After crashing out at base, Fern and Pistachio closed themselves off into her lab to try and tear into the data they had mined from the Church of the Broken God.
The rest of MTF PHI 7 gathered around the center table discussing what to do. As Dan answered questions about Copper Flight, and Tempe explained her ghost problem. Arturo’s phone rang.
“Arturo.” The voice on the other end stated. Arturo knew instantly who it was, his Uncle, his pack Alpha.“Yes Sir?” Arturo’s voice was stricter now and the other two noticed his change in posture and quieted down.
“I need you here as a part of your team. Not as a member of the pack, but with your team.”
“Is it important?”
“I need you here now.”
“Yes sir.” Arturo replied.
Arturo closed his phone, “Guys, I need your help. My Uncle needs our help.”
Milt had been cleaning his weapons, “You guys seem short, and I’ll fill in.”
Milt finished reassembling his weapons and headed to the armory.
The group split up to pack for the mission. Tempe stopped by Arturo’s room, “uh, don’t mean to be rude, but what should we bring in case of werewolves?”
“Garou.” Arturo corrected her, “We call ourselves the Garou. My Uncle will have stuff for that.”
They loaded into the van, Bono at the wheel and started the two hour road trip to Albuquerque.
Bono pulled the van into a Lottaburger. As the group came in, the manager came out from behind the counter.
“I’m sorry but no animals in the restaurant.” The manager said as he approached them.
“He’s a service animal.” Tempe told him.
“What kind of service animal? Do you have his credentials?”
“I have all kinds of credentials.” Dan said dryly. “Credentials to put you in a ditch, credentials to make you and your family disappear…”
The manager’s eyes widened.
“But that doesn’t matter as the national disabilities act says you can’t even ask about that.” Dan finished.
As the manager retreated to the counter, Bono raised a paw and flipped him off.
The meal was astounding and Milt picked up the tab on his government card.
Arturo gave Bono directions and within the next 15 minutes they were approaching the Caern.
The Caern was the Kaizen International Botanical Gardens. It was a huge towering construct of white steel and glass. Through the clear panes they could see a multitude of environments from coastal waters to African savannah.In the center of the park were the main offices of Kaizen International. They were greeted at the door and directed to Arturo’s Uncle’s office. The mood at the building was somber and quiet as if people were afraid to speak.
“Usually its way friendlier here. Something is definitely wrong.” Arturo told them as he led the way.
As Arturo opened the door Arturo’s Uncle rose from his desk and hugged Arturo. Tempe could easily see the family resemblance; Juan looked like an older more weather beaten version of Arturo. He was only a little larger than Arturo but carried an imposing personal presence.
“Miho, sit down.” And he motioned to a chair.
“Are Josh and Ash here?”
“No I have them handling something.” Juan seemed to be gathering his will, “Miho I called you here because your mother is missing.”
“Was she on a mission?” Arturo had stiffened.
“No, from your house.”“How?”
“We are still putting that together. That’s why I called you in.” Juan said, “But, I need you to look at what’s going on. That’s why I asked you to bring your team.”
“How? How did they get passed security? Where there any unusual scents?” Arturo began.
“We don’t know, nothing was found. That’s why I called your team in.” Juan raised his hand for Arturo to calm himself. “Your sister just went home the other night and found the place a mess.”
“Cecilia is safe?” Arturo cut in.
“Yes, she is back at the house with the boys.”
“So there were signs of a struggle?” Tempe asked.
Juan smiled at her, “Chiquita, you can’t take a Garou anywhere they don’t want to be taken without signs of a struggle.”
“I was just trying to judge what happened.” Tempe justified.
“Well Ma’am, I would say go look at the scene yourself and judge.”
Arturo was quiet. Quieter than his team mates had ever seen him, his anger seeming to come off him in waves. As his hands clenched, the sound of the wooden chair arms splintering filled the room. Arturo stood and walked out of the room. His team fell in behind him.
Quiet weighed heavy on the drive to his families’ residence.
They rode the elevator in silence. No one was sure what to say, or what could be said.
They walked into the room and the damage was apparent. The furniture in the living room was shattered. Chips were shattered out of the pillars that ran to the ceiling. Glass lay scattered everywhere, the windows to the balcony had provided the glass. The stove was caved in like a stomped on tin can from the weight of something large being slammed into it. Everywhere there was destruction. Blood was a wash on everything.
Dan looked at the mess, “The glass was broken outward, and the entry door is unharmed.”
Josh and Ash were milling around the room and looked up.
Josh walked to Arturo, “Dude, I am so sorry. We are trying to figure out what is going on.”
“Any unusual scents? Anything?” Arturo asked.
“Nothing man, the house smells like it always has…”
“The blood, who?” Arturo stumbled over the words as he fought to contain his rage.
“I hate to say it man, but it’s your mom’s.”
Arturo couldn’t hold it, the beast started to slip his control.
Tempe could see the hair on Arturo’s arms visibly start to grow.
Dan looked up as he heard the distinct sound of bones popping, and didn’t realize his hand fell to the butt of the Rev.
Arturo was shifting forms to Crinos, Josh took a step back and seemed to tense up.
Ash slid in from the side and slammed a large syringe with a milky white substance into Arturo’s arm and the beast dropped to the floor.
Dan was out of his holster, the Reverend trained on Ash. “Back up!”
Ash and Josh both raised their hands.
“His uncle sent us prepared for this, knew it would happen. He is just sedated. It’s a formula of Valerian and Chamomile. He isn’t hurt.” Ash stated.
Tempe placed her hand on Dan and he lowered the gun.
Tempe started to go over her questions, “Are there cameras? Where there any visitors?”
“No Cameras. The only exits were from his sister leaving the night before.” Josh answered
“Where is the sister?” Dan asked.
“In her room, as far as we know she was the last one to see her mother.” Dan pointed at the door and Tempe headed for it.
Milton paced the main room looking for anything that stood out. Milt noticed something under the ruins of a chair. On the bottom of the magazine was a standard property identification tag for Alchemax. He whistled and tossed the magazine to Dan.
Dan caught it and handed it to Josh and Ash. It looked similar to an M-16 mag, but with a more pronounced channel on the front.
“Any beef with Alchemax?”
“None that I know of, hell we just built a server site for them last month.”
Tempe knocked on the door Ash directed her to.
A young lady pulled the door open her face was stern and she had trails on her face from where she had been crying, “Yes?”
“Hi I’m Tempe and this is Bono; I’m with your brother’s team. We came to help.”
Cecilia relaxed and let them into her room. She began to relate her story of having left to go out with friends. She didn’t get back until that morning and found the destroyed house. She called her Uncle and hid in her room.
“Is there anything else, maybe something you forgot to tell the others?” Tempe asked
Cecilia rose, anger visible on her face, “I don’t even know who you are and you have the nerve to come into my house and accuse me?”She turned and yelled, “ASH! Get these people the hell out of here!”
Ash turned to Tempe, “Can you guys please leave? We will carry Arturo down.”
The team headed down to the ground floor.
Ash placed the reverted Arturo into the car, “I’m sorry, Cecilia is always a hot head, and the situation isn’t helping. Please let me know if we can do anything to help. I would check back in with Juan.”
They headed to Kaizen International.
Tempe tried to call Gwen, her phone went to voice mail.
“MINERVA what can you tell me about Alchemax?” Tempe asked the unit’s AI.
“Alchemax is one of the leading corporations that have made its money from Government contracts, energy production and research into the Lucifer’s Hammer crystalline form.” The A.I. answered. ‘I believe Miss Barrow just left the employ of Alchemax. Information provided by Fern implicates them in dealings with the Dynastic Empire.”
“Any recent large payouts out of Alchemax accounts around here?” Tempe asked.
“There have been quite a few transactions in the local area from Alchemax concerns. You would need to be more specific.”
“Are there any local physical locations for Alchemax in the area?” Tempe tried again.
“There are quite a few physical locations in the local area for Alchemax concerns. You would need to be more specific.” The A.I. responded sounding indignant.
“So you’re giving me the same answers?” Tempe was sick of this snotty A.I.
“No I answered your questions.”
“I’m trying to find connections.” Tempe hissed at the A.I.
“Are there any security or armament concerns Alchemax has in the area?” Dan asked trying his luck.
“There is a local security office. It is approximately 17 miles from your location; I have placed a marker in your H.U.D.”
Dan held up the mag, “Let’s see what we can get them to say about this.”
Everyone was getting sick of the A.I.
Arturo started to stir. His eyes opened, “What?”
Milt filled Arturo in on what had developed while he was out.
“Do you think this could be linked to those weird dog things?” Tempe asked.
“Maybe. They are antagonistic to the Garou, but they were Wayland-Yutani.” Dan mused.
The sound of ripping metal filled the inside of the vehicle. Arturo had torn apart the magazine.
“Well that lead is compromised.” Dan said.
“I want to talk to Josh and Ash’s moms.” Arturo said.
They arrived at Kaizen and headed in. Juan was in his office directing operations of the pack and the company.
Arturo placed the magazine remnants onto Juan’s desk.
“Doesn’t make sense. We have contracts with them from before I was Alpha.” Juan stated.“It wasn’t Garou. No scent. I refuse to believe humans could take her.” Arturo stated.
“This isn’t the first time we have had a scene with no scents. There was no scent from the dog creatures, and there was no scent at the warehouse.” Tempe corrected the group.
“Don’t you start acting like MINERVA.” Dan said jokingly.
“So we should arm up for supernatural…” Dan let it hang in the air.
“Take them to the Armory.” Juan told Arturo.
“This might be hard to hear, but it might be an inside job. The glass was all on the outside…” Dan started.
“Now you understand why I called you in.” Juan cut in.
“Do you have any suspects?” Dan followed.
“The alpha of the Bone Gnashers pack contacted me in the last month to inform me that 2 of his pack had been slaughtered.” Juan told them, “Slaughtered and skinned.”
“Is there a meaning to this? Ritualistic?” Dan probed.
“There is a legend, a spook story told to young cubs. A rite to allow kinfolk to take the skins of Garou and become a Garou themselves. They must take the skins of 4 Garou.” Juan told the group.
“So we may have this rite being performed or attempted as we only have 2 confirmed victims.” Dan filled in.
“I think my mom put up too much fight for anything but a Garou.” Arturo said coldly, “I’ve only heard of things that can go toe-to-toe with a Crinos in legend.”
“That’s not a legend, that’s a fact.” Juan informed his nephew. He began to open his dress shirt and display a scar that ran the length of his torso, “this was given to me by a member of the Dynastic Empire.”
“They would leave a scent though right?” Arturo asked.
“Yes of the grave. The only thing I know of that does not leave a scent is the abominations from Weyland-Yutani. I have arranged for rooms here for you.”
A soft tink, tink, tink, tink, came from across the room.
“Each of you press your fingers on the scanner in turn. Across the room are your IDs. You are now Kaizen International private contractors.” Juan told them and entered data for each person.
Arturo took the group to the armory. They exchanged the normal rounds they carried for silver laced rounds. They then stopped by the Medical wing to pick up the tranquilizers that Ash used earlier.
They headed to Ash’s mom’s house to see if she could add anything to the puzzle.
20 minutes later, they arrived. An attractive older Hispanic woman came out to greet them.
“Miho!” She said as she hugged Arturo. She ushered them into the house, making them comfortable with food and drinks. Then she finally sat with them.
“I know you guys were close. Has anything been going on with my mom lately? Anything strange?” Arturo asked her.
“No just your sister being difficult.” Mona answered, “Everything seemed good. I last seen her was on Thursday like always. She hasn’t been on a mission in a year.”
“Do you know of anything that doesn’t leave a scent?”
“Some of the Dynastic Empire can hide their smell.” Mona answered.
“Have you been to the house?” Arturo asked.
“No Miho, that’s not how I will remember her.”
They said their goodbyes. The group quickly decided to meet with the Bone Gnashers.
Arturo gave directions to the Superstition Underpass 7. This is where they typically could be found.
Homeless people drifted around the area. As soon as Arturo stepped into the shadows, 6 people present shifted to Crinos.
“Wrong place to be.” One of them growled.
From the shadows farther back a voice called, “What are you doing down here uptown?”
“You know me? You know of me?” Arturo called back challenging the unseen speaker. ‘I’m just here for information. Shift Back.”
“This doesn’t have to be a blood bath.” Dan said
“Shift Back. That’s all I am going to tell you.” Arturo spoke gravely.
A chuckle came from the unseen speaker, “Did, Did you not notice where you are? You are not in your Uncle’s office son, so you had best check yourself before you come down here telling us what the fuck to do.”
“Shift back, I just want to talk.” Arturo said again, but still with the tone of command.
“Do you want to do this son?” The voice was harder and the man came forward. He appeared to be in his late 40’s. A hard 40 years. His skin was weathered and dirty. His black hair tangled in places, but his face only held a days’ worth of stubble. He looked a lot like Rob Zombie.
“Yes I do.” Arturo said with the authority still in his voice.
The people in the area spread out farther as the man walked to the center across from Arturo. He reaches behind his back and when his hand came forward he was lazily twirling a large jagged silver sword.
Tempe let out an exasperated sigh and leaned back against the van. Bono shook a box of M&M’s at her. She took some and waited for the aftermath.
Around the circle, Dan noticed several of the bystanders starting to place bets.
The man rushed forward, faster than Arturo could follow. Pain shot up through his left arm. His left hand was lying in the dirt.
“Only time I will let you, step down son.”
Arturo kneeled, head bowed.
The man placed his hand behind him again and the sword was gone. “Your Uncle taught you better than this.” He said in disappointment.
“Now why did you come into my house acting this way? Stand.” The man said.
“I do when my mother is missing.” Arturo spoke again rage still in his voice.
The man shook his head. Arturo felt his burning rage quiet, settling away from a bonfire to an ember.
“You do not come into my house and speak to me like your bitch. The next time you walk into my house, I’ll kill you.” The man turned and walked away, his pack followed.
Arturo was mad at himself. He wasn’t thinking. His anger was driving him. Approaching the Bone Gnashers in this way was a mistake.
No one spoke in the van. Tempe told Bono to drive to the apartment.
Dan called Juan, “Yeah we, we kind of pissed in the faces of your Bone Gnashers.”
“Oh I have already heard about it.” Juan said curtly.
“I was hoping you could set up an intro.”
“I’ll see what I can do. Keep him on a shorter leash.”
Tempe walked through again, now with no distractions, she could feel something under the surface. Lying over the place like a sheet over old furniture. She drifted following the pull of it. “Something was cast here. Several times” Tempe told the others.
The world seemed to fall away. Tempe stood in darkness as the cold bit deep into her. A whisper she couldn’t make out started in the darkness.
Milton noticed her body go ridged. He covered the distance to her. “Tempe?”
An electric shock ran through her body. The air itself became oppressive, thick and dirty like trying to breathe oil, viscous and sickly.
Milton shook her shoulder. Nothing was reaching her. Her eyes were rolled up so that all he could see was the whites.
Tempe could feel another, there in the darkness. “Hello?” she called out.
“Why are you doing here?” a whispering gritty female voice answered. The sound of a 50 year, 12 packs a day smoker talking through a mouth full of glass.
“I’m here to find out what happened.”
“You are not the one who asked for passage. You are not allowed here in the places in-between.” The voice answered.
“No I am here for Arturo.” Suddenly Tempe had the sensation of a crushing hand coming for her and was back in the real world. Now she could see a sickly neon green trace on the world. A left over of the things done here. Tempe quickly took a photo of the room and began to trace in green on the photo to show the others what she could see.
The traces formed glyphs and paths of movement from the living room outward; out to Cecilia’s room. Tempe opened the door to her room and was nearly blinded by the overlapping glyphs. She took another photo and began to sketch furiously.
Arturo walked into the apartment. As he walked around repressing his memories of his life here, he saw Tempe sitting in front of his sister’s room, drawing on her Tile. He looked over what was visible on the screen.
“I know that mark.” Arturo spoke. “That’s the glyph of the Breaker. Those,” He added pointing to other symbols, “are travel glyphs. The Breaker is the destroyer. Once he was the simple death and cleaned the slate for the Promise to create new. Then the Builder was not content to let go of her creations and tried to be rid of the Breaker. This only drove the Breaker mad and now he seeks to destroy everything.”
Tempe nodded in agreement. She uploaded the photos to MINERVA. MINERVA quickly tagged several of the glyphs that were in her databank. Promise, Sacrifice, Taken, Shift, Binder; The words lit up in her visual field as MINERVA applied them.
“Now the lack of scent makes more sense.” Arturo said softly.
“Anyone have anything pressing, because I need to hit the books on this?” Tempe asked.
“You go take your time with the research and I will go see Juan.” Dan answered.
“I have to go see him.” Arturo said with the tone of a condemned man.
“Wait and let me do some research and that way we have something to give him.” Tempe said.
Tempe began to pull up online books and thumbing through the writings Cecilia had in her room. Dan made himself comfortable as guard duty started.
Arturo, Milt and Bono loaded up and drove to Ash’s mom’s house. As they arrived Mona was out front, shaking her head at Arturo.
She made everyone at home. She doted over Bono.
Bono took off his shades and kissed Mona’s hand. She giggled and smiled as she settled in to talk to them.
Arturo began to show her the pictures of the glyphs. Mona was able to identify most of the figures that the group had. Others looked familiar but she wasn’t quite sure of them. She would have to look into things to find them. Some had not been used for generations.
“Could only a Garou do this?” Arturo asked.
“Typically, but anyone with the Umbra-sight could have done this. There are rites and gifts that would allow for anyone to do this.” Mona told him.
“I can’t feel my rage, not since the fight with the Bone Gnasher Alpha.” Arturo admitted to her.
She smiled a sad and understanding smile. “You’re lucky. Jericho is actually very kind and thinks highly of Juan. He normally will not allow one to yield. That is why few challenge him. You have definitely made life difficult for your Uncle.”
“For this?” Arturo answered defensively.
“You went into another pack’s Caeren like a mad dog and called out the Alpha.” She fired back. Her voice was stern and correcting.
As the Team waited, Mona made phone calls and sent messages. She brought out old books. She chatted with the boys occasionally to ease their wait.
Tempe was starting to see it now, to see the pieces. MINERVA was a great help with the information she had access to. The picture slowly begins to come into focus as she continued to work. The picture was clear. She yelled for Dan as she struggled to her sleeping feet.
Mona took in a deep breath and clutched at her phone. “Ash where are you?”
“Both of you were to stay with her!” “Where are they?” “Get back here now!”
Mona killed the call and turned to Arturo.
“This isn’t going to be getting any better is it?” Arturo asked her when their eyes met.“Whoever wrote this, this rite on Cecilia’s wall; this is the rite of the Skindancer.” Mona told him in a perfectly flat voice.
Arturo was struck silent.
Comms flew to life, “Where are you guys?” Tempe shouted into their ears.
“It’s the rite of the Skindancer. I’m sorry but Arturo, where is your sister?”
Everyone in the room turned to look at Mona.
“Josh and Ash were supposed to look after her. She was angry at Ash. Josh told him to relax and it was fine he would watch her. Ash left them.”
“This is bad, Josh is Garou. We are going to see my Uncle.” Arturo ordered.
They speed to Kaizen International. Josh’s car sat in the parking lot.
They poured inside. Josh was at the front desk.
“What’s up guys?” Josh asked.
“Oh thank god. Where is my sister?”
“She is in with your Uncle. What is wrong?” Josh asked again with more urgency.
“What happened with Ash?” Arturo grilled him.
“He was pissing her off so I told him to take a breather. You still haven’t told me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing, nothing’s wrong. I need to see my Uncle.” Arturo stonewalled him. He shouldered past and headed for his Uncle’s office.Arturo threw open the door to the office as the team was following at his heels.
On the desk lay what was left of the body of Juan; his form bloodied and raw from his skin being cut away. A shape moved to the left. Arturo realized his sister, Cecelia stood there, holding the bloodied hide. She looked at him with unmasked hate and stepped away through the Umbra.
“What the fuck…” Arturo was stopped in his tracks.
Tempe began to pull her power and reach out to try to break the flow of power to the portal. She felt her power slapped away.
Arturo stumbled forward to his Uncle; the body of his Alpha. The man who had helped guide his life. Arturo felt for his rage. An empty pit, cold and hollow lay where his rage should be. He should be screaming; destroying the world around him. All he had was quiet. Quiet and sorrow.
Cecilia was gone.
The team regrouped and waited for Arturo.
Tempe threw open the door. “Josh!”
Josh ran up, “What the fuck happened in here?”
“His Uncle is dead. His sister is the Skin dancer. Anything else?” Milton said flatly.
Josh slammed his hand onto a button on a desk. Klaxons began to scream throughout the building.
“Your sister?” Josh said again still distraught.
Josh was dialing his mom.
The team watched Garou and kinfolk flood into the area from all over the Biosphere Park.
They came as men with guns, as darting lupus, and the hulking Crinos. They hung in the fringe, crowding and watching Juan’s office.
“It’s, it’s Cecilia. She’s taken Juan’s coat.” Josh spoke into the phone.
It hit Dan then that Arturo was the oldest of his friends and the most experienced.
Two people came in and began setting up what looked like the set of CSI. Lasers played against the walls. The ushered the group out of the room as they investigated.
Arturo looked at Josh, “I need to speak to Jericho. Get word out for Garou to stay in pairs. There is a Skindancer loose.”
“Ok, but are you sure?” Josh asked. He tapped at his phone. He looked up, “Jericho will see you. Here is the address.”
The group headed back to the Bone Gnashers. They approached the underpass. A scrawny looking man came out from the shadows. “What chu’ want man?”
“I came to see Jericho.” Arturo answered.
“ohhhh You wanna see the boss again?” The man asked and quickly chuckled.
“I’m here on good terms; I just need to speak to Jericho.”“I’ll pass the word man, but you owe me ten bucks. You didn’t even scratch him.”
The man disappeared into the shadows. Time crawled by as the team waited impatiently. The scrawny, dirty man reappeared, “Yo, he said you can come.”
The team rolled in behind the man. Tempe felt like she was in a set from a bad 80’s movie; burning trash barrels and all.
Dan noticed that some of the “garbage” was well placed cover to fight from.
“So you come back like a man now?” Jericho asked.
“Yeah, I came in here like a little boy. I was enraged and was not thinking. My mother was missing and I acted out of fear. I could give you excuses and sob stories about my dog dying but that does not change the fact that I was wrong.” Arturo spoke.
“Isn’t that a fucked up form of slavery?” Jericho asked.
“What?” Arturo was taken aback by the question.
“A Garou owning a dog, I’m pretty sure that’s slavery.” Jericho clarified.
“I, uh…” Arturo stumbled over his words…
“Hey man you brought it up.” Jericho answered. ‘I’m just saying that’s a fucked up existential question.”
“I uh, I just wanted to try and patch this up and make amends for my actions earlier.” Arturo told him.
“There is a greater threat to all of us than the fight between us.” Dan added.
Jericho turned to Dan, “Hey meat, who asked you?”
“My Uncle was just skinned and…”
“Something happened to Juan?” Jericho cut in.
“What happened exactly?” Jericho questioned taking control of the conversation.
“I saw Cecilia leaving through a portal…”
“Who is Cecilia?”
“My sister, kinfolk; she was leaving through a portal and Juan was there skinned.” Arturo finished. “At my house, where my mother was taken from there are a ton of glyphs having to do with the Breaker. You had come to my uncle about a possible Skindancer.”
Jericho shook his head taking it all in. He held up a finger and walked away. Minutes later, he returned, a wrapped package in his hand. “You’re going to need this.”
Arturo took the package from him and began to unwrap the dirty rags covering it. Inside was a large sword. The edge lined in silver and glyphs scribed into the blade. “Thank you.” was all Arturo could manage.
Dan whistled when he seen the blade.
“Holy I have the power.” Tempe said quietly.
“Don’t thank me. I beat your ass when you were a boy missing his momma.” Jericho told Arturo as he lit a cigarette. “This time you came as a man caring for his pack. You earned this.”
He gestured to the sword, “Her name is Varin.”
“This is a Totem.” Arturo said softly. Arturo felt a hard sting in his palm, like trying to hold on to a hand full of hornets. Slowly it subsided. The grip was warm in his hand. He looked again at the blade. Arturo could now read some of the glyphs, “Varin Wyrmfoe.”
“I am Varin Wyrmfoe. Do not call upon me without bathing me in blood. Do not ask of me, or I will ask of you. I will destroy your foes, if I find you lacking, I will destroy you as well.” Tempe said as she stared at the blade.
“I’m impressed. You’re quick.” Jericho told Tempe.
“Where did you get this?” Tempe couldn’t stop herself from asking.
Jericho smiled, “I travel. Come with me so I can teach you the way.”
Arturo followed Jericho to the side.
The other members of the pack crowded in making it impossible to see or hear what was being taught.
When they came back, Jericho clapped Arturo on the back. “I will keep my pack listening to the wind. I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Ferret, show them where we found the boys strung up.”
The team followed Arturo out. They headed to an abandoned alley. Nothing was there it was too long since the event to find anything. Ferret parted ways with the team and they headed out to Juan’s office.
When they arrived at the Biosphere, josh met them with a manila folder in hand. “This is what they found.”
Arturo spread it out on a nearby desk for the entire team to view. “Recorded Trace Anomalous Energies found after incident.” Looked like Greek to Arturo. It went on and on and on.
Tempe seemed to understand more of what the files said. She could see the reference to the travel glyph with an estimated radius of no farther than 25 miles. She could only think of one target in that radius.
Arturo realized that he was able to touch his rage again; a burning warmth in his center. He reached for it and healed himself. A sick wet breaking sound filled the room as he forced his body to fix his maimed hand.
Arturo looked at the group, “I think we need to head out to try and speak to some of her friends. Maybe stir something up.”
Ash gave Arturo the contact info for her friends. A day of questioning leads that led seemingly nowhere. Over the last six months, she had been more distant and dismissive of them; on other occasions she seemed like her old self. Finally one friend, Niandy, told Arturo about Cecilia getting a new tattoo.
“What did it look like?”
“It was like a weird octopus thing. Think it had to do with religion.” Niandy told him.
“Shit.” Dan muttered. “EOD.”
“EOD?” Arturo asked.
“A religious order that worships chaos and desolation. Terrorists but we haven’t been able to prove it. We had a run in with them on our first mission for the OA.” Dan explained.
“They aren’t fans of ours after I shot one of their big robes through the heart.” Milt said off hand.“Hell of a shot.” Dan commented.
“Just doing my job.” was all Milt responded.
“When did she get the ink?” Arturo asked Niandry.
“I think like a month ago. I’m not sure.”
They thanked her and sent her on her way.
“MINERVA what do we have on the EOD?” Dan asked their AI.
“The Esoteric Order of Dagon is an apocalyptic order that began after the event referred to as Hammerfall. It believes in primordial godhead that is tied to the perfection of oblivion. The church holds that the only meaning that mankind can have is through self-eradication.”
“Let’s go check in with Alchemax.” Arturo said and the team followed their last lead.
The compound was a smaller building than expected set in the edge of the encroaching desert. Dan didn’t see any posted guards but there was a fairly comprehensive surveillance system in place. They made it to the front desk before they even lay eyes on an Alchemax employee.
“May I help you?” the typical suburban hipster manning the front desk asked.
“We have a missing person we would…” Dan started.
“Have you filed a police report?” the man cut him off.
Tempe moved forward, annoyed at the man. “Have you ever seen this person before?” She held up a photo of Cecelia.
MINERVA had finished drafting a police report and sent it to all the official servers it needed to exist on and sent a copy to the team for good measure. Detective Monroe would never know he had made this report but judging by the lack of care she seen in his recorded work she knew he would be unable to say if he did or did not. The many transactions for bars and liquor stores told her of his problem which she scaled along a time line to judge that he was soon to be fired but hadn’t crossed that line quite yet. He would claim the work as it meant he had done something to justify the time on shift.
The man glanced at the picture and immediately reached for a phone dialed a number and whispered into the receiver. “Someone will be with you.” he said.
The interior doors opened and a man in a dark suit was gesturing to them. Dan could see the bulge of a pistol at the shoulder. He was an operator that had moved to the corporate sector. He extended his hand, “Adrian Maddoff, How can I help you?”
“We are looking for a person that may be a danger to themselves and others.” Dan said as he shook the man’s hand.
“And you are?” Adrian pried.
“What agency are you with?”
“Office of Antiquities.” Dan said as he presented his badge and ID.
“Please let’s take this to my office.” Adrian led them through a small working office area to his larger office. “What is the issue we are dealing with?”
“We believe she is involved in several incidents that border on their legality. She may be in danger.” Dan told Adrian.
“I’m sorry but we don’t have record of her at this facility. I’ve had our mainframe running facial recognition and have no hits. What brought you to Alchemax?”
“We found a piece of Alchemax property at a site under investigation.” Dan answered him. “Seemed like special item.”
“May I see it?”
“I have a photo from the site.” Dan handed Adrian the photograph of the magazine. “Do you recognize it?”
“No it belongs to a prototype weapons system and should not exist outside of the facility.” Adrian began to type quickly into the keyboard.
“So this is a breach in your security as well?” Dan probed.
“Have Darion Jones sent to my office.” Adrian called into the speaker phone.
“Can you tell us anything about this?” Dan said as he gestured to the screen.
“No. The project is still in testing.”
A knock on the door broke the silence. A small man in a lab coat entered. “You wanted to see me?” He asked cautiously.
“Yeah,” Adrian started in an authoritive tone, “I have questions about Project 27751. Where are the records for the equipment?”
Darion broke out into sweat and started to shake.
“Uhmm, Uhmm they aren’t on the hub? I updated them earlier this month…” Darion was stumbling over his words.
“No it is not.” Adrian’s tone became more intense and demanding as he spoke, “These people and more to the point, I, want to know the load out at this moment.”
“I’ll have to go back…”
“No you’re not going to your office.” Adrian cut him off.
“Uh, ohhh man…”
“Spit it out kid.” Dan prodded him, “It’s easier if you tell us what happened now.”
“Let me explain something to you. I am not even your concern right now. The worst I can do is fire you and ensure you never work in this field again. These people are from the government. They can make you not exist anymore.” Adrian said in a softer voice.
Darion glanced quickly back and forth to the people in the room. Darion started to sob and collapsed into a nearby chair. He had met a beautiful girl. Way out of his league. She was smart, and beautiful. She was interested in his work. She made him feel smart and on top of the world.
“Cecilia.” Arturo said.
“Yeah, her name was Cecilia. She wanted to see some of her work. I brought one of the magazines home. She was gone in the morning and so was the magazine.”
“What was in it?” Dan snapped, “This could be a major biological hazard. Alchemax manufactures everything under the sun from glass cleaner to nerve gas. What did you unleash?”
“It was empty! I only do mechanical engineering.” Darion cried defensively.
“So why was it important?” Arturo puzzled.
“What’s so special about this project?” Dan continued the line of thought, “It was non-standard. What is it for?”
Adrian laughed. “You’re not going to get anything with that line of questioning. I will answer questions when you have a warrant from the NSA. We could play who has the biggest dick, but it will get nowhere.”
“You’re not going to talk, I respect that.” Dan said to Adrian. He looked at Arturo, “Give him his toy back.”
Arturo handed over the bag with the broken magazine in it.
“Thank you.” Adrian told him.
MINERVA had been over Darion’s records. There were no flags except for his intelligence and employment. He was a rule minding individual.
Adrian coughed, “If you’re done with Darion, we need to discuss his termination.”
Adrian handed them a plain folder, “Here is his complete personnel record. His address is listed.”
The MTF left and easily gained access to Darion’s apartment. It was the shining example of a child making adult money. Good adult money judging by the multiple game systems and each having their own TV.
Tempe linked MINERVA to the apartment’s security system. MINERVA returned on the coms to tell them she found the relevant video. She fed the team the video of Cecilia entering and leaving Darion’s apartment.
“I think I need to go back to Arturo’s apartment.” Tempe told the team. “I might figure out something I missed.”
Arturo’s phone rang and the ID told him it was Ash, “Hello?”
“We can’t find Josh.”
“What?” Arturo caught his breath, “Do we have anyone tracking him? Who seen him last?”
“We are checking his phone now. He had a call before he left. He told me he was running an errand for his mom. I checked with his mom and she had no ideal about an errand.”
“We need to ping his phone.” Tempe ventured.
“Do we have GPS on his phone?”
“We are waiting for the results now.”
The team continued to search Darion’s apartment when Arturo’s phone rang again. As he picked up, he could hear Ash.
“Dude his phone is at your apartment!”
Arturo could hear the panic in Ash’s voice. “We are only 5 minutes out. We are headed there now.”
Arturo hung up the phone, “Let’s go, phone is at my apartment.”
They flew through the streets, Bono driving like he was playing Forza. As Dan loaded the Reverend, Arturo asked him, “Please don’t kill my sister, please.”
“I don’t plan on it…” Dan said without finishing his thought.
Arturo was first through the door, Dan at his heels. Tempe, Bono and Milton followed close behind.
In the center of the room, stood his sister, large silver and black knife in her hand. Below her blade, Josh was strapped to a table, unconscious. The floor burnt with the sickly green flames showing the mark of the Breaker. There were others present, but Arturo could only focus on his sister.
“You don’t want to do this, drop the blade.” Dan called out as he brought the Reverend to bear on Cecilia.
The MTF team moved like water flowing into the room and out of each other’s line of fire.
Tempe reached out to distort the Breaker symbol on the floor; as her power touched it, but it burnt back; biting at her psyche.
Cecilia plunged the knife into Josh’s chest; his body convulsed.
A shadow moved towards Dan; another moved to confront Arturo.
Dan pulled the Reverend onto the new target a squeezed the trigger. The round whipped past its target without hitting.
Bono let loose with a volley from his P90; the targets moving too quickly for the bullets to find their marks.
Milton seen the movement towards Arturo, He drew his breath, held it and pulled onto target. Squeeze. Arturo felt the wind rip past him as a round struck the creature rushing him.Dan smashed the creature in the face with the Reverend and then pressed it close and pulled the trigger. Boom; the round ripped through the mid-section of the man. It howled in pain and his body jerked and spasmed as it rearranged itself into a full Crinos werewolf. Dan smiled as he sees it was still bleeding from what he had just done to it.
Arturo embraced his rage and allowed the change to take him in the heartbeat that
Milton’s shot had bought him.
Tempe rushed forward towards Cecilia.
The one in front of Arturo launched itself at him. The werewolf’s feet did not support the change as it bit at his leg.
Bono glanced at the field and the girl who had just stabbed the man. Tempe would not make it. He pulled his sub-gun up and depressed the trigger. He barked with his weapon.
The rounds should have struck her but instead they flew wide.
Tempe was a step away reaching for Cecilia.
Cecilia’s eyes locked on Tempe. Her skin seemed to crawl with black runes, the jagged rough shape of ferromagnetic fluid, and she raised a flat palm to Tempe.
Tempe felt the wind hit her and send her sprawling away from Cecilia.
Milton reassessed the situation and chose his next target. Dan had promised not to kill Cecilia. Milt did not. His eyes focused on her through the glass. He squeezed.
Cecilia screamed as her left hand ceased to exist. The .50 BMG slug had impacted the middle of her hand. The bullet had continued on its flight path, but the hydrostatic wake of its flight ripped the flesh of her hand to tatters.
Milton let the weapon cycle and moved forward. He closed on the corner, a raccoon standing below him with a sub-gun.
Dan slammed the tranquilizer into his attacker.
The wolf’s eyes rolled into his skull and collapsed.
Tempe rolled over and pulled her P90 up. She pulled on the trigger and Cecilia collapsed.
Bono ran over to Josh. The man was still breathing raggedly.
Arturo watched his sister fall. The rage reached him, his claws bit deep into the werewolf below him. He grabbed the trachea, and ripped. The wolf tried to howl, to cry, to scream, but all that came out was a wet bubbling as Arturo finished him.
All present felt a deep thump of pressure, like thunder with no sound. Father Lattimer was now next to Cecilia. The lights flickered and faded to nothing.
The lights returned. Lattimer and Cecilia were gone.
The unconscious wolf in front of Dan began to seize. The tattoo of the EOD emerged onto his fur and then began to spread engulfing him and then blending into the shadows of the floor. Nothing was left. It stank of rotted sea water.
Dan picked up the syringe. He whistled and tossed it to Tempe. She caught it and dropped it into a sample container. She swabbed up some of the blood splatter from Cecilia’s wounds.
Dan crossed to Josh. Bono looked at Dan and shrugged. Dan grasped the knife. He collapsed wordlessly.
Arturo ran to them quickly. He grasped the handle and felt his rage flare. He then felt it rush away from him. Arturo pulled his hand back.
Tempe called back to Kaizen; they needed help.
The other Garou arrived. The first responder pushed past the group to his patient. He prepped his kit and reached for the blade. “Wait…” the majority of MTF Phi yelled nearly in unison. The first responder collapsed next to Dan.
Another of the group was quickly on his cell phone and others moved to help the MTF with their wounds. Arturo Still paced in his Crinos form.
Finally an old woman appeared. If Tempe would have guessed the Abuela was somewhere between 80 and 8000 years old. The spiritual presence this woman carried with her like a shawl dismissed the miasma that clung to the apartment. Tempe drew her first full, refreshing breath since this long day had begun.
The Abuela moved her walker slowly through the crowd. Arturo’s heightened senses did not allow him to hear the whispered words she spoke as she moved next to Josh. She stared at the situation for a few moments; fished in her handbag, and broke a vial onto the blade. There were sparks and a hissing sound. She then pulled the blade free.
The Abuela stood back and Arturo could see the sweat on her brow as her assistant’s helped her sit down.
In rushed another group who began to treat Josh’s wounds. The gear boxes they opened superficially looked like any you could pull from the back of an ambulance; but as Dan watched he spotted the differences.
Alongside the Morphine and intubation equipment, were bundles of herbs; in the next divider were sticks and cord wrapped into figures for an unknown purpose.
Soon they had Josh stabilized and moved onto a stretcher.
Tempe walked over to the Abuela.
“Ma’am, I don’t mean to bother you, but earlier I confronted a spirit here. It was cold, and strong and …” Tempe struggled to search for the right words, “…wrong.”
A translator spoke to the Abuela in rapid fire Spanish. The Abuela smiled at Tempe; just the simple acts of this woman’s comforting grandmotherly smile, made Tempe feel better. She spoke in Spanish.
The translator, a young Hispanic girl, pretty, no older than 12, spoke the words for Tempe. “That was a gate keeper spirit. The foolish girl had bound this place to the labyrinth as a means to move through the Umbra. The gatekeeper recognized her for the taint of the Breaker. She was allowed to move through, quickening her corruption; you it recognized as untouched.”
The Abuela spoke again in her slow methodic Spanish and the girl’s eyes widened a little before her control set back in.
The young lady looked again at Tempe, “That’s not entirely true though is it? You have a small shadow resting on your soul. It’s been there as long as you can remember hasn’t it? The stain isn’t yours, its’ your brother’s taint. It binds you to your familiar.”
Tempe sat there shocked trying to process what she was just told.
The MTF regrouped and returned to the Bio-dome to rest. Three days passed slowly.While the rest of the MTF rested. Arturo was frequently in meetings and talking to elders of his Pack. Kaizen International was in flux. Their CEO/Alpha had been killed. The future was too open, too vast. The family line was shamed by the actions of Cecilia. While the Pack still had hopes for Arturo’s future, he was not ready for the main office. He would continue on his assignment to the MTF. Michal Tress from the Glass Walker cooperative, Holden, Mayer and Jones, would be flying in to take the position for the foreseeable future.
The only other news was from the Virginia PD. The DNA testing on the severed hand was not a match for Dr. Terry’s daughter.
Tempe studied the knowledge she could pry out of the tribe and now was more comfortable with the glyphs they used.
Dan and Milton were able to set up contracts for supplies with Kaizen International for special equipment. They would have silver rounds and sedation syringes.
The blood tests showed that the Garou with Cecilia were Black Spiral Dancers. The blood was saturated with every disease Tempe had ever seen, and some she had never seen. She had to shower every time she dealt with the samples.
Josh was back on his feet but still recovering. He was marked forever. When he shifted to Crinos the wound was covered with a sickly green colored fur. He didn’t remember much.
Finally on the last day they gathered their gear and headed back to the outpost; the Raccoon driving. Tempe studying new books till she made herself car sick. Dan and Milton slept. Arturo stared out at the desert and tried to wrap his mind around what had happened.