Dresden Files: Twin Cities

Against Better Judgement

Changing Faces, Part 1


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The Story

Witch’s Hat Tower, Minneapolis
Witch’s Hat Tower

Craig had a moment to his books. Between the reconstruction and Bethany’s constant hovering he has had little time for himself. Now the construction is done and Bethany is away for the afternoon. Craig thinks she is taking some psych classes at the University of Minnesota. He glances through his research notes when an impatient cough disturbs his thoughts.

Craig turns, irritation coloring his every mood and finds himself eye to eye with the grim faced Warden, Donald Morgan.

Donald Morgan

“I have little patience to be an errand boy,” Morgan growls and tosses a neat bundle of papers onto the desktop, “the research on Gleipnir, the Archive sent what she could,“ Morgan then reaches into his grey cloak and draws out an envelope, “the Senior Council has another demand to make of you Warden Hale.” He hands the envelop to Craig before continuing, “We have been invited to an Art Gala by none other than Windsor Simon Pearce, this is a yearly celebration that Chrysophylax throws and as the Warden of Witch’s Hat Tower, you will be our representative.”

Chrysophylax

Craig grunts and takes the envelope, Morgan continues, “The Celebration is tomorrow night. The research notes provides some ingredients for the Impossible Bounds. One of which is the ‘Generosity of a Dragon.’ Chrysophylax was one of the original forgers of the chains and he was the one to provide that towards the construction of the wards. We want you to identify the object and ensure that it is safe.” Morgan looks levelly at Craig, “If it is not safe, make it so.”

Craig arches an eyebrow and glances through the research notes. Morgan takes his leave, grumbling, “I hope you don’t prove me right Hale.” Craig barely notices him leaving, lost in his thoughts.

Interesting, the forgers of Gleipnir, the Archive, Baldr, Chrysophylax, the Merlin, Blackthorn (representing the Winter Court before his exile), Puck (representing the Summer Court), and the Archangel Raphael. The Archive lists only ingredients that we know about already, the Blood of a Star, the Fear of a Fairy Queen, and the Generosity of a Dragon. Why does she not list any, ah I see, she thinks it is too dangerous to share in written format. It looks like I will have to speak to this Archive myself.

Puck

Craig jots a note to himself when he catches the distinct smell of fresh flowers behind him. He turns and sees the insolent Sidhe Lord, Puck, sitting on one of the chairs of the library. Puck is nibbling on the stem of the flower, his muddy boots propped up on one of the new tables Craig bought.

“Craig, Baby, Pal, Bosom Friend of Winter,“ Puck smiles, twiddling with the flower. He looks near human, except for the black curled horns atop his head, “You owe Summer a favor, and I….am here to collect.”

Craig scowls and folds his arms.

“It just so happens that you are in a position to do me, a favor.” Puck glances to the letter in Craig’s hand, “You are invited to a certain party and at this party there is a certain item. The Generosity of a Dragon. Well, I want it. Secure the item and bring it to me, your debt with Summer will be clear.”

Craig’s scowls deepens.

“You will have four days and if you don’t do it.” Puck smiles with a pleasant sort of evil, “I think your lovely landscaping will get a new tree.”

Craig sighs and nods in agreement. Before he can speak he hears Bethany’s familiar humming as she sets her text books atop the counter. He glances towards her and notices that she is checking messages. Puck follows his eyes.

“Surely you’re tapping that?” Puck’s eyes twinkle as Craig’s face goes slightly red, “You know, letting her feel the might of your wizardly staff.” Puck makes a pumping gesture with his hand and laughs at Craig’s slightly embarrassed silence, “Really, oh my, well, you wouldn’t mind if I take a pass at that. She is so young and perky!”

“Leave her alone.” Craig states firmly. His voice calm and laden with power.

Puck laughs, his eyes turn a bright shade of green, “The Generosity of the Dragon, you have four days.” He then vanishes into a gust of wind, blowing out the door. He passes through the entryway of the library, taking a small detour to blow a very startled Bethany’s skirt up. She lets out a little yelp and pushes her dress back down. Craig shakes his head and opens the invitation.

The IDS Tower, hmmmm, Puck shouldn’t be that bad, he did make the original seal. It might be safer with a fairy anyway.

Craig lets out an irritated sigh, “Now who should be my plus one?”

“Plus one to what?” Bethany’s hopeful voice echoes from the doorway.

Crap! I said that last part out loud.

“Oh, just to Pearce’s Art Gala, tomorrow night.”

Bethany lets out a girlish squeal, “Oh! I saw pictures of it, it is really remarkable. Can, can I come…” Bethany’s voice trails off with embarrassment, “I…I mean if you don’t have something else in mind.”

Craig, returning to his thoughts, hurriedly replies, “What? Oh yes, yes, Beth, sure you can go.”

Sacred Grounds, St. Paul

Brittany wipes the sweat from her forehead. The clean-up has been going well, her girls are really putting their backs into helping her re-open the place and it can’t happen soon enough; her wallet is starting to feel a little light. Her rest is interrupted when her phone rings.

Sacred Grounds

“Brittany!”

“Brittany,” she shudders when she hears the silken purr of Steve McCellan’s voice, “I was hoping you were around. I have heard of your recent exploits, it so wonderful how you got all those girls off the streets and….cleaned up.”

Steve McCellan

Brittany shudders a bit, gripping the phone tighter, “Steve, I’m busy, make it fast.”

Steve chuckles, “I am just calling to collect on a debt, Freeholding Lord. I get you, Madison and Bethany on a date. Well that date is tomorrow night and the three of you will accompany me to Pearce’s Gala in the IDS Tower. It’s around 8, what time should I pick you up?”

Brittany knew that promise would bite her on the ass, “Let me speak with Madison and Bethany, but around 6 will be fine.”

Brittany hangs up and scowls, Ripley cocks her head to the side and then resumes cleaning her paws. Brittany then calls Madison and after a short conversation finds her agreeable to going. “It’s going to be so much fun! And Steve, is a total hunk.” Madison shares before she hangs up.

Yeah, fun.

She then calls Bethany.

“Brittany!” Bethany’s voice is breathy with excitement, “You will never believe it! Craig asked me out on a date! I don’t know what to wear, oh my god. I didn’t think this would happen!”

“That’s great!” Brittany can’t help to think, oh you poor girl,” just calm down, what are you going in?”

“I don’t know…oh god, what should I do?”

Brittany rubs the temples of her forehead, “Honey, give Madison a call, she can help you find something to wear.”

Bethany pauses for a moment, a little hesitant, “But she….she’s kind of slutty and she is really into that creepy Steve guy, I don’t know.”

Brittany laughs, happy for her friend for the moment, “You got the assets you should flaunt’em.”

“Really!? I’ll call her right now, bye!” Bethany hangs up.

Fucking White Court Vampires.

Augie’s Tavern, Minneapolis (Continued from Strange Smells Part 2)

Hunter meets Peter’s gaze, not flinching from his stare. Moss plays with his napkin. Colin lights a cigarette.

Augie’s

“That’s bad for your health,” Hunter glances at Colin and he pauses, “if your man is as good as you say he is, then it’s a deal. We can’t afford any mistakes, not now."

Moss sighs, “So I get the code, we break into Foshay Tower and steal ledger right from under Ortega’s nose. We get the account information that Kat used and you get the ledger. So, code please.”

Peter laughs and shakes his head, “Not that simple. Colin will have the code, he will give it to you. I imagine you will only need an evening to prepare?”

Peter Capra

Hunter looks towards Moss. Moss nods, gulping down his scotch. He looks at Colin, “What about him, will he be ready?”

“Ready for killing Red Court Vampires?” Colin grins evilly, “I am always ready. I will see you tomorrow, at the bar.”

Hunter looks towards Peter, “And you, where will you be during this?”

Peter shakes his glass of scotch, the ice clinking, “Apparently I will be a party, well, a Gala, Pearce’s to be exact, so I will be….busy.”

Hunter scowls and gets up from the table. Moss quickly follows. They leave the topless bar, feeling Colin’s dead eyes watching their backs.

“I don’t trust either of them Moss,” Moss nods in agreement, “We have to keep our eyes on them.”

Sacred Grounds, St. Paul

Brittany drums her fingers on the counter top hanging up her cellphone with irritation, she hates the idea that she is going to have to continue to owe Steve one. She makes a face at Ripley, “I’ll make it interesting he says, yeah right.” Ripley yawns and stretches out.

Brittany’s one sided conversation is interrupted when a visitor steps through the door. She turns to let the guest know that Sacred Grounds is still closed, but finds herself confronted by Blackthorn. Instead of wearing his usual green leaf pattern coat, it is now gold and browns. His usual green eyes are now a rich brown color. The Sidhe Lord extends a slow smile. “Ahh, I am looking for the Mistress of the House.”

Blackthorn

Brittany straightens her hair and smiles, “Right here Blackthorn, how can I help you?”

Blackthorn dismisses her with a wave of the hand, “No, no, no. I am looking for the Mistress of the Establishment.” He then lets out a gruff bark.

Ripley’s head perks up and she barks back. Blackthorn squats down by Ripley and begins to exchange growls with the hound. Brittany stands there, mouth agape as the two continue their conversation. Blackthorn then reaches into his coat pocket and puts a collar around Ripley’s neck. Brittany notices that it bears Blackthorn’s sigil and at the neck of it is a small piece of paper rolled up. She look closer and sees that it appears to be an invitation to Pearce’s Gala tomorrow night.

“Brittany, I look forward towards your establishment being reopened. Please have a good day,” Blackthorn makes a small bow towards the barista and then a small bark at Ripley before walking out.

Brittany turns to Ripley, “Nothing is making sense anymore.” Ripley just wags her tail.

Thomas’s Garage, Minneapolis, Tomorrow Night

“Thomas if you want to live, listen to me carefully. I am breaking the rules by talking to you, whatever you do don’t say my name aloud. I need you to hit the floor and hit it now.”

Thomas knows the voice. Everyone thinks she’s dead, but he knows the truth of it. He drops to the ground fast, his dinner forgotten; his cellphone pressed tight against his ear. Seconds later bullets pepper walls of his garage, mowing down the area he was just sitting enjoying his evening meal. The girl’s voice on the phone continues, “Keep low, roll towards the back window. When they pause to reload, jump out your rear window.”

Thomas crawls beneath the hail of gunfire that continues to pepper his warehouse, as he closes on the back window, the gun fire pauses. Thomas pushes himself forward and crashes through the wall and his rear window, staggering into the alleyway behind the house. The voice on the other end of the phone continues, “Thomas, turn right, draw your sword blade and hold it out as you turn down the left alleyway.”

Thomas draws his sword blade and runs right down the alleyway. He can hear the sound of more gunfire and then an explosion shreds his warehouse as he feels a blast of heat behind him. He turns the corner, his iron blade held before him and promptly slams it into the gut of a man shaped person who was running towards him down that alleyway.

Blood pours from the stomach wound and Thomas finds himself face to face with two Red Court Vampires. They are dressed in tactical gear, he can see the tattoos on their neck that mark them as members of the Latin Kings. The one that Thomas stabbed howls in pain and shudders, sliding off his blade. The other one lifts a submachine gun and opens fire on Thomas. Salt tipped rounds slam into him and he feels his skin begin to burn with irritation, the living iron reacting to the corrosion. Thomas growls and takes his blooded sword in hand, he lunges forward and guts the second vampire, blood spraying against the brick wall.

“Thomas, listen, I can’t talk long, but, I couldn’t leave this alone. You saved me and my parents. Everything will be made clearer in a moment. Now, you need to run towards the end of the alleyway and jump into the middle of traffic. I will try and call your later.” The line goes dead.

Thomas slides his phone into a leather pouch. He can hear more footsteps behind him. The last vestiges of daylight spills out on the busy road in front of him. Thomas sprints down the alleyway and leaps out into the middle of the road. He finds himself face to face with Bobby’s RV as it slams on the breaks, just moments from plowing into him. He hears the voice of Rosalie call out, “Thomas, is that you? Quick get in the RV!”

Rosalie

Thomas hurriedly wrenches the dented up door of Bobby’s RV open and staggers inside. Rosalie revs the engine and peels out quickly. “I was on my way to see if you were at home. I stopped to find Bobby first, but his RV was empty. Some guy from the park, Crow Sings I think, said Bobby wouldn’t mind if I used it. My contacts told me that Ortega has put a bounty on your head. He wants you dead and he wants it to happen tonight. He also wants whoever was involved with the Alison Harper stuff dead too. He is making some kind of big move. I came to warn Bobby and all of you." Rosalie takes a deep breath to steady the tremor in her voice, "where’s Bobby?”

Crow Sings

Thomas notices that Rosalie appears…leaner. She looks as if she just drove up here and sees that she has a shotgun resting next her with a large caliber revolver strapped to her hip. More importantly, he sees the tattoos of St. Giles on the back of her hands. He pulls out his cellphone. He really doesn’t want to tell her that Bobby is dead. He can hear the hope in her voice, he isn’t that dense. Besides, he can’t have her distracted; he has a vampire lord to kill.

“Let me make some calls and warn some people, we should be able to make our next move.”

Rosalie nods and continues to make her way downtown.

IDS Tower, Minneapolis

The car that came to pick-up Craig and his guest pulls up to the first floor of the IDS tower. After Thomas’s call, Craig used that time to place a shield spell on himself. He hopes the mystical spirit armor will give him the protection this night. Bethany used her time for a different purpose. Her consultation with Madison paid off and she found a little black dress that she think Brittany would’ve approved. Craig felt himself redden as he gives the archivist a sideways glance. Bethany said little on the drive over, also fighting off a small blush. She leans over and takes the time to straighten Craig’s collar, her eyes drinking in the sight of him, careful to not look to deeply into his gaze. The moment passes when the driver opens the door for the both of them.

IDS Tower

Craig steps out of the limo with Bethany on his arm. Security at the ground level of the IDS Tower appears to be tight, he can see security guards wearing Monoc Securities blazers checking guests as they step in to the main floor of the building. He finds himself ushered into Pearce’s private elevator with another guest, Baldur Vadderung, billionaire philanthropist and rumored Norse God. They exchange pleasantries on the ride up and Craig appeared to win some of Baldur’s esteem.

Craig & Bethany

At the top of the elevator, Craig notices something out of place. He sees some janitorial staff enter a side stairwell, that isn’t what throws him off; he also sees that they have the markings of the Broadway Shotgun Boys a street gang from North Minneapolis. He thinks it would be odd that they are here. Craig opens his third eye and looks on with the sight. He notices that there is nothing magical about the janitors, but he can see steel chains about the walls of the IDS building and realizes that travel to and from the Nevernever would be difficult here. Out of the corner of his eye he catches sight of both Bethany and Baldur.

Baldur

Bethany looks as if she is made from a clear glass and beneath that glass he can see roiling storms and churning clouds threatening to break out. Occasionally the clouds take shape and the most prominent one is of his face. The image of Balder burns into Craig’s mind. He sees a figure of white light, willingly diminished, the purity of it burns away the imperfections of his soul. Craig feels his sanity slipping when he hears the faint echoes of Bethany’s voice as she shakes his shoulder. He follows that thread and pulls himself back just in time for introductions to the party.

Back at the entryway, Ripley is the next to arrive. The driver mutters to himself as he opens the door and the wolfhound jauntily hops out. She pauses for a moment to itch her neck atop the red carpet before padding by astound security. She sits pleasantly and lets her invitation to be read with her presence being questioned by the other security guards. The dispute comes to a quick resolution when Alice LaRue descends on the bewildered guards and growls at them, “Do not insult the guest, this hound is one and shall be treated accordingly,” Alice turns and makes a small bow towards Ripley, “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Ripley

Ripley holds her head high and trots on by. While Ripley is being accord her honors; Brittany enjoys her limo ride despite her better judgment. Steve and an already drunk Madison arrived at Sacred Grounds to pick her up. Brittany finds herself relaxing and even accepts a glass of champagne from Steve. When they arrive at the IDS Tower, Steve offers both Brittany and Madison an arm before escorting them down the red carpet. Brittany notices the disapproving eyes of Alice as she walks by, she hears Alice whisper harshly, “You allow yourself to be captured by one such as that?”

Alice LaRue

Steve caught the whisper and winks towards Alice, who blushes and straightens her blazer. Brittany smiles at Alice. Alice catches herself and scowls back. Steve resumes whispering towards Madison as she begins to lean into the White Court Vampire. Brittany can see the effects that Steve is having on her friend and she realizes she might have to do something about it before the night ends. She takes another deep drink of champagne and flushes a bit, realizing that she better make sure that Steve doesn’t have the same effect on her.

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis.

Colin drives Hunter and Moss towards Foshay Tower, parking the vehicle by the loading dock Moss recommended for access. Moss slides out of the back seat as Hunter watches the alleyway for signs of intrusion. Colin pops the trunk, revealing a small arsenal. He quickly selects a set of weaponry, then follows Hunter and Moss towards the building.

Foshay Tower

With the security codes that Peter gave them, Moss is able to hack is way into the building’s security system. He taps into the security cameras and locates the ideal location for the vault. He looks up at Hunter and Colin from where he is seated on the floor, “Well boys, judging from what Peter said about Ortega going old school; there is one area on the fifth floor that has no surveillance. If the vault is anywhere, it’s there.”

Hunter nods, “I will scout ahead.”

He then shifts into his hawk form and flies into the loading dock, through an open doorway and down a hallway. He flies into a lobby area of the building. He arcs high towards the ceiling to hide from sight. He sees four men in security blazers and a fifth one looking dirty and out of place. He recognizes Morgan Hernandez, he knows him for a Red Court Vampire. Unfortunately Morgan remembers the shape shifting police officer who gutted him.

Morgan Hernandez

“Shoot the Hawk!” Morgan roars. The men in security blazers open fire.

Hunter twists and turns, dodging bullets. He claws at Morgan’s face. Morgan roars, his face twisting demonically. The other men follow suit, their supernatural reflexes making it harder for Hunter to dodge. Morgan’s clawed hands rake across Hunter’s side. He shrieks with furry. His wings batting back at Morgan.

Colin wastes little time when he hears gunfire. He unholsters a small automatic rifle and darts down the hallway Hunter flew down. He comes upon the room and sees the four Red Court gunman firing on Morgan and Hunter. Lucky for him Morgan is also pinned down by the gunfire. Colin makes a small smile and unloads a short burst of fire; bullets tear into the stomach of the nearest gunman, popping it like a balloon filled with blood.

Hunter shrieks turns to a howl as the hawk in Morgan’s hands takes the shape of a gigantic wolf. His jaws snap at Morgan’s face and they begin to roll on the floor. Bullets rake across Hunter’s back, causing the hound to howl with fury again. One of the gunman charges at Colin who easily sidesteps the clumsy blow and then promptly guns down his assailant from behind. He turns with another burst of gunfire, mowing down the remaining gunmen. Hunter tears at Morgan, who is able to throw him off for a brief moment. He darts away, but not before Hunter is able to snap at the security badge clipped to his belt; ripping it from the panicked vampire.

Moss took the cacophony of gunfire and howls as an opportunity to sneak down the hallway towards the stair well. He hears the machinegun fire sputter to a stop while he pulls out his lock picking tools to work on the side door. To his surprise, he finds that it has already been opened. He pushes cautiously at the door and peeks into the stairwell.

“Well bugger me sideways.”

Ground Floor, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

This might be useful.

Thomas secures the potion he found locked away in Bobby’s stash before coming back up front to join Rosalie. She circles the IDS Tower. Thomas notices a carpet cleaning van parked near the building and through an open door he sees technical equipment that has little to do with carpet cleaning. He is distracted from the suspicious van as he sees men in black tactical gear, much the same gear as the vampires who assailed him earlier in the day, casually gunning down unconscious guards in Monoc Securities blazers.

Bobby Chan

Thomas charges out, iron sword at the ready. The vampires are not quick enough to catch his approach. He smashes one with a quick swipe, bullets ping off his iron armor. Rosalie follows behind, a blast of her shotgun cutting down two other vampires. Thomas grabs the last one in a headlock, before snapping its neck. He glances at the security desk and sees that an elevator is on its way up.

“Let’s check out the van.” Thomas secures his sword and strides over towards the alleyway. Rosalie quickens her pace to follow him.

Thomas is able to enter the van through the opened back. Inside he finds what he fears. He notices technical gear to make explosives. Thomas examines some of the open packages of C4 and figures there is enough to bring down a couple of buildings. He also finds some pouches of odd powder. He takes one for himself. Rosalie points out some radio equipment. Thomas makes a quick examination and realizes he knows the detonation frequency. He takes some of the left over equipment and makes a radio jammer and realizes, for at least 30 minutes, he can prevent the bomb makers from setting off the explosives.

He and Rosalie notice that a door way has been left ajar leading into the IDS Tower. They enter the building and make their way down the stairs. The sound of drilling and men barking orders echo up the stairwell as they cautiously descend. Thomas beckons Rosalie to wait behind him as he peers into the subbasement. He sees a group of men with cement drills making holes in various support pylons. The men are loading the holes with plastic explosive. He can barely make out some of their tattoos and recognizes them as belonging to the Broadway Shotgun Boys.

He also sees one thing that is out of place. A young, Native American woman is surveying the work. Thomas recognizes her. She was one of the Ripper’s victims.

Kat

What is going on here? Nothing is adding up.

Thomas is not left alone too long with his thoughts, the young woman turns towards him. “Ah guests, and its Thomas I see! I wasn’t expecting the Living Iron to annoy me again so soon.”

She charges across the floor suddenly and swiftly. Thomas steals himself and holds his Iron Sword in both hands. He recognizes that voice. It sounds like, Kat, Hunter’s dead wife. He also knows those words and the last person, or better yet, thing that called him the Living Iron was the Roseville Ripper. There is a blur of motion and as the woman punches, she shifts, molding in form, becoming identical to Thomas. It is his fist that connects with his face that sends him reeling.

Roseville Ripper

Just like the Ripper

Pearce’s Gala, IDS Tower, Minneapolis

The party is in full swing. Ripley makes her way to the buffet table, unheedful at the attempts at conversation. Craig and Bethany find themselves chit chatting with Peter Capra, the young wizard and canny mob boss getting an assessment of the other. Windsor and Steve exchange withering barbs as Brittany grows more annoyed being a trophy that these two men are arguing for. The only thing that keeps her from slapping them silly is that one is the closest thing to a dragon and the other is a White Court Vampire and one does not do such things when one has given their word. She takes another gulp of champagne and thinks that this is going to get tedious fast. She steadies an extremely intoxicated Madison and realizes the woman is not just drunk on alcohol.

Windsor pauses from his sniping with Steve and strides to the front of the banquet hall to speak with his guests, “Good evening, thank you for coming, as you know this is an important day for us at DH Acquisitions, and I thank you for coming and celebrating with us. You select few represent the true power in the city and we wish for you to know our splendor.” Pearce smiles widely, his eyes glowing green and gold. His arms are wide, almost as if he was on display, “Now please, follow me to the Gala, there are some new pieces that are on display that are most unique and magnificent.”

Pearce

Craig nods towards Brittany. She nods back, hoping that Steve didn’t notice. She got Craig’s call from earlier and will keep an eye out for this “Generosity of a Dragon.”

Craig whispers towards Bethany, “Keep your eyes open, if you see something that looks possible, let me know.” Bethany answers with a determined nod.

The guests follow behind Pearce as he pauses in front of each piece, describing its history, detail and value in incredible depth. Bethany and Craig take the opportunity to scan the gallery, looking at the artifacts. Unfortunately for Brittany, Steve takes the opportunity to continue to stoke Madison’s fire. She even catches him leering at Bethany, only to see him turn away with a sick look on his face as Bethany glances at Craig. This only redoubles Steve’s efforts on Madison.

Brittany feels a fury building inside of her and she grabs Steve’s arm with an iron grip, “Stop this,” she whispers fiercely into Steve’s ear, “and you will get…..Me, tonight, just, leave her alone.”

Steve’s expression goes from surprised to smug as he clears his throat and calls out to Pearce, “Excuse me, is there a place where my companion can lie down, she is slightly indisposed.”

Pearce gestures to a side room with irritation and Steve makes some soft sounds towards Madison and ushers towards the door. He turns to Brittany and extends his arm, whispering to her, “Good, now I will have no more distractions.”

Craig puts Madison’s plight out of his mind, as much as it disgusts him he has other obligations this evening. He feels a subtle tug on his hand and sees Bethany motioning to a small, plain wood box sitting on a shelf by a center pillar. He and Bethany walk quietly closer, feigning small talk as best they can. Craig notices ornate runes carved about the lock, suggesting that someone has taken some magical means to seal it. Craig whispers to Bethany, “Let’s try to sneak closer.”

Unfortunately Bethany is not experienced wearing heals and as the two try to maneuver closer she slips, falling to the ground and pulling Craig atop her. There is an embarrassed silence as those in the room pause to look at the sudden commotion. Craig looks down at a wide eyed Bethany.

I can feel her heart pounding between her…

Craig’s thoughts are interrupted. Peter suddenly dives to the floor. Bethany, Craig and Pearce look towards the east. They can sense a large wave of spiritual energy flowing towards them and if it hits would turn everyone here to psychic jelly. Pearce’s eyes narrow in rage, one of his fingernail thickens and elongates. He scratches a complex circle in the wall quickly, channeling energy for a shield. Craig stands and straightens; his own strength is meager beside the force that Pearce is drawing upon, but he adds his strength. Bethany is only able to yell, “Get Down!”

The spiritual blast strikes the tower, shaking it to its foundations. Pearce’s shield envelops the Gala, yet the shockwaves rip through the party goers throwing them to the ground. Only Pearce, Baldur, and Craig are able to remain standing amongst the chaos. Pearce’s mouth stretches in an angry grimace. Smoke pours from his lips as his skin takes a greenish, scaly hue.

“Ortega, you dare strike now, I will turn you to ash and smash your puny tower!” Pearce snarls, he then glares at Craig, “Warden of the White Council, your conflict tonight is my conflict, I will strike a blow that will wash away the Vampire War from the Twin Cities. Come with me and lend your strength to mine!” He turns and storms out a doorway.

Carlos Ortega

Craig’s face turns pale and Bethany gasps. Steve struggles to stand, as Brittany shields a near unconscious Madison. Peter is nowhere to be seen. Craig looks towards Baldur, “I know you are more than you say. You have the power to stop this madness before it spreads. Please act now.”

Baldur’s face frowns, his eyes shimmer with frustration and despair as he takes a seat on a chair. “I cannot interfere. I must not interfere.”

Craig feels frustration welling inside of him, “I know you empowered the seals, one of the totems is here and if it is destroyed then a seal goes with it. Protect what you made!”

Baldur looks at Craig and for a second Craig glimpses…something…but then it is gone, “You do not understand,” the impotent god then looks away, closing his eyes. Waves of energy begin to boil from the IDS Tower towards the Foshay Building.

Brittany looks at Craig, yelling, “Just grab the box….”

She never finishes her words, all eyes turn towards the elevator as the bell rings and the door opens.

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis

“We have a little problem,” Moss calls down to Hunter and Colin, “it looks like someone was here before us, and they left presents.”

Colin and Hunter join Moss at the stairwell, Colin reloading his machinegun and Hunter pocketing Morgan’s plastic keycard. They find Moss looking at a wired block of C4, his lips pressed tightly together.

“Well mates, I don’t see a timer, Colin, what do you think?”

Colin squats down and grunts, “Radio switch, probably more around the building. I could disarm this one, but it would take time. Time we probably don’t have.”

Hunter grunts and Moss nods, “Alright boys, tick tock, to the fifth floor.”

The three would be burglars run easily up the flight of stairs. As they near the fifth floor they hear the sound of gunfire. Colin arrives at the door first and reaches into his trench coat pocket. He pulls out a can of tear gas. He cracks the door open, hurls the canister through and then closes the door. Yelling and sporadic gunfire fills the hallway and then silence. Colin glances at Hunter, “Care to see what’s left?”

Hunter locks eyes with the sociopath for a moment, alpha to alpha, and then shifts into his hawk form. He flies through a crack through the slight opening of the door that Colin makes for him. He flies into a hallway, down one end he sees a locked medal door; down the other a t-intersection. At the foot of the intersection he sees two dead gunmen in gas masks. His acute vision is able to pick out some tattoo markings on both corpses and he recognizes them as small time gang members of the Broadway Shotgun Boys.

Where did they get the cash to afford that kind of equipment? And what the HELL are they doing here?

Hunter can pick up the sound of a high power drill coming down one of the side hallways and flies towards it. He flits quickly by and catches a large room where more heavily armed gang members are around a large drill workings its way through a reinforced steel wall. Hunter easily recognizes the man directing them, Michael Abernathy, the cunning gang lord of the Broadway Shotgun Boys himself.

Michael

He whips back towards the stairwell and shifts back into human form. Hunter opens the door for Moss and Colin, whispering fiercely, “Clear.”

Colin and Moss step into the hallway as Hunter shares what he saw. Colin scoops up a gas mask and straps it on. Moss sighs, “This job just keeps getting worse and worse.” He squints looking towards where they are drilling, “it looks like they might be angling for the same vault we are. We got a race on our hands boys.”

He dashes quietly to the sealed medal door and sees a card reader mounted on the wall beside it. Hunter grunts and tosses Moss the keycard he swiped from Morgan. Moss adroitly snatches from the air and slides it through the reader in one motion. The medal door slides open revealing a very surprised Morgan and two red court vampires.

The conflict is short and bloody. Moss slips beneath the arms of a wildly charging Morgan. He slides a stun gun from his sleeve and zaps one of the vampires, pinning it in a stun. Hunter draws his pistol and opens fire on Morgan, sending the already injured vampire spinning sideways. Colin slides past Morgan, his machinegun spitting out bullets rapidly, exploding the remaining vampire. He spins around quickly and mows down Morgan at the knees, sending him hurtling towards Hunter. Hunter throws an arm out, catching Morgan at the throat. The Red Court Vampire snarls in rage, snapping at the rogue cop. Hunter grimaces and presses the barrel of his revolver below Morgan’s jaw. With a quick pull of the trigger, he splatters the vampire’s brains on the ceiling above him.

The stunned vampire pulls away from Moss and begins to run. Colin and Hunter shoot the creature in the back.

Moss takes a deep breath, “Well that was messy.”

The building suddenly shudders as an explosion from the top floor rocks the entire structure.

To be continued

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