Wednesday December 5, 2006
The Forest Bordering Whateley
“Whoa!” A male voice almost shouted as Nikki started awake in nearly full combat mode, power sparking from her fingers and Glowing in her eyes. Mule stepped back a pace and spread his arms to make a non-threatening figure in front of her. “That was SOME nightmare you were having there.”
“It wasn't a nightmare.” Nikki responded with an apologetic little shrug and sheepish grin. “I was talking with the Bastard – the monster that sent the things you and Bunker were shooting at earlier tonight. But I couldn't really touch him in that place.”
Regarding the dying sparks between her fingers and the fading, eldritch glow in her eyes, the young man shook his head. “Are you always like this when you wake up? Your friend Toni mentioned that you're not pleasant at those times.”
“Get to know Toni a little better and you'll understand why she said that.” Nikki managed a chuckle. “I'm a slow, go by stages person when I first wake up most of the time. Toni is – umm – manic the moment her eyes open.”
“I know the type.” Mule nodded with a sigh. “They jump right out of bed, give the world in general a big, excited grin, and proceed to make life miserable for those who aren't quite ready to face the new day yet.”
“That would be Toni.” The redhead agreed with a quirk of her mouth that could either be interpreted as a grin or a grimace.
“So are you okay now?” Mule changed the subject. “You were pretty wiped out a couple of hours ago.”
“I'm fine.” Nikki nodded. “Physically and mentally. A little sleep does wonders for me in that department, it's the Sidhe thing. Thanks for asking, though. But I will crash good once I get back to the dorm and to bed to finish getting the rest I still need.”
“You should see her when she's having PMS.” Toni called as she noticed that her roommate was awake and moving. “Now that's interesting.”
“See what I mean?” Nikki sighed and gave Toni a salute nice girls weren't supposed to use.
“I'm getting the idea.” Mule nodded then thought about something and winced. “But about that PMS thing...”
“I'm going to feed her to a dragon.” Nikki grumbled, but the light dancing in her eyes was full of mischief instead of ire. “Once I find one that can stomach her without dying of indigestion, that is.”
“Thunderstorms in the hallways!” Toni called out gleefully. “Lightning bolts and everything!”
“If I see a dragon around other than Thuban, I'll let you know.” Mule chuckled.
“So what now?” The boy questioned while giving the somnolent Bunker a worried look.
“She'll be fine in a few days.” Nikki promised. “Get her to the clinic for a checkup once she wakes up, and don't let her do anything too strenuous for a couple of days is all.”
“Okay, but I really meant with them.” He gestured at the ruins of bodies that had been their attackers recently. “I don't think they're going to give up, are they?”
“Probably not.” Nikki's expression turned serious, and she looked much older than her fifteen years. “And I'm going to have to let Chief Delarose know that you two got involved in this mess, too. He's none too happy about those of us who are in it already, but I promised I'd let him know if anyone else stumbled into the fracas.”
“I kind of expected that.” Mule nodded as the girl turned towards the bodies littering the area towards Whateley. “What are you doing now?”
“I need to clean this mess up completely.” Her reply was tossed over her shoulder as she began gesturing while staring at the dead creatures. “Burning them was a good idea, but some of them are still twitching, that means they aren't dead for good. So...”
A wave of silvery light speckled with gold washed over the field, dissolving what was left of the downed monsters and leaving no trace of anything but the destruction.
“There goes the evidence.” Mule let out a groan, impressed but a bit put out. “Now Bardue is going to have me and Bunker picking up stray brass and scrubbing latrines for the rest of the year.”
“I'll ask the Chief to talk with him.” Nikki soothed with a wicked little grin. “Maybe Bardue will drop the latrine duty then.”
“Latrine duty isn't so bad, unless it's at Hawthorne, there you'd better go in armed and ready for trouble, complete with Hazmat suits and protections. Have him drop the 'brass patrol' thing if you can get him to do one or the other.” The boy shook his head then answered her grin with one of his own. “You wouldn't believe some of the places people get sent looking for spent brass. Bramble patches, poison ivy infestations, the sewers, Melville...”
“I'll see what I can do.”
In the Sierra Madres
The Bastard pulled himself free of the dreamscape with a repressed shudder. An unfamiliar feeling followed him, one he recognized as fear, and a surge of rage overwhelmed the other nearly alien emotion.
But there was no place for the rage at the moment, and he quelled that with an effort. The girl had actually brushed his attacks, both mental and physical, aside with no visible effort. Then had possessed the effrontery to attack him in response. All without losing her calm self possession and confidence. It was clear that a direct attack on her would fail unless something was done to either distract or weaken her.
“You were correct, human.” He growled to the dark, shadowed figure waiting quietly for his return. “She is strong, terribly so.”
“As I warned you, my lord.” The man responded without the superior air he used with his and the Bastard's underlings. “The girl is something altogether different than the Sidhe Queen of legend. I believe she is the magic that Aunghadhail lost in the sundering. Magic grown more powerful and unpredictable through the intervening ages.”
“Yes, I see that now.” The being called the Bastard nodded thoughtfully. “Her arrogance and many of her skills are my old enemy's, but her power is something else, and she has learned to make effective use of it in a short time if the information you've given me is accurate.”
“It is.” The human answered with a shrug. “She hasn't been a Sidhe completely for much more than a year or two, and has been training for a much shorter time. Others have tried to kill, or control her. Every one of them met with disastrous results from the attempts.”
“Don't sound so satisfied, human.” The Bastard cautioned. “You ran from her, too.”
“Indeed I did.” Nodding, the shadowed form managed a bitter chuckle. “Oh yes, my lord. I felt it better to make a strategic retreat than to be tangled in a battle that was going nowhere until the authorities could arrive and join the fight on her side.”
“You ran, and that galls you, doesn't it?”
“Oh, yes.” Then man hissed half angrily, and then with effort calmed himself. “It does that, my lord. A great deal.”
“Then I suggest you find a way to bring her down, mage.” The ancient creature wasn't suggesting at all, and the human knew it. “Then may your ego be salved, and a major block to my plans removed at one stroke. See to it.”
“Of course, my lord. Will there be anything else?”
“No, leave me. I need to consider things without the distraction of your presence.”
“As you wish, my lord.” The human bowed then winked out of view as his projection was cut at the source.
The Bastard considered the area where the image had been for a few moments. That one would bear watching, though posed no real threat to him as of yet. Or to the thrice damned Sidhe Queen, he suspected. But the provided distraction would be useful as his cat’s paw kept the bitch busy with things other than destroying his own minions.
Direct attacks hadn't worked against any of the recent targets. The Weres in that Northeastern reservation were still steeped in the ancient power, and with that accursed Queen of the West for an ally they were unlikely to fall to the monster wave attacks that had been successful in the West.
Then there was that Old One's cursed school. Whateley's defenses were more than formidable, they were aggressively impenetrable to anything he'd attempted there.
So, farther east less direct attacks would be necessary. Something that would pull defenders from those two powerful enclaves and spread their strengths over a wide enough area to spread them thin...
Boston: Somewhere in the Sewers
December 5, 2006
Charles Upton Darrow, aka the Necromancer, drew in a breath as the image of the cave disappeared. He was by no stretch of the imagination sane, but that place threatened what tenuous hold he had on any claim to the state at all. The creature that he was currently allied with would drive a maniac to extreme acts simply to escape its presence. Just at the sight of it.
That the girl had handled the Bastard as easily as she had stood against him was both encouraging and worrying. The sheer power the girl had at her disposal was frightening, and allowing her time to refine techniques in its use would be more than disastrous to his own plans for the future. Plans that didn't include the misbegotten spawn of magic gone wrong that was the Bastard. But that was for later. Right now Darrow needed to gain just a bit more power, and gaining control of that girl would be exactly what was needed. If only he could work out a way to do so.
“So, how'd the meeting go this time?” Night Gaunt questioned as Necromancer shook loose from his thoughts.
“I have orders, indirect as they were, to bring down that redheaded magic using Sidhe girl we ran up against a month or so ago.” Darrow answered with a frown. Evidently she is able to stand toe to toe with the Bastard and come away relatively unscathed, too. He's afraid of her.”
“Nothing a good shot to the head wouldn't take care of.” Night Gaunt shrugged.
“No, I need her power to take down the Bastard.” Darrow shook his head. “The problem is that it could well take him and I combined to bring her down with any degree of certainty for success. Outright killing her would set loose that power again. Then that would return unexpectedly and probably at the worst possible time. What I need to do is bind her, or preferably her power, to me in some way.”
“If you say so.” The other nodded, though not entirely convinced. “I still think we would all be better off if she was good and dead. But that isn't my call.”
“No.” Darrow answered with a warning stare at his companion. “It isn't. Kill that girl and I'll make your existence miserable for a lot longer than you'd live. That's a promise.”
“You're the boss.” Night Gaunt, unperturbed by the threat, answered. “It was just an idea is all.”
Wednesday December 5, 2006
Kane Hall: Security Offices
Mule and Bunker, too now?” Delarose let out a sigh and closed his eyes for a moment while visions of the Grunts being involved this already messy business then returned his attention to the girl seated across his desk. “Ms. Reilly, just how many more students do you plan on drawing into this thing? Do you have any idea of the potential liability Whateley would be faced with if this goes wrong?”
“If it does, sir.” Nikki responded with a frown. “Then lawsuits are the least of Whateley's and the world's worries trust me on that. And I didn't drag those two in. They intercepted a group of the things trying to sneak onto campus. By the time the others and I got there, it was all over except cleaning up the mess.”
“So they just happened to be armed to the teeth, with weaponry that students aren't allowed to carry around?”
“They had permission to use one of the firing ranges, sir.” The girl said quietly. “According to Dom -- Mule, they'd just checked out the stuff before the fireworks started.”
“Oh, Bardue is just going to love this.” Delarose shook his head.
“You could help Mule and Bunker out if you talked to Gunny Bardue.” Nikki pointed out. “At least they wouldn't get into trouble for shooting up the grounds for no good reason, and believe me they had a good reason. At least fifteen or twenty of them. It was kind of hard to get an accurate count once things were finished. Messy.”
“Yeah, I'll see what I can do there.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now I suppose those two will demand to be included in what they'll no doubt call 'the fun'.”
“You know them better than I do, Chief.” The girl shrugged. “But I think keeping them away after tonight would be more than a little difficult.”
“That's one of the more blatant understatements I've heard in a while.” Delarose actually chuckled. “We'd have to lock them in an armored bunker to manage that, and even then either they or their friends would likely figure a way to bust out. Okay, I'll have badges made up for them too, and have a talk with Gunny about this.”
“Thanks.” Her smile lit up the room, and had Delarose nearly melting in response. He shook that off, and nodded.
“Is there anything else, sir?”
“No, go get some rest, or catch up on your homework.” Tomorrow is a regular school day, after all.”
“Okay.” Rising gracefully, she headed for the door with a final smile and wave. “Night, Boss.”
“Boss.” Shaking his head once she'd left he mused on the possible implications being that strange young girl's boss could entail. Loose cannons could be useful, but they were always a headache. This one in particular, and her friends, tended to be trouble magnets of the interesting type. Interesting like that fictitious Chinese Curse. They rarely initiated any hostilities with other students or visitors, but the Kimbas, Outcasts and Grunts already had well deserved reputations for finishing things once they'd started. Grumbling at himself he picked up the phone and speed dialed a particular number. When it was picked up, he began. “Hey, Gunny, Frank here. Sorry to call at this time of night...”
Oh, it was going to be a long, long night. Come to think of it, tomorrow would most likely be a real bear, too. A hungry, grumpy, grizzly bear.
Wednesday December 5, 2006
Instructor's residence Area: Whateley off Campus
Bardue carefully replaced the phone in its receiver once he'd finished with the call from Delarose. His gut response to what the Security Chief had told him was along the lines of Two of MY kids screwed the pooch this time.
Rational thought, which prevailed as Delarose continued outlining the situation, told him that Mule and Bunker had simply been in the right place at the wrong time, or the other way around. That they'd handled themselves, and the situation, made him more than a little proud of the pair.
But he would have to have a long talk with them regarding the collateral damage to grounds and emplacements they hadn't known were there. That was unacceptable, even if they had been hard pressed. A simple tactical withdrawal should have pulled the battle back to the range, an area designed specifically to absorb that kind of damage without ill effects.
Another thing he needed to add to his list of things to do. Along with looking up this Nikki Reilly girl and having a long talk with her, too. He was all too aware of the girl's presence on campus, and her rather distressing knack for drawing trouble of the worst kind her way. Not that he would be able to change that, or was even inclined to try. But if the girl was being thrust into a leadership position in the mess that Delarose had described, she would need to learn how to manage that without getting the people looking to her for tactics and decisions killed. That at least, he could help with.
“If she'll let me.” He muttered, knowing that sleep wouldn't be something he'd get any more of tonight. Instead, he went to his computer and accessed every file he could on Nikki Reilly.
Whateley Campus Grounds
Caitlin Bardue, once Eric Mahren, was extra attentive while making her usual rounds of the grounds this time. She knew something had happened on the outskirts of the firing ranges earlier, had heard faint gunfire and explosions in the distance once. That had interrupted one of her rare sleep periods. What exactly the problem had been, she didn't know, and no one who did was talking as of yet. The rumors at least would have started by daylight and maybe she could sift the truth from the morass of speculation and 'certainties' those would contain. Or someone really in the know would inform her.
The thickening overcast threw the unlighted areas of campus into deeper darkness as the beginnings of a snowfall began sifting to the ground. Caitlin's shudder had nothing to do with the winter cold as she continued her rounds. Tonight, she'd gotten the sense of something dire closing in. Something that vague memories from the beings she had been in previous incarnations clamored was a threat to everything in creation she or nearly any living creature on Earth held dear.
Whatever it was scared Hell out of her. And that made her angrier than anything else.
Thursday December 6, 2006
Gunny Bardue's Office
“Okay you two.” Bardue glared at Mule and a still pale Bunker. “What the HELL were you thinking, shooting up the grounds like you did last evening? And don't give me any crap about you had no choice. You both know how to make a strategic withdrawal while pulling the enemy in after you. How hard would it have been to pull whatever those things were back to the firing range? At least the damage would have been minimized then.”
“Gunny.” Mule closed his eyes briefly while considering his answer. “Those things moved too fast once they started coming. By the time we could have withdrawn, they were all around us and the fight was going full tilt boogie. Our only viable option was to take them out as fast as we could. Or going down under their attack.”
“We couldn't withdraw at all, or even draw them to somewhere else, Gunny.” Bunker added. “The suckers came out of nowhere, weren't talking, and were on us before we could do anything but start firing just to save our asses.”
“Okay, the surviving security cameras in the area back you two up on that.” Bardue growled. “Not that there were many that weren't wrecked in the dust up. But did either of you once, one time, consider that real innocents just might have been in your damned free fire zone?”
The pair winced, but didn't lose their air of injured rightness. Mule, remaining at attention put in. “It was kind of tough to limit the collateral damage, Gunny, and anyone not involved and used to how things sometimes happen around here should have taken cover or run right away. Those things were obviously really bad news and had reactions that would make some speedsters jealous. All we could do was shoot from the hip and hope for the best.”
“All right, all right.” Bardue nodded then gestured for them to go at ease. “Do you two have any idea of what exactly those things were?”
“Yeah, Gunny.” Mule nodded with a halfway sick look on his face. “Fey told me once her bunch came on the scene. Some nasty combination of weres, human, and something out of H. P. Lovecraft.”
“Don't dismiss the Lovecraft stuff here.” Bardue warned. “The man was telling the truth disguised as fiction. It's real, and evidently, the nasties are making a move against humanity again. Whateley seems to be a prime target for them right now. The eggheads at the clinic have an antidote for their venom, so if either of you gets the least little scratch in the future from those things, get your butts over there, or to Jericho or Fey for a cure. Otherwise you'll end up being one of the bad guys. Understood?”
Mule and Bunker exchanged quick, surreptitious glances that Bardue caught but said nothing about. Both nodded and put in enthusiastic “Sir! Yes, Sir!”
“Now this isn't a license to go looking for these damned things.” Bardue went on with a shake of his head. “I know it's going to be pretty well impossible to keep you two from fighting them now that you know about them and have met that wild bunch this Fey girl seems to be running. Just don't go hunting for the monsters. As for dragging your teammates into things, just remember one thing. If any of them, and I mean any of them at all are permanently injured, either mentally or physically because you two pulled them into something they can't handle, I'll make damned sure you both are on permanent latrine duty in Hawthorne, without weapons, and on brass patrol with whatever other free time you might have. Got it?”
“Sir, yes sir!” The pair chorused.
“All right.” Bardue waved them out. “You have an appointment with Chief Delarose, so get your tails over there. I imagine he's going to chew some butt of his own on you two.”
Once the pair was gone, Bardue checked the schedule he'd pulled up earlier to find the best time to corner the Reilly girl and have a long talk with her.
Thursday December 6, 2006
Whateley: Outside Crystal Hall
Nikki looked over the four kids who had approached her following breakfast and knew that they'd more or less been waiting for her to come out of the building. Every one of them had a cast of feature, and bearing that told her they were her kind. Sidhe, not necessarily friends, or anything other than the same race she had become. But there was no threat in their approach, even if one of them was more than a little resentful of her presence.
“Go ahead and get to your classes.” She told a hovering Toni and Chou. “I'll be okay here. “They only want to talk.”
Knowing Nikki was a powerful empath, but still cautious on her behalf the pair hesitated Toni unconsciously taking a martial stance while Chou's hand rested lightly on the cylindrical carton she carried Destiny's Wave in.
The four strangers noted Nikki's friends readiness for trouble, and one of them, a tall auburn haired male with eyes the color of mahogany, performed a courtly bow to the trio of friends. “Don't worry, we mean and bring no harm today, or any other day. We only wish to speak with the Lady. If she comes to harm from that I'll give myself to whatever you other two wish to do in way of punishment.”
Toni and Chou gave the group a look that was closer to a minute examination, giving the impression that they had managed to catalog every potential weapon or power the group could bring to bear. Once that was finished, both nodded to Nikki, then the four Sidhe and stalked off.
“You have some very loyal friends, lady.” The guy who'd spoken observed as he watched the two girls leave.
“So it seems.” Nikki nodded with a small smile then tilted her head while giving her audience another probing look. “I haven't seen much of you four since I've been here.”
“You've made no move to approach us either.” Another of the group, the one who resented Nikki returned pointedly.
“I've been kind of – busy.” Nikki shrugged. “Just surviving my first semester here.”
“Yes you have.” The guy answered with a grin. “Rather spectacularly too, if I may say so. You've made quite an impression on people here.”
“Maybe so.” Nikki nodded then frowned as her unconsciously regal posture reasserted itself. “Though you four seem to have me at a disadvantage here. You know who I am, but I don't know any of you. I trust you intend to remedy that situation?”
“Ahh, good point.” The boy grinned while moving his long Auburn hair out of his face. “I am Roger Barrington, also known as Rascal. It is my great pleasure to finally meet you dear lady.”
“Rascal.” Nikki had to grin, the guy had an infectious presence that was more than difficult to ignore even if it was a little annoying. “With a code name like that, why should I even consider trusting you?”
“Because I'm yours, Lady, heart, mind and soul.” The boy answered without a trace of the grin that he'd shown earlier. “You are our Queen; I am your court jester. All I ask is that you don't take my – umm – antics too seriously. None would ever be intended to bring harm to you.”
“Oh great.” Nikki sighed. “Another one who is 'devoted' to me.”
“Oh, but I am, Daughter of the Burning Oak.” Rascal answered quite soberly. “I would happily give my life for you, or at least keep you entertained if, hopefully, that first necessity should fail to come up. I would prefer a long dull life to a short exciting one after all.”
“You and everyone else I know, mostly.” Nikki had to laugh. “Myself included.”
“A wise thought, my Queen.” The boy answered with a grin.
“Get one thing straight here, Rascal.” Nikki glowered at the boy, and then tempered that with a smile. “If you are my self styled court jester, don't make the mistake of trying to flatter me. Make your jokes, do your antics, but never, ever try lying to me about anything. I'll know, and I won't be happy about that, trust me.”
“Of course, my Queen.”
“And lose that damned 'my Queen shit.” The redhead sighed. “The last thing I need right now is someone fawning all over me, and I won't take that all too well. Be warned. Call me Nikki, or Fey for the time being.”
“Fine, Nikki.” Rascal smirked. “But you are still my queen, and that will never change.”
“Right.” She grimaced. “Just watch the titles for now, okay? I'm still getting used to this Sidhe thing, let alone the damned queen stuff. You bear with me and I'll bear with you. How's that sound?”
“It sounds like the right way to begin a relationship like we will have.” Rascal admitted with a real smile. “I think serving you will never be boring my – uhh – Nikki.”
“Oh, trust me.” Nikki sighed. “If you hang with me, you won't be bored. Ever. Now, the rest of you, tell me who and what you are.”
Rascal began to introduce the others and Nikki waved him off. “No, I want to hear them talk to me, and tell me who they are.”
“Forgive my saying this – Nikki --, but that is the mark of a good and true queen. The wish to know her subjects from the beginning.”
“Didn't I tell you to drop that queen shit?” Nikki growled.
“As you wish, milady.” Rascal bowed. “What you say is my command, always.”
“Find me a trash can.” The redhead demanded. “So I can puke into it instead of into this nice, fresh snow.”
“You wound me, milady.”
“Get used to it.” Nikki responded without the least hint of a smile, but was obviously suppressing giggles.
“I look forward to it, my queen.” Rascal touched his chest over his heart with one hand while the other went to his forehead. “That means I am serving my purpose, which is amusing you at all times.”
“Oh, shut up.” Nikki growled, but still had trouble hiding the grin she felt trying to shape her mouth and face.
Rascal gave her a courtly bow, grinned, and then withdrew so the others could approach the girl whose temper was obviously fiery as her hair.
A girl no taller than Nikki, but with thick pale blonde hair in a nape length cut, and ice blue eyes approached her a bit diffidently. “Lady, I'm Rhiannon Warrensby, also known as Sanctuary. I specialize in healing magics. Please call me Rhia if you like.”
“All right Rhia.” Nikki nodded with a smile as she felt the other girl's intense interest in her. “You're the girl who can put up a shield around more than one person, aren't you?”
“Yes, milady.” The other answered.
“My name is Nikki.” She countered gently then continued. “That has to be a rather handy skill to have when things get 'exciting'. I'd like to compare some notes and talk with you about things like that later on if you have time. My own healing skills are what could charitably be called limited at best.”
“I'll always have time for you, La-- Nikki.” Rhia gave a brilliant smile and nodded. “Just find me and if I'm not in class I'll be more than pleased to talk with you.”
“Great.” Nikki returned the smile. “I'll look forward to that.”
“So will I – Nikki.” The other girl responded.
The other girl in the group glowered at the pair of her compatriots who had already spoken with Nikki, but refused to come forward. A few inches taller than Nikki, her emerald eyes flashed with distrust and resentment as the breeze ruffled her magnificent mane of waist length white blonde hair. Nikki raised an eyebrow and waved her forward.
“You seem to feel that I'm competition of some kind. Why is that?”
The reluctant visitor refused to move forward with a shake of her head and answered in not quite bitter tones with her musical voice. “Why do I resent you? Or why won't I fawn all over you like these other two have?”
“The fawning I can do without.” Nikki retorted, and then softened that with a quick smile towards Rascal and Sanctuary before returning her very serious attention to the other girl. “Honest answers I can't. So tell me what bothers you here and get it out in the open.”
“What bothers me?!” The girl spat out. “Well let's start with the four of us here in front of you. We've gotten along just fine up to now without you and your superior airs of royalty and so gracious Noblese Oblige.”
“Ahh, so you think I'm moving in on things that I have no business with?” Nikki questioned with a small nod.
“You waltzed onto campus with this 'oh I'm so special' attitude, wouldn't even approach us, the only other Sidhe on campus, made a big splash right off the bat and have everyone going gaga over you for both your looks and your undisciplined power. You just accept that as if it's your God given due, for crying out loud! We, the four of us, have worked hard to get where we are now, so yes. I think you're an interloper and a poser who doesn't deserve the time of day from any of us here. What do you think of that, little queenie?”
“I think you're being honest with me.” Nikki answered with a little shrug and smile. “Thank you for that, by the way. But I also think you have a two-by-ten sized chip on your shoulder that isn't just about me. I won't force my company on you, or on any of your friends, believe me. And yes, my power is more than a little undisciplined right now, but please remember that I've had it for less than two years at best, and wasn't aware of what it could do at all, other than those damned hobgoblins, until I got here a few months ago. I'm learning how to discipline it now, and I'm working hard on it, too.
So, will you at least tell me your name and your codename?” Nikki questioned. “You could at least try and be a little polite here, but you don't have to do that if you don't want. I won't strike out at you if you aren't, won't say things behind your back, or actively try to undermine whatever you think your position is, and will work to get along with you as best I can. All right?”
“I'm Lady Constance Mallory.” The girl consciously straightened herself and glared at Nikki. “I'm Sidhe nobility, and my codename is Zephyr because I control the winds. Plus I don't care if you try getting along with me or not. I'll have nothing to do with a rank poser like you.”
Having said that, the girl glared at the other three, turned and stalked away. “Are you three coming?”
Rhia watched her go, gave Nikki a shrug and imploring look of apology, and followed the other girl. Rascal watched with more than a trace of amusement flashing in his eyes and said quietly. “Connie has been our leader since she arrived, Nikki. She resents you, and your coming, but not to worry. She'll come around. Eventually.”
Nikki only nodded, and then turned her attention to the other boy who was still standing there even if casting glances in the direction the girls had gone. “And you are?”
“Kevin O'Rourke.” He answered with a bow and wan smile. “Known as Thorn. I can get plants to do whatever I ask them to. Though they also tend to manifest some pretty nasty thorns when they do so.”
“Interesting talent.” Nikki told him with a smile. “Tell me, do you share your girlfriend's attitude towards me?”
“I'm loyal to her.” He answered simply, and then added with a little grimace. “But have a mind of my own. She doesn't rule me, as I sense you are destined to do in time – uh – Nikki. Don't worry, she'll see sense soon enough and drop her resentment and anger towards you.”
“I hope she does.” The redhead shook her head. “Though it won't break my heart if she doesn't. She has her own mind and feelings, too. Though I have a question for you two right now. None of you tried approaching me any more than I tried doing that with you. Why now?”
Kevin nodded with a smile at the question and let out a sigh. “We've felt something nearby recently, something very bad. It raises memories and dreams that terrify all four of us. We all know it is something we should fight, but have no real idea of what it is, let alone how to combat it.”
“Memories.” Nikki shuddered at images of The Sundering she had dreamed, and felt more than a little sympathy for the other four. “Of a very long time ago, and something that tore our race apart?”
“It was The Sundering.” She answered faintly. “A terrible spell worked through innocent blood, malice, and desperation. It almost destroyed the Sidhe in times before Humans began recording things. But it happened. And this thing, this bad thing you've felt, is a return of the kind of beings who did that. They were weakened badly with that casting, a lot of them died doing it, but one who knows that terrible magic well enough to do it again is back in the world and pressing attacks on those who either do or could understand what he is and the threat he represents. That's what you've felt. The presence of this ancient evil along with his minions and slaves.”
“We will stand with you against this thing, Lady.” Thorn told her simply. “How could we do anything else?”
“I appreciate that, Kevin.” She answered without telling him to call her by name. “But for now, the best thing all four of you can do is stay out of harm's way. We, the Sidhe, are back as a race now, but we are terribly short on numbers. I won't put any of you others in danger unless there is no other choice, do you understand that, and why?”
Both boys looked at each other, reached an unspoken agreement and nodded as Rascal answered. “Yes, my Lady, and don't deny that title right now. You feel the race is more important than an individual no matter what his or her position and would rather that the few you know of don't endanger themselves in this.”
“Yes.” She nodded with a slow, sad smile. She'd also gauged the abilities of the four, and found to her distress that they would be terribly outclassed against the Voodoo Wolves at present. All four of them needed time to understand what they were willing to fight, and how to fight them effectively with the abilities they had. “In time, not such a long time either, I know all four of you will be important in this struggle. But blindly charging into it would be suicidal and both of you know it. I'll give you all the information I have, but ask – no, beg – that you don't risk yourselves until you truly know what it is you face.”
“We are yours, Lady.” Rascal bowed deeply, then gave her a puckish grin. “I promise you won't be allowed to forget that.”
Nikki rolled her eyes and held in a chuckle while giving the boy an exasperated look. Thorn shrugged, nodded, and put in. “Yes, Lady. All four of us are yours to command when you choose, even Zephyr with her arguments and resentments. All we ask is that you remember that.”
“How can I forget?” She grumbled then laughed. “Why is it that I seem to attract all you super noble types? My boyfriend is one, too.”
“It's what you are, my Queen.” Rascal answered simply.
Thursday December 6, 2006
Caitlin stopped in middle of her usual rounds and suppressed a shudder. Something, something terrible, was looming over the campus like a shadow cast by a giant oak tree. But this shadow was nowhere near as wholesome as one thrown by a tree. She felt its malevolence, the shadow's hatred of all life on Earth and that both horrified and terrified her.
Shaking off the terror, she began to feel the familiar stirrings of anger in response, but with nothing to direct that anger at, the emotion was worse than unproductive, it was destructive. Drawing on experience from her previous life, she quelled the anger before it escalated into rage, but the ember still glowed deep within her.
A battle of some kind had happened out near the ranges earlier, she knew that much. The sounds of gunfire and explosions had pulled her out of a rare sleep. So far, no one was talking about the incident. Cait knew the sounds hadn't come from the ranges themselves but from somewhere beyond them, in the surrounding forest.
No one was talking about the incident as of yet, but by morning the rumor mill would be running at full speed and she would be able to sift through those to find at least a grain of truth. Or someone who did know would simply tell her.
Caitlin Bardue was determined to discover what had happened regardless. Even not knowing what had attacked, she knew with a certainty like it hurts to hit a granite boulder that whatever it was needed killing. Badly.
And she wanted to be in on that killing. Vague, ancient memories stirred, causing her to shudder, but those only intensified her resolve.
Whatever this thing was, she fully intended on being part of its downfall, and destruction. Even if it killed her.
Thursday, December 6, 2006
Forest Bordering Whatley Grounds
The snow was developing into a real storm, possibly a blizzard. The creatures carefully hidden within the undergrowth that managed to not only exist but prosper at the edges of the forest, waited. The cold didn't bother them, nor did the snow blowing in the increasing winds. This school, a high school no less, that should have been a vulnerable target but wasn't, would be open to them once the real storm began. All of the creatures waiting knew that the Bastard would work some kind of eldritch magic to make certain the storm grew into a real blizzard. Once that happened, their chance would come.
Then this conglomeration of children, gifted though they may be, and the few truly powerful instructors present, would collapse like a house of cards in a strong wind.
Thursday, December 6, 2006
Kane Hall: Offices
Gunny Bardue considered everything he'd been told about the mess outside the ranges the previous evening and let out a sigh that indicated his worry.
Not about the kids already involved. Having gone through their files, then doing so again to glean every bit of information he could either find or infer, he was fairly confident they could handle themselves. Even against something like they were facing here.
His current worry was a certain adopted daughter, who had once been a subordinate. He knew without one hint of doubt, that Caitlin would throw herself into this mess once she found out about it, and given her rather strange abilities – even for Whateley – that circumstance was only a matter of time. Mahren would have done so, and his new incarnation as Caitlin would be no different.
But the girl was horribly vulnerable in ways that only magic users or someone who had taken the time to dig through some rather amorphous legends and the possibilities of consequences because of those legends would know.
This led to his next step.
That girl, with her inhuman beauty and power, was one of Caitlin's best hopes for surviving at all, and especially under the present circumstances.
All he could hope for was that the Reilly girl wouldn't take advantage of Caitlin's vulnerability.
Once he'd managed to corner the redheaded firebrand and actually talk with her.
There were other things he needed to discuss with that unsettlingly powerful Reilly girl, too.
Thursday, December 6, 2006
Nikki had a rare day where she wasn't either working with Haggerty or Westmont. Her workout with Chou and Boudacia had been a good one, leaving all three girls breathless and happy with the results. She'd gone for a late breakfast once she'd showered and taken a little time to just relax for a change, then decided to head for the library to immerse herself in the restricted texts about magic that she had access to.
That plan was interrupted when a range instructor she recognized but didn't know intercepted her. “Nikki Reilly?”
Nikki frowned with a sigh. “Yes, and did you have any doubt? I mean just about everyone here knows who I am by now.”
“Sorry, ma'am.” The guy responded. “I had to get verbal confirmation. Gunny Bardue would like to talk with you if you have time?”
“Oh.” Nikki shrugged, wondering why a military type connected to the grunts wanted to talk with her privately. Probably because Mule and Bunker had gotten involved in the mess with the voodoo wolves. “I suppose so. You got any idea of what Bardue wants to talk with me about?”
“He didn't tell me, ma'am.” The other responded with careful politeness.
“Okay.” Nikki gave him a smile. “Lead on. I have some free time right now, so it's a good time. I'll go talk with him.”
Thursday December 6, 2006
Nikki walked into the office and gave the old man sitting at the desk a long, careful looking over. Once she'd done that, she nodded, smiled, and asked. “What did you want to see me about, sir?”
“I work for a living.” Bardue answered almost automatically. “Call me Gunny, not sir.”
“Okay, Gunny.” Nikki nodded. “So why did you have one of your lackeys come get me?”
“I need to talk with you about things.” Gunny answered. “You seem to be in command of a group that is fighting some pretty nasty stuff. But I know you've got no tactical experience at all. I want to start teaching you that kind of thing.”
“Don't I know it?” Nikki answered with a sigh then gave him a long look. “There's more involved here than that, isn't there?”
“Yes, I'll admit that much.” Bardue answered, then shrugged. “But you'll find out what that is on your own. Right now, I'm concerned with getting you familiarized with small team tactics. Will you listen to what I have to tell you?”
“Teach, more like.” Nikki grinned. “And yes, I will. I know I lack where that is concerned, especially when modern weapons are involved.”
Nikki looked at Bardue with an expression that was far older than the girl should have been capable of. “I have fought battles, and led armies. But the things you humans have come up with and the details of small unit tactics have been something I had no need to learn. Now I need to do that. Teach me.”
“Who the Hell am I talking to?” Bardue questioned.
“Aunghadhail, Daughter of the Burning Oak and Queen of the West.” A suddenly much more aware and mature Nikki answered with visible pride.
“That tells me a lot.” Bardue responded with no little sarcasm. “What are you? In relation to the girl I was talking to?
“I am her.” The ancient sounding voice answered. “She is my power, and I am part of her. Soon enough we will be one.”
“We are one.” Aunghadhail answered quietly. “Nikki is me and I am her. I simply have the experience that the child doesn't.”
“And what does that mean?” Bardue questioned.
“She will subsume me.”
“You strike me as a very powerful personality.” Bardue answered slowly. “Why would you do something like that? Or even let it happen?”
“My time in the world is done.” Aunghadhail spoke through Nikki. “This child's is just beginning. I have no illusions about that. She is far more powerful than I ever was, and her personality will not allow another taking it over.”
“So what does that tell me?” Bardue questioned.
“Only that you will deal with her, not me.” The ancient voice responded. “But she is no easier to deal with than I am.”
“Why don't I feel good about that?” Bardue questioned rhetorically.
“Probably because this girl is far more a queen than I was.” Aunghadhail's amused answer came back. “She is one who will not be taken in by promises or pledges if those aren’t made with her magic overseeing it. This one is a person to be reckoned with.
“Like I hadn't figured that out already.” Bardue shot back. “Now, will you go away so I can teach this girl some things that will help her and those looking to her survive?”
“About time you asserted yourself, warrior.” The voice answered with amusement and respect. “Teach her, she will soak it up like a sponge. She is well aware that she lacks the knowledge she needs here.”
“Gunny?” The girl asked with a glint of both amusement and interest in her large violet eyes. “Still with me here?”
“Umm, yes.” Bardue nodded while very carefully looking the girl over. Yes, the regal arrogance, and confidence in herself was still there even though whatever the thing that had just spoken with him was gone. Or at least seemed to be. “What the Hell was that?”
“That.” Nikki answered with a small grin. “Was my alter ego, I guess you could call her. Aunghadhail was a great queen back in times before humanity really had even a slight grasp of history or the idea of recording things for later generations. Evidently, I'm the last piece of the puzzle she became thanks to something called The Sundering.
She and I are merging.” The girl went on softly. “Becoming the one being we once were so long ago.”
“And what does that mean?” Bardue questioned while still watching her in fascination.
“I'll be whole.” She responded simply.
“But will that whole be you, her, or what?”
“Both. Neither.” Nikki shook her head and let out a little sigh. “Something different, and a being not seen in this world before is all I know right now.”
“I had to ask.” Bardue sighed himself, then pulled himself back together. “All right, whatever is going to happen with you in the future, you still seem to need adequate tactical training. Am I right?”
“Yes.” She nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “I know I lack important knowledge, Gunny and that I need to find someone to teach me what I don't know. Will you do that for me?”
“I will.” He nodded, handing her a printed out list he'd prepared earlier when setting up this meeting. “A list of books I want you to read. Once you've read them, we'll set up some time slots for private tutoring.”
“All right.” Nikki accepted the reading list, glanced at it, then nodded. “I'll be in touch with you after I've read these?”
“Do that.” Bardue nodded then waved towards the door. “That's it for now, Ms. Reilly. This snow is building up to a real storm and I'd advise you to get back to your dorm as soon as you can. I'll be talking with you later.”
“I'll look forward to it, Gunny.” She answered then rose from the chair she'd taken with an almost blinding smile. “See you later, then.”
“Count on it.” He responded as she left the office.
Once the girl was gone, Bardue watched the door thoughtfully. There was no doubting the girl's intelligence, the records showed that well enough, but her sheer presence was something that had to be experienced for someone to really appreciate its force.
As for that other presence... Checking his faculty directory, he found the number he was looking for and punched the number in on his desk phone.
“Westmont” Sir Wallace answered his private line with a small frown. Something was shaping outside; something the weather mage felt wasn't good and knew was unnatural with the storm building in the area.
“Sir Wallace, Gunny Bardue here.” The voice on the other end responded. “If you have a moment, I need to talk with you about your student, Nichole Reilly.”
“I have a bit of time, but not a lot, Gunny.” Westmont answered while wondering why Bardue would be interested in Fey at all.
“I spoke with her a few minutes ago.” Bardue told him. “Why I'll get into later, since that would take some time and explaining, but the thing is I also spoke to someone, or something else when she was in here.”
“Aunghadhail.” Westmont nodded then chuckled. “Yes, that one is a bit of a shock, isn't she? I suppose you're wondering if the girl is possessed, or an undetected avatar?”
“Something like that.” Bardue agreed. “But mainly is this – Aung, whatever, a threat to the girl or those around her?”
“Not that I've been able to ascertain, and I've spent more than a small amount of time checking that, Gunny.” Westmont said with more than a little conviction. “And the girl isn't possessed, or an avatar. Never the first, and as for the second... Well, she didn't capture the spirit; the pair just found each other, and in Nikki's words, fit together like the pieces of a puzzle that needed completion. Though one would be foolish to simply accept appearances when it involves one of the ancient Faerie Queens.”
“So what do we do with this?” Bardue questioned.
“I got her freely given word, pledge, vow, whatever, that she will not harm or subsume Nikki.” Westmont answered slowly. It's about all I could do in this case, but take heart. According to all the lore and more recent dealings with the Sidhe, once their bond is given in any form, they honor it.”
“Meaning this spirit, or whatever, will keep her word and isn't flatly lying to us about her intentions?” Bardue sounded doubtful at that, but was willing to accept it. For the time being at least.
“Put simply, yes.” Westmont replied, and then added. “I can see that you and I are going to need to have at least one meeting over this.”
“No kidding.” Bardue shot back.
“I'll have my secretary arrange that then.” Westmont told the other. “I see that there are questions both of us want answers for from the other on this subject.”
“Good enough, Sir Wallace.” Bardue agreed. “I'll see you then.”
Westmont put the phone down, with a worried look on his face. “Nichole, what have you gotten yourself tangled up in now? Probably that business with the contaminated weres and that creature she calls the Bastard.”
This brought him back to where he had been before the call had interrupted him. Reaching out with his mind and powers, Sir Wallace Westmont carefully probed the growing storm, and sought the forces that drove it. He still had the unnerving feeling that at least some of those were unnatural.
Thursday December 6, 2006
Mediwhila Reservation/Bordering Forest
The mage intensified storm gave them the cover needed to move into position. The creatures gathered just out of sight for the sentries posted by the unexpectedly powerful weres in this part of the country.
As the storm grew in force, with a heavy snowfall driven into nearly impenetrable curtains by the rising wind, the corrupted weres readied themselves for the boldest strike their master had planned as of yet. This force was large, as was the one moving into striking distance of that accursed school. This time, neither of the now hated and feared allies would be able to call on the other during an attack.
The sense of malicious anticipation both attack groups felt fairly sang with the howling winds.
“Ben.” Eli shuddered and peered into the driving snow. “This isn't quite natural.”
“Storms hit New Hampshire all the time in winter.” The were bear answered, then stared out the window for a few breaths himself. “But I agree something about this one just doesn't feel right.”
“Pull the patrols in, and alert the reserves.” Eli told her mate. “Get people in position just within the edges of town and make sure they stay alert.”
“They aren't going to be happy about being dragged out into that.” Ben gestured towards the window which showed him the driving winds and heavy snowfall. But you're right. Something is going to happen, and soon.”
“Happy or not.” Eli let out a long, worried sigh. “Get everyone who can fight out there and the kids into the hidey holes. I have a really nasty feeling about this storm. Tell them we'll be out there freezing our asses off with them.”
“Oh, they'll know that.” Ben chuckled without mirth. “If I have to box a few pointed ears, I will, but we'll be ready for whatever is coming. Want me to contact the kids at Whateley?”
“No, I'll alert the Reilly girl myself.” Eli answered. “Though I don't think we can count on help from that quarter just now. The storm will make their getting here into a long term ordeal. They wouldn't be in any shape to fight even if they managed that.”
“Well, it isn't the first time we've had to stand on our own, is it?” Ben grinned.
“True enough.” Eli nodded with a smile of her own then turned grim. “Get going, I don't think we have a lot of time here.”
Shifting into his 'tween' form, furred to resist the cold, but still possessing hands and a voice capable of speaking, Ben nodded his huge head. “On it, love.”
Thursday, December 6, 2006
Whateley: Poe Hall
“Shit!” Nikki jumped out of her chair and looked at her roommate. “Something's happening out there in this storm, something bad. The weres just contacted me with that bit of information.”
“In this storm?” Toni looked outside and shuddered. “Anyone who tried moving around in that would have to be insane.”
“Like the Voodoo Wolves are even close to sane?” Nikki shot back as she closed her eyes to alert the others in The Wild Bunch. “Call security, tell them something is coming and it isn't good.”
“On it.” Toni picked up the phone and slammed it down in disgust. “Phones are out. Let me try the net.”
Nothing happened with that, either. Toni gave Nikki a worried look. “Can you call them on your own? Otherwise we're going to need to go to everyone physically.”
“I have links with all the students here, but not with security. I hadn't set those up yet. Damn! Someone is going to have to get over to Kane Hall and tell them. Use the tunnels for that, but dress for the cold.”
“Of course, O, great and mighty Oz.!” Toni rolled her eyes then sighed as her roomie gave her a long suffering sigh and stare. “I'm on it, okay?”
“I don't see you moving.”
“Sheesh!” Toni burst into Ki enhanced speed, gathering what she'd need for being outside in the storm then stopped long enough to grin at Nikki before charging out the door. “On it...”
“Good.” Nikki answered the empty room then chuckled. Closing her eyes the Sidhe girl sent the warning to everyone in what Frank Delarose had christened The Wild Bunch.
Razor had been antsy for hours, but Jericho had thought it was from the storm. Without special anti-cold medications, the dinosaurian boy would not only be unable to move in that kind of weather, he could die.
“Crap, Razor.” He snorted. “Nikki says the Voodoo Weres are moving in that shit. I'd better give you a double dose of your antifreeze. That's what she suggested.”
Razorback nodded with a fluting hoot of agreement and held out his arm.
“Huh, uh, buddy.” Jericho produced a frighteningly barrel like syringe with a wicked grin. “This time you have to bend over.”
Chou started, her meditations, and worries about how her life was turning out since Destiny's Wave had found her interrupted by the now familiar mental tweak and stirring of the Tao that was Nikki's 'emergency call'. Gathering what she had to withstand the cold and wind outside, and taking up Destiny's wave she emerged into the hallway and was nearly bowled over by a Chi enhanced streak who could only be Toni. The fast moving martial artist did slow enough to toss over her retreating shoulder. “Nikkisaysthere'stroublewithacapitalToutside. I'mgoingtotellsecurityphonesandnetaredownstaywithherChoutheothersarecoming!”
“Good, you're ready.” Nikki greeted her, already wearing what the Sidhe girl considered proper winter storm gear – jeans, a heavy sweater, and Chou noted the gleam of some kind of armor under that with approval in her return nod. “The others are going to meet us in the downstairs lobby.”
Tennyo popped out of her room, followed closely by Jade, both wearing worried expressions. The living anime girl questioned “What it is it?”
“Not sure.” Nikki answered then looked at the pair. “One thing I am sure of is that it isn't good. Billie, please make sure people stay inside today, would you?”
Billie nodded, not at all happy with getting that kind of duty when friends were obviously going into something that could only be called Harm's Way, but the unpleasant stirrings in her psyche told her that getting herself involved any more risked her losing herself in a way she didn't wish to think about.
“Jade, please get Jinn to pass that message to the other dorms, and buildings. Make sure people know it's very important to understand that there is more danger than this storm out there today.”
“On her way, along with Jann. I'll get the word out.” The little devisor answered following a brief pause. “We're already at the closer dorms.”
“You know, Nikki shook her head. “I'm almost getting used to your mixing pronouns. Thanks.”
Following that, she and Chou sped down the stairs to the lobby.
“Andrea, you can't go out into that after the other day.” Mule argued while Bunker glared at him. “The docs say you still need to rest for another few days before you're even up to going to class.”
“Hell with that, Dom.” Bunker growled, still trying to stare her friend down. “I know what that tickle in my head was, the same as you do. That redheaded mage says those things are back, is what it means. You and I are among the few around here who really know what we'll be up against out there. Whoever is going to be fighting out there is going to need all the help they can get and you know it.”
“Yeah, I know that, but...”
“No buts, Dom.” Bunker shook her head. “Call Bardue and get us access to one of the armories while I finish getting dressed.”
“Pushy females, why do I always get involved with the pushy ones who have no sense.” Mule grumbled while setting the useless phone back in its cradle. “Phones are out.”
“Probably since no other type girl would put up with you.” Bunker responded with a slow, nasty smile. “Net's down too. I guess we do this the hard way. Got your security badge with you?”
“Yah.” Mule sighed as the other finished getting into her gear. “I still don't think you have any business going out there today.”
“Try and stop me.” Bunker flashed a grin.
Sara felt her blood sister's call before actually hearing it and immediately began making sure her current activities were well locked down and shielded before heading towards the call’s source. What she'd been reading had no real business existing on a sane world, let alone being in a high school student's personal library. “Don't eat anyone if they come in looking for me.”
The volume sent out a mental pout of acknowledgement at her command and settled into its deceptively somnolent state in obedience. Sara nodded as she closed the door to her room. “Good, now behave yourself, no more nightmares for psychic receptives, either.”
The equivalent of a petulantly sighed, 'Oh, all right.' came back to Sara as she found Nikki in the main lobby of Poe Hall.
Caitlin jerked visibly when the Call came, powerful enough to jolt her out of the uneasy glances she'd been giving the storm. Even knowing that it hadn't been aimed at her, the former Eric Mahren responded anyway. Not by answering it, literally, but Caitlin Bardue began running through the storm towards the armory that held Eric Mahren's personal gear. It was hers now and she could tell she needed it.
Loose papers fluttered to the floor in the girl's wake as Toni Chandler charged out of the security office after delivering her message and Frank Delarose hit the panic button on the emergency transmitter to alert his people trouble was close. Really close and really bad if what the Chandler girl had told him was even close to the reality of things.
“Get the monster squads moving, Haynes.” He ordered into the mic. “We have an unknown number of class X entities on the perimeter, but there seem to be a LOT of them from the readings we can make out on the sensors out there.”
“Yeah, this damned storm is fouling the sensors something fierce, but our other early warning system kicked in and got me notified.” He agreed. “Just break out the heavy stuff and get those teams out to the perimeter. Yesterday would be a good time.”
“Gear up, people.” He announced to the others in the office. “Fogarty, break out the real weapons and get them passed around.”
“Oh, crap.” As a terrible thought hit him, he tried his cell one more time and set it down in disgust. “Get a call out to ARC and let them know we may need heavy backup, but to hold off till we holler for it. I have to get to Bardue. Fast. Hanks, you're the crazy man in four wheel drives. You're with me. Just try not to hit anything too important on our way, would you?”
Six minutes later Gunny Bardue answered a near frantic pounding on his door to find a grim Frank Delarose there. “Gunny. Which armory do your kids prefer to draw ordnance from?”
“Why? What are those little idiots up to this time?” He questioned with a sinking feeling in his stomach. “The one on range four.”
“This snow storm may as well be a shit storm.” Delarose answered while Bardue grabbed cold weather gear. “What Mule and Bunker got mixed up in the other day is waiting around our perimeter in force. You think those two are going to sit on their thumbs while that happens?”
“And probably drag the rest of the Grunts into it, too.” Bardue grimaced as he stepped out into the howling wind that drove the heavy snow so hard it appeared to be flying horizontally instead of falling. “How we getting there? Walking is not a real good idea.”
“Get in!” The door of an idling GEV swung open and a bundle of cold weather gear revealed a thin, grinning face. “Hot Rod Kevin Hanks will be driving today, gentlemen.”
“Got us here from the garage in five minutes.” Delarose commented. “That includes getting the beast fired up and moving out of the place.”
“I'll hold on.” Bardue responded. “Tight.”
“Good idea.” Delarose did the same while the GEV jolted to a start trailing a spume of snow behind it. “This is one of the new models we ordered last summer. Ground effect to keep us from digging into the really deep stuff, and an engine to run the tracks that would make a drag racer drool.”
Nikki gave the young man who had just entered, carrying a specialized long rifle and shook her head. “Deadeye, what are you doing here?”
“You going to argue or take the help?” He questioned. “Mule and Bunker are heading for the armory now; I just got into my stuff first. Now tell me. What kind of rounds should I load Baby here with?”
“Magnesium or something else that burns and keeps burning.” She responded with a shake of her head. “If you have them.”
“Matter of fact...” Deadeye grinned. “I kind of thought that was what would be good for this. Got a full load. Where do you want me?”
“Anywhere you can get a vantage if you can see through this stuff.” The redhead answered with a slow grin. “Pick your spot and if something on the perimeter looking in pokes its head up, discourage it.”
“And its friends.” Deadeye nodded. “How easy is it to reach the roof here?”
“Stairs are over there.” Nikki gestured. “Just keep going up till you find a door at the top of one set. When that happens, you're there.”
“Good enough for me.” The boy literally charged to and up the stairs without a backwards glance or care for the outraged yowls and feminine screams that followed in his wake.
Mule and Bunker reached the bunker just as a wildly slewing GEV blocked the entrance and disgorged Gunny Bardue and Frank Delarose.
“Just what exactly do you two think you're doing?” Bardue shouted over the wind and his expression boded ill for the pair next time they were on the drill field.
“Sir.” Mule shouted in response. “Checking out weapons, sir! Things have gone to shit on the perimeter and we've promised to help.”
“Where's your authorization?” Bardue demanded.
“Out there, Gunny!” Bunker waved to the nearby forest.
“Point taken, cadet.” Giving the pair, then Delarose a long suffering look, Bardue used his key card and punched in the code on the snow rimed keypad to open the locker. “Be careful out there!”
“We will, Gunny!” Mule passed back over his shoulder as he barreled into the armory.
“To Hell with property damage!” Gunny yelled. “Just watch yourselves and don't kill any friendlies!”
“Where you going?” Delarose questioned as Bardue started to head into the armory.
“Armoring and arming up, Chief. You guys need anything?”
“Thanks, but we're set, Gunny.” Delarose hollered. “You take your own advice, out there!”
“I didn't live long enough to be a damned teacher by being a fool, Frank.” Bardue grinned. “You take that advice, too.”
Cait unlocked the case on her –- Mahren's – prized fifty caliber Barret sniper rifle and gently lifted the weapon out. Without thinking about why she knew to do so, the girl located magnesium rounds, calmly loaded the weapon, and piled extra ammo into a large pack. Once that was bulging, ignoring the winter weather gear in the locker, she stalked back into the storm in search of a vantage that would suit her needs.
Wind, snow, cold, were meaningless to her now, and part of her marveled at that while being horrified at the changes that had made such a thing so. But there was work to do. Work that Eric Mahren would have understood all too well. Work that Cait meant to get done.
Finding what she wanted wasn't difficult at all with her knowledge of Whateley's geography. The low hill just past Poe cottage was perfect, with an excellent field of fire into the edges of the forest and the cleared ground between that and the campus proper.
Finding a decent brace for her weapon took a few minutes, given the deceptively soft appearing covering of snow all around her, but one was found.
Mounting the scope, and checking its alignment took another minute, then Caitlin Bardue settled herself into a well remembered position and scanned the area for motion.
Once out on the roof, Deadeye found a position giving him an excellent view of the entire area bordering the forest on that side of Whateley. Setting up his weapon took several minutes, then he settled in and began scanning the surroundings through the scope that he'd set to IR.
“Come on little beasties.” He muttered. “Baby wants to play.”
“Razor, are you going to be all right out there in this cold?” Nikki questioned once Jericho and the rager had arrived to fill out the group.
“Should be. Razor signed, then gave his backside a tentative touch and rub while grinning at Jericho. Though Jericho had waaay too much fun giving me the dosage of antifreeze.
“Well, I know you needed a lot, this storm is going to be dangerous for people who don’t need the extra protection from the cold.” Nikki replied with a small grin. Okay, Delarose wants us to move to range four and take a backup position until we’re sure just what the nasty beasties are going to do and where they’re going to do it. We can use the tunnels most of the way, so let’s get going.”
Mule and Bunker showed up just as the group was preparing to move. Mule grinned while hefting a shotgun. “What? Leaving for the party without us?”
“Nope.” The elf girl responded with a chuckle then frowned at Bunker. “Andrea, you really should be resting, not getting ready for another battle.”
“After last time, I have some payback to give out.” Bunker answered without a flicker of emotion on her face then sighed. “Besides, I couldn’t stand it, or live with myself, if friends are putting themselves in danger and I’m sitting safe and warm somewhere. Especially if, and I am -- really, I’m capable of helping.”
“I couldn’t talk her out of it either.” Mule ruefully told everyone with a shrug. “So here we are.”
“Good enough, I suppose.” Nikki nodded then waved everyone towards the basement access. “We’re headed out to Range Four, and the easiest way to get there is through the tunnels.”
“Even if we have to dig our way out once we get there.” Sara agreed, joining the group with a slightly amused expression as she saw Mule and Bunker. But that expression sobered quickly. “Sorry I took so long getting here but there were a few things I had to gather up first. As for the digging out, I take it you have that contingency planned for, Nikki?”
“Several ways.” The girl nodded, then shooed everyone down the stairs.
Thursday, December 6, 2006
Storm conditions made things nearly dark as night as the hastily assembled defenders readied themselves at the perimeters of their home. Magical wards were flaring everywhere in the surrounding forest, clamoring their own alarms of the approaching danger.
“Non-combatants are all in the shelters!” Ben announced as he rejoined Eli. “Seals are in place too, so even if the bad guys get through us, the kids and ancients should be safe.”
“Best we can do for now, then.” Eli acknowledged with a grim look out into the storm racked forest. “We have a LOT of company out there, Ben.”
“We’ll do what we can, love, as always.” Ben answered while adding his own grimly determined eyes to those watching the forest. “The bastards are going to pay in blood, lots of it, for every inch they take.”
“Yeah, I just hope the price isn’t too high for us this time around.” Eli answered then tensed as vague forms began showing flitting closer to the perimeter each second. “Here they come.”
There was no more time for talking as the waiting weres met an enemy their kind had been created to fight so long ago.
Even with the wind lashed snowfall, Deadeye’s scope gave him a clear enough view to know that his once empty field of fire had suddenly filled with targets rapidly moving past the perimeter. The fuzzy images he did get made him very glad that he couldn’t see the details of his targets clearly. Targeting the closest one he carefully held his breath and squeezed the trigger. Picking another target once his initial one had somersaulted backwards in a satisfying testament to the accuracy of his aim he muttered. “Man, there are a LOT of you ugly mofos. But that just gives me more targets doesn’t it?”
Ignoring the cold, he kept firing until he needed to reload. None of his shots had missed but there were still a gawdawful bunch of the nightmares moving in. On his school, his friends, his life. That wouldn’t do at all.
“Exit is blocked.” Mule announced once he had tried opening the outside access to range four from the tunnel system. “Can’t budge the door at all here.”
“Stand back.” Nikki told him in a tone that invited no argument. A glance over his shoulder at what the girl was doing had Mule moving away from the door very quickly. “Maintenance is going to be pissed, but I can’t move that much snow and the steel of the door any other way. Everybody get behind something. NOW.”
Bardue had fought his way through the snow to near the mound that was the entrance to the tunnels from range four when he was stopped by a near blinding glow coming up from underneath. Swearing, he dove for the cover a snow shrouded concrete berm offered. Just as he hit the snow on the other side of that, the snow, and what looked like the reinforced durasteel door to the tunnels blew upwards and out in a soundless explosion that should have shaken the ground but didn’t.
Standing in an icy shower of refrozen melted snow from the blast he almost idly noted that the door itself floated gently to the ground not far from the tunnel access. “Damned magic users! But at least this one is considerate about making the damage easy to fix.”
“What the H did you do?” Mule asked as the blocked access and the door itself were suddenly, and violently cleared in an eerie silence that didn’t go at all with the results.
“Reversed some polarities in the immediate vicinity, including that of the door.” Nikki responded with a grimace. “Basically, I kind of turned the lines there around and made them push stuff out of the way instead of holding it down.”
“Oh, sorry I asked.” The boy shook his head and noticed more than a few amused and commiserating looks from a lot of the others in the group.
“Been there, done, that, m’friend.” Jericho shrugged. “I learned early on to stop asking WHAT Nikki does and just to take advantage of it once it happens.”
“I’ll remember that, thanks.” Mule hefted his SMG and slung the shotgun over his shoulder after making sure its drum magazine was both full and locked in place. “Right now, I think it’s time to do that ‘take advantage’ thing.”
Bunker shook her head, checked her grenade launcher and its drum magazine, then lost her bemused expression and grinned as she gestured at Mule. “What he said.”
Razorback growled, a low, very threatening rumble from deep in his chest, and moved forward before anyone else.
“Jack!” Nikki called after him. “Time for the rage later, my friend. If you charge out into this storm looking for voodoo wolves to kill, you’ll die before we can find you! Put it aside for a few, please? We’ll have our chance at them and you know it.”
The rager actually stopped, shook himself as he visibly fought down the rage, then gave Nikki a look that could only be called sheepish as he did stop his nascent charge. Mule’s respect for the girl went up another notch as he saw that. Wow, she was able to actually keep the Raptor boy from charging off at something in a rage.
“Okay people.” Nikki announced. I’ll keep the entrance clear. We’re the reserve force right now, so we may as well stay out of the storm for as long as we can.”
No one argued, but it was clear that no one was very happy about being held in reserve.
Mule and Bunker both wondered about the girl’s just assuming command for a moment then noted the anything but young look in her violet eyes and her undeniable presence among a group that included a daemon/goddess. After that neither one voiced the complaints they had originally thought of.
Cait, immune to both the cold and the blinding snow had been watching a horizon that had been empty then was suddenly boiling with things she instinctively knew shouldn’t be allowed near anything or anyone in this school or in the world for that matter.
“All right, you Assholes.” She muttered while taking aim at one of the leaders in that nightmare pack. “See how you like this.”
Silent, she gently caressed the trigger of her Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifle and bared her teeth in what might be charitably called a smile with sheer joy of battle as the round reached its target. The nightmare creature nearly disintegrated at the impact.
After that, she targeted, made sure of her aim, and fired with a machinelike precision that would have been frightening to observe if anyone had been able to see her in the lashing storm.
Deadeye suddenly went from concentrating on an empty field of fire to a surplus of targets that would have required an automatic weapon to even diminish a little.
Swearing would have been counter- productive, and wasted precious time. Sighting on one of the leaders he saw it pretty well explode from the impact of a high caliber round, and grinned. He wasn’t the only one working at picking the creatures off then.
The other shooter was picking targets in the front ranks, and not wishing to duplicate effort, Deadeye began choosing and firing on targets slightly to the rear of the leaders. With more than satisfying results as his targets spun, fell, and didn’t rise to continue their charge.
Leftenant Samuel Conners, recently of the SAS heard one of his squad of armored security people swear when they caught sight of the invading horde. “Cut the chatter mates.” He ordered. “This is what we’ve really been trained for here. These nasty wankers aren’t getting to the kids while we’re still standing.”
To their credit, even the one who had let out the involuntary curse Conners couldn’t blame the person for given what they were all seeing, the squad had taken positions and started peppering the oncoming monsters with heavy caliber automatic weapons and energy weapons fire.
Sir Wallace Westmont felt the magical wards around Whateley straining then giving way in spots as he probed the unnatural feeling storm that raged in the area. Sounds of gunfire and explosions, first intermittent then constant from the area of the weakened or collapsed wards registered on his consciousness but didn’t break his concentration.
“There you are.” He breathed out almost silently when he found a knot of energy darker than most he had ever encountered driving the storm to an extreme it would never have reached naturally. Calling on his own considerable resources and reserves, Sir Wallace Westmont joined the battle in his own way.
Frank Delarose watched as the incoming forces steadily drove his defenders back to secondary positions with an anger that he hadn’t felt since Halloween. HIS people were taking casualties, HIS school was under attack, and HIS charges were in imminent danger because of that.
Remaining calm with long practiced effort, he raised the short ranged communicator in one of his hands. “HQ, Leader One here. Have you been able to raise anyone at all to give us a hand here?”
“No joy there, Leader One.” The answer crackled back. “Long range comm is out, we can’t even get a call out to Dunwich from here right now.”
“Keep working on it.” Delarose urged, knowing that his communications team was doing the best a very capable crew was able to accomplish. “Get Samantha Everhart in there if you can find her in this cluster fuck, she may be able to get something done with the comm gear no one else is able to do.”
“Got calls out for her already, Leader One.” The response came back. “Anything else, sir?”
“Negative, HQ.” Delarose almost sighed in frustration. “Keep at it, and keep me advised of any changes.”
“That’s a roger, Leader One.” He put the communicator back into its pouch on his shoulder, checked to make sure the business end of his weapon hadn’t gotten clogged with snow while he’d been talking, and raised the plasma rifle to at least get some of his own in.
He paused long enough to make one more call he had hoped wouldn’t be needed. “Get the kids out here, Bardue. Have them shore up the perimeter along the northern edge of range four.”
“Roger that, Leader One.” Bardue’s gruff voice replied with an audible sigh in it. “Wild Bunch is active. Repeat, Wild Bunch is now active.”
“We’re on, people.” Nikki told the gathering of kids called the Wild Bunch by everyone who knew what they had been doing recently. “Mule, Breaker, get us to the northern edge of the range, that’s where Gunny says we’re needed.”
The pair of grunts nodded, starting up the stairs while securing their cold weather gear. The rest of the group followed.
Nikki took Jericho aside for a moment giving Razorback a worried look. “Try to keep a close eye on Jack out there. This cold worries me with him.”
“Like I wouldn’t do that anyway, but you got it, Nikki.” The blind devisor nodded. “We’d better get moving, visibility is about seven feet right now for you sighted folks.”
“Yeah, let’s not lose the rest.” The elf girl nodded grimly.”
“I said for you sighted people.” Jericho grinned. “I can ‘see’ just fine out there.”
“I don’t know whether to kiss you or slap you at times.” Nikki shook her head then moved up the stairs.
“I vote for the first option.” The devisor quipped.
“Either one would be a distraction you don’t need just now.” The girl smirked over her shoulder. “Let’s get a move on here.”
Mediwhila Were Reservation
If Eloise hadn’t been so frantically busy, she would have wept. Her count of the fallen weres had given way to the grim business of keeping the remaining warriors she had alive, along with the non-combatants still in the shelters.
The weres gave a good fight, but there were simply too many of the attacking monsters for the defenders to realistically hope to hold any one position for long. One strong point would get established, hold for a while then a fresh rush of the enemy would overwhelm it. She called out an order she had hoped wouldn’t be needed, again. “Pull back! Cover the central square and the shelter entrances!”
The defenders had grudgingly given up the outskirts of the village, then the more developed middle ring, but now had their backs to the village center with nowhere else to go. Ben, bless him, was still moving through the thick of the fighting along with Eli, encouraging, cajoling, and threatening when the defensive lines began to waver. Not that any of the still standing fighters had any illusions of what was at stake, or intended to make it easy for the invaders.
“Hold that line!” Her mate roared as Eli determined to get some real defensive emplacements built in and around the village once this was over. If there was a village, and there were people left to defend in it.
Northern perimeter of Range Four
Bunker and Mule were the first to reach the nearly overwhelmed security detachment on the perimeter, announcing their arrival with furious blasts of weapons fire that momentarily scattered the attacking Voodoo Wolves.
“Helllooo boys, we’re baaack!” Mule shouted almost gleefully.
“You watched Independence Day AGAIN, didn’t you?” Bunker questioned while targeting more of the attackers with her grenade launcher.
“I LOVE that movie!” Mule shouted back as he continued firing into the mass of Voodoo wolves.
“Get your sorry asses under cover!” Gunny Bardue’s gravelly roar stopped their bantering conversation as the reinforced defenders began really stopping the surges of Voodoo Wolves for the first time since the battle had started. “Watch who and what you’re firing at, too everyone!”
That last was because Razorback, Sara, Toni, Chou, Jericho, and Nikki had driven right into the heart of the enemy and were taking a terrible toll of their targets.
“Damned kids.” Bardue muttered as Mule and Bunker joined their compatriots in the thick of things. “Two of them know better already, and the rest are damned well going to learn!”
Even so, he was relieved, and more than a little impressed at the impact the kids were having on the battle.
Sara thrust a tentacle between a ravening cougar thing and Razorback who was fully embroiled in combat with no less than four other monstrosities. As her tentacle wrapped around and started digging into the monster she shook her head. “No you don’t, my friend has enough to manage right now without you crashing the party.”
Nikki had Malachim’s Feather out and was alternately slashing, stabbing, and throwing dissolution spells at the Voodoo weres. With less than gratifying results because there were so many of the attackers.
Chou, flitting from one point to another as needed, used Destiny’s Wave to behead, bisect, or simply maim any Voodoo Wolf she attacked. Most of her targets went down and didn’t get up again. But it seemed she would never be lacking for more targets as the masses of combatants swirled around her.
Toni danced away from slashing claws and nearly bounced right into a slavering mouthful of wickedly sharp teeth. Twisting with her momentum, she managed to bring her kukri into play and the teeth, along with the head that had held them, shattered into a mass of gore. “Hah! Another One Bites The Dust!”
“You.” Nikki told her while slashing another of the monsters with her own weapon then throwing another spell that caught an oncoming swarm before it reached the security detail they were reinforcing. “Have.” SLASH “Been watching football games again. JAB “Toni?”
“What can I say?” Toni shouted back as she lunged and performed a series of pirouettes a ballerina would have envied. “The boyfriend likes football!”
Jericho was not in the thick of the meelee, rather was working on the wounded security people, alternating that with shots from his own weapon to make sure none of the bad guys ruined his hard work. As he injected another prone security man with the antidote to the Voodoo Were venom, he grimaced. “I’m going to have to find a way to make more of this stuff, lots more. Or get the Med labs kicked in the ass to start producing it in quantity.”
Suddenly, the battle was over with Voodoo Wolves scattering in the face of a furious attacks they couldn’t adequately meet. Even insanity has its limits at times and theirs had been reached.
Nikki stood amid a heap of body parts, and looked at her teammates, likewise surrounded by dead Voodoo Weres. “That was too easy. They broke and ran too soon.”
“You just wanted more fight is all.” Mule grinned tiredly.
“No.” The mage shook her head. “It isn’t that. It’s like this attack was meant to… Oh, Gods!”
“What?” Toni questioned with a worried expression. When Nikki really swore something was in the crapper for sure, and everyone who knew her was all too aware of it.
“The weres!” Nikki closed her eyes and shuddered. “This attack was a feint! To keep us here while the real assault was on the reservation!”
Bardue was readying himself to give the ass chewing of the century, then to thank the kids for their help, when the entire group vanished with a pop of displaced air rushing into the spaces they had occupied.
“Where the HELL did they go?” Cait almost shouted as her perceptions noted the sudden absence of the Fey Girl and her cohorts. There were still real monsters to kill, so she had no time to try and figure out what had happened.
Too many monsters as it turned out. Her position was overrun in her moment of hesitation. Shotgun in one hand and grasping her sniper rifle by the barrel to use like a club, she fired, beat at the creatures, and resigned herself to dying to protect the kids who couldn’t fight these things.
At least the thirty pound sniper rifle made a decent club.
Deadeye swore violently as he saw the other kids vanish as if they’d never been present. Frantic with worry, he nearly stopped firing at the creatures that were still working towards the campus. But got himself back the grim business at hand in spite of his worries about his friends and their new companions.
Continued in Ill Winds Part 6