11.1 Be Not Afraid

by Matt P.

The conference room at the Border PD station had slowly taken on the characteristics of a war room over the weekend. Or perhaps the famed Situation Room at the White House, although Walter had never actually seen it except in movies and television. A map lined one wall with pins in it showing the locations that had been relevant or important—the hidden laboratory, Morrison’s house and church, the speak easy, and where the attacks had occurred including the Hospital.

“The girl is back with her parents, and we have units assigned to them,” Leah informed Walter as soon as he walked in to the room. She didn’t even have to look up. “With the most powerful shotguns we have, and orders to absolutely destroy the head and heart and call for backup.”

Walter nodded at that, as Morgan came in after him. “Good. As terrible as this is going to sound, I need to make sure that Annie and Bug know where she is. If not they’ll go crazy and drive me crazy if they can’t check on her, and get to her in an emergency.”

“Walter,” Ashland’s voice drawled from further in to the room, “I sure am glad that I didn’t know about your staggering disregard for OpSec when we were working together before. I would have been very disappointed.” She stepped back from the map, where she had been obscured, and gave him a very old fashioned look. “We need to talk about all of the…extraneous people that you’re bringing in to these investigations.”

Walter raised an eyebrow. “Do we?” He asked. He looked around at the room, the walls, the carpet, and even up to the ceiling. “It seems to me like this is the Police Department that I work for—that I run, currently—and that it’s all happening in my town. I’m pretty sure it’s my decision who gets told what.”

Ashland looked at him evenly, face impassive. It was only because he’d known her for years that Walter could tell she wasn’t happy—she was never happy when she was overruled or countermanded. “Give us the room,” she ordered, her fingers laced together in front of her—and the fingers tight, strained.

It was a good order—she had a good commanding voice when she needed. A couple of people even started to move out of sheer spinal reflex, before stopping. Everyone in the room looked to Walter, who met Ashland’s gaze evenly for a few heartbeats before giving a nod. “Give us the room for a few moments.” He paused, while everyone filtered out except for th two of them, and Morgan. “You’ve been giving me shit about this since we got here.”

Ashland nodded. She unlaced her fingers, and folded her arms. “Because it’s bonkers, Walter. We’re taking civilians with us in to dangerous situations, and you’re going off on…what, side quests with them?” She scowled. “I’ve been very lenient here, given I came in planning to take things over and find out what was happening.” She looked like she was going to say more, when the door opened and three people entered. Two were Ashland’s—Taito Hernandez and Gavin Neill—and one was Walter’s. Tania Summers looked annoyed.

“I don’t like being kept out of rooms, Walter. It annoys me. Is there a particularly good reason? I thought we were going to go find the Reverend,” Tania explained, and then asked. Ashland grunted, and gesticulated.

“More of exactly what I’m concerned about, Walter,” Ashland explained. “I’m pretty tired of being given the mushroom treatment about why a doctor, a newspaper magnate, and your two teenage daughters are part of this investigation.” She was visibly keeping herself under control, perhaps remembering that she was in a building filled with people who liked Walter. “And I’m willing to give you five minutes to explain before I call in other agents and take this whole thing over as domestic terrorism.”

Walter sighed, and opened his mouth to respond before Morgan stepped forward and held up a hand to him. “I can explain in far less than five minutes,” she offered with a wry little smile. Apparently reading Walter’s mind, she amended. “Without killing them.”

Neill snorted, and Ashland raised an eyebrow. “It’s your choice,” Walter offered with a shrug, taking a step back and to the side. He didn’t want to be in the way of whatever was going to happen next. Ashland blinked, and one hand moved to rest on her hip…near her gun.

Morgan smirked, and shared a look with Tania as she stepped forward. Both of them rolled their necks around as if loosening something, a twin gesture that revealed as much as anything how similar and related they were. The two sisters, currently both redheads, smiled at one another.

And then they changed. No longer were they two relatively petite redheads. Instead they were both roughly six inches taller than they had been, and seemed even more towering from the sheer…presence they presented. Walter could feel their power throbbing in his bones, in a filling, in his head like pressure underwater. Tania’s hair was no longer the red of a ginger but of the son, red and yellow at the tip; the color flowed like the tendrils of hair were liquid. Her skin was light brown, somewhere between a tan and actual wood. Her eyes were a deep red-brown, and glowed like an ember.

Morgan was no less changed. Where before she had been pale but healthy, her skin looked completely bloodless. Her red hair had turned to pure white, baby-fine tendrils drifting across one another like perfect snow pushed by the breeze. Somehow Walter knew it would shit with her mood. Her eyes were the dark blue of a frozen lake, a shadowy sapphire with immeasurable depths. They were shocking, beautiful, and terrifying, all at once.

Be not afraid,” Morgan commanded, her voice rich and caressing, commanding but still with a hint of frost. She held out a hand to the three agents, palm up, fingers stretched out invitingly.

The three agents did not heed her words. Ashland drew as fast as Walter had ever seen her, and had fired two shots by the time he realized what she was doing. The bullets…stopped, hovering in the air in front of the Faerie Queens. One each, still spinning from the rifling in the pistol’s chamber.

Never mind, be afraid,” Tania offered in an almost disappointed tone. The two of them blinked out of existence for a second, appearing behind them. Tania reached out to casually bat aside the guns from Taito and Gavin, who had drawn but not fired, while Morgan grabbed Ashland by the lapels and lifted her up in to the air.

We are involved because we are involved, and will not be kept away,” Morgan intoned to the woman. She hadn’t even bothered taking Ashland’s gun. Walter had never seen Ashland look so terrified, even when he had seen her acing what she expected to be her death. Walter said she would have looked pale as the grave, but he had a new definition of what that looked like from Morgan. Morgan started to glow faintly blue, and Walter could see frost forming on Ashland’s lapels where the Faerie’s fingers touched.

And then just like that, it was over. They were standing in the room again, Morgan and Tania were their normal ginger selves and it looked like nothing had happened. Except that Ashland dropped back to her feet, and two spinning bullets dropped from the air to the ground with a clink.

Only one person in the room had the wits to respond. Gavin Neill crossed himself, and gasped. “Faeries!”