Melville – First Raid

Thanks to Aonghus, I’d managed to get my old NES up and working again… and in HD, too. Dr. Bill and I were in the middle of a particularly epic battle of Dr. Mario when Ishmael entered, like he usually did, completely out of nowhere and seeming to blot out the sun with his giant black coat. He stood there for a bit until we felt sufficiently uncomfortable enough to turn to him.
“It’s time.”
That’s all he said. Within minutes, we were grouped around the kitchen table planning out our first operation. My mother passed out mugs of hot cocoa as Ishmael laid out the objective.
“Red Bay, Alabama.”
“Always such a way with words,” I muttered under my breath. I think Brigitte overheard me, though, because she gave me that tight-lipped smile of hers.
“Why Red Bay?” Xandra asked, almost repulsed, “Why Alabama?”
“Low-income, low-intellignce, non-union shops, and more guns that flaccid dicks” Rat shot back bitterly, “Perfect place to run an extraction center.”
“What’s an extraction center?” I had to ask.
“The AE siphons the magical ability out of Mythics in order to fund their technological and mechanical advancements,” the Irish priest spoke up from the far end of the table, “They usually pick fairly empty areas to operate: I remember the one they had in Connaught… they were hiding it as some sort of rehab center.”
“Had?” I asked.
The priest looked back at me with such hard resolve that I didn’t need to ask anymore. He really was a warrior. Ishmael started talking again.
“The Altse Erce has hidden the area deep within a forested area north of the city, near Goose Pond Slough,” It was very odd hearing something so folksy said in his tough, raspy voice, “They’re masquerading as some sort of Bible getaway camp.”
“Figures!” Rat snorted.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” Father Mulcahey turned his steel-eyed stare to him now.
“Just that it’s really easy to fool people when you put God around it.”
“Regardless,” Dr. Bill tried to bring the emotion down, “That’s where we are heading. Mr. Amladh has been hard at work outfitting us with the means to make the trip. Mrs. Noble and Mr. Ratcliffe will remain here and monitor the situation. I will go with Mr. Amladh in the heavy vehicle. Mr. Kilpatrick, you will take Father Mulcahey, Ms. Wallace, and Ms. Godwinn in the support and rescue vehicle.”
“I’m doing what now?”
“I will take Ms. Concorde with me in my vehicle,” Ishmael managed to shut me up quite expertly, “The trip will be roughly 1000 miles. It will take 14 hours. We will communicate via radio if there need to be any stops.”
I couldn’t help but snicker.
“Do you have an issue, Mr. Noble?” I never did find out why he always called me “Mr. Noble.” Probably because it sounded so cool when he said it: NNNNobllle.
“I’m sorry,” I tried to stop laughing, “It’s just like we’re scheduling potty breaks on a family trip.”
I must have said something right, because almost everyone else at the table cracked a smile, too. Maybe there was just so much tension: after all, some of us could die or be seriously hurt, staging an attack on one of these things… maybe we all needed that laugh. I know I did, because about a half hour later I followed Aonghus down his tunnels and found out what a “support” vehicle was.
“A minivan?!”
“Not just any minivan, lad,” Aonghus said proudly, patting the fender, “This is a 1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette, equipped with the 305 small-block V8 engine, turbocharged and fitted with the proper underpinnings and Dwarven-forged bone structure to use it properly.”
“Meaning what, exactly?”
“It means it will not break,” Brigitte said, throwing open one of the sliding doors, “And it will go fast. It will have to: if anything goes wrong, they will need us.”
“Okay,” I went to throw my bag in the back, but saw very little room outside of medkits, ammunition, and other mechanical parts. Brigitte grabbed my bag and sat it on her lap in one of the two second row seats, smiling.
“And I’m supposed to drive this thing?”
“You scored better than us in the driving tests” Octavia said as she climbed in next to Brigitte, “I don’t even have my license.”
“And I’m not really used to driving on the right side of the road,” Father Mulcahey said, hopping into the passenger seat up front, “although I do still love sitting up here.”
“Well, glad I’m here for something,” I mumbled, crawling into the driver’s seat.
“Do you need more leg room?” Brigitte asked. I turned around to see her using her Changeling powers to, yes, remove her legs entirely.
“Gah!” I flopped back into the driver’s seat, facing straight ahead, “No! I’m good! Put your… legs back on!”
“If I had a nickel,” she shot back flatly from the other seat behind me.
“Hey!” I turned around again, noting with relief that Brigitte’s legs had returned, “I will turn this car around right now!” Not long after that, Cola hopped up into the back between the captain’s chairs, nuzzling under Brigitte’s arm, begging for a scratch. She obliged, but Octavia seemed more than a little put off. Still, I had a feeling we were going to be the fun car on this trip. We stopped somewhere in the Carolinas to stop and have a little lunch (brown bags courtesy of Mom, natch), and Octavia sat down next to me on one of the old picnic tables.
“You’re handling that car quite well, John.”
“Uh… thanks.”
“I know Brigitte is rather taken with you.”
“Really? You think so?”
“I know so,” she gave me a sly look, “but you really need to be careful. Especially now.”
“Why now?”
“Things could get very dangerous very soon. Be careful.”
“What? Why?”
“I’d just hate it if something happened to you.” She smiled then, a big, toothy smile, her face full of freckles and light. Needless to say, as we pulled into Alabama a few hours later, I was more than a little confused.

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