Saturday, January 7, 2017

Maywitch Chapter 25: Recovery

Previous Chapter: Unleashed
As they moved from the parking garage to the bank, the volume of the sirens around them intensified. It looked like police had been slow to show up, with the explosion nearby taking up most of their resources, Kay thought. As they approached the bank again, they were waved away by two cops, and they ran around the front of the building in search of Nadia and Holly.
For a long moment, it looked as if the only people around were firefighters, paramedics, and police officers. Most of the civilians had apparently fled.
But as Kay squinted through the crowd, she spotted Nadia sitting on the sidewalk, knees pulled to her chest. Holly stood several feet away, holding an umbrella.
"You two okay?" Kay asked.

Holly nodded. "I let the others know we're okay, too. They'll be here soon."
"I'm getting a call from them now, so let me take it," Tierra said, stepping away.
They were choosing their words carefully with so many non-mages around, Kay realized. "Nadia, you okay?" she murmured, stepping closer to the other girl.
Nadia didn't look up. "I'm fine," she said in a thin voice. "That man didn't make it, though."
Kay sighed and knelt next to her. "I'm sorry, Nadia."
"He died, so it's not like he could spill my secrets, anyway... Is it better that way? That's what you think, right?"
There were footsteps behind Kay, and she turned to see Holly looming over them. "Nadia, what's gotten into you?" Holly said, not bothering to keep her voice down.
"Shut up. It's not like I'm going to get to stay here much longer, anyway—"
"Holly," Kay said softly, "go walk it off. And don't tell anyone."
Holly's brow furrowed. "But—"
"Please, trust me on this. Don't tell our bosses right now, when you're pissed and might regret it later."
"Nina's causing all this!" Nadia whispered, her hands balling into fists. "I can't just look the other way and let people—"
"Nadia, we can't tell you what to do. But is being reckless the best way to deal with Nina's shit?" Kay's voice was shaking, but she kept her gaze locked on Nadia. "Is it worth risking exposure? Our lives?"
Nadia only stared at the ground. Holly stormed off, her boots splashing in the shallow puddles that had formed.
A police officer approached Kay, but just as he started to introduce himself, a voice called out: "They're with me, Officer."
Kay looked over her shoulder to see Xavier approaching. His dark hair stuck to his forehead, and his t-shirt was drenched. He had clearly been in the rain for a while.
"You're okay," Nadia said, smiling. "What happened?"
"Let's talk later," he said as he waved at Tierra. "There's a car coming for us any second. Where's Holly?"
"I'll get her," Kay said.
She jogged in the general direction Holly had headed in, and was relieved when she found her only a few moments later. Holly came back to the group without protest, and a car pulled up soon after. They piled in, ignoring the fact that some of them were stained with blood and dirt.
Nadia sat on one side of Kay, and Holly sat on the other. Kay settled in, too exhausted to ask where they were going.
Thirty minutes later, they had stopped at a gas station, cleaned up, and jumped back in the car to await further instructions. It soon became apparent that while the two demons they had initially sighted had been captured, Wyvern had gone back into hiding, and a backup team would have to wait around to see if he reemerged. Maywitch couldn't afford to keep all of its people waiting around overnight and leave its base undefended.
They re-boarded their helicopter outside the stadium and took off a short while later. The airport had been shut down in response to what law enforcement apparently thought were terrorist attacks - and while they technically weren't wrong, Kay wondered how many civilians in the area believed that it was a normal terrorist attack.
She wanted to sleep, but couldn't calm her mind enough to - especially not on a helicopter shooting over the ground at 125 miles per hour. Instead, she stared straight ahead, not wanting to converse with her colleagues when they were in such bad shape.
The pilot gave them a few unimportant updates throughout the flight, but by the time they landed, no reliable new information had surfaced. The explosion by the highway had likely been caused by lumericite, and based by the chain of events Maywitch analysts had put together, Dustin may have set it off as some kind of trap for Wyvern. The death toll from the explosion and Wyvern's assault on the bank was miraculously low, though, considering how populated the area was.
And they hadn't really saved anyone, Kay thought as they touched down back at the base. Wyvern had retreated, sure, but not before he took out almost everyone he wanted to - including Dustin.
Her mind reeled as she entered her room, dropped her backpack on the floor, and went to wash her hands again. She hadn't managed to clean up properly in the gas station restroom. It looked like she had avoided getting blood on her clothes, though there could have been some hiding on her black shorts.
When she finished, Nadia had entered their room and began undressing. Her shirt and shorts had much more blood on them than Kay's.
"Go shower," Kay said, avoiding her roommate's gaze. "I'll take your clothes to the laundry room."
Nadia nodded and crossed to the restroom, shutting the door behind her without another word. Kay retrieved a clean trash bag from the supply room down the hall, threw Nadia's damp clothes into it, and went to soak them in the laundry room. She wasn't sure if Nadia's psyche could handle washing them herself.
When Kay returned to her room over an hour later, Nadia was gone, and Kay wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. She set Nadia's clothes on the dresser and collapsed into bed, hoping her mind would let her sleep.
Sure enough, it didn't take her long to fade into a bewildered, dreamful sleep.
Nadia hesitated outside Holly's door, unsure of whether or not she should bother knocking. They were through; she was sure of it. The only question remaining was whether or not she was obligated to try to salvage it.
As she raised her hand to knock, she noticed there was still blood under her right thumbnail.
"What?" said a voice far to her left.
She didn't even have to look up to know who it was. Holly, always graceful and quiet, had slipped around the nearby corner of the hallway without attracting Nadia's attention. "We're through," Nadia said, without turning away from the door.
Holly didn't reply, and Nadia turned to leave. "Wait," Holly said, her voice low.
"You can't talk me out of this. I can't believe I even have to explain this."
"Look, I don't care that much about Maywitch. I care about our safety - your safety, and my mom's, and Kay's, for fuck's sake. And you think most people won't turn on us the way Maywitch turns on demon-summoners?"
"And you think we're actually going to manage to keep this under wraps for much longer, anyway?" Nadia snapped, turning around. "You know how non-mages have their stories about 'miracles' and unexplainable shit, right? I could've saved that man, and no one would've believed him if—"
"There are goddamn cameras in a bank, Nadia!"
"So would you have been okay with it if there weren't? Or would you have still threatened to narc on me?"
Holly fell silent, and Nadia stormed down the hallway, determined to not look back again.
The conspiracy theorists were already hard at work, Gardner thought with a sigh as she reached for her cup of coffee the next morning. She usually preferred the gentle taste of tea to bitter, strong coffee, but this morning, she needed all the caffeine she could get.
Police Still Seeking Leads in Terror Attacks, read one headline online. The comments section was filled with people yelling about a "false flag operation" or an "assassination" because a local activist had been killed. Any comment alleging literal demons or magical involvement had been quickly refuted with readers reminding everyone that the police had determined the weird creature sightings to be a hoax - and the explosions and stabbings later that day had merely coincidental timing.
It appeared that Maywitch's cover-up operation had worked well, and very few readers had any evidence that real magic or demons were involved. Gardner intended to keep it that way at all costs. She couldn't have cared less about what various U.S. authorities had to say or do to smooth things over, as long as her memory-wiping teams managed to get where they needed to go and slip potions into whatever drinks they needed to. It didn't hurt to plant a fake pair of bat wings and a large drone close enough to each other to solidly suggest a hoax. The FBI had been more than accommodating of her requests, though they had been a little slow to respond at times, and more than one nosy nurse or cop had filed complaints or police reports about her teams.
Her phone buzzed, and she glared down at the screen, expecting it to be yet another minor detail about the events of the previous day. Her eyes widened as she read the first line of the message, and she felt her fingers shake slightly as she opened the text thread.
"Shit," she muttered, reaching for her coffee as she finished reading. Her day was about to get a lot worse, if everything played out the way she thought it was about to.
Next Chapter: Quarantine

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