“Hey Viktor —” Adele started to smile at the phone.
“Adele, shut up and listen.” Viktor’s voice sounded sick. “Mbala was just here. She was talking to someone on the phone and it was pretty clear she wanted us to hear the conversation. She asked whoever she was talking to if it was true Quetzal is traveling north.”
“Oh no…” Adele felt her blood turn to ice. “I’m calling him now.” She hung up the phone and immediately dialed Jormun’s line. He didn’t even get a syllable of greeting out before she started talking. “Pachua is here.”
“Are you —”
“Information comes from Mbaba.”
He was silent for a moment. “If you don’t hear from me in fifteen minutes, implement protocol.”
“I love you.” His voice was soft. “Fifteen minutes.”
“I love you too.” She blinked back tears. “Fifteen minutes.” She hung up the phone, and turned to see Magda. The other woman was pale, but giving her a sympathetic look. “He’s…”
Magda’s arms went around her briefly, then the other woman nodded. “What does he need us to do?”
“Protocol is fifteen minutes.” She took a deep breath. “I’ll need Khait, and we should gather everyone. We may need to move fast.” She started dialing her phone again.
“What’s protocol?” Magda nodded.
Adele wiped at her eyes. “Hopefully, you won’t need to find out.” She shook her head. “Otherwise, you’ll learn in fourteen minutes and seventeen seconds.” She hit the last button on the phone. “Greg? Standbye for protocol. Fourteen minutes.”
“I…” Greg swallowed. “Fourteen minutes. Understood.”
“So Pachua is on his way?” Abigail entered, followed by Khait.
“He’s already here.”
The sound of Ted’s shout brought Daniel’s head up. He exchanged a brief glance with Matthias before they both went running in that direction. Ted was coming out of his office, his face pale as he rushed toward them, looking over his shoulder. “Monica. Oh dear god, he…” Ted shook his head before stepping to the side of the corridor and pulling the fire alarm. The sound of the siren blasted through the air as a long haired man in a leather jacket also stepped out of Ted’s office. Daniel’s eyes widened. There was blood splattered on the jacket.
Matthias immediately moved to interpose himself between them and the newcomer. Daniel breathed a small sigh of relief. The center didn’t have many people in it, and most of those were in the game room upstairs. They’d be going out the back exit. He could see blood on the window of Ted’s office. Dammit, he’d liked Monica. She was sweet. Matthias drew himself to his full height. The man smirked. Then he started toward them.
Ted caught Daniel’s arm, pulling him back as Matthias stood his ground. As soon as the man got closer, Matthias moved forward, fist aimed for the guy’s throat. Daniel’s eyes widened as the man caught Matthias’s punch with one hand, stopping it cold. “Wolf.” The man smiled, showing teeth. Then he whirled, flinging Matthias through the wall with a crashing sound.
“Oh fuck.” Daniel stared. A couple heartbeats later, Matthias came back through the hole in the wall, this time in full alpha form. He roared as he slammed into the other man, knocking them both through the door on the other side of the hallway. “Ted, we should call for backup.” He shook his head. “Erilon, we need —”
“Run. Both of you. Now.”
“But Matthias…” Ted actually started to take a step forward.
“Ted, there is nothing you can do for him. Take Daniel and run.”
“Wait…” A chill went down his spine, and his stomach twisted into a knot. “Erilon…” Ted had hold of his arm, and started dragging him backward. “No. Erilon what…” He tried to dig his feet in when he heard Matthias roar in pain.
“Daniel, we need to get help.” Ted pulled his arm again, and he was surprised to realize that Ted was actually considerably stronger than he was.
“But…” His heart stopped when he heard a second cry from Matthias cut off abruptly. “No…” His eyes welled with tears. “No, no…” He started trying to pull away from Ted again.
“Daniel…” There was a surge of something into him, and suddenly his feet were moving of their own accord, following Ted. I’m sorry, Daniel.
He staggered as they came to a stop, and tried to force air back into his lungs. “Holy shit.” Michaels put a hand on his holster as he panted. He could hear an alarm going off, and saw kids leaving the building. He nodded to Jormun. “Go do you, I’ll get the civilians clear.”
“Good.” Jormun headed into the front door.
Michaels pulled out his badge, despite knowing a lot of the kids at the center would recognize them. He headed toward the largest group. “Hey, Detective Not-The-Pretty-One.” One of the girls, a friend of Laura’s, waved at him as he approached. “What’s going on?”
“Hey Amanda.” He nodded. “We’ve got a gas leak. Going to have to ask you all to clear all the way out.” He pulled some cash out of his wallet and offered it to her. She took it with a smile. “Go take everyone for ice —” There was a loud crashing sound, then a half dozen windows exploded outward, sending out sparks and smoke. “Cream.” He looked back at her. “Run.”
A half dozen or so of the older ones, those he recognized as volunteering at the center, immediately began herding the younger ones away. A different older boy balked, and Michaels reached for his handcuffs. He said a silent prayer the kid wouldn’t call his bluff. “You really rather get hauled to jail than eat ice cream?”
“Dipshit.” Amanda smacked the guy upside the head before grabbing his collar and hauling him with her.
They weren’t going as fast as he’d have preferred, but they were still — “Detective?” A young man took a hesitant step toward him. “Uh…” He shrugged awkwardly. “There are about six bitching it was a false alarm. They uh —”
“Where?” He started into the building.
“Game room.” The young man called after him. “Need help?”
“Get clear.” He took a deep breath as he headed inside.
“Protocol is…” Adam raised an eyebrow. Laura was fidgeting next to him, and he put an arm around her waist.
Adele was staring at the screen on her phone, watching numbers count down. Magda took a half step toward her. “Adele, I know you can’t tell us specifics, but what is this protocol for?”
“It’s not…” Adele took a deep breath.
“He’s left you a set of instructions to follow if he dies.” Stephan’s voice was quiet. He glanced at Lykos, whose face looked carved out of stone. “And he’s authorized you to implement said instructions.”
“Yes.” Adele swallowed. “On both counts. Standard is…” She exhaled. “He gives me a time. Until he cancels the order, as soon as he misses a checkin I implement the protocol.”
“If he doesn’t call…” Abigail reached for Khait’s hand, and Khait squeezed her hand before pulling her to him and putting an arm around her waist. Abigail nodded before continuing. “Then you…”
“It won’t be by phone.” Adele shook her head. “All contact until he cancels will be telepathic, so I can be sure it’s him.” She rubbed her upper arm.
“We can help him.” Magda started shaking her head.
“If that were true, he’d have told you to —”
“All due respect, young lady…” Father Williams stood. “That’s not his decision, or yours, to make.”
“Sit down.” Lykos narrowed his eyes. “Or be made sit.”
Adam tilted his head, then exchanged a look with Stasya. She nodded to him. “Father Williams, sit down.”
“Soft targets. Merlin’s pissed, he wants revenge, but Pachua didn’t come here.” Adam held Stasya’s eyes.
“Soft target. Distraction. Emotional impact.” Stasya made a growling sound. “Pachua went to center.”
“We need to —” Immediately, everyone was on their feet.
“Shut up and listen to Adam.” Everyone blinked at the sound of Ash’s raised voice. There was a slight pause, then everyone turned back toward Adam.
“That’s where Jormun is, if he’s dealing with Pachua. That’s the distraction. Merlin won’t trust an intermediary with his real target, so he’ll be coming here personally. I’d wager he’s just waiting for us to leave to so he doesn’t have to expend any real power to get it.” Adam glanced in the direction of the box. Felipa stood behind it, her eyes wide and terrified. Despite that, she gave him a firm nod. “Less risky.”
“He’s right.” Father Williams’ voice sounded reluctant, but he nodded. “Cabal tactics.”
“Unfortunately, both our heavies are at the school.” Stephan made an annoyed sound.
“Hey.” Khait and Lykos said the word simultaneously, then shot each other glares.
“It took both of you guys to take down Matthias.” Christophe shook his head at them. Then he glanced at the young man next to him. “No offense, Iggy.”
“I punch hard. Matthias punches good.” Iggy shook his head. “I’m smart enough to know the difference.”
“We’ve got a dragon coming, and ours is distracted.” Magda sighed.
“One of yours.” Adam took a deep breath. “I can’t beat Merlin, but uh…” He glanced at Stephan. “I can’t actually die as long as you keep that safe, so I’m willing to annoy the shit out of him for as long as needed.”
Father Williams reached up, and to Adam’s surprise, removed his collar and handed it to Sister Doris. Her eyes widened a little. “Well.” He nodded to Adam. “This isn’t going to be any kind of fun.”
“Right.” Bridget took out her gun and checked the clip. “Lykos, what do you have in the way of dragon-killing ammo?”
Ted saw the red glow leave Daniel’s eyes. Daniel shook his head furiously, his eyes swelling with tears. “Erilon don’t you ever fucking do that again.”
“I’m sorry, Daniel. You dying would not help Matthias.”
“Fuck you.” Daniel kicked a trash can across the room. “He’s not fucking dead. He’s not —”
There was a crashing sound from below them, and the building shook. “Daniel, we need to get out of…” Ted trailed off as three men came through the door. They were all holding guns. “Here.”
“Well, now…” The one in the lead smiled. “Mr. Thatcher. It’s been a while. Your mother has been worried.”
“Oh, fuck the fucking hell out of you.” Daniel started to take a step toward the man, and Ted caught his arm. The men raised the guns. “Fuck you all.”
He pushed the young man behind him, and hoped he stay there. “I take it you people are with the Cabal.”
“We are.” The man in the lead gestured, and the others lowered their weapons. He kept his trained on them. “I do hope you’ll come along quiet —”
A shot rang out from the other side of the room, and the man in the lead spun to the left, cursing. There was a second shot, and the man fell to the ground, blood pumping out of a hole in his head. Michaels fired again, taking the man on the left in the throat. Ted grabbed Daniel and yanked him behind as desk as the last man rolled and returned fire. The door frame next to Michaels exploded in splinters. Michaels moved the muzzle of his gun just slightly down. His bullet took the last man in the face.
A slightly horrified expression came to his face as Michaels strode forward and put two more rounds in the man choking on the floor before putting a final round in the last man. Then he looked up. “You both alright?” There was another crashing sound below them.
“Matthias is hurt.” Daniel started shaking his head. “We have to —”
“Jormun is dealing with Pachua.” Michaels shook his head. “We need to finish clearing the building. There are a few kids still hiding in the game room.” He nodded toward the door.
Ted turned just in time to see a couple of pale faces ducking back from where they’d been watching through the glass. A chill went down his spine. Those kids had just seen Michaels execute two men. “Michaels…”
“We’ll deal with it later, Ted.” Michaels nodded calmly as he started to reload. “You and Daniel get them out and safe. I’m going to make sure there are no more Cabal shitheads around.” He went to the hallway door and started looking around.
“Right.” Ted grabbed Daniel’s arm and headed for the door.
Stephan felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked to see Stasya. “Thought you were with Adam. Guarding him.”
“Laura guards him. Figured was best you have gun not need magic.” She smiled. Her eyes went down to the hand that wore the ring, then back up to his. “And I am guarding him.”
“He rescued Wren.” Stephan fought the urge to check his gun again. “Possible we’ll have to deal with her again.”
“Got bullet with her name on it.” Stasya held something up.
He blinked as he glanced at it. A hollow-point bullet, with the word ‘Wren’ written on it in black ink. “I knew I liked you for a reason.” He chuckled.
“Now we wait…” She took up a position on the other side of the door. “And set phasers to kill.”
For a moment, he stared at her. Then he smiled. “Make that two reasons.”