The Nomad's Vigil

And Back We Go
Cam

Back to HQ, just now. It was a bit of a drive from Canada, and I want to go in search of a sandwich and watch episodes of terrible sitcoms and relax— but I need to jot things down before I forget. I didn’t get much of a chance to do so while we were up in Montreal, but I need to remember to do this.

MONTREAL NOTES
Alpha: still worried about what’s up with her. She’s still extraordinarily helpful though.
Changelings: operate in courts with kings. Knew this from Miami; confirmed in Montreal.
Changelings: run the city of Montreal. LOTS of rules, most unspoken.
Cheiron: has fingers in many, many pies.
Cheiron: uses a combination of scientific and supernatural techniques in the name of “science”.
Cheiron: the beast that attacked us had a built-in fail-safe (cyanide).
Cheiron: experiments on the lost-and-forgotten people they can find (e.g. our vagrant fiend).
Hunters: Alice Wheeler. Nice girl. A lot like her dad.
Hunters: Mad science funded by sketchy science corporations can create slashers.
Hunters: Slashers can acquire supernatural abilities.
Mr. M: the Horus symbol is used for surveillance.
Mr. M: took an interest in one of Cheiron’s scientists. Got him to believe the 2012 story.
Phone: has some seriously high-tech gadgets. Must investigate further.
Sorcery: M’s sigils, if all of the lines are broken, will stop working.
Survival Project: ongoing, and much bigger than initially thought.

Hope I didn’t forget anything.
I need to send Regan a letter. Lots to catch up on. But I have some research to do first— the info he requested on the witch-hunters and Lucifuge. I have so many other things to ask MoTHeR, too. I need to get better at computer research, though. Maybe Dylan can help. I should really call Alpha, too. Just to say hi. In the meantime, I’m really hoping the Road will consider putting a climbing wall in the gym. I’m getting rusty, and I’d really like to have something physical to focus on again. The shooting range is great and all, but it’s just not the same as climbing. That and practicing is less fun when I get shown up by our very own gun bunny or I get driven out by that trigger-happy asshole in the other cell we’ve seen around.

Hell, I’m so tired. It’s good to be back to the closest thing to home I’ve got right now.

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The General's Orders
Hollis

Vocal diary of Maj. Hollis Wheeler, formerly of the 29th Infantry Division, Fort Belvoir. 12th of July, 2012, 06:12

I must be brief, for I am to go “on air”, as they say, in less than an hour. I would like to summarize my thoughts on our recent expedition as best as I can, however.

The creatures terrorizing Montreal are dead. A rogue soldier, a former Cheiron Group operative aligned with our primary adversary had been conducting experiments of a horrifying nature on captive vagrants. Things… hybrid between man and monster, screaming, vicious creatures unbound by the limitations of the human form. Slashers made to order from a process straight out of Auschwitz’s darkest laboratories.

My suspicions are confirmed in one sense; Alice is now well and truly following in my footsteps. We… used her. As bait. Bait! My little girl, waiting for the creature to spring on her in its perverted drive to destroy her, and I made her do it. But I had no choice. She made hers.

She’s a soldier now, and I’m proud of her.

Proud of Dr. Foxx as well, she showed real steel in the fight. God above, my ankle hurts! As I was saying, Foxx was determined as always to do what was necessary.

McMinton was not. And I swear, even if putting the knife to that squirming little traitor in the court of the Autumn King hadn’t been our only way out alive, I would have tied a handkerchief around his face myself and put him up against the wall. I’d have pulled the trigger. He couldn’t have, and that makes him weak. He wouldn’t shoulder the weight.

That is a luxury I do not need to allow myself. To win this war we must adhere to our honor and our mercy, but the former outweighs the latter every time. I will kill those who betray our cause. I will hunt down our adversaries wherever they hide. I will obey my orders and rally my troops around the flag to bring victory, final, absolute, victory to our cause.

I will do my duty.

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In The Thick of Things

I wonder if she can see me? She said she’d be watching, and how can I know if this little bag of….whatever it is hanging around my neck, actually does anything. I mean, sure, that old guy, Old Dylan, Oracle seems to know what’s going on—crimeny he looked like he had been at it longer than Hollis.

But I wonder if she knows.

Does it keep her from coming here, right now, and dropping me back in Miami, let me see their faces for a few minutes to get me all worked up? No. No way. I mean, yeah, it does. I guess I wish it didn’t. But would have done that, just to mess with my head. Unless Oracle was trying to keep me from her. What if they aren’t bad?

But this guy, this guy is pretty bad. Invisible fucker, like barbed wire and Pac-man had a go-round and shoved it down this poor bastards throat. He doesn’t even look beat up—after a few rounds in his god-damn chest and having his leg chopped in half. But that was when he was trying to shove Hollis down his throat, now he looks…

Like me. Like some guy.

Cam and Hollis act like it is all easy to see, and…my gut just keeps telling me things are wrong but I can’t tell if it is the monsters or us.

People just tell me to keep shooting, and all I know is I can hit them.

Hollis says it, er, he might not be dead. The Major doesn’t look to held together, but I can’t tell if it’s the blood or the fatigue. Cam almost shot me. I almost shot her. Fucking missed.

Hollis still has his sword out. The guy on the floor looks better than the three of us.

I don’t think I am going to send this to Kelly.

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Drive.
Cam

“What the hell—”
Shit, it’s right on top of him— what the hell is this thing?
Draw. Fire. Damn it Cam, AIM AND HIT IT.
Are you going to let another one die?
That shot didn’t do a damn thing to it. Hit it again.
Holy hell. It’s down. Shit, it has too many fangs. And it was invisible.
“I have no idea. Vampires don’t just grow extra teeth, do they?”

“Guys… it might not be dead yet. Either way, we have to leave. We can’t stay here.”
Hell, not again. We’re drawing attention to ourselves. We have to get out of here.
How badly did it hurt Hollis? He’s bleeding… I don’t know anything about fixing that kind of thing. How much damage did he take? How much damage did it take, for that matter?
I can’t do this. We got attacked out of nowhere by an invisible van-riding beast. It’s a miracle Danny spotted it.
Damn it, pull yourself together. You’ve been through worse, come on.
It was invisible. INVISIBLE. How can you fight what you can’t see?

Don’t think about it. Just… take the keys out of your pocket. Come on, Cam.

“… put it in the back. We’ll deal with it later, we have to go.”
Keep it together, Cam. You’re the one who has to get us out of here.
What if it wakes up in the back of the van? What if it kills us on our way out of here?
What if somebody saw us? If there’s witnesses, there will be cops.
There can’t be cops. If they stop us, we have what looks like a body in the back of the van.
I can’t go to jail again.

Put the keys in the damn ignition, Cam. No, pick them up. This is no time to be dropping things, we need SPEED. No more mistakes.

Shit. What am I doing? I have a “dead” man, a bleeding man and a man with somebody else’s blood on him in the back of my van.
Where the hell are we going to go?
You don’t have time to panic, Cam. Not now. You’re useless if you panic. They need you not to panic, and to do your job. They’re relying on you.

Get a hold of yourself, damn it.

Turn the key. Everything will be fine. You’re in the driver’s seat. You’re in your element. You can speculate later. You’ve pulled us out of worse spots than this— just start the van.

Now drive.

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Cannon Fire
Hollis

[In the back of the van, Hollis clutches his sword, dripping with blood, as he breathes raggedly through a chest half-crushed by the creature’s claws. Ribs are cracked, but mercifully not broken. He runs his hand along his sword, feeling the soft halo of disconnection that accompanies his daily meditation.]

[He pricks his finger, and the flash he saw when he drew the sword from the creature’s heart fills his eyes again. His head splits with migraine. He slumps forward onto his knees, clutching the sword in one bleeding hand. He cannot hear his cell-mates cries of alarm. The flash fades, and he sees things]

Flash. Hollis kneeling in his father’s house, now his house, with his father’s lifeblood leaking between his fingers as he weeps. The sword lies flat on the floor, covered with bloody, greasy ash. Hollis looks past the remains of the creature that did this, and his eyes find the portrait of The Man in White and its eyes

I am with you, major

Flash. Hollis is with Oleanna, by the side of Lake Pontchartrain in the soft light of a cloudy night. She is beautiful even beyond his memories. In the light that pours from her eyes, her mouth, even her skin, he is young again, a man of twenty-five. She tastes like danger and madness in the sweetest sense, like whiskey poured from the bottle in the middle of a burning city. She presses herself to him, the two of them wearing only the heavy fog of Louisiana when the moon emerges from behind its clouds with a

Remember who you are

Flash and now the edges are growing fuzzier, the visions of past events replaced by others. Hollis dead on the ground, his sword broken, and a man in black is standing there. Flash, Hollis alive, his sword lifted over the tomb of The Man in White. He speaks and dozens, scores of others raise their weapons and recite their oaths.

They will follow, as you have followed

Flash and things are growing dark. Cam dead, bleeding out, Dan pinned to the wall by something shapeless and dreadful. Flash. All three of them alive, speeding down the highway in the strobing glow of red and blue police lights.

There is always hope

Flash. Regan dead. Flash. Oracle and Dylan dead, Regan stands over them fighting a man in a silk hat. Flash. Cam yells out to Hollis as Danny fires into the night. Flash. Alice lies in a pool of her own blood, her leather collar in shreds and her ruptured weapon cushioning her mangled hat. Flash. Alice cries hysterically, holding Hollis’ limp body. Flash. All alive. Flash. All dead.

Do your duty

Flash. Hollis sharply sucks in air, grasping his chest and lurching up against the seat belt. His head pounds, but he is all right. He breathes. His chest doesn’t hurt as much.

Have faith

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Letters to Cam

Hey Cam,

Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your letters. After everything that went down before I left… Well, it took me awhile to sort things out in my own head, you know? And there’s been a lot to deal with here as well. I know we’ve spoken on the phone but there’s so much that can’t be said over an insecure line. It’s so weird to be this far away from you, after we lived practically on top of each other for so long. I miss you like crazy.

I’m sorry to hear that McMinton is still such a wild card. It’s never good to get mixed up with the Fae. Good thing that he turned them down —he wouldn’t have gotten any blood from me without a fight. Watch your back around him, and ditch him if you even think for a moment that you need to. It’d kill me if you got hurt. And I’d kill him if he hurt you.

I hope that Hollis is still solid? There’s no Night Road in Rome, as far as I can tell, so you should record his radio appearance and send it to me. Somehow I doubt he plays the mindless pop-rock that kept us awake through endless road trips. I really can’t imagine him filling in for Oracle, but I think his voice would be pretty soothing if I were running panicked through the night chasing down monsters. Does he have some sort of codename? General, Captain, perhaps? Ha.

Rome has been interesting. And nice, in a way. Also not-super-nice, because my aunt resents that I’ve come back to claim her place as the heir to the mafia-kingdom or whatever. I’m fairly sure that she hates me. Hopefully this isn’t the kind of R and J thing that comes with assassination plots. Trust me, this place has doomed romance and murder attempts written all over it.

My cousin, though, her son Julian, seems nice so far. I don’t trust him at all, but he’s helped me out a few times now. It just feels like I’m walking in halfway through one of your romance novels. Everyone has been plotting, but I don’t know what any of them want. Anyway, you wouldn’t be able to stand Julian. I know Hollis thinks I’m terrible, but Julian is even sluttier than I am. Which is completely possible, thank you very much.

Tell Hollis I say hi. What is it that he would say? Probably “Give Regan my regards”. So give Hollis my regards, whatever that means. McMinton too, I guess. I hope the Night Road is treating you all well —I’m not sure how I feel about this machine you are dealing with. “Mother”, really? That sounds creepy and sketch as hell. What does it say about me? About the Lucis? I could use some background here, if you can give me any info. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you —especially money and stuff. Since suddenly I’m rolling in it. I’ll do what I can for you.

Remember, if you need me I’ll be there as fast as possible. No matter what.

Regan

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Northbound
Cam

Regan

We’re off on another job. This time we’re hunting vampires in Canada. I’m hoping for a straightforward job, but that’s never the case, is it? I’m crashing at a motel right now while the boys are off scouting. Do you happen to get the Night Road all the way out there? If you do, you’re in for a surprise. Seems Hollis has decided he wants to host for a bit and give Oracle a break when we have downtime. In the meantime I’m listening to it to fall asleep.

McMinton has gone and gotten himself into some serious trouble. Not just any trouble, either. It’s the kind of trouble that means WE might be in trouble. He apparently found himself a fairy godmother. In exchange for “protecting his kid” she wanted things of ours, and blood from you. He didn’t take the deal, though if she’d gotten to him again I fear he would’ve. I’m still not sure we should’ve taken him on. First he’s hard to handle because he’s inexperienced and temperamental, now he’s got a fairy with her eye on us. We have no clue what she’s capable of, but if she was interested in us how the hell are we supposed to shake her? Dylan supposedly gave him some kind of anti-fairy-tracking device. But what the hell are we supposed to do about this?

I’ve had enough hunting partners go south. If he’s going to become a goddamn liability every time something brings up his kid, I’m ditching him on the side of the road and he can find his own way back. I’m tired of nearly getting myself killed for somebody who can’t toe the line, whatever line that is.

Maybe I’ll be less mad when the sun comes up and I’ve got coffee in hand.
Either way, hope things are all right on your end. Stay safe.

—Cam

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Northern Dispatch
Hollis

Vocal diary of Maj. Hollis Wheeler, formerly of the 29th Infantry Division, Fort Belvoir. 28th of June, 2012, 06:12

I shall keep this brief, as I have a meeting with Alice to attend in a few hours and shouldn’t keep her waiting. And I need to perhaps have a little visit to her beau, just a look around after our meeting to ensure all is as it should be. Nevertheless, our situation merits a short dispatch.

My suspicions about Oracle are, though not confirmed in their entirety, mostly upheld by what he revealed to me. Not a fetch, then, not a mirror darkly of dyDylan Kent, but something else. He made a poor bargain, and that’s not the half of it.

I fear that Daniel has been approached by something far beyond his ken, but that he dealt with it like he deals with most threats: pigheaded righteousness. In this case it served him fairly well against the “fairy godmother”. A Fae, a True Fae. She warned me about them. I must be vigilant around Dan these days. I must say, however, his form is improving slightly. And there’s no doubting his natural dexterity with the blade. Given time I think he’ll make a fine swordsman.

Dr. Foxx is still a little subdued by the departure of Regan, I daresay, and I can’t blame her. She did not take the news of Danny’s… standing offer with an overabundance of grace or sympathy, sad to relate. She doesn’t trust slowly, she trusts at a veritable glacial pace, she does. Well, again, I can’t blame her.

I need to pick up a guitar case, today, cliche though this particular emulation of gangster era sartorial accoutrement is. Can’t think why I never bought one before, actually. Makes things much simpler.

A few stray observations before I sign off:

—That rabid dog Earl has leashed ought to be put down and sooner rather than later. He’s a damned menace to civilians and hunters alike, and he’s unstable.

—The piece of paper Oracle passed on to me… doesn’t fit her usual pattern. Perhaps if we’re not in a rush out of Montreal we could stop in New Hampshire, take a look around.

—Oracle has broached the subject of my hosting a radio program. I… admit I’ve found something of a knack for it. Next time I’m in base I may just sit and spin a few discs. Hah! I rather like the idea.

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Down Another Road We Go
Cam

Regan

It’s weird not having you around, you know that? (Granted, we spent a while attached at the hip for fear of death, but still.) We’ve been given the tour of the facilities at the Night Road headquarters, and it’s ENORMOUS. They gave us our own rooms at the base and everything.
The place is linked to several other of the Road’s bases; it’s high tech AND magical, of all things. I’m dying to find out how some of this stuff works, and I have access to the very best way to do that—her name is MoTHeR, and she’s the most high-tech supercomputer I’ve ever seen. All I have to do is ask for something and she pulls up any and every bit of information on it. Just for a test I asked her about a couple of things.

Turns out Rat Boy was in fact real, and Alex (you remember her, right? Insane hunter girl?) killed him the day we left Boca Raton.

There’s files on all of us, bios and pictures and things. There’s also files on Rodney (dead) and Sunny (dead), but not on Demarion. He was too new to be on the grid, I suppose. There’s files on you and the Lucifuge (hope the witch hunters aren’t giving you too much trouble), one on me (including the article I published on Rat Boy), and a pretty sizeable one on Hollis and his previous crew.

I can’t wait to see what else she’s got. I have questions about SO many things, and I’m looking forward to having access to all that information.

We got shown around by the man himself— Oracle, that is— he’s a rather frail older man who resembles Dylan a little. He’s very nice and gave us extensive answers to questions, unlike a certain former employer. In spite of my initial suspicion, I think I’m actually going to like it here.

I miss you, though. Hope Rome is treating you well, and that you’re in safe hands with your family. I hear the Malleus Maleficarum is a bitch to deal with. Stay safe, okay?

Cam

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As One Lamp Lights Another, Nor Grows Less
Hollis

[This diary entry is muffled somewhat by loud classical music. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is in its second movement, The Kalendar Prince.]

Vocal diary of Maj. Hollis Wheeler, formerly of the 29th Infantry Division, Fort Belvoir. 20th of June, 2012, 22:00

Well, it was more than ten years at this job before I signed on with another man’s army. I’m not ashamed of that. But looking back, now, perhaps there was a touch of pride that kept me from enlisting before now. A certain rebelliousness or egotism, a notion that I could command better than any other I’d met. That was true, as far as it went, until I met these people.

The body of knowledge that they possess is… formidable. No, more than that, astonishing. Instants pass and questions that have plagued me for years are answered in the clipped tones of a synthetic voice! Dr. Foxx was beside herself with joy at the sight of the new machine and I can’t blame her. Can’t in the least. Children in candy stores have exercised more restraint. Even Daniel was impressed, although his analog was the firing range. Boys with their toys. I have a distinct feeling, now that it occurs to me, that Dan McMinton has never been shot. Shot at, probably, but guns lose much of their cachet once they have turned a sizable portion of your body into red pulp. Certainly worked on me back in the Balkans.

Their field commander is a man of powerful intellect, personal fortitude and, above all, iron conviction. His plan is one with which I can agree, and the ideologies that seem to motivate him seem, at first impression, to be noble. I respect him, although I can’t help but wonder if it is safe to be making this recording in here. Even with the music playing I expect they have listening equipment of great sophistication. That’s a risk I’ll take.

Dylan Kent has demonstrated a more somber side of himself here, quite possibly influenced by Oracle’s illness. The resemblance between the two of them has persuaded, I think, Dr. Foxx and Danny that they are related. I half agree with that.

I already miss Regan, I frankly admit it. He was growing so much, so quickly. It would have been a true pleasure to see him continue to do so. But blood is thicker than water, and most is not laced with brimstone. He did his duty to his family and cause. I will never condemn him for that. I’m proud.

Need to write another letter to Alice, soon. Perhaps, if our work takes us towards Montreal, I could visit. God, I would love that more than anything. Maybe I could meet this new beau as well, put the fear of God into him. Or of me, anyway. Hah!

Meanwhile, I’m more than happy to unpack my things, settle in, and listen to my music for a while. You know, this radio station pitch of Oracle’s may actually be something I could pursue. You can’t recruit without a banner, after all. Worth thinking about…

[The music goes on, now in its Third Movement, the Young Prince and the Young Princess, and plays almost all the way through, when Hollis snorts with laughter.]

Unbreakable contract, they say. Enforced by magic, they say. Hmph. I’ve learned better. Really.

Such amateurs, eh, Oleanna?

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