12.2 Moments Before

by Matt P.

There was a familiar and comforting weight to the gear that Walter wore, and more comfort in the ritual of checking every pocket carefully to make sure things where we he had wanted to stow them. He was wearing a black tactical vest, designed with separate kinds of plates to stop both stabbing and firearms. It wouldn’t stop any particularly high powered rifles, or absurdly sharped nonsense magic swords, but it provided a reassuring general protection.

He looked over to see Ryan Aquino performing a very similar check on his own armor, which was an expensive private model that accomplished much of the same thing but better. Walter had been offered a mostly fitting jacket of the same from Tania’s apparent store of them, but he had turned it down. A mostly fitting jacket wasn’t as good as one that did fit, and he had been using the government model for so long it would have felt odd to wear another. And ostentatious to be wearing something named after a mythological creature while intruding in to the land of Faeries.

“You can’t quite seem to get away from SWAT, boss.” Ryan pointed out wryly as the two of them began checking their weapons. Walter had his two iron railroad spike knives, the Border PD issued .45 handgun, and an M4 carbine from the armory. The knives were tucked in to the harness securely at his back and out of sight in case he needed them, the guns were loaded, and he had backup ammunition for anything that took it. And yet he felt like none of it was going to be as important as the two women they were still waiting on.

“I can’t quite seem to get there, no,” Walter said, as he let the M4 back on its sling and stood waiting. They were in the upstairs of the school, abandoned for the weekend and blocked off for any stragglers. “I keep trying to get out, and they keep dragging me back in,” He quoted with a wry little smile as he moved to sit down on an empty crate that had survived the first fight in the room.

“Not the best Godfather movie to quote, the third one.” Ryan pointed out as he too went to grab a seat, having learned the same lesson as Walter about not standing when sitting was an option.

“Why not?” Walter asked. “I’ve never seen it, on account of everyone saying it sucked.” He offered, looking at the chalk drawing on the wall that was to be their exit from the room. Allegedly, the determinedly contrary part of him thought.

“Because it sucked,” Ryan offered with a grin, sighing. “This could be an odd jump right to hell, you know. Remember some of our fun times?” He offered, his grin going a little bit morbid looking.

“Yeah, I remember them being so fun I retired.” Walter shook his head a bit. “That doesn’t seem to have stuck too well.”

“Well…” Ryan trailed off for a moment. “You retired after twenty years, it isn’t like you got out early you know. Fat government pension and all.”

Walter was about to say something else when footsteps echoed as people came up the stairs. The rest of the Border, PD who were in the know came in along with Morgan and Tania. As Walter rose he was forced to blink at the two women.

Only Morgan was in armor, but it wasn’t the kind of armor he expected. He didn’t know why, but he had thought she would be in modern and expensive body armor like Ryan. Instead she wore a gleaming mail hauberk down to her knee but split for movement, over which scales had been laid and attached carefully. It gleamed with the silver of the mail and the bronze or gold of the scales, and she moved in them like she had been born to it. Or just doing it for a very long time, Walter thought wryly.

“We’re going old school?” Walter asked curiously as he took them in.

“You have no idea,” Tania responded as she looked at her sister. “We’ve been wearing those for a very long time, and they even predate us. They’re modified Roman armor.”

“I recognize a lorica plumata,” Walter commented amusedly. At Tania’s raised eyebrow, he shrugged. “The fancy degrees I let the Army pay for were in military history.” He explained, as he adjusted his gear one last time now that the main players were in the room with him. “We going to get this show on the road?”

Morgan smirked at the exchange, but nodded as she moved over to the door. She placed her hands on the chalk symbols and closed her eyes for a moment before giving a nod. “Yes, it’s still attached to the same place.” She looked at the small circle of cops. “Everyone not going through the gate will want to get back, changing their connection position can be a little bit tricky. Everyone going through the gate will want to step forward and probably hold on to their butts.” Morgan said with a cheery little smile, as she turned back to the gate. Now she closed her eyes and kept them shut, murmuring quietly to herself.

“You’re on guard duty?” Walter asked, looking back over his shoulder to Tania. When she nodded, he looked at her jeans and t-shirt. “No armor?”

Tania smirked. “Who said I have to be wearing it to be protected?” Tania offered, giving a little turn. For a moment Walter could see something about her like a golden glow, but it only lasted for that moment and then it was gone.

“Make sure no weird crap happens to my kids,” Walter said, as he turned back to the portal. He didn’t see her reaction, but he had a suspicion that she wasn’t thrilled with being on guard duty.

As he turned his eyes back to the portal, he found that it had been slightly altered since he looked away. Where before it had just been chalk drawn on brick, now the chalk glowed with a faint white light. As they watched the light grew in intensity, and took on blue tones. They began to shimmer, and Morgan let out a little grunt as she focused on it. All at once the lights flickered and changed, white turning to blue before turning back again and settling down. The glow turned in to a haze emanating from the symbols. It took on a form quivering in the air like floating water, and began to pulse outward with increasing intensity.

Air moved in the room, starting at a light breeze and growing to a whipping speed. As it began to clear the room, Walter found it increasingly difficult to look at anything else. “Ready?” Morgan called out. He tried to look over to her, but his eyes were stuck on the portal. All he could do was nod, as he felt it start pulling him toward it.

“Morgan, it isn’t supposed to open like this!” Tania shouted. As Walter began to lose his fight to stop his feet from being dragged toward it, he heard one last voice.

“WAIT!” It shouted. A male voice, and terrified. It was the last voice he heard before he was pulled in to white and blue and nothingness.