Next chapter. I’m glad that people are enjoying it – your likes keep me going through these long nights of typing up this mess.
“You scared her,” Andrade accused on the way to the car.
Bryan stuck his hands in his pockets petulantly. “Letting a Possessed talk about possession. What did you expect to happen?”
“I’m sure that’s not how Hussein would handle it.”
“Well I’m not Hussein,” he snapped.
But she didn’t notice. She stopped walking and put a hand to the mic in her ear.
“What?” he said, too sharply.
“They’re calling everyone. North side. Must be the gamma.”
She didn’t have to say anything else. They leapt into the car and were on their way. Bryan turned on the car’s radio to hear the developments. It had taken over a Possessed and was hiding out in a college as if everyone outside would just forget about it and head home. Absolutely everyone was to come to the spot and do a gathered containment. It was unprecedented, but clearly they wanted to make sure a repeat of the other night didn’t happen. It needed to be caught tonight.
Fucking PR, Bryan thought. That’s why they want it caught. Can’t risk the funding getting cut. He shook his head to clear the thought.
Well, it pays good, right?
Was he angry at the girl? Was that it? What did it matter to him anyway if she joined for the money? Why was he being so high and mighty about it?
Easy, you don’t want her to join. You saw her scream and writhe when it went at her and you don’t want her to go through that again. She’s too young.
You were younger.
He focused on the lights of the houses passing by as the radio talked and the GPS quipped directions. Turn left turn right continue on continue on.
The place was a circus: squad cars, SWAT vans, reporters, daring and curious – and stupid – students. All were swarming the parking lots and the lawns and the garden beds that were turning brown from the fall chill. Red and blue lights flashed against the walls of the buildings, alerting the demon that everyone in the world was just outside.
“It’s still in there?” Bryan thought aloud.
“Can’t be,” Aries said, as if he had asked her. “It would have moved on by now.”
Bryan watched out the window as Aries flashed her badge and they were waved through the roadblock. No panic, no dead bodies. The ambulances were idling, the paramedics smoking cigarettes. It was still holed up in there. What demon just sits in a corner with such a feast right outside the door?
They were snatched up by Connors as soon as they opened the car doors. He had his usual air of barely controlled panic under a veneer of calm, the sweat already standing out on his forehead despite the weather. It had been his default state of being for as long as Bryan had known him. Certainly a heart attack was in the near future for him. The cop lights reflected red and blue off his bald head.
“Andrade, you’re to the left. Keep back with the other Spotters. You guys wont be able to do anything anyway – you’re blind here. Ivers, I really didn’t want to use you but we need everyone here.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Bryan deadpanned.
“Shut up. We think it got Keeler, so keep your eyes peeled in there for her. You’re around the back with Caplin and Brogan. You’re senior there. Attack starts in twenty minutes. Keep your radio on.”
Bryan grumbled under his breath, but didn’t lash out. Connors was a good guy underneath all the gruff, and they were all already on edge. This wasn’t the time for one of the department’s well-known Possessed on Possessed fights.
Connors knew what he was thinking though, because he shouted after him “Thanks, Ivers.”
Bryan waved in response, but didn’t look back. He was studying the building as if he could see inside it. Science building. Classrooms and lab and professors’ offices. Which would the demon be in?
He took a wide curve around the building to reach the other side, passing a couple of other groups of Possesseds awaiting the signal. But when he saw the shadows of Caplin and Brogan he remembered that he would be in charge of the two of them and his heart skipped a beat. In charge? What experience did he have being in charge? The only time group containment was done was for training purposes, and this was no training. And he’d never trained anyone. And he’d certainly never led a charge. He had gone in and captured while other Possesseds waited outside, but that wasn’t this either.
Calm down, all you have to do is keep the radio on. Connors is the one leading.
“So what are we doing?” Brogan asked him.
“We’re, um, waiting on the signal,” Bryan said. “Connors said twenty minutes. Waiting on as many Possesseds as we can get I think.”
“I think we’ve got enough already,” Caplin argued. “How many people does it take to catch one demon?”
“And what happened before, shithead?” Brogan shot back. “We’ve already got the cops breathing down our damn necks.”
“Fuck off, Brogan.”
“Hold it, hold it.” Bryan stepped in between them and waved them a couple of paces away from each other. That’s what being in charge meant. Keep the kids from throwing punches at each other. He was a babysitter. He looked at the other groups in the distance. Each of them had their own babysitter. The real danger here was all the Possesseds having to work together, every one of them on edge, every one of them knowing they were staring madness in the eye.
Bryan made sure Caplin and Brogan said no more, and they listened to the radio, which first squawked that everyone should come to the college, then cutting that off to announce that they had as many people as they were willing to wait for and everyone should get ready. Then Connors laid out the plan, which basically consisted of contain the whole building on his signal and restrict the circle in tune with everyone else until the demon was pinpointed. Connors himself would capture the thing.
Bryan cursed under his breath. He didn’t envy Connors that task. With it adequately contained – and by so many people – the capture shouldn’t be a problem. But having the responsibility of it in the days to come…
Connors told them to take their demons. Cards ripped, pages were torn, plastic was cracked. Bryan heard from his left glass shattering, Stenger breaking one of her glass marbles. People cried out. Caplin fell to the ground and leapt back up as if no one would notice. Bryan managed to keep down a shout by biting his lip, though he did draw blood. Then it was silent again save for Connors’s voice – rougher and strained now – on the radio repeating the instructions, laying them out like directions for building an Ikea bookcase.
“You’ll have to work together to contain the entire building,” he added. “Don’t compete. Don’t fight for sections. Don’t get cocky and try to contain more than you’re able. We’re all screwed if too many of us mess up their part.
“Contain the building now.”
Fires sprang up, edging around the building, swirling into being around corners of the roof, down in the grass at its foundation, settling into windows. Bryan added his, pulling from the demon inside him, and the well of power seemed so shallow as his fire raced across the sky. It was nothing after experiencing a beta wrestling inside him. He thought again of the card hidden in the bottom of his bag, shoved under his wallet and keys and all the packs of other, lesser cards.
There was a pause while they all waited for something to happen, for the demon to leap out a window or cause an explosion, but no sound or movement came from inside.
“Are we sure it’s in there?” Brogan scoffed.
“Shut up and concentrate,” Bryan spat at him.
“Leaders, move in,” said the radio. “Everyone else, tune in. Wait for notice of where it’s found.”