Bare King
rating: +14+x

"Alright everyone, one last bit of business before we go. Since Johansson is retiring, we're getting a new member." MTF Commander Damian Creed scanned around the briefing table. By this point in the meeting, several eyes had glazed over. "This is Agent Beatrice Ross. She's an ICSUT trained thaumatologist specializing in evocation, so hopefully we'll get a little more done when we're called in to take care of something coming out of Three Portlands."

"Good to be here," Agent Ross said. She stepped forward and gave a confident nod to her new colleagues.

"Alright, so for those of us who didn't play Dungeons and Dragons as kids, what does that mean?" a voice called from the far side of the table.

"It means she's good at blowing shit up, Dwyer," Creed replied. "Magic Missile, and all that jazz. Boom."

Expectant eyes turned back to Ross. She shrugged and chuckled.

"I mean, the technical term is actually Disembodied Force Projectile, and I generally prefer electric based evocations, but yeah." She grinned at Creed. "Boom."


"Boom…" Ross mumbled. Her breath was visible as she shivered, half unconscious, on the floor of Gabe Merlo's office.

Gabe stood a few feet away. The head accountant of Site-64 turned away from Ross to look at the gangly young man with thick glasses that stood behind him. The young man was dressed in a maintenance personnel's jumpsuit; he pointed a shotgun directly at Gabe.

"I won't ask you again, Mr. Merlo. Step away from Agent Ross."

Gabe turned to face him. "I've already called for help. You don't have the time to kill us and escape this facility."

"Try me." The young man grinned.

"And the other option?"

"Step aside. I do the deed, spray you with some Class A amnestics, and that will be that."

Gabe paused. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, nodded, and stepped to the side. The young man's grin turned to an ear to ear smile.

"Much obliged," he said and took a step forward. His aim switched to the incapacitated agent.

A mug of coffee shattered against the side of his head. Hot liquid scalded his face; Gabe slammed him into the wall, knocking the shotgun out of his hands. Gabe got in two more punches before the young man dropped him with a head-butt.

"Bold move, Mr. Merlo." The young man scooped his shotgun back up and took aim. "Bold fucking move."

The weapon flew from his hands, smashing into the far wall with enough force to set it off. The young man soon followed. He let out a brief, terrified shriek; it was promptly interrupted by the sound of snapping bones. He spat up a wad of blood, then slumped to the ground in a heap.

Gabe's mouth hung open in horror. He turned to look at Ross, who was sitting up, a gloved hand extended outward as she watched the young man's corpse for signs of movement.

"Could you help me up, please?" she croaked. Gabe scrambled to his feet, and assisted Ross in getting back on hers.

"I contacted Sasha," Gabe explained. "They're on their way. If we wait here we should be safe-"

"I'm ending this now." Ross pulled away from Gabe's support and hobbled to the door. "I think it’s time I paid Dr. Morgan a visit."

"Agent Ross, with all due respect, you're in no condi-"

"I'm ending this now!" Ross snapped. "I won't let her escape. There's been too many fucking deaths, Gabe. Too many dead ends. I'm ending this now, even if it kills me! If you try to stop me, I'll fuse you to your goddamn office chair, do you understand?"

"Crystal clear," he replied. Ross gave a satisfied nod at his answer.

She gestured to the shotgun. "Do you know how to use that?"

Gabe nodded picked the weapon up.

"Stay here and keep the door locked," Ross ordered as she drew her pistol and began to move into the hallway. "Tell Assistant Director Merlo and Director Holman what happened and where I went. I'd like to see Dr. Morgan cover her tracks this time."


Dr. Lindsey Morgan, Ethics Committee

"I've got you now," Ross muttered under her breath as she hobbled towards the office door. She shivered, teeth clattering as she moved to grab the doorknob, only to find it locked. "Of fucking course."

With a sigh, Ross held a finger on the knob. The metal frosted at the touch and vibrated in place before making a small mechanical click. She then clumsily pulled her hand away, noting that she no longer could feel below her elbow.

She tested the knob once more, and as the door opened a smile came to her face. A bullet then ricocheted above her head, causing the sentiment to evaporate. She didn't bother to see who was firing at her, hobbling past the threshold and slamming the door shut behind her. She once again touched the knob, the metal grinding and twisting as she jammed the mechanisms inside.

Agent Ross sneezed, and then looked around the room, finding it unoccupied save for an empty chair, and a dusty desk.

"Of fucking course," she muttered to herself once more and approached the desk, taking a seat on top of it as she continued to look around the room. A loud banging came from outside the door as her assailants attempted entry. "I just can't seem to get to the bottom of this."

"I would appreciate it if you didn't sit there, Agent Ross," the voice of an elderly woman whispered in her ear. "I don't come to your office and sit on your desk."

Ross froze and turned her head. Standing by her side was a short woman with silver hair pulled back in a bun. She was dressed in a reddish-brown suit and gave a stern frown as she stepped from the shadows into the emergency lighting.

"I should blow your head off right now, Dr. Morgan." Ross scowled, aiming her weapon at the old woman.

"By all means, you're welcome to try," Dr. Morgan smirked. "I think you'll find that quite impossible though."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Ross shouted. "Are Ethics Committee members bulletproof?"

"Hardly. But I know you're not going to shoot me. I suggest you take your leave, my dear. You've been through quite a lot."

BANG

Smoke rose from the barrel of the pistol. The banging on the door outside stopped, then returned with all the more fury. Ross's eyes widened as Dr. Morgan vanished the second the bullet touched her.

"As I said before, my dear," Dr. Morgan whispered in Ross's ear. "Quite impossible."

Dr. Morgan placed a hand on Ross's shoulder, then vanished once more, a sheath of cold enveloping the agent.

"All that Seance Dust was for you." Ross waited for her target to reappear. "The whole room's filled with it, isn't it?"

"Had a good friend create a special set of aerosolizes a mixture of it, and my remains," Dr. Morgan's voice called from behind Ross. "You only need molecules of each to get the desired effect. I'm a permanent fixture of this room now. A permanent part of Site-64."

"Serve the Foundation ad infinitum," Ross commented. "A poor man's immortality. But why?"

"The Foundation can do many things. But not even they can cure small cell carcinoma."

Dr. Morgan then appeared before Ross, stepping into the emergency lighting from the shadows once more. A melancholy smile dominated her face.

"I've been on Site-64's Ethics Committee since the days of Director White," she went on. "I helped mold this place. I sacrificed so much to make sure this place didn't destroy itself. Things are far too precarious still."

"You tried to have Agent Creed and me assassinated, Dr. Morgan," Ross replied. "There are stacks of bodies that have been left in your wake. Why is preventing your death more valuable than all those lives?"

"Better a handful of sacrifices here than an all-out war with Three Portlands. That is what will happen without a skilled hand at the helm. Without a benevolence pulling the strings. It happened with the Library, and it will happen here as well, mark my words."

The banging on the door stopped and was replaced by the sound of gunfire and shouting. Ross shook her head.

"Everyone dies, Dr. Morgan. Even you."

Ross held out her hand. A violet and pink orb of light appeared and began to slowly grow as the agent placed atop the desk with care. Arcs of electricity shot from its expanding surface outward before diving back in. She slowly moved herself to a back corner of the room, grimacing as a thick layer of frost began to pile upon.

"What is this?" Dr. Morgan asked. Her eyes widened as the orb grew to the size of a basketball.

"Thaumatological plasma," Ross grunted, her palm still outstretched towards the radiating orb. "Vaporize everything in this room."

"You're grasping at straws, dear," Dr. Morgan chuckled. "That kind of spell will kill you in the shape you're in."

"M-maybe, though I'm p-pretty sure I can s-shield m-myself," Ross said through chattering teeth, "b-but if n-not, it'll certainly destroy every last m-molecule of you too."

The orb lurched outward, engulfing the desk. Dr. Morgan's mouth hung open.

"Stop it," she called, rushing to Ross's side.

Dr. Morgan clawed at the thaumatologist, only to vanish and appear on the far side of the room. Ross winced as the sheath of cold once again struck her body. Wave after wave of Dr. Morgan's phantom crashed into Ross, bringing her to her knees. The latter let out a weak smile, let her hand fall, as her body crashed to the floor. There was a bright flash and gust of wind. The orb exploded outward, from wall to wall, then was gone. The furniture in the room had been reduced to smoking dust, leaving a charred Ross chuckling as she struggled for breath in a heap on the floor.

"Always wanted… to try that spell…" Ross said, looking up to see Dr. Morgan fading away.

The door to the office then burst open, agents of Tau-51 pouring in to find their acting commander drifting out of consciousness in the wake of her spellcasting.

"Hey, guys," Agent Ross whispered. "Glad you could make it."


The sound of medical equipment made for a poor alarm clock, the constant pinging and dripping of various gadgets and gizmos a guarantee of waking up in a bad mood. As she opened her eyes, Agent Beatrice Ross frowned and looked around the room. Sitting at the foot of the bed, reading a small paperback, was a slender man with short blond hair and a trimmed beard.

"Hey Creed," she mumbled. "You finally showed up. Thought you'd miss the whole party."

Creed turned to her and smiled.

"Funny thing about getting shot a whole bunch," he replied. "They tend to not let you leave the hospital right away. How are you feeling? You had me scared for a bit there. I was thinking we'd need to go and grab Annabelle."

"Like absolute shit," she said with a small grin. "I can't feel my feet or hands. And it’s hard to breathe."

"The frostbite from your casting finally got you, Bea," he replied with a frown. "They had to amputate your right leg below the knee and your left arm below the elbow. They managed to save your right arm and left leg, but those aren't going to work the same for a while."

Ross closed her eyes and sighed. Creed placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Bea, I'm so, so sorry," he said softly. "I should have been there. This shouldn't have happened. There's a lot they can do with prosthetics these days, we'll get you good as new. An uphill battle, sure, but that's never stopped you-"

Ross reached up with a heavily bandaged hand and held his, shaking her head as she gave a sad smile, tears welling in her eyes.

"Not like I didn't know what I was doing," she said. "I just finally lost control. Not your fault, Damian."

Creed's eyes filled with tears as well as he returned the smile, then gave a short chuckle.

"What the hell are we going to do with you?" he asked. "I can't turn my back on you for a moment can I."

She shook her head.

"Hey man, I cracked the case," she replied.

"But at what cost?"

"An arm and a leg."

Ross's smile then melted away as she closed her eyes. She tightened her hold on Creed's hand and leaned into it with her cheek.

"I'm so proud of you," he whispered, lightly squeezing her hand in return.

"You better be. I'm holding this over you forever."


Assistant Director Merlo and Director Holman sat in silence in the latter's office, recovering after a hearing with Internal Affairs. Fingers had been pointed. Names dragged through the mud. But in the end, it seemed that both of them were off the hook. For now, at least. More hearings and investigations were planned for the near future.

"It could have been a lot worse, Ed," Merlo spoke. "We're lucky Ross managed to get to the root of the problem when she did."

"We melted the visible part of the iceberg and now have no idea where the rest of the ice went, Sasha," Holman sighed. "Dr. Morgan needed a massive amount of support to have gotten as far as she did unnoticed, and so far, no one's turned up. I don't like the idea of those kinds of loose ends being left free to metastasize."

"I don't like it either," Merlo replied, "but there is nothing else we can do now save keep vigilant. They can't cover their tracks forever, and now they are scattered and leaderless. At some point, one of them will slip up again. Hopefully, we're more prepared to zap them when that happens."

Holman nodded in agreement.

"Since when are you such an optimist?" he asked.

"Since when are you such a downer?" she replied with a grin. She then sighed and stood, grabbing a stack of paperwork as she headed towards the door. "Do you think that if they knew how much work they created on our end, the MTFs would be a little more careful?"

"Did that ever give you pause when you headed Gamma-13?" Holman replied with a grin of his own.

"Touché." Merlo chuckled. "Guess karma has finally found me."


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