Anne cradled her suppressed carbine as her team charged from the woods onto the grassy clearing. Jason was to her right and slightly behind with his M4. Behind them came Veronica and Samantha. Although both were armed with submachine guns, Veronica let hers dangle on its sling. She wanted both hands free for slinging spells. The sorceress was already linked to Anne so that she could draw on the wild magic Anne had gathered up.

“*Metro Police! Hands on top of your heads and down on your knees!*” Anne yelled as her quartet approached the group of thirty to forty teens milling around the edge of the ritual site. Anne avoided looking over at the robed figures. Something about what they were etching into the grass made her queasy. Not a feeling she wanted to deal with at the moment. All of the Avalonians had it much worse. Part of the reason that Anne and Jason were in front of the other two was that both of the Avalonians were fighting nauseous from whatever was going on at that side of the clearing.

The teens all looked over at the four, but instead of bolting into the woods, they started forming lines of about eight wide and five deep. It reminded Anne of a blind date that ended up at one of the country and western bars.

*Something’s very wrong, here,* Anne thought over the telepathic link that Samantha was maintaining among the team.

*You just noticed?* Veronica replied, *Those kids are touched by the Outsiders. Can’t you feel it from them?*

*No,* Anne answered.

*I’m starting to think Erik was right. We should just shoot them,* Samantha commented, *Their surface thoughts are twisted.*

*We can’t do that,* Jason observed, *I’m damn sure not about to wade into that many of them just to cuff them. Let’s just hold here and make sure that they stay out of the others’ way.* Almost as if summoned, gunfire erupted behind them.



Erik, Kurt, and Joseph were halfway across the clearing when Anne’s yell broke their silence. The robed cultists all turned as one. Erik shouldered the Galil ACE suppressed assault rifle and fired a burst at the nearest cultist. Oh yes, he liked this Israeli gun much better than those Russian ones he’d been using before. Not as good as an Imperial Armory Mark VII, but fairly decent. His target let out a short scream of pain before crumpling to the ground. Kurt took a second cultist with his Benelli while Joseph killed a third with his suppressed AR. Americans certainly loved their little pop-guns. To be fair, their 5.56mm cartridge seemed to do just fine against most humans, even if they wouldn’t take down creatures like orcs or trolls.

A half-sphere of darkness sprang up between the robed cultists and Erik’s trio of shooters. All three instinctually hit the ground as some of the cultists sprayed automatic fire indiscriminately. Kurt and Erik traded sidelong glances. The German shrugged as if to say *I didn’t see any of those when we were scouting.* Erik nodded in reply. These were obviously some of those small machine pistols. The cultists also didn’t seem to understand how to use them properly. Erik hated dealing with ill-trained amateurs. He reached out with his psy-senses into the darkness. He bit back a wave of nausea as his powers intersected the twisted magic of the Outsiders. Finding a target, he pointed his ACE and fired a short burst. Erik was rewarded by a gurgling scream.

“We should have brought the grenades,” Kurt said, firing a pair of harassment blasts into the darkness.

“Grenades? Hell, we should have brought a flamethrower,” Joseph replied. Erik was starting to like the Army Ranger-turned-hacker. The man was not only skilled, but incredibly calm during very stressful situations. That wasn’t something you found everyday.

“Flamethrowers are messy and finicky,” Erik said, getting up to a crouch and closing with the cultists. “I was thinking more of a Metal Storm.”

“Wait, you have one of those?” Joseph asked as he and Kurt followed Erik’s movement. Erik could feel his excitement pulse at the thought.

“Not on this side of the gate, but we use them quite a bit back home,” Erik said. “Very good against mass walls of orcs.” The three hit the ground again as the cultists finally got their weapons reloaded and proceeded to empty their magazines again.

“You’d think they’d learn how to properly aim,” Kurt said before swearing in German. “Erik, we could probably build a Metal Storm. After all, if the Australians could, we should be able to.”

“That would be cool,” Joseph said, firing at a cultist that took a step just outside the darkness sphere. The cultist spun and collapsed face first into the grass.

Erik was about to agree when a wave of intense Outsiders magic swept over him. His ACE slipped from his hands as Erik doubled over and vomited everything he’d eaten for the last two days. His head spun violently as he tried to stand back up. Instinctively, he reached out with his telekinesis to brace himself, but found it wouldn’t respond to his thoughts. He couldn’t summon the proper concentration.

“Time to go,” Joseph said, grabbing the drag handle on Erik’s armor and yanking Erik back towards the other group. Erik managed to pick his head up long enough to see that the bubble of darkness was gone. In the middle of the cultists stood two *things*. Both stood well over eight feet tall and were roughly humanoid. That was all Erik could discern. Even looking at the creatures caused intense pain from their wrongness.



Anne’s head throbbed with psychic backlash as their telepathic link was violently ripped apart. Samantha screamed in agony behind her, but Anne forced herself to keep watching the now square of teens in front of them. Whatever just happened made Anne sick to her stomach and she felt the lines of wild magic – quaver? Was this what Veronica had been feeling from the Browne suicide? It certainly felt *wrong.*

Two monstrous roars drew Anne’s attention to where the cultists had been. In the midst of the robes were two huge creatures. One was looked like a headless, eight foot tall wrestler, until she realized that its pectoral muscles were actually eyes and the roar was coming from a mouth that opened where the abs should have been. The other had its arms coming out of its waist and tentacles coming off of its shoulders. And no face. Where the face should have been was only smooth, pale white skin.

“Oh hell,” Jason swore. Anne turned back to the teens. All of them were staring at her with solid black eyes and emotionless faces. Fear flooded Anne.

*KILL THEM MY CHILDREN!* screamed a voice through Anne’s head. It was more painful than even when the vampires forced themselves into her head. It took her a moment to realize that she was on her knees and screaming.