shook his head again, “you read all of this?”

“I wrote it down one word at a time, but my mind refused to keep any of it,” I rubbed my wrists and fingers a moment, “I think Satan doesn’t want the information spread to thickly.”

“Possibly,” Rider said as he eyed the book cautiously, “some things are best left alone or unlearned.”

“But you are going to read it?” I asked after a moment.

“I’m next in line to be the Librarian, and well, I never could resist a horror novel,” Rider said with a roll of his eyes.

“So you are a masochist?” I asked carefully.

“Aren’t we all?” he asked with a smirk.

 

Getting to sleep took a mug of the bad tasting herbs, staying asleep would have taken earplugs. I sat for the longest time in my bed trying to identify what was going on. There would be a burst of gunfire, a delay, and then a loud room-shaking thud a few moments later. Since there didn’t seem to be any accompanying screams or the sound of people in fear, I partially wondered if someone was watching television to loudly.

After a time I gave up on just laying there and pulled on a robe, once dressed I rolled out into the living area to see the girls all gathered on a couch. Rolling up I was greeted by a few tired nods, “So what is going on?”

Michelle rolled her eyes and yawned, “… Sorry, it’s zombies.”

“You have to be shitting me?” I asked once I processed that bit of information.

“Nope, real zombies, carrying real bombs,” said Rose with a look of disgust, “some idiot is sending them at us one at a time.”

I digested that and then shook my head, “Zombies need to be sent as a swarm to be effective, every gamer or movie nut knows that.”

“We think it’s a harassment technique,” said the Matron as she wandered in carrying a steaming mug.

“To keep us busy and awake all night so they are free to move around in the day time,” commented the Signora with a shake of her head, “evidently they want us kept out of Rome.”

“Lovely, so how long has this been going on?” I asked with a frown.

“A while now, they are spaced about five to ten minutes apart,” explained Rose as she tapped her watch, “so thus far it is sixty some odd zombies, of all ages and genders… according to the defense team.” 

“Where in the world would they keep them all?” I asked blankly. “That’s a lot of dead people.”

Rider walked in looking a bit haggard as he made his way over to a five-gallon coffee maker and filled a cup. “Refrigerated trucks. According to the book, they would sacrifice them; zombify them, and then put them on ice for later use… Evidently they planned on originally sending them into the streets of Rome, and even if they just send one truckload out on the street, it’d be chaos.”

“Holiday shoppers please avoid the zombies in aisles three, six and ten,” I cheerfully said after another loud thump shook the Lodge.

“Yes, its going to be messy no matter what, fortunately we are not involved in the clean up,” said the Signora as she shook her head tiredly.

“I just feel for the families who will never know what happened to their missing loved ones,” said Rose as she glanced at us, “its not something we can allow to be publicized.”

“No, I suspect not,” said Rider as he ran his free hand through his hair, “with luck we can locate the other truckloads before they are used on the public or us.”

 “That’s a lot of sacrifices, where did they get them all from?” I asked with a worried frown.

“They are refugees and illegal migrants,” said Rider with a snort of disgust, “evidently they got their people inserted as handler crews and then spelled them for easy shipping.”

“Ugh, please tell me we have someone tracking down their suppliers?” I asked quickly.

“It’s being looked into,” Rider said somberly, “I recommend letting the security team and Sally deal with the threat, finding some earplugs and getting some rest. We need to get back on the job in Rome in the morning.”

 “Sleep…” I gave Rider a foul look, “with all that going on?”

“I didn’t say it would be easy.” He paused and looked at us, “At least they are not carrying boom-boxes and playing ‘Thriller’ at us.”

 

“Fucking zombies.”

 

“… Seriously going to kill the bastards…”

 

“Its three in fucking the morning, do you know where your zombies are?”

“All over our fucking lawn.”

 

“Zombies, for additional necrophiliac fun…”

“You are so sick Rider.”

 

“Oh look the sun… mother fuckers.”

 

“Brains, brains… gah that is in such bad taste.”

 

“zzzzzzzzZZZZzzzzzzz”

 

Thursday, 14 December, 2006

“Early to bed, early to rise…” cheerfully interjected Rider as he joined us at the breakfast table.

“… will get you shot sooner,” I muttered bleary-eyed at him.

“What? I let you sleep in until nine, I am not totally insensitive to the lack of sleep situation.” He smiled brightly and I was certain that he would have to die, as he appeared to be a morning person. “Look at it this way, we won’t be the ones raking guts into the pyres for burning today.”

“Let’s hear it for that,” said Michelle with a yawn, “please tell me we are doing something productive today.”

“We’re going to Mr. Smythe’s house to turn it inside out for clues, and to make sure it burns to the ground afterwards,” Rider’s smile was mirthless, “he kept a few of the deceased as toys… so we have to make sure they don’t go walking off.”

“Mr. Smythe was a very sick person and he deserves every moment he suffers in hell,” I said after getting a bite of toast to go down.

“I think we can agree on that,” Rider said with a disgusted shake of his head. “The teams in Rome located another truck load of zombies, and to our good fortune intercepted a truck load of victims to be… so yesterday’s operation is considered a success.”

“That is good news,” said Rose with a smile, “any idea where they came from?”

“Evidently Croatia and other war zones,” said Rider with a frown, “they paid to escape the fighting and ended up in a worse state.”

“Yuck,” I said with a shake of my head.

“Yes, it is unpleasant and I expect the Order will turn its attention in that direction in time, in the mean time we will have to resolve the current mess.” Rider shrugged briefly and tapped a thick book, “Mr. Smythe was not high up in the organization but he was their main hatchet man; so with him out of the game those wishing to defect or back out might do so.”

  “Lets hear it for blind luck,” I said as I gave the book a dirty look.

“There is no such thing child,” said the Signora with a dry smile, “but fortune does favor the prepared.”

 

Rome, Italy

Going to Mr. Smythe’s house was a bust in that it had been reduced to smoking rubble long before we had arrived. Rather than let the case go cold, Rider had dumped Michelle, Rose and I off at the Vatican, on the pretext of being seen and thus keep the pressure up. Personally I think he was up to something and didn’t want extra ‘baggage’ along as he ran off to see to it.

Having my own thoughts on the matter, I called Connor up and had asked him join us as we roamed around the Vatican grounds. Connor was happy to see me, but no so happy as to the state I was in, much less all the mayhem that had accompanied my arrival in Rome. It took us roughly an hour of walking and talking to give him the ‘state of Rome’ as we knew it, with all sorts of extra colorful tidbits from him.

“So you see Connor, things are pretty fucked up all around,” I said with an exaggerated wave of my arms to encompass everything.

“Yes, well we did know some of the story, the Knights and the Inquisition have been grudgingly giving us information,” he shook his head in evident annoyance and continued, “there are too may secret organizations in the Vatican at times.”

“Well have they told you what happened to their headquarters?” asked Rose as she ‘steered’ us along.

“Vaguely, some sort of implosion device,” Connor looked at Rose as she shook her head, “what?”

“Implosion, maybe, but they had put a spell on a painting, one that made everyone leave and forget they were Knights.” Rose paused in her explanation, “It was fairly insidious as anyone who directly handled it died or went mad, they should have told you about the threat…”

“They just warned us to be wary of suspicious packages,” Connor shook his head tiredly, “not paintings or of spells.”

“Speaking of paintings, Father Trovatelli worked in restorations didn’t he?” I asked as we paused by a statue.

“Yes, we’ve gone over his office a dozen times though,” Connor looked briefly dismayed, “I will miss him.”

“Yes, well do you think we could go there?” asked Michelle with a thoughtful expression. “It’d help to turn up the pressure perhaps, since we are being followed again.”  

“Followed?” asked Connor as he turned and pointed off at a clock tower as if pointing it out to us, “I don’t see anyone behind us.”

“They are magically hiding from visual sight, but they tend to radiate magick,” said Rose with a chuckle, “it’s sneaky of them, but not perfect even in a place as spiritually charged as the Vatican.”

“So you really are playing bait?” asked Connor as he looked back at me.

“Yup, I’ve been regulated to fish food,” I said with a shrug and pointed at my ‘wheels’, “I’m not exactly able to go fight monsters.”

“No I suspect not,” he smiled thoughtfully, “we should go then and see if they will follow us into the building.”

“You have an idea?” asked Rose as he started walking faster.

“Oh yes, we’ll ‘manufacture’ finding something important,” Connor laughed softly, “we’ll see if they are gullible enough to act on the fear that we have.”

“What do you have in mind?” asked Rose quietly.

“It’s the reverse of the ‘purloined letter,’” said Connor brightly, “we’ll make a great show of finding critical evidence when it is nothing more than a snuff box.”

“You have lost me,” said Michelle with a shake of her head.

“Surely you know of Edgar Allen Poe?” he asked effecting mild shock.

“The guy who wrote ‘The Raven?’” asked Rose with a dry smile, “I never really got into his works.”

“That’s a pity, though he also wrote some detective stories,” he cocked his head to one side and then smiled, “they are among the early forerunners to modern detective stories.”

 “So I can see why you might like them,” I said with a chuckle.

“Yes, the Purloined Letter was a bit of blackmail about a love letter, scandals and that sort of thing.” He paused to indicate an ally-like road leading deeper into the Vatican, “Short cut, of which our hero discovered had been delivered twice, once to the Queen, the other time to our perpetrator.”

“It sounds a bit convoluted,” said Rose as she walked ahead of us.

“Well considering the era it was set in; it was pretty simple, fold it over, readdress it, stamp your own seal on it and send it on its way.” He paused and said, “Wax seals were used in that era by nobles, lords, gentry and so on; so it was sent on to the blackmailer by the blackmailer.”

“Clever, I suppose,” I said as I glanced back at him and opened my mage-sight up briefly, yes we were being followed down the narrow ally way. “I wish I had a net gun,” I muttered to Connor as he beamed at me.

“Yes. So while our ‘hero’ was nosing around, the detective being the observant type, had noticed the fresh wax trimmings in a few places.” Connor rolled his eyes as he continued, “Having a moment of time alone in the blackmailer’s study, left behind his snuff box so that he could return and solve the case.”

  “Now that really sounds contrived,” said Michelle as she giggled, “unless he was trying for a date.”

“Well yes, I suppose it does,” said Connor with a laugh and he directed us up a delivery ramp and through a set of doors.

“So did the blackmailer get caught?” asked Rose as she summoned the elevator a minute later.

“I think so, but it seemed like he was sent packing rather than punished,” said Connor with a sigh, “I suspect he died quietly in the countryside of hemlock or something poisonous.”

“You sound so disappointed,” Michelle said once we were all in the elevator.

“It’s the inner cop in me,” he said with an abashed smile, “I always want to see the villain get nailed.”

 

Walking into Father Trovatelli’s office after learning of his death saddened me slightly. Not that I was overly emotional about it, but the Father had seemed full of life and had seemed to fill the office when he was in it. Connor on the other hand was pretty dejected as he wandered over the chessboard and stared at it for a time. Then after a moment he placed ‘his’ king on its side yielding the game to the Father.

“I am going to miss him,” he said after a moment.

“I wish I could have known him better,” I said casting an eye to the chessboard and then around the room.

“His service is in a few days,” he shook his head and sat down at the Father’s desk.

“If events let us come, we will try to be there,” said Rose as she walked around looking at things with a distant expression on her face. 

I glanced at the desk and said, “Power up the computer, maybe there is information on it we can use.”

“They already checked it, its blank,” he said with a shrug.

“Oh?” I asked and rolled closer to the desk.

“Yeah someone had formatted the drive, ‘really’ formatted the drive as it is full of gibberish,” he said with a shake of his head, “they pulled the drive. We have some techs going over it but they think a pro or someone who knew what they were doing, ‘cleaned it’.”

“The nerds strike back,” I muttered as I rolled around the office, “are the computers networked and backed up on a frequent basis?”

“Sometimes, not always,” he shook his head and sighed, “most of the time non-sensitive areas are ignored.”

“What about paper documents?” asked Michelle as she pointed at the piles of paper around the office.

“Depends on what we are looking for,” Connor said with a thoughtful expression on his face, “do you recall what painting had been removed?”

I thought for a moment and said, “I think it is ‘something Jericho,’ but it is kind of foggy in my head as to what exactly.”

“Ok, sit tight here in the office, nose around a bit sounding enthused while I go and look for someone who might tell us if the painting got here or not.” Connor smiled cheerfully, “Make a stack of likely documents too, it can’t hurt.”

“Ok,” said Rose with a grin, “care to bet we discover something before you do?”

“I’m not a betting man, unless it is for food,” Connor said with a shrug, “find me something I can use to avenge Father Trovatelli’s death and dinner is on me.”

“That sounds like a plan,” said Michelle with a grin as she started looking though documents.

 

“So Rose, what are you doing with the crystal?” I asked as she tied it to a string.

“I found a bit of the Father’s hair in the keyboard, so with luck I can use it to resonate with items he was partial to using.” Rose paused and then grinned sheepishly, “I got the idea from reading a book.”

“Which book?” asked Michelle as she wandered over from her search.

 “Books, ’The Dresden Files’ by Jim Butcher, most of the stories are purely nonsense, but the author is decent so I read them purely for fun.” Rose smiled and then shrugged as she held up the suspended crystal, “Occasionally he has a few workable insights into the craft.”

“Ah, so how does it work?” I asked as she walked to the center of the room.

“It’s complicated,” Rose replied with a grin.

“It’s magick of course it is complicated,” said Michelle with a roll of her eyes and an extravagant arm gesture.

Rose smirked than then held the suspended crystal up in the air and started chanting. For a moment nothing seemed to happen, and then it started to glow with an odd pink light. After a moment Rose let go of the string that was attached to the crystal and it slowly started to move about the room.

“Look ma, no hands,” said Michelle with a giggle as Rose continued to chant.

“So… now what?” I asked as she followed it to the chess set where it glowed brightly for a moment, “Well we knew he liked chess.”

“So it’s working,” said Michelle as she looked from the glowing crystal to the door apprehensively.

Rose seemed oblivious to us as she continued chanting and walking slowly behind the floating crystal. Michelle on the other hand seemed to be distracted as she paced about the room in small abrupt movements. Every now and again Michelle would cast a hurried look at the door as if she was expecting the boogieman to leap through it.

With a soft ‘ah’ of surprise from Rose, the crystal flared briefly with golden light before falling on top of a set of books. “And there we have it,” announced Rose with a smile as she scooped up the trio of books. “One for each of us I think, I suspect we shall find something here.”

I gave her bland look and then pointed at the table’s drawer, “Or in there.”

Rose cocked her head at me in mock annoyance and then smiled ruefully, “That would be embarrassing, make all that effort and overlook the real source wouldn’t it?”

“It’s only embarrassing if it happens,” said Michelle with a grin as she removed a thick green book that was over stuffed with bits of paper. “Filing system, what filing system?” she then asked us with a grin.

“Is that a question or a recognition of something you do yourself?” I asked her quickly.

She stuck her tongue out at me as she opened the book to the back half, “Ok so I do the same thing at times.”

“Well don’t keep us in suspense,” said Rose as she held onto the three books from the table’s top against her chest tightly.

Michelle carefully opened the book and slowly turned through the pages, “It looks like the Father was a man of odd tastes, abilities and habits.” Michelle paused to lift out a receipt and then she waved it at us, “This was between a picture worthy of Giger and a hand drawn sketch of Connor.”

“Oh and what does it say?” asked Rose with an impatient look at her.

“It says, received one painting, ‘The Walls of Jericho’ for glass replacement due to aging, picked up and delivered by M. Whitaker.” Michelle smiled tightly and said, “No repairs were necessary, returned by M. Whitaker.”

“Returned to where though?” asked Connor as he walked back into the room carrying a small stack of papers in one hand, “Never mind, when we find him we can ask him ourselves.”    

 “That sounds like a plan,” I said with a grin.

 

We had caught a small break in that M. for Michael Whitaker, was not a crispy critter; and that his apartment was still intact. Unfortunately he now sported enough limbs and other unidentifiable bits that made Gothmog look ‘normal.’ We were also not entirely sure if it was animal, plant or mineral, much less alive. Though it moved every now and again.

“Well that is certainly disturbing,” I said after a long moment of silence as we looked at the form that was no longer human.

“Yes, well I suppose this is a bit out of my jurisdiction,” commented Connor who was looking a bit ill, “I think I need to get some air.”

“I too,” said both Rose and then Michelle in quick order.

 “I guess I’ll keep an eye on Michael here, call Rider and let him know we’ve not hit a dead end, but need help,” I said from my chair as they paraded quickly out the door.

“How can you stand to look at it?” asked Michelle as she paused by my chair.

“It’s ugly, but I think I’m immune or something,” I shrugged at her and then smiled, “at least I hope it is just an immunity and not insanity.”

“Well if you feel ill get out, ok?” asked Rose as she hesitated at the door.

“I’ll do that,” I quickly said with a wave as the two girls visually suppressed gagging.

Studiously ignoring the misshapen form on the living room floor, I studied the room for hints as to its owner’s disposition. Fortunately the apartment did not stink of rotting bodies nor was there a ‘pet odor,’ though there was a birdcage that looked suspiciously still. It was a neat place, which in some way surprised me, as I expected the typical postgraduate solitary male to be a messy beast. Maybe it was too many movies that lead my thoughts that way, but ‘Animal House’ had been on of my dad’s favorites films.

  “So Michael,” I asked the mostly still form, “what were you playing with?”

When there was no answer, I rolled around the couch and over to the bedroom and peered cautiously into it, it too was neat and tidy. A cautious glance around the doorframe gave me the location of the light switch and in moments the room was alight. Clothes were laid out on the bed, as if fresh from folding, and a cursory glance at the walls hinted at an addiction to anime.

Finding a computer desk without a computer on it was a bit annoying, though there was a laptop bag next to it that looked full. Easing out of my chair, I carefully knelt down and opened it. I partially wanted to say ‘eureka’ as I discovered it did indeed have a laptop in it, though I kept silent out of nervous caution. Zipping up the laptop bag back up, I carefully eased the strap of the laptop bag over a hook on my chair and resumed my search.

The closet was a dead end, in that it was half empty of clothing and other items. The only notable thing about it was the suitcase that seemed half packed; Rather than dump it out and go through the contents I simply checked it for any hard lumps. Finding nothing-significant, not that I had any real idea what I was looking for, I pulled it half ways out of the closet as it might clue someone else ‘in.’

“Face it Petra you are ‘playing’ fucking Nancy Drew in the set of the ‘Amity Ville Horror,’ and you are not as good as dear old Nancy.” I said aloud as I felt incredibly discouraged by my lack of ‘finds.’

Shaking my head I wandered carefully back to my chair and eased into it. My muscles were giving me twinges that said I was over doing things on too little food, so I took a moment to rest before rolling back into the living room. Ok it was not so much that I was resting, as it was depression about being less than useless except for my ever so wonderful ability to be live bait.

Slowly I rolled out into the living room and around the couch, keeping it between me and the ‘remains’ of Michael Whitaker. I was fairly sure it wasn’t dead, but I wasn’t sure it was alive either, and looking at it didn’t do much to say one way or the other. Until it slowly started to rise upwards on it’s single thick trunk and reached with tentacle-like limbs towards the ceiling. It was that time I decided to leave the apartment and start screaming or ‘something’ screamed and I screamed with it.

 

In my frantic if not fear driven craze I lost track of how I got outside of the apartment complex. However I was not the only one making a panicked departure from the building. As the loud screams of fear behind me only made it that much easier to roll away as fast as I could. Once out and across the street from the building the fear dropped off abruptly as if I had crossed into a sound proofed room. Dazed I sat there while my nerves played nervous games with my muscles and my hearts thudded in the wash of adrenalin.   

For what seemed like a long time I could do nothing more than sit there and try to calm down. Gradually I became aware of Rose and Michelle at my sides, and of Connor talking hurriedly into his cell phone. Blinking I looked at the two ladies and sighed, as their faces were slightly pinched in fear as well.

“Look, whatever it ‘is’ just caused everyone in the building to freak out in fear and leave the building as fast as they could, ‘including’ Petra,” said Connor and he growled into his phone. “No I don’t think it is good news either, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to do squat here.”

Reaching over, Michelle took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, “It got you?”

“It got everyone,” said Rose as she took my other hand, “what ever it was, it is not human.”

“Daemons don’t mess me up as bad as what ever it did,” I said with a shiver.

“Well I’m certainly not qualified to do anything about it,” said Connor as he gave his phone an odd look, “seriously. No I am not able to enter the building, and those that left it don’t seem able to do so either, just send help.” Connor snapped his phone shut and looked at the three of us in disbelief, but before he could say anything there was a darkness that washed out from the building.

Flinching backwards in my seat I watched the building start to fold in upon itself. My ears and then my body was filled with a horrific bass rumble that wanted to melt my brain and body as the building twisted and sunk further in upon itself. I think everyone in the area screamed in time with the wailing structure as steel and concrete ruptured and collapsed unnaturally. Slowly the darkness seemed to rush back into the rubble and crashed into it like the afterimages of lightning on a stormy night.

A brief instant of silence gripped the crowd that had escaped the building as they stood there in disbelief and fear. At first it seemed as if no one could believe their eyes, then the unreality of the moment caused a few people to cry out in shock and disbelief. Though it was a baby’s squall of protest that brought everyone into the moment, and then it was a riot of noise and emotions that shattered the disturbing calm.

 Stunned we all stood there among the throng of people trying to process the demolition of the building in out minds. Finally it was Connor that started moving us away from the crowd and to our van. Once loaded and the laptop placed in my lap we had a brief moment of peace then the sirens started wailing.

“I don’t suppose that staying around to chat with the authorities is a good idea…” said Connor before he trailed of with a shrug.

“Well no,” said Michelle with a sigh, “unless you want a fast trip to the loony bin.”

“Well Mr. Policeman, its like this, a daemon sucked the building into hell…” Rose gave vent to an exasperated sigh, “some days all these sheep make me want to scream.”

“Right, so back to Vatican Central Security then?” asked Michelle as she started the van.

“Yeah, we need to crawl through the laptop I found,” I said with a cautious pat of its case.

“That and file a report…” Connor shrugged, “I doubt it will help, but its procedure.”

“Does your form have a check box for Class X attacks?” asked Rose with a wry expression on her face.

“If I need to invent one, it will,” Connor chuckled and added as we passed by a news van, “building ate by Class X entity; film at eleven.”

“Like that will ever happen,” said Rose with a shake of her head.

 

The ‘dive’ into the laptop was problematical, in that I had a real tough time connecting to the ‘Net.’ Once inside I got lost in the mathematics and the odd language files that only slowly started to make sense. The laptop seemed to be running in an odd ternary {Not sure if that is the right word for a base-three mathematical model.} state based Unix variation. To my senses it seemed to have on, off, and ‘maybe’ as part of its logical states.  Which made it difficult to sort through the math processes, and down right confusing when it came to getting a solid answer at times.

The other problem I had was that when I was abruptly jerked from the Net some time later; I found that Connor was body pressing me to the floor, and I could taste blood in my mouth. Everything hurt, and on a deep instinctual recognition I could feel everything felt like it was trying to turn itself inside out. Half aware of what I was doing, I managed to force the words and my will out and down to my ring, forcing it to heal me.

 

“You really must like coming here,” said Satan with a concerned glance down at me, “Mythos is such nasty stuff my dear Petra, you are aware of that aren’t you?”

“I’m learning the hard way,” I said as I looked down at my body as it bugled and quivered oddly.

“So did you learn anything?” Satan asked as he drug me over to a pool of lava and half submerged me.

“Yeah, we are fucked,” I said just before the screaming began.

 

“We are so screwed,” I said after I returned and found I was ‘not’ sprouting odd limbs.

“We are?” asked Connor with a frown.

“The dominos have started to fall,” I said as I gave the odd bloody looking cloths near my body a disgusted look.

“Dominos?” asked Rose with a worried frown.

“It’s the only think I can picture that makes sense,” I lay there and tried to ignore the pounding in my head and fading pains in my body. “You’ve seen the big fancy designs that people do for world records using dominos?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with this?” asked Michelle quietly as she placed a damp cloth on my face and started to wipe carefully.

“The first domino fell, and all we can do is watch as the rest fall,” I said morosely. “The thing in that room was the trigger, it caused a small tear in space, time and magic, sending a pulse of energy out to the next… Then it blipped out into a ‘holding pattern’ under space-time.”

“So…?” asked Rose as she worriedly gripped my hand.

“It pops the next three, then nine and so on, the souls of the ‘triggers’ waiting to get sucked into the Mythos Artifact to reboot and power it completely.” I shook my head and added, “It’s a Star Seed, a world breaker that was deactivated after the Cataclysm, now we just have to stop the brain from getting reconnected.”

“Ohhhh crap,” said Rose as she clutched my hand in a death grip.

“The only good thing is that the body of it is seriously damaged, so even if we don’t stop the brain of it from reaching the body there will still be time to nuke it to hell,” I said with a shudder.

“Well fuck,” said Connor as he looked around at us.

“Yeah, we are so boned,” I said with resigned sigh.

“Wonderful,” said Rose with a shake of he head, “how much time do we have?”

“We will know when it is close to becoming active,” I said quietly, “after forty rips in the space-time with the magickal pops… it cascades into an ungodly exponential curve, and then shortly afterwards… boom.” I curled slowly into a ball and said, “It gets rebooted.”

 

15 December 2006

“Yes, I am positive it is going to happen, we’ve had three breaches since yesterday, all within the parabolic arcs as predicted by Petra,” Rider said as he shook his head, talking into the phone.

“No we nearly lost Petra yesterday, and she is a wreck from what she did get out of it.” Rider paced back and forth occasionally casting a worried eye at the map marked with red ink. “She spent most of the night under heavy sedation when she woke up screaming from the night terrors induced from the Mythos Infliction.”

“No I am sure she is largely intact, but you know what the Mythos does to the mind, she’s going to need a break from all of it.” Ride sighed, “Frankly sir if it were not for her daemon marks, she’d be lumps of melted flesh or worse.”

“Yes sir, that is the plan, though I feel like crap for leaving you all to fight that.” Rider sighed and then shrugged, “Yes, god only knows. Good luck.”

Rider paused and then slowly put the phone back on its cradle, “Well ladies, we’ve done our bit, time to go someplace less likely to suffer fallout, if things go bad.”

“Bad?” asked Rose with an incredulous look and tone in her voice, “Things are already bad… never mind, it’s just that…”

“I know, but the Order is not dead, and they are going to do their best to stop it without Nukes…” he sighed and then said, “Nukes usually stop any Mythos based entity, mostly due to the fact that in an instant they are reduced to component atoms and vaporized. Explosives and such work too, but its harder and slower… not safer though.”

“Nukes are safer… you have to be shitting me,” said Michelle with a wild look on her face.

“Well mostly safer, we don’t usually have to walk them in and detonate them,” he said with a dry smile, “but that has been done as well.”

“I am not sure I want to know,” said Rose with look at the map.

“Yeah, the world is much scarier than I would have liked to have known about too,” Rider said with sigh, “but here we are.”

 

16 December 2006

Rome, Papal Airplane

“I can feel the rips pulling at me,” I said though the tears that washed down my face and the tremors of fear in my body.

“We’ll be in the air soon, just relax as best you can and let the medication take you under,” said CJ softly as he checked my straps, “Dammutt will watch over you while you sleep.”

“Good puppy,” I said as I scratched briefly at his head.

“Yes, so just rest and we should be in Brazil when you wake up,” CJ smiled and added, “we should be fine.”

“Yeah, we’ll be fine…”

 
17 December 2006
Brazil

“The Order keeps a home here at Pestana Angra, so that members who have faced trauma like Petra can recover in peace,” explained CJ as he strode into the room.

“Well it looks nice enough,” said Rose with a guilty smile.

“It’s only one among many safe houses we keep ready for such occasions and needs,” he said as he walked over to the windows and opened them slightly to allow the large room to air.

“Pretty posh,” said Michelle as she came up and hugged Rose.

“So is our sleeping beauty tucked away?” asked CJ with a smile.

“Yes Rider is waiting for her to conk out, he said something about sitting thoughtfully ‘for a spell,’” Michelle said with faint smile, “I think he’s going to see if he can lessen the trauma a bit.”

“Poor kid’s been a wreck since the other day,” said Rose as she wrapped her arms around Michelle’s.

“Mythos is nasty stuff,” agreed CJ with a sigh, “I wish the Signora and the Matron would have joined us.”

“I think they are working up some fairly nasty spells and teaching the more trustworthy of our members how to cast them,” shaking her head Rose added, “she will be sending her books to me in the next day… and others in the group will be heading away as well. Just in case they fail.”

  “What are their chances?” asked Michelle softly.

“There are going to be losses, how bad…” CJ shrugged with a shake of his head that carried into his body, “we won’t know until it is over.”

“I wish we could Nuke the lakes and be done with it,” said Rose angrily.

“Well it would be nice, but it’d poison to much of the land and water…” CJ sighed and spread his arms and hands out calmly, “As it stands they are planning a strike using missile deployed nano-dissemblers before they attempt a Nuke, and that is ‘not quite’ as risky as a Nuke.”

“Not quite as risky as a Nuke… how risky?” asked Michelle quickly.

“Well anything metallic and organic would be converted to harmless elements or used as fuel to make more Nanos… until it ran out of materials.” CJ smiled unhappily and then added, “It’d consume roughly two cubic mile worth of materials before clicking off… supposedly.”

“That’s not so bad… or is it?” asked Rose thoughtfully as she cuddled with Michelle.

“Picture a two mile deep hole with nothing alive in it or around it for another few miles, if not more… well that and the possible volcano at the bottom of it.” CJ laughed softly, “As if a volcano would seem like a problem after that.”

 

Comments   

0 # alisa28 2016-12-27 21:18
OK!! Total UNFAIR!!!! illegal? and a big WAH!!!
This is such a great series..to be left to wither away?!!
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