Erik looked at the chained gates of Hope Park. Lady Maritza was not going to be happy when she found out about their activities tonight, which was why Erik hadn’t “borrowed” Nigel and John from her. That was annoying, because Erik could’ve used a couple more good shooters if they ran into the cultists. Erik shook his head at that thought. Of all the things that Joseph managed to dig out of the data he’d stolen from the Americans, the fact there was a cult dedicated to the Outsiders was probably the biggest shock. Didn’t those fools understand the true horror of the creatures they were trying to summon?

“Kurt, go,” Erik radioed. Kurt and Joseph stepped out of the sedan behind Erik’s van. As the two men snuck into the park, Erik felt Jason move closer. The American’s emotions were stormy, to say the least. Erik wanted to exclude the agent from coming on this mission, but he’d walked into the clubhouse as they were gearing up. Erik tried to discourage Jason from coming, but the agent just donned his own set of armor and picked up his suppressed M4.

“This is Hope Park,” Jason said flatly.

“Yes,” Erik said.

“Why are we here?” Jason asked, the anger in his emotions leaking into his normally controlled voice.

“I told you. We received new intelligence on some people that may be helping the Outsiders. It pointed us here,” Erik answered, “Kurt and Joseph are going in to confirm what we were told.”

“And then we’ll call the task force?” Jason asked.

“No,” Erik answered, and Jason’s anger spiked. “If they’re in the park, we don’t have time to wait for your people to show up. According to the intelligence, these helpers are doing something critical for the Outsiders. So, we’ll go in and take them out.”

“First of all, you were told to stay the hell out of this,” Jason said, “Personally, I figured that would be impossible based on what you told me on how Avalonians view the Outsiders, so I didn’t say anything back at the clubhouse. Now, if Kurt and this Joseph person finds something in the park, I’m going to call my people and order that you stand down.” Erik turned and gave Jason a level look.

“No, you won’t,” Erik said, “You and your task force think this is just another cult that just happened to figure out how to use some kind of wild magic. That is not the case. If your agents go in thinking that, they will be wiped out.”

“And you think your team, even with this Joseph person and me, would be able to do so?” Jason retorted.

“If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be here,” Erik answered. Jason wasn’t happy with the answer, but he sat back and didn’t say anything more. Erik could feel Veronica’s and Anne’s anxiety from the argument, and he was fairly certain that Samantha was giving him that familiar concerned look. Well, dammit, Jason should have stayed away from this. At least his coming along gave Erik another gun. Time stretched as the group waited for Kurt and Joseph to report. Finally, Erik’s phone buzzed in it’s pouch.

Party’s here. About fifty or so. Nobody seems to have brought any toys. Kurt texted. Erik put the phone away and ordered everyone out. He made sure to grab the bag with Kurt and Joseph’s weapons and gear. It wouldn’t have been good for their scouts to be caught with fully automatic weapons by the police. These Americans had odd ideas about proper weapons.

Veronica cast a quick glamour over them as Samantha unlocked the gate with the key Erik “borrowed” from Lady Maritza. Well, it was her husband’s park, after all. The five of them quickly moved through the gate. They moved through the wooded grounds of the park, invisible to most eyes. Kurt and Joseph emerged from the woods as they neared where the cultists were supposed to be preparing.

“They are right where they were supposed to be,” Joseph said. The Ranger-turned-hacker had accepted Erik’s offer of more steady employment with the Avalonians. Erik wasn’t sure if it was the generous compensation, or because of the way his emotions flared around Samantha. The two had worked very closely together on the data Joseph had stolen from the Americans. Joseph stuffed a few pouches with spare magazines before continuing. “There are about ten to fifteen of them in dark robes. They look like something out of a B-horror flick. They’re busy digging lines into the grass. The rest of them look like kids that just came back from a metal or punk concert.”

“No weapons?” Jason asked.

“Beyond what looked like a few ceremonial knives and the spades they were using to dig the lines, we didn’t see any,” Kurt answered.

“Well, that will make this easy,” Erik said. “I almost wish I’d let you bring the gimpy, Kurt. We could have just taken them down with machine gun fire.” Anne, Jason, and Joseph all gave Erik horrified looks. “What?”

“You can’t just mow down unarmed people because they have odd religious beliefs,” Anne said.

“Those people have dedicated themselves to the Outsiders!” Veronica protested, “That is not an ‘odd religious belief.’ That is like playing with a nuclear bomb.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” Jason said. “We still don’t know who among them truly understand what they are truly dangerous and how many of them are there because they happen to have kooky ideas. Taking out the guys in the robes, fine. We can’t wholesale slaughter unarmed kids just because they got sucked into this cult.”

“Erik, you’re not going to change their minds on this,” Samantha said, “It is fundamental to them as part of their American identity.”

“Fine,” Erik said through clenched teeth. Of all the stupid things to get squeamish over. “Veronica, I want you, Samantha, Anne, and Jason to corral those kids away from the robed cultists. Try not to hurt them too badly, but make damned sure that they stay out of our way. Kurt, Joseph, and I will take down the robes. Will that work, or do you have some more objections?” Anne and Jason shook their heads. Erik muttered a string of curses as the group made their way to the grassy clearing.