CategoryAvalon

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 15

Erik

Erik went down to his knees as the wave of Outsider power flashed out from the cultists. It was like the battle in Hope Park. He could feel his psychic abilities being locked away from him as pain radiated from those parts of his brain. Sam grunted in pain as she came under similar assault. Erik was about to tell her to stay back, but he saw the determined look in her eyes. The nice thing about working with someone you’d known for over half your life was that you learned when not to waste your breath on an order they would just ignore. Sam considered herself not just Veronica’s teammate, but her friend as well. Sam couldn’t sit back and do nothing when her friend was in trouble. Erik motioned his team cautiously forward.

The Americans had rushed into the fight. They’d been unprepared for the pure psychic power of the black-eyes gestalt. Several of the American agents were on the grassy ground, curled up in a fetal position, holding their heads, and murmuring to themselves. Most of the agents were up and trying to take the black-eyes down without killing them. Erik shook his head in annoyance. Handcuffing a black-eye still kept them in the gestalt. As long as they were in the gestalt, they contributed their power to the cultists.

“Ignore the black-eyes as best as you can,” Erik ordered his team, “Kill any that get in your way.” As if to punctuate his point, Erik put a pair of bursts into two black-eyes that had focused on him. An American agent who’d been busy wrestling another to the ground to flex-cuff the struggling woman gave Erik a slack-jawed stare.

“Did you want me to cut us a path?” Kurt asked, motioning with his light machine gun.

“Save your ammo,” Erik answered. He pointed across the field to where the Servitors were busily digging a summoning symbol into the ground. An unconscious Veronica laid next to a tall Servitor that was busily directing the other robed Servitors in their digging. Erik pegged him as leader. He seemed much too calm considering that his people were under assault by American law enforcement. On a hunch, Erik took aim with his ACE and fired a single round. The 7.62mm x 39 bullet disintegrated as it struck an invisible shield.

“Anne, I need your group to take down that shield,” Erik called. He waited for a moment as his team waded through the mass of black-eyes. “Anne?”


Anne

“Anne?” Erik asked again over the radio, his voice tinged with concern. Anne didn’t notice. She was too busy trying to remain conscious with the pain flooding her mind. This was so much worse than the last time. Her entire body felt like it was being crushed under the psychic lashing from the gestalt. The worst part was she knew that she was only getting a slight wash of the gestalt’s power. If whoever was directing that energy realized that there was an elf and a pair of sorceresses against them, Anne was pretty sure that they’d use all of the gestalt’s power to destroy her mind.

Anne felt a hand on her shoulder and the pain eased enough for her to think. She looked over and saw Arem. His normal smile was replaced by a rictus one. He was stretching to place his other hand on Agent Privas. The federal sorceress was curled up and screaming in pain. Forcing her legs to move, Anne scooted closer to Arem. The elf nodded and moved closer to Agent Privas. Her screaming quieted the instant the elf managed to touch her cheek. Anne felt her own pain drop even further.

Good, now maybe we can figure out how to actually do something, Arem’s disembodied voice rang through Anne’s head. I’m pulling enough wild magic through the two of you to give us a little bubble of respite from the black-eyes. Anne felt all of the magic she could handle flow through her to Arem.

“Erik needs us to take down that shield,” Anne said. “Can you bring some orcs through to take out the black-eyes?” Agent Privas looked horrified at the idea, but didn’t say anything.

“Anne, dearest, it’s taking all of my attention to keep up the binding protecting us,” Arem said. The elf turned to Privas. “Perhaps your people could actually kill the black-eyes instead of coddling them?”

“We couldn’t! Those are just misguided people under the influence of the core group,” Agent Privas said. “Maybe I can take over the binding from you so that you can focus on taking down the shield or something else.” Anne felt a pang of sympathy for Agent Privas’s position. Arem just sneered and waved his hand. The binding flashed and Anne’s mouth dropped at the intricate weaves of the streams of wild magic. Even Veronica’s most delicate spell work never matched the spell’s intricate bindings. Privas also looked dumbstruck.

“We need more power and we need someone who can do a binding to unravel that shield,” Arem said, looking directly at Anne. Something in the elf’s eyes terrified Anne.

“I don’t have any more power to give!” Agent Privas said, “You’re pulling all that I can handle to fuel your binding.” Then, the federal agent realized to whom Arem was talking. She looked over at Anne with a shocked expression. “You can pull more?” Privas sounded incredulous. Anne understood. Arem was pulling more magic through her than Anne thought possible. Her head ached, but it wasn’t from the black-eyes. She was hitting her block.

“You can take the block away, can’t you?” Anne asked. The elf nodded grimly.

“It was put there to protect you,” Arem answered. “I can turn it off, but it may break you.”

“We need to save Veronica,” Anne said, “We need to stop them.” Arem nodded.

“Brace yourselves,” Arem said, “I’m going to have to redirect some of the power for a moment. Hold tight.” Pain flashed through Anne as Arem weakened the shielding. Cold tendrils slipped into her mind and slithered to that dark place where her block lay. Under the tendrils’ touch, Anne’s block unraveled.

Her mind was flooded with a tidal wave of images and sounds from fragmented memories. Part of her just wanted to fold up under the barrage. It was just too much at once. Then she felt it pulsing in her mind. The magic. The torrent of streams of pure wild magic coursed through her. Anne reached out and the streams bended to her will. Anne looked out at where the black-eyes fought with the feds. Anne could see the wrong streams of energy flowing out from the now visible sphere. Anne saw where the Outsider energies danced within the streams of wild magic. Almost instinctively, Anne understood what needed to be done. The binding required the binding of all the streams of wild magic around her. Anne’s fingers danced as she directed the intricate weaves. With a scream, she released the binding.

The forest rocked with sound as the binding slammed into the Outsider energy and forced it back. Anne slumped to the ground exhausted as the shield fell and the black-eyes collapsed to the ground. She tried hard to keep the images of Arem and an elven woman murdering her infant sister from her mind just before she passed out.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 14

Anne

The Polk National Forest at night had scared a six-year-old Anne when her father brought her up for an overnight camping trip. Anne had thought she left that fear behind her as she grew up. Creeping about the forest hunting for the Servitors of the Nameless God brought back all of that fear. If anything, the nightvision goggles she was wearing enhanced her anxiety. The forest left too many dark shadows in the green-scale field. Her anxiety wasn’t helped by the fact that she was being escorted by Agent Privas, the feds’ chief sorceress, and Arem. Her normal partner, Jason, rounded out their quartet. 

The federal task force spread out its forty tactical agents in four-person fireteams. The Avalonian contingent of Erik, Kurt, Samantha, and Lady Maritza’s two main gunslingers, John and Nigel were slightly behind the agents. The feds weren’t too happy with having Anne and the Avalonians (wouldn’t that make an interesting band name) on scene, but Lady Maritza quietly pointed out that the Americans were going to need the extra firepower based on what had happened in Hope Park. Unless, of course, the U.S. government was willing to have an “accident” with one of their big bunker-buster bombs. Anne had thought the Avalonians were being overly bloodthirsty. Then she was briefed in on exactly who she had kidnapped Veronica. 

Once the Americans, the Avalonians, and Arem had combined their intelligence, the group had learned a few things. The cult, the Servitors of the Nameless God, was far bigger than any of them had suspected. Instead of being a small core group that went from city to city, the Servitors were an international organization hidden behind one of the innumerable non-government organizations, or NGOs. A lot of that information had been handed over to the State Department, DOJ, and the IRS. If they succeeded tonight, it was hoped the federal government could break the public face of the Servitors. They needed to succeed tonight, because if they didn’t the Servitors were going to summon their nameless god. From the descriptions from Arem and Samantha, those humans who weren’t killed or driven insane would be enslaved by the Outsider god.

“What the hell was that?” Agent Privas said as Anne felt a strong pull on the streams of wild magic. The streams around Anne fell to a bare trickle of what they’d been just a few seconds ago. “Did the Servitors do the ritual?”

“No,” Arem answered. “The fools are completing the preparations for their ritual.” The elf paused for a moment and cocked his head. “They might be drawing enough to prevent me from bringing reinforcements.” 

“What did they do?” Privas demanded in a low whisper.

“They bound the wild magic into some sort of framework,” Anne answered, surprising even herself. Anne didn’t know how she knew what had happened, but it was like she could “see” down the streams of wild magic to where the Servitors had bound them. A flash of pain burst through Anne’s head. At first, she thought it was something from the Servitors, but then Anne realized she’d slammed into her mental block again. From what Veronica and Samantha had deduced, the block had been put into her mind when she was a baby. They suspected the block was designed to keep Anne from killing herself by handling too much wild magic at once. Bundled in there were some memories hidden under that block. Anne’d had a glimpse a few months ago when they were fighting the vampires. Those memories had been enough for Anne to suspect that Arem, or his mistress Meliandre, was somehow responsible for the block, which brought up all sorts of questions that Anne didn’t want to poke at while she was sneaking up on a cult trying to summon their alien god. 

Arem gave her an appraising stare, which was even more disturbing in the odd green view of the nightvision. Elven eyes didn’t sparkle in nightvision like human eyes, which made Arem look a little bit like those gray aliens that pop up on any UFO-hunter program. Anne quickly turned away and focused on the barely broken trail their quartet was following into the forest. 

————–

Erik

Much to the Americans’ unease, Erik had made sure to pack grenades this time. More to the point, Kurt installed the “surplus” FN 40mm on Erik’s Galil ACE. If Erik had to go up against monsters like last time he’d fought the Servitors, he wanted lots of firepower. Especially if the bastards managed to cut him off from his power again. Kurt was wrangling a cut-down light machine gun. Both men carried lots of ammunition and additional weapons. Far’ling was sheathed at Erik’s side, but the magic sword was a last-resort weapon. It may end up being a very last resort weapon if things went downhill fast. Erik understood the Americans’ reluctance to use nuclear weapons on their own soil. Even the Avalonians rarely used the devices, as Erik knew only far too well. Still, they had those humongous bombs that were so large only the Americans’ cargo planes could lift them. What were they called? MOABs? Erik’s thoughts were cut off as one of the American agents reported.

“Eyes on target,” one of the scouts said, “Didn’t Park Service say they cleared out the forest?” There was consternation in the man’s voice.

“Yes. Why?” asked SAC Belushi. Much to Erik’s surprise the man in charge of the American agents was also creeping around the forest in body armor and carrying one of their little popguns. Granted, he was supposed to be towards the rear of their little group, but he was still out with his agents.  

“There’s got to be four or five hundred people on scene,” the scout answered. “Most of them look like civilians just camping out.” Swearing broke out on the radio net as the Americans contemplated how to get the extra people out of the way. Erik waited for a lull to explain, but he didn’t need to. 

“Those aren’t civilians!” Anne growled over the radio net. “Those are the black-eyes we told you about.”

“Hearst, these people look nothing like what you described,” the scout replied, “They look just like people enjoying the weekend.”

“As soon as you show yourselves, they will look exactly like what Anne described,” Erik said. “Give us a minute to properly set up the machine gun, and we’ll clear them out.” The radio net went dead silent. Erik waited for the tirade against his comment to commence. Before any of the Americans said anything, a new voice echoed through the radio.

“I’m afraid it’s too late for that,” the male voice said. 

“Who was that?” Belushi demanded. As if in answer to the SAC’s question, a wave of Outsider magic pounded the group. Much to the Americans credit, they didn’t hesitate. They charged into the clearing. Erik and his team followed slightly behind, both because they were a bit more heavily loaded and because they didn’t feel like running into an Outsider ambush. Their caution was rewarded by the throaty screams. 

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 13

Anne

“You’d think they were upset to see me,” Arem said as he looked down the barrels of nearly a dozen pistols in the hands of federal agents. Arem kept his hands outstretched and away from the sword belted at his side. The Dark Towers elf looked at the screaming agents as if slightly amused by their antics.

“Considering how many of them you injured the last time we were here, I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot you on sight,” Erik said. Jason, who was standing between the federal agents and their group, looked back and leveled an evil glare at Erik.

“Fortunately for me, they’re much more restrained by their government than you are,” Arem replied to Erik.

“Can the two of you just shut the hell up until this is all finished and we have Veronica back?” Anne said. Arem and Erik both gave looks of contrition, but Anne severely doubted their sincerity. Anne was also severely doubting the wisdom of their current plan. Arem had escorted Anne back to the apartments under an extension of the earlier truce and explained what had happened to the group. Much to everyone’s surprise, it was Jason who proposed going to the feds. She’d expected Arem and Erik to dismiss the idea out of hand. Instead, they’d agreed on the condition that Jason intervene on excusing their earlier “transgression,” which the undercover federal agent reluctantly agreed. Erik had dragged Samantha from Joseph’s bedside to be a part of the meeting. Of course, the meeting was currently a stand-off between the feds and the Avalonians and Arem.

“Everyone lower your weapons!” cracked the authoritative voice of Special Agent in Charge Belushi. The leader of the federal task force strode between his agents to stand in front of Jason. Agent Privas, the task force’s chief spell slinger, stood next to her boss. Anne could feel the streams of wild magic bending around her as she prepared to counter anything Arem might throw at the feds. Anne breathed out in relief as the feds lowered their weapons. At least now if one of them ND’d, the round would go into the carpet into one of her friends. Or Arem.

“Would you care to explain, Agent MacMurtry?” SAC Belushi asked, staring at his wayward liaison/mole.

“The Servitors are still active in the city, and they’ve kidnapped the Avalonian sorceress,” Jason answered, “From what the Avalonians and Arem have told me, the Servitors can use the sorceress to power an even stronger summoning. Perhaps even strong enough to finally summon him.” Belushi’s dark eyes went wide, but Privas’s eyes narrowed.

“How?” she asked simply, focusing her gaze on Arem.

“She’s an Avalonian sorceress,” Arem answered, “The leader of these fools can use her blood to open a gate and pull in the stronger magic of Avalon. Plenty of power there to not only summon an Outsider god, but kill anyone who attempts to stop them.”

“You’re exaggerating,” Privas said, although her tone was shaky. “Opening a gate on this side is impossible.” Arem drew some wild magic and used his finger to open a slit in the middle of the air.

“You were saying?” Arem asked, flatly. Privas stared at the floating, four-foot tall gate.

“Agent Privas, Veronica explained the difference between the wild magic here and that on Avalon as comparing the water coming out of a hose and Niagara Falls,” Anne said.

“An apt metaphor,” Arem agreed. Anne shot him a poisonous look.

“If Arem is capable of opening a gate here, don’t you think these Outsiders could teach their Servitors how to do it?” Anne asked.

“So why are you here?” Belushi asked, in a biting tone, “You already have all of the data you stole from your last incursion.” Erik took a step up next to Jason.

“Our primary data analyst was badly injured in the battle at Hope Park,” Erik answered flatly, “Time is critical. You have superior analysts, and you also have more shooters than we do at the present. We’ve brought what intelligence we have on these Servitors as well as historical data.”

“So, what, you expect us to team up with you like this was a comic book or some movie?” SAC Belushi asked. “That elf put several of my agents out of action and you were complicit in espionage against the American government. By all rights, I should be arresting you.”

“Special Agent Belushi, we can stand around and argue, or we can get to work and find where those cultists have taken my sorceress,” Erik answered. “Time is of the essence, and this is your best chance to deal the Servitors a mortal blow.” Erik’s face softened. “I am willing to face whatever consequences the American government sees fit to impose – after we’ve defeated the Servitors.”

“What about him?” Belushi asked, pointing at Arem.

“I promise not to make fools out of your agents again,” Arem said. Belushi’s face went a dangerous shade of puce. “My mistress would not allow me to make the same bargain that Jaegar is offering you. Be glad that she is willing to put the full force of her armies at my disposal if need be to stop these fools.”

“That’s not good enough,” Belushi said.

“Special Agent Belushi, Arem’s given his word under flag of truce,” Erik said, “That’s the best you’re going to get with a Dark Towers minion.” Arem gave Erik an affronted look, but didn’t say anything else. Belushi stared hard at Arem as his mouth tightened until it was a narrow line on his face. Then, his eyes went wide in surprise.

“Fine,” Belushi said simply. “Give your intelligence to Agent Davies. He can go through what we have and what you have with your people.” Belushi motioned to a blond agent that looked more like a football player than an analyst. “Paul, bring in who you need. Tap what resources you need. Don’t waste time with niceties. I’ll make nice later.”

What just happened? Anne asked over the group’s telepathic link.

I explained to Special Agent Belushi that we would ensure Arem played nice, Samantha answered.

How? Anne asked, glancing at the smiling elf.

Knowing Erik, probably something explosive, Samantha said.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 12

Anne

Anne and Veronica enjoyed the evening air as they walked back to the apartments. Veronica dragged a small wire basket filled with supplies from the small grocery a few blocks from the apartments. It had been a couple weeks since the battle in the park, and the two were planning a special dinner for the group.

“Jason is going to be there tonight?” Veronica asked for the third time. Anne sighed. To say her relationship with her erstwhile partner was strained was an understatement worthy of the Brits. Worse, the task force was still in town. They had swooped down on Hope Park even before Lady Maritza’s agents had a chance to clean up. From the few words Anne and Jason had spoken, the task force knew the Avalonians were involved in the attack on them and were out for blood.

“He said he was going to try and show up,” Anne answered. “At least as long as Lady Maritza was going to be there.”

“Good, it’s going to be odd enough without Samantha there,” Veronica said. The group’s telepath had been at the hospital almost constantly since the battle. Something had happened between Samantha and Joseph when the three women fought to save his life. They managed to stabilize him, but the mixing of Samantha’s psychic powers and the magic binding Veronica and Anne used awakened and focused the latent attraction between Samantha and Joseph.

“We’ll have enough to take over to her later,” Anne said. “I want to make sure that Joseph’s still expected to come back to the apartments in a couple of weeks.” Anne stopped as her instincts flared. Her hand dropped to the butt of her Glock as she searched the streets around her. At first, Anne thought she was just overreacting, but then she felt as Veronica drew in wild magic. Another side effect of the battle was the two of them had a permanent magical link.

“What was that?” Veronica asked, suspiciously. Anne couldn’t see anything suspicious, but her body felt the echo of something. It was as if someone had splashed cold water right on her brain.

“I don’t know, but let’s get back to the apartments. Fast,” Anne answered. The two women strode down the sidewalk. Anne pulled out her phone. She was pretty sure that Veronica and her could handle anything for the next couple of blocks, but it never hurt to have backup.

The phone blinked once and died. A cold electricity filled the air around Anne and Veronica. The two traded worried looks. Then mist suddenly appeared, obscuring anything beyond a block away. Veronica parked the wire basket so they could run. Nothing wrong with running. Heavy steps filled the street. Lots of heavy steps, and they were coming from all around them. Anne forcibly slowed her breathing as she drew her pistol.

Figures emerged out of the mist. Most of them looked like the kids from the park. They all had that same punk/emo dress with the blank, expectant looks on their faces. First a few, then a dozen, then two dozen staggered out around them. Anne gripped her pistol tighter. She felt the heat of magic being gathered in Veronica’s hands.

“Can you put a blast over there that will knock them down?” Anne asked Veronica.

“I can immolate them from here just fine,” the smaller woman snarled. “Didn’t the park teach you not to be gentle with these people?” Before Anne could respond, a psychic blast lanced through the street and drove the two women to the sidewalk in pain.

BRING ME THE AVALONIAN WITCH! a voice boomed in their minds. Anne looked up. Solid black eyes stared back at her from the crowd. Anne shot a quick look back at Veronica. The woman was lying on the sidewalk moaning in pain. Anne tried to get Veronica to her feet, but she just curled up into a ball, holding her head. The black eyes closed on the two women.

Anne stood up and fell into her firing stance. She placed the front sight on the closest black-eye and tried very hard not to notice it was a girl who looked no more than fifteen years old. Outnumbered twenty to two, this might be ruled a good shoot.

EVERYONE BACK AWAY! IF YOU CONTINUE, I WILL BE FORCED TO USE LETHAL FORCE!” Anne shouted at the crowd, more to assuage her own guilt for what she was about to do than because she expected them to stop. The girl was less than fifteen feet away.

“We’re not here for you policewoman. Stand aside, or we will be forced to deal with you.” The words came from the girl, but the voice was male, cold, and evil. Anne lowered her aim and fired. The girl screamed in pain as the .40 caliber bullet tore through her pelvis.

Anne switched targets and fired twice into the man’s chest. He fell forward to the asphalt. A third black-eye soaked up five rounds before he fell. Anne took a step back as the group continued to bear down on Veronica and her. Anne aimed at the biggest of the black-eyes. The man had the build of an MMA fighter. Anne fired the remaining rounds in her mag, but the man just kept on coming.

Anne mechanically dropped the spent magazine and grabbed a fresh one from her belt. There was a bare twinkle out of the corner of her eye before something hard and heavy crashed into the side of her head. Stars obscured her vision before Anne realized she was on the ground. Warm wetness was trickling down the side of her face. Her Glock wasn’t in her hands. As the stars cleared, she saw two black-eyes standing over her as another picked up the moaning Veronica.

Without any conscious thought, Anne reached out to the streams of wild magic. She could feel them, but the streams wouldn’t bend to her touch. It was like there was a pane of glass between Anne and the streams. She pushed harder, but her block slammed down.

“So, you have some power of your own,” one of the black-eyes above her said in that same evil voice. “That’s a surprise. Is that why the Avalonians are with you?” Anne didn’t answer. A quick scan told her the group with Veronica were almost a block down the street. Her Glock was ten feet away.

“Still some fight in you, I see,” said the black-eye puppet. Agony lanced through Anne’s mind. She curled up on the sidewalk. The other black-eye kicked Anne in her side. Gritting her teeth, Anne yanked the little Ruger LCP out of its ankle holster and leveled it at the puppet. The tiny pistol barked three times. The puppet stumbled back into the street. Anne rolled to shoot the other black-eye just in time to be sprayed with blood. Standing over the now-decapitated body, Arem wiped down his sword with a silver cloth. Except for the scabbard at his side, the elf looked like he was on his way to a casual business meeting. Satisfied, the elf sheathed his sword and surveyed the street.

“Four dead. Not a bad night’s work, Anne,” Arem said, with an appreciative smile on his face.

“They took Veronica,” Anne managed as she tried to stand while still keeping the pistol pointed at Arem.

“What?” Arem asked, his head whipping back to her. His large brown eyes were shocked. “They have your sorceress?” Anne managed a small nod. Pain still made her head swim. Much to Anne’s surprise, Arem pulled out a cell phone. She didn’t think Arem even knew how to use a cell phone.

“Erik, they have your sorceress,” Arem said, “If we don’t cooperate, those fools will kill this world and ours.”

Avalon – Chapter 11

Anne

Anne looked up at Arem as the elf pointed at one of the robed cultists. In the shining armor, Arem truly looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. Except the whole being aligned with the forces of evil. The biggest of the ten orcs nodded at Arem’s unspoken command and grunted. The eight-foot tall creature pulled drew a spear and hurtled it at the cultist. The man stumbled out of the way as the heavy spear thunked into the earth next to him. Anne cursed, but then she noticed that the pressure on her mind was gone. She could feel the streams of wild magic dancing around her. Anne looked over to the black-eyes and saw that they were all looking around dumbfounded. Even better, Sam and Jason were standing back up.

Anne felt her resevoir of power and tugged at it hard to force the streams of earth, air, heat, and dark into the binding she’d seen Veronica draw once during their lessons. It wasn’t delicate, but Anne drew even more power to brute force the binding. Satisfied, she slung the spell at the black-eyes. The dust particles in the air around the black-eyes were suddenly bound together into small pea-sized pellets that glowed with intense heat before raining down on the black-eyes. They screamed in pain as the super-heated pellets punched through them. Whatever had been holding them together broke. Maybe half of them ran into the woods screaming in pain. The rest were laying on the grass, dead or badly injured. Anne fell to her knees gasping for breath. She felt Veronica’s hand on her arm.

“Should have warned you that the link between us was two-way,” Veronica said weakly. The small woman looked like she had just ran a full marathon. Anne started to apologize, but Veronica just shook her head. “Give me a minute, and I’ll be functional. Especially without those bastards in my head.”

“That was a very interesting binding,” Arem said, standing over them. “I didn’t think anyone could do that on this side of the gate.” Arem looked like he wanted to say more, but Jason appeared out of nowhere and fired a burst into the elf. Arem grunted as the bullets tore through his armor, but he didn’t go down. Instead, he moved with an unbearably fluid grace and slapped Jason’s head with the flat of his blade. The agent went down in a heap.

“You’d best see to your menfolk,” Arem said, through gritted teeth. “One of them is badly injured, and I’m not talking about this one.” He pointed his sword at Jason’s unconscious form. Arem whipped his hand up and a gate appeared. The orcs quickly bundled through the gate before Arem strode through. Anne blinked away as the gate shut.

“Help me,” Samantha said to Anne, lifting up Veronica. The sorceress looked annoyed she needed the assistance. “I can’t hear Joseph’s thoughts. We need to go find him.” As the three women started hobbling over, the darkness was broken by the shining light from Erik’s sword. Samantha swore and pushed the trio faster.


Erik

The sudden appearance of the orcs gave Erik and Kurt a chance to pull their injured comrade away from the monstrosity trying to kill Joseph. Erik had seen enough combat to know Joseph’s injuries were far beyond his meager skills. Maybe if Veronica were here, she could sling a spell that might save the young man’s life.

Erik rocked another magazine into his ACE. If Arem’s orcs could keep those monsters busy, then Erik could finish the cultists. Those people were why Erik was in this park. He motioned for Kurt to stay with Joseph before creeping forward. Ten to one odds weren’t that great, especially considering whatever the cultists were throwing around was still screwing up his telekinetic abilities. It helped that most of them were looking at one of their number that now sprouted an orc spear out of his chest. Erik chose one of the cultists that still gripped a small machine-pistol in her hand. He brought up his rifle and placed the floating reticle on the woman’s head.

Something snapped. That was the best word Erik had to describe the feeling as psychic energies whipsawed through the air. He could hear screams from where Sam and the others had been. They must have done something. All Erik knew was that he could suddenly feel again. His empathic and telepathic senses roared back into him. Erik stood up and let his assault rifle fall on its sling. His hand fell on the hilt of Far’ling. The darkness retreated as the elven sword glowed with ferocious blue-white light. The cultists all spun at the sudden light. Most of them recoiled in horror as they saw Erik walking towards them with the sword. A few stared back defiantly and started to cast their own spells. He gave them a predatory smile. It had been quite a while since he’d truly let loose.

With a boost of power, Erik was five meters in the air. Far’ling whistled through the air before scything down two casters. The blade was already arching back to meet Erik as the Avalonian slammed down boot-first on his original target. The woman’s bones crunched satisfactorily under Erik’s mass. Erik sent his sword at a fourth cultist who was trying to gather Outsider magic. Two small mundane knives lanced out at two more trying to bring up their machine pistols with the force of crossbow bolts. Erik rolled and threw up a slanted telekinetic shield as the seventh cultist fired his machine pistol. Erik was probably one of the strongest telekinetics in the Emprire, but his shields couldn’t stop bullets. They could redirect them. The woman he’d landed on stopped groaning as a half-dozen bullets laced her back. Far’ling was barely in his hand again before Erik launched the elven blade at the shooter. Two more cultists were sprinting towards the trees. Two more knives shot out and felled both of them.

Erik caught Far’ling as the sword sailed back into his hands. He reached out with his empathic senses. Where was the tenth one? Nothing. There was no living emotions anywhere around him. Just the ghosts of the dead. Erik looked down at the design the cultists were carving into the ground and barely kept himself from vomiting. He drew up all of his remaining power and blasted the ground around him. Bodies flew and dirt and blood covered Erik as he found himself in the middle of a three meter hole. Satisfied, Erik fished the burner cell phone from one of his pouches and hit the speed dial.

“Good evening Lady Maritza,” Erik said, “I’m afraid we’re going to need a clean-up at Hope Park.”

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 10

Anne

Anne picked herself up off the ground as echoes of psychic pain throbbed through her mind. Anne didn’t know what or who had just ordered her death, but it had more psychic juice than anything she’d encountered since the Avalonians popped into her life. Her hand tightened on the grip of her carbine. She looked up as the group of forty teenagers walked robotically towards her group. Their eyes were completely – disturbingly – black.

Anne reached out to the streams of wild magic. She could feel their presence, but her mind couldn’t focus enough to touch them. There was some – distortion? – in her mind that prevented her from touching the streams. With a great deal of effort, she pushed through the distortion and ran headlong into her mental block.

PUT YOUR WEAPONS DOWN. echoed in Anne’s mind. This voice was different. It wasn’t painful like the earlier one, but it struck something primal in her mind. The voice was alien and human all at the same time. Fear spiked through Anne. Every teenager in front of her smiled identically.

DO NOT FIGHT. DO NOT RUN. the voice said in her mind. Her analytical mind told her that there was something wrong with the voice. Anne’s eyes went wide as she realized it wasn’t one voice. It was many voices forced into one. Fear turned to rage. The teenagers stopped and all cocked their heads quizzically. She raised her carbine. She should have listened to Erik. Well, she could rectify that error. Anne lined the holographic dot on the boy that stood at the center of the line. He looked at her with a confused expression. He was still wearing it when Anne put the bullet through his right eye.


Erik

Erik rose to a shaky crouch. He was still dealing with the double hammers of Outsider summoning magic and whatever psychic blast the cultists had managed. The psychic energy must have been focused on the other group, but just getting glanced with it was enough to make it impossible for Erik to use his own telekinesis. Even his empathic senses were screwed up.

“You didn’t happen to bring a Javelin tonight?” Joseph asked Kurt, looking as the two abominations lumbered towards them. One was a headless, eight foot tall muscle-bound humanoid, except its pectoral muscles were plate-sized eyes. It roared from a mouth that opened where the abs should have been. The other monster was only seven feet tall, and had its arms coming out of its waist and tentacles coming off of its shoulders. Where the face should have been was only smooth, pale white skin.

Nein,” Kurt answered, crisply. Kurt must be truly disturbed to slip back into his native tongue. Kurt brought his shotgun up and fired at the headless monster. It bellowed as the slug slammed between it’s huge eyes. Viscous silver fluid oozed out of the hole. The monster barely missed a step as it bore down on the three men.

Joseph crab-stepped a few paces to the side and opened fire on the cultists behind the abominations. One screamed as Joseph’s burst tore through his torso.

“I assume there was a reason for that,” Erik said. He took a breath and pushed back down the pain before squeezing the trigger on his ACE. Brilliant orange fluid splurted from half-a-dozen holes in the shorter monster’s head.

“I was hoping that killing the robes sent those things back,” Joseph answered. He took down a second cultist. “I don’t know what’s more terrifying. The roar from the big one or the ultimate silence from the small one.”

Schweigen,” Kurt answered, emptying his shotgun at the headless monster. Slugs and buckshot laced the monster’s torso. Dozens of holes, including several in the large eyes, leaked the silver fluid, but the monster kept coming. Erik turned his ACE on the large monster.

“Concentrate on the big one and try to take it down!” Erik ordered. He stitched the creature with the remainder of his magazine. As Kurt and Erik reloaded, Joseph fired a long burst into the monster. It’s roar sent shivers of fear down Erik’s spine. There was something fundamentally wrong with the sound emanating from that abomination.

Erik yanked the charging handle on his ACE and put three long bursts into the monster. He squeezed the trigger again, but the magazine was empty. Erik let the ACE drop on its sling and he drew the custom revolver from its shoulder holster. The first shot rocked Erik back. He was too used to using his telekinetic powers helping to dampen the recoil of the mammoth revolver. He braced and emptied the cylinder into the monster as both Kurt and Joseph emptied their own weapons into the monster. With a roar, the monster went down to one knee.

The second monster appeared out of thin air behind Joseph. Erik tried to shout, but the monster moved with blinding speed. One tentacle ripped the M4 out of Joseph’s hands while the second tentacle slammed Joseph across the back. Joseph fell to the ground. Erik and Kurt watched with horror as the monster leapt into the air and landed on Joseph’s back with a sickening crack.


Anne

The two groups stared at each other for a second as the smoke wafted from the barrel of Anne’s carbine. The roar of the abomination from across the grassy field galvanized both sides. The black-eyes – Anne couldn’t think of them as teenagers anymore if she wanted to survive – stared at the group and Anne felt terror rise under their psychic lashing.

Jason and Samantha writhed on the ground, both unable to overcome the black-eyes assault. Veronica, on the other hand, smiled and held out her hand. A ball of blue flame danced above her hand. With a whispered word, the ball streaked to one of the black-eyes. The girl didn’t even have time to scream. She just vanished. Veronica collapsed to one knee. Anne fired two bursts from her carbine and knelt next to Veronica.

“That took a lot more out of me than it should have,” Veronica said. The black-eyes stopped and fell into what looked like a fighting stance. The next thing Anne knew, she was on the cool grass as waves of vertigo and nausea swept through her. She looked over at Veronica. The sorceress was on the ground as well with her eyes closed. She was swearing in what sounded like Hindi.

“Oh that was a nasty one, wasn’t it?” a familiar voice said from above. Anne looked up and saw Arem’s smiling visage standing over her.

“I told Erik he was going to need my help tonight,” Arem said. Anne rolled over and saw a gate between them and the black-eyes. Ten orcs wearing heavy metal plates and gripping long spears walked out of the gate. Half of them turned to face the black-eyes as the rest surrounded Arem.

“As the humans say, let’s finish this,” Arem said, and all ten orcs screamed.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 9

*Anne*

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*

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*

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.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 8

Erik

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.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 7

Anne

“Wow, you look like you had a rough night,” Anne said as Jason flopped down at his desk. The normally meticulous agent’s suit was rumpled. In fact, Anne was pretty sure it was the same suit he’d worn the previous day. Jason looked up at her with dulled eyes and heavy five o’clock shadow.

“Someone attacked the task force’s offices last night,” Jason replied, with a hint of hostility. “We think it was Arem and a couple of unknown actors. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about it?”

“Why would I?” Anne asked, her own anger rising.

“Well, the team decides to work with Arem, and suddenly he’s attacking us,” Jason answered, “Plus, I know that Lady Maritza asked to see the task force’s intelligence and was told it was an internal matter. So, I’m wondering if our two unknowns were Erik and Kurt.”

“Well, I can tell you that Kurt wasn’t involved last night,” Anne shot back. Jason gave her a knowing look, and she felt her cheeks heat. “Well, he wasn’t.”

“Fine, but what about Erik?” Jason asked.

“Honestly couldn’t tell you,” Anne said, “He’s in and out at all hours anyway.”

“Was he out last night?” Jason pressed.

“Like I said, I honestly couldn’t tell you,” Anne answered, “I was kind of occupied all night.”

“Listen Anne, there are good reasons for the task force to do things the way that they do, so if you know anything, I need you to let me know,” Jason said, and then held up his hand, “Sorry, I’m not saying you’re holding anything back from me right now, but if you find something out, you need to let me know. The Avalonians are generally nice people, but they aren’t Americans. Their allegiance is to a foreign power whose interests don’t always mesh with ours.”

“Fine, Jason, I’ll let you know,” Anne said, letting her anger cover the conflict brewing inside her. She intellectually understood what Jason was trying to tell her, but it was hard to believe that any of the Avalonians – even Erik – would do anything to harm her or her country.

“So why did Arem attack the task force?” Anne asked, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Leading theories are to get us out of the way, or to steal something from us,” Jason answered.

“Was something stolen?” Anne asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” Jason answered, “Sorry, but that’s classified.” He did look contrite, so Anne didn’t push it. “So what do we have on the docket for today?”

“Besides getting you some coffee?” Anne asked, “I figured we’d swing by the Korean market again and ask around. I’m still not satisfied that the uniforms did a sufficient canvass. Then, maybe go talk to Mrs. Reynolds about those odd transactions.”

“Let’s get moving before the captain sees me,” Jason said. “You said there was coffee involved, right?”


“That wonderful smell had better be dinner, because I’m famished,” Anne announced to the group as she stepped through the door. Anne and the Avalonians lived in a converted hotel that was owned by Lady Maritza. Although everyone’s rooms had a small kitchenette, the group tried to eat at least one meal together. It helped that Lady Maritza sent some of her staff out to the apartments to “look after” the group.

“Let me guess, you missed lunch again,” Kurt twitted her as he held out her chair. She was getting used to all those small gestures, and wondered why they didn’t bother her when Kurt did them.

“We were busy,” Anne said, “Just before we went to lunch, we caught another case. We were there for less than an hour before some damned rookie came up with our suspect in cuffs. Seems the kid saw our suspect dump the gun and still had the victim’s wallet on him. Then it was just type everything up and send it over to the DA’s.”

“It’s a shame all of your cases don’t go that well,” Samantha said, handing Anne a plate of roast chicken. “I bet Jason was happy.”

“Yeah, about Jason,” Anne said, “Did you know that the task force was attacked last night?” She watched Erik as she asked the question. Anne wasn’t sure what she was hoping to see on Erik’s face, but the man’s blank expression never wavered.

“By the outsiders?” Erik asked.

“No, they think it was Arem and two others,” Anne answered.

“Why would Arem attack the task force?” Veronica asked.

“Maybe to steal something,” Anne said, still watching Erik. God, sometimes the man was worse than Kristen Stewart when it came to facial expression. They locked eyes for the briefest moment before Anne looked down at her plate.

“You think I was with Arem during this attack,” Erik said flatly, almost as if he could read her mind. No, he was just probably guessing based on her emotions. He was scary good at that.

“Let’s say the possibility has been broached,” Anne said. She was expecting an uproar of outrage from the Avalonians, but they all acted as if she’d accused him of buying the wrong kind of pop instead of committing an act of espionage against a government agency.

“Lady Maritza would never countenance such action,” Erik answered, “Such an act could have the American government telling us all to leave.”

“So, where were you?” Anne asked.

“I was meeting with an asset to see if I could find out more about the outsiders,” Erik said. “Hopefully, we’ll have something in a day or so.”

“Jason told us that we’re supposed to stay out of it,” Anne said.

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop our investigation,” Erik answered, “It just means we’re going to have to use more subtle means. The Americans may be satisfied that this has nothing to do with you, but my responsibilities are to make sure.”

“We know this puts you in a bad spot,” Samantha said, shooting a harsh look at Erik, “I promise, if we find anything that can help the task force, we’ll turn it over to them.”

“What about Arem? Are you going to turn him over?” Anne asked.

“We have a truce for moment, so no,” Erik said, “Of course, if they catch him on their own, we’re not obligated to help him.”

They ate the rest of the meal discussing minor things. Anne barely paid attention. She knew Erik wasn’t telling her everything, but to be fair, he never told her everything. Still, there was something nagging her instincts about the way he answered her questions. Part of her wanted to press him, but she was scared of the answers he’d give. What would she have done if Erik admitted to being with Arem on the attack? Could she turn any of these people at the table over to Jason and the task force?


Erik

Erik watched Anne during dinner. He could feel the tumultuous mix of emotions roiling around inside her. Erik knew this time would come when Anne would be put between his team and her birth nation. He’d hoped it wouldn’t happen for a bit longer, but he was professional enough to know that fecal matter sometimes impacted the turbine.

Erik worked very hard never to lie to Anne. If he and his team were going to protect her, they needed her to trust them. He was going to have to walk the tightrope until the outsiders were dealt with. He was hoping that then the Americans would go find some other shiny toy to occupy them, and he could go back to dealing with the immediate threats to Anne. Maybe Lady Maritza could talk with her. Anne trusted the woman and Lady Maritza was a gifted politician.

His phone buzzed at his side. The package is ready for your inspection. Joseph. There had better be something useful from the Americans’ files. Erik hated to think he’d risked so much for nothing.

Monday Fiction – Avalon Chapter 6

Erik

Erik paced around the warehouse impatiently and swore under his breath. Why couldn’t any elf ever be punctual? It wasn’t like he could afford to wait around all night waiting for Arem to show up. He looked down at the luminous dial of his watch. Eleven o’clock. He swore some more. It was at that point that the circle opened up in the middle of the warehouse.

“You’re late,” Erik snarled as Arem stepped out of the gate. Another man stepped out of the gate. Like both Erik and Arem, the new arrival was dressed in dark business casual clothing. Slung across the new arrival’s torso was a leather messenger bag. For most people, this man would look just like another professional, but Erik had his psi-scent. This man was a professional, but there was a streak of violence hiding just below the surface. Erik recognized it from years of being around Imperial Security agents and freelancers.

“Jaegar, this is Joseph,” Arem said, “He’ll handle the extraction.”

“What do you need from us?” Erik asked Joseph.

“From what Arem described, I’ll need at least ten minutes inside, with access to a computer hooked to their network,” Joseph said, “After that, it could take anywhere from four hours to four weeks before I can get you any data. Best estimate is twenty to forty hours.”

“Then let’s not waste any time,” Erik said, motioning for the two to follow him. Outside the trio got into the car Erik had procured for the night’s activities. They discussed the plan as Erik navigated the city’s streets. The American task force had set up shop in the federal building. Erik’s contact in the building told them that the new agents were using some “swing space” on the fourth floor and managed to procure a master keycard. Arem produced some identities for an IRS field team and even some official-looking paperwork for an audit of some business in the city. Damn, it was good working with professionals on a thrown together operation.

As they got off on the fourth floor, Erik walked to the suite’s doors and waved the keycard. As they stepped through, the trio was met by two stern men in business suits and cradling MP7’s.

“Who are you?” the shorter one asked. Erik held out the ID’s that Arem had passed him on the ride over. The man scrutinized the documents against Erik’s face.

“Kevin Yeagar, from the Cleveland office,” Erik said in his best Midwestern accent, “What’s with the guns guys?”

“Nothing you need to know about,” the tall one said with a menacing look on his face. Erik did his best to look cowed.

“Sure, no problem,” Erik said, “Look, we just want to set up in our office, finish the last of our documentation tonight so that our boss won’t bitch, and then go get checked in with the hotel.” Shorty examined the paper Arem handed him that stated the trio were supposed to have one of the conference rooms assigned to them.

“The problem is that we don’t have anything about an IRS team coming in,” Shorty said, “Wait here while I call this in.”

“Whatever you want, officer,” Erik said. As soon as he felt the two men’s emotions spike, Erik knew that he’d made a mistake. He didn’t wait for them to act. Two blasts of power knocked the men off their feet. Arem placed hands on the two men, and they went still. Erik could still feel their emotions, so Arem had just knocked them out.

“Alternate plan,” Erik said, “Arem, fake an attack. Don’t kill anyone. Give us at least fifteen minutes, then extract back to the car. We’ll meet you there.” Arem nodded and picked up the submachine guns. As the elf walked back into the suite, Erik motioned for Joseph to follow him. “As soon as Arem starts causing havoc, we’ll get you into one of the offices.” It didn’t take long before shouts and gunfire to fill the suite. Erik felt around for an office without any emotions. He kicked the locked door open and ushered Joseph inside. Joseph was busily pulling out wires from his satchel as he made a beeline for the office’s computer. Erik braced the closed door with just a bit of power.

“For future reference, you might want to refrain from calling a federal agent an ‘officer,'” Joseph said as he tapped away at the keyboard. Erik let out a stream of profanity. It was always something small. Joseph chuckled. “Have you ever worked in the Latin America countries?”

“No, why?” Erik asked.

“There’s so many ways to screw up down there,” Joseph said, “Tiniest mistake with the local dialect, which of course sounds like every other dialect, and suddenly you’re in front of some narco death squad.” Erik chuckled. Then, he let Joseph get to work as he plotted their escape. The office window looked out onto Bridge Avenue. There was too high of a chance of being spotted by a passerby going out that way. Erik reached out with his empathic sense. Arem was keeping the agents busy at the far end of the suite. Why not walk right back out the way they’d come? They could go down a couple of floors, and then use the masterkey on that suite, which would allow them to go out the window-.

“Time to go!” Arem said, appearing in the office through a gate.

“I don’t have everything,” Joseph said.

“No time,” Arem replied. “They’ve got a pair of sorceresses that are far better than any human has a right to be. Especially on this planet.” Joseph yanked out a pair of portable hard drives and then typed in a command.

“That should give their IT people some fits,” Joseph said, before jumping through the gate. Erik followed Joseph. The gate opened back into the parking garage. The trio piled into the car and Erik casually drove them out. Four blocks from the federal building, they switched to another car. Arem magically scoured the vehicle. A half-hour later the trio split up to go their own ways.

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