thing clear upon returning from the Urayoni realm was that
Molly's unit wasn't going anywhere. Safety at L. B. Gould was
still a question. Even without Claude and Marie providing
support from the inside, the likelihood of another Hageshoni
attack was hard to gauge. At the very least, the unit needed
some time to heal and recuperate, especially with Molly and
Renee being under negators the whole time. Although it had only
been three days, it felt like forever.
Secondarily, at least to Molly, was the issue of Troy, Kathryn
and Donovan violating half of the organization's rules to make
the rescue happen. The MST had to deal with them somehow, and
that meant another discovery process, another tribunal and
another judgment from Chancellor Whalen. Molly was determined to
ignore her role as defender until it couldn't be avoided. At
least this time, she planned to put up a fight.
however, she spaced out on the couch, doing her best to do
nothing. Nothing was an unusual choice of activity, as she had
plenty of time for that with the Urayoni. She had spent most of
it reading or sleeping. Yuki and Renee, uncomfortable as their
cells were, must have done the same as the three were awake at
two in the afternoon, mere hours after their return. The other
three were still out cold, but they earned a day of sleep.
sound of the shower running had faded into the background for so
long that Molly was jarred when it stopped. She wasn't sure how
long Renee had been in there, but didn't blame her. Molly had
already taken hers, and it felt good to wash two days of Urayoni
dirt off her face. If only she could do the same with her
Yuki came out of her room and tried to keep her voice down, even
though an air horn wouldn't have woken up Kathryn. “You know
what? We never got my satchel back from the Urayoni.”
back blankly, Molly replied, “What, do you want me to call
Claude and have him mail it back to us?”
plopped down on a chair, dismayed at the sarcasm. “No... it's
just that I... hey, do you think he would?”
She sighed. “I really liked that bag. It's hard to get Hello
Kitty satchels with infinite capacity. I don't think they're
have anything in there besides your potion kit?”
phone, my student ID, hell I kept a change of clothes in there.
That would come in handy now.”
nodded slowly. She understood that.
bathroom door opened and Renee came out in a towel, her hair
still wet. Yuki raised her eyebrows; Molly furrowed hers.
“What's wrong? Need a brush or something?”
know a spell for that,” Renee said, sitting at the table.
can cast it.” Molly tried summoning a light ball. She got a
light marble. “I'm still out of it.”
shrugged. “I just want to feel clean for a bit before I have to
put those... things back on. I'm burning those clothes when we
you shouldn't be walking around like that. What if Donovan or
Troy came out?”
Troy...” Renee turned her head towards Troy's room.
narrowed an eye at the light blush on Renee's face. “Don't start
that now,” she said sternly.
her hands up, Renee surrendered and headed back to the bathroom.
“Fine, fine, although I don't see them waking up any time soon.”
not, but the knock on the front door was another matter. Molly
shuddered. Then her eyes bulged as Renee went to answer it.
prodded, Renee stopped and said, “Oh, it's probably just
does that make it okay?!”
grinned slyly. “Could be Giles. I mean, he's already felt up
glare. Despite the humbling jolt of pure fear, Yuki smiled
at its power. “Good to know that's back at least.”
the distraction, Renee opened the door, stepping back in horror
when she saw neither Reggie nor Giles, but Mr. Marlowe.
morning,” he said derisively. Marlowe stopped when he saw Renee,
momentarily speechless. That passed soon enough. “Hate to wake
you at such an odd hour,” he added. Bear in mind that it was two
in the afternoon.
clutched her towel and stepped back, instantly uneasy. “Excuse
me,” she mumbled, running into the bathroom.
response from Molly wasn't much better. “What the hell are you
stepped in and smiled. “Seeing if you were all planning on
coming down to give your reports on the incident. As you could
probably guess, there's a lot to go over and we'd like to get
your stories while they're fresh in your minds.”
we'd like a change of clothes and a day to rest after everything
we've been through.”
a laundry machine downstairs. You need quarters?”
all the cash I had is in my bag back at the demon fortress we
were locked up in all weekend,” Yuki said. “So yes. But what
would we wear while we do laundry?”
eyed the locked bathroom door. Being greeted by a towel-clad
high school girl threw him off his usual game and he didn't have
a good response. He maintained his smirk anyway.
went in for the kill: “Mr. Marlowe, we would be happy to tell
you of our experiences, but for now, we would like to get over
them. As you can imagine, they weren't pleasant. Furthermore,
since you were responsible for embedding the book in Renee and
making our stay that much worse, I don't think you should be
ordering us around.”
Scrambling, Marlowe said, “What about the other three? I mean
they violated pretty much every-”
they wake up, they're all yours. Just leave us alone.”
walked out of the bathroom, fully dressed. She still looked at
sniff of Renee with dirty clothes compared to the scent of her
without them sealed the deal for Marlowe. “You're right! Get up,
we're going shopping!”
“Shopping?” Yuki asked confused.
don't know how much longer we'll be keeping you, so let's fill
out your wardrobe for the stay. It's on us!”
all I needed to hear!” Yuki jumped up and joined Marlowe and
was less excited, but stood up. “I suppose it's better than the
alternative.” She headed into her room.
are you going?” Renee asked.
out with a note and a pen. “Leaving a note for the others.”
them to report to the administration building as soon as they
can,” Marlowe said.
she wrote, “Dear Kathryn, Troy and Donovan: Enjoy the day off.
We will return later.”
set the note on the table and smiled at Marlowe. “Done. I hope
you parked close because we still can't teleport.”
Marlowe failed to get anybody down for a debriefing, Uriel was
the next to arrive two hours later. He found Troy, Kathryn and
Donovan awake, but zoned out on the couch, watching TV and
eating what was left of the chicken from two nights ago. They
didn't even greet Uriel.
are they doing?” Uriel said to Bryce.
shut the door. “Nothing. Looks like fun.”
Uriel called. Troy raised a hand in acknowledgment, but that was
it. “Where's Molly? Where's Marlowe?”
Troy replied. “Molly left. Said we had today off.”
Mr. Marlowe come up here?”
shrugged. “We just got up.”
a late night.”
wasn't getting very far. He pinched his ear to contact Mr.
Marlowe. “Where the hell are you?”
away, Mr. Marlowe replied, “At the outlet mall with the girls.
Have you ever been out here? Great selection!”
Furrowing his eyebrows, Uriel said, “When you say girls...”
Renee and Yuki. They weren't exactly allowed to pack. Hey, do
you know where Yuki can get another bag of holding?”
were supposed to bring them in for reports.”
left a note telling the other three to check in with you.
They're the ones on trial.”
you.” As an afterthought, Uriel asked, “Who's paying for all
got to go: Yuki and Renee found the Disney store. Later!”
made a mental note to double-check his credit card statement. He
found the note from Molly that clearly didn't tell them to check
in and grumbled.
are they?” Kathryn asked.
mind. I don't care what Molly says. We need to get your reports
shook his head. “I don't know. Bad idea to disobey a direct
order from Molly, right Kathryn?”
nodded. “She is our Guardian.”
folded his arms. “I hope you realize that you're in enough
trouble already. Any more defiance and you'll get kicked out of
me!” Kathryn was practically jubilant.
your memory will be recalibrated,” Uriel added. Kathryn
shrugged, but Troy seemed to flinch. Donovan hadn't reacted yet.
Shrugging, Uriel figured he'd at least fix that. “Donovan would
never see his grimoire again.”
flash, Donovan was at Uriel's side. “What information do you
darted his head between Donovan and Kathryn. Hesitant, he said,
“You know, maybe we've had enough insubordination for one day. I
mean, it's not like we're all that busy.”
Resigned, Kathryn sat up. “I suppose. Sooner we do this, sooner
we can go home.”
you,” Uriel said. He noticed that Troy was still in his pajamas.
Kathryn and Donovan weren't much better. “I'll wait while you
into what?” Kathryn said, wiping her greasy fingers on her
sweatpants. “You're lucky we're going at all. We're not going in
I've worn this to class here before. Let's go.”
sighed and gave up. As long as some of them reported something
today, it was a start.
they got into the debriefing rooms, they were more cooperative.
It was a belligerent sort of cooperation as they told the
unflinching truth with no remorse for their crimes, but it was
still the truth.
answers were particularly frank. “No, we didn't think we were
going to do it, but Giles provided the information, Meg provided
the leadership, Reggie provided the muscle, and we just kicked
covered the whole trip. Troy explained pretty much everything
you've already read.
interviewer, a gray-haired man a little older than Uriel, seemed
to be interested in asking relevant questions instead of
watching the clock slowly approach five. It was a departure from
previous interrogators. When Troy got to the prison wing, the
man asked, “Were all three of them held in that same general
shook his head. “No, just Molly and Yuki. Renee was in the
medical ward on the other side.”
nodded and jotted something down. A recorder was handling most
of the dictation, so Troy knew he was only noting the important
We ended up in the courtyard and surrounded. We managed to get
out of the jam and I made a break for her.”
Troy sighed. He didn't like this part. “I ran into Marie.”
was all the man said in response. He must have known who Marie
was. “That must have been difficult.”
she uh... well, she set up a barrier between me and the room
Renee was in. And she said some things about her leaving the
demons and me and Renee leaving the MST and all of us escaping
like a typical ploy,” the man mumbled.
looked straight ahead at the wall. “She meant it. Marie wanted
to be neutral. She wanted all of us to be normal civilians. All
she wanted was for us to leave everything and make it back on
his eyes, Troy turned away. “I'm not a normal civilian.” He
shook his head. “And I don't want to be.”
interrogator nodded. “How did you deal with her?”
still had the barrier up, I had to do something,” Troy rushed
his words, automatically defensive. “In the end all I could... I
used my smiter. It seemed like the only simple solution.”
to grasp it in those terms, Troy nodded. “Yes, sir.”
jotted something down quickly and continued along. “What were
the conditions in the room where Renee was kept?”
hesitated again. Just like that, the conversation had changed.
Just as well for him. He sighed and answered every remaining
question to the best of his knowledge.
never came up again.
day, with little warning or preparation, the tribunal began.
Molly, again acting as defense attorney, had little time to
prepare after she, Renee and Yuki were forced to file their
reports that morning. Just as well as she knew exactly what had
happened and exactly what she wanted to say.
the number of defendants, it was a little crowded in that small
chamber that doubled as a courtroom. Troy lost the
rock-paper-scissors triple threat match and ended up getting a
seat at the table with Molly. Reggie and Meg, defending both
themselves and their roommates, were also at the defense table,
which was wholly inadequate to seat all four of them. Donovan,
Kathryn, Giles and Reggie's girls all crowded in behind them.
so bad that Renee and Yuki sat behind Uriel, alone at the
prosecutor's table. Yuki gave him bunny ears when he reported
his name for the record. Chancellor Whalen struggled not to
let's get this started... MST vs. Meg Haynerd, et. al.”
my name on it?” Meg asked.
guardian alphabetically. Don't worry, everybody else's names
will show up on the court access page.” He cleared his throat.
“Just to, uh, clarify the charges here. The defendants in
question are charged with theft of magical weaponry,
unauthorized realm transport, knowingly breaching a signed
contract, engaging in hostile acts against a demon faction
without approval and defying orders from your superiors.”
damn!” shouted Reggie. He extended a hand back. Crystal
well, these are significant charges and I don't know if there is
a punishment suitable enough for you all. At the very least
we're talking expulsion and recalibration.”
that's not going to work for me...” Meg said, setting a sheet of
paper in front of her. “Giles, be a dear.”
negotiated the paper from the table into Whalen's hand. He and
the other two arbiters looked it over. “Permanent campus
residence for medical reasons,” he muttered. “And what would
a head case,” Morgan said, grinning.
Mindy responded angrily, Whalen sent the form back to Meg,
eyebrows raised. “Okay. Lovely. Do we have them on the record?”
Morgan, Mindy and Maple registered their names, Uriel finally
got to say something. “Your honor, given the charges, I don't
want to comment one way or another on their future at this
academy. Certainly the reports demonstrate that a number of them
have strong abilities that could make them serviceable members
of the MST. It seems to be the reason for showing such infinite
patience around them.” He didn't seem so fond about that last
he went on, “Furthermore, there are a number of obstacles
interfering with expulsion such as the condition of Miss Haynerd
and her roommates and the whole issue grimoire 17 issue that I
really don't want to get into again.”
don't bring it up,” Whalen replied. “So in spite of what they've
done, you don't want them kicked out of the academy.”
give a damn. I just want them to pay for the damages and their
rescue from the Urayoni realm.”
have the bill?” Molly asked. Uriel sent it over magically. Molly
looked at it and recoiled. “That much for ten guys to shoot a
tend to charge extra when you wake them up in the middle of the
night. You're lucky the United States Armed Forces didn't catch
us breaching national security.”
nodded. “Miss Pearson, it's clear from the reports that the
three members from your unit appeared to have instigated the
crimes. Although the grimoire issue from last time may well
exempt Mr. Dunmar, the other two do not have the same
circumstances. Do you have anything to say on behalf of Mr.
Monroe and Miss Santos?”
Kathryn shuddered. It wasn't their idea to have Molly defending
shrugged and stood up. “My job as guardian is to make sure my
unit is developing into fit magi worthy of the MST. My other job
is to protect them. The way I see it, the events played out in
such a way that Troy and Kathryn were forced to make a decision
between being model magi or fighting for their unit. Given that
the MST's dishonesty put them-”
banged the gavel. “We're not discussing the original agreement
made with the Urayoni.”
back down, Molly barked, “Then I don't give a damn about what
you consider proper behavior.”
leaned over. “Aren't you going to say anything?”
the use?” she snapped back. “If they don't understand now,
there's no point.”
Kathryn's hand on his shoulder silenced him.
anyone else like to put anything on the record?” Whalen asked.
eyes flew open. “Hm? Sorry, I'm kinda hung over. No, I'm good.”
case, we'll take five to talk it over. If we plan on going any
longer than that, we'll let you know.”
Whalen and the other two panelists left, Troy leaned forward,
head falling onto the table. “You too, huh?” Reggie said.
believe we're getting kicked out for this.” Considering that it
was pretty much his entire life now, losing it in an act of
nobility really sucked.
Molly said, “It's quite the rap sheet.”
shook his head. “We did the right thing, didn't we?”
course. If they don't see that, why stay?” She didn't sound any
happier than Troy.
the angst,” said Uriel from across the table. “I made it
perfectly clear that I don't care for you to be expelled over
this. I just don't want to pay for all that.”
they kick us out anyway?” Kathryn asked.
can't bill you,” Uriel grumbled, packing up his papers into a
briefcase. Nobody spoke for the next few moments as everybody
speculated on their own what the hell was going on in there.
Uriel wasn't exactly meditating under a waterfall, the sudden
meowing of a kitten from behind made him jump. He turned around
and shouted, “What the hell?!”
giggled at his reaction. “Sorry, just got a text message.”
kids and your cell phones...” Uriel mumbled.
peeked over Yuki's shoulder as she smiled boastfully at the
message on the screen. Yuki began to say, “It's in Japanese so-”
read a little bit!” Renee blurted, crossing her eyes at the
text. After a few moments, she leaned back. “...Just not kanji.”
wouldn't get the chance to translate as Whalen and his cronies
re-entered the room. Before the accused were even standing, he
read his verdict.
three units are assuredly not expelled from the academy,” he
said, somewhat labored. Still, the sudden declaration caught
everybody off guard... except Yuki, who smiled brightly at the
text message from her grandfather.
and more emphatically, the chancellor continued: “Instead, they
will be held liable for the expenses and damages incurred during
the operation.” Whalen paused to let Uriel sigh in relief, but
he wasn't finished: “Furthermore, as the three units took it
upon themselves to attempt their own field assignment, they have
forfeited the right to choose their own sanctioned mission.
Instead, a suitable project will be chosen for them sometime in
the next year. Case dismissed.” He banged the gavel and couldn't
get out of there faster.
in fact, that nobody knew quite what to make of it. Molly wasn't
sure if being forced to deploy at the MST's whim was worse than
sacrificing Troy and Kathryn. And what the hell went into that
decision? She tried to glare at something and ended up turning
towards the other side of the room, where Yuki was happy as can
be, texting away.
didn't...” Molly muttered to the girl.
smiled back. “Oh, yeah, my grandfather wanted to know how things
were going so I told him how Troy and Kathryn were going to get
expelled for saving us. He said he'd say something to the
chancellor.” She went back to texting.
reason, Giles was smiling too. “Remember Molly, the important
thing is that we're all still here.”
slumped down in her chair. “Yeah... we out-corrupted them.”
tribunal, abbreviated and anti-climactic as it was, exhausted
everybody. They all sat around the common area, each trying to
read everybody's thoughts. Sadly, they stopped teaching that
spell at the academy, so they had to rely on facial expressions.
Molly, Troy and Kathryn still looked kind of pissed, Renee was
relieved and Donovan had to go to the bathroom. He did.
meanwhile, not only texted Whalen's judgment back to her
grandfather, but offered to pick up the tab for the rescue.
at least your grandpa kicks ass,” Kathryn said.
“Actually, he abuses his power as much as anyone else,” Molly
muttered. “Remember how Yuki got here to begin with? At least
expulsion would have been consistent.”
was all that about field assignments?” Renee asked.
now get to choose what we and Meg and Reggie's units have to do
to graduate. I suppose it's their idea of community service.”
Giles said we needed one of those anyway,” Kathryn said.
we get to pick the job though. That's why Reggie's been in
school for so long. He proposes the most impossible assignments
and intentionally fails them every year. I don't know why the
academy puts up with it, but I assume Mr. Marlowe's involved.”
frowned. “So the MST gets to choose a mission that could get us
killed, and we'll be teamed up with someone who fails them on
nodded. “I'm not sure if this was the chancellor making sure our
wrists got slapped somehow or if they have plans for us. Either
slap our wrists?” Troy blurted. “I mean thank God for Yuki's
family keeping us here, but why are they trying to convince us
that what we did was wrong? I mean, in the end we pulled it
made them look bad,” Molly said, raising her voice. “They didn't
think it was possible to invade that world and successfully
rescue all of us. You effectively proved them wrong. The last
thing the MST can handle is people believing they're wrong.”
they are?” Renee asked.
doubt the MST's reasoning, the demons will take advantage. And
if kids still hate demons but question the management, they
might take matters into their own hands the way you did. Not
every unit is as strong as we are, and Uriel can't rescue
stood up and started pacing around angrily. “So what? We're just
supposed to keep playing a good soldier and do what we're told?”
sighed. “Yes. Doing otherwise is dangerous. You'd be contending
with both the MST and the demons.”
already are!” Kathryn shouted. “So thanks for dragging us into
all this! Part of me wishes they did kick us out.”
expected a response from Molly right away. It didn't come. She
got a disapproving look from Troy, but ignored it. Finally,
Molly shook her head and mumbled, “Only part of you?”
it for Kathryn. After the MST had effectively ruined her life
and announced bold plans to continue doing so in the future, the
person that pulled her into it seemed to shrug the whole thing
off. Before she could let herself say or do anything she'd
regret, she stormed into her room and slammed the door.
took more time to weigh things over. His words were more
measured. “I guess I see your point. Even when they're asses, we
still need them. And at least they did save us in the end.”
didn't encourage Molly. If anything, she seemed to recoil more.
I try talking to her?” Troy asked.
Molly replied decisively. “I'll take care of it.”
be too hard on her, Molly,” Renee said. “Remember, we just went
through a lot so we're all a little stressed out.”
bathroom door opened, Donovan stormed out and boasted, “We have
emerged victorious and escaped punishment by those who would
stop us. Truly, we are invincible!”
Troy and Renee stared back at him, dumbfounded. Troy said,
“Didn't you hear that part about them choosing our field
can give us their worst! We shall triumph! After all, we now
have the united force of my demon and my tome!” Donovan clutched
Renee's shoulder. Apparently to him, she was now nothing more
than 'my tome.' She didn't appreciate that and pulled away.
Undeterred, Donovan faced Molly and Troy. “So how shall we
celebrate our victory?”
turned to him and scoffed. “You are out of your right mind if
you think we should celeb-”
doorbell rang. Donovan summoned Bryce, who mumbled about being
summoned for door duty twice in a row, but opened it anyway.
Meg and Giles, the latter carrying pizza. “Has the party started
yet or are we too early?”
Molly stood up and stared them down- a difficult thing from that
distance. “Who said anything about a party?”
entered the room and handed the pizzas to Bryce. “Well, now that
all this is over, we thought we'd stop by Reggie's to celebrate,
but he said the pre-party was up here.”
“Pre-party?” Renee asked.
smiled at her. “Yeah, you know. We start out here, loosen up a
bit and get in the mood... then we head downstairs and really
have some fun. The pre-party.”
shook his head. “Sorry, but after all that, I don't see why-.”
“Nonsense!” Donovan threw his hands around Giles and Morgan. “We
must relish our moments of triumph!”
hate Reggie's room!”
but victories of this magnitude call for such revelry! For once,
we shall go forth into the bacchanalia!”
call, Donny!” exclaimed Reggie. He and his girls were right
behind. They had stacks of bottles. “Although old Bacchus
himself probably couldn't handle the stuff we're busting out.”
Molly was stepping in. “Might I remind you that my unit is
underage. Besides, there is no alcohol allowed in the dorm.”
“Alcohol?!” Reggie laughed heartily. “Honey, I'm not the kind of
guy who'd serve you guys alcohol.”
seemed to calm Molly down. “Well... good.”
stuff makes alcohol look like Juicy Juice!” Reggie handed her a
bottle. “Here, try some!”
passed, but Morgan was quick to pull the trigger. In any rate,
the party was starting in Room 202, whether its denizens
requested it or not.
time Morgan finished his first chug of Reggie's happy juice in
the kitchen, Reggie's girls had already infiltrated the entire
lounge. Troy had to move his head to avoid an incoming pizza box
that slammed onto the table. He looked up and frowned at Bryce.
don't see why it has to be here,” Troy said. Even so, he grabbed
a slice and took a bite. “And where are the napkins?”
slamming down on the table interrupted the request. An exuberant
Morgan shouted, “Oh my God! What is this stuff?!”
Crystal, she brought it,” Reggie said, picking up the bottle and
offering it to Giles and Renee. Giles took it hesitantly.
smiled. “It's from my realm. It's called novoselic. It uses soma
instead of alcohol.”
“Novoselic?” Giles asked, trying to read the exotic language on
elven word that means 'creates nirvana.'”
took a swig. His eyes bulged. “Apt name for it.” He handed it to
sniffed it. “Reggie, awesome as your room is, have you been
holding out on us?”
shrugged. “Have to. Crystal can only smuggle in so much.”
Zukoni probably have an embargo on soma-based drinks, since it's
so much better than alcohol,” Giles observed.
her head, Meg said, “I love how you just know that off-hand.”
Then she took a sip. “And I love novoselic!”
turn, Maple!” Morgan exclaimed.
quickly set the bottle back down. “Um, no... no thank you.”
picked the bottle back up. “Come on, it's not that bad.” She
I'd rather not.”
started chanting, “Do it! Do it!”
but you haven't had any either, Mindy.”
went up and started chugging. After swallowing, Mindy shouted,
“No excuses now!”
was growing upset. “But somebody has to walk us home...”
Meg can drink like a fish. This body can take it!” Morgan
snickered. “Okay, Morgan, that's enough. Don't make her do it.”
She took another drink. “Besides, it's the same body so it
affects all of us equally.”
no...” Maple lamented. “I'll warn you now that I get very...
friendly when I'm drunk.”
hoisted the bottle. “Giles, you might get lucky tonight!” She
chugged once more. Giles backed away quickly.
disturbed by pretty much everything thus far in this session,
followed him to the pizza table.
see any reason to celebrate what happened,” she mumbled.
taking a bite out of his pizza, Giles said, “What do you mean?”
barely escaped with our lives and we all ended up with a very
unsettling punishment for doing something more noble than the
organization that now has control over our future.”
smiled at her. “You bet. Nobody in this room is regretting what
we did. We pulled off our mission and we didn't even get
expelled over it.”
that part about them selecting a-”
shrugged, but still kept on smiling. “That's in the future. I'm
sure that'll give us all migraines someday, but for now, why not
focus on what we accomplished?”
to her surprise and frustration, had no answer to this.
get you a slice?” Giles asked.
the pizza. Sadly, she was starving, and part of her was still
happy to be back on Earth with a fresh set of clothes and no
she said, “Sausage and mushroom.”
wasn't sure what she was supposed to be doing at this party. The
rest of her unit wasn't offering any help. Molly was trying to
eat without distraction, while Giles provided one with his
persistent attempt at conversation. Donovan was sniffing
Crystal's crazy elixir with curiosity, giving the bottle to
Blaine to test out. Egged on by Carmen, Blaine took a sip,
nodded happily and returned the bottle to Donovan, who hoisted
it up and imbibed to cheers from Reggie and Crystal. Yuki wanted
to get at the stuff too, but Cammy was running interference.
Kathryn was still in her room sulking.
didn't seem much happier. He had helped himself to the food, but
remained at a distance and ate in silence. Renee found this
reaction the strangest. Kathryn always was liable to go into one
of her funks and disappear from society. Given everything going
on, Renee didn't blame her. But how could Molly and Donovan be
open to social interaction and not Troy? It wasn't like him.
have been staring at him a bit too long, because Candace nudged
her. “Eyes on your big hero?” she asked, forcing a blush out of
part of it too. All that defiance of the MST had ultimately been
for her sake. And Troy had been the ringleader. Everybody had
done their part to save her, but Troy helped bring them together
and achieved the actual rescue single-handedly. Renee couldn't
help but read into it.
to him,” Candace said. “Looks like he could use some cheering
couldn't,” Renee replied. Last time she had brought up the
subject of 'them,' he told her off. That had only been three
handed Renee a bottle and said, “Drink this.”
later, Renee exclaimed, “Now I can!” She returned the bottle and
sat down next to Troy.
feel like celebrating?” she asked him.
thinks we did the right thing,” he replied. “How can we
is pushing it. Everybody in here thinks you guys were awesome.”
She smiled faintly. “So do I.”
flushed a little, instinctively looking over his shoulder to
find Molly. She stared back, but struggled to concentrate on
them with Giles talking her ear off.
leaned in closer. “I forgot to thank you for saving me. If it
weren't for you, I'd still be-”
working, and Troy know it. He moved over and looked away. “It
was the same thing you did back at school.”
pulled it off.”
his head, pleading, “Just stop it, okay?” Troy turned her way,
finding her eyes but trying not to look into them. “I know Marie
was a demon, but-”
okay,” Renee said, holding up a finger that almost touched his
lips. “You need more time. I understand. I can wait.”
faced forward again, head down. “I still don't get it. How could
didn't want to be.” Renee leaned back, looking up. “When I was
down there, she was the only one who cared about what happened
to me. If we were strong enough, we would have tried to escape
his head, he ended up facing her. “But Renee, she-”
Marie was afraid to leave them. She was trapped. And she thought
that we were too.” Renee chuckled sadly. “Guess we kinda are.”
stiffened up. Renee put a hand on his back, rubbing it softly.
“I know it looked bad, but Marie didn't want it to be like this.
She didn't go about the right way and she wasn't brave enough to
change anything, but you have to believe that she only wanted
what was best for all of us.”
sighed. Of all the things going through his mind, the only thing
he could actually let out was a resigned nod.
staring at the ceiling, Renee said, “Wherever she is now, I just
hope she's okay.”
wanted to break up Renee and Troy. Giles wasn't letting her.
“Protective of your sister, huh?”
darted towards him. She hadn't said a word to him about Troy and
Renee. It wasn't his place to comment.
to get like that when my little sis started dating.”
Glowering, she replied, “I assure you the circumstances are
so?” Giles had a disarmingly pleasant look on his face.
contemplating it for a while and failing to come up with a
concise explanation, Molly answered, “It's a long story.”
seemed more satisfied with the answer than she was. “Well, he
seems like a decent guy for her. They say you can tell a lot
about someone by the way he tips.”
shuddered. “You seem to be reading a lot into the two sitting
together and talking.”
smiled. “So are you.” As she turned away and gnashed her teeth,
he added, “Although I'm also basing it on the fact that he threw
himself into a demon realm for her.”
Molly could think up a response, and only just after deciding
she needed a good one, Giles was looking at the chaos in the
kitchen. “Oh boy, Mindy and Morgan are enjoying that soma drink
a little too much.”
that he named them, because Maple was the one giving random hugs
to Reggie's girls. Giles turned back to Molly and shrugged. “I
suppose I should cut them off before one of them ends up in bed
with somebody. Those four aren't that close.”
Molly shocked and speechless, but at least it got rid of him.
Not that there was anything else in the party for her to do. She
wanted to return to her room and drown out the noise until
everyone left, but babysitting the unit, especially Troy and
Renee, took priority.
Suddenly, Molly's top concern solved itself: Renee sat up,
smiled quickly at Troy and returned to the party. She even
turned down a drink offer and prevented Yuki from requesting
one. As Molly found it hard to believe that inebriated Donovan
could be any worse than the garden variety, she didn't have much
to worry about.
exception was Kathryn. Normally Reggie's room was a sure way for
her to forget her troubles. Now it had seemingly gotten so bad
that she even tuned out the sweet songs of booze and debauchery.
Molly couldn't stand for that. With everybody else distracted,
she knocked on Kathryn's door. She didn't get a response.
Thankfully, Molly's magic had recovered just enough to pull off
an unlocking spell.
intrusion, Kathryn glared angrily at Molly. She was sitting on
the bed, elbows on her knees with a drying stream of tears along
her cheeks. The room was dark save for moonlight and a lamppost
from the window.
Kathryn muttered, staring forward again.
“Reaching any conclusions?” Molly asked, sitting on the futon
that Yuki used as a bed.
shook her head. As if stating the obvious, she said, “I should
just quit.” She waited for Molly's reaction, but only got a slow
nod. “I have nothing to gain by being here. It's ruining our
lives. Why go to all this trouble to help fight these demons?
After Kamila and Marie, I can't even hate demons the way I
Molly responded softly. There had to have been a 'but.'
whole memory thing scares me. I can't stand to think of what
would happen if I suddenly forgot the last two years. Much as I
want to sometimes.”
don't want to be recalibrated,” Molly replied. “The longer
you're here, the crueler it gets. And I understand that it's as
much an art as it is magic, choosing what to erase and such.”
With a sad breath, she said, “I can't guarantee that you would
remember Kurt at all.”
clenched her teeth. “That's what I was afraid of. And even if I
did, there'd be all those holes. I wouldn't know what he did or
why he was here. And I wouldn't know how he died.”
nodded. “As I understand it, you wouldn't know anything was
wrong... but I can't imagine having that taken away.”
Troy would still be here,” Kathryn huffed. “That's really the
main reason for doing this in the first place. Knowing what I
know now, I can't leave him alone here.”
first, Molly didn't respond. She wasn't sure whether to admire
or pity Kathryn's loyalty toward Troy. She had already used it
to keep Kathryn in line several times, but Molly never
understood it. Kathryn could have been so much better off
leaving Troy on his own and pursuing her own objectives. Ones
that didn't involve the MST.
that you'd mind,” Kathryn spat. “You probably want me to quit so
you can torture him back into submission.”
accusation hit Molly with a shudder. She needed to respond, but
at first nothing came out. The situation called for a bold,
decisive answer: yes, she would ensure that Troy's moment of
defiance would be his last. That would keep Kathryn on board and
end the conversation.
she whispered, “Honestly, I don't know what you should do.” The
hushed reply drew Kathryn's head up. Molly shrugged. “I can't
predict what recalibration now would be like and we certainly
need your help here. Yet, you seem to have figured it out before
mistrust of the MST. You have misgivings about their people,
their objectives and their protocol.”
stared back, suspicious. “Yeah, guess that's one way to put it.
glanced at the door nervously. It took a long breath before she
could say, “You're right.” And another to add, “About
Narrowing her eyebrows, Kathryn said, “What do you mean?”
you'd have to be blind not to see it, but...” Molly gestured to
the door. “Everyone out there doesn't seem to notice. The MST
only cares about eradicating any magic use they deem
unacceptable. They don't care what goes into achieving this.
They'll throw unit after unit at the problem if they thinks it
solves something. And yet, when demons attack the school or Kurt
gets killed, they shrug it off and pretend it's all part of the
expected Kathryn to nod along. Instead, she looked disgusted.
“You must have had a lot of free time to figure this out down in
“Actually, I've realized this since...” Molly felt a shiver
thinking about it. She stopped herself and said, “For a long
Kathryn asked, “So why didn't you do something about it? Why
didn't you warn us? Or Kurt?”
looked down. “You should know better than anyone that Kurt was
too devoted to them. From the moment he got the job, I was
afraid that it was going to get him killed. If he felt the same
way, he didn't care. Long as he could protect us.”
paused. She seemed to accept that answer, but looked back up.
“What about us? All this time, I'm been trying to talk some
sense into Troy and getting nowhere. Between him, Kurt and this
damn school, I'm stuck thinking that I'm the weird one. That
nobody else sees it the way I do. You could have at least told
me that I wasn't completely nuts.”
the outburst, Molly was solemn. “I've never argued with you.
I've said the same things to Kurt.” She felt another shiver.
“But I know why I've never acknowledged your concerns.”
her teeth, Molly's resentment grew. “It's because I've always
been taught that the MST must prevail no matter what. That
nothing we can say, do or believe matters unless it helps them.
That we need to be ready to fight at all times, no matter what
went on, she sneered, raising her voice. “He always said that
the most important thing is to trust in what the MST does.
Whatever they say goes. If they tell him to abandon his family
and his pupil for some random mission in another world... he's
off. He's had it planted in my head so strongly that I've been
stuck believing it all this time. My feelings just don't
you talking about?” Kathryn asked. “You don't mean...”
shook her head and tried to fight off tears before she finally
spat, “Frank Monroe.”