Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 39: Demon Blood

Session One

Despite being dominated for several minutes with no clear opening visible, Molly stood as confident as ever against Claude. All his attacks had kept her scrambling, but ultimately he failed to defeat her. In the long run, she knew she had the advantage. There was just one thing to nail down.

She had done a masterful job discovering the barrier between her and the elevator back up. It stood there nobly, certainly up until Claude went down. With the guards securing the other exits, that was the only way out. Standing on the opposite side of the room as Claude, Molly did absolutely nothing.

Claude paced around his corner of the room, waiting for her. Her dormant state seemed to frustrate him. He held out a hand to cast something, but Molly didn't budge. Dropping his hand as the ruse proved useless, his shoulders slumped and he folded his arms. That's when Molly jumped off the area rug that Claude suddenly lifted into the air. It rolled up and took a swing at her, but she threw up a spell to repel it. She turned back to Claude, still inert... except for a slight twitch in his leg. Molly shielded the incoming energy bolt.

She began to understand his patterns. Claude always seemed to be a little uptight. Molly had gotten accustomed to that. In fact, it meant he could concentrate on a spell without anyone thinking he was focusing on magic, or even capable of it. With an easily-dismissed leg motion, he could cast a spell. No wonder her reaction time had been so slow: with such a tense poise, he could use magic inconspicuously.

Now that she had observed him long enough, she trained herself to read him better. Claude flinched again ever so slightly; Molly readied herself. Only this time, the attack came from below. The entire floor seemed to vibrate, but Claude didn't appear rattled. He simply held his position, one leg maintaining slight contact with the other. Molly clenched her teeth. She wasn't ready for a new trick.

If the attack was on the ground, Molly figured the best defense would be in the air. She cast a flight spell and felt it kick in, but something was pulling her down. No matter how much energy she put into her levitation, she couldn't get either foot off the ground. The force was staggering and seemed to get worse the more she tried. Helpless, she released the spell, but still felt herself weighed down. The floor seemed to have its own concept of gravity, and Molly struggled to move.

Move she did, however. Just not with her feet. She pulled out her marker and squatted. Lower to the ground, the pressure from Claude's spell worsened. Molly fought to keep her knees off the floor, for fear she wouldn't be able to lift them again. Very slowly, she managed to create a circle around herself. By the time it was done, her arm was limp, like she had been drawing with an anvil. She shook it off and focused on her spell. Thankfully her muscle memory let her execute her trigger, because she didn't feel her hand moving.

The moment her spell went off, it was all better. Her little circle was immune from the gravity spell and she could afford a moment to recover. Claude nodded respectfully. “Nicely done, Madam. But you seemed to have limited your range.”

Molly didn't answer. She rubbed her arm and her wrist to get some feeling back into it. Her indifference to Claude made him fidget. He raised a hand slightly at her and said, “Excuse me, Madam? We're still dueling. You can't hole up in your barrier forever.”

Swinging her arm back and forth, Molly looked back at him and nodded. Then her arm came forward and she launched one hell of an energy blast through her circle and right at Claude. He had to leap into the air and break off his spell.

Persistent attacks from Molly allowed her to step out of the circle, giving her more range to roam around taking potshots at Claude. He dodged all of them, sometimes barely, but now she had clearly taken control. With a calm and efficient stroke, she wanted nothing more than to bring him down.

To Claude's credit, he was agile in the air as he avoided Molly's attacks. This let him at least control the direction of his frantic flailing so he could land a little farther away. Once on the ground, he dodged another shot, threw his hand up and fired back at Molly. She jumped into her still-fresh circle, which absorbed the shot. Then she fired several rounds back, forcing Claude to scramble again.

The moment Molly paused for a second to catch her breath, Claude stepped forward, not bothering to shoot her in her protective circle. When she resumed, he had a shield of his own up. One that was portable and let him advance. Effective as the barrier circle was in deflecting spells, Molly was helpless when he rushed in himself. Keeping his shield up, he blocked an attack, grabbed her shoulders and forced her out of the circle. In the process, Molly saw Claude's shield drop, but now her circle protected him. She grumbled a bit and cast a spell to remove it entirely.

Just as she did, a flying book blindsided her and knocked her to the ground. After casting a shield, she rubbed her left shoulder. It ached after Claude's grappling and the book made the pain even more aggravating. She found the book and ran to a corner, keeping both her shield and her eyes on her enemy.

Sheltered away, Molly drew a new circle left-handed. This time, it was on the book itself. Claude quit being subtle and pounded away at the shield. She needed to wait for him to pause to take down her shield in order to enchant the circle. An additional spell raised the book off the ground and sent it hurtling towards Claude.

Claude saw it and backpedaled. With each step back, he sent a projectile at Molly, but she sidestepped his clumsy attacks and kept her focus on moving the book. Just as Claude seemed to gain ground on it, she let it fall and fired a shot that caught him off guard and knocked him flat. He jumped up, taking flight as Molly resumed tormenting him with the marked book.

As his back reached the wall and the book continued to approach, Claude began to descend. Molly was so focused on the book, she didn't realize that he was charging up an attack until it was halfway at her. She dropped the book and threw a shield up quickly. The moment it absorbed his blast, she got her spell off quickly, resuming control of he book and flinging it quickly under Claude as he landed. His foot made contact and he started screaming as the circle kicked in.

It was a voltage circle, and it coursed through his leg and numbed the right side of his body. To make sure it stuck, Molly flew in while Claude was disoriented and cast a spell to bind his foot to the circle. Writhing on the floor, Claude screamed bloody murder as the room's guards watched silently. Molly resisted the urge to grin.

“All right! You win! I give! I give!” Claude cried.

Now Molly couldn't help but smile. “If you want me to let go of that little bear trap, the first thing you will do is-”

Before she could detail orders to ensure her freedom, she felt two blows to the head. The guards had advanced and restrained both her arms. One cast a spell to forcibly separate Claude from the circle. Claude fell to his knees but forced himself to his feet, if only to tower over Molly as she slipped out of consciousness.

“Sorry if you thought beating me would have changed anything,” Claude said. “That was just for fun. I bow to my superior, Madam, but we still have plans for you.”


Session Two

On the other side of the dark room wall, Kendrick stopped in a boiler room. He refused to release Donovan's hand. “What are we doing in here?” Donovan asked.

Kendrick sighed in relief, a leftover reaction from their narrow escape. “Stressing to you that letting go while we are walking through the walls would be exceedingly bad. I don't suppose you know which way gets us out the fastest without being spotted?”

Donovan remained silent. Kendrick rolled his eyes. “Thought so.”

“Enough! Staying here does us no good!”

Kendrick sighed again, this time in exasperation. “Agreed.”

They continued in a straight line, passing through walls, pipes and a packed classroom. Everybody stared back, interrupting the teacher mid-lecture. Donovan smirked at them all and boasted, “Now do you question my power?!” Kendrick led him through the wall on the far end.

Everybody looked at the spot on the wall where they had vanished. The kids turned to each other quizzically. One of them asked, “Why was he holding hands with that guy?”

Thankfully, they didn't have to barge through any more classrooms to get outside. That was the good news. Of course, there was a substantial cadre of Hageshoni demons patrolling outside. That was the bad news. They were, however, facing the doorways and that was all the news Kendrick needed to digest. He released Donovan's hand and brought a finger to his lips.

Kendrick put his hand on his chest and slashed it in accordance with his trigger. As he started to charge up a spell, he slowly approached a small group of demons guarding a nearby exit. None of them could have expected the sneak attack Kendrick had planned. The Hokoni leaned forward to strike.

Then Donovan laughed, “Fools! Prepare to die!” They all turned around and saw Kendrick. The quickest among them were able to deflect the ring of electricity that coursed along the cement. It took out half of the group there, leaving three to fire back with enormous fireballs. Donovan stepped in and shielded them with ease.

With Donovan handling defense, Kendrick fired an energy blast at the closest enemy. It knocked him back, but not down. In fact, even the three hit with the first attack were getting to their feet. Kendrick grimaced; he was afraid of this.

Worse yet, Donovan wasn't actually handling defense. After the first wave of counter-attacks from the Hageshoni, he dropped his shield and charged up an attack of his own. A fireball grazed his arm and disrupted his spell. He tried again and was again disarmed. Furrowing his eyebrows in anger, he tried it one more time, but again he was hit while charging up. Frustrated, and slightly singed, he fired a quick round that connected, but did little more than annoy the demon.

Finally, Kendrick cast a shield of his own. “Now try it,” he said, blocking two attacks at once. Donovan did, giving it a full charge. At just the right moment, Kendrick stepped away as Donovan released a demon-infused blast of pain that knocked one of the demons flat. It did not, however, knock him out.

“Donovan, I do believe we're outgunned here,” Kendrick mumbled as he continued to shield attacks. Donovan heard footsteps behind him, turned around and found another Hageshoni unit. They readied, they aimed and Donovan wisely cast his own shield as they fired.

Though both shields deflected everything nicely, a dozen demons attacking from two different directions made victory seem impossible. At least using Donovan's parameters.

“Donovan, remember that the goal is simply for you to escape, not to take them all out,” Kendrick reminded.

“And what makes you believe we are anywhere near our goal, regardless of what it may be?”

“Just suggesting that we need to think this through logically.”

The demons advanced; soon they'd be able to walk though the shield spells. Donovan found only one logic worth considering. “Nonsense. What we need is more firepower! Blaine! Bryce!”

Blaine and Bryce appeared, seemingly mocking the demons' anti-teleportation spell, and came up shooting whatever they had in their arsenal. It disrupted maybe one or two of the Hageshoni, but little else.

“Good enough,” Kendrick said. He grabbed Donovan's sleeve and pulled him in one direction, leaving the minions to offer cover fire. Kendrick dropped his shield, cast an attack and literally plowed through one demon on their way out. Only one Hageshoni chased them; the rest stayed to maul Blaine and Bryce.

Donovan turned around and, running backwards, fired a spell to take out the pursuing demon. Then he backed right into Kendrick and they tumbled over. When Donovan faced forward, he saw why Kendrick had stopped. Around the corner, Sho slowly approached them. Before either could stand up, a giant spike erupted from the ground and split them up.

Mostly unharmed, Donovan got up quickly. Using the spike for cover, he looked at Sho and glowered. Sho advanced quietly, arms on his shoulders and ready to attack again. Donovan moved to fight back, but Kendrick held up a hand.

“Remember, Donovan. Escape is the only goal,” Kendrick said calmly, standing up. The spike had slashed the back of his coat, and part of his shirt. Still, he slowly approached Sho.

Sho ignored him and fired his stone attack at Donovan, but Kendrick blocked it with a shield. Kendrick raised his eyebrows and said, “I do not appreciate being ignored like this.” Donovan stepped away from the spike and saw more Hageshoni troops approaching. He also saw the path leading him away from the school grounds and towards certain freedom. Sho attacked Donovan again; again Kendrick blocked it.

“I am serious,” Kendrick said. “This has been my territory for almost two years. What right do you have marching in with a whole legion? Barreling in and laying waste, mocking proper space-time... disrupting a normal day at school?” He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

Sho fired towards Donovan again; this time Kendrick couldn't get a shield up and had to step in between it himself. He fell against the side of the building, not anticipating that much pain from a simple earth attack. He fought it off and stood straight, a hand propped up against the wall. “And another thing- Donovan is not the one fighting you. I am.” Kendrick fired at Sho, but the Hageshoni seemed to absorb it. Sho did, however, look at Kendrick for the first time.

“Go ahead, take the rest if you must, but Donovan is mine,” Kendrick said, defiant despite his injury. “No matter what you do to the others and no matter what you do to me, Donovan will not fall to you. The boy, his powers, his demon and his grimoire are-”

Sho slashed his arms forward and the bricks on the wall absorbed Kendrick. The Hageshoni continued to hold his arms out as the bricks tightened. Kendrick tried to scream but couldn't. The cage continued to crush him, covering his face and legs completely. By the time Sho was finished, the wall had swallowed Kendrick completely and returned to normal.

He turned to Donovan, who stared back with revulsion... from a safe distance. Sho tried to attack, but the boy executed his trigger and vanished.

That day, Donovan did not fall to the Hageshoni.


Session Three

Troy ran up the stairs quickly, but stopped before he opened the door to the roof. He heard nothing behind him. His ice wall must have held. Renee's last effort had ensured his safety, even as it ended any hope for him to rescue her. Now all that was left was for him to jump off the roof and fly home.

Was that really what he was supposed to do though? Was everybody else doing the same thing? All he knew was that Renee was captured. What about Kathryn and Yuki? Renee clearly failed to rescue her sister. Did that mean Molly was already lost or already safe? The legion of Hageshoni were powerful and hard to evade. As much as he feared capture, he was even more afraid of being the only one to escape.

He had to escape. Even if his friends were captured, he wouldn't know where to find them. Troy probably didn't have the ability to rescue them without help, which was supposed to be arriving in forty minutes or so. It was a long time for him to lay low if he was still on the premises. The demons would shatter the ice wall eventually. Troy hated himself for doing it, but he couldn't see any other path. He pounded the door to the roof before opening it and running out.

Troy didn't stop to enjoy the view. He leaped over exposed pipes towards the nearest edge. By the time anyone spotted him, he'd be in the air and untouchable. The only thing that stopped him was the sight of a girl standing nearby. Troy looked at her, then tripped over a beam. After picking himself up, the only thing that ached was his head.

Why was Marie up there?

She stood frozen in one place, holding her legs and feet together tightly and staring straight forward, arms at her sides. If she did notice Troy, and given his ruckus she certainly should have, she didn't react. Troy forgot what he was doing up there and approached her slowly. Several possibilities ran through his head and he didn't like any of them.

“Marie?” he said, cautious. Other than a brief flinch, she didn't respond. In turn, it made Troy more nervous. Given how unstable Marie had been since Kurt's death, this behavior was either a whole new level of crazy or part of the reason behind it.

He stepped in front of her and called her name again. Her eyes strayed to meet his for a moment, before she caught herself looked forward at the horizon again. “Marie!” he shouted, blocking her view. Her breathing became labored.

“Troy, what are you doing?” Marie asked. A trace of annoyance masked the fear in her voice.

“Never mind,” he replied. Troy wasn't changing the subject. Once the displacement ended, she wouldn't remember him flying away anyway. At least he hoped she wouldn't. Right now, he wasn't so sure. “What's going on with you? Why are you up here?”

“You don't want to know,” she said. “Don't worry about it. Please.”

“Look, Marie...” He set a hand on her shoulder, which she pulled away quickly. That was the clincher. Louder, he said, “Marie, how can I not worry about you?! You've been freaking out for the last two weeks and now you're standing up here like a statue! What's going on?!”

Marie's hands started shaking, but she pulled away when he tried to take one. Her feet didn't budge. “Don't do this to me right now, Troy. It's really not a good time. Just get yourself out of here and we'll pretend we didn't see each other.”

“I can't do that! I care too much about you to-”

That's when he caught it. How did she know he was trying to leave? Especially since they were on the roof with only one way out. A way that wasn't accessible via ordinary means. His look of surprise must have scared her further, because she looked away, wringing her hands. At that moment, getting himself out of there and pretending he hadn't seen her was a sublime option that he would have loved to take. That was impossible now.

“You know what's going on downstairs, don't you?” he said quietly.

She nodded sadly. In a hushed voice, she replied, “You really thought I believed all those lame reasons for you and Kathryn to leave town for three weeks, huh?”

He looked her up and down. Even if she was up here, she wasn't hiding. Furthermore, her posture was very deliberate. “What are you casting?” he asked. Troy hoped it was some protective spell, as if Marie was acting as some secret guardian angel. Still, he knew there was only one real possibility.

“Troy, they're going to follow you up here. You'd better hurry,” Marie blurted.

Sighing, Troy turned to the door, concentrated and placed another ice wall in front of it. He turned back. “We've got time. Now what are you doing?”

“Promise you won't hurt me,” she said quickly. Whatever she was casting, she tried hard to focus on it given Troy's presence.

Troy closed his eyes. He couldn't picture himself harming Marie. But all of a sudden, her hurting his friends was a vivid reality. “So you're why we can't teleport,” he muttered.

She bit her lip. Eyes welling and head shaking, she said, “This wasn't supposed to happen. We were just scouts. Just supposed to watch what President Pearson was doing. I never thought we'd ever be doing something like this.”

“But...” Troy looked at the door again. Any moment, armed demons were going to arrive, burn the door down and try to kidnap him. And his (until today) girlfriend was an accomplice. “But you are,” he said, turning back angrily. “You're the reason we can't escape! They already got Renee and maybe Kathryn and Yuki too. Like it or not, you're putting your friends in danger!”

“You can go,” Marie said softly. She stared into his eyes. Both of them were equally lost. “I couldn't stop you even if I wanted to. I'm actually not very good at magic. This barrier is all I can do, really.”

“Can you take it down? Maybe the others can-”

She shook her head, taken aback by the suggestion. “I can't just stop doing my job. That would be wrong of me. I mean, letting you go is one thing since I'm no match for you anyway. But telling me to stop doing this would be like me telling you to give up and surrender, right?”

Troy thought about it for a moment. His nose wrinkled. “No!”

“Why not? What's the difference between me doing my job and you doing yours?”

Exasperated, he shouted, “Because you're teamed up with the bad guys!”

Marie narrowed her eyes. Suddenly stern, she said, “Maybe to you. I'll admit we're being a little aggressive right now, but-”

“Marie, they killed Kurt!”

Her tone didn't change. “And you know how torn up I've been over that. That's Kamila's side anyway. We nothing to do with it.”

Troy took a step back. Finding this out was awful enough. But could she really not acknowledge that invading a school and capturing children was ethically dubious? Marie was sorry he had discovered her, sorry they had to be on opposite sides and sorry that Kurt had to die. At no point, however, did she seem sorry for being a demon and enabling their atrocities.

“I could force you, you know,” he said, staring down. “You're a sitting duck right now. There's all sorts of ways to make you drop your spell.”

“You wouldn't,” she cried, worried that he would. “You're right, I'm defenseless. I can't believe that you'd even think about it.”

“You're letting Kathryn and Yuki get attacked.”

“I know! And I'm sorry! I just want this to be over with. Please Troy, just go.”

He looked up suddenly as his arm dropped into his trigger position. Still facing Marie, it reared back. She stared at it, shaking even more and mouthing the word ' no' constantly. His arm shot forward and she bent over, throwing her arms in front of her face and screaming.

When she opened her eyes, Troy was airborne. He stared at her for a few moments. Marie dried a tear. Through a sad smile, she whispered, “Thank you.” As he flew away to safety, she stood up and resumed her post.


Session Four

For several minutes after arriving, Troy sat on his bed. He was eager to know who else had survived the ordeal, particularly Kathryn, but he couldn't stand up. Not after learning about Marie. He was a little angry, a little upset and extremely shaken by it all. More than anything, however, he was just bewildered.

His first exposure to an actual demon had been Kendrick. He was a fitting image of evil- smoothly appealing to Donovan's lust for power. Between him, Kaz's goons and the Golden Sun reps, Troy thought he had the whole demon thing figured out. They were evil monsters that would go to any means necessary to corrupt the world. It took a while to grasp, but he had even wedged Kamila into that image. After Kurt's death it wasn't hard.

Marie, on the other hand, was the least corrupt person he knew. All of his friends held ideals that Troy found unsavory: Kathryn was too open sexually, Yuki was blind to the underhanded dealings that brought her here, while Renee refused to criticize her sister's ethics. He never dwelled on these perceived flaws, but they helped shape the way he saw them. That's why he was attracted to Marie. Marie seemed innocent in every way, without the naivety that usually went with it. Troy found no way to reconcile her being an agent of evil because there wasn't a drop of poison in her soul.

Yet there she was, doing her best to trap Troy and his friends for the Hageshoni. Troy wanted to believe Marie was somehow being tricked into it, but that was plainly false. Again, Marie wasn't naive, and she seemed to recognize that her actions had put Kathryn and Yuki in peril. Her logic for continuing was simply that it was her duty, without speculating on the ethics of it. She exuded innocence, even when caught red-handed.

Troy stood up from the bed, trying to shake it off. It made no sense for him to think about it now. If Marie hadn't ended the relationship before the attack, it was certainly over now. In fact, it was entirely possible, and probably for the best, that he would never see her again. Troy wasn't sure if he could live without any sort of closure, but clearly there were more important things to worry about. Namely if anybody was downstairs waiting for him and what the next step was.

Closing his eyes, Troy descended down the staircase, listening for any commotion below. He heard nothing but faint white noise from a radio. Eyes open, he reached the bottom, turned around and stepped into the living room. In the distance, he saw Donovan in the kitchen, staring at the radio even as nothing emerged. Then Troy's eyes quickly focused on the couch, where his mother sat clutching Kathryn tightly. Kathryn wasn't responding, staring blankly at the floor. Under an afghan, she wore one of Troy's t-shirts; her own pants were torn in several places.

Ellen stood up and hugged Troy deeply. On the verge of tears, she said, “Oh my God, you're okay... it sounds awful over there.”

Troy was still trying to process how bad Kathryn looked. “Yeah,” was all he could say in response.

She pulled away and looked him over, visibly relieved that he was unharmed. “Are you okay? Can I get you anything?”

“I'm fine,” he said. “Something to drink, maybe?”

“How 'bout hot chocolate?”

“Thanks.” He didn't really care. He was more worried about Kathryn. As soon as his mother went into the kitchen, he sat down on the couch, slowly setting a shoulder on Kathryn's back. Kathryn turned suddenly, dove into his arms and started crying.

Troy fell back a little, stunned by her outburst. “W-what happened?” he asked.

She sniffed, then stuttered, “It was... just... just...”

“Where's Yuki?” He stroked her back, already knowing the answer.

Kathryn shook her head. “They pulled us apart. Just couldn't hang on to her. And then Kamila...”

“Kamila?” Troy's eyes widened. He clutched her tighter, out of his own disdain. Had he come across her, he wasn't sure what he'd do.

“Troy, I...” Kathryn stammered. She struggled to come out with it, and finally pushed it through with Troy's reassurances. “...I killed her.”

He stopped and pulled himself away so he could look her in the eyes. Never had he seen her so scared. “You did?”

She nodded, the tears still flowing. “She fought me and I fought back and I just got madder and madder and then suddenly... I got her. She just fell over and...” Her crying covered the rest.

Troy pulled her in again and let her. He couldn't think of anything to say to console her. At least nothing that would work. For all the obvious points like self-defense and retribution, they seemed shallow given the matter. From the way it had touched Kathryn, the act and her emotional state while committing it went far deeper than any of that.

After a prolonged consoling, Kathryn whispered, “What happened to Renee?”

Troy shook his head and clutched her tighter. “She went off to try to save Molly. By the time she got back to me... they took her. I thought about going after her but she wouldn't have it. Then I got to the roof and...” Pausing to look at her, Troy didn't have the heart to tell Kathryn about Marie. “I flew away.”

She rubbed his back gently, looking up at him without a word. They held each other longer, silently trying to convince each other that this was somehow going to turn out all right. The moment was broken up when Donovan walked past them and out the door. He carried a canister of salt.

They stared at the door for a while. Troy had completely forgotten about him. “How'd he get out?”

“No idea,” Kathryn replied. “Showed up a little after I did.”

“Where's he going?”

“Uriel said something about putting up a barrier for protection,” Ellen said, finally returning from the kitchen with two steaming mugs. Troy and Kathryn each took one. “I guess he can do that sort of thing?”

“Not that I'm aware of,” Troy said, blowing on his hot chocolate. His first sip turned into a long refreshing drink as the cocoa wasn't as scalding as he'd expected.

“What do we do now?” Kathryn asked, looking down at her drink.

Ellen shook her head and sighed. “Nothing, I hope. I can't imagine him putting you through anything else today.”

Troy looked up. “But what about Renee? What about Yuki?”

“Sounds like Molly's still there too. Just a second, I'll call him.” Ellen went back into the kitchen and, getting the number from her cell phone, called the office on a land line. After an initial conversation, Ellen brought the radio into the living room.

“I guess this is what they call speaker-phone,” Uriel said.

Troy took the phone and asked, “Are you really on the radio? What if someone's listening?”

“It's an AM band. They'll think it's a talk station. Where's Molly?”

Kathryn shook her head. “She stayed downstairs to help us get out.”

Troy added, “Renee went back to get her, but...” He didn't know the details. Ending it there explained it well enough.

Uriel was silent for a moment. “A few reinforcements are here, but if we send them in now, they won't have a prayer. We'll have to wait for the rest of them to arrive. Donovan is putting up a barrier around the house to keep you safe.”

Kathryn and Troy looked at each other nervously. Somehow that didn't make them feel safer. Donovan walked back in and capped the salt, silently handing it to Ellen before sitting down on the other side of the room.

“It's up. We just saw it,” Uriel said. Troy looked up at Donovan, surprised. Donovan glowered back and Troy's eyes returned to the radio. “I guess you just have to sit back and wait now.”

“That's it?!” Troy cried. “What about our friends? We have to help them!”

“With any luck, the troops will save them.” Uriel paused. “I'm not going to make you go back there. Much as you three would help, I don't recommend it.”

Troy stood up. “We'll do anything to help out. I can't just sit here while-”

“Troy...” Kathryn said, breaking up his speech. He stopped and looked down at her lowered head. “No. I can't do it. Not now.” She looked up at him. “I don't want to lose you either.”

They stared at each other for several seconds. Deflated, Troy sat back down. He took another long drink from his hot chocolate and handed the mug to his mother. “One more, please,” he muttered. Kathryn patted him on the shoulder.


Session Five

With shockwaves still rippling through his body, Claude clutched his head and tried to concentrate. According to his intelligence, MST reinforcements were due to arrive in about fifteen minutes. He had to wrap up the operation by then. The student council bunker proved to be a nice place to gather the group together to tidy everything up. Most of the troops were already down there, occupying themselves by reading whatever was on bookshelves. Claude doubted these idiots would be able to process much of Tolstoy's work in the limited time they had.

Molly, Renee and Yuki were propped against the credenza, their wrists tied behind their backs. As her trigger was through her mouth, Yuki's mouth was covered with a piece of tape. They had all been unconscious, although Claude noticed Renee stirring. Claude nodded with unnecessary reverence. “Good morning, Renee.”

Renee looked around frantically, flailing her arms unsuccessfully. “What are you...” she gasped.

Claude smiled at her briefly, then turned back to his papers. “Yes, I'm an Urayoni. It's fine if you want to stay conscious, but try to keep it down. We're pretty busy.”

She refused. “You're a... how could you turn on Molly like that?”

“Nature of the business, Renee,” he replied, not looking. “I hope she didn't really think we would just give up on her and leave.”

Renee was silent. Molly had said the Urayoni had made an effort to woo her in the past. Everything Claude was saying made perfect sense. It was still a shock. Renee could only wonder what Molly thought.

She didn't have to wait long as her sister grumbled, then winced at the pain in the back of her head. After reeling for a few moments, Molly opened her eyes and mumbled, “Damn.”

“You okay, Molly?” Renee said, her voice hushed.

Molly took a deep breath. “No, not really.” She seemed indifferent.

Claude didn't turn from his work, but did nod again. “Madam.”

“No use being civil now, Claude.”

“I beg to differ. We are very humane to our captives. I have nothing personal against either of you, so why treat you badly?”

Her eyebrows narrowed. “Forgive me if I doubt your sincerity.”

Claude's phone rang, preventing a response. “Yes?” He pulled the phone away and grimaced, turning to Molly and mouthing 'Sho.' He rolled his eyes and waited until Sho finished speaking before returning the phone to his ear. “I see. Nothing we can do about it now. Get down here and-”

Sho apparently resumed talking because Claude grew more agitated. Then shocked at what he heard. “Are you sure?” Another pause. “Just a moment.”

He set the phone down and asked Molly, “What's the name of that Hokoni that was always bugging you?”

Molly paused. “Kendrick,” she answered, surprised that he was involved.

“He helped Dunmar escape,” Claude said, annoyed. He returned to Sho. “We don't have time to do anything with it. Just leave him in there. If the Hokoni find out, it's your head.”

Hanging up, he faced two stunned Pearson sisters. “If you think fighting the Hageshoni is bad, try working with them sometime.”

“Are you saying Kendrick is-” Claude's phone cut off Renee's question. This conversation was much shorter. Claude ended it after ten seconds, walked over to the elevator and called it down.

The door opened and Marie stepped out. “I just want to get out of here,” she muttered sadly, finding a vacant chair.

Renee's jaw fell and even Molly's eyes widened. “You?! But... but... you...” It was so inconceivable, Renee didn't know where to start.

Marie tried not to make eye contact with them at first. After Renee's attempt to spit out words, Marie looked up at her and said, with no lack of sympathy, “Troy got out okay.” Renee was even less capable of response.

“You saw him them?” Claude asked.

Eyes to the floor, Marie replied, “Yes.”

“Did you try to stop him?”

Marie's head shot back up at him. He had clearly touched a nerve. “Of course not! Even if I had the power to, I wouldn't dream of it.”

Claude sighed, but nodded. “You held your position. That's fine.”

“Unbelievable,” Renee mumbled. “First Kamila and now you. How did we not see it?”

“We kept our secret as well as you all kept yours. We're really no different,” Marie said. She faced Renee and Molly and narrowed her eyebrows. “Wait, Claude, is this all we got?”

“Yeah,” Claude stated, back to his paperwork.

Her head lowered and she moaned, “You mean all this trouble and we only got three of them? I don't believe it. What about Donovan?”

Claude didn't look up. “That pesky Hokoni interfered to help Dunmar escape. Sho took care of him.”

Marie did look up, stunned. “He did?” Claude nodded. “If the Hokoni respond, I don't want anything to do with it.”

“Nor do I. The Hageshoni are on their own with that.”

“Where's Kathryn?”

Claude opened his mouth, but he didn't have an answer. He stood up and dialed a number on his phone. “Last I heard, she was in Kamila's hands.” Claude waited for a signal, and stared at Marie pensively when he didn't get one. “No answer,” he said, trying a different number.

This time he got a response and asked the demon on the other end for an update. Then Claude relayed Kamila's last-known location. Marie rose to her feet and slowly approached him as he grew more concerned.

As he heard the news, he turned away from Marie. “Are you sure?” he asked. He gulped when the demon was. “Get some help and... you know,” he directed before ending the call.

Slowly, his eyes returned to Marie's. They were already set to explode. “Kamila's dead,” he stated.

“No,” she squeaked, hands covering her mouth.

Claude bit his lip. “Kathryn killed her. Must have gotten out too.”

Marie fell back into a couch and cried. With a straight face, Claude returned to his work.

Renee and Molly looked on, stunned. Kathryn killing Kamila? It was hard for them to picture. Marie's reaction stifled them as well. Demon or not, it must have been agonizing.

At least they were silent to start with. As everything processed through their minds, it became harder to stay quiet. Finally, Molly shook her head and mumbled, “Kathryn killed Kamila... nice.”

Slamming her palms off the couch and pushing off them to stand up, Marie marched over to Molly. Her tears still flowed, but she gritted her teeth and stared down the elder Pearson. Angry and seething, she said, “You are a wicked person, Molly. I don't care what side you're on or what you think you're gaining from all of this, but I can't stand it.”

Molly leaned back in surprise. The normal glare that she'd normally flash instinctively was absent. She was just amazed that someone who had been so quiet and compliant was trying to deliver an angry rant.

Despite being out of her element, Marie was holding her own: “You think that because you're so gifted you have the right to walk over everybody else. The students, the unit... Troy. Jeez, you ruin his life for being a little interested in your sister?” She leaned in closer and shouted, “And she likes him too, I should add!” Renee's eyebrows flared at that, but Marie wasn't finished. “But then after that you throw him and his friends into all this, without telling them how the MST really operates! And then you have the nerve to be happy that Kamila's dead!”

Scoffing, Molly said, “Don't tell me you didn't celebrate when Kurt died. This would have turned out far different if he was still here.”

“I cried for days when I found out about Kurt,” Marie said, exasperated. “Go ahead. Call yourselves one of the good guys, but you're just... terrible.” She stormed off, to a far corner of the room where she could attempt to calm down in peace. Molly turned to Renee, as if trying to verify that yes, Marie really went off like that.

Eying Marie in the corner, Claude approached Molly, folding his hands nervously. “My apologies, Madam,” he said, seemingly sincere. “It's been a long day for all of us.”





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