Denton and McDowell Recover La Chupacabra's Pinata from a Jersey Devil
rating: +28+x

Somewhere in "Bumfuck" Jalisco, Mexico

Agents Sam Denton and James McDowell sat across the table from Cpt. Giancarlo DeLuca and Cpt. Rexivus Donnarson of MTF's Beta-6 and Omega-88 respectively. The four of them were seated at the dusty corner table of a cantina in bumfuck Jalisco somewhere near Cuidad Guzman. The sound system skipped every few beats, in time with the pulsing of the lights as the barman flipped channels on the TV behind the bar. In front of them were drinks conspicuously lacking alcohol.

Cpt. Donnarson lifted his ginger ale, and took a quick sip, rocking the tiny compass in front of him back and forth. "What time did the Director say he'd be here?" He looked over at the two agents with an inquisitive eyebrow. His cargo pants and light linen shirt were relatively unremarkable.

Denton shrugged, and gently flicked the empty glass of water in front of him, "He didn't. He said we all needed to be here by oh-eleven hundred today." He lifted his phone out of his pocket, and started thumbing away at some game to pass the time. He leaned back in his chair slightly, obviously bored. His khakis and heavy canvas shirt was more appropriate for the set of Indiana Jones, but not horribly out of place.

Cpt. DeLuca sat at relative attention. The oldest of the group assembled, he was the odd man out in the group. He hadn't worked with the Oathkeepers often, and never with the two agents in front of him, "I don't suppose anyone would know why myself and Kowalczyk were called in for this assignment? We're fairly…specialized." He lifted his glass of seltzer, and pointed at the sword sitting neatly beside the table against the wall. "I can't remember the last time that we met with the Director personally, either." His combat fatigues stood out starkly from the more casual agents at the table.

Jim leaned forward, and squinted suspiciously, "Y'know, I don't know, but I have to admit I'm curious. What out here would require a bunch of sword-guys." His glass was full of gummy bears which matched nicely with his loud hawaiian shirt, and sunglasses. His flip flops had long since become part of the floor. Three hours of waiting around had eroded whatever professionalism Jim barely possessed.

Cpt. Deluca frowned slightly, "Swordsmen, McDowell. I've read your file. Please don't try and get under my skin. Same side here." He tossed back the last of his water, and got up to get a refill from the bar, slipping a hefty tip on the bar with his glass as an apology to the barman.

Several dozen minutes of mindless chit-chat later, and the heavyset form of Director Diaghilev opened the door, trailing Lt. Kowalczyk and Lt. Arnason behind in combat fatigues. Andrej had his sword in his hand, held loosely. Their motions were business-like, as they joined the assembled party at their table. Ruslav held up a hand, and said in flawless spanish, "Alejandro, tequila please. And another round for my friends here, whatever they're having." The lieutenants approached the bar and placed their orders, before taking their places alongside their captains, casually scanning the room as they did. "Now then, I apologize for the wait. We got side tracked around Guadalajara. Took significantly longer to establish the Way here than I expected." There was a chorus of murmured responses to the positive from around the table.

Sam leaned back, and crossed his arms, "There's a lot of firepower here at this table, Director. What are we here for, exactly if you don't mind me asking?" His eyes were focused behind his glasses, fixing Ruslav with an eagle-eyed glance.

Ruslav rumbled a chuckle under his breath, and held up a hand in a placating gesture, "Let me have a drink and settle in before we get down to business, Da?" As his hand descended, a subtle stirring of the aetheric currents chilled the air around them from something resembling a tar fire to a more manageable temperature. "Until then, we can enjoy some conversation? How were your journeys?"

Rex smirked, and rolled his eyes, "I was with you when I started, Director. About six blocks from here. I don't know exactly how you got sidetracked a couple hundred miles in six blocks, but my particular journey was pleasant enough." He flipped his phone over, checking his notifications momentarily, before leaning back.

The overhead fan creaked in slow circles as the barman approached the table, laying the drinks in front of the members of the assembled party, and collecting empty glasses. He gave McDowell a glare and tipped another bag of gummy bears in to his wide-mouthed wine glass. Jim beamed at the barman without a trace of affectation. "Sam and I got here alright. Flight was unremarkable, and for once we didn't have to kick down any doors, which is good, considering goober here forgot half our gear back at the Site."

Sam threw his hands up and rolled his eyes, "Jesus Christ Jim, I told you, we could only check a single bag. I asked you to pack light so we could bring more gear, but nooo!" He turned his entire body toward Jim, setting his jaw.

"Jesus Christ yourself! Why are you always trying to save money anyway, we don't pay for our own travel! At all! Skippy issued us black cards for things like this, remember?" Jim turned as well, stuffing a handful of gummy bears in his mouth. The two continued to argue relatively animatedly while the rest of the conversation continued.

"I think we can begin director. If you'd secure our conversation?" Captain DeLuca smiled pleasantly and sipped his seltzer, placing his sword under the table at his feet.

The Director nodded, and made a slight gesture with his left hand. The arguing between Denton and McDowell continued as a dull buzz behind the group, as they settled forward slightly. "Thank you agents, captains, lieutenants for joining me all the way out here. We have a situation." He paused. "Well, three situations. I need all three of your groups to assist me."

The Director reached into a pocket on the front of his shirt, and removed three micro SD cards. He handed one to Cpt. DeLuca, Cpt. Donnarson, and to Sam. "These have all the information you need in them. High-level, Rex, you and I are going to go investigate an anomaly relating to a local deity. Possible alchemic involvement."

Rex nodded, and slipped the SD card in to his phone, thumbing through files.

"Giancarlo, you and Andrej are going to investigate a local demonoarcotic ring. They're calling it 'Ash' and it's already caused all kinds of hell for the agents in Site-118. They've got some kind of demons guarding their production facilities, wielding swords and near-on immune to bullets. You'll be linking up with elements of MTF-Sigma-16." The two swordsmen nodded, and leaned in over Cpt. DeLuca's tablet, studying the video feed of their opponents, searching for any weaknesses in their fighting style.

"Sam, Jim, you two have the hardest task. We have a diplomatic situation among two of the nations of non-terrestrial alchemic creatures." He drew out a drawing of a stylized piñata, covered in sequins, and trailing ribbons and silk instead of the usual paper decorations. "You are to find, and investigate the cause of the disappearance of La Mariposa de Meseta's first Daughter's quinces piñata. All signs currently point to this being a sign of war with the Pine Barren Confederation. It goes without saying that we can't have open warfare between the Chupacabra, and the Jersey Devils."

Sam and Jim blinked nearly in unison. Sam leaned forward, "Okay, did you just say Chupacabra?" Jim tilted his head to the side, blinking and opening his mouth several times, before saying, "I'm more concerned about the fact you just said 'Jersey Devil'. We're talking the hockey team?"

Director Diaghilev smiled, and stood, leaning forward to grip them both firmly on the shoulders, "They're nice folks, the Devils! I have every confidence you'll be able to handle this with tact, and grace. The Foundation needs this done gentlemen, and I told them you're my best agents for the job." He stood, and turned to leave with the rest of the Foundation personnel. The two agents were left alone at the table.

Jim sank down in his chair, staring into the middle distance, "Sam?"

Sam took a long swallow of his Inca Cola, and breathed out a long breath, "Yeah Jim?"

"You do realize I don't even speak Spanish right?" Jim said, stuffing another handful of gummy bears in his mouth.

Sam nodded idly, "Jim?"

"Yes Sam?" he said, slipping his feet back in to his flip flops.

"I think they stuck us with the check, too." Sam said, his head gently tapping the table in front of them repeatedly.

Sam and Jim streaked across the dusty ground towards the home of La Chupacabra, which according to the files they’d been given was within a hollowed out mesa around a hundred and fifty klicks outside of town. Jim was driving, his hawaiian shirt flapping in the wind streaking through the top of their rented Jeep. They’d tried to get something with airconditioning, but even with the near-infinite resources of the Foundation, some things were impossible. The best they could get was a cloth top old beater which they promptly removed the top from. Sam was reading diplomatic files on La Chupacabra trying to cram in as much of their culture as possible.

“So, if I’m reading this right, they’re a mishmash of various traditions from their own culture, as well as indigenous and Mexican cultures. They’re matrilineal, nearly all their leaders are women, except for a few positions which are always male. I don’t think we’ll have much of a language barrier, at least,” Sam said, one arm hanging out the side of the Jeep. He looked up as they approached the Mesa in the distance. There was an obvious trail laid out to the base of the structure that started about ten kilometers out.

Jim drove up the dirt trail which gave way to packed gravel eventually. He slowed to a halt as they approached the blank face of the Mesa, several hundred feet tall. Sam hopped out of the car, followed by Jim on the other side, their footsteps kicking up red dust from the ground.
Both of the Aethero-Thaumic reactive rings on their fingers began to buzz as something stirred in the air around them. A quiet voice squeaked out of a crack in the wall, in lightly accented English, “Who approaches the demesne of La Chupacabra?”

Jim nodded at Sam, who stepped forward. “My name is Sam Denton, and this is Jim McDowell. We were sent by The Foundation at the request of the Matriarch. I believe we’re expected?”

A moment later, a quiet grinding sound emanated from the stone, which pulled away and rolled to the side. Beyond the doorway was some kind of garage, with several vehicles parked there. Several hunched creatures worked in the darkness beyond, and neither Sam nor Jim could get a good look. They climbed back into the Jeep and slowly rolled through the doorway, which ground closed behind them.

“Think we’re gonna die now?” Jim said quietly.

“Shut up Jim,” Sam said, rolling his eyes in the darkness.

A series of lights winked on in the darkness, leading them to a parking space. Jim parked, reaching back to grab the heavy duffel bag behind his seat. Sam grabbed his and stepped out of the car once more, slinging the heavy gear bag over his shoulder. The pair followed the lights to an elevator in the back of the garage, which stood empty. They walked in, and turned to face the door. The top floor was already lit up.

As they ascended up the mesa, Sam turned to Jim, “Hey, you did remember at least to pack some of the weapons right?”

Jim nodded, all traces of humor gone, “We’ve got a couple of sidearms, a rifle, a baton, a few gadgets, and if we can find a place to change clothes, I did manage to pack all of our body armor.”

Sam smiled slightly, “Jim, I knew there was a reason I put up with your bullshit.”

Jim rolled his eyes, “My bullshit? Says the guy who flew economy when he wasn’t paying for the flights.”

The doors opened in front of them, to a large open air plaza. The top of the mesa had been completely hollowed out, and inside there were thousands of Chupacabra walking about. The ceiling was some form of projection, but neither agent could tell if it was technological, thaumic, or alchemic in nature.

The Chupacabra were squat, heavyset creatures. Even the most cursory glances told both men there was going to be no trouble telling the sexes apart. The male Chupacabra were burly and walked on heavy clawed hands, similar to the various bits of folklore that surrounded their civilization. The females stood on two legs, with long fingers, each wearing brightly colored braids in their short wiry hair. The males were relatively unadorned.

Barely ten seconds had passed before they were approached by two males and a female. The same lightly accented voice came out of the male on the left, strangely delicate. “Agents, I presume? Welcome to Mesa Mariposa, thank you for coming.”

The female stepped forward, her voice deeper and more richly toned, “Yes, thank you. I know that our city is hardly a priority, and we appreciate your time and energy. I am Denira.”

Sam smiled, and stepped forward, nodding. “It’s our pleasure. I am Sam Denton, and this is Jim McDowell. Would you be so kind as to take us to La Mariposa de Meseta? I’d like to get started as soon as is feasible.”

The female nodded quickly, and gestured for them to follow, walking quickly through the crowded streets. Sam and Jim were taller than most of the creatures there, who nodded at them respectfully as they passed.

Denira lead them to a tall spire that extended almost the entire way to the ceiling, waving her hand to the two large males at the door. They nodded respectfully as well, and let them pass without incident.

A few minutes of walking through various corridors, and up several flights of stairs saw them conveyed to a relatively austere office, for lack of a better word. The room itself, like most of the buildings they’d seen was hewn out of the rock itself, and all of the furniture was either made of the same stone, or wood.

Inside, a taller individual stood waiting for them, looking out the single glass paned window in the office, out over the desert vastness. She turned, and regarded the agents warmly, her deep-set black eyes glittering. “Hello, Agents. I’m pleased to see that The Foundation takes our treaty seriously. I must admit, I was a little worried we’d be given a polite demuration, and be on our own.”

Jim took a step forward, and bowed his head until it was just below her hairline, a Chupacabra sign of respect, “First Mother, La Mariposa. It’s an honor to be allowed to your home, and to help you in your time of need. The Foundation respects all of its agreements to the letter and the spirit. We have come bearing gifts, and humbly ask that you receive them.” A single bead of sweat coasted down the back of Jim’s head and into his shirt, as he prayed silently that he’d gotten that right.

The First Mother clicked her tongue in amusement, and walked around the desk, “Oh my! You’ve both been studying, haven’t you! I haven’t had a formal greeting like that in twoscore years! That was delightful! Of course I’ll accept your gifts, I’m very impressed.”

Sam stepped forward, and reached in to the side compartment of his duffel bag, pulling out a relatively expensive bottle of mescal, and a jar of Nopales preserves. He held them out, and nodded deeply as well. “I hope you like them, I was informed you were particularly fond of the nopales.”

She took both from Agent Denton, and made another clicking sound, “They truly are, even if my doctor doesn’t want me having them anymore. Too much vegetation in my diet, she says.” She placed them on her desk, next to her laptop, and regarded them solemnly.

“So, to the matter at hand. My daughter is turning 15. This is a significant event in a young female’s life in our culture. It’s our coming of age, so to speak. My daughter will be formally recognized as an adult, and take her last few actions as a child. The most important of which is the piñata.”

Sam held up a hand, his brows knitting slightly, “I’ll admit, my cultural study was fairly brief, what exactly is it used for in this celebration?”

“It’s a symbol more than anything else. It’s dressed up in bright colors, with sequins and streamers. All of the trappings of childhood. The female then gives it one last embrace, and leaves it behind, as she does childish things. A young female will work on her piñata from the time she is a very young female, usually four or five years old.”

Sam nodded, “I see, and Director Diaghilev mentioned that your daughter’s piñata had gone missing?”

The First Mother shook her head, the beads and bones in her hair producing an odd clicking sound as she did. Agent McDowell winced slightly at the noise, which gave him immediate tinnitus, and set his ring buzzing alongside Agent Denton’s. “It didn’t go missing, it was stolen. It hasn’t moved from our house since she began creating it ten years ago.”

Jim fingered his chin for a moment, “Maybe I’m not getting something, but if I understand this correctly, the piñata only holds value to her, right? What would someone want her piñata for?”

The First Mother spread the fingers of her right hand, claws slowly extending from the fingertips, a gesture of anger. “Someone is trying to stop her from taking her place among the junior council as is her birthright. Without that piñata, she cannot be recognized, and she won’t begin to work her way up our society. I believe my political enemies might have sabotaged her coming of age.”

The two agents shared a significant glance, and nodded one after another. “Let’s see your residence, and we’ll get started.”

After a few sweaty hours Sam and Jim had a working theory about what happened, but needed to stake out the First Mother’s home overnight to confirm it. Sam and Jim sat in the darkness behind their house, with their backs to the exterior wall of the First Daughter’s room. They were vigilantly passing the time by idly flicking playing cards in to a sombrero they'd bought at a novelty shop within the Mesa.

Both of them had changed out of their tourist gear, and in to their regular combat gear. Sam had packed heavy this time to Jim’s light. He had on a pair of heavy boots with several surprises built in. His cargo pants had impact panels along the shins and thighs, each of which had several concussive charges built in. A heavy impact vest covered by thick kevlar protected his chest, and a tactical lens was in front of his left eye. The heavy polymer and metal gloves he wore restricted his finger movements, so he was losing, badly.

Jim, on the other hand, wore combat boots, cargo pants, and a lighter chest armor, with a gently glowing backpack on his back. There were small wires and hoses which fed down to metal devices on his legs and arms. The only heavy gear he wore was a specially reinforced helmet.

“So, you sure she’s gonna do this tonight again,” Sam said, flicking a card, poorly. It landed several feet away.

Jim nodded, the tactical lens bobbing in the darkness, “Yep. There’s a dozen unique signatures leading to the same place, all equally decayed. I’d be surprised if she hasn’t been opening a Way every night for the past month.”

Above their heads a slowly rotating blue device was affixed to the wall. It pulsed with stored aetheric energies, prepared by the Director himself.

Another half hour passed, before Sam and Jim heard quiet chanting on the other side of the wall, through the window. Sam held up a hand, and lifted it, slowly standing, his back still against the exterior wall, to the right of the window out of sight. Jim mirrored his actions, leaning against the right side.

The First Daughter’s chant reached a high point, and a rushing of wind indicated the opening of a Way on the interior of the wall they were leaning against. The blue alchemic device lit up, and popped out from the wall, mirroring the same working against the exterior wall, opening an identical way which Sam and Jim fell back through.

Sam and Jim rolled with the falling motion, drawing their weapons and holding them out in front of them.

The sun peaked out over the horizon as they came up in a forest, with a dozen angry faces pointed their general direction.

Jim sighed, and cracked his neck idly, “Fucking time dilation.”

The air was tense as the two agents stood weapons drawn against the alien faces in front of them.

Myriad wings and hooves thrashed at the air, menacing the pair as whatever creatures they faced prepared to attack. Sam took up position a pace behind Jim, and set his jaw, “Alright look, we’re not here to fight, we’re just looking—”

The nearest creature screeched and lunged forward, claws flashing from both hands. Jim took a pair of steps forward, and snapped a side kick in to the creature’s jaw, the backpack letting out a blue burst of light, his foot accelerating sharply at the apex of impact. The creature hit the ground hard, and Sam trained his rifle on it, prepared to put it down.

McDowell held up a hand, holding his heavy pistol, “Wait, Denton, I think I know what these are.” He turned and faced down the rest of the crowd, who had been stunned by the rapid violence Jim had perpetrated on their compatriot. “We’re not here for a fight, I didn’t even realize we were in New Jersey, we just—” Sam holstered his pistol, and held up his hands.

The crowd took this as a signal to attack. Sam’s brain finally clicked, and he dropped the rifle, drawing the collapsible baton at the small of his back. A flick of the wrist brought it to full length, and he slammed the bottom of it against his thigh impact panel, shattering the small glass sphere set in to the base.

A crackle of electricity flowed down the baton, as Sam shoulder-slammed one of the creatures out of the way, and pivoted on his right foot to bring the baton down and over another’s head.

Jim took a couple of floating steps forward, and happily headbutted one of the goat-headed creatures, the heavy helmet protecting his head. The Jersey Devil in front of him wasn’t so lucky. It crumpled and Jim stepped over the body, delivering a roundhouse kick to the Devil behind it. His hands and feet blurred as the aetheric energy from the equipment fed into his nervous system and muscles, dropping the creatures left and right.

Sam drew out a couple of small discs from his belt, and flung them towards the last two Devils as they finally worked up the courage to join the fight. A green blast of energy escaped the discs and the two Devils fell unconscious in a deep, restful sleep.

Sam and Jim cleared their targets. Sam looked over at Jim, “Aren’t the Jersey Devils supposed to be friendly?”

Jim shrugged, and recovered his rifle, “Maybe the Hockey Team are the friendly ones?” He tapped the tactical lens’ activation stud a couple of times, switching to aetheric tracking. “I think she went this way.”

Several minutes of trudging through New Jersey Pine Barrens later, they came upon The First Daughter, sitting on a log near a small pond. They stopped several meters behind The First Daughter. Jim cleared his throat, causing her to turn, and gasp at the two Agents.

“Well now, little lady, I think you’re going to have some explaining to do,” Sam leveled his taser at her chest, his finger off the trigger. “I don’t want to hurt you, but you need to come back and explain why you’ve been opening a Way out here every ni—”

A roaring yell split the night as another Jersey Devil glided out of the trees above them. Sam stood his ground, and stomped his back foot down into the soft soil below, anchoring him to the ground with the impact spikes built into the heel, locking his arms forward, the heavy gloves locking in to the pads on his forearms, biceps and shoulders to form the better part of a roadblock in place.

Jim sprinted forward, the backpack glowing brighter as it fed aetheric and thaumic energies in to the panels on his gear, accelerating his movements. He jumped over Sam’s right shoulder, vaulting off of his stiff right arm, and full-body tackled the Devil gliding towards his partner.

He impacted with a smacking sound, and they both went down easier than Jim expected. The thing couldn’t have weighed more than a buck-twenty, and had switched from roaring to high pitched squealing and squeaking sounds.

Sam thought they’d injured the poor thing before he realized it was English, just in a cracking teenage voice.

“I swear to god, if you hurt her, I’m gonna fuck you up! They’re not even gonna find the fuckin’ body, I know a guy I swear to fucking christ!” The Devil screeched at them, it’s voice cracking from deep to high pitched.

Jim held the thing down, and frowned, “You done? None of us are hurting anyone, except for you, if you don’t shut up.” The creature below him blinked, its three-fingered hands held tightly against the ground. Jim’s knees pinned its wings down, and his body was firmly planted on its hips. “Now, seriously, are you done?”

It nodded, and Jim let it get up. The First Daughter turned, panicked, and ran over to where Jim was getting up, “Oh god, Tony, are you okay?”

The apparent Tony slowly sat up, curling his bat-like wings around his shoulders. He lashed his tail, and sat up on its haunches, gathering his hooves under himself. “I’m fine, Caela. It takes a lot more than that to hurt me.” He puffed out his chest slightly, flipping his hair out of his eyes, squaring up towards the agents, trying to look intimidating. “Who the fuck are you, and why are you here?”

Sam and Jim stood beside each other, keeping their weapons down, but ready. “We’re Foundation Agents which were requested by La Mariposa de Meseta to track down Caela’s piñata. I’m going to assume it’s here. Also, where exactly is here?”

“Jersey,” Tony spat out reflexively.

Sam facepalmed, “No shit sherlock. What part of the ass-end of the armpit of the country are we in?”

“Hey fuck you man, New Jersey is awesome,” Tony said, defensively.

“Sure, whatever. Go find a Diner or something. Caela, you need to come back home, and bring your piñata. Tony, whatever the hell you were doing with her, you need to back off before you start an international incident. This is the First Daughter of La Chupacabra.”

Caela huffed, and stuck her chin out, “Duh, shit for brains. He knows that, Tony and I are in love. I won’t let my mother split us up, I don’t care about her dumb council! You can’t do anything to us that will break up our love. Do your worst, fascist pigs.”

Sam grinned, and slipped his phone out of his pocket, happy to find full bars, “Oh really? I bet we know two people who would disagree…”

Four hours later, Sam, Jim, a Chupacabra and a Jersey Devil sat in a large conference room at a nearby Foundation site. Between the four of them sat Tony and Caela, both looking angry and sullen.

Director Diaghilev strode through the entrance, and sat down at the head of the conference table, “Apologies for the delays, I came as soon as I got Agent McDowell’s message. Are we all here?”

The Boss put his hands on the table, and sighed deeply, his voice a sinuous basso, “I just want to be clear, I had no idea this was happening, and am deeply sorry for my son being such an idiot.”

“Formal introductions of course, La Mariposa de Meseta, First Mother of La Chupacabra, this is The Boss of the Pine Barren Confederation.” Director Diaghilev rumbled out.

The First Mother raised an eyebrow, “The Boss…?”

He smiled slightly, exposing flat goat-like teeth, “Not ‘The Boss’, just ‘the Boss’.”

She chuckled softly, and leaned forward, her talons retracted, and fingers steepled, “I owe you an apology as well. I had no idea my daughter was invading your territory nightly, and figured she had better judgement.”

Caela slapped her palms on the table, “I wasn’t invading anyone’s territory! Tony and I are in love, and I’m not going to be forced to play politics for you instead of following my heart, madre!” she said.

The First Mother blinked a few times, and shook her head, “To be clear, you hid your piñata in New Jersey so you could be with this young devil, and instead of telling me you’d met a boy, you sabotaged your coming of age, because you assumed that you couldn’t be with him if you had it?”

Caela nodded, and stuck her chin out again, “Yes, and it would have been perfect if you hadn’t messed it up calling in these gringos.”

Sam frowned, "Hey, I don't speak spanish, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't very nice."

The Boss cleared his throat, and stretched his wings slightly, “First Mother, our peoples have always had a positive relationship, I see no reason this needs to escalate at all. I have my people searching for the lost piñata now.”

The First Mother sighed heavily, “Thank you.” She turned to her daughter, “If you didn’t want to join the council and wanted to be with him, you could have just told me. It’s your life, Caela, I wouldn’t have stopped you.”

Caela opened her mouth and closed it, turning a bright shade of green in a blush. “I didn’t think you’d approve.”

The First Mother turned and beamed at The Boss, “Nonsense! Tony is a fine young man, and I wouldn’t mind closer ties with the Jersey Devils!”

Caela’s eyes lit up, as she leaned over to grasp Tony’s clawed hands, “So, we can be together!”

She nodded, and smiled, “Of course you can. After the end of the six months grounding you’ve earned young lady.”

Tony stood up, “Six months! You’re going to keep us apart for six months?! We’ll go crazy from being apart that long!”

The Boss stood up, and clapped his son on the shoulder, “Oh don’t worry son, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy while you’re grounded for the next six months as well. I’m thinking you can detail every car in the Confederation.”

Ruslav rumbled in amusement, and stood, bowing deeply to both parties, “It sounds like we’ve reached a peaceable solution. I hope you don’t mind if I offer my services to disable the creation of Ways between your two territories while these two cool off a bit?”

They both agreed thankfully, and escorted their children out of the conference room, back towards the escorts they’d had brought in. Ruslav turned towards the two agents, “Good work, I’m glad I could count on you once more.”

Sam stepped forward, scratching his chin, “Sir, a question?”

Ruslav nodded, and smiled, “What’s on your mind, Agent?”

“Why us, sir? There’s definitely more qualified people who could have done this. Captain Donnarson probably would have handled this with a lot more expertise, honestly,” Sam said, shifting his weight.

“Everyone else was handling other things. You two have skills that others don’t. You have a certain…flair for the emotional side of our work. Giancarlo or Rex would have just used force, but you two managed to end the situation with a minimum of violence. It was good work, agents,” Ruslav said. He clapped them both on the shoulder, and strode out.

Sam and Jim shared a glance, and sat back down, sipping at their coffee momentarily. They would have to find a way back to Site-127, and make an absurdly long report on this entire mess.

Jim cocked his head, and made a face, “Hey Sam?”

Sam made a grunting sound.

“The Jersey Devils have goat-bodies, and bat wings right?”


“And La Chupacabra means…”

“I hate you, Jim.”

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