Do not add to this without intense reading of the topic Aftermath: The Prologue which is in the RP section of the forums.

Singed and still bleeding, he peered through the foggy window, tracking lightning as it struck nearby buildings. The wind whistled as it blew past, carrying small ashes still showing flame. Embers drifted past the glass, alerting Ever to the fact that the building was on fire. He didn't care, they had bigger problems to worry about. Gunters boots echoed as he approached Ever. He knew what Gunter would say, and he rolled his eyes in anticipation.

"So vait, Vincent became da devil because he stabbed da book?" The massive Russian questioned, with a puzzled look that graced his face often when thinking.

"No you freakin idiot. We don't know why the devil has possessed Vince. There really haven't been many similar instances that we can draw from." Ever rebuked. He shook his wings after he spoke, blood spattered the walls , windows, and a few companions. Maria threw her metallic hands up in disgust. One of the conditions for Ever to return to his previous 'employer' was that his wings now constantly bled, slowly soaking and permanently stained crimson.

"Well, I guess den we gotta' get rid of da' devil. Wish ol' Candypants hadn't fled as soon as we got outta dat place." Tanner commented, thinking back to the events several hours past.

"NO!" Ever boomed as Vincent was suspended above the Tome. As Vince hang like a puppet, the gelatin like material swirled and pulsed. Unexpectedly, the blob sloshed and lost shape, raining upon the ground below. Left behind was the red orb previously central to the substance. Only milliseconds passed from when the tome was cracked until now, as the orb shot into Vincent.

Hanging lifelessly, to the collective horror of his companions new and old, electricity occasionally arched over his smoldering garb. Beginning to writhe and gurgle, Vincent fell onto the floor. Bone snapped and meat popped as he shook. Then unexpectedly, it stopped and he rose in a manner which defied gravity, with his then almost shapeless body becoming rigid and assembling upright.

The color in his eyes had changed, with the pupils becoming white and everything circling them black. They slowly scanned the surface of the room, as if noting every bump and fall in every molecule in the chamber. Not one of the others spoke nor moved, waiting for a more dramatic action from Vincent. As he finished by observing his own hands and clothes, he opened his mouth unleashing a noise only heard in the darkest parts of existence. A grating roar eminated from his throat, shaking the foundation of the building, and causing small pebbles to drop from cracks in the ceiling. The noise resembled cranking machinery, yet was noticeably organic, containing soundc comparable to screams and shrieks.

After what seemed like minutes, the cacophony ended and Vincent shook and cracked his joints. Then, while the walls of building began to sway and crumble, he spoke in his old voice, with only a slight alteration. With minimal effort, he spoke over the compromised building, "I am BORN". The six heard his voice, but it came many times in many tones. It was shouted and whispered in the full range of emotions, blowing like a whirlwind through them.

Once the echoing stopped, Vincent flung his arm outwards towards the group. The ground tore asunder and a crescent of flame burst out, tossing most of the group away, Ever was left shielding himself. Despite knowing what had happened, he was reminded by the force bearing down on him. He remarked to himself the change in power of Vincent's magick. 'That shell used to only be able to generate flames with minor force, now it is moving tons of stone'. Ever pushed against the flames, but was continually moved backwards.

The force dissipated and the flame burned out, leaving Ever blackened. His armor was white hot, scarring the skin touching it and piercing his concentration. He had become somewhat used to it, but he still gasped as he moved forward. He lifted his hammer high above and charged towards Vincent, their eyes locked. But Vincent laughed in what he gauged to be a subtle tone, which disturbed the still slightly conscious Gunter greatly as it reverberated through the room. The last major supporting column in the room fell and the ceiling poured down. Ever didn't hesitate as the hammer returned to a cane and he began collecting the rest of the group and Jules. Vincent pivoted to face him, gave a half wave, and leapt into the air. Through the whirling flames which enveloped Vincent as he moved, Ever caught a glimpse of black metallic wings, and an extremely unsettling smile.

Ever could not retain focus on him any longer, as the roof slid downward. Slowly it shook from the walls, then it folded inwards and threatened to bury them. Ever had only seconds to stretch his wings outwards and get into a position to slow the roofs fall. His feet pushed through the stones of the ruined shrine, but he had succeeded. The section above them cracked and separated from the rest of the slab, allowing an exhausted Ever to toss it away harmlessly.

"Tch, worthless." Sasha said, snapping her fingers in front of Tanners face. He woke up from his trance, to see the rest of the group staring.

Tanner began arguing with Jules stirred from his booth. A large gash remained on his face, with dried blood still covering his ripped clothes and matted hair. Tracing it with a finger, Jules mutters, "Damn it, those usually heal fully."

Now aware of the newly awakened Jules, the group stops their chatter. "You're lucky you've got healing magic kid," Ever remarked, "otherwise you wouldn't be able to complain about that damn scar." Jules glared and slumped into a chair. He, and most of the group had forgotten about Sasha, who happened to be looking out the window by sheer luck or lack thereof.

"Shit..." she managed to say before the window shattered. The group's attention went from the window to the golden globe rolling across the floor. "Aw hell, why de hell are they after us now!" Tanner shouted, diving through a doorway into an adjacent room. As the rest of the group took similar measures, excluding Ever who merely sighed, the grenade tore the bar apart.

Tanner peeked through a newly made window to see a small army in black uniforms, crested with golden helmets. "Damn it, somebody went and called de cops!

The Golds were the most elite level of the Law. They brought forth no artillery; their infantry were their weapons. The Golds were entirely composed of magicians and others skilled in the arcane arts. Likely, they were only called upon in the gravest situations involving just these matters, and there was more than enough magick in Neo-Columbus the past few days to catch even their lofty watch.

It was held by no governing body that any such grade of the Law existed as the Golds. It was only from the unfortunate use of a metallic classification that most commoners could even guess that Golds existed; tales of their magick prowess only fueled their reputation as a myth.

But there they were, as Tanner could clearly see, lining the red horizon. He took a final drag from a cigarette only he would be cool enough to light up given the present situation and flicked it away. He was ready for a fight.

Tanner turned straight into the waiting fist of Maria. Jules's resistance was practically non-existint. It was only the recently divine that the Thanox agents had to worry about now. A three-on-one match should have been over with fast enough, but only the special weaponry of the Golds could restrain Ever.

A blurred vision came out of the darkness. Tanner woke to find a throbbing pain at the back of his skull and Maria standing before him, further securing a arcane-techno restraint around his wrists.

"I always toldja I'd wake up next to ya one day," the hybrid mage managed to say.

"You never told me that," the electrician scoffed, giving little heed to his words.

"Well... I always thought it," he replied with an increasingly content expression, reflexive of his lack of memory for recent events.

Ever was there, too, as was Jules, although his confinements did not need to be nearly as precautionary as his more powerful allies'. The unfamiliar, cold room gave away its identity at a few simple glances of its personnel; it was the Gold Headquarters.

The trio, properly contained, was transported to another room, accompanied by a troop of Gold guards and the Thanox agents, properly healed and dressed.

"So," Tanner attempted to make small talk during his wheeling down a repetitive hall, "why aren't the Golds killing you?"

"Shut up, Tanner," squashed Sasha.

"I just couldna help but notice ya'll are rather unbounded. They could at least do us a favor an' put you in a li'l somethin', Maria." Sasha blocked the titanium mitt from dealing some much deserved punishment to the Blade Master.

"Don't," simply ordered the tawny lass. "Your shock could damage his magick suppressing restraints." This stopped Maria only a moment for some consideration before delivering a jolting punch to Tanner.

"It was worth it," she mocked.

The steel gate before the troop parted, revealing a wide-open room. In the center, a series of stepped platforms led up to the back of a golden, monolithic structure. As the prisoners were brought closer, the massive structure slowly pivoted. A gilded gauntlet grasped the arm of the giant throne. Its occupant was emblazoned in a cupric armor that showed his status among the rest of this grade. He slid off the red-gold helm that covered a shock of white hair. Old, tired eyes looked down over a protective grill that hid the rest of the man's face.

"I am going to assume that you are the Midas I have heard so much about," finally spoke up Ever from within a most elaborate cell. He nodded in acknowledgement, shifting his entire breastplate to do so.

"You three must be the meddlesome group that took our Tome," a gritty voice rang from behind the gilded armor.

"Your tome?" sputtered Tanner. "Don'tcha mean Thanox's?"

"Same difference," informed Maria. The three men turned to the woman in disbelief.

"But... you're the bad guys!" Jules insisted.

"Perhaps," boomed Midas from atop the throne, "but right isn't always good. The Thanox group was formed to carry out more... unsavory tasks, but no more." He rose his right gauntlet, commanding one of the unseen officials in the dark expanses of the room. "The Thanox agency," he decreed, "is no longer." The agents displayed their opposition visibly and verbally.

"Sir, I know ve failed you, but-" Gunter was cut off.

"It was not your handling of the Tome, Agent," interrupted the king, "but your numbers are far too small now to continue operation at such a critical time."

"I wonder why that could be?" Tanner muttered under his breath, under a wicked smile.

"The Thanox group shall now work directly with the rest of the Golds until the current crisis is over," Midas announced, ignoring the Blade Master's remark. "A crisis which would not have come to pass had you enlisted our aid sooner, agents."

"With all due respect, sir, we had the situation under control, sir," Sasha nervously stammered from an overly erect, rigid stance.

"That would not be the case from what our intel has gathered," the golden leader proclaimed.

"Excuse me," Jules attempted to break up a potentially volatile confrontation, "but what exactly is going on here? I'm just a guy -- a civilian. I don't belong to any of these agencies or know any of these people. The devil's runnin' around and are you going to just kill me or what? 'Cause you haven't yet."

"No," finally answered Midas. "You shall all live. You will be debriefed as the object which you originally sought -- the Tome -- is no more; therefore, you have no reason to pose any more of a problem to us. The Golds shall handle the situation from here."

"Well then," spoke up the healer, "we're gonna need some answers."

The gilded one released a heavy sigh. "Thanox was created as a unit of the Golds that had no connection to any other Golds."

"This allowed the Law to conduct slightly unlawful activities without retaliation from the masses," informed Sasha.

"There is more than that," admitted Midas, who shifted his gaze away from his agents. "There was also knowledge which was not shared between the groups. Certain intel would only jeopardize operations, intel which Thanox could purposely be left in the dark about."

"The Tome," whispered the ice giant. "You knew exactly vat vas in it! You knew dat de Devil himself vas inside it!" he accused.

"Our intel showed that the chances of Subject Zero's release were very remote and well worth the risk." His words were of little comfort. "What we knew for certain is that a powerful spell could be cast with the help of that Tome. All we needed was for Thanox to extract the instructions to the spell; knowledge of any risk would deter the operatives.

"Because of your interference and our agents' hubris, our risk has proven more probable than previously calculated. Subject Zero was released, and it does know where to find the key to the spell."

"But, I thought this... 'Subject Zero' was the spell?" asked Jules. Midas shook his white head.

"The Tome was only the beginning, a prologue of events to come," he continued. "We believed that there would be a way to detect how this spell was to be cast, what ingredients are required, or in what other Tome it may be hiding within -- by using Subject Zero without releasing him.

"Despite the Thanox scientists' best efforts, they were unable to devise the method that the Collar you encountered had. Our intel suggests that this Collar was in contact with Subject Thirteen-"

"Who?" Ever interjected in a ridiculous voice, knowing full well to whom Midas referred.

"It's Ishmael," whispered Gunter. "Don't make him say it. Real Golds don't say those sorts of names."

"Subject Thirteen," continued the leader of the Gold Badges unaffected, "had possessed a human male and manipulated him in order interact in this world. Upon completion of the spell, the human would have died, along with countless others, leaving him unbound and in pure form within our world -- with unbridled power in the wake of destruction.

"However, the unexpected intervention by the unexpected enemy agent Subject Seventeen has ridden the Tome worthless."

"You're welcome," started up Ever again.

"Our only trails now," continued Midas, "are Subject Zero and Subject 114. If our intel on Subject Thirteen is correct, Subject Zero should have difficulty in controlling his host Agent Vincent for extended periods of time. When in control, Subject Zero will undoubtably stop at nothing to complete the spell. This means that we shall always be behind him unless we can learn another clue to its completion.

"Subject 114 vanished from the sanctuary. We can only assume that -- given its history -- it is seeking out the final component to the spell."

"Um, question," Jules interrupted again. "If Candyman -- er, Subject 114 -- is after the component, too, why don't we try to work with him?"

"Subject 114, according to our intel, has been attempting to destroy all components of the spell."

"... um... and?" is all the scarred boy could respond.

"The spell is far too much of an asset to give up on so easily."

"But- but the fate of the world is at stake!" an outraged Jules protested.

"We have calculated the risks."

"You people are insane," Jules submitted. "Just get us out of here and debrief us or whatever -- I am getting tired of this."

"Not just yet," Midas stated, giving a commanding wave. From behind the Thanox agents, Gold Badges appeared and snatched them into devices similar to their prisoners. "We still need you a bit longer in a more agreeable state, and agents," he said, lowering his gaze and his tone, "consider this your reprimand for screwing things up."

"Vat are you doing? Vere are you taking us?" Gunter attacked, pulling at his massive restraints.

"What is wrong?" a sickly sweet voice came from the darkness. "Don't you like our little game." It was barely visible at first, but then the porcelain-white skin shone through the shadows. Adorned in a wide, lace skirt as black as the abyss was a small girl that silently approached. Raven-black hair pulled into pig-tails could barely be seen against the pitch background. It did not even look to be alive, more like a doll than a human being. "They said you would play with me, but you're being mean."

"No no, Roses," told the golden captain. "They do want to play," he calmly assured the young one -- the true leader of the Golds -- as the containment units were rearranged into a circular formation. Finally, Midas himself descended the steps to meet the girl at the start of the ring.

"You're Fire," she said, poking him with her finger and walking to the next one. "And you're Ice," she continued, tapping the giant Gunter and moving onto the women. "The good one is Earth, but the bad one is Lightning," Roses stated, to be met with a sneer from Maria and a chuckle from Sasha.

"The one with a funny face is Heal," the girl told Jules, who's scars still had not healed. "You're Water," she said, sticking a finger into Tanner's forehead.

"And Wind," he added, stopping her before she moved on.

"No, no you can't do that," she argued. "You can't be two. That's cheating. I found a toy to be Wind. He is Wind, but he was broken," narrated the small one as two Golds brought in a tall, thin, familiar-looking individual. "I tried to fix him, but he won't be fun." His face had withered with a putrid hue, but the waraxe strapped around his wrist told Tango Unit that it was the Tin Captain they encountered in the alley -- the very captain whom Candyman had killed.

"How is this possible?" an astonished Jules blurted out.

"Healers such as yourself only have power over life," Ever explained in a low voice. "She has power over death as well."

The girl tapped the obviously confused captain, whose yellowed eyes darted about the room as shakily as his whole body trembled. "You can be White Magick," Roses told Ever, "but I'm not going to touch you." With a few steps, she was back to the beginning of the circle. "And I'll be Curse. Wasn't this such fun?"

"Um... yeah, great," sarcastically added Sasha before a sudden surge of pain ripped through her and the other seven. A mystical vortex of energy formed in the middle, giving way to another place as it rose up. The little girl looked onward into the magical, viewing portal to see a man dressed in a pristine, white-and-red pinstripe suit. Candyman, too, could see them spying upon him. He had numerous potions within his jacket to dismiss such scrying, but he was trapped in Roses's unblinking stare -- a stare made more unsettling by her entirely jet left eye, save for a white, burning pinpoint pupil in its center.

The apothecary only stared back, unable to react in any way. This was not due to any sort of magick or incantation; it had to do with what each agent in the circle -- although wracked with pain from the energy that was being ripped out of them -- saw underneath the clean, brimmed hat of the Candyman, something they never saw before.

It was fear.

"Why, hello Daddy.

"Please state your name," the woman stated blankly upon starting the recorder. Her straight, long hair laid perfectly down her head, never waving as she spoke. Dull eyes peered out from gold rimmed glasses as stared through the subject of interest, never focusing on any particular object.

"Tanner," bluntly put the angered man as he puffed on his cigarette, invoking an unusual cough. Leaning back in his bare, wooden chair, he cast an uncertain gaze at the woman. "What's it to ya?"

"Would that be your first name or last?" The woman's lips barely moved as they inquired.

"Of course its my first name," Sasha yelled as she paced about the small, dark room. "Look, I work for you guys. You can spare me the routine. I know where this is heading."

"How did you come to be involved in this situation?" The blank woman's tone barely matched that of a typical question.

"I don't even know," Jules whined, raking his nails through his hair as his head hung low. "Everything happened so fast, I could barely tell. The Tome just came to me."

"If you had the Tome," the woman pressed on, "how did it leave your possession?"

"Those idiots, Tanner and Vince, of course," shouted Maria as she waved around her arms to add to her rage, which currently had their enhancements temporarily unattached. "They burst into our base and snagged the Tome, laying waste to plenty of our agents. They were colleagues of yours, too, you know."

"We had some trouble, tho'," noted Tanner to the interrogator in the empty room in between fierce coughs. "Candyman wanted the Tome as well, but he wanted to kill the stupid thin'. I see now he had the right idea."

"Candyman." Sasha cringed at his very thought.

"When did you learn that Subject 114 sought to destroy the Tome of 10 Magicks?"

"We didn't know," Jules confessed, scratching one of his many brutal scars, "until we saw him melt a false copy of the Tome- wait, what did you say?"

"It is not my job to answer your questions," the bland woman told. "I am only to learn what happened in your words."

"You called it the 'Tome of 10 Magicks', didn't you?" Jules accused. "I've only heard it called 'The Tome' before. Ten magicks?" Jules had his share of crash courses in the magicks in the last few short days, but one theme was ever repeating: there were only eight magicks. Even if you were to count white magic, which wasn't a true magick, you still wound up short. "How could it be of ten?"

"I am sorry, I cannot tell you that," Maria snootily told. "My prior relationship with Jules had no effect on the matter at hand or the mission. It was personal."

"Not'ing is personal vit' dat girl," Gunter explained. "She iz, how you say, a tramp. Jules was her, vat iz it, male companion for da week prior." He stroked his mighty chin. "Or one of dem."

"She's a loose one. A good tinker or even fighter when given the chance, although her guard drops often from her inflated ego. It's hard to blame her for losing the Tome, however. Vince and Tanner made for some formidable enemies. If either of our sides had been more successful, though, the book would not have made it into the hands of Subject Thirteen. I really do not believe any of the Subjects should be trusted in this matter, seeing how it pertains to the biggest threat to our existence outside of Subject Omega. If neither side enlisted the help of someone on our watch list, one of us would have been successful in preventing the Tome's eventual descent into the wrong hands. I'm just saying, is all."

"Yes, sir, it will be well noted, sir," the Gold Officer agreed, writing down the testimonial as the small group headed down the hallway.

"One more thing, kid. Could you... scratch my nose?" asked Doc. Wearing a face of utter disgust behind his mask, the officer stretched out a finger to tend to the itch on the misshapen pink lump that was the nose of his superior officer. The still growing lump that was his body had been recovered and was being taken back in to the Gold Headquarters for repairs.

"Now whe'e was I? Oh, right, the church," Tanner remembered after nearly hacking up his lung. "The'e was a Collar the'e, creepy fellow who seemed to know more than we did. It really isn't much o' a surprise when ya think about it." Pausing again to retch uncontrollable, the survivor of Tango Unit cast down his cigarette, stomping on it. "I guess those thin's really a'e bad for ya." With a swipe of his hand, he expected all the smoke to be moved out of his personal space but sorely found it only billowed around his fingers. He tried again to conjure the wind, only to fail. His thoughts ran a short course until realizing.

"That bitch," Jules continued, picking at his scars, "Maria and her squad eventually saw a greater threat existed then failing the mission and decided to help Tango Unit."

"And what of this 'red roofed house'?" the woman questioned. "Was it ever found?"

"The what?" The lad had to think a moment. "Oh, the place Ever told me to find. Yeah, I ... I was pretty much out of it. I never got there to see if anything could be learned about the Tome. It's a bit late for that now, I guess."

"There never was a house," Ever told his interrogator while standing in the center of the room, nearly filling it to capacity with enormous size. "I just told the kid that to get him out of there. He would keep on moving and never stop as long as he thought he was going somewhere. The more distance gained between that Book and Candyman, the better."

Roses waited for the intel to be gathered, passing the time with her new "toy" in the main hall. Six women, all with the same blank demeanor about them, entered single filed, lining themselves up across the front of the room.

"Oh, goodie, you are done," Roses less than enthusiastically stated. "What have you learned?" The six identical woman looked among themselves, bouncing between each of their own copies before facing forward again.



"Nothing of sound use," a different one stated.

"Nothing that we did not already have knowledge of," said a third.

"Something, maybe," a fourth broke the rhythm. Roses raised a brow in intrigue. "The civilian known as Jules. Nothing appears to be extraordinary about him. However, he was able to open the Tome of 10 Magicks by himself."

"Enemy Agent Tanner has known the host of Subject Zero since youth," the fifth divulged. "The two may bear some connection."

"Subject Seventeen is more of a danger than ever," the last informed. "He now carries the direct blessing of Subject Omega. Even we may have trouble standing in his way, however-"

"I suggest that we do no such thing," the first answered. "They will seek to make amends or to prove themselves. This notion will only be strengthened by our opposition."

"It is unlikely, however, that they would hinder us," noted the second. "Given the dire situation, the probability of a negative consequence is negligible."

"That is the most repugnant thing I have ever heard." Crossing her arms over her chest, Roses turned away from the intelligence gatherers. "... however, it is humorous to see them try..."

Maria was tossed out of the base by her two escorts. Catching herself on two metal stumps, her arms, tossed afterwards, clattered around her. Finding herself at a loss to put them on herself, she spotted a stranger standing near the entrance. An odd smell came from him, but she needed the assistance.

"Mind givin' me a hand, hun?" she chimed.

"Oh, so I'm your 'hun' again?" the familiar voice snapped from beneath a hood.

"Jules?" She squinted to make the figure out better. The man had pulled up the hood on his sweatshirt, hanging it low over his face. From what little showed, it was covered in bandages.

"My wounds weren't healing," he explained. "It is only temporary."

"Your sacrifices have been appreciated, Jules," Samael praised as he ducked through the doorway. His escorts did not dare to lay a hand on him. Shadowed behind him emerged Sasha and Gunter.

"Vell, dis vas a vaste of time," the Russian grumbled as he was expelled.

"What is that smell?" Sasha questioned, nearly choking as her visor filled with tears. Jules tightened his hood, ignoring the question. Behind the giant came another figure which none of them recognized, at least initially, due to the mask that covered his face.

"Tanner?" Jules realized, based solely on his artillery. His matted, blond hair hung over a green gas mask, or at least that is what it appeared to be. Large, dark lenses concealed his eyes as a grill covered his mouth, set between two spouts that occasionally burst a thick vapor as he breathed in labor. "What happened to you?" The maniac remained silent, carelessly bumping shoulders with the small crowd that had been dismissed.

"Breathing problems," he bluntly answered as his slow pace forward continued.

"Well, you'll have an easier time with the ladies now," Jules poorly tried to lighten the mood. "They won't be scared off by... your... face..." Tanner stopped after a few seconds. Never turning around, a single puff of steam was all he gave them before resuming his march.

"Just where do you think you are going?" Sasha yelled. Tanner removed his cigarette packet from his shirt pocket, failing to remember his present predicament. After the stick bent on his face, he cast away the box.

"Where do you think?" Tanner fumed during the next spouting as he discarded the several other boxes that filled each of his pockets. "I have a friend to see.

Vincent regained consciousness on solid, warm shale. After examining the grit under his face, he deliberately forced himself into a crouch. “Well, this is different,” he muttered as he scanned the grand stretch of mountains spiraling out from his vantage point and curving...into the sky? Gazing higher, Vincent was shocked to find himself in a stone shell, miles wide, with the twisted spires pointing toward the center of the sphere, where a colossal translucent red orb hovered, dwarfing the jagged hills, save a lean spire piecing it from the top, visible due only to the strange transparent nature that the glowing orb had. Although it would seem an unsettling site, the mass of energy was soothing to the pyromancer, who did not even squint when staring straight into it, focusing on the tip of the steeple like obelisk, where he could see flickering movement. Still this meant: “I’m on the inside of a ball of rock?” Voiced the fireslinger to no one in particular.

“I guess you could call it that” scoffed a voice that Vince found to be identical to his own, though without a visible source.

The feeling that he wasn’t alone, where ever this place was, rocked the man of fire’s core, a deep cold slap across his face. “What would you call it, oh mysterious but spectacular voice?” The question was met with confident laughter, but it was uncertain whether it was directly due to the comment.

“Same thing you would, flame endowed mortal: home.”

“Get out of my home.” replied a terse Vincent. Unsure of where the feeling originated, he still knew this other presence, if nothing else, was a violation upon whatever this place was. Giving the world’s benevolent furnace another glance, the doppelganger plagued man knew the only way to rid this sanctuary of this unwanted being, wherever it might actually be hiding, was on the top of the piercing spire, regardless of what these crimson mountains held in secrecy. Picking what seemed like the surest route, not unlike asking a spinning compass which way is south, the blaze maker, with a heightened pace, made his way towards his first mountain, all the while his counterpart’s laughter, reaching from the highest peak to the deepest pit, consuming his thoughts.

The rumbling of the massive transport irritated Maria’s rump from being forcibly removed from the Gold’s base after debriefing. The vehicle that retrieved the Thanox (and only the Thanox) shortly after looked to be a cross between a canvas truck and a tank: taking up the entire street, but not quite as spacious as she had wanted with a force of Golds in the front half and the control room, as well as with the other two vehicles packed with the officers. Worst of all was that damned freaky little kid had to be along in their transport to find her father, who sadly was the only person that possibly had a clue what was going on. She shuddered to think of the woman who would have been so desperate that she would sleep with such a creep, yet there was still how he held Sasha with such power and dominance. “Like a powerful lover should” thought Maria, licking her lips while thinking about big strong men as she gazed off into space, a space that Gunter occupied.

“Are you okay, Maria?” The Ice man questioned.

Fighting what little she ate back to her stomach she turned away, face flushed, as she touched her bionic hand on her forehead. “Ugh, not anymore.” Truthfully they had all been on a touch of the worst side ever since that pint sized wench used them in her “game.” She was awfully sore all together, but considering the worsened condition of Jules and Tanner, she had been considerably lucky, not to say that they didn’t deserve it, especially Tanner, perfect justice for what he did to her limbs, along with the countless acts of sexual remarks he had made at the wrong time. Gunter had become excruciatingly more oblivious, if that was possible, though it could be because he hadn’t slept in days, none of them had. The nausea crept back upwards and she quickly touched her thoughts on Ever. He didn’t seem too worse for the wear from that encounter, but maybe it was because of all that dying and Curse mumbo jumbo that she didn’t try to understand.

The one complaining the least was Sasha, who was all chipper for reasons beyond Maria’s understanding even though she complained the most immediately after it was over.

A Gold made his way from the cockpit to the area that the Thanox were situated in addressing Sasha. “Subject 114-“

“I’m up here, chief.”

Maria’s jaw dropped as the soldier fumbled his message and started anew. “Subject 114 is within this quadrant. Orders are to vacate the vehicle and make contact with a primary Intel and Recon goal.”

“10-4,” Sasha replied a-matter-o’-factly. When the man didn’t move she added “Dismissed” and made her way to the exit, as Maria stood rigid in disbelief while considering the thought of rolling over and dying.

This was cut short by Roses walking towards her. “Are you going to stay to play with me?”

“Uh, no kid, there’s gonna be a rain-check for that there, having to look for Daddy and all.” She retorted in a false playful mood. The transport grew dark as anger seethed off the little girl, at which point Maria quickly added “’sides I wouldn’t want to make your wind toy jealous, would I. Now I must go off to work.” as she half ran out into the open leaving the dark child biting her lower lip and frowning.

“Fine!” she pouted, stomping her foot.

Trailed by Ever and Jules, Tanner lead what little could be referred to as “his fellow agents” whom were exchanging few words as they made their way through the silent town, at least which was what little he heard over his thoughts. He didn’t know what how he could depend on himself after that little she-devil of a witch used him to power her portable viewing screen. The Thanox, although annoying most of the time, he had little quarrel with outside of business, but this tiny bitch was going to pay dearly, quite possibly her father as well, after Vincent was saved.

The bond between the two agents was not just business deep, but more of a brotherhood bond (and on a few odd party situations, sisterhood; awkward, but left only in the two’s past) since the days at the academy. The pranks they pulled, the countless women they fought over, the familiarity with the Dean due to frequent (both pleasant and non-pleasant) visits; all of which had to do with their first conversation.

Reminiscing of that first day of school, outside of the Dean’s office, smelling slightly of burnt hair, Tanner chuckled from the slight kick he got out of the voices emanating from within.

“Vincent, could you tell me why you were sent to my office?”

There was a brief silence and a young boy’s voice replied slowly “The kid next to me was smoking.” Tanner remembered how much he wanted to break the squirt’s face for snitching.

“Yes, I am already aware of that, but why you specifically were sent here is my question.”

There was a longer pause and a softer reply “’Cause I was the one that set him on fire.”

“’’Cause I was the one that set him on fire,’ always a joker, no matter ‘ow much trouble you w’re in.” he thought out loud as he started to think about the time when he was with that girl and Vince-

“Whuf woo saf?” Tanner turned back bewildered as Jules adjusted his wrappings from his mouth. “What you say?”

“I’m ready to give up trying to understand both of you at this rate” added Ever, though with only the slightest bit of humor.

“It was nothing, just dwelling in the past.” Tanner started walking again in the semi aimless path he was following.

“Ya know, I think its really kinda shitty that we have to walk around while the Thanox get to ride around looking for Candyman-” Jules began to bother the others with his complaints.

Ever glanced over “No one is keeping you here kid, you want to see Candyman, be my guest, I’m sure he’d love to have you as company again.”

“I- no, but-” Jules shut up.

Tanner would have reveled in this joyous silencing more had it not been for the shine in the sky. At first he thought he was seeing spots, but after blinking and wiping the mask several times, his assumptions were correct, something was coming towards them in the sky. “Eyes up, we’ve got company!” he called, then added under his breath “I know yer still in there, Vince”

“I don’t get it,” commented an officer “he should be right here in plain sight.” On cue a geyser erupted from the man’s position, blowing him back a few yards as the spray climb to the top of the building adjacent to it, where the pinstriped apothecary stood watching over them all.

“Where is she?” he called from his roost.

“Subject 114, you ar-” the same Gold started as the fountain shifted to blast him again.

“We will speak no further until you answer me.” His voice was growing more frantic as his eyes darted around scanning the group a thousand times over. “Where is she?”

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