((95 — Industrial Heist))
The cavernous grand hall of the museum echoed with the sudden silence. Seth looked down at where Kiara's corpse lay at the foot of the stairs. Blood seeped out through dozens of tiny cuts, pooling around her and flowing out onto the floor.
He stifled the multitude of curses that nearly flowed from his mouth and began to walk up the stairs, moving as slowly and quietly as he could.
On the second stair he jerked his head up to attention as a skittering sound came from above. A second later it turned to an odd, raspy breathing as the sound came closer.
He raised his blade, frowning at the empty air. "Get the fuck down here, NOW!"
Suddenly he felt putrid breath hot on his face, and the strange sounds were right next to him, filling the air.
“Son of a bitch,” Cyclops swore as he heard Kiara’s yell. “Reno, we’re going to help Seth. Grab one of those swords in the display.”
The glaze that had settled over Reno’s eyes seemed to subside. “Alright. I’m all for experimentation.” She flipped her dagger into her holster, stretched her hand back, and threw a forceful punch into a display case. She seized the hilt of one of the swords, and wrenched it from the case. The oblong metal blade swung out awkwardly, heavier than she had expected.
Cyc didn't wait, just started running off towards the back of the room.
Chun watched them go. "Shit," she said under her breath, then pulled her goggles down over her eyes and withdrew a jagged piece of crystal the size of her forearm from her backpack. She followed after Reno, who was now holding the hefty sword at some semblance of a combat-ready angle.
The remaining Talons arrived at the back door just in time to see Seth staggering backwards out of it, swinging Kiara's crystal sword wildly, his other hand clutching at his face.
Reno's eyes went wide. "Hang on, Seth!" She darted forward, trying to raise the sword and stay balanced.
Seth's blade connected with something hard in front of him. Suddenly he could see it. They all could. It loomed over Seth, a giant bat-like thing. Instead of wings, it had at least thirty long, bony claws emerging from its sides. A human figure was embedded in its chest, but the creature slipped out of sight after a moment, fading upwards into the darkness.
"Son of a bitch," Cyc said as he rounded on Seth. He raised his pistol and opened fire, aiming indiscriminately upward.
Somehow, one of his shots connected. As a shrieking filled the air, the demon became visible for a few moments, and the assembled Talons could see its face. It was the face of Devrah Marash. Chun's mother.
Chun paled, suddenly unable to move. "M-mo-MOM!? Fuck!" She began to hyperventilate, dropping to the floor and trembling.
The demon's features twisted with madness, then fixated on the source of the words as it began to move again, fading once more into invisibility. A terrible keen filled the room, echoing in from all directions.
"Chun, get out of here!" Cyc roared. He blinked once, twice, letting his demonic eye open wide. Now he could see it, a pale hideous creature, somehow using magic to hide from ordinary sight, skittering across the ceiling of the room. "Chun, it's behind you, go!" He raised his gun again, sighting down the barrel.
Her name jolted her upright, and she broke into a run, heading for where Seth stood at the bottom of the stairwell. She clutched the chunk of crystal tightly to her chest, breath ragged in her lungs.
Reno just stared, the sword hanging limply from her fingers. The creature strobed in and out of existence as Cyclops' shots hit it. "Dammit," she breathed, actually looking panicky. "They fused... how did they... fuse?" She was muttering to herself with an air of questionable sanity.
Cyclops' gun clicked, out of bullets, as the creature threw itself from the wall, slipping invisibly through the air at Chun. He bit his lip, then ran for the case full of swords that Reno had opened.
Reno was still mumbling. "If one dies... they both have to die... we can't leave one without the other..."
Chun just ran, muttering "how," over and over again. She felt claws at her ankles, and faltered, stumbling forward. She heard Seth's voice from ahead of her, an unintelligible yell, and she caught herself and ran forward in a burst of adrenaline-fueled speed.
Seth watched her stumble. It had to be right behind her. He streaked straight toward that which was once Devrah, Kiara's crystal sword over his head. As he reached Chun, the blade connected with the thing in midair, and Seth threw his momentum into it.
It appeared fully to sight, now, its body a mass of blood and bone. Seth's blade had sunk deep into it, plunging straight into the chest of the human embedded in the beast's stomach. It screeched terribly as its claws lashed out, ripping wildly at Seth's arms.
"NO!" Reno's yell cut through the air. "SETH! DON'T SEPARATE THEM!" She dashed forward with astonishing speed, raising her sword. "KILL THEM TOGETHER! BOTH OF THEM!"
Seth just screamed, not knowing whether to pull back or keep striking. His hands were still wrapped around the hilt of the crystal sword as the thing scratched at him. Its claws were tearing the sleeves of his leather trenchcoat to ribbons, and leaving deep cuts in his arms.
Chun trembled and slowly dragged herself to standing from where she had slumped on the ground a few feet away. She lifted the crystal slab and took a shaky step forward.
Reno reached Seth and the demon, and swung wildly at its side. Mid-swing, her sword ignited. Her concentration broke, and she let the flaming sword go with a yelp. It still hit the side of the demon, though it clashed ineffectively against the beast's bony arms and fell to the floor.
Cyclops, too, had caught up with them, and thrust his own stolen sword into the creature's back. It howled and stumbled further forward, looming over Seth. Its flailing claws swung back in an attempt to pull the blade out of its spine.
The sudden blaze from Reno's sword lit Chun eerily as she advanced to stand alongside Seth, the light reflecting off of the goggles over her eyes. She raised her crystal block, and swung it hard, arms tense. The solid chunk smashed across the face of what had once been her mother. There was a sickening crunch, and the chest-head lolled to one side. Then the red faded from its eyes, and it was still.
Seth let go of the sword, gasping. He was bleeding from his face, and heavily from his arms. He fell to the ground, and tried to catch himself. His arms crumpled under him.
"I hate kids," Cyclops muttered as he jerked the sword out of the beast, then walked around the fallen creature to look at Seth. "You alright there, Lancelot?"
Seth spat blood. "Been better," he grimaced.
Chun kept trembling, and sat down and took off her backpack. The crystal lay to one side, discarded. She held her head in her hands.
Reno seemed to slowly slide out of her psychotic spasm. "S... Seth?" She stumbled over to him. "Dude... are you..."
Seth looked down at his arms. His jacket was in shreds, and his skin wasn't much better. He couldn't see any exposed bone, but that wasn't much comfort. "I should live," he said, still gasping for air. "Would somebody bind my arms?"
Hearing the call, Chun started taking deep breaths. She pulled out a small notebook and jotted down a few words. Then she exchanged the items for some gauze stolen from the room upstairs. She got to her feet and walked to Reno. "Patch Seth up." Her voice was flat, emotionless.
Cyclops jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the fallen demon. "Anyone want to tell me exactly what that thing was? Or why you didn't tell me about it earlier?"
As the words left his mouth, the thing leapt into the air once again, still fully visible. The grotesque corpse of Chun's mother hung limply from its chest as it went, heading straight for the box in its case. The eyes along the demon's skull had turned a curious yellow.
"Hell no!" Cyc yelled as he spun and made his way after the creature.
Chun glared at the thing. She shoved her backpack at Reno and ran after the thing as fast as she could.
Cyc raised his sword as he gained on it. It wasn't moving fast, crawling along the floor with its bony claws. He swung hard just as it reached the box.
Its claws grabbed at the glass protecting the box, and it jerked back. Cyc's sword cut it, but flew back as electricity jolted through the demon, and from there through his sword and into his hands.
The glass was shattered, though, and the demon pulled itself slowly to its feet, reaching for the box. Chun came up to it, then wrapped her hands around Kiara's crystal blade, still where Seth had left it, embedded in the beast's chest. She tugged hard, and the sword came free. Even as she stabbed at the creature, its bony arms were reaching around her, still going for the box.
"MY. BOX." Cyclops roared in primordial rage, his sword lashing out at the demon. His blade connected, again and again, digging out great chunks. Brown ichor flowed from where he struck it.
Chun's hair was more wild than usual as she kept swinging. Slowly the beast fell back, as the man and the girl hacked at it over and over. It slumped to the floor. Its final keen seemed to crawl down their spines, but still they continued. Chun kept swinging with all her might until the beast was in pieces and Kiara's crystal blade chipped against the concrete floor.
Cyclops struck the ground a few more times for good measure before he dropped the sword. Then he turned on the box. It sat there, completely unprotected. He grabbed it, his hand closing on its cool surface. He grinned, face covered in the demon's brown blood. "Aces."
To his normal sight, its six sides were engraved with strange markings and runes. He looked the box over with his other visions curiously. He could see what looked like tendrils of dormant magic stretching out away from it in all directions, but they looked empty somehow. He shrugged, uninterested in what the thing actually was, now that he finally had it. He tucked it under his arm.
Strangely calm, Chun walked back to Seth and Reno. Seth was lying on his back, his tattered trenchcoat discarded to the side. Reno was hunched over him, the sword clutched in her hand. Its blade glowed a dull orange, and steam rose as she held it over Seth's bleeding arms.
Chun stared. "What are you doing?"
"He was bleeding too much. I have to cauterize the wounds." Her voice was hollow, making her sound somehow more shaken than Chun.
Seth nodded slightly. "It was... my idea..."
"This is a bad idea," Chun said quietly. She didn't make any motion to stop her friend.
Reno took a deep breath, then pressed the flat of the blade against the biggest cut on Seth's arm.
He let out a howl of agony as his flesh burned, but held still as he could. He tasted blood, and he wasn't sure if it was from the cuts on his face or biting his tongue.
"Reno," Chun said. "Don't cauterize his face. Only the biggest wounds."
"I gave him options," Reno said as she worked. "He picked the flame. And don't worry, I won't give him deep-fried face." She moved to another wound, starting to cauterize it.
Chun chuckled just slightly, and Cyclops gave her an unsettled glance as he walked up. He didn't like the smile plastered across her face. "You kids are all types of crazy," he said, shaking his head.
Seth continued to gasp for air, eyes squeezed shut, but they could see it was working. The bleeding had stopped, though his arms were now raw and pink, the flesh slightly charred.
An unfamiliar voice came from the direction of the stairwell. "Hey, you, what's--ugh!"
Cyc instinctively ducked down, looking towards the noise. He motioned for the kids to stay down and started moving towards the stairs, darting from the shadow of one display case to the next.
A guard came out of the doorway, gun drawn, pointed at the ground. He swore and pulled a radio from his belt. "Check, check, we have intruders, I repeat, we have--"
He fell to the ground. Cyc stood behind him. A moment later, alarms rang throughout the building, trilling sharply. Cyc swore. "We need to leave. Now." He grabbed the guard's gun, leaving his empty one behind before rushing off towards the remaining Talons.
Chun's bag was already packed, and Reno's sword had gone dim.
Seth coughed. "Arms numb. Someone help me up?" His eyes were still closed lightly, and his face was now heavily bandaged, courtesy of Chun.
Reno turned to Chun. "Hurry. Help me carry him." The two of them bent down and gently lifted Seth up, supporting him by his midsection.
Several sets of footfalls came tramping down the hallway that the first guards had emerged from. Another trio of guards came into sight in the dim hallway. One of them yelled. "Drop the weapons, and put your hands in the air!"
"Fuck this," Cyc muttered as he ran for the front entrance. His demon eye rolled sideways in his head, and he opened fire at the guards.
Seth spat, and tried to point towards the demon's corpse. Realizing his arms only hung limply at his sides, he nodded towards it with his head. "That's your intruder. Or was, rather."
The guards returned fire, and the giant glass front of Tanique Hall shattered. The sound rang loud in the night, for a moment outsinging the rapport of the pistols.
"Move, folks," Cyclops yelled, pushing the Talons towards the front of the Hall, the box tucked safely in his pocket.
Seth ran, as best he could, still leaning desperately on his friends for support. The night outside beckoned, dark and safe.