Prey: A Character Driven RP [FINISHED]

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Lily internally groaned as Maya spoke, she had forgotten how irritating children could be, apparently having powers made no difference to that. She noted that at least the kitsune seemed somewhat more mature, she suspected that he was a good deal older than he appeared, although unfortunately he didn't seem to speak as much as his young companion.

One hundred "baddies"? When they couldn't even take two of us? Who does she think she's trying to fool?

She considered calling out the young girl on it but Zetta and Gabriel seemed happy to play along, so she kept quiet. As the discussion continued she became impatient, and eventually she couldn't hold her tongue any longer.

"Look people, it's a nice little chit-chat we're having here but unless you want to end up in some jail cell or on the end of Rin's wrath when she returns, which I'm sure she will, we better leave right now!"

~

The stout woman gave Alec a stare and then coughed deliberately in a disapproving manner.

"Sorry, but no give out personal details about clients, yes? Now if you no wish to be served would you please leave the premise, sir."

She pointed a stubby finger towards the door, and turned away to get back to her customers, who had fallen silent and were now watching the two Americans intently.

"Seeing as this Rin character just got busted by the..what, two of you? And this place is in the middle of nowhere, in the even middler of nowherest of this city, I don't think that likely, lady." Gabriel said, jumping off the table.

"Though I guess hanging around here ain't gonna do much good, I'll give you that."

He stod for a moment, arms swaying lightly as if he was searching for words.

"Mind if I tag along with you people? I've got...well, nowhere to go until I figure out a way back."

Alec walked up to the woman and tapped her on the shoulder.

"I'm sorry, but this isn't exactly one of those times when you should practice customer confidentiality. This woman is a danger to us all, and can cause some serious trouble if not found. I need to know more about her!"

Oh no! She might force me into pulling a gun in a public area! Then more police will be breathing down my neck! Alec thought to himself.

Maya felt disappointed when she found out she wasn't in America after-all, all she had seen so far of this country was dark scary things and she hoped the rest wasn't the same. On the other side of the warehouse she spotted one of the last remaining followers; a man lying face-down clutching his leg from which was covered in trickles of red blood. The small girl wondered if he was the hooded person she had accidently shot when she dropped the gun Rin had given to her, she couldn't remember what that man had looked like though. She shuddered as she stared at him, the sight made her feel very uncomfortable. She looked away and instead turned to Gabriel to answer his question.

"You can stay with me and Takeda, if you want. I don't like it here though, can we go somewhere else now?" she asked in a quiet voice.

~

"No, you think you lie to me like this, then I tell you?"

The women brushed Alec's hand off her shoulder, and then called out loudly. After a pause a gangly teenage boy carrying a small toddler came running out of one of the rooms behind the bar to stop just a few feet away. She spoke to him briefly in Chinese, then he handed her the baby and approached the two Americans with a stern expression.

"I'm sorry sir and madam, you have upset my mother, you will have to leave the premises."

"I'm sorry sir and madam, you have upset my mother, you will have to leave the premises."

Blackrose was aggravated enough, and now this kid was trying to force them to leave. This was where she started to lose control of her temper.

"Listen kid," Blackrose said, getting a grip on the knife in her back pocket if it was needed, "You and I both know that we didn't come here just to be thrown out because we 'upset your mother.' We are not exactly in a listening mood, so tell us where Rin is, or I will raise hell like you've never seen!" She could tell that the people in the restaurant were staring at her, but she didn't care. She was ready to show this kid what 'being upset' could be taken to.

Takeda kept to himself as the others talked to each other. He felt a little shy suddenly, partly due to Maya telling them he'd beaten a hundred baddies and the other adults seemed impressed.

At least now that he knew their names they weren't so intimidating. They even seemed kind of nice, now that they weren't fighting.

Looking at Gabriel now, since Maya had invited him to stick with them for a while, Takeda studied the newcomer a bit. His story about somehow winding up in a completely different part of the world made him wonder if he had met someone like Rin. Someone who could teleport.

But he would ask about that some other time, right now everyone seemed anxious to leave, Takeda included. The weapons and the blood and all the other evidence of the fight was getting to be unsettling. And he wanted to see what France was like outside of the dark warehouse.

"Yeah, I think we should go." he said to Maya, but extended it for everyone else. He took her hand and walking toward the door that Gabriel was now standing in front of. After being in the dark for a while the light was especially bright outside and the little fox-boy had to squint as he stepped outside, trying to discern some information about their new domain.

Rezetta let out a short sigh as she pushed herself back onto her feet. "I don't mind you staying with us," she told Gabe. She paused, then added, "As long as Lily doesn't either, I guess." She looked over as Takeda and Maya began to walk towards the door, wincing as Excalibur scraped along the floor after the little girl. "Um, Maya? Would you mind if one of us takes that for you? I think it's a little too heavy for you to be carrying."

Zetta looked around for a moment, scanning the room for the case the sword had come in. She eventually spotted it and walked over to pick it up. As she did, she spoke up once more. "Where exactly are we going to go this time? I don't know of any place to hide from time-travelling madwomen and their wizards." With the case resting in her arms, she walked back over to Maya and waited to see if the girl would hand the sword over.

"Thanks" Gabriel said with half a grin as no one objected to him tagging along.

When Zetta menioned the taking of Excalibur he perked up.

"I call dibs on the sword."

Feeling the weight of Excalibur, Maya hesitantly handed the sword to Zetta, before running after the kitsune to take hold of his hand again. As she and Takeda passed through the door to the blindingly brightness outside, she spoke briefly to Gabriel.

"You should have been listening silly, the sword isn't called Dibs, it's called... umm... it's called..."

As hard as she tried though, she couldn't remember the blade's actual name, however she know it was something long and grand; certainly not "Dibs".

~

The boy shook his head defiantely at Blackrose's threat and raised his fists in a fighting stance.

"No, my family will not be pushed around by bullies and thugs like you! We are honest people and we won't have anything to do with your criminal ways. You have one last chance to leave, take it."

The other customers were all watching intently, a couple of them cheered words of support in Chinese to the teenager, and several others were swiftly taking out their mobile phones.

Alec at a loss of what to do, so he decided to try to calm the boy down instead of risking getting arrested for gun possession.

"Look, I think that if you or your mother don't give us what we want, we might make a MISTAKE that will harm both of us. We aren't stealing your money, and we came here for a good cause. We honestly didn't come here to bully anyone. We don't have much time, Rose got shot and her wound might get infected. I really don't want to ruin my reputation as a respected geologist any time soon."

Alec thought over the situation and got an idea.

"Ok, better yet. You know the name Dr.Bernsworth? Well you're looking at him. Now, why would a successful scientist all of a sudden decide to harm a family? When have you ever read that about me?"

"Sure thing, hon." Gabriel said to Maya. He shielded his eyes as the sun, now not hidden behind the horizon, nearly blinded him after the shady insides of the office...warehouse...thing. His hand moved from his brow to his stomach after it loudly growled.

"Say uh, any of you people mind visiting one of those fancy lunchrooms? I'm dying for something to eat."

He got several colourful bills out of his pocket.

"And this duplication thing I learned is really paying off." He said with a small grin.

When Maya handed Excalibur to her, Zetta couldn't help but run her fingers along the shining blade. She hadn't noticed before, but the sword seemed to resonate some sort of power. It was faint, but it was there. She frowned, trying to explain to herself how it felt, and found that she couldn't. I suppose I should just be grateful it's not burning me. Or that this thing wasn't used to chop my head off, she thought to herself with an inward sigh.

As she tucked the sword, now resting in the long case, under her arm, she followed the others outside. She squinted her eyes against the light, looking in Gabriel's direction. "I hope you don't mind if I hang on to this thing myself. No offense to you, but I'd just... I'd just rather keep it right now."

She shifted the case so that it now lay in both her arms, since it was too heavy to keep under one for long. "I've got no objections against getting to a place with food. Though right now, I'd much prefer finding a place with a nice, cozy bed. And maybe a hot shower."

Spotting the colourful bills in Gabriel's hand, Maya ran up to him and tugged on his trousers for attention.

"Please, I'm really hungry too, can you buy me some food? I haven't eaten since... huh?"

A couple of months living outside had taught Maya a few skills, one of which was being able to guess the time by the position of the sun. A quick glance at the French sky revealed a sun that was unsettlingly far in the eastern direction. She turned around in a circle and looked again in case she had got her directions mixed up but found it was definitely not where it should be. Confused, she decided to ask the kitsune.

"Takeda... it's morning here isn't it? I don't understand, it was afternoon when we were at Rin's house, how can it be morning again?"

~

For a moment the teenager looked uncertain but then his expression hardened.

"I've never heard of you, Dr. Bernsworth, and if you have such a good reason for us breaking our customer confidentiality why won't you tell us? If it's really so urgent then call the police, we'd be happy to speak to them, wouldn't we mother?"

The stout woman nodded, however then the baby began to wail, she gently rocked it but it's cries only got louder.

"Look! I have no time for this! There is too much to explain! I might say something that might anger the company and then god knows what they'll do to me! This woman doesn't appear to have a criminal record...yet, but I 'm not after her. I'm after the sword she owns. I cannot explain any more information! Please don't make me use force to get information. I really don't feel like getting arrested today."

Alec once again considered pulling a gun in the bar. Instead, he quietly reached in the hidden holster, and waited to hear the boy's response.

"Well Maya, the time in different countries changes sometimes, so people can make sure nothing stops working in the middle of the night" Lily said, trying to explain timezones in a way that removed the need to go into detail about the earth's rotational axis, but also wasn't condescending. She figured she'd just about managed it, but felt a little guilty for lying to a child, shrugging it off after a moment as she reminded herself that the girl was simply useful.

"I don't know this area of town well, but I think I saw a cafe that sells food while we were being kidnapped, so one of us could drop in there while the others wait nearby. Three adults walking into anywhere with two children rarely looks normal, and especially three adults with a big sword case. After that, I recommend we get out of here and back to a friend of mine's place to lose some heat." She said, outlining her plan for the next couple of hours, but retained a quizzical expression that left it open to corrections and suggestions.

Takeda nodded understandably to Lily's answer. It wasn't completely right, but it might make sense to Maya. "Yeah, Maya. France is a really long ways away from Jinan, so the time's a bit different."

The conversation had suddenly gone off on a tangent and the fox boy had to listen for a moment to get back up to speed with the adults. "I'm a little hungry too. I don't know anything about this place, though. I've never been to France, and I haven't seen outside of that warehouse."

As the baby got louder and louder, the voices in the back of Blackrose's head did the same. The louder they got, the more the pain in her head built up.

"Lady, shut that thing up before I do. Now, we didn't come looking for trouble, and I honestly don't give a damn about whatever he has to do. We're not really in a position to talk to the police, so I suggest you back down before things get any uglier." Blackrose said, drawing the knife out of her back pocket, keeping it hidden and attempting to hold on to it with a steady grip.

Maya thought that Lily's answer seemed to make sense, but she didn't much like the sound of her suggestion afterwards.

"I want food now!" she whined "Why can't we all eat there?"

The little girl pointed up the hill to an outdoor cafe on the edge of a crossroads where it was much busier. Around it stood a number of newspaper and magazine stands, and people were coming and going all the time.

~

The teenager sighed, then spoke briefly to his mother in Chinese, the baby she was holding quieting down. She eventually nodded, and then without warning he leapt towards Alec, one fist aimed directly at the American's jaw. As he did so the customers gasped, several with mobile phones out but all focused on the sudden action taking place.

"I've seen all varieties of families going into cafes and whatnot," Rezetta said, leaning down to carefully rest the sword case at her feet while everybody talked. "I don't think it'd be too weird for two of us," here she gestured to indicate Lily, Gabriel, and herself, "to go in with the two kids. Though I'll agree one of us should stay behind, at least."

She looked down at the singed sleeve on her arm and frowned. "Probably best if I stayed behind. I'm sure to get really odd looks if I walk in with my shirt messed up like this."

The teenager launched forward, blasting Alec in the face with a strong punch in the face. He fell backwards onto the floor, and Blackrose saw blood streaming from his nose. She scrambled forward and talked the Chinese boy, punching and kicking him as hard as she could. She felt the boy fighting back, with blows being dealt to her head and torso. As she tried to scramble away from him, she remembered the knife she had been clutching, and stabbed it at the boy as well as she could. She could feel it catching air, and felt it catch on her pants, ripping a hole in the side of her pants near the knee. She kept thrashing around until she felt it the knife sink into the boy's flesh. As she managed to get away, she saw she had gotten the knife into the back of the boy's shoulder. She ripped the knife out, and shoved the boy off of her, right into an occupied table. As she felt her head, she could feel some of her teeth missing, and blood pooling in her mouth. She looked behind her at Alec, who she could see had drawn a gun, holding it out at the woman.

"How are you holding up?" She asked, seeing the blood dripping rapidly off of his face.

"I think my nose my be broken, but other than that, I'm doing fine." Alec responded.

Blackrose turned to face the boy, who had staggered to his feet, and the woman, still holding the baby. "Alright, you better give us answers, and you'd better give them NOW! We're armed, and as you've seen, can easily be dangerous." She said, very threateningly.

Maya looked around at her new companions with annoyance, her stomach was rumbling with hunger and all of them seemed to be waiting for someone else to make the next move.

"Why are you just standing there? I'm going now, if you want to follow me then hurry up!"

The small girl turned around sulkily and started marching up the hill with a frown on her face, not looking behind her to see what the others would do.

~

The teenager lay on the floor, moaning and clutching his bloodied face and shoulder. The stout woman promptly dropped the baby into a surprised patron's arms before rushing to hold her injured son, tears flooding down her cheeks.

"You monsters, here, take this and leave!"

She took out a notebook and hastily scrawled a phone number onto it before pushing the piece of paper onto Blackrose's hands and falling back to the floor to attend her boy.

"No offence lady," Gabriel said, looking at Lily "but I don't think anyone'll buy that you came along voluntarily with those kids, certainly if you keep glaring at them like that." He grinned apologetically.

"If you're hungry I can give you some cash...or I could just shuttup" he concluded, trying to hide in his coat as her stoic expression moved from Maya to him.

Alec thought, trying to regain his sense of reality:

OK, first I get attacked by a midget. Then I get tracked. Then I witness the near-death experience of Mr.Kim, who might not be alive anymore, etc.

"Rose, I'm scared, for the second time in my life. I pulled a gun in a bar, you stabbed someone, we drove away from the police. You and I however both need to get to a hospital. WE CAN'T GO TO ONE NOW! We're either going to die right now, or die in jail! I might even get a death sentence now! GOD!"

Alec angrily turned towards the bar family.

"And you! Why couldn't you cooperate! I had important business to do and now I'm being side-tracked! What am I supposed to do now!? Call a doctor and tell him I'm on a death sentence anyway!?"

Maya slowed down after a few seconds, glancing behind her uncertainly she noticed with annoyance that her companions still hadn't moved from their spot. She stopped and looked around moodily for anything interesting in the street; a newspaper lying on a step caught her attention. Picking it up, she noted the several large colour pictures of buildings on fire, including one that was surrounded by Chinese people. The writing was in western letters though, she couldn't tell which language but it didn't matter, she'd never learned to read English anyway.

The little girl made her way back to the others, presenting the newspaper at first to the kitsune. Takeda quickly glanced at it before looking away with a shrug, Maya couldn't tell if this was because he simply was not interested or if he couldn't read it either. She then passed on the newspaper to Zetta, who held it so Gabriel and Lily could see it too.

The International Times: Paris Edition - 19th June 2010

Huge fires simultaneously hit large cities around the world, over 200 believed to be dead

image

From yesterday evening to early this morning in Central European Time a series of explosive fires have hit at least seven large cities around the world, including New York, Paris, London, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tokyo and Mexico City. So far there appears to be no connections between the attacks locations, other than they were all in highly populated areas. Here in Paris an uncontrolled fire hit the Rue de Vanenne street, leaving over 30 dead and more than 100 injured. Initial reports suggest that two explosions less a minute apart started the blaze, the first inside a drive-through fast-food restaurant and the second on the street outside. Police are still investigating and experts have already commented on the likelihood of international terrorists being responsible. While initial figures suggest there total death toll around the world to be about 200, it may actually be much higher. More on page 3...

5 mutilated bodies found in empty Paris hangar


In the early hours of the morning 5 human corpses were discovered by local police in an unused building. Those first on the scene described their shock at the brutality of the killings, describing the bodies as "wrenched on two", "pierced to the ceiling" and "broken under shrapnel", apparently while the victims were still alive. An official statement has revealed that the victims were all adult males, but their identities are remain unknown. The police are appealing to the public for any information, particularly on a potential suspect; a tall thing young white man aged roughly 20 to 25 who was spotted leaving the premise on CCTV cameras around the time the killings occurred. This report continues on page 6...

Both Lily and Zetta raised their eyebrows and looked at each other in surprise, evidently they already knew something about it. Gabriel's response was more measured, he was reading the front page with interest but it was hard to tell what he was actually thinking. Maya stamped her foot impatiently as they silently digested the information.

"What's it about?" she whined "Why won't you..."

She stopped because suddenly she shuddered, it felt cold as if a shadow had just crossed over her, but nothing had. Her companions also seemed to be looking around oddly, like they could feel something too. She looked across the road and blinked when she thought she saw something dark but vaguely human shaped floating under a parked car for a moment, before the spectre disappeared. She raised her hand to point out it out to the others, but before she even had a chance to the car exploded in a huge ball of fire, sending scraps of metal flying all across the street. The small girl screamed and grabbed hold of Takeda in fright as the wave of hot air saturated with the stench of burning fuel swept over them.

~

"You're not dead if I can help it!"

Alec and Blackrose turned in surprise to see a Chinese woman wearing a heavy brown coat, standing behind them. The patrons of the bar gasped, and then stared at her in shock, their mouths hanging wide open at her sudden appearance. At a closer inspection her eyes seemed oddly red as if she'd been crying and her face was grey and tired.

"My name's Rin and you were about to ring me... believe it or not our conversation would have been most interesting. However, the police are on their way here right now and you two would have been thrown into a tiny jail cell, or worse, before you'd even reached my apartment... had I let that future come to pass. Luckily for you, I believe we can help each other, come now I will take you to safety."

She reached forward and gripped the two Americans by their shoulders. Almost immediately, the bar melted away to be replaced by nothingness, which a moment later became a neatly decorated room with a sofa and a television.

"So, I already know what you want but you might as well ask me for it anyway. Any other questions would be appreciated now so we can get that tiresome getting to know each other over with and get down to business."

She crossed her arms and stood straight in a serious pose, which didn't quite fit with her drained and haggard appearance.

Zetta read through the stories on the front page twice, once quickly and once more slowly. "So it wasn't just by us," she mused in a low voice, more to herself than to the others. Something about the second story on the mutilated bodies seemed odd, but she quickly dismissed it. It wasn't as if brutal murders were anything new, especially in this city. Still holding the newspaper up, she caught Lily's eye and said, "I'll wager all of these explosions have something to do with our friend, Rin."

She let the other two take the newspaper as her gaze slid over to Maya, who seemed on the verge of throwing a fit because nobody was answering her. Zetta opened her mouth to say something, but closed it again as she shivered uncontrollably all of a sudden. Running her hands over her arms, she looked about them in fear that Rin or her wizard had already come back; she saw nothing, however.

Well, she thought, that was odd. She was about to shrug the feeling off when a car suddenly exploded. She heard Maya screaming and reflexively threw herself to the ground, shielding her head with her arms. "Drop!" she commanded the others as she did so. Zetta felt the hot blast of air pass over her and cried out when something hit her in the leg, but she didn't dare move in case she got brained with more flying metal, or blasted in the face by the flames.

As Rin grabbed her by the shoulder, she felt the ground under her change and the scenery shift. As her vision and footing settled, she stumbled backwards onto the floor. As she scrambled to her feet, she heard Rin ask for questions.

"What the hell did you just do? How are you acting so casual after what you just did? I realize I'm in no position to call someone weird based on what you do, but that IS impossible." Blackrose shouted, dismay and shock in her voice. As she looked around, she couldn't believe they were in such a normal place after what had happened. "Hold on wait, where are we now?"

NO, this can't be happening!

"Ok, I got quite a few questions for you Rin. One, can I have the sword? Two, am I alive right now? Three, where are we? Four, what are you going to do to us? And five, what did you just do!?"

Alec quickly and quietly whispered to Blackrose: "Don't ask too many questions. This woman is dangerous despite what she seems like. If you stay quiet enough, she will begin to stop noticing you, and then you can slip out. I'll try to keep her distracted."

Gabriel heard Zetta call out for a drop, and he turned to face her with a puzzling look. At the same time a feeling of unexplainable jubilation washed over him. It was gone as fast as it came, and afterward nothing more than a memory.

Then the car blew up.

The schockwave hit him like a brick wall would and the sudden shock made him fall to the ground; hitting his head on what he presumed was someone's leg. Shrapnel and wreckage rained on him as he protected his face from the burning hot particles; still dazed and confused on what happened. Maya screamed; others yelled and he stayed silent. For some reason his mind shot back to all that had happened in the shades of twilight this morning. He mentally shook himself.

When most of the wreckage wasn't falling anymore, he removed his arms and saw the sky obscured by a thick, billow cloud and the stench of burnt fuel and plastics in the air. He groaned. Even now he had a terrible sense of deja vu.

"No. I'm getting answers. Besides, she doesn't look like she could hurt a fly, much less me." Blackrose said to Alec, then looking at Rin. "So, what the hell are you? And are we out of China?"

Lily didn't see the explosion until it was too late, at which point she didn't have time to duck, and instead threw her arms up to her face, hoping to keep her body identifiable. She heard the air from the blast roar past her on all sides, and waited for the inevitable heat of the flames to cook her in a flash, but it never came. When she opened one of her eyes a crack, she saw the street was littered with shards of metal and a few recognisable pieces here and there. A wing-mirror, a broken hazard light, the charred cover of an A to Z, all once pieces of one whole, now just bits embedded in warehouse walls, and tenement halls, as somewhere in the distance whispered the sound of sirens.

Maya was pulled to the ground as Takeda who she was still holding onto collapsed downwards. She yelped as Gabriel landed on her leg, and looking upwards saw for just a moment what seemed to be the shadow of a human figure, reaching past her towards Zetta, before it vanished again. She looked back down at the kitsune, who seemed to have an odd expression on his face.

"Takeda?" Something about the boy didn't seem right to the little girl, she cried in panic to the adults "Help, I think he's hurt!"

~

Rin shook her head slowly in the response to Blackrose and Alec's question.

"Why, what a lot of questions you have? Well, I suppose I did ask for it, coming in there like that. You have no need to be concerned, we're just a few miles away from the bar, and in the same time period too. I am a mistress of the time and space, I can see and traverse the many strands of the infinite possible futures, and can foresee... most... events..."

The woman suddenly broke down into tears.

"I would give you... the sword you desire... but it's been stolen. Not only that, but the four demons who took it murdered my poor Myrddin!" she stopped to sob for a moment, then continued "I did everything I could, brought in the best doctor for specials I knew about, but it was too late, one foul bullet into his leg and there was nothing he could do. I don't know how but I didn't forsee this."

She then called out in a louder rasping voice. "Dr. Strauss, come out now I have the other two."

Takeda toppled backward onto the ground as the explosion went off. The hot blast of air whipped past him and for a few moments his vision faded to white and he lost consciousness.

. . . Takeda?

The boy groaned softly as he heard his voice called out, as if from far away. The voice was familiar, it was Maya. He wanted to see where she was. Slowly, his unsettlingly wide-open eyes blinked and regained focus. The sky was partially obscured by smoke, and he could smell the burning fuel and plastic. As his senses returned to him, a burning pain blossomed in his stomach.

With a moan of pain, he rolled onto his side and curled his legs up a bit, wrapping his arms around himself. Though his actions were immediately met with more pain. Tears came to his eyes and he carefully lifted his shirt up, finding a twisted piece of metal buried in his torso. Smoke slowly curled off of it around the wound, smelling of charred flesh.

The severity of his wound was instantly obvious, and Takeda closed his eyes with a soft sob. He could feel the burns and razor-sharp edges of the impalement deep inside him, cutting him more with each breath. I'm going to die . . .

Dr. Strauss had removed the bullet from Merlin's leg several days ago, and even though it had managed to lodge itself into the man's femur, getting the bullet out had been the easy part. The hard part had been treating the infected flesh without exacerbating it. After several days of being unable to identify the infection, let alone treat it; treatment was no longer an uphill battle; it was a plunge into oblivion. Dr. Strauss took note of every detail he could of the infection, naming it Merlin's Syndrome.

"Stage One," he said to his tape recorder, "the infection spreads to the local muscle, nerves, and skin; the tissue is hard to spot as it is bone-white in appearance. The patient reports a slight tingling sensation at the infected area yet cannot feel the pain of the injury that enabled the infection. Stage Two, patient reports that the entire leg is in severe pain... yet only the site of initial injury shows any visible sign of infection; I have taken a few blood samples to confirm my suspicions, and the infection does indeed spread through the blood; what is strange is that while the blood in the leg itself is the same bone-white as the initial infection, however the blood in the rest of the body is still red. There is nothing in current medical science to explain this but I suspect that..."

Dr. Strauss paused as he heard Rin calling out to him. Then he continued on with his documentation.

"I suspect that," he repeated into the tape recorder, "the marrow from the damaged bone has somehow liquefied and is slowly spreading to the rest of the body. Again, what is so peculiar about this infection is that it spread to his entire leg within two days, yet not so much as a trace of it can be found anywhere else in his body. Stage Three, the liquefied marrow has spread to the rest of the body, clogging up the veins and arteries, at this stage, any hope of treatment is impossible and the patient quickly dies from a series of heart attacks."

Dr. Strauss turned the tape recorder off after ensuring that it had recorded his findings correctly. Once he was done cataloging Merlin's Syndrome, he set the tape recorder down and joined Rin and her guests.

"Rin? You called?" he said as he entered the room.

After a moment, Zetta pushed herself up to a sitting position. Rubbing at her eyes with one hand--the heat and smoke were causing them to tear up--she stared, dumbfounded, at the wreckage. There were burning car parts littering the area, including what looked like part of the engine laying distressingly close to where her head had just been. It immediately brought to mind the strange explosion she and Lily had witnessed not too long ago, as well as the others mentioned in the newspaper.

Zetta turned to look at what had hit her leg when she heard Maya call out. Ignoring her own pain at the moment, she looked over to where Maya and Takeda were.

"Oh, shit," she muttered as she saw Takeda pull his shirt up to reveal the metal sticking out of his chest. She got to her feet and took a few wobbly steps towards the two, eyes trained on the boy's wound. "Oh, shit." She felt nauseas, aware of the bile starting to rise in her throat. She forced it back down, determined not to throw up, and turned to look Lily and Gabriel. "Guys, he... What do we do? What can we do?"

Tears welled up in Maya's eyes as she hugged the kitsune's body, blood seeping through his shirt and onto her clothing. He already felt limp and cold in her arms.

"No Takeda, don't die, you're my only friend!" she wailed at him "I don't want to be alone again!" The little girl looked up beggingly at the adults "Quick, someone help him!" she cried "You've got to help him... please!"

~

Rin nodded to Dr. Strauss as he entered the room.

"Here's Alec and Blackrose, they haven't told me their names yet but I already knew, of course. I believe you two have already met, if I'm not mistaken."

She gestured between the two men briefly, before focusing her attention on Blackrose.

"Now dear, I sense you have an unfortunate injury in your back not much unlike the one my darling lover suffered in his leg. It would be best for all concerned if it was to be removed post-haste, Dr. Strauss if you would be so kind as to take Blackrose into the bedroom and remove that bullet it would be much appreciated. Alec, I have something else to discuss with you, so I'd like you to remain here. "

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