Hungry Like The Wolf, Part Eleven: Necessary Evils

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“…at which point, Kitsune deployed a second vial and vanished along with Fenris,” Catherine said, taking a breath as she finished her report. “We searched the surrounding area, but wherever they vanished to, we didn't pick up their trail. Jack found a faint trace of ozone about a half-mile west, but it was fading fast – Yousef thinks that they may have access to a Myerzum tree, which apparently produces sap that you can use to ride lightning up to a mile or so.”

“I know what a Myerzum is, but thank you.” Director Henry steepled his fingers thoughtfully. “Not an exceptional result,” he finally said.

Catherine bristled, looking around at her team to see their reactions. The four were sitting in the director's office, a well-furnished room with several bookshelves and several more pastoral paintings hanging between them. She caught a flash of annoyance from Roland, a thoughtful one on Jack's, and a blank expression on Blossom's mask that could have meant anything from downcast to furious. For a moment, she was distracted by the thought that it was aggravatingly hard to read a woman who had to choose to show emotions.

“All things considered,” she finally responded bitingly, “I think it was a very exceptional result.”

Director Henry glanced up at her, speaking neutrally. “The statues destroyed, the Mythica at large, seven police cars set on fire and nine officers injured, and nothing to show for it. In what way was that exceptional?”

Catherine met his eyes. “In the way that we entered a situation completely unprepared, ended up in battle against a superior enemy who had the advantage of years of training with one another, prevented them from accomplishing their objectives, and forced them to retreat without suffering any casualties. And all of that despite the fact that we were up against a threat an order of magnitude stronger than what you told us to expect.”

Roland spoke into the resulting silence. “What the hell is a winter wolf, anyway?”

The director turned to look at him, and hesitated before speaking. “A very powerful demigod – the offspring of a god and a woman who herself had exceptional magical powers. He's been alive for millenia, honing his skills. I can only assume that he's working with Jormungandr out of some sort of misplaced murderous sympathy, or perhaps simply to see how much blood he can make flow.”

“And that's why he can cut me?” Roland asked, looking down at the various bandages wrapped around him. “Because some pretty powerful people haven't been able to affect me. Heck, Weltgeist stopped by once when I was younger and she couldn't even scan me.”

Oliver rubbed his forehead. “You may recall, Roland, that I warned you that potent enough gods might be able to pierce your defenses. Godly magic is a very potent and particular blend of psychic and magical energies, and it has a way of bypassing the impossible.”

“Yeah, I remember. I also remember you saying it wasn't likely, because there weren't any gods left in the world that powerful.”

“Clearly, I was wrong.” Oliver nodded to the group. “Regardless, the fact that Fenris is the original Winterwolf, and not merely an impostor like the others, drastically changes the dynamics of this issue. We won't have to look for them, although I intend to anyway. Given enough time to stew on the fact that he didn't simply win outright, he is guaranteed to make another attempt at us. I want everyone to be ready when that happens. I don't think it is hyperbole for me to say that Fenris is likely to be our most dangerous opponent. Dismissed.”

As the others stood, Catherine stepped forwards. “Sir, could I speak with you in private?”

“Of course, Catherine.” Oliver waited as the others, with glances of concern, filed out of the room, reviewing his notes. A loud sound echoing off the desk brought his attention abruptly up, to see the golden medallion quivering to a stop.

“What is that?” he said softly.

“My resignation.” As Oliver's eyes came up further, his eyebrow rising into his hairline, Catherine met his gaze with a glare. “I refuse to take part in this charade.”

“You're going to have to expand on that,” Oliver said mildly.

“You knew very well that there was something wrong about this operation. You sent us like lambs to the slaughter because you wanted to see what the Mythica was capable of.”

“You're wrong, Catherine.” Oliver stood from behind his desk, arms crossed behind his back. “I didn't know. I was worried. Something was wrong with their operations, the knowledge that they were displaying about relics that surpassed all of the SEA's data, the ease with which they had contacted Jormungandr in the first place. I didn't know that it was Fenris.”

“You didn't share your suspicions with us.”

“No.” Oliver frowned slightly. “Catherine, you have worked in a military hierarchy. Some information is need-to-know. I assumed that you would understand that, it's one of the many reasons I chose you as team leader.”

“That's bull,” Catherine said bluntly. “You didn't keep that to yourself because you thought it would be dangerous for us to know. You kept it to yourself because you thought I wouldn't allow my team to go on the mission if I knew how uncertain it was.”

Oliver met Catherine's eyes. “I believed that you could handle the situation. As it turned out, I was right.”

“Roland almost died.”

“Roland is not as injured as he is behaving. I've already looked over Ms. Wei's diagnosis.” Oliver shook his head, sitting down again. “Catherine, if you really want to leave, I can't stop you. But believe me when I say that if I would never withhold information from you if it were going to harm your team, and that the Magisters truly do need you.”

Catherine took a deep breath, studying him. After a moment, she silently picked up her badge, turning it over between her hands. “You need me? Then I want you to tell me that this won't happen again. I understand classified information, and you're entitled to your secrets. But if you withhold something that could hurt the team again, I'm out. No discussion. No compromises. Are we clear?”

“Crystal.” Oliver didn't sit back down until Catherine had stormed out of the room. He sat at his desk for several seconds, blindly staring at the notes. “Winterwolf,” he murmured softly.

A moment later, he frowned, glancing down under his desk. Slowly, he picked up his phone, dialing a quick number. “Yousef? Yes, this is Oliver. Quite well, thank you. Yousef, could you explain to me why there is a small metal man currently stroking my leg and telling me that everything is going to be alright?”

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