*First I want to point out that 28 hours is “some.” Second I want to say that we’ll have the Sunday vignettes on Monday, because that’s the kind of wild and crazy we are around here.
Sorry, yesterday I had a minor household emergency. Really minor, not life or health threatening save for the part where I had to go up and down a very tall staircase about 15 times or more. The upshot is that not only didn’t I get to SIT much less at the computer, but by the time it was all done at seven pm or so, the last thing I wanted to do was write ANYTHING. Or think. Or talk. Or…
So, here we are, but I promised, and I deliver (late, weirdly, etc, but I do.)
So… to continue torturing Grant. Though in this chapter I think he mostly annoys other people.
FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON. THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely. Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off and beating me to death with it) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this? Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on. However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there. If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.) And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the world building. (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse. The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone. (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families. Ask my husband.) So I’m torturing him. Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ve sent the first chapter to Larry, and after I clear a bunch of minor cr*p in my way, I’ll be sending him probably the first ten chapters by the end of the week. [Yay, Mr. Trashbags. Oops, did I say that?])
Will this ever be a book? Don’t know. First Guardian will get delivered. Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry. And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.) It’s his world and his character. I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*
Dark Fate 7
“I’m Silvia, by the way,” she said as she led me into a largish room.
“Grant,” I said.
The room was of a piece with the elevator and the rest of the building I’d glimpsed: it was probably cutting edge and state of the art back in the 19th century. Five hundred square feet or so, of open, formless space, some people in the big cities in America would make this into a studio and fall in love with it. There was inherent charm in the large tri-part elipse-shaped windows with the glass full of bubbles and irregularities, and the wood describing a fleur-de-lis shape amid the glass. The ceilings were high, and I caught a glimpse of gold in the sculpted edges, and color in the center.
But what interested me most was the room itself, and the people in it.
The one wall with no windows was hung all over with weapons and guitars, mixed, seemingly with no distinction. I had a flash of a group of MHI charging in to kill monsters carrying guitars and almost laughed.
There was a little kitchnette in a corner, of the sort that probably served the needs of college students or their like, and sofas were strewn irregularly about the room. In the nearest three men sat and cleaned guns. There was a confusion of pieces and cloths in front of them on a low, stained pine coffee table. Behind them, on another sofa, a man and a girl held each other. They looked like those couples you came across at any in any big city in the Southern parts of Europe, holding each other tight and making everyond who passed them feel uncomfortable.
My eyes flew over them to a woman who was sitting at a round bar-height table, absorbed in what seemed to be a rousing game of solitaire. But she frowned down at the cards as though her life depended on it. She was smoking. So were a group of guys at the far back, sitting on a sofa turned away from me, watching a big screen television in which a soccer match was being shown between teams whose colors I didn’t recognize.
As we came into the room, Silvia pulled a pack of cigarettes from some hidden pocket, offered them to me, and when I refused, lit one. The smoke was so thick in the room, I coughed, and thought perhaps they’d take a hint.
Instead, they obviously took it as a sign that I wanted their attention. Everyone looked up. The nearest man — they all looked thin and tan and dark to me. Also small. I wondered where Pitt had got his height — smiled at me, somehow conveying the impression that I was a pupil late for class, “Ah,” he said. “The G Man.”
I wanted to correct them, but it didn’t seem to matter much, so I just said, as tersely and clearly as I could, not sure of how much English they spoke, “Special Agent Grant Jefferson of the Monster Control Bureau.”
“Yeah,” One of the other men said. “We know. They said you’d arrive this morning. What took you so long?”
This morning I’d still been on the flight, and I had no idea who “they” were. It had been my experience though, that my superiors could promise all kinds of things. I said, “There was a minor thing with Red Caps at the airport, and then a thing in my hotel, with a lamia who was waiting for me in my room.”
This actually got me their attention, “In your actual room?” he said. “They didn’t tell us that. We were there for the cleanup, of course. How did you defeat it? Some American super weapon?”
I licked the edge of my mouth, on the inside where a cut had left behind a little bump. My teeth still felt loose from the battle with the lamia. “A floor lamp, actually. Portuguese, as far as I know.”
He glared at me, and started to open his mouth, but Silvia let out a cloud of smoke and said, “At any rate, your … bureau? Agent Franks said you were one of the best agents in the field, and that you’d be able to get to the root of the current outbreak and find out what to do to stop the Mother.”
“Outbreak?” I said. “The Mother?”
One of the three men chuckled. “Yes, outbreak. What you think this is normal level of activity?”
But Silvia launched into an explanation more or less at the same time, “We are fighting an outbreak of the mother,” she said. “All the forces connected with maternity, mother, or femininity are coming up. We don’t know why. More importantly, we don’t know how to stop it.”
I tried to figure out what she meant by the mother. The only thing I could think of, knowing this was a catholic country came flying out of my mouth, “The Virgin Mary?”
There was stunned silence, and someone — I think the first guy — said something under his breath that definitely didn’t sound like a compliment.
“No, you idiot,” the second man said. “The Mother. The principle of … well… of female. Those statues in pre-history? That’s her. Not a goddess or a spirit, but a … force, a feeling that has been worshiped, catered to and feared since humans were humans. There is something going on that is messing with that feeling on a grand scale, and it is waking up lamias and sirens, defenders of the Earth, enchanted moors, female ghosts, Roman goddesses. All of them. It’s been one hell of a week.”
“We’ve lost twenty people,” Silvia said. “Which is why we asked the Americans for help. We expected them to send a group? A detachment or something, but they said you’d come and access it and teach us fighting techniques.”
I understood, suddenly, the air of disappointment and vague hostility around the room. “I didn’t know anything about it,” I said, in a rush, trying to apologize. I wonder if this principle of the feminine or whatever it was had something to do with what had happened to Julie. But I wasn’t going to talk about Julie to them, not when I actually had no idea where she was or what was happening to her, a fact I didn’t like at all. “I was on a plane to come here for… for personal reasons, and I didn’t know anything about it till my boss texted me after I got to my hotel.”
“Oh,” Silvia said. “So you’re not prepared? You haven’t dealt with things like this before.”
“I have a lot of experience with monster outbreaks,” I said, wanting to reassure her, and feeling like I was losing ground, somehow. “I will do my best to try to help you, and if needed, I’ll demand my superiors send more people.”
She stared at me for a while, then said, “Come with me.”
She led me all the way across the room, and I noticed a lot more people I hadn’t seen at first, including a girl sitting on a sofa, a motorcycle helmet beside her, knitting very fast. She was the only woman wearing jeans and a t-shirt, the only person not wearing formal black suit or skirt suit complete with white shirt and black tie. I made a note to ask them about these clothes soon. I couldn’t imagine less practical outfits to fight monsters in.
We passed a door to the left side which seemed to be laundry room. One woman was ironing white shirts.
At the end of the room from the entrance door was another door that led to a room just as vast. This room was full of beds. Hospital beds. They were all occupied and there were machines that beeped and urped and ticked around each bed. There was a curtain halfway up the room, and on the other side, through the opening, I could glimpse more beds and more people laid up, only those appeared to be women.
“These are our casualties of the battle with the goddess,” she said. “The ones who lived. The Hunters, that is. The bystanders are treated at the psychology college and given some hypnosis so they’re not sure of what they saw. But I don’t know how long we can hold that off, either. We had an outbreak during a soccer match at the city stadium last week. A guardian dragon appeared and started munching players and spectactors. We got there barely in time, and thank all the saints, people think it was a soccer riot. Then there was the thing at the airport. We just keep getting public outbreaks and we’re down to a third of our normal force.”
On a nearby bed, a dark, thin man, wearing a helmet made of bandages was either asleep or dead. His arm, hanging down, was also full of bandages, and a drip of blood fell off the tip of his right hand.
“I see,” I said. “And I see how I might not be adequate. But I really promise to do my best, and to call help if you need it. I take it you’re a governmental monster control unit?”
“Not quite,” she said. “King Manuel–”
At that moment the girl with the motorcycle helmet came up behind us, very fast. We turned to face her. “Silvia,” she said, as if I weren’t there. “There have been fire works. Two flares of smoke. From Matosinhos. I’m afraid it’s another siren.”