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  1. #71
    Maria

    "There are usually about ten adults here," Maria said. "The teachers, the housekeepers, and the custodians. Right now there are forty-six students. No one stays on duty at night, and there are no cameras." Since this lack of security seemed to bother her boyfriend as much as it did her, she explained. "These are essentially abandoned children. They're here because their families don't want them but can't find a legal way to be rid of them. The families think they're Fae..."

    In most cases, that wasn't true. Riff's nose would tell him that the majority of the students were human, with only a handful of exceptions. But when families became suspicious of a child who didn't fit in - especially an adopted child whose origins weren't entirely clear - Swithin School was the last stop.

    "So no one is too concerned about what happens. Well, except us. If they were just to disappear, I don't think there would be much outcry."

    Before they went to the basement, Maria tucked Sofie into bed. The little girl was yawning and half-asleep, and didn't protest being left to slumber. Whatever was down there, even if it was a false alarm, it wouldn't be wise to drag a kindergartner along.

    "Down here," Maria said, indicating the basement door when they reached it.

    "We'll be careful!" Declan assured Riff. He was fiddling with his phone to make the flashlight work, and he finally got it turned on just as a small shape came barreling toward them.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #72
    Natalie Kirkbride
    Swithin School, Switzerland


    Natalie didn't like being in the halls of her school at night. The building always had a faint foreboding air, but once darkness fell, the undercurrent increased tenfold. She felt like she was being watched at night, and as soon as she could, she would scurry back to her dormitory - a room she shared with her twin sister Scarlet and five other girls. As always, tonight she was hurrying - she didn't want to be out here, but she had to go to the bathroom and it couldn't wait till morning.

    As she hastened along on the way back, though, a sound caught her attention - a strange rattling and banging that shouldn't be happening at this time of night, then the sound of something being dragged. It was coming from the basement. Torn between fear and curiosity, curiosity won out, and Natalie padded softly down the stairs in her bare feet. Her inquisitive nature had been getting her in trouble for her whole thirteen years of life so far, and Natalie hoped that tonight she wouldn't come to regret it.

    Suddenly, a flashlight beam pierced the darkness. Natalie froze, holding her breath, but the beam drifted toward her, illuminating her white nightgown.

    "What are you doing up, Natalie? Go back to bed!" the janitor growled at her.

    Natalie knew she wasn't supposed to be down here in the middle of the night, and she wasn't surprised to be reprimanded. What stopped her short was the look of pure hatred and malice on the janitor's face as he stared at her. Why was he so angry with her? In all her time at the school, she'd exchanged a few words with him in passing but nothing more. What reason could he have for looking at her like this? Like he wanted her dead...?

    She turned and ran up the stairs. As she got near the top, she saw another flashlight beam, this one wavering and unsteady. In its light, she caught a glimpse of a face she hadn't seen in a long time, but a familiar and welcome one.

    "Ms. Murphy!" Natalie said with relief, and ran up to throw her arms around Clare's waist.

  3. #73
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    Forty-six. Forty-six kids whose parents didn't want them. And who didn't want them because they might be Fae. He wasn't sure what made him feel worse - that parents would refuse to love their children or that people would simply not love another person because of their race. Riff couldn't take either scenario and he knew that if he didn't set the thoughts aside, he wouldn't be able to stay focused on what they came here to do. He could help take care of the kids after - but first, he had to find out what was going on at the school. If this place was those kids last defence, he wasn't about to let their last sanctuary be ripped out from under them.

    He was about to suggest to Declan that perhaps they'd best leave the light off when a small figure dashed past them and into Clare's arms. The child smelled frightened and she had certainly come up the stairs in a hurry. Keeping his body toward the darkened stairwell, he moved backward up the steps until he was close enough to whisper to Natalie.

    "I don't want to break up your reunion, but what were you running from?"

    Sometimes the simple questions were best. Hopefully she'd have time to catch up with Clare yet, but for now he needed to know if something was going to be coming up the steps after her or not.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  4. #74
    Clare Murphy

    Natalie haltingly explained what had happened in the basement, afraid she sounded crazy. After all, the janitor hadn't really done anything. He'd only been short with her when she was admittedly in an area students weren't supposed to go. But the hatred in his eyes...

    "It does sound concerning," Clare said. "Kids are very intuitive, and I know Natalie; she used to be my student. It sounds like this guy was afraid she'd see something he would rather keep to himself."

    Natalie was deeply relieved. Whatever was going on in this school, she was glad somebody finally believed her that there was something wrong.

    "Declan, can you stay here with Natalie?" Clare asked. She didn't want to drag a child back into a potentially dangerous situation that the girl had only just now managed to evade, and as the human in the group, Declan was the easiest to spare from the basement excursion.

    Declan nodded without hesitation, and Clare met Natalie's eyes. "This is Declan," she said. "He's my boyfriend. He's a very nice man. He's going to keep you safe while we check it out, okay?"

    "Okay," Natalie replied. Her teacher's willingness to vouch for Declan was sufficient reassurance that he was an acceptable person to be around.

    As the group began descending the stairs, they would hear loud and clear the noises that Natalie had witnessed. The basement was divided into two large rooms with an open doorway between them. The first room held some broken desks and rickety filing cabinets, a couple of plastic-wrapped new mattresses and battered old headboards leaning against the wall... nothing suspicious or out of place for a boarding school as far as Clare could see.

    Through the doorway was the boiler room. There were three humans inside, and Clare motioned for caution. The immortals had not been seen yet, standing in darkness as they were. A work light illuminated the room. Unlike the storage area, the boiler room was uncluttered. It only held...

    Clare drew in her breath.

    The room held nothing but an old iron boiler. But that boiler was packed full of explosives, and multiple wires trailed to it. It had been meticulously rigged as a massive iron bomb.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 08-29-2019 at 03:39 PM.

  5. #75
    James O'Brien
    Outside the Moonlight Motel, Hollywell, Fog Island


    James stood in the shadow of the trees at the edge of the woods, watching the Nazi woman.

    Her name had once been Gilda Engel; he knew that from his research. He stared at her, scrutinizing her as she unloaded groceries from a small hatchback station wagon. She didn't look a day older than she had in the pictures... but of course she wouldn't. She was Fae, after all. If the evidence of his eyes wasn't enough to tell James that, his Lycan nose would have.

    The woman was undeniably beautiful. James had no aesthetic appreciation for her, though. She turned his stomach. He knew what she had done, and he could see nothing but the Nazi men she had seduced with her blonde hair, the big blue eyes, those shapely legs. Disgusting.

    James wanted nothing more, in that moment, than to plant a fist in that lovely face.

    He shook off the impulse. He wasn't one to hit women, even if this particular woman didn't inspire much sympathy. Besides, he still needed her off guard and unaware, because for all Gilda Engel should have been put in the ground a long time ago, she wasn't his target. She was the one who would lead James there.

    As if she could read his thoughts, Gilda turned and looked in the direction of the woods. James was sure he was too far away for her to sense him, but he took a few steps back into the cover of the trees anyway. Apparently seeing nothing, the woman went back to unpacking her groceries.

    Maybe James should just confront her. He moved in her direction again... but then the cottage door opened, and James retreated into the woods.

    There was a complication in his plan. Another Lycan, one who lived in the cottage with Gilda. The Lycan confused James. A Jewish name - Fishblatt - and an appearance to match. What was he doing in bed with a Nazi? Maybe he didn't know. But what was a Nazi doing in bed with him?

    Fishblatt must be a convenience for her, James decided. A smokescreen. If anyone started to suspect, point to the Jewish husband... all while running around with her Nazi lover.

    The lover was the true quarry James hunted. While he admittedly wouldn't mind an excuse to dump Gilda in a shallow grave, her death wasn't important compared to Hermann Kraus, the vile Nazi doctor who had disappeared before he could be made to pay for his crimes.

    Gilda had been the doctor's mistress back in Germany. She would know where he was. And she would lead James to Kraus...

  6. #76
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    He had no trouble believing Natalie. Kids always noticed when things were amiss. It was like a special sense they had to help keep them out of danger when they were still too small to defend themselves well. He attuned himself to the sounds and smells of the narrative happening in the basement. The smell of the explosives caused his insides to wince and shrink back even as he edged forward to identify the level of the threat. Riff's heart hit bottom when he could fully appreciate what they were dealing with.

    Gesturing for the others to move back away from the door, he drew close to speak directly into Maria's ear. "You need to get Sofie and all these people out of here in case it's on a timer." He paused, then pushed his lips back toward her ear, "I love you. Be careful."

    He hoped Maria would understand why he sent her back upstairs. Sure, the kids were more likely to listen to someone they knew and Maria would know how to find everyone - it made sense that she would be the one to perform the evacuation. But the main reason Riff sent her was because he couldn't bear to see her in danger. Selfish and pretty dumb of him. Good thing there were all those good reasons for what he asked...

    Turning back to Clare, he motioned out a count of the people in the room and suggested she take the two on the right by pointing in the men's general direction and making little pistols with this thumb and forefingers and mouthing 'pew pew'. He then held up his hand and tapped on his wrist, indicating that she should wait before barging in, like he was wanting to do. His heart was beating wildly with worry over that bomb going off with all his loved ones inside, but the years had given him a sturdy cadence. It would be stupid to run in if one of the men was holding a kill switch. It would be equally stupid to barge in if the bomb wasn't ready. They could just close the door and bolt it on the guys while they evacuated the school.

    No, Riff took the time to draw near and listen to what the men were saying before he acted too rashly. He hoped that was the right decision to make.

  7. #77
    Maria

    "I love you too," Maria whispered back. "Stay safe. I'll see you soon."

    Much as she hated to leave Riff in such a perilous situation, she didn't say no to his request. If he hadn't asked it of her, she would have made the same choice herself anyway. She was of little use to Riff and Clare down here. She would be much more useful to the people sleeping upstairs - including Sofie. And having Maria slightly more out of harm's way would be less of a distraction to Riff.

    Maria slipped upstairs and told Declan in a soft voice what was going on. She didn't try to hide it from Natalie; scary as this was, Natalie needed to be aware of the situation, and she needed to help get her classmates out.

    "You go get Sofie," Declan told Maria. "Me and Natalie will start getting the other kids - you can come help once Sofie is out."

    Maria nodded gratefully. As much as she cared for all the children of the school, Sofie was her own, and Maria wouldn't be good for much else until Sofie was alright.

    "Natalie, help Declan, okay?" Maria asked. "I know you can do it."

    "We'll get them," Declan promised. "Once I get the all clear from Clare, I'll pull the fire alarm, and that should alert any stragglers to the danger."

    With this hasty plan in place, they split up to execute it.

  8. #78
    Clare

    Clare nodded her understanding. She summoned the energy needed for a fairy blast, but held it for the time being, listening. Waiting.

    "Ready?" One of the humans was growing impatient, tapping his foot.

    "Hang on... yes. Ready to go."

    "How long till detonation?"

    Clare craned her head, alert for an answer - they needed this information too - but then a floorboard creaked overhead, and Clare cringed. In this rickety old building, a silent evacuation just wasn't possible.

    "One of the kids is up again. I'll go..."

    "Dammit, there's no time."

    One of the men reached for something at the end of a wire. Was that the kill switch? Clare didn't know enough about explosives to determine that.

    She couldn't take the risk. Clare threw the bolt to catch the man in the arm, forcing him to drop the contents of his hand. Then all hell broke loose.

  9. #79
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Riff

    One second, he was holding his breath, the next, it was flying out of him in a rush. A howling rush. Riff would have liked it if he had let out his yell because he was being strategic in applying distraction, but that was most certainly not the case. It was a cry of anger. They threatened his girlfriend. They threatened his kid. They were going to kill ALL of these kids! Evil like this terrified him.

    He took on the man on the left who had been out of his view, dashing from around the door jamb and settling low before attacking. Something about that man's voice had set him on edge, which was what made him cautious. The man looked surprised only for a moment, then sneered as he pulled out a piece of cold iron from his pocket and held it in front of him. Riff punched the smirk off the man's face almost literally - his head hit the wall with a terrible smack after flying several feet through the air.

    A sharp pain in his shoulder followed closely by a loud retort of a pistol drew his attention to the rest of the room. One man appeared to be struggling with Clare for control of something and the other was holding a smoking gun. There wasn't enough time for him to fire a second round before Riff knocked him down with a blow to the chest. Riff's own chest was heaving, and despite his anger with these people for what they were about to do, he had managed to keep his form. Almost.

    The claws on his hands impressed themselves into the third man's cheeks as Riff placed one hand on either side of his head. Abruptly, the man stopped moving.

    "Well, what do you have to say for yourself? A would-be murderer of children?" his voice was a strained whisper. The Lycan's eyes were darkened over and his fangs were lengthier than usual. When the man didn't respond, Riff shook him and shouted, "WELL?" as though the man's life hinged on his answer. Maybe it did...maybe it didn't. Riff wasn't thinking that far ahead.

  10. #80
    Clare Murphy

    The blast Clare shot at her target knocked the unknown object out of his hand, and they struggled briefly for control of it, scrambling and shoving each other. Clare heard the gunshot, and knew she hadn't been hit herself, but otherwise had no opportunity to react to it other than a brief hope for the best. The man had a gauntlet of iron on his hand, and he aimed a blow toward Clare's face...

    Then, suddenly, the fire alarm bells started ringing. Declan, hearing the commotion from the basement and assuming the element of surprise was already lost, had pulled the alarm to speed the evacuation of the children and staff. Clare said a silent thank you to her boyfriend in her head.

    Not only would it get people out of bed - it startled the man Clare was struggling against, and he missed his aim, grazing against her neck as she dodged instead of catching her full in the face. The touch of the cold iron stung but was not incapacitating. She finished the man off with a final blast, then turned her attention to the next target.

    The man Riff had pinned stared up at him. "There are no children here," he said. "Only monsters. And we will rid the world of them. Long live the Brotherhood! But I will not be taken alive, Lycan."

    His hand moved suddenly - but not raised against Riff. Instead, he jammed a pill in his mouth and bit down.

    As the life faded from his eyes, he continued to regard Riff. "Maria's boyfriend," he said. "I saw the picture she tried to hide. Should have known you were... abomination... too." He was wheezing now, fighting for breath even as he remained defiant. "She is... good as dead... no matter what you do. Already posted... online. Exposed... Too late..."

    His head flopped back, and he was dead. Clare, who had heard nothing of the exchange, came to stand by Riff. "That's the last of them," she said. "Let's make sure they got all the kids out, then get the hell out of here!"

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