Just Like Clockwork: Scene VIII -- Caelan, Erin, Rakesh

   


Caelan leaned over the screens next to Erin. "What the hell is he doing? Those are all mugs. Thick as bricks," she said, and pointed to the young gang-types. "Wormwood, he is dangerous, isn't he? Why doesn't he have better cronies?"

She frowned and pointed toward Sergei. "And this one, he's scared off his arse. He's frantic."

The vampire retracted her hand and watched in silence. Then she looked to Whim with a twinge of sympathetic embarrassment and said, "So, uh, where did Coocoo or whatever his name is learn to act?"

"Oh, Mr. Sergei... you're too smart and too dumb for your own good," Erin sighed, setting her chin in her hands. It was hard not to pout. "He's scared because he wandered down here. Oh dear, oh dear... I hope your Master isn't displeased with you, Mr. Sergei."

"See how he asked those two to leave? These are the competent ones. He wants to keep them," Erin mused, one antenna tapping the monitor as Sergei and Aleksander left the room - despite the fact no one could see her do it. She started flipping through the camera controls, leaving one of the monitors on the Curio room, using another camera to try and track the pair of Russians as they left the building. "But these-" she pointed to the young thugs, "-are expendable."

"I think..." Erin said, very seriously, "...that if you have any way of getting Mr. Cuchulainn out of there, you should probably do it right now."


"Damn, you're right." Seventeen swore, his eyes gone wide behind the cloth mask. In a single smooth movement, he withdrew a cellphone from his pocket, flipping it open and hitting a single button quickly. "Time to make an exit, Cu."

"Sergei and Aleksander aren't heading for the parking lot." Hammond said suddenly, leaning in over Erin's shoulder to watch.

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No sooner had the door to the Curio Room closed than the two Russian guards had broken into a run. This was not a slow, ambling walk for the car. Nor was this a breakneck run of panic. Rather, it was the kind of running jog that athletic men entered into when they needed to cover distance, and quickly, but without tiring themselves.

The Museum of the Industrial Revolution was basically a rectangular brick block with a single loop of a corridor within it, the long sides facing north and south, the short sides facing east and west. The main entrance faced south, and the parking lot was to the north. Sergei and Aleksander were heading west, however, towards one of the side-exits.

They skidded to a stop by a janitorial closet, and Aleksander all but ripped the door off it's hinges in his hurry. The big man grabbed a long, narrow package wrapped in paper and tossed it to Sergei, who caught it easily. For himself he drew something similar, but broader and shorter. They exchanged a few words.


Hammond frowned, then looked at Whim. "Can you get sound for them too?"

"I'm trying, I'm trying. This isn't as easy as it looks, you know?" Whim said, brow furrowed, sketching little arcane designs in the air with her knife. "Here we go... Hell, anyone speak Russian?"

Their conversation was brief, no more than a minute, and then the two men rushed for the west exit. Sergei was cradling the oblong object in his hands carefully, but Aleksander tore the paper off his. In short order the form a short-barrelled shotgun emerged.

The two men emerged outside, and you switched to a different camera, one directly above the door. After another few words, Sergei headed north, towards the parking lot, disappearing from the cameras fields of vision for the time being. Aleksander turned and locked the west exit, snapping a heavy padlock onto the door, then he headed south along the wall of the Museum, before likewise going off-screen. The external cameras, unfortunately, only watched the doors and parking lot.


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"I am liking this situation less and less with every passing moment." Rakesh observed. One supposed that it shouldn't have been a surprise that a man known as an international arms dealer would have easy access to firearms, even in Britain, but it was still unpleasant. "Any sign of the changeling hunters?"

There was none. Cycling through the rest of the cameras in the Museum rapidly failed to reveal the Venatores. Rakesh muttered something under his breath. "Where are they?"

"Shut up. Something's happening with Cu." Whim said without a trace of guilt, and fiddled with her magic to bring up the sound."

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As Seventeen dialed his phone, something beeped in the vicinity of Cuchulainn-as-Gary's shirt pocket. He withdrew a small pager, then put it back before wriggling out of Chernenko's 'friendly' grasp.

"Someone's paging me." Cu-as-Gary said, striving to look apologetic. "I better go see who it is, I'll be right back."

"Pah, it can wait. Who would be calling at this hour of the night?" Chernenko said with a grinning sort of joviality. His thick accent gave his words a homey air. "Anyone who is smart is home in bed, or soon to be in bed. Just us crazy people up now."

"Heh, can't argue there, but I still better see who it is." Cu-as-Gary said with a strained smile. "Might be important, I'm expecting a call from my doctor."

Chernenko sighed, casting his eyes heavenward as though appealing to a higher power for patience. Seeing perhaps that none was forthcoming, he shrugged and raised one hand towards Cu-as-Gary, flicking his wrist as he did so. What happened next happened very quickly.

With a metallic sort of hiss, a
tentacle shot out of the underside of Wormwood's wrist. A long, ugly length of viscera, muscles and tendons bunched into a prehensile rope an inch in diameter, tipped with a foot-long shard of slightly curved bone. It lashed out like a pneumatic spike, aiming direct for Cuchulainn's heart, and had the mage been just a little bit less on the ball, he would have died then and there.

Instead, the Guardian dodged to the side, causing the spike to miss the heart and instead slice through Cuchulainn's upper torso just to the left. It actually emerged from the other side, the pale bone-tip of the tentacle now covered in gore. As quickly as it had entered, Wormwood reeled it back in, preparing for another strike.

Cuchulainn didn't give him the chance. Bleeding freely, he slammed into the Curio Room's door hard enough to make it burst open, scrambling down the corridor away from the creature that was Wormwood. For a moment, Chernenko paused, considering pursuit, then turned on his erstwhile allies.

The first young thug died before even realizing what happened, Wormwood's bone-tentacle boring an inch-wide hole in his brain. The second actually proved to be more competent than he looked, withdrawing a small pistol and managing to put a bullet into Wormwood's body at point-blank range, though it didn't help him much before the creature speared his heart out. The third, still gibbering in terror, was killed with a negligent slice across the throat, allowed to bleed out on the hardwood floor.

Wormwood retracted his spiked instrument of murder and regarded the scene of carnage for a moment. Absently, he flicked open a cellphone and put it to his ear. "
Aleksander, Sergei, naidite direktora i ubeyti evo."

He snapped it shut, then with a long-suffering sigh, picked up the corpse of the man who's brain had been hollowed out and dragged him towards Schafer's surgical bed. That done, Wormwood withdrew a hacksaw from underneath it, tapping his finger along the corpse's cranium in a line. The creature paused, then smiled towards the Schafer Movement, the clockwork brain still sitting in its case.

"Soon."

Caelan gaped at the screens. "Oh, ****!"

Tentacles. Tentacles? She never even dreamed of tentacles. This was bad. It was rare for the young one to really swear. The situation called for it.

"We need to get Cu-- Hound Slayer!" she waved a finger desperately at the door. "I-I don't know what he wants," she gibbered, clearly talking about Wormwood, not the mage, and she looked to Rakesh or Erin for help. "An army of mech-brain zombies?"

"What is that thing?" Erin asked aloud, looking far more interested and far less frightened than she really should have been.

"That's a good question. What does he want? To give the mage ghost a new body, maybe? That seems pretty selfless... and what would he need three of them for, then? Hmmmmmmmm..." She mulled it over. "If we wait long enough we'll probably find out. We should find Mr. Cuchulainn, though. He shouldn't be alone here." She started flipping through the cameras around the Curio room, looking to follow the trail of blood and locate where Cu had gone.

"Still..." she continued as she sat there motionlessly, flipping through screens one by one. "I know two people we could ask."

She hopped away from the monitors, padding over to the massive grandfather clock. She paused for a moment to stroke the wooden frame, regretfully, before pulling loose the leather straps that held the mannequin. The porcelain doll came free; Erin caught it, cradling it tenderly as if it were a real person. "You must be wondering..." she murmured in its ear, gently stroking its vivid red hair. "Why he did that to you. What was going through his mind. You must be wondering if he felt regret... if you meant anything to him at all... you must be wondering why..."

"I think we should ask him," she told the mannequin, taking some of the stage blood from the floor and letting it pour down the white face, from where the bullet in its forehead was. "And if not, let's get him away from this place. His life is the least we can give him... his guilt the worst we can do to him. Maybe we can forgive him. Or damn him. Let's find out." She took the straps and separated them from the clock, instead wrapping them around the mannequin and pulling them taunt.

She set the porcelain woman down, pulling a remote from her coat picket and handing it to Cae. "I don't know if this will ever help, but if you press this button it'll cut the power to the entire museum," she explained, pointing to the big button in the center. "And this one will shut down the Devourer. Just... in case it attacks?"

"Whim, do you think you could help me?" she asked.

"Riiiight, creepy girl is creepy but cool." The young Mage said with a broad grin, blowing away a stray, acid-green hair. "Sure, I'll come along. What do you need me to do?"

"Cuchulainn's holed up in one of the exhibit rooms, it appears." Hammond said, examining the video monitors. He tapped his fingers on the keyboard to switch the cameras around some more. "And hello, there's I--, Marduk and Rose, heading from the west."

"Looks like the gang is all here. Mr. Hammond, can you stay here and maintain surveillance?" Seventeen said, examining the situation unfolding. Hammond nodded briefly, taking the seat in front of the monitor. "Excellent, Whim, ghost-proof the room before we leave, just in case. Then you and Ms. Lamothe go find the Russian, and the rest of us shall go and pick up Cu, Marduk, and Rose. We meet at the parking lot door in fifteen, then let's pay Wormwood a visit. If you see anyone else, changelings or more Russians... make sure they don't interfere."

"Ah, last thing." Seventeen withdrew his cellphone and tossed it to Robert Hammond. "Stay in contact. I'll use Marduk's and Cuchulainn's after we find them."

"Just help me decorate," Erin murmured, hefting the mannequin limply in her arms.

"Goodbye," she said to the others. Not 'we'll be back', because that had always been an empty promise. "Be careful."

With that she skittered for the door.

"Pay Wormwood a visit," Cae mouthed with no air, her brows creasing. Yes, let's! Let's all get stabbed with tentacles.

She nodded vaguely to Erin and returned her gaze to Seventeen. "Your boy out there is bleeding," Cae said expectantly, waving her hand.

"Doubtful. This is Cu we're talking about. The man is a walking hospital ER." Seventeen said with a swift grin. "Meet at the east door as soon as you finish."

Forgive the brevity, but I'll be moving you guys to the other VIII thread soon. Expect a post there some time today.




 

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