night, the intention was to spend another quiet evening in the
dorms. Troy sat in a daze in front of the television, still
trying to make sense of Giles and whoever the hell his roommate
was supposed to be. He couldn't even adequately explain
everything to Kathryn. She still passed on having anything
delivered that night.
the oddities regarding their delivery guy, lack of appetite was
still a possible culprit. She remained out of sorts all day.
After spending all afternoon reassuring Troy that the agreement
would work, now he was the one trying to discern why she was
said it yourself- we'll get them back and it'll all be over.”
Kathryn said, dismissive. “It's never going to be over. We're
going to be involved with all this for years. Are we just
supposed to get used to it?”
patted her hand. “At least we'll be able to defend ourselves
better. We won't be caught off guard like that.”
looked up and shook her head. “That wasn't the problem. I
defended myself fine.” She became quiet suddenly. “I killed
Troy said, “You can't say she didn't deserve it.”
but...” Kathryn stopped. How could she describe the act of
ending someone's life? The fact that she was capable of doing it
at all outweighed her victim. “I just can't believe I actually
did that. And she was my friend.”
Troy reiterated. “You weren't there when she helped kill Kurt.
You didn't see-”
your point?” she said, suddenly angry. “Yeah, so she ended up
being a demon. And yeah she was kind of obnoxious, but she was
still our friend. After it happened, it felt like I lost both
her and Kurt.” She backpedaled, but only briefly. “I mean,
obviously losing Kurt's worse, and Kamila's responsible either
way... but what did I really know about her? She's a demon.
Between her and Marie, I don't even know what a demon is
anymore. I just don't know why I should feel good about killing
her. What, am I supposed to be congratulated because I tied the
sighed. He found it uncomfortable to discuss, because he didn't
completely understand her grief. Had the MST somehow apprehended
Kamila, her fate probably would have been just as messy. “I'm
sure Kurt would have done the same thing. I'm sure it's what
we'd be expected to do.”
heard a knock on the door. “Donovan?” Troy called. Donovan was
in the kitchen area, supervising Blaine boiling a pot of instant
noodles. As it turned out, Donovan was starving but Troy and
Kathryn had voted him down.
thinking about, and deciding against, summoning Bryce, Donovan
took a step back and opened the door. He slammed it when he saw
Reggie, but the visitor magically propelled the door back open
with seemingly no effort or gesture.
see you too, buddy,” said Reggie, waltzing past Donovan and
approaching Troy and Kathryn. “None of you poor kids knocking on
my door tonight?”
it's been a strange day,” said Troy, apologetic for some reason.
“I wouldn't mind blowing off some steam but...” He looked up at
didn't say anything else, but the look on his face tried to
encourage her. Kathryn cracked a smile. “Suppose it wouldn't
hurt to get this off my mind for a while. I'm just too tired to
go down there. It's exhausting, all that.”
wide grin understood. “That's okay. Tonight I'm bringing
Reggie's room to you!”
snapped his fingers and his four roommates burst through the
door. And boy did they burst- four girls, each one hotter than
the other three. The last girl to enter, Candace, held a
cardboard box. Whatever was inside was glowing.
Kathryn's heart instantly warmed. “Aw... girls, you shouldn't
smile on Troy's face said it all: he had met Candace, Cammy,
Carmen and Crystal before, but only inside Reggie's room. The
essence of such a place diminished their beauty, as if they were
only a fantasy. Here, they were all very real... and two of them
were rubbing up alongside a mortified Donovan. Carmen was busy
winking at Blaine.
wait to start college,” Troy mumbled.
stand for these mortal temptations,” Donovan said.
“Temptations?” asked Crystal, offended at the suggestion.
Leaning in and driving her breasts deeper into Donovan's back,
she said, “It's nothing dirty. We just want to hang out for a
bit. You know, have a good time.”
pot was boiling over, but he no longer cared. He approached
Carmen, utterly dazzled. “I don't know, sir, a break from the
stress wouldn't be a bad idea.”
threw his arms around both Crystal and Donovan's shoulders.
“Yeah, just going to chit-chat. Nothing too crazy. It's like
Reggie's room: the home game.”
narrowed his eyes. “Very well, but one instance of impropriety
and I shall have you all destroyed.”
Blaine cheered as he and Carmen ran into the common area.
Reggie, Donovan and his new girlfriends followed. They sat next
to Candace, who carefully positioned the box in front of the TV,
then left it there unattended.
you're just gonna take it easy tonight?” asked Troy, a little
nodded. Kathryn smiled; fun as it was, Reggie's room was an
exhausting experience. This was a good compromise, one she could
get behind easily.
what's first on the-” Before Kathryn could ask it, Blaine's pot
protested its neglect by sizzling loudly against the stovetop.
Blaine rushed to turn it off, then checked the noodles for good
measure. They were beyond repair.
for dinner,” he lamented.
sweat,” said Reggie. “Giles should be here with a few buckets of
groaned. All that and they were back to dealing with the damn
seemed perplexed at Troy and Kathryn's leeriness towards Giles.
Kathryn instantly retracted any comments about the guy. Troy was
less apologetic, explaining his ordeal with the tip and
delivering it. He said, “When I got there, he was out and-”
snicker, Reggie filled in the rest: “And you met his roommates.”
one,” Troy replied. “That was more than enough.”
raised his eyebrows. “Really? Only one? If you're acting like
this, I'm guessing it wasn't Maple.”
was Meg... I think.”
Meg's cool,” said Cammy. “Isn't she their guardian?”
looked up and sighed. “Or maybe it was Mindy... or Morgan...”
you did meet all of them,” Reggie said, nodding in
Troy was absolutely not understanding.
raised his eyebrows. “You couldn't tell you were talking to four
stared back blankly. Reggie smiled. “Well, now you tell me,”
Troy mumbled. In hindsight, it was always the most logical
four different people?” he blurted, realizing that 'four people
inhabiting one body' never should constitute the most logical
that's why they can't leave campus,” said Cammy. “It's not
something you can explain to the general public.”
sure they don't appreciate you getting on their case because of
their condition,” added Crystal. “It can't be easy to go
scoffed. “Sorry, it's just not something we come across every
day. I think we're dealing pretty well considering we're hanging
out with two elves.”
of Reggie's roommates leaned back nervously. Yes, Crystal and
Carmen had the trademark ears of classic wood elves. Like all of
Reggie's girls, they were leggy, which defied the stereotypical
short stature and prevented them from standing out in a crowd.
Carmen even grew her hair to conceal her ears. There were no
specific taboos about elves that they had to be ashamed of, but
with so many kids on campus previously unaware of their
existence, it was just a bit awkward. In fact, given how
prolific Reggie's room was at Central, Crystal and Carmen were
usually the first elves anyone on campus met. They sure left a
rousing first impression.
a couple elves get enrolled here anyway?” Kathryn asked.
chuckled. Under his breath, he said, “Affirmative Action.”
Kathryn wasn't sure if he was serious.
cleared his throat. “I'd rather ask how four people can be in
Reggie replied instantly. “They botched a field assignment last
year and a Hokoni warlock cursed three of them. Meg offered to
host their spirits and... well...”
up getting their personalities too?” Troy concluded.
wasn't expecting the other three to get control over her body as
gotta suck,” Crystal said. “And it's not like Meg can bitch
about it because the other three can always hear her.”
came the knock. Everyone was too busy suppressing the urge to
say 'speak of the devil' to actually answer it. “Blaine?”
was busy staring at what little he could see of Carmen's pointy
ears. Startled, he turned to Donovan. “Yes, sir?”
meal is waiting.”
Sheepish, Blaine jumped to his feet and answered the door.
Indeed, Giles had a week's supply of fried chicken. “I guess
Reggie's in here?” he asked.
in!” Reggie cried.
moment Giles set the first bucket on the table, Donovan and
Reggie's girls were devouring its contents. Giles stepped away
to avoid grease spatter.
Troy and smiled. Troy threw his hands up. “I didn't order it!
Talk to Reggie about a tip!”
widened his grin. “Oh, no, just wanted to chat for a sec. Meg
says I owe you an explanation about her.”
lowered his hands and forced a smile. “Oh. Uh, actually, Reggie
filled me in.” After a moment of thought, he added, “That all
sounds pretty rough, actually.”
it's been almost a year now. Guess I just kinda got used to it.”
Giles sat down, wedging himself between Troy and Kathryn. “I
forgot what it was like to be new to all this.”
don't leave campus?” Kathryn asked.
shrugged. “I go home for holidays and stuff. And sometimes
they'll even shut up long enough to let Meg see her family.” He
looked down. “Because they're out of their bodies, Morgan, Maple
and Mindy were written out.”
mean...” Kathryn wasn't ready for something that depressing.
“You're...” Again, she paused. “Normal.” After today, she found
it hard to apply the word to Giles. “Makes sense that they stay
here, but why don't you?”
responsibility,” Giles replied, spirits lifted. “We're a team.
And the way those four argue, someone has to help mediate.
Besides, the only reason I wasn't with them was because I got
lucky. I was only turned into a dog.”
darted back and forth, meeting blank stares from both sides. In
the ensuing silence, Giles hoped one of them would spare him the
need to tritely add, 'I got better.'
Thankfully, Kathryn came through. “The hell are you doing
dealing with stuff like that? Reggie said something about a
assignment,” Giles said plainly. “It's a requirement for
graduation. Everybody has to complete a mission as part of a
three-unit troop. Your guardian didn't explain that to you?”
didn't explain that to us!” Kathryn tried to sound livid, but
the sudden news was both startling and not unexpected. She had
always been afraid of something like this, and Giles sounded
awfully complacent about it given what he had been through. She
struggled to tolerate risking her life for what amounted to a
thesis project, no matter how everybody else shrugged it off.
cursing was all Giles noticed. “Molly?” he asked, raising his
eyebrows. “You don't mean Molly Pearson, do you?”
and only,” Troy muttered. “Take it you've heard of her?”
nodded. “Yeah, through Meg. Someone that age, leading her team
through all that... Meg's kind of a fan. Where is she?”
than comment on the pro-Molly fanboy moment, Troy replied, “The
Urayoni have her. And two of our friends.”
effectively sobered Giles up. “Wow. Sounds rough.”
Kathryn nodded. “Sounds like it's being taken care of though,”
Kathryn said. “We're giving them what they wanted.”
Tome of Vincent Wagner!” shouted Donovan from behind. Giles
jumped forward and fell to the floor. Troy and Kathryn didn't
respond. As an exclamation point, Donovan took a giant bite out
of his chicken leg.
shrugged. “Yeah, Donovan signed away some book to get them back.
Pretty good deal if you ask me.”
sat up and looked back at Donovan. “Must be a heck of a book if
the Urayoni will give up all three for it. That's very noble of
furrowed his eyebrows. So did Troy and Kathryn, actually. The
words 'Donovan' and 'noble' didn't sound like they belonged
anywhere near each other. Giles made it sound effortless. Come
to think of it, it wasn't exactly false.
and dusting himself off, Giles nodded at what were apparently
his new friends. “Neat stuff. I'll have to take a look at the
details sometime. Anyway, I probably should be going. I'm still
technically on the clock. When your friends get back, I'll have
to bring Meg and them and we can hang out with you guys and
Kathryn turned to each other. They had both lost count of how
many things were wrong with that statement. Neither wanted to
think about it too much, and quietly let Giles leave. The
ambiance of Reggie and his girls gorging on chicken absorbed
them, and they were able to enjoy the rest of the night
cell was furnished with a nice bed, a bookshelf and some effort
to provide modesty. Renee received a cot, a sink and a toilet.
The only amenity afforded to her was the glowing bracelet
negating her magic. It was heavy, uncomfortable and made for an
awkward night of sleep. Not that she was going to anyway with
that cot and the whole predicament weighing in her mind.
one restless night, it got worse. Two demons barged into her
cell, magically subdued her and led her away. Renee complied,
only because she feared the consequence of disobedience. They
took her to a room that, despite the dungeon motif, resembled a
medical examination room. Not necessarily a nice or sterile one,
but it had an exam table and plenty of shiny metal implements.
And straps to pin her to the table.
was tied down, someone in a white coat entered and faced Renee.
He looked at her briefly, then nodded. In an instant, Renee's
shirt flew up to her shoulders, an impressive feat as she was
flush against the table. As she trembled, he placed his cold
hands against her bare stomach, narrowing his eyes as if
listening for something.
moments in, he nodded, apparently sensing it and extended a hand
to one of the demons. The hand received a small optical device,
possibly an enescope like the one used to find her trigger way
back when. The demonic doctor looked through the eyepiece,
either getting an extreme closeup of Renee's belly button or
seeing something useful. Probably the latter as he nodded and
did the same to her forehead. It left her feeling, to put it
mildly, a little uncomfortable. He smiled wickedly and left
without a word, after which Renee was escorted back to her cell,
barely getting time to pull her shirt back down.
returned, a tray of bread and water waited for her. Something
about that made the whole episode seem even more harsh. Forced
out of the room, strapped to the table, two steps away from
being violated... and to top it off, this was dinner? It was the
exclamation point to an excruciating day and finally broke her.
She ate her meal with her back to the door so no one would see
whole thing came so suddenly and caught her so completely off
guard that Renee was a silent, helpless shadow. She was
separated from her sister, had no idea where she was, and heard
nothing about her future from anyone she encountered. Even if
she had the muster to ask, she doubted she'd receive a response.
Renee had no course of action, especially since she didn't know
what was in store for her. She was a prisoner with no knowledge
of her surroundings. All because she felt obligated to rescue
hour after the examination, the door opened again. Renee didn't
move, remaining crouched with her back against her cot, hands
around her knees. She stole a glance at the demon entering, not
even giving the courtesy of a raised eyebrow at Marie.
had a tray of food. It didn't look appetizing, but it smelled
like meat and the included beverage resembled juice. She set it
down near the foot of Renee's cot and leaned against the far
wall. “Food's pretty lousy here, but it's probably more than
you're getting. Don't know why they're not feeding you.”
stared back, not sure what to say. Marie's eyes were to the
ground. If it was an act of generosity, it was an obliging one.
Either way, it was hard to be friendly around someone who had
betrayed her friends.
also told me to apologize for what I said about your sister
yesterday,” Marie added, with a shrug. “Honestly, I'd rather
apologize to you than her. Especially if she didn't know you
like Troy so much.” She wanted to say more, but she stopped
the food, tempted to reach out to it, Renee stopped herself and
looked at Marie. “You expect me to believe you're sorry for
that? After what you did to us?”
right. I meant everything I said to Molly. Maybe I shouldn't
have said it to her face, but I don't see why I should feel
sorry about saying it.” She shook her head. “Claude always has
been kind of a tool.”
paced around, continuing her rant. “But I just hate her so much
for what she did to Troy. And then she thought I wasn't upset
paused, Renee asked, “Why are you here? We're enemies.”
was dour and defeated. It caught Marie off guard. She didn't
think Renee was capable of being this down. Marie replied, “I've
just been a little high-strung lately. Kinda need someone to
talk to and nobody else gives a damn.” She sighed. “I know you
never liked me but-”
says I never liked you?” Renee looked up. “I know I was a little
out of line, but I never held it against you just because we
like the same guy. Some of my friends told me to just barge in
and steal Troy away from you. I couldn't do that. At least not
directly. And even then Kamila and Kathryn were more hostile
about it than you. I never blamed you for any of that.”
sighed. There was something comforting and humbling about all
that. She couldn't say she felt the same way about Renee, but
she was happy they weren't completely uncivil. “That's actually
good to hear. It's nice to be able to talk to you without
you now though,” Renee blurted, freezing Marie. “Sure I had
enough respect for you then, but you can't expect me to like you
now. Not after all this.”
lowered, Marie said, “I feel awful about it. All this time I was
trying to pretend that I wasn't an Urayoni and Troy wasn't in
the force. I just hoped that somehow I could get through it,
leave on good terms with everybody and go home happy.” Her head
shook, voice cracking. “When Kurt died it ruined everything.
Everything was bound to escalate. And all of us would get caught
up in the middle of it. On different sides. And on top of all
that I lose Kamila too. She was my best friend.”
hesitated. Clearly Marie was being sincere, but she had to
reiterate: “She killed Kurt.”
going to defend what she did. Just don't pretend that Kathryn
was right to get even.”
the life Kamila chose,” Renee said, hardly in a sympathetic
mood. “It's what you chose too.”
didn't choose it,” Marie replied quickly. “My parents were both
Urayoni. My dad wasn't even born on Earth. He only moved to take
a lobbying job in Washington. When the force enlisted you all,
the faction moved us to Ohio so I could help Claude keep tabs on
everybody. Claude and I were only supposed to be observing. I
was fine with that: I really do love Troy and Kathryn. It's a
shame they got mixed up with the MST.”
looked away briefly, but turned back to Renee and added, “And
don't lecture me about the life I chose. You're the one locked
shook her head. “If you're really a good friend, you could help
me get out of here.”
Chuckling softly, Marie replied, “Don't you see? That doesn't
help anything. We're just pawns in all this. I hope your
superiors do the right thing and work to get you out of here
quickly. But I don't gain anything betraying my faction. It's
not like I have any way to get you home.”
Renee's head fell in disappointment, Marie's did as well. All
that talk and she didn't feel much better. She turned to the
door. “I guess I should go. Thanks for listening at least.” As
she opened the door, she added, “Suppose you didn't choose this
did,” Renee fired back. Marie stopped and looked over her
shoulder. Renee was glaring at her. “I chose this because I
wanted to protect my sister and my friends.”
faced the open door again. “And that's what you don't
understand. You think the MST actually cares about you or Molly
or our friends. And you couldn't be more wrong.”
day, room 202 didn't need Giles's service. Reggie had donated
half of his leftover chicken from the night before. From the
looks of it, neither room would need delivery that night either.
get through lunch with no interruptions,” said Kathryn, wiping
her greasy hand on the couch cushion and getting a stern look
from Donovan for doing so.
handed her a napkin, his phone rang. Kathryn groaned as he
checked the number. He didn't recognize it. Eying her nervously,
he answered it.
This is Giles.”
rolled his eyes. “How did you get my number?”
database.” With some urgency, he added, “I want you and your
friends to meet me at the library at 2:00.”
that's when I get off work.”
mean what's it-”
go. Jimmy John's is here. See you then.” Just like that, Giles
leaned in. “What was that about?”
his phone down. “Apparently we're meeting with Giles this
that's when he gets off work,” Troy said, shaking his head.
the lack of agenda, the three of them went to the library
anyway. Two o'clock came and Giles wasn't there.
late,” Donovan muttered.
surprises me,” Troy said. “He seems like the annoyingly punctual
said Reggie, startling all three of them as he sat down.
What are you doing out of the building?” Kathryn asked. “After
last night, I thought you'd still be asleep.”
chuckled. “The girls sure as hell are. Giles asked for all of
us, but it takes more than this to get my girls up.”
he is,” Troy declared as he saw Giles walking in... with his
we're late,” Giles said. Troy checked his watch; it was 2:03.
Giles narrowed his eyes at his companion. “Someone was still in
the shower when I got back.”
sue me for sleeping in for once,” said either Morgan or a very
indignant Meg. The same personality turned to Kathryn and
cracked a sly smile. “Hey, don't think we've met. I'm Morgan.”
leaned back. She wasn't expecting to meet Giles's teammate(s)
and was doubly disturbed by Morgan's introduction. “I'm
Kathryn... hi. Reggie told me about you.”
worry about us, Kathryn,” said Maple. Kathryn almost fell over
at the clear change in the tone of voice. “Just think of us as
normal, healthy people.”
Mindy,” quipped Morgan.
shouted Mindy. This exchange effectively ruined any chance of
Kathryn thinking of them as normal, healthy people.
sat down, soon followed by Mindy. He set a folder on the table.
Had Troy and Kathryn not been distracted by his companion, they
may have noticed that Giles did not carry anything in with him
and wondered where the folder had come from.
“Remember when I said I'd take a look at the details regarding
the rest of your unit?” Giles asked.
replied Troy and Kathryn.
found the contract between the MST and the Urayoni. The one
transferring Donovan's grimoire for your friends.”
hovered over the document, eyebrows raised. “Wow. How'd you find
l33t hacker!” said Mindy.
slow today at work. I got bored,” Giles said, defensive. “It's
not like they encrypt it all that well... at least for people on
campus with certain passwords.”
not like it's up there for any schmo on Moogle to find,” Meg
Giles said, “Anyway...” He flipped to a highlighted part of the
text. “Remember how I thought it was odd that the Urayoni would
give all three of your friends back for the grimoire?”
replied Troy and Kathryn.
out they're not. The deal's only for Molly and Yuki.”
Kathryn nodded... then grasped what that meant and dove for the
papers. “What about Renee?” Troy asked hurriedly.
figured you should know about that. It says that Renee will not
only be left behind, but apparently the Urayoni can do whatever
is necessary to retrieve the grimoire from inside her.”
looked up at him, mortified. “What does Renee have to do with
“Apparently it's embedded into her.”
“Impossible!” Donovan shouted, now hovering over the contract as
read the sordid details, Troy sat back, aghast. “I can't believe
they'd do this without telling us.”
Kathryn muttered, folding her arms.
signing the book over was a bad idea.”
I,” Donovan mumbled, slamming the papers down. “So when do we
scoffed. “Yeah right. Who are you planning on fighting? The
demons or the MST?”
coughed, getting everyone's attention. “Actually, that's the
next thing I wanted to bring up. We're completely on board if
you'd like to try attempting a rescue.”
are?” Mindy asked.
nodded. “Damn right we are.”
leaned forward and stared at Giles and Meg, confused. “Wait,
wait... you're talking about going after them ourselves? Can we
course!” Morgan said, smiling brashly. “We'll probably get
killed eighty times over but I say bring it on!”
jumping awfully deep considering we just met yesterday,” Kathryn
smiled. “So? Fact is, the MST tried to hide what it was doing
and you're not okay with the agreement they made. That's not
fair and I think we need to do something about it.”
it that's why I'm here?” Reggie said. Everybody stopped and
faced him. He cracked a smile. “Gotta have a full troop to even
get this considered and that means three units.”
“Exactly,” Meg replied. “With all of us, and your unit, we just
need to get a commander to sign off on this as a field
assignment and we're good to go.”
isn't this putting all of us in danger?” Kathryn asked. “Not to
mention Yuki and Molly.”
willing to sacrifice Renee just to make it easy for Yuki and
Molly to come back,” Troy said, louder. “Renee didn't agree to
that, Donovan didn't agree to that, and you know damn well that
Molly wouldn't agree to that.”
guess so,” Kathryn mumbled, looking away.
shrugged. “Well, I suppose I can't say no to something like
this. Of course, if it gets accepted as a field assignment and
we pass, I'm stuck graduating. That would suck.”
mean you'd be willing to graduate and leave the academy just to
help Renee?” Kathryn asked.
Reggie replied. “I'm bored.”
me,” said Maple, as evidenced by her soft voice. “How are we
supposed to get approved when one unit is incomplete?”
yeah,” Reggie looked around at the six bodies surrounding the
table. “There's only nine of us here. Thirteen with my girls.
We're short two.”
grinned. “Blaine. Bryce.”
came the dual reply.
that, Operation 'Recover The Tome' is in order.”
solid plan of action to deliver to Uriel was great. Having the
support of two other units was even better. The only problem
with trying to get the message across was that Uriel didn't
actually have an office at the academy. Never mind forcing him
to consent to it; first they had to find the damn guy.
to march across campus three times, only getting a clue from a
chance run-in with Chancellor Whalen himself. He pointed out a
small command center in main administration building that
visiting commanders could use to handle important business. In
hindsight, Troy, Kathryn and Donovan probably should have just
secured Whalen's approval for all this, but they got their
Donovan had been in this particular building before, and that
was for his tribunal and he never bothered to get a feel for the
place. They stumbled around aimlessly for half an hour, asking
anyone they came across and getting no answers.
and neither of them were sure if this was a good thing, they ran
into Mr. Marlowe.
huh?” Marlowe scratched his chin. “What do you want with him?”
suppose you heard about how he resolved all this?” Kathryn
asked, narrowing her eyes.
nodded happily. “Yes, I did. Did he secure transfer of the
grumbled, “He did... failing to mention one major caveat.”
dumb, Marlowe cocked his head. “And what would that be?”
folded his arms. “They're leaving Renee behind.”
followed Marlowe down the hall and up a staircase, not entirely
confident that he was leading them to the promised land. He did
seem awfully undisturbed by the news. Still, Marlowe led them to
an office door, knocked, and opened when Uriel allowed him to.
the three into the darkened room, Marlowe called out, “Uriel,
these three want to know why you agreed to sacrifice their
friend to the demons for your own occupational convenience. Have
fun!” Then he slammed the door shut.
spun around and shouted, “But wait it was your...!”
late. He only saw the three. And boy were they pissed. Uriel
leaned back. “It was not my idea. Marlowe put me up to it.”
didn't say anything when Donovan signed the book away,” Troy
in the contract. And I was obligated not to sway your opinions.”
lied to us!”
no such thing,” Uriel asserted. “I merely stated that the
transfer would fill our end of the bargain and prompt the
Urayoni to fill theirs. That much is true. You drew the
conclusions yourself. Donovan was the one who didn't read the
furrowed his eyebrows and prepared for an outburst, but it was
Kathryn who stepped forward. “You show up and tell us that
signing over that thing will take care of everything. After
everything we've been through, can you blame us for wanting to
get this over with quickly? Even after what you did to Kurt I
never thought that you guys could stoop so low as to leave Renee
behind just to save yourself a little work.”
happened to Kurt was tragic and unpredictable. How were we to
know the Hageshoni would be this overt? This sort of thing does
not happen every day and the fact that they've struck twice in
the last month is cause for alarm indeed. Please, have a seat.”
found chairs lining the wall behind Uriel's desk. In all, the
room was fairly large for an office, resembling a modern war
room with three computer terminals and a large monitor on the
wall. Naturally, this being Uriel, none of them were on.
you must understand that the decision came from higher up. I
wouldn't have even considered leaving any of them behind had
Marlowe not shown me a direct order from the chancellor. I
wasn't even informed that Renee had the grimiore until after the
that happen without my knowledge?” Donovan asked.
sighed. “As you may recall, there was some worry about what
would happen to it if you were dismissed from the academy. Molly
gave it to Marlowe for safe keeping and conspired with Kurt to
keep it from coming up at the tribunal. She was so eager to be
rid of it that she didn't ask for it back, even after the ruling
in your favor. Marlowe gave it to our doctors to embed into
Renee, absorbing the vrockrompir curse.”
it's still inside her, doesn't that mean that she's still cursed
too?” Kathryn asked.
extracted properly, as our contract instructs them to do, just
the book,” Uriel replied, confidently. “The book and Renee
simply exist in the same body, much like Donovan and his
demon... which still scares me half to death.” He eyed Donovan,
who cracked an evil smirk in response. “The only effect is that
the book might give her a little additional power, much like the
demon has given Donovan a boost... which is equally
that book's so powerful, why give it up just for Molly and
Yuki?” asked Troy. After all, Uriel had already passed on giving
it to the Chioni in exchange for Ellen and Kendrick.
chuckled. “I know this doesn't mean much to you, but that curse
also plays into that decision. Even if the demons do
successfully extract the book, the curse will have left it
charred and illegible. They won't get a thing out of it.”
gritted her teeth. “But they'd still have Renee. And I don't
like the way 'extract' sounds.”
deep breath, Uriel got to the hard part. “Listen, I can't expect
you to agree with the decision, but please understand that
escalating this further will endanger many of our troops, as
well as all three of the prisoners. In the end, we get two of
the three back and the Urayoni end up with nothing. It's the
only solution that is even remotely ideal.”
realize Molly would never stand for this. She wouldn't forgive
you killing her sister.”
and frankly I'm terrified. But we're in charge of this
operation, not her. We can force her to understand. Heck, even
if we had no alternative but to fight, we can't just shift an
army to their world on a whim.”
we've got an army for you,” Troy replied, angrily handing him a
very professional-looking document, save for “Operation: Recover
The Tome” written at the type. It bore the signatures of fifteen
skimmed it with revulsion. “What's this, a field assignment
our friends. They're from our unit,” Troy declared. “If we can't
get them back, we'll all go down together. The demons still get
nothing so what's the problem?”
Practically sneering, Uriel replied, “The fact that we'd rather
keep most of your unit intact. Along with the other ten names on
your list. I've spent the last three years trying to keep Molly
Pearson alive and I'll be damned if I'm going to have you three
that's what it boils down to, huh?” Kathryn said, steaming.
“Molly's worth protecting, but Renee doesn't have the same knack
for magic so she's expendable. Isn't that right?”
glared back, seething. He didn't dare answer.
three get caught too, are we out of luck then?”
discuss hypotheticals with you. This is what the taskforce
determined to be the best solution for everyone involved.”
Although he did his best not to raise his voice, Uriel tore the
application in two. “And no rushed field assignment proposal
will change what the best minds of this organization have
determined. The negotiating team will be sent down tomorrow
morning and by tomorrow night I hope to have washed my hands of
this incident. Now unless you have any pertinent questions, I
would like to get back to my work.”
Kathryn and Donovan stared back, stunned. Just like that, Renee
had been lost. Although he held his glare on Uriel for as long
as possible, Donovan stood and left first. Then Troy, rushing
off as he felt his eyes well up. Kathryn held on the longest,
but once she was alone, she faded fast against Uriel's stone
guys won't stop until all of our friends are dead,” she
muttered, picking herself up and following Troy out. “So much
they returned to the dorm, Troy and Donovan returned to their
rooms quickly and quietly. Kathryn sat on the couch, turned on
the television and pretended she was watching it. Their
last-ditch proposal to save Renee had failed and they were
doomed to count the days until Molly would come home and shatter
everything. The difference between the reactions of Kathryn and
the boys boiled down to one thing: Kathryn expected this.
whole day, she had played along with the rebellious talk, not
believing any of it would actually come to pass. The logistics
were awful anyway. The demons had overwhelmed them in L. B.
Gould; how were they supposed to mount an offense on Urayoni
turf? Kathryn doubted compassion for Renee was reason enough to
convince the MST to change their plans, which certainly had to
have sprouted from some foreign wisdom. The notion of
sacrificing Renee was absolute bull to her, but she at least
believed those in charge had thought it over first.
the things for Kathryn to ponder, she was stuck on how resigned
she felt about it. Depressed, absolutely, but it didn't seem as
agonizing as it should have been. Part of it was how unreal it
seemed that they might never see Renee again. But more of her
lack of despair was the finality of it. For all her fretting
about this cycle of battling demons, she'd be lying if she said
she didn't want this episode finished. After losing Kurt, Kamila
and now Renee, Kathryn wanted it all to be done with so she
could pretend things were going to get better, even if she knew
that wasn't true.
reached up to scratch her nose, feeling the skin below her eye
along the way. It was dry. All this time, she had not shed a
tear. That scared Kathryn. She had cried for Kurt; hell, she had
even cried for Kamila. Why wasn't it happening for Renee? Was
she in denial? Was she hopeful that Renee would still survive?
Or worse- was she subconsciously accepting this decision?
Frightened by her own thoughts, Kathryn knew she had to do
something. Getting her mind off it completely would have been
preferable, but also shallow and cowardly. Instead, she realized
that her help was desperately needed. Regardless of her own
feelings about this, her best friend was bound to be a wreck.
She peeled herself off the couch and slowly entered Troy's room.
curled up on one side of his bed, staring at a blank wall. If he
wasn't crying now, he had just finished. She sat on the same
side and rubbed his back.
really happening?” he whimpered, rubbing his eyes.
it is,” she replied, adding a sullen nod. “Should have known
these assholes were to up to something like this.”
start,” mumbled Troy. “I know you don't like this. I don't care.
I just don't want to lose her.”
sighed. “You really do care for her, don't you?” Despite her own
feelings, that much was clear.
know. I'm still too hung up over Marie to worry about all that.
I just can't believe this is happening to her.” He stole a look
at Kathryn. “I'd feel the same way if you were in her position.”
were in her shoes... jeez, I'd completely lose it.”
cemented exactly why Kathryn was feeling so guilty. After Kurt
and Kamila, losing Troy would have destroyed her. She would not
have recovered. It made her passive response to Renee's
situation seem so wrong.
started to crack. “I'm an awful person,” she sniffed.
you're not,” Troy replied instantly. “What do you mean?”
I'm the first one to jump out and play the hero. But I... to be
honest, I really didn't want to do it.” Kathryn's eyes welled as
she continued, “You and Donovan just jumped out to save her
without thinking about how impossible it probably is. I-”
were scared,” said Troy, sitting up. He set a hand on her back
as she nodded. “I don't blame you. I don't want to think about
how dangerous it would be.” Frozen for a moment, he was quiet
when he added, “Probably impossible too. I mean we'd just be
getting ourselves killed, right? We couldn't really save her
anyway, could we?”
pulled him closer. His forehead found her shoulder. As he barely
fought off his tears, she said, “Normally I don't think about
stuff like that. Normally I'd say if there's a chance, we should
go for it. I guess I don't know anymore.”
sigh later, Troy said, “The only reason Renee's in this mess is
because she wanted to go back for Molly. I just wanted to get
out of there.”
stifled chuckle, Kathryn added, “And Molly stayed back for all
lifted his head, facing forward again. The significance struck
both of them.
were braver than we were. And look what happened.”
nodded. “Sad how that works, isn't it?”
Troy stood up. “It means we owe them one.”
can't let them get away with this. Renee doesn't deserve it. And
you're right: Molly doesn't deserve it either. We've got to get
nodded again. “Kinda wish we could. You put it that way and-”
going,” he blurted. “To hell with them.”
Kathryn stood up. “But we don't know-”
figure it out.” Troy stormed out of the room, pulling out his
phone. “Or rather Giles will.”
later, he was on the phone: “Giles? We're going anyway. I know
it's... oh...” Troy raised his eyebrows. “Okay... what time?”
Another pause. He smiled. “See you there.”
was that?” Kathryn asked.
already talked to Meg and Reggie.” Troy pocketed the phone.
“They were just waiting for us to give them the word. We're
meeting at Reggie's room at 10:00.”
“Damn...” Kathryn sighed. “This is really happening, isn't it?”
right.” For the final stop, Troy knocked on Donovan's door.
opened it instantly. He, Blaine and Bryce all seemed to be
wearing some sort of imitation chainmail.
took so long?” Donovan said.