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Dealing with devils
Once upon a time the world had been such a simple place. The worst he had to worry about was crossing paths with a CCD black-ops team, or being burned by those who pulled the strings back home. Being the trigger man was always a dangerous thing, especially when politicians changed office, wanted to ruin each other's careers, or to make themselves look good. Bloody hell he hated politicians.

So there he was staring at a big...charcoal blob...? with arms, maybe? Cracks and splits in it's hide seemed to reveal molten lava or something underneath. Those parts of his mind that might bother to question the reality of the situation clicked off; the same part of his mind that clicked off when he had to do things others might deem terrible. He hadn't the advantage of upbringing that Rune and Aria had; he had only come to know of the existence of monsters and spirits a little over a year ago, after all. These things were all sorts of impossible.

Considering the tone and seriousness in Rune's voice, he had to assume she was, as it looked to him, in over her head. Just where the hell had this thing come from anyway? Was it related to the Rougarou in some way, or was this just a whole lot of bad luck on their part? Well, either way, if she wanted the Freon, so be it.

He slung his SMG and stepped up to the heavy freezer, grabbing hold of it and tugging it out from the wall then onto it's front with a loud slam. The grate over the compressor was easily pried off with one good yank, then he grabbed the flimsy metal pipe that circulated the compression-cooled Freon gas through the system. It took a few precious moments to wrench some of the pipe free, working a few bends out of it to give him some reach, then out came the particularly large knife strapped alongside his pistol.

One quick chop and he sliced the thin metal pipe open, then leveled it towards the Bannik as the freezing cold gas billowed forth. With the freezer still running, the compressor-cooled gas was shot forth with some force, and he grabbed the freezer and dragged it further from the wall as the gas washed over the Bannik with pleasantly visible effect. Certainly more then he had been expecting.
The man in front of her looked, more leered at her. But there were more important things to do. She didn't want to leave him here, but the man who had saved her, hopefully he'd show up. Either way, Rune and Mr. White were off doing god knows what with what ever monster decided to take up residence here in the bath house. There were a billion different monsters out there and a billion different kinds could live in this bathhouse. Aria didn't want to think about some of the more nasty types.

She turned and left the room and saw her savior out of the corner of her eye before she turned to run after the scent of her 'friends.' She hardly knew them, but they were Atharim or at least associates of them, and they were technically all she ever knew for family, so inheritance of cause they were at least friends. But it didn't matter, there was trouble, and while she was small and fragile, she was trained to kill monsters her entire life.

Every turn she made the emotions got stronger. The initial chase was of determination, and then a rushed feeling of Mr. White, but it was the distance that had her attention. Aria ran until she entered the room and saw a looming spirit made of magma. It was a sight she had never actually seen, but her father... no Father Dimitri had insisted on learning about every monster out there. Banniks were not a good creature. And Aria had come with out a plan for this exact monster. One sword was pinned in the rougarou back the other way and the other, and guns were doing nothing to improve the specters mood.

Aria saw Mr. White ripping the freezer in the corner apart. It was a long shot. It could slow it down, but it wasn't going to do much damage much less stop it. Aria looked around and saw no soap, lye and surely there was not going to be any birch lying around in the abandoned bath house. No chickens to sacrifice, though Aria did keep salt on hand. It wasn't much but it rarely left her pockets.

Aria drew the cross across her body. It was the least she could do is honor it's traditions. It did have to die, it was far too dangerous. There was nothing handy to cool the sucker down. But there were the pipes, the could still have water and pressure. But the freeze was definately not doing much. It's attention had turned to Mr. White. It moved slowly. But it looked even angrier than it did before.

Aria shouted, "The pipes!" She pointed up. "Bath house, water." Her little gun wasn't going to make it rain on the thing. But one of their's would.
The freezer was Rune's only idea, but it turned out to be a watered down (pun intended) effort but if anyone could get it done, surely Cuddles would be the best bet they had.

The weaponized freon slowed the Bannik somewhat. With two targets it seemed confused, as though torn between who to punish first. That was its job after all, to punish those which crossed its domain and break its laws. There were all sorts of legends about spirits that floated around sweat tents, saunas and bath houses.

The freon hurt it somewhat, well, "hurt" was a far fetched term. The rolling lava beneath its black skin slowed and a hissing sound filled Rune's ears. She tried spraying the thing with gunfire once more, but all she accomplished was ringing ears and hot hands.

Aria sprinted in, but Rune was too focused on the creature to notice the drawing of her hands across her chest. If there were traditions that appeased a bannik, Rune didn't know what they were. She only knew how to kill one, and that meant they had to get it cold enough to make its neck solid enough to slice off its shoulders.

Aria yelled for the pipes, and Rune flushed hot with excitement. Yes!

She glanced at Hood, who chucked her a fresh mag. The subsonic hollow points they'd stocked up weren't liable to do much at punching through walls and pipes after all. He tossed her a clip of full metal jackets and moments later, Rune was spraying the ceiling with firepower over the Bannik's head. The drywall was peppered with a million holes and rained down a fog of white powder atop the Bannik.

It thrummed a loud noise, that hive of bees vibrating deep within its core, and turned back to Rune. She stepped backward instinctively, but never took her eyes off the mark. Hood shone a beam from his flashlight so she could see, but by that point, so much dust and asbestos fogged the air, Rune was shooting upward blind to what she was aiming. There was metal though. The twang of bullets striking copper sparked. Something was up there, but the copper took a beating and kept on keeping on.

The Bannik put two and two together and came for her. Rune grit her teeth and kept punching at the ceiling. The dust swarmed into her eyes, watering them painfully, and choked her nose with gritty snot she couldn't quite swallow. One pipe finally bust open, and water dripped out no harder than a leaky faucet.

Rune's swearing was lost in the hissing. A few drops landed on the Bannik's shoulder, scabbing it over instantly. She didn't have endless rounds, and if she didn't find the right spot sooner rather than later, the Bannik was going to have four corpses swinging from the tracks.

There were shower heads on the walls, but no framing in the ceiling to indicate where the supply pipes ran. This was a basement. So something had to streak overhead! There were tracks over by the lockers that held the curtains. There was even a track on this side of the room, but no curtain dangled from -- wait! That wasn't a track, it was a sprinkler line!

She swung the SMG and fired dead at it, heart pounding, hands warm and fingers sore from the grip. She prayed the head was still pressurized.

It burst a firehose of water, raining out in an arc so hard it stung Rune's face. Thank goodness she had on waterproof mascara! She felt her hair flatten against her ears. Water loosened her grip on the SMG and the blood leaking around the floor ran thin with dilution down the slope toward the drain.

The Bannik screamed a horrible hiss as the water drenched its shape. Smoke curled up as it writhed, unable to move, but every bend of its limbs crackled and splintered, flakes of heavy ash broke off its body and shattered against the floor. "Now Aria!" Rune yelled, spotting another sprinkler and smacking it off just like the first, dousing its back. An inch of water coursed around Rune's feet but she refused to give up her footing. Not now.
Aria didn't have the time to holster her gun before Rune screamed for the last blow. Aria sighed, it was another lost blade, but in this instance it was well worth it. Aria brought her hands together and dropped the handgun to the ground. With both hands Aria gripped the hilt of the sword and with all her might she swung the sword through Bannik's neck. The father she pushed through the molten lava, tha hotter Aria's sword became and the softer it got.

Aria muttered a prayer. There was nothing else she could do. She prayed that there was enough slice left in the sword to finish the deed. She prayed that whatever the spirit wanted die it's last breath. If she were a priest could have concecrated the water and holy water would rain down upon the evil spirit. But she wasn't and could never be. Aria pulled the sagging blade the remainder of the way through the beast and it's head toppled to the ground in one loud thud, followed by it's body.

Aria dropped the sword and looked at the welt on her hands. She hoped it would not scar but knowing her luck she would have a permanent snake etched into the skin of her palms.

Aria sat down in the wet puddles on the ground and cooled her hands. She looked around to find her team, "Everyone okay?"
It was an epic scene. The Bannik hissed and spurt. The water scabbed its black body to a dripping, floating orb of goo. It dropped its jaw and where before a furnace of heat spawned from the depths of hell, a dying light flickered and dimmed. Rune found a third sprinkler and whacked it off same as the others, but by then the spirit was solidified forever.

Then a streak of silver and Aria's sword slashed through the air. It connected with the black spray of ash and papery slivers exploded from the wound, mixed with the water and streaked black, a sudden drench of acidic rain puddling downward, mixing with the blood and water, and swirled around Rune's feet until it disappeared in the drain.

Rune lowered her weapon, arms tense and her chest heaving from exertion. The bolus of its head dropped to the floor, followed immediately by the crash of its body. It shattered like black ice, impossibly thin, and curled up like snowflakes while the water reduced the mound to soggy ashes in moments.

It was dead.

Water poured down Rune's face, funneled from her pink eyebrows, and ran a river around the corner of her eyes. Much of her makeup was washed away, all but the faint line of black waterproof eyeliner and mascara, but without the splash of color on her lids and glossy shade to her lips, her eyes simply looked sunken and tired. Her complexion white and drained in the bad underground lighting, but there was a fierce victory every time her rapid blinks flicked fat raindrops from her vision. She shared a long, relieved glance with Hood, then looked at the black mess at her feet. It had splattered on her boots and sprayed stains all the way up to her waist. And when Rune pushed the flatness of her hair from her face, she unknowingly streaked another ash across her forehead: painting her face accidentally like some GI Jane trooper.

She glanced at Aria, and shot the girl a thankful nod, but the Bannik wasn't the only thing in this shower room.

She left cloud of rain, Hood and Aria behind, sprinting around the corner of the lockers and ran to the other side of the room and skid to a stop before the body of the flayed rougarou.

It's not like someone could survive that, right? "This is gross." She said mostly to herself, then grabbed his wrist to check for a pulse. Through a papery thin layer of connective tissue, and soggy mass of muscle and tendon, she pressed a pair of fingers to a vein. He was still warm.

There was no pulse, but just to make sure, she slung the SMG around her shoulder, stepped back, drew her pistol and coolly aimed, peering down the contours of slick arms, she shot the buggar clean through the temple. Likely Aria and Hood were on their way, if they hadn't already followed her, the sounds of gunfire would draw them instantly.

Then a second round pounded her eardrums: a second shot through the skull. When the body caught the bullet, it swung on its tracks, spinning around like a badly hit pinata. She paused long enough to steady it, aimed and fired two more to the heart.

When she was satisfied the thing was dead for good, because there were levels of dead of course, Rune secured the pistol once more, flipped her hair upside down and scrubbed the wetness from her scalp with her palms. Streaks of black mixed with the dark pink, but she didn't know or care. When she flipped right side up again, she rung out a corner of her shirt and caught her breath.

"Too bad we didn't have time for smores." She added, rejoining the team, then addressed Aria. "You ok?"

Edited by Rune Marx, Aug 18 2013, 05:15 PM.
It all ended quickly. There was a moment of vague concern when Rune's peppering of the ceiling didn't turn up the dramatic flow of water he might have hoped for, but she sorted it out quickly enough. The flood of water from the extinguishers seemed to finish what the Freon had started, and soon enough the water brought the thing to it's knees, so to speak. Enough so that Aria was able to step in and finish it off.

He stepped away from the freezer by then, readying his own weapon but found that there was nothing left to fire at. Rune ducked into one of the shower rooms, where she put a few rounds into something, only to return a few moments later looking like a drowned cat. Aria looked exhausted too; the girl seemed wound too damn tightly for her own good most of the time, but she seemed to have calmed down a bit.

Everything seemed to be over, so he calmly slipped his sidearm from it's holster and reloaded it, deftly flicking the cylinder back into place before holstering it again. "Ten fingers, ten toes."
He shrugged dismissively and glanced from Aria to Rune, then back to Aria again, jerking a thumb towards Rune, "Hopefully I look better than her?"

He stepped past Rune to take a glance into the shower room, and a few more strides revealed the fate of that Rougarou and when he returned to the room the rest of them were in, he pointed between the dead Bannik and the skinned cannibal questioningly. Once confirmed that the Rougarou had fallen victim of the lava blob thing, he just grunted and started walking back the way he had come, passing by Rune and Aria close enough to get a look at her burned palms on the way past, then shrugged off his pack long enough to produce some sterile gauze, a small bottle of water, and alcohol pads for her to clean her hands up a bit before applying the gauze.

"Found a sack of shit back that way. He was under surveillance by some of your friends, under my tutelage. They lost track of him a couple days ago. Ain't going to look good on their records that they lost track of him because monsters nabbed him. He was alive last I saw him. Was a second one in the room with him, but guessing that one was already dead."
They still needed a Rougarou alive, and he glanced back at Aria and Rune, "I killed one of them. Tar monster got another. Don't suppose either of you had any luck?"
Aria took the gloves off. What if they hadn't been there to protect her. They were trash now. Nothing she could do about it.
When Rune left the room and starte firing, Aria tried to get up but now that it was all over she didn't care to move. Whatever was in that room wasn't making any noise, and Rune seemed capable to handle whatever it was.

Hood gave her some supplies to tend her hands, which she dutifuly took. She was sure that the dirty water wasn't going to help matters.

Rune came back "Too bad we didn't have time for smores. You ok?"

Aria smiled at the bad joke. "I don't think they would have tasted too good. And I'll live. It could have been worse." There cold have been more burns and much worse like death. But the three of them were alive, and if all went well they still had their mark pinned to the floor.

"Ten fingers, ten toes. Hopefully I look better than her?" Aria chuckled. She could come back with an offhanded remark, but she opted not to. She wasn't about to start a fight, nor did she want to sound egotistical.

"I killed one of them. Tar monster got another. Don't suppose either of you had any luck?"

Aria smiled as she applied the last of the guaze to her hands. Hopefully back at the safe house she could do a better job. She had to be careful what she said now. The last thing she wanted to do was hunt down the man who had saved her. "I found your survivor, he was still alive when I left him to come here. The other was dead. There was nothing coming from her, nothing at all. Only death and the lingering scent of fear."

Aria stood up. But before I got there I got jumped by one. It's pinned to the floor hopefully still unconscious. Aria nodded thanks to Mr. White. "Got anything in there to tie the thing up for whatever mysterious purpose they have in mind for this monster." Aria spat the last word, it was unfathomable why anyone would want one of these things still alive.

"Hopefully it's still there." Aria started back the way they had come. The smells of the bath house were still present, but the violence and the fear were fading quickly into the normal smells of the dark damp place these things had called home.

It wasn't long before Aria was showing her fellows the rougarou pinned to the floor with her sword and his hands tied behind his back with a peice of her shirt. It was not unconsious, it was trying to lift itself up off the floor but with out hands the leverage wasn't right. Aria kicked it in the head and it fell again to the floor.

She pulled out the sword and whipped the blade cleaner on the back of the monster. The blood came off but it was still disgustingly dirty. Aria sighed and too her clean wet shirt and cleaned the blade. A smear of blood and grime decorated her shirt. "He he lies ready for them."
Rune wasn't gonna comment on the whole who looked better than who thing. Mostly cuz she was avoiding getting a good enough look at Cuddles to really form a good opinion either way.

Then of course he walked right by her, and Rune hopped back out of his way, splashing through the lake that had welled up from the sprinkler heads. When Hood came back around, gesturing at the black blob that was slowly getting washed down the drain with the rest of the water, which was stupidly cold by the way, but in a way that felt really refreshing, like running through a car wash on a hot July day in Alabama, Rune confirmed his suspicions, shrugged and crinkled up her face with a sort of disgusted but she deals with it all the time kind of look.

As to their updates, Rune had nothing to contribute. She'd chased after this roogie and this was what she found: swinging meat and a bathroom bannik.

Hood though, he had a decent story to tell. One that made Rune exchange a look with Aria. For Rune's part she had no idea what was going on with other Atharim. Its not like they were all in the same book club swapping status updates all day.

Aria got up, looking none too worse for wear, though Rune wondered how the girl was able to waggle her fingers what with the severity of burns on her palm. It must be adrenaline. Rune had seen guys split to an inch of their life and keep on swinging until they literally collapsed, all fueled by adrenaline.

When they got to the skewered monster, Rune stared at it with disgust. She was itching, literally itching to put a bullet behind its ear. "Why does Tehya want this sucker?" Rune wasn't pleased with letting it stay alive. It was a monster, and she was here to kill it. It took everything in her to not just get it over with and say the mission just took an unfortunate turn.

So she stayed out of it and let Cuddles and Aria handle the thing. After, she'd follow where he led, but for her part, it was over.
At least one of them had managed to take a Rougarou alive. Honestly, even if Rune hadn't run into trouble, he was still going to kill the one he had found with Jaxen. It wasn't often he got so perfect an opportunity to really vent his frustrations, so to speak. He knelt next to their new friend and shrugged off his pack. Out came a package of Quick Clot, which he handed to Aria to open while he produced zip-cuffs, rope, gag and sandbag.

The Rougarou was cuffed at the hands and ankles, and bound with rope to further prohibit it's movement, the gag stuff in it's mouth. Then the Quick Clot was poured into the wounds, where the granular powder, on contact with blood (or any liquid, really) immediately filled the air with a disturbing sizzling sound and smell of cooked meat. The Rougarou woke up with a start and a strangled scream of pain, and Hood clocked it in the jaw and flipped it over to apply more of the Quick Clot to the exit wound.

Bound as it was, all the Rougarou could do was squirm and curse. Another crack to the head and he sat the thing up and tugged the sandbag over it's head and finished it off with a roll of duct tape. Next out of the pack was a small metal case, which was opened to reveal a jet injector syringe and various chemicals in vials. He pulled one of the vials, loaded the injector, and gave the Rougarou a shot. A minute or two later, and it was out cold. Normally the patient was given the shot first, then the Quick Clot. But that was the nice way of doing things.

With the Rougarou bound, not likely to bleed out, and unconscious, Hood packed his gear, tossed his pack on again, then easily hoisted the creature over his shoulders in a simple fireman's carry, having little trouble with the dead-weight body. A few more practiced eye movements marked a way-point on Aria and Rune's Land Warriors, indicating a point on a portion of the map that had existed before they had set out on this little errand, and barely a block away from the safe house.

He trusted one of them to take the lead, and the other the rear; carrying the Rougarou as he was, he wasn't exactly in a position to respond to trouble should something come up. And with that, they were off.

Continued here: Hidey Hole

Edited by Hood, Aug 20 2013, 05:47 PM.
Continued from: On the Case

A few hours later...

Unlike the Atharim and their hired-help, Chief Inspector Drayson and his team came at the Rougarou hide-out from all angles. Regular beat cops held the perimeter from street level to a floor below the suspected hide-out of the escaped hospital patient, and Drayson followed on the heels of a SWAT team as they stormed the place from both the front and a chained up fire-exit. The tunnel the Atharim had used had been deemed too small to bother entering through; officers waited there in case anyone tried to bolt.

What they found would probably never be fully explained or understood. Holes shot in the ceiling, water still dripping from the broken ceiling mounted fire extinguishers and near ankle deep water pooled on the floor. An upturned deep freezer, the Freon cable cut and drained of gas, sat at the center of a slowly spreading deep red cloud that tainted the already filthy water on the ground. The drain was gummed up with what seemed to be ash and what they first thought was melted rubber, and later found to probably be cooled lava. Some of the men were sure there was even a face to be seen in that pile of cooled stone, but Chief Inspector Drayson refused to give it a second thought.

The skinned body was found next. It's skin eerily intact on the blood soaked floor, and the body sporting bullet holes that seemed to have been received post-mortem.

Skeletal remains were tucked away in holes in the wall, intestinal tracks and other 'undesirable' internal organs fed down one of the larger drains in the floor till it was blocked up and became a favoured dining hole for the local rat population.

Some of the old bath house rooms had been re-purposed as sleeping quarters for, from what they could tell, four people. That seemed entirely mundane, considering everything else they had come across. Other rooms seemed to have been turned over to holding cells, or more likely, meat lockers. Chains, meat hooks, saws and butchers knives, the works. One of the rooms had fresh blood, and a person-sized area of floor and wall that had been scorched to the point the stone had cracked in the heat, and nothing but a greasy smear of ash remained. In a room across the hall, a large man had been shot repeatedly.

The SWAT team cleared the entire place in a matter of minutes. Two bodies were found. One shot repeatedly, the other skinned and shot. They were in and out before any of the real horror of the situation could be understood.

Chief Inspector Drayson remained as the crime scene investigation teams rolled in, photographing, videotaping, and noting down what was found. He stayed long enough to watch the mystery freezer righted and opened. Few in the room were able to handle that revelation and keep their lunch down.

Medical examiners were able to ID the skinned man as, probably, the missing heart patient, judging by the remnant scar tissue on the dead man's chest. And with that, Drayson sighed quietly and took his leave. Senior detectives of the city precincts would fight over who's jurisdiction the crime scene fell to, and whomever got the case would keep the Chief Inspector informed.

There were many questions that needed answering, and he doubted those answers would be found through conventional science. But he would follow the case closely, and decide where to go from there. After all, there seemed to be two bodies missing from the hide out. Possibly one, if his guess on the greasy ash stains wasn't too far off.

Edited by Drayson, Sep 1 2013, 07:18 PM.

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