Hungry Like The Wolf, Part Three: Act In Haste

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(March 28th)


Roland waved a hand, holding a large duffle bag, as Catherine entered the large foyer of the Magisters' base. “Hey, Pipes. How's it going?”

“Hello, Roland,” Catherine said without blinking. “Come from work?”

“Absolutely. As of today, I am a one-job man.” Roland beamed. “Care to join me for a celebratory drink after the briefing?”

Catherine fell into step beside him. “No,” she said bluntly, “I would care for the team to have a practice session after the briefing, assuming that we have the time.”

Roland's face fell. “Already? Come on, I just finished with my last job. Can't I get a few hours of free time first?”

“No!” Catherine almost yelled. “We haven't had any team practice yet! Blossom's the only one who's gotten any practice time in with me at all.”

“We did fine on our first mission. Flying colours, in fact. What's the issue?”

Catherine spun to face Roland, face set. “Oh, you plan to spend every mission pinned under a girder?”

Roland turned to look at her, chewing his lip. She didn't break eye contact, and after a moment he looked away. “Practice after the briefing. Got it,” he muttered. Catherine watched him slink away, grinding her teeth.

“Do-you-want-to-talk-about-it.” The mechanical voice was accompanied by a sudden pressure on her left leg. Catherine took a deep breath.

“YOUSEF!!”

The technician hurried out of the briefing room just as the carebot, startled by the noise, vanished around the corner. Catherine glared at him. “You still haven't caught that thing?!”

“Sorry. I just don't get it.” Yousef rubbed his forehead, wincing. “The carebot should have run down by now. It must be recharging itself somewhere.” He looked down the hall after the vanishing bot.

“Forget it,” Catherine growled, walking over to the doors. “We'll deal with it later.”

The others were already in the briefing room, sitting around the large table that dominated the room. Catherine slid into her seat, nodding to her colleagues as she turned to Director Henry. “Sorry I'm late, sir.”

“Not a problem.” Director Henry smiled wryly. “You're less than a minute behind me.” He looked around the table, and smiled. “Good morning, everyone. Thank you all for making it here so quickly. We have a situation developing, and I wanted everyone briefed as quickly as possible.”

“We're all ears,” Roland said.

“How much do you know about the Mythica?” Oliver said seriously. He was met with mostly blank looks.

“They're a criminal organization,” Jack spoke up suddenly. When the others turned to look at him, he shrugged. “They deal almost exclusively in magical artifacts – anyone who's been in the field will have run into them. They even tried to recruit me, oh, ten years back.”

“And?” Catherine asked. Jack shook his head.

“Not my style. Even when I was stealing, I did clean jobs. Subtle, slick, and no one hurt. The Mythica, though, they're dangerous. Whenever they get involved in a job, people get hurt. And their leaders are powers. Name themselves after mythical people. It was a man named Chimera that tried to approach me. When I turned them down, I had to avoid a few attempts on my life.”

Oliver nodded. “That covers the public angle,” he admitted. “The SEA, however, has a bit more information. We have reason to believe that the Mythica's leadership gains their powers from Jormungandr.”

This time, the silence around the table was stunned. After several seconds, a blank-faced Blossom squeaked, “The World Serpent?”

“The very same.” Oliver's gaze swept the room. “The last of the Primordial Gods, locked outside the world by Avery Midnight and the League a hundred and twenty years ago. We don't know how tightly the Mythica are tied to the Serpent, but I've been studying their thefts over the last two years, and a disturbing trend is developing. I fear that they are preparing for the instability of the coming year to attempt to release their patron.”

“Oh, god,” Roland groaned abruptly. “Not this 2012 crap? Come on, Henry. It's just a calender date, it's not the end of the world.”

Oliver didn't smile. “If you'd studied magical theory, Roland, you would be worried too. Spells are tied to times of transition. The dark of the moon, the equinox, the turning of a year. The greater the change, the stronger the uncertainty. 2012 is the end of an age, a time when the greatest spells will be at their weakest. This mass cultural belief that disaster will follow isn't helping.”

“You'd think that millenial fever would have done the same thing,” Roland grumbled.

“It did.” Oliver looked at each of the others in turn. “But in 2000, the SEA, the UNSC, and Interpol were strong. They were prepared. They moved against the many forces who tried to take advantage of the turning age. Now, we're at our weakest. We need to move immediately, or not at all.” He sat back in his chair, his posture loosening. “And as it happens, we have a chance to do just that. We've learned that the Mythica are interested in a set of cultural relics that will be on display three days from now at the Seattle Art Museum. It's possible that they have no magic, but they may have potential abilities if combined with other relics.”

“Three days?” Catherine nodded slowly. “I think we can manage that. We'll need to do some…”

“No, Catherine, the display is in three days. The Mythica intends to attack the vault tonight. We are going to be there to stop them.” Oliver stood. “You leave in six hours. Dismissed.”

As the group rose, muttering to each other, Catherine crossed the table in three steps. “Sir, can I speak to you for a moment?”

“Of course, Catherine. What is it?”

“We're not ready for this.” Catherine said bluntly. “We haven't had the training. We won't have time to set up a proper strategy. And frankly, I'm not sure about the lead. Have you ever cornered the Mythica before?”

“Not successfully, which is why I don't intend for this to slip away.” Oliver turned towards the door.

“Sir, this could be a trap. If the Mythica really are more than just thieves, the fact that they're all but declaring themselves a few days after our first public appearance is pretty suspicious.” She shook her head. “I don't think we should do it. Cancel the exhibit, move the art to some secure vault somewhere. We'll get the Mythica later.”

Oliver turned slowly, fixing Catherine with his gaze. “I understand your concerns, Captain Becker,” he said coldly. “But we're not surrendering. I will have my files on the Mythica to you within the hour. Dismissed.”

“But, sir…” Catherine started.

“Dismissed.”

Catherine gritted her teeth. “Yes, sir,” she muttered, turning away. She stalked out into the hall, where she found Jack waiting, leaning against the wall.

“Problem?” He asked mildly.

“The director just shut me down. I don't know why, but he really wants these guys.” She shook her head, walking off. “Could you tell Blossom and Roland I want them assembled in half an hour? We're damned well getting some practice in before we leave.”

“Of course.” Jack watched Catherine leave, frowning thoughtfully. “Isn't that interesting,” he murmured to himself.


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