“So, did we win?” Roland asked, wincing as Alice daubed one of his cuts with antiseptic.
“That’s sort of a difficult question to answer,” Jack said slowly, looking around the street. With the Mythica gone, the police had been able to arrive, and were now cordoning off the area and examining the various crime scenes, with some help from Blossom and Piper. After having established that no dangerous magic had been left behind, Jack had returned to the team’s jet, where Roland was being looked over.
“Difficult? How can it be difficult? Did we stop them from getting the statues?”
“Ye-es,” Jack said.
“Then we won.” Roland shrugged.
“I may have… blown the statues up,” Jack admitted after a moment. “And they all escaped. Even the men who attacked the police across the area got away without casualties.”
“Oh. Yeah, okay, I see where defining victory gets a bit tricky.” Roland considered that, then winced again. “Ow! Watch it, Wei, that’s my skin!”
“Calm down, you big baby.” Alice looked up at him, unimpressed, as she wrapped gauze around Roland’s lower arm. “These aren’t so bad. I’ve been hurt worse than this rock-climbing.”
“Well, that’s very nice for you,” Roland retorted. “I’m nigh-invulnerable, remember? The last time I got cuts like this was NEVER. Sorry if I’m not entirely used to getting the crap sliced out of me.” He looked back to Jack, stifling another yelp as Alice began treating the cuts along his chest. “So, second question. Why are you covered in feathers?”
“Hey, Jack, there are about twenty dead pigeons scattered down the street. Do you know what’s up with that? I asked Catherine, and she just groaned softly and changed the subject.” Blossom stuck her head around the jet’s hatch. “Hi, Roland. How are you?”
“In pain,” Roland muttered. “You?”
“Feeling silly. I should have been able to handle that woman, but she was really fast. I wasn’t ready for it.” Blossom walked into the jet, moving to lean slightly against the wall. “I’m going to have to train harder. That was smart, sneaking explosives in the crate, Jack.”
“Thank you.” Jack smiled wryly. “Although if I keep it up, I’m going to develop a reputation.”
“At least yours will be for something positive,” Roland grumbled. Jack raised an eyebrow.
“Blowing up cultural relics and public institutions is positive, now?”
“Well, it’s proactive, anyway,” Roland amended after a moment. “The only thing I’m going to get a reputation for is getting my butt handed to me. Ow!” Alice pointedly ignored his sharp wince as she cleaned the gash along his side.
“Did I hear what I think I heard?” The others glanced over to find Catherine leaning against the jet’s hatch, grinning.
“If you think you heard our sorry excuse for a medic maiming me, then… ow!”
“Sorry,” Alice said sweetly, loosening the bandage she had just tied off.
Roland glared at her for a moment, and then looked back to Catherine. “What did you think you heard?”
“I thought I heard my team discussing how they all need more practice,” Catherine said with a wicked smile.
Roland groaned. “Damn it, woman, I already gave in on that.”
“I know, I just like hearing that I’m right.” Catherine said, strolling onto the jet and sitting down.
“On which note, Mr. Lamontagne, you are bandaged up. None of those are going to need stitches, which is good because I don’t know how we even would do that,” Alice said, and then turned to Catherine. “Do we have clearance to head back to base for debriefing?”
“We do,” Catherine answered.
“Great, then strap yourselves in and we’ll be off.” Alice nodded to the team, quickly packing up the first aid kit. As she headed to the cockpit, Catherine looked at her teammates in turn, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a small notebook.
“Alright, before we have our official debriefing with the Director, I want your first impressions. What do we think about the Mythica?”
“We think that they’re altogether too powerful for their own good,” Jack said wryly. “For one thing, the power that they have seems to mask any artifacts they carry. I didn’t get a hint of the illusion pearl or either of those thunder vials until they used them.”
“I’d like to know why Fenris flipped out when the Director recognized him,” Roland added. “He was not happy.”
“Um… Kitsune seemed sort of grumpy?” Blossom said.
“Not really what I was looking for, Blossom,” Catherine said after a moment.
Blossom considered. “I don’t know, you said first impressions. I could say that she’s about nineteen percent faster than me, and three percent stronger, but I have more physical versatility and a greater access to weaponry, so in a direct confrontation which of us wins will probably be dependent on the terrain we’re fighting in and whether I can restock with surrounding foliage.” She looked up again, to find them staring, and self-consciously added, “That’s not really an impression. It’s more of an analysis.”
Jack cleared his throat. “Well put, Blossom. As far as analysis goes, I’d say they’re used to being the powerful ones in the equation, and it made them arrogant. They might not make that mistake again. If they hadn’t made some basic mistakes early on, they would have had the drop on us, and if it hadn’t been for your trick with the pigeons at the end, we probably wouldn’t have made it out alive. As it was, it was too close for my comfort.”
“What the hell is with all the pigeon references?” Roland asked.
Catherine bit her lip. For a moment, Roland stared at her, and then a smile broke over his features. “Did you…?”
Roland started to chuckle. Blossom looked from him to Catherine. “I don’t get it.”
“She used her flute,” Roland said between snickers. “She called up a bunch of birds.”
“You can do that?” Blossom asked.
“Flying rats. Right up her alley.” Roland leaned back, laughing.
“I swear to God, Roland…” Catherine said warningly.
“I don’t have to say anything else.” Roland said. “It really just speaks for itself.”
Blossom leaned over to Jack as Catherine threw her notebook, bouncing it harmlessly off Roland’s head. In a whisper, she asked, “Why are rats funny?”
“It’s a long story,” Jack said slowly. “How conversant are you with European folklore?”
“Not very,” Blossom frowned. “Should I be?”
“In our line of work, it can only help.” Jack leaned back as Roland and Catherine began exchanging jibes. “And at the very least, it’s a valuable distraction.”